Friday, June 24, 2016

God Understands

When we lived briefly in Tennessee a few years ago, Howard became acquainted with a friendly neighbor.  The man had been in the military in Afghanistan, and he often talked to my husband about his experiences there.  One day Howard came in and said the man was troubled, because in the line of duty he had had to kill.

"I feel sorry for him," Howard said one evening.  "He says those things haunt him and he wonders if he will be held accountable someday.  I wish there was some scripture I could give him that would ease his mind."

A scripture occurred to me that I thought might be applicable.  I had been reading in II Kings about Naaman's having been healed of leprosy after he obeyed the prophet Elisha's advice to dip seven times in the river Jordan.  Naaman then recognized that there was no god except the God of Israel and was so grateful to Elisha he wanted to give him a gift, which Elisha would not accept.

In light of this, Naaman then asked for a load of earth, (presumably to build an altar to the true God)"...for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord," II Kings 5:17.

In 5:18, Naaman expresses his predicament as a new believer: "In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing."

Elisha's answer to him was, "Go in peace." Evidently meaning  he was not responsible for being required to do this.   Howard said when he gave his friend these scriptures, they seemed to relieve and comfort him.

A couple of times this week, I  had to remember to "Go in peace." We were waiting to check out at a long line in the grocery store, when a register opened up in another aisle. Howard was in a  handicapped cart, and as I struggled to get him in the new line, the woman in front of us doggedly wedged her cart  past our cart and went before us. "Did you see that what she did?" I asked Howard.  He didn't comment, but I'm sure she heard me, and grimly and determinedly unloaded her cart.

On the way home, Howard was hungry, so we went through McDonald's drive-thru for his favorite fish sandwich and a strawberry shake.  (We would worry about supper later, but he needed those calories!) Alas, his sandwich was not warm, so  he asked if it could be reheated.  The window opened and the attendant said they would make him a new one. 

We pulled forward to the waiting area, and that is just what we did: waited and waited. Finally a girl came out and handed us two Happy Meals! I pointed to a SUV across the drive where she then delivered them.  I finally went in to get our order just as they had it ready.  I couldn't help telling them that their service wasn't the best!  But we went in peace!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Home Sweet Home

"Mimi, can I have a tour of the house?" my little granddaughter Maddie asked me.  They had just gotten here from Houston, and she had been spying things and pointing out  pictures of their family scattered around.  She's seven now, and only three the last time they were here.  No wonder Maddie didn't remember being here!

Not that we hadn't seen Jamie and Tammy's family frequently, it just seemed simpler for us to go there before Howard's health problems than for them to get away from work and travel with, especially, a young baby.  But he's bigger now, and he enjoyed the plane ride!

I smiled at Maddie's request, knowing that they often hear that from friends seeing their big house for the first time. I have been to their third floor, but it is not something I do often. Well, it didn't take long to go through our kitchen and the two bedrooms she hadn't seen.  "Is that Anne-Marie?" Maddie questioned at a framed collage of her big sister's newborn pictures.  

"Yes," I said, "and I have one of you like that, but it is packed away somewhere from when we moved, and I haven't been able to find it!"  That didn't seem to faze her, as the little red-head curiously noted this and that item of interest.  She was particularly fascinated by some decorative checker boards and soon put them to good use.

What our  heavenly home will look like is an undying source of lyrics for  many imaginative hymn and gospel song writers. We are told of mansions over the hilltop and just wait till you see my brand new home.  Some say the sights are too numerous to tell, or I can only imagine.  One wants their mansion next to the throne and some want a cabin in the corner of glory land.

But really, our imaginations are not capable of visualizing what it will be like.  "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." I Corinthians 2:9. Jesus tells us in John 14:2-3, that He goes to prepare a place for us and that "...where I am, there ye may be also."

We won't have to be content to see loved ones' pictures on the wall, but we will actually see them! Who knows, they may actually look like our cherished photos of them when they were young and healthy! What a day that will be! And I can't wait to take the tour!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Wings

Tidying up this morning, I saw something on the china cabinet ledge that I at first thought was a twig.  On closer inspection, I realized that the dull, gold-brass colored object was one of our grandchildren's  plastic wings! The ones they received on the airplane on their trip here. I think I remember seeing Anne-Marie lay them there, so they were probably hers.

She had gotten her wings! No, I didn't hear a tinkling bell, and she isn't an angel, but close!  I'm not sure if 2 1/2 year old Isaac received his wings; they may have thought he would stick himself with the pin. And 7-year-old Maddie probably got home with hers. I put the tiny wings up in a safe place as a sweet remembrance of their visit.

Nine-year-old Anne-Marie was excited about her church's Kids' Camp she would attend when she got home.  This would be the first time she was eligible to go, and they were getting to stay OVER NIGHT! Turns out Mom is going too, as a sponsor, so no worries!

Our son Jamie said Isaac did well on the flight, bravely sitting in a seat beside him.  But during a few moments of turbulence, Isaac wanted Daddy to hold him. He calls a plane a "harepane."  I can see his fascination with "harepanes" when he plays with the small, sturdy wood airplanes I got him for Christmas.  He loves to race them on the glass-top coffee table at home.  I often watch on Face Time as he pulls backward on the toy, revving it up then letting it go for a zip along the glass runway.

In one of  the photos of their time here, Jamie and the kids were in our son Greg's canoe on the beautiful body of water at his place. Looking at the picture, I noticed there was something different about the boat. Greg had attached something to it that looked like a pipe running lengthwise, fastened by braces attached to the boat, giving it the look of an outrigger canoe.  I knew it provided stability, especially when I saw little Isaac standing in the boat and no wobbles!

Just as Anne-Marie needed the security of her mother's presence when sleeping at camp, and Isaac needed his dad to hold him during a turbulent time, and a stabilizer bar on the boat promoted a safe ride, we can look to our Heavenly Father for those things.  Sometimes we just need the Lord to hold us tight and to feel His presence.  Our boat may feel a bit unsteady on life's rocky seas, but Jesus in our lives provides stability. On making our heavenly flight safely, we won't be awarded wings, but a crown of life!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Holy Ground

A poignant photo on Facebook caught my eye yesterday as I read from a niece: "This is where Grandma and Grandpa's house use to sit. I write the insurance on it for the business that now owns the land. I told them it is Holy Ground."

Tears sprang to my eyes as I recognized the plot of land where we had so many wonderful family gatherings in the small frame house of Mama and Daddy's retirement years. It was always bursting at the seams when our large family came to visit from Mississippi and the local Texas relatives dropped in.  The trees in the picture in what had been the side and front yards reminded me of sitting in their shade in chairs from the kitchen, laughing and talking the afternoon away as laundry Mama had hung on the line flapped  in the dry Texas breeze.

She was the Holy Ghost-filled grandma who grabbed shirts from Grandpa's closet to cover the skimpy swimsuits her then-teen granddaughters were wearing to the lake. She was also the one who dragged them to revivals and services at her church, influencing their young lives (for which they are grateful to this day)!

My own Texas grandchildren came to visit us this week. They hadn't been here in a few years, and the two-year-old, never.  It always seemed simpler for us to visit them, but this year Howard's heart surgery and recuperation put our travels on hold.  We see the grandkids often on Face Time, but nothing equals seeing them play and interact in person!  On their arrival, Isaac methodically removed everything from the coffee table and  handed it to me for inspection. When asked how old he is, he said, "Half," short for 2 1/2!

One day I had made a peach cobbler as dessert for our roast beef Po-boy meal.  Isaac loved the cobbler and ate two helpings. When he came in the next day from their hotel, his first words as he headed for the kitchen were "Where de cake?" He wasn't sure what to call it, but I knew what he meant!

In the car one day, I saw Anne-Marie, 9, bury her nose in a thick book. I asked her about it and suggested she read to me.  This she did, reading with perfect tone and animated inflection the story and conversations of the characters.  Noticing all the underlined passages, circled words and notations from her pen, I questioned what they were. "Oh, I just like to do that with certain parts," she replied.  The mark of a serious learner!

They went to church with us on Sunday, and I was so proud of how willingly they went to Kids' Church and little Isaac went bravely and uncomplainingly to the nursery!  Seven-year-old Maddie was a joy (her middle name, actually,) as she looked up from her messy sandwich at lunch and said, "You were right, Mimi! It does taste better with gravy!"  (I took it as a compliment when she said the next day over a chicken casserole, "You need to give daddy your recipe for this!")

A few comments on the Facebook picture referred to a large flat rock on the property that had been the bottom step on my folk's back porch. A couple of the grandsons wrote that it had been Mama's knife rock, where she sharpened her knives. I could just see her, as I had many times, bent over in her apron whetting her knives against the stone. One of the guys spoke of the possibility of retrieving the rock.  Whether they do or not, they can never forget the Rock that their grandma pointed them to when she was still with us, living on that Holy Ground!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Eventful Birthday!

It was Howard's birthday.  After having company for a few days,  we really were going to have a low-key day and set out to get one of his prescriptions re-filled.  It was one of those 100 degree days we've been having lately.   Howard was using his walker, but we expected to use a motorized cart when we got to the pharmacy at Walmart.

"Is that a handicapped spot?" I asked him when I saw the vacant space.  He said it was, so I parked on the diagonal orange stripes. From behind  me I heard someone say loudly, "You know that is highly illegal!"  A young man was collecting shopping carts, so we asked him about it.  He told us it was not a problem to park there, then offered to go get us a motorized cart!

Just as I was getting my husband out of the car, his legs began to buckle and I could not support him!  "What's wrong?" I exclaimed.  He'd had this problem a couple times before, once when I was able to break his fall and lower him to the floor.  The fire department lift service had helped him up. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a man was helping me get him into the cart!

By this time the guy who had brought us the cart was halfway back to the store.  Wouldn't you know the machine refused to budge, despite Howard's efforts at trying to start it.  The young man called back to us that he would bring us another one, which he did!

"You're bleeding!" the young man exclaimed. Sure enough, a large trickle of blood was running down Howard's arm. His blood thinner and fragile skin make him susceptible to bleeding at the slightest scrape.  I looked in my purse in vain for a tissue, but the boy said he would get something, dashing off and returning with what looked like half a roll of paper towels! At last we were able to get out of the blazing sun and make it to the prescription counter.

"This can't be filled without the doctor's order!" the pharmacy tech told us.  We only wanted a couple of pills to get him through till the next day when he would go to the doctor.  My son happened to call, and I told him we could not get the medicine.  He phoned the doctor's office and was told they would call the pharmacy immediately giving permission for the meds.  But when I approached the counter they sternly stressed that they could not issue the prescription, because the doctor hadn't notified them. Finally they determined  that the doctor's o.k. was on voice mail, Much ado about nothing!

Today we visited the doctor and got the complete bottle of pills.  A check-up by the cardiologist was also on tap, but we  had time to eat lunch before the appointment.  As we were leaving the restaurant, a man said, "Doing better today,  huh?" as Howard  manipulated the walker.  I asked him if  he had noticed us before with our struggles. "Yes, I helped you yesterday at Walmart!" he surprised me by saying, 

I hadn't recognized him, but I asked if he goes to our church.  He said no, but his wife goes to a Methodist church.  I realized that was the church where our friend is the pianist, and turns out he knows her! "She is a neat lady," he said.  He was surprised when I told him we had gone to a Bible study at her house for several years.  What a coincidence! You never know who God will put in your path!

I got to thinking about it later, and I realized God  had put people in place to help me that frazzled  day.  The man who had appeared just as I needed help.  The friendly cart boy showing up just when I needed him, sparing me a long, hot walk to get a cart and drive it to the car.  Then there was his replacement cart.  And the paper towels. My son calling the doctor's office and facilitating our getting the temporary prescription filled.

It was too hot to bake a cake, so I impulsively bought Howard a beautiful carrot cake and  picked up a carton of "Natural Vanilla Bean" ice cream.  Our favorite.  I made a nice birthday supper for just the two of us, and we ate in the dining room.  A soothing evening for reflecting on God's faithfulness and the recent surgery's promise of more years and birthdays to come!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Angel Wings and Butterfly Weed

"What are you doing tomorrow?" our son Greg asked on Friday, to which Howard replied, "Well, we'd like to go to the Herb Festival, but I would have to be pushed in my wheelchair." Greg immediately offered to push him!

Wow! That would be covering a lot of ground, I thought.  The Herb Festival, famous here and drawing participants from all over the state and then some, is the premier attraction for our town. It is held in picturesque Cann Gardens with its winding brick walkways and backdrop of beautiful flowers and foliage. We hadn't gone in a few years, usually having been on trips to see our kids, or the festival was rained out.

But this year the weather was perfect. We ambled along through the steady stream of people, all smiling and having a good time stopping to inspect wares offered for sale or lined at the refreshment booths and food trucks. Immediately on entering, we met good friends who left their picnic table and came to greet us.  People were glad to see Howard out and about, if only in his wheelchair.  I saw one craft item, a metal sculpture wall d├ęcor that I liked.  I would walk around and get it on the way back, so as not to have to carry it.

Howard was keeping an eye out for bargains in plants to put in a space in our backyard. Although it is called the Herb Festival, it seems herbs are in the minority in a plethora of hanging baskets, ferns, and all sorts of potted plants. We gathered several, including Butterfly Weed, a huge sunflower-type plant, Impatiens and something  with white blooms called Angel Wings. In retrospect, I realize I should have gotten a gorgeous fern I admired, especially when I saw the prices of smaller ones in town yesterday!

We heard music coming from somewhere, and followed it to the large patio of the historic house on the grounds.  Chairs had been set up for various presentations to be enjoyed, and we lingered to hear arrestingly beautiful singing from a girl of about 12 who held the microphone.  The lovely notes of All Through the Night, floated through the air as we paused to listen to the sweet lullaby.

"I love your hair!" came a voice from behind me, and I turned to see a friendly lady who said, "I'm thinking of having mine cut like that!" I thanked her and asked if I knew her from church, but she said no. Just a casual comment that brightened my day a little more!  (She didn't know I had been bemoaning my hair that morning!)

Sharing a picnic table with two delicate and charming octogenarian ladies, we chatted and listened to their stories while we had a bite of lunch.  Obviously widows, they regaled us with their histories and interests.  "I write," one said, "I have a huge box of my writings that my daughter says she is going to put into a book when I'm gone!"  Greg drew them out in easy conversation and they loved every minute of it.

Children were in abundance at the festival, too, and I especially enjoyed seeing their beautiful faces, eyes wide with wonder as they carried butterfly wands or sported face-paintings from a special activity area for kids. I wished my grands who are coming to visit soon had been with me!

Retracing our steps as the day wore on, I stopped at the craft area where I had seen the art piece.  I couldn't see it, and walked around the tree where it had been displayed. There was another one like it, only in a different color. I liked the first one, but not this one, I realized in a pang of disappointment.  That's what I get for not taking it earlier, I remonstrated.  Oh well, it was still a nice day. The guys felt bad for me and even stopped at an estate sale for me on the way home. Nothing there caught my eye, so I went home empty handed, but full of memories and pleasantly tired, thankful for the day God had given us!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Afternoon Out!

"Are you ready to go?" I asked my husband. He  had been enjoying sitting outside at our son's place, mesmerized by the farm animals. I loved it, too, especially on such a gorgeous, early June day with blue skies and perfect temperatures. The bright green of tree leaves fluttering in the canopy of branches overhead invited dawdling in the shade.  But I was not as fascinated as was Howard, myself always being one who gave something a once-over-lightly glance before moving on to something else.

I didn't want to hurry my spouse, though, as this was therapy of mind, body and soul for him as he recuperates from heart surgery over two months ago, and other issues recently. So I settled down and tried to relax.  As I did, I started noticing little vignettes played out before me, beginning with the pigs.

I had brought out a pail of  table scraps for the pink ladies as I do a few times a week.  This time it contained a jug of chocolate milk (requested and rejected by my husband's finicky appetite) that was going sour. The "girls" were beside themselves with joy. The bigger sister wriggled her fat body into the feeding trough and her smaller sister slid in under her, gobbling crescents of cantaloupe rinds, a half-eaten apple and other by now unidentifiable mushiness. They were in hog heaven, you might say.

Next it was time for their beauty treatment in the mud puddle forming beside their overflowing water tub being filled by the garden hose. The chocolate-coated porkers wallowed blissfully and stretched luxuriously, becoming blacker by the minute. It wasn't long until they lazed quietly, sleepily drifting off, the picture of porcine contentment.

Suddenly I saw some kind of small animal silhouetted against the far fence. "It's a kitten!" I exclaimed. Greg had recently acquired four young cats as mousers for the barn, but they had disappeared. Their food was disappearing regularly though, and the litter box was being used. Then we spotted a trio in the dimness by the feeding dish, an apparition of two gray clouds with a black shadow between them.  The shy felines were back, and the mice had made themselves scarce.

"I want to see how the turkeys have grown!" I announced. The guys had bought three baby turkeys a few weeks ago, and two more lately, replacing the loss of one that died. We wondered how the "teen-age" birds would adjust to the new ones, but Greg told me he had found the babies perched on the older one's backs!  How cute! They were getting along  just fine, and the bigger poults had developed beautiful wing feathers and fan tails!

I couldn't believe my eyes when a glance at the goat pen revealed the baby goat high on a tree trunk! Not a bent, easy-to-climb tree as before, but a perfectly upright one!  The mama goat was trying to climb it too, but being heavier, she slipped back.  I was terrified that her off-spring couldn't get down, but when her hooves began to slip, the nimble kid sprang the several feet to the ground easily. Then she ran even higher up the tree! So fascinating!

As the chickens foraged contentedly, scurrying here and there, I was aware of a rat-a-tat-tat sounding hollowly in the background. "What is that noise?" I questioned aloud, to which my son said, "A woodpecker!"  I strained my eyes to see it, but it was hidden in the denseness of its leafy bower. There was a lot going on at the farm, I concluded, as I urged my husband, tired by this time, toward home!


















Thursday, June 2, 2016

Insights

Setting the table for Sunday lunch, I pulled back the centerpiece and table runner. I usually didn't bother with a cloth, which I always used to do, and started to put the dinner plates on the bare table. Well, a cloth would look better, I decided, and pulled a small lunch cloth from the drawer.  But my flowered plates looked a little jarring on its colorful design.  Oh well, it's just the three of us, I thought. My son was coming for dinner.  On impulse, I replaced the plates with large white ones I retrieved from the top shelf of the cabinet.

"Oh, your table looks so nice!" Greg exclaimed. "It's so picturesque!" I was conscience stricken for the casual, half-hearted effort I had made, but glad I had changed the plates! Sometimes we think it doesn't matter if something is only for family, but they really do notice and remember!

Taking shortcuts had been my new normal lately. Until recently, most of my time has been spent running back and forth to get something for my husband as he recuperates from serious heart surgery a couple months ago.  But his physical therapist tells us he needs to move around more, so I am to encourage him to get things for himself!

Today I  went to the neighborhood market to buy some things Howard  wanted.  Walking into the store, I noticed a basket of fruit and a sign lettered with the words, "Parents, feel free to let your child take a banana or apple to eat while you shop." It went on to say that they wanted to promote healthy eating in children.

How thoughtful is that! It doesn't always take a lot of effort to make a difference in someone's life.   Just a nice table to brighten a day, a nudge toward needed exercise, or a healthy snack for a child. Jesus tells of a man who invested a lot of himself to help a stranger in the story of the good Samaritan. He not only bound up the victim's wounds, but paid for his care in an inn until he recovered.

When our neighbor heard about Howard's hospitalization, he mowed and edged our over-grown lawn in our absence. Recently a new neighbor came over to meet us and to see if there was anything he could do.  He visited with Howard on the porch, saying he had noticed us coming and going with the wheel-chair or walker and offered his assistance. Flowers, meals, and phone calls brightened our days when we got home from the hospital.

"Trust in the Lord and  do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed," Psalm 37:3. In other words, feed on His faithfulness! He is good!