Saturday, November 11, 2017

Bird Watching

 It is chilly this morning and I am watching the birds from the window.  I was able to a capture a few shots.  Birds are very wary of movement and they flit quickly from spot to spot.  In my desire to photograph the birds, I am not sure that I have been able to live in the moment.  It is something I need to work on.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Secret Path to Change

We are all broken people, without exception.  Even those beautiful people who are winsome, impeccably groomed, articulate and successful in their careers.  Sometimes we think the homeless, the alcoholic or those sitting in a prison are the broken ones.  We all come into this world totally messed up. 

We are broken because of our own sin and we are broken because of the sin of others.  Every home is dysfunctional to some degree. I have never met anyone with a perfect childhood even though as mothers we try ever so hard to portray that very image to those around us.  As fallen people we seem to have a propensity to throw darts at each other, as though the poison in our souls needs a release valve. Unfortunately, we save the most poisonous darts for the ones that we profess to love the most.  

Brokenness is the common starting place for each of us, but it doesn't have to be where our story ends.  Jesus is able to save to the uttermost. 

The often neglected secret to real change comes from meditation on the words of the scripture.  Because we come into this world with a dysfunctional soul our thinking has to be radically transformed by  "truth".  

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

The times that I have meditated have been the times I have seen the greatest change.  At one difficult juncture in my life I quoted Psalm 23 to myself in order to be able to fall asleep.  I can quote it now and it still provides a feast of hope and comfort.  

I have carried an  index card in my back pocket with a verse handwritten on it to pull out during my day.  In my younger years  I meditated on,   ...urge the younger women to love their husbands and children  and A foolish woman tears her house down with her own hands. Those verses saved me many times from my own foolishness.  

Do not let gracious love and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart...

We all have strongholds that imprison us and keep us from walking in freedom.  We have to cast down those thoughts that are not in alignment with truth, but first we have to know what the truth is.  

When we meditate on scripture,  God's great power comes with it.  Meditation has the ability to give us the mind of Christ.  

In the last several months I have been meditating on, Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. I have had strongholds of worry and fear in me for many, many years.  It has been incredible to see God give me power to believe that I could choose not to worry.  When I first started meditating on the verses it was as though the words refused to even penetrate my mind but as I continue thinking on them I am experiencing an amazing transformation in my thought life. 

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe him. 

It is not just a matter of having our opinions replaced by a new way of thinking but of having our minds and hearts recreated to operate the way they were originally intended.
Don't be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind...

When we commit the scripture to memory and let it wash over our minds that is where we are being truly converted.  It is limited only by the extent of our diligence to let truth of the scripture take root in our lives. 

My mind has been corrupted from what is in my own soul.  It is also corrupted by the spirit of this world that I breathe in every single day. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word

Jesus wants to free us. He wants to give us an overflowing life,  one in which we are constantly in tune with Him so that we have love for those who mistreat us, comfort in the storms, and even joy in the mundane.  Freedom will come when we...take every thought and make it obedient to Christ

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Sisterhood

I am one of four girls.  We were born over a seven year span.  Each girl came into the world very much her own person.  It made for some interesting interaction in our tiny clapboard house that had only one bathroom.

I was a real pain to my oldest sister as she entered into the teens years.  I was the little brat who snooped and giggled when her friends came over to dance together in the the living room.  I was a brat to sister number two as well.  I went through a phase where I would dig up worms and put them on her.  Once I put pillows under the covers on her bed to look like a person and caused her to shriek uncontrollably.

Sisters one and three shared a room together and they had regular knock down drag out fights late at night.  Their main riffs were because older sister number one wanted  the lights on to read but the younger sister number three wanted the lights off so she could sleep. They would wake up the entire house hollering at each other.
Sister 1 after she married and was pregnant with her first child. The other one is me in my 
super awkward teenage hood. I was all of maybe 15. 

Sisters one and two were often at odds with each other probably because they were so close in age. They almost came into the world on top of each other.  One sister who will remain nameless threw a tuna sandwich at the other one during one of their epic battles.  The mushy thing slid down the living roomwall right by the light switch.  Those two never seemed to get along especially in the teen years because they were very different people possessing diverse ideology. One sister had two long pigtails, wore jeans and flannel shirts. She bordered on being a hippie.  The other one loved basketball, politics, and was a bit of women's lib freak.  She was a Noxema junkie who smeared that stuff religiously on her ivory skin and was a lot more reserved in her style of dress and demeanor.

All four of us fought over who got the newspaper first.  This was in the days when there was no internet and the newspaper was what everyone read every single day. The newspaper man drove a white VW bug and threw the paper into the yard.  We would race out the door and down the front steps to see who got to it first. We had our favorite parts and it was torture to wait to get to read "Dear Abby', the sports section, the editorials, or even the comic section.  We also fought over clothing.  Someone would "borrow" something without asking.  We fought about what we watched on television. We had one small black and white  television with all of three channels. There was really seldom anything worth watching but that didn't stop the squabbling.

Our worst disagreements were over the bathroom.  One sister loved filling the tub up with water and reading her library book for several hours while she soaked. That behavior did not go over well with the rest of us who at some point just needed the toilet.  Our daddy was the main bathroom hog but no one ever said anything to him about his bathroom abuses. There were quarrels over seating in the car although I never was involved in that one.  I was always squashed in the front between Mama and Daddy, one of the "privileges" of being the youngest. 

I don't always remember the reasons for most of our fights but we were pretty volatile and loud with each other especially as we all entered the teen years.  Mama and Daddy seldom interfered with our disagreements.  The outbursts would peter into nothingness and we still maintained an affection and unity as sisters.

We had  great times talking, laughing and just being together.  My older sisters told me things about life that my stoic parents would have never divulged.  I was able to piece together from those conversations all of the important information of the "birds and the bees" talk that should have come from my parents.

My oldest sister bordered on trying to spoil me after she went away to college. She bought me a special bracelet that was decorated with dainty little flowers. She would indulge me by taking me to the store to buy special treats as well. One Christmas she bought me a chemistry set, something my parents would have never considered to be worth the money.

Sister two would often pick me up from junior high so that I did not have to ride the hideous school bus home. Sister two and I shared a bedroom that we decorated ourselves by painting the walls antique yellow and putting down a golden shag carpet.  This sister went away to New York University. When she would come back home for visits we would talk long into the night even though there were five years difference in our ages.  When I went away to college she would send me money as an act of kindness.  She knew what it was like to have only change to your name while in school.
Sister 3 and one of her cars.  I wish I had that car now. 

Sisters two and three shared a one bedroom apartment and a car together in their early twenties. They worked on different shifts so they even shared the same bed.  They were privy to each other's secrets and had a lot of adventures together just trying to make it in the great big world. They became extremely close friends and allies in that period of their lives.
Sister three and I were close enough in age that in our teen years she often let me tag along.  I went with her to friend's houses and was often included in social things just because she was my sister.  She drove me around several years before I was able to get my license.  Sister three was always much more gregarious and social than her plain younger sister who was more into academics and seeing life through the serious lens.  Because of my awkward shyness I would have had boring teenage years apart from sister three.

Our sister who passed away.
We did not know that our sisterhood would change irrevocably. Sister number two was diagnosed with cancer in her mid twenties and her life was cut short.  It changed everything.  We were four parts to a puzzle and one piece was taken from us.  We have had to limp through the last 35 years of  life without her. I somehow think that each of us would have been stronger, more clear headed, and just a bit more had she lived. We are all mouthy, a wee bit crusty and way too direct, but there is a tenderness inside of each of us that comes because we learned loss at an awfully early age in our lives.

The day of our dad's funeral.  Old lady sisters!!!

 Our parents are gone and we are all entering the old lady stage. Over time no matter how many miles or how much time separates us, we always pick right back up where we left off.   We share much of the same DNA but we also share the quirkiness of our home, our parents and our relatives. No one in the world can understand those "growing up years" like my silly sisters.

 None of our former squabbles matter anymore.  We are all still very different people but we share a lot of commonality.  Now, I would gladly give my sisters any of my clothes, or let them watch anything on television, or give them the newspaper first.  I would still fight them for the bathroom though.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Weekend Wit 20

We would act more like Jesus if we spent more time with Him.

There are plenty of reasons on both sides of the philosophical camp to throw stones. It doesn't really solve anything though

Every generation in the past has dropped the ball in the game of life.  This generation will drop it too, but instead of being critical maybe we should be cheering them on from the sidelines after all they are raising our grandchildren.

Irony and coincidence in a situation  might just be the fingerprints of the Almighty.

Life is an upside down situation.  The things that we can touch and see will never ever last.  The real things are experienced in the mind, the heart and especially the spirit.  Those are the things of eternity.

Pleasure that is divorced from the blessing of our Creator is just a fleeting vapor that will drain the soul from the human frame leaving a paper thin shell of a living corpse.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Daddy Wasn't A Fix It Man

Daddy on the left at his job when he made mattresses for a living.
Daddy wasn't a fix it man. He always changed his oil and was able to tinker with his car, tractor, lawn mower and tiller.  Those skills  he had learned over the years but lots of mechanical things eluded his mind.  After the bills were paid, Mama and Daddy might have had five bucks to their names.  No one used credit cards in those days so if something needed repairing then arrangements had to be made but most of the time Daddy would ask one of his relatives or a close neighbor for help.

There were times though that Daddy for one reason or the other needed to tackle a repair for which he was not well suited to do.  It is not like today where one can go to You Tube and watch Big Bubba go step by step in the repair. I remember one time in the middle of night waking to a commotion.  The toilet had a problem and Daddy had been awakened out of a sound sleep to fix it.  I walked into the bathroom just in time to see my daddy standing there in his striped pajamas with water squirting from the back of the toilet onto the ceiling.  Daddy was not a profane man and curse words were not a part of his every day vocabulary but he did keep one in reserve that he used when the situation was beyond him.  I am pretty sure he pulled his special "word" out that night.  Another time he had our ancient Kelvinator refrigerator pulled out from the wall banging away at the problem. I can still picture him on the floor next to the wall with frustration creasing his brow. I think he may have used his "word" multiple times that day.

My dad had a lot of frailties.  He often lacked confidence.  He lived with some kind of learning disability for which he was always trying to find ways to compensate. He didn't have an athletic build and he was really pretty mild mannered for a man.  He enjoyed singing in the choir at church and gardening.  The thing I remember so much about him was that he never ever stopped trying and he never ever stopped loving his wife or his girls.

Men come in all shapes, sizes and ages.  Their education, monetary status, and athletic abilities can span a vast range. Those things are not  important.

 A true man shoulders up under his responsibilities even if he doesn't have a lot of resources at his disposal.  A true man sticks to the course day after day even when it seems to grind into his soul.  A man doesn't quit just because he isn't at the head of the pack.  A true man doesn't give up because his efforts aren't being successful or because he tends to lose his cool in the heat of the moment.

The world used to be full of those steady stick to it men like my dad, but we emasculated them and told them that they were chauvinistic. We made fun of them in our sitcoms and turned them into the villains in our movies. We made no fault divorce seem like the best thing since sliced bread.   We screamed women's liberation but what we really did was liberate men from the idea of accountability and responsibility.

Our culture is full of  males who have so much going for them but they just can't seem to see  mentally past some kind of desire that is really just a carrot on a stick.  Career, pleasures, or achievement seem tantamount.  Those unmet desires are just things that have blinded the heart and mind to where the real battle is taking place and what is really at stake.  No one may ever applaud a man's effort when he gets up from a sound sleep to handle the toilet and no one may ever know what kind of dreams were buried so his kids could have a stable home life.

But it does matter.  It matters so much that we have a whole culture that is crumbling because many men have forgotten how to be men.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fishing Off the Rich Man's Pier

Back in the dark ages when my husband and I were still young we wanted to move to the coast. We owned a little 800 square foot mobile home that made a great way to live while we got on our feet.

I contacted a large nondescript mobile home park that housed many of the transient military and made arrangements over the phone to rent a lot.  We hired some movers of questionable abilities and even more questionable morals. On moving day they contorted our home so much that they popped several of the windows and put a gash in the front of it making it look like it been caught in the middle of a battle.

We drove on down and stayed at an inexpensive Motel 6 for the night, always aware that we  had to manage our money to make it last.  In the middle of the night gunfire erupted in the parking lot. My husband crawled to the windows to see what was happening, admonishing me to keep my head down.  Someone was smashing a vehicle, there was the sound of glass breaking, shouts and more gunfire and then it was over.  By the morning time we were a bit frazzled thinking what a welcome to our new city.  We left our exciting motel and  headed to the park that was supposed to be our home.  The same mobile home manager that I had made arrangements with on the phone told us adamantly that we couldn't move our trailer in and made some excuse about needing several days to check the lot. Our little home was  heading down the interstate and we had absolutely nowhere to put it.

We were pretty discouraged to say the least.  We got back in our little pick up and several miles later pulled into one of the nicest mobile home parks that I have ever been in.  It had a small lake in the middle of it and some really old oak trees that were heavy with Spanish moss.   The streets were lined with crepe myrtles. 
The park had woods on three sides and backed up to a wild swampy area with beautiful wildlife and semi tropical vegetation just a stone's throw from the Ashley river  I believe at one time the property had been part of some plantation land.  The streets in the park were wide, well lighted and everything was beautifully maintained.  There was even a huge area in the center  with tennis courts and a tire swing. 

It just so happened on this particular day in history the two brothers who owned that pretty little mobile home park and the adjoining apartment complex  had decided to exchange responsibilities.  AJ,  the brother who had just taken over management of the park, employed a German woman named Gerta who was in her mid sixties. She had bright red hair that came directly out of a bottle and was always impeccably dressed in expensive suits and high heels. Gerta was no one's fool. We walked into that office looking like a couple of waifs.  For whatever reason, Gerta with her heavy German accent unhesitatingly gave us permission to  move our trailer in sight unseen.  She took our deposit money and rented us a lot.  I am sure that AJ was not happy when he saw our 1969 mobile home rolling in with the curtains flapping in the broken windows.

Both AJ and Gerta were sharp business people and they weren't running a charity.  They had no other renters with  mobile homes  that looked as ragtag as ours.   God is the only logical explanation  as to why we were allowed to move in.  We were in a desperate situation and God showed up.  Not only did we have a place to live, but we had a place that was so much nicer and safer. 

That is the way it is with God.  He does more than we could ask or imagine. For those few years, that park was a blessing to us.  We eventually worked for AJ, the owner,  at his two fancy houses. One was in a  neighborhood by the river were we were allowed to fish from the pier.  It is where our son caught his first fish.  We also worked on his property that backed up to Lake Moultrie.  We fished from AJ's backyard in the lake. The lake property had a two story play house and a train set that went around the top of a huge garage.  We weren't rich monetarily then and we aren't now, but often God has opened the windows of Heaven and given things and experiences that we could never have afforded.

God is the Sovereign King.  All of the universe is His.  Sometimes it is easy to forget that this is my Father's world and He is good when I am suffering and He is good when I am enjoying the pier of a rich man. 

I have a thousand stories of God showing up in my life and parting the Red Sea for me to walk through on dry ground.  It hasn't been my finesse or my own strength or my intellectual abilities, it has been the grace of my King.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Dear September.....

Dear September,

I went for a walk this morning in your chilled air, but I know by afternoon you will have warmed to feel slightly sticky.  Oh, September you are so confused.  Part of you wants to declare that you are of the summer time. Flowers still bloom in the garden though they are but a few. Pretty fall leaves lie upon the ground reminding us that summer will soon be only a memory.  

I am confused too Miss September.  I still want to wear my summer attire.  Sweaters, jackets and long pants beckon me to pull them from the receded parts of my closet. Even my stomach joins in the fray by saying   "Nay", to another salad.  I feel the urge to make a pot of chili or vegetable soup.  My kettle taunts me telling me that it is time pull out my supply of tea bags.

Already the sunny glow of summer is fading from my checks.  I will revel when fall comes in all of her majesty and color.  I will take delight in building small fires on a chilled evening just so I can watch the smoke curl into the darkened sky. I will enjoy long  nights of  deep sleep as the temperatures drop chilling the night air.  
But for now I am caught up in September.  I understand you dear.  For you are a picture of where I am in my life.  I know that fall of my life is just ahead.  I know that I will delight in the fruitfulness, the beauty and the rest that fall will give to my soul, but I also know that the winter of my life looms where everything will be stripped away. 

I would lie to say that I am not somewhat saddened by the thoughts of impending winter, but a greater  thought lies within my heart.  I want to embrace all of the seasons of life and what they have for me. When my days here are past, then with hope against hope I will awake to that eternal spring.  
So my dear September, I am going to enjoy what you have to offer me right now.  I will not the disdain your few blossoms that raise their little heads to the sun amidst the spent foliage from the hot summer sun.  I will not fight against your morning chill or complain of your afternoon heat.  You have secrets that I need to learn Miss September.  Let me not wander your path without discovering the treasures of wisdom that I must learn in this season of my life.

Yours truly,
September Girl

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Weekend Wit 19

I believe that in a marriage where two people have moved past infatuation and genuinely love one another from the heart that a veil is removed from their eyes where they are able to see each other in a holy beautiful light.  I think it happens incrementally, but only for those who are willing to persevere in the relationship.

I have many friendly acquaintances, but only a few genuine friends.

There is a time to spoil your kids.  After you have raised them and they have become self supporting with good character, then you can spoil your adult children to your heart's content.  Lavish them with gifts and treat them like kings and queens.  At this point it will not hurt them.

A propensity to do good is one of those oft unappreciated and sometimes largely unnoticed  but absolutely necessary parts for a society to thrive.

What you believe is more important that what you see.

Pray about it, no matter what it is, pray about it.

For those willing to wait, He shows Himself faithful, He shows Himself strong.

There is a lie floating around in our heads that if we do right then somehow we will be energetic, filled with happiness and throwing our fist in the air on the top of some majestic mountain top.  Often doing right results in being tired to the bone, depressed and filled with doubt.  How we feel has nothing to do with it, but doing the right thing will always set us on the correct path.

I think it takes a lifetime to know God even a little bit.  The problem lies not with Him, but with us.  I think we come into this world so very full of ourselves that we have to let go of the self idol in the core of us in order to even begin to acknowledge who He is.

Seldom have I met God in a quiet room with the candle lit and a cup of hot tea.  Mostly I find He is able to speak to me when the sun is beating on my head and I am digging in the dirt or trying to cut brush.
There are  theological ideas that scare me, but when I think of the character of God, then I am comforted.

Evangelicals are afraid of folks finding God without grasping the doctrines of the faith,  but I am more  afraid of evangelicals who find the doctrines but miss God.

It is pretty easy to find a system to believe or even have some mystical experience,  it is much harder to come to a Person who has revealed Himself through the written Word.  We can't make God into anything we want.  We have to bow to who He really is and what He is really about.  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Pound Cake, Pimento Cheese and Kryptonite

I grew up as part of the local church.  As an adult I have come to appreciate the incredible amount of support and stabilizing impact that the church provided to me growing up, but I still have had a skewed view of some of the ministries of the church.

I'm a Southerner and church in the South has some unique characteristics, one being food.  The church thinks food is the solution for any and all problems.  Somebody dies and the bereaved family's  house will be over run with gallons of sweet tea, pound cake, creamed corn, fried chicken and homemade pimento cheese sandwiches.  Go to the hospital or have a baby and here they come carrying casseroles and apple pies.  Visiting evangelist, missionaries and college students just home for the weekend have ended up being diagnosed as diabetic or having gall stones from all of the rich food that was thrust upon them.

Another characteristics is visiting the sick and the suffering.  If you end up in the hospital, then some little grey haired couple dressed in polyester will be at your bedside politely chatting and quietly putting pieces of wrapped up homemade pound cake on your night stand.  If a family member is in the ER, having surgery or in ICU, they show up out of the woodwork to come sit with you a spell.  They pat your shoulder and go get cups of hospital coffee for you.

Sending cards is another one of those things.  Cards will show up in your mailbox with the shaky script of some dear old saint who can't visit the hospitals anymore but she can put a card in the mail to just let your know that she has not forgotten you in the midst of the troubles you are experiencing.

The church hugs in all situations.  We hug when there is news of great joy.  We hug when there is grief or troubles.  We hug when we see you in the mall or on the other side of the gas pump at BP.  It is just one of those automatic things that we do.

In a world filled with desperate troubles and evil, I have often wondered how any of these things were of real value.  Were they just a temporary bandaid because we were really just kind of powerless in situations?

I have come to understand that these acts are true kindness and kindness is something that breaks strongholds.  Kindness steps into a situation and in her pocket she brings hope.  When kindness comes she also endues a measure of strength to sustain those that are struggling.  The enemy of our souls wants us to give up and hang it up.  He wants us to abandon our faith in the middle of our troubles so that we never make it past the hump to the joy and victory that our Savior has for us.  Those little ladies with the teased hair, those odd gentle folks that show up to minister and that person from your church that tracks you down in the grocery with the big smile and who is always trying to hug you are in reality super heroes.   Most of them have lived through some serious troubles and they know what it is like to suffer.  They have learned the power of compassion.  If you could see past their disguises, then you would know that sweet tea, homemade pound cake and those pimento cheese sandwiches are the enemy of our soul's kryptonite.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

There's A Storm Blowing In

When I was a child, the front porch was a good place to get a little breeze and cool off a bit in the summer.  We had five huge poplar trees in the front yard.  Four of them were planted just right to work as permanent bases for  rousing games of kick ball.  There was an ancient cedar on the left side of the house and then numerous tall trees around the perimeter of our yard.  Our little house was nestled under those giants making for some great summer shade.

The front porch had Grandma's houseplants hanging from every conceivable place. She had lots of wandering Jew, devil's ivy and pots of mother in law's tongue.  Many of her plants she had kept alive for decades.  Each plant held some kind of memory for her as relatives and friends had passed along a rooting or cutting of each.  No one went to the plant nursery and bought house plants in those days.

We had an ancient metal couch and metal garden chairs on the front porch.  The furniture had been painted and repainted fifty times with every conceivable shade and little bits of color could be seen through the cracks in the paint.  The plethora of random colors always fascinated me.   The wooden slat porch floor was painted blue gray and for some reason it buckled slightly on the side opposite the front steps. The warped wood caused me a lot of consternation as a little girl.  Hydrangeas and snowball bushes grew up next to the porch hemming it in on both sides.

 A couple of pencil cedars stood sentinel in the front growing in hard almost barren soil.

The sturdy ornate screen door that led out to the porch had a brass handle and door knob and a spring that caused it to make a distinctive slamming noise as we went in and out of the house.  From the front porch one could see the Sutton's woods across the road and the two big mill stones that stood upright on each side of their driveway.  Our mailbox lurched slightly by the left side of the graveled driveway and a tall lone black walnut tree stood on the right by the road.

Nothing much changed in our house and yard.  The same shrubbery, black walnut tree, screen door, and mailbox were still there when we finally cleaned out the house to sell after my dad passed away in his 90's.  The metal couch and chairs were stolen from the front porch when he had to go to assisted living in the last few years of his life.  That furniture probably brought a couple of hundred bucks to the thieves but it contained the invaluable collective memories of thousands of days in our family history.

Some hot afternoons we would all be sitting on the porch listening to the crickets and cicadas when the sky would grow dark with storm clouds.  The wind would pick up and a sweet cool breeze would blow across that front porch.  The first big drops of rain would splatter hard against the ground and sometimes onto the porch, but we would linger smelling that musty good smell that a summer rain brings.  The winds would grow higher causing the trees to creak and bend. Sheets of rain would beat down hard until the summer green was barely visible through the gray of the rain.  Mama said it was time to go in when the thunder clapped loud and hard and the lightening strikes were close by.

Mama or Daddy would kill the breaker to the water heater for fear as they said  "that the lightening would run in on it." Often the power would be knocked off causing Mama and Grandma to light the kerosene lamps.  Storms were exciting and just a bit scary.  We unplugged everything electric in the house and we were weren't allowed to use the faucets for fear we would be electrocuted.  We were even admonished by an uncle not to use the toilet for the same reason.  We had a lightening rod beside the house.  My parents took storms seriously, maybe a bit too seriously.

The storm would rage but we would be snug and dry as we waited for the storm to pass.  We felt safe though.  We were with our parents and our grandma.  In our little white frame house we believed nothing could touch us.  The storms would howl and rage outside and the big trees around our house moved in tune with the wind.  Finally the storm would pass and the sun would shine again sparkling on the rivulets of water as gravity pulled them to the lowest spots.

Life has its storms as well.  They are coming no matter what we do to try and prevent them. We can do some damage control just like my parents did by seeking shelter and looking for ways to minimize the impact.   The storms of life do not have to destroy us.  They can cause us to seek shelter and find fellowship and help from our Father.  They can help us to gain the right perspective that we are not the ones in control.  They can even reveal something of beauty that we would never behold apart from the storm. One thing about a physical storm is that it comes in fast and hard threatening to undo us.  Usually within a short time, it has expended all of its fury and peace will return.  It is the same way with the storms of life, they will soon blow out their energy and be past as well. Until that happens we have an anchor, His name is Jesus.

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary.

Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and in the knowledge that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore you, secure you, strengthen you, and establish you. To Him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dirt Clods, Green Beans, and Potatoes

Daddy always had a big garden.  He really had two gardens.  The small one was around 50 feet long and 15 feet wide.  It was near the house on the other side of the cherry trees.  The big garden was several times bigger and was down past the barn and pasture.  In the big garden  he grew corn mostly but also lots of rows green beans, potatoes, field peas and whatever else struck his fancy.

Daddy was a hard worker but he could not keep up when it came time to plant or harvest.  That meant that everyone helped. My sisters and our grandma were the farm hands. Mama seldom worked in the garden although she was kept busy putting the produce up for the winter.  In the spring we walked along the rows dropping bean seeds, okra, butter peas and pieces of potato and then going back with a hoe to cover whatever we were planting. Cucumbers, squash and melons were planted in little hills.   We set out tomato plants, green peppers, and cabbages. We put little newspaper tents on the transplants to shield them from the sun until they were able to get established.  It was hard to water anything way down in the big garden.  Daddy put old milk cans full of water on the back of the wagon and we dipped the water out  of them to give each little plant a drink.  My granddaddy had at some point in his farming career sold milk to a local dairy and there were still several of the old metal milk cans on our property.  Daddy seldom threw anything away.  He just knew it would come in handy one day.  Later on Daddy would collect plastic milk jugs and fill them with water.  He would put a small hole in the bottom of the jug  to slowly water his tender young plants until they established a strong enough root system to make it.

Amazingly, Daddy seldom lost any of his plants regardless of the weather.  He didn't appear to be a master gardener and he seldom discussed his way of doing things.  He was incredibly knowledgeable about gardening but he had such an off hand way of handling himself that it just seemed natural that he produced huge crops without a lot of fanfare.  Someone with his skill today would be on You Tube giving tips on gardening success.  Daddy grew up farming as did so many of the people of his day.  Knowledge of the "dirt" came as natural as breathing to them.

 It was fun to find a ripe cantaloupe or a juicy watermelon. The watermelons were put in a big round tin wash tub that was filled with the cold well water.  When the melon cooled, it was cut into sections for us to eat.  We ate watermelon outside without utensils.  Juice dripped down our faces and arms and we spit seeds as we dug into the melon.  There was nothing civilized about it.

I liked gathering the tomatoes, peppers, and squash.   Most of it to had to be tended to every day. That kind of picking was fast and it didn't require a lot of tedious work.  Homegrown sun ripened  red tomatoes that are cut thick and made into sandwiches on fresh soft white bread are one of the world's best delicacies.

Pulling corn could be scratchy but there was always fun to be had in a stand of corn.  My sisters and I played a kind of tactical warfare in the cornfield.  We threw small hard dirt clods at each other and hid between the rows trying to keep from being clobbered.  I would still enjoy a good game of "dirt clods in the cornfield".  Nothing was better than corn on the cob that was shucked and thrown in the hot water while it was still fresh.  It was quite a feast salted and slathered in butter. Corn turns starchy the longer it is left.  Fresh from the stalk it is sugar sweet and tender.

Daddy planted long multiple rows of green beans.  Mama canned hundreds of jars of green beans and it seemed that we had them at every meal. It would not have surprised me to find them on the breakfast table next to the scrambled eggs and grits.  When it came time to pick, everyone was given the privilege.  It was a sweaty and back breaking chore to bend over a row of beans even as a child.  It was my least favorite gardening chore, probably because Daddy did not practice moderation in his planting of green beans.  We each got our own extremely long row and a brown paper sack.  The brown paper grocery sack was filled up and completely maxed out by the time we finished our row.  Then after picking, we had a party.  It was a green bean stringing and breaking party.

One of my favorite chores was picking up new potatoes.  After the vines had died, Daddy would take the tractor down the rows and dig up the potatoes.  Sometimes the tractor plow would slice through some of the potatoes.  Those we separated and used first.  The plow turned over the dirt and it gave off a wonderful aroma.  I love the smell of good dirt.  The dirt was slightly moist and cool.  We would walk barefoot in it and pick up the potatoes in bushel baskets.  When our basket was full, we dumped it in the back of the wagon.  We would work until almost dark and then Daddy would pull the wagon to the house with his Allis Chalmers tractor.  We would sit on the wagon as it bumped its way back to the house with our red clay streaked legs and feet swinging from the sides of the wagon.

Daddy grew food so that we could survive.  I don't think he knew that he was teaching us to work hard and to persevere.  Daddy didn't know what kind of troubles we would face as adults.  He didn't know that all of that sweat, slapping bugs and coming up from the fields dead tired was really building a backbone in us.   We learned to find small pleasures and fun in our work.  The only time we were ever paid was on rare occasions when our grandma would give us a dollar that she pulled out of her apron pocket but  mostly we experienced the reward of our work  giving us great tasting food.  Our work was meaningful. Mama and Daddy really needed our help to bring in the produce.

Those days were good.  We weren't always overjoyed when we were told that we needed to go work in the field, but it is still rewarding me today with a thousand life lessons and a good home ripened tomato is still way up there on the list as being one of the best foods in the world.