Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Last Pig

My mama didn't want to keep farm animals and she was a steady stream of disapproval to my dad's way of life. Daddy was 35 when they married and his whole entire world was about farming and being a country boy.  He didn't consider having a milk cow, a pig and a few chickens as "keeping animals".  That was more of a hobby to his way of thinking.  His daddy had run a small dairy operation at one time.  There were even horse and goat pictures mixed in with the old family photographs.   Keeping livestock was in his blood.

Mama won inch by inch.  First the milk cow went and Daddy stopped buying baby chicks every year to replenish his supply of laying hens.

The last time we had a hog was when I was in the 5th grade.  This one was black and white and we named the pig Sparky. He lived in the pigpen near the barn.  Daddy took the house scraps and mixed ground up corn meal and water to make the slop which was poured down into the trough.  Sparky ate with gusto at every meal and then spent his time on top of the manure pile rolling around.

Winter rolled around and Daddy arranged for someone to come in a truck and  pick up Sparky. Sparky wasn't much of a pet but when you give something a name, then it has a psychological impact.   We knew Sparky was there to make pork chops and bacon but it still didn't make it easy when his purpose came to fruition.

 I went with Daddy to the butcher shop where we brought Sparky back home wrapped in white meat paper.  It was rather traumatic for a fifth grade girl with an overly emotional soft spot.  I refused to eat any of the sausage but as the year rolled by my attachment to Sparky was lessened when I smelled country ham frying on top of the stove.

Daddy built a fire under the big black cast iron kettle and kept a smoldering fire burning most of the day as he put the chunks of white fat into the kettle so the lard could be rendered out. The lard was stored under the counter in the kitchen in big five gallon buckets.  This became Mama's shortening for baking or frying.  Lard fell out of favor with an industry that wanted to sell us corn oil and canola oil, but here we are coming full circle and realizing those five gallon containers of lard were really awesome for our health.   The leftover skin became cracklings that Mama kept in the freezer to go into the crackling cornbread.  The sausage was frozen as well as some other choice parts of the hog.

The hams were laid out on the kitchen table and Daddy made a concoction of sugar and spices that we rubbed and beat into the skin of the hams until they were well coated.  The hams were wrapped in brown paper and then in a gunny sack and hung out in the smoke shed.  It wasn't truly a smoke shed as we never ever smoked anything in it as far as I remember.  It was a cold place for the hams to cure.  Daddy made a heavy wooden box with an equally heavy lid and stored the bacon in it out in the same shed. This kept rodents out of the bacon.  After the hams cured, Daddy would go out and unwrap the ham and cut off the amount that Mama wanted in the kitchen.  It sounds crazy to me now but he would cut little pieces of raw ham off for us to eat.

Daddy, Mama, and Grandma ate the hog brains with eggs.  I still find this disgusting. None of us girls would touch them.  All of the other edible organ meats were cooked on top of the stove in a big pot. It produced a really horrible smell.  The organ meat was ground up, they added corn meal and lots of spices to make liver pudding.   Liver pudding was sliced and fried to prepare it. It had a spicy flavor like nothing else I have ever eaten. I still see liver pudding in the grocery store and I  remember the taste as being delicious but I am not sure anything but extreme hunger would propel me to eat it again.

After Sparky, the only life stock we had were a few aging hens who seemed a little lost as they scratched and pecked around the yard and barn until one day they were all gone too.  Daddy still continued to garden but it never really seemed the same.

Daddy relied on chemical fertilizers more and no longer had the organic fertilizer from the chickens, the cow and the pig.  We no longer ate lard but converted to corn oil consumption.  We bought our meats in the grocery store like good civilized people.  Mama wanted a modern way of life.  She had been seduced by the scientific world.  She also wanted to be like everyone else.  Many people were turning from their country roots and living a more compartmentalized life.

I think in many ways we have paid dearly.  We lost control of our meat supply.  We lost control of how our foods were grown.  We learned to sit in front of a television screen instead of living an active life that was in tune with the seasons.  We have a whole culture that falls apart if there is not complete climate control.  The one who works his land knows cold and heat.

It has taken years but my husband and I both are inch by inch moving back to the land.  We keep chickens and we have a small garden.  My husband cuts wood from our property that we burn in an open fireplace.  It seems to be a healthier and more balanced existence as though maybe we have an inner calling to be keepers of the land.

The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.

Animal husbandry, gardening, canning, baking, cooking, food preservation, tree felling, carpentry and thousands of other things were passed down from generation to generation.  It was in my generation that the chain was broken. I am thankful that so many other people are feeling the call to live a more simple existence and that they are willing to share the knowledge that they are learning.

We have let the marketers tell us how to live for so long that most of us  have such compartmentalized  lives that we do not even realize that our culture has in many ways lost complete touch with what it means to be human, to be people made from the dust.

 I think most of us would be happier people with less stuff and more substance in our lives.  There is something strong and fragile about going out in the morning to care for your livestock, seeing the frost, breathing in the cold morning air, seeing the first glimmer of the sun rising over the trees.  There is something deeply satisfying in growing your own food, preparing it and then serving it to your family.   At days end there is something healing for our souls to rock in front of an open fire without any noise other than the crackling of the fire and the ticking of a clock.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Mystery and Majesty

Mystery and majesty
Humility and might
All of it came that special night

Crowded streets, labor pains
No room at the inn, 
Instead, animals attend

Armies of heaven urging
shepherds to see
a babe in a manager but yet a King

Foreign dignitaries traveling from afar
Following the ethereal radiance of a guiding star

Mystery and majesty 
Humility and might
All of it came that special night

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Lost Art of Eating at Home

Mama cooked almost every single day of my childhood.  I have memories of her working her magic on our old Hot Point stove steam rising from her assortment of old pots on the burners. Some of the pots and pans were so ancient they were thin and warped a bit.  Most of her serving dishes were a hodge podge affair that had been used so often they had developed tiny spider cracks that were lightly stained.  Mama made meals that were simple, hot and good. Meatloaf, fried chicken, pork chops, fried ham, salmon patties, roast, Salisbury steak, vegetable soup, chili, spaghetti, cornbread, biscuits, yeast rolls, fried squash, okra, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, pickled beets, deviled eggs, green beans, butter beans, cooked cabbage, field peas, persimmon pudding, collards, sweet potatoes, fried apple pies and black eyed peas were some of the things on our menu throughout the year.  The most complicated thing she ever made was a homemade coconut cake. She baked the whole coconut and then grated the meat.  It was a huge fluffy white cake that had a ton of white icing that was covered with her fresh coconut.  She only made it about once a year.  It was her specialty and she was proud to take it our family Christmas gatherings.

We ate in the kitchen around a small red Formica table with mismatched chairs.  The entire room was wall to wall people when the whole family sat around that table. That table was laden with bowls of steaming vegetables, meat and bread. The serving dishes were passed and we filled our assorted floral design plates, others of them were blue colonial prints that she collected from the grocery store or some of them had faded golden rims with a funky golden line pattern design. We sat together laughing and talking while eating those nutritious and filling foods that Mama had prepared for us with her own hands.  Most of it Daddy had grown in his gardens or he had  raised the farm animals that were now providing our sustenance.  Mama never asked anyone what they wanted for supper.  There was one choice.  It was what Mama had prepared.  Either you ate or you went hungry.  It was fairly straight forward.  My palette was accustomed to Mama's cooking.  I still love the kinds of foods that she prepared.

I have watched with amazement at a culture that has moved away from the home cooked meal.  We don't speak in awe of Aunt Mary's apple pie or how Cousin Betty fried the best chicken instead we talk about restaurants and the foods that are signature recipes in those establishments.  Our kids are growing up with the idea that eating out is completely expected.  Eating at home has become a punishment.  I find it bizarre that as a culture we are fascinated by cooking shows but few of us still engage in the art of actually cooking. Even if we "cook" at home it has come to mean getting a frozen lasagna or pizza and popping it into the microwave while we pour a bag of salad into a bowl.

In the early years of my marriage I cooked out of necessity and because Mama had set an example for me.  Cooking was what a wife and a mother did, so I did it too.  Over the years we discovered that my husband had some food allergies so cooking at home was a good bit less stressful than trying to eat out.  I became a better cook in the process.  With anything the more you do it the better you can become.   I took my lead from Mama and I made the same simple things that she taught me by example how to fix.

Because I have spent so much time in the kitchen, cooking for the most part is not very stressful for me.  I still cook from scratch and for the most part cook without recipes, except when it comes to baking.  I can almost whip something up and have it on the table in less time than it would take to go out to eat.  I actually prefer it.  I like knowing who has handled my food.  I like the pleasure of fixing food for my husband or grown children and seeing their enjoyment in partaking of the things I have prepared.  I like the good smell of a cake in the oven or chicken frying on the stove.  I like the calmness of a meal eaten at home without the hustle and bustle of other patrons in a restaurant or the harried server trying to get the order right.  I like that we can eat at our leisure without feeling like we are hogging table space that another customer is waiting on.  It is also difficult to find some of the wholesome simple foods that we like on a restaurant menu.

I often cook more than we can eat in one meal.  I almost get giddy thinking about the home prepared leftovers that are waiting in the refrigerator for another meal.  It is joyous to pull out a sweet potato casserole, left over soup, or some extra cornbread.  The next meals become very efficient affairs that require very little labor.  Most of the dishes that I prepare are easily reheated.  Many of them are better the second or even the third day. 

More than all of that I like that our lives are centered around the domestic.  We enjoy spending a lot of our free time at home.  We enjoy shutting down the hustle and bustle of a life that is caught up and controlled by the commercial environment. We can eat at the table that is spread with a simple and often wrinkled cotton tablecloth or we can choose to sit on the couches, peer out the window at the bird feeders and listen to the wind chimes.  We can put on the tea kettle or make a pot of coffee and drink in an unhurried fashion while our food digests. At home we can light candles, start a fire in the fireplace or if warm enough throw open the windows and let the breeze blow through. At home the conversation can naturally erupt or there can be silence.

Eating at home gives opportunity for the family to gel together.  Sharing in the table,  where it is for the most part "just us",  gives a chance for a realness to develop.  The words that are shared can be honest and not hushed for fear that someone at another table might not understand.  A meal at home is a safe place for all of us to be ourselves whether we are engaged in the serious matters of life or in  our sarcasm and humor.

I am not against restaurants.  I appreciate that I can get food when I am not at home.  I enjoy being able to pop in to a restaurant and eat with family and friends.  I just don't think it is a healthy thing to do for the majority of our meals.

Even the tidying of the kitchen is a ritual that helps ground us in reality.  We learn that we are to serve ourselves and each other.  Cooking and cleaning up after us is not the job of some under payed and over worked restaurant employees. There is a satisfaction in wiping out that sink, sweeping up the floor and hanging those dish towels.

Cooking for others is a practical way of showing love.  Cooking and serving food for your family day after day creates an almost unbreakable bond with them.   It is truly a simple way to minister to those in your care.  When I serve a meal to my work worn husband, it speaks volumes to him.  When I prepare food for my grown son it brings back to his memory all of those days at home when he ate the same kinds of things around our table.  There is truly something almost mystical in breaking of bread with others, but there is something that is amazingly powerful in preparing and serving a meal to the others in your home.  I think that our family members would not be so drawn away from home if we worked on having homes that captivated them with that practical kind of love. Food is one of those things that draws all of us in.  Our son often brought people home with him as he grew up.  He knew that I would feed anyone who walked through the door, but I think he knew innately that those who came through our door would be accepted and loved.  Food is one of those tangible ways to show it.

My mama has been gone for over thirty years but when I look back I know she loved us.  It was not just her words but hour upon hour that she spent making it a home.  A big part of that making of a home centered around the thousands of meals that she prepared with her hands in an act of sacrificial service and love.

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.