Sorrow and hope in one week

Flames consuming the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral caused millions of people around the world to stand still this week. When the spire then collapsed, there was only awestruck silence to see falling the symbol of what had taken hundreds of years to build.

I stood transfixed with tears flowing. I couldn’t even sit as I watched the television images of this magnificent church and iconic landmark burn. It stood as a monument to great faith, great minds, great inspiration.

notre dameI have visited Paris only once but Notre Dame was at the top of the must-see list right there with the Eiffel Tower.

As much as we mourn the loss, we must remember what King Solomon learned after he built the magnificent and matchless temple in Jerusalem. There is no satisfaction in things. After searching for meaning, Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes – that soulful, despairing examination of life.  After pondering all that he had accomplished – wealth so great that silver wasn’t even valuable; knowledge greater than any human before or since; accumulation of land, property, and people – he concluded it is all pointless.

As beautiful as Notre Dame was, and as long as it stood intact, there was no guarantee that it would last forever. Solomon didn’t live to see his temple destroyed, but it was. Man’s achievements are not eternal.

God’s are. Commentators have reflected on the irony of Notre Dame burning during Holy Week. Maybe we should look at the timing as a chance to reflect. I don’t think God caused the cathedral fire, but I believe that we can learn important lessons after tragedies.

Observance of Holy Week reminds us of what is eternal. God loves us so much that He made the greatest sacrifice to ensure our eternal life with Him. Worshipers won’t be able to enter Notre Dame maybe for years but we don’t need a cathedral to fall before God and accept His gift to us – life everlasting in His presence by accepting that Jesus chose God’s will and then overcame death.

Solomon finally concluded that there is hope. “Fear God and keep His commandments,” Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “for this is the whole duty of man.” NIV

It is the week to ask if we are putting our hope in things that can be destroyed by fire, flood, rust, and decay, or are we investing in eternity. We have witnessed ourselves what Isaiah recorded: “The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 4:8 NLT

In the New Testament, the Son of God promises “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” John  16:33

On this day which is the beginning of Passover, when God began the journey to save His people, and is Good Friday, when God again offered a plan to save His people, let us remember what Paul writes In Romans 15:13:  “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.”

 

 

What makes a home privileged?

I was born into a privileged home.

This conjures images of a three-story mansion with a six-car garage and weekends in Paris.

My house differed in size from that image but not in quality. Instead of a three-story mansion, our house had one-story with a partially floored attic. Economically speaking, we sat in the third row of the middle class; however, in one respect, we enjoyed first-class. Continue reading What makes a home privileged?

Can an apple a day keep the neurologist away? Or what can I do to prevent Alzheimer’s?

September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day. The idea is to bring awareness about this illness that affects so many millions – those diagnosed with the disease and the estimated 100,000,000 caregivers around the world.

More than 30 years ago, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, an illness we may have heard about but knew nothing about. Today, my mother has the illness, and I know a great deal more, information that I hope makes her days better – and mine, too. Continue reading Can an apple a day keep the neurologist away? Or what can I do to prevent Alzheimer’s?

Dirty kids enjoy good, clean fun

A Facebook photo posted this week by the mother of a toddler showed him enjoying a mud puddle. It reminded me about where to find joy and brought back some good memories.

The one-year-old was splashing in what has been a rare thing this summer: a real mud bath. Sitting elbow deep in thick, brown water, this toddler told the story with his grin. I am sure Mom got comments about washing clothes, the amount of bleach she might need this summer, etc.

It reminded me of something I wrote 26 years ago about my own son.

My son enjoyed an occasional mud bath
My son enjoyed an occasional mud bath

As the mother of an outdoors boy I remembered how much I spent on laundry detergent, but also, how much I enjoyed it.

From 1989:

I like dirty kids.
That emphatic statement needs some elaboration.
There is dirt and there is dirt.
Dirty kids (the ones I like) were washed yesterday but show no signs of it today.
The dirt does not extend into their mouths; that is, they don’t smoke, drink, curse, or talk back to their parents. Often, however, their faces bear irrefutable evidence that they have sampled mudpies, and their mouths may be ringed with today’s lunch.
“Good” dirt looks like sand, mud, grease, grass, or orange dreamsicle.
“Good” dirt smells like freshly plowed field, chocolate, or motor oil.
Generally speaking, dirty kids go at life with gusto. They don’t hesitate to slide into second base, jump off a picnic table, or roll down a steep bank.
They aren’t finicky eaters but will pick and eat wild blackberries, chomp broccoli right in the garden, and smear tomato sauce as they craft their own pizzas.

Even as a toddler, he enjoyed rolling dough.
Even as a toddler, he enjoyed rolling dough.

Dirty kids enjoy life and want to participate, whether baking a cake (and licking the batter bowl not worrying about salmonella in raw eggs), or mowing the grass (and wiping the oil dip stick on clean jeans.
Dirty kids collect things. Those things can be inanimate such as nuts, bolts, and wrenches, or they can be on the move such as toads, crayfish, and snakes. Either way, Mom spends overtime in the laundry room.

Dirty kids poke their noses in as many places as a beagle on the trail and find more places to climb than a cat. They don’t settle for being spectators. Continue reading Dirty kids enjoy good, clean fun

Viewing the world through the eyes of a child

When was the last time you were amazed by something?

That doesn’t mean merely surprised, which doesn’t happen very often either, but stood in sheer wonder at something marvelously inventive, or creative, or beautiful, or exceptional?

My 23-month old granddaughter is teaching me as she discovers so many things. This week, she is jumping – just jumping – for the sheer joy of doing something new.QueenAnnesLace-600

We, in America especially, have seen so many wonderful things happen since the beginning of the 20th century that it has become difficult for us to be amazed at anything. Our calloused souls don’t allow much enjoyment, but amazement offers an exhilarating, life-affirming joy that can refresh like a thundershower on a summer day.

That escape from the routine, that pumping of adrenalin caused by the shock of something new and wonderful can change our perspective, if we let it.

People like my grandmother grew up being amazed by technology. Before she was a teenager, the horse and buggy were being replaced by the horseless carriage. The first airplane flight came shortly after, and before she died, man had walked on the moon, an event she watched on her television. Continue reading Viewing the world through the eyes of a child

March days mirror our souls…

This week, Holy Week, can be a dark one for Christians, and it certainly is for the faithful at our church as a dear friend to all died today.

Here on the last day of the month, we have had a day like that described by Charles Dickens: “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.”

Emotionally, we feel the same. In the dark of the shade, death is cold and we are forlorn, but when we move into the light of the Son, we see and feel the warmth. We mourn a death at the same time that we look forward to the resurrection. We grieve that a loved one is lost and yet that person’s statement of faith lets us know she was prepared for her mansion in heaven. She was an inspiring witness to that during her short illness.

The news came this morning: “Debbie is strolling the streets of gold in the arms of her Savior.” It is the bitter winter that her family feels right now; although, her witness assures that she is basking in the warmth of the Son.

We have an advantage over those mourners two thousand years ago. We know the end of the story. That doesn’t take the pain away, but it reminds us that no matter how long the winter, spring will come.

Just look around. The daffodils, sometimes called March flowers, that spent the winter buried as lifeless, brown, papery bulbs have popped out of the ground gold and glorious to create their own sunlight under the trees. As Lady Bird Johnson said, “Where flowers bloom so does hope.”

The house may be deserted, but the daffodils return every spring. These photos of daffodils are some around our countryside I took to give my husband as a birthday present because he loves “buttercups.”
"A host of daffodils: Beside the lake,      beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing      in the breeze." -William Wordsworth
“A host of daffodils: Beside the lake,
beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing
in the breeze.”
-William Wordsworth

 

Every day, we make choices that determine if we will stand in the shade or move into the light. We can be as consistent and persistent as the daffodil, or not, We have free choice.

Speaking of daffodils and choices:

Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards wrote about a five-acre garden in California that looked like a vat of gold had been poured on the hillside. The 50,000 daffodil bulbs were planted by one woman. The story became known as The Daffodil Principle. It is worth reading. Google will bring up numerous references, but my favorite is set to Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique at llerrah.com/daffodilprinciple.htm

 

 

There are heroes all around us…

Joe is burying his mother-in-law today.

That sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. Instead, it is a tribute to a man who has been self-sacrificing in a way that makes him a hero.

His real name is not Joe. He would be embarrassed by this post. Plus, I should respect his privacy, but it is hard not to hold him up as a role model, especially during March Madness when young men and women are hailed as heroes just because they can put a ball in a basket on a last second shot.

Don’t get me wrong. I love basketball, played myself, and I like to see players who have worked hard to get where they are,  but during NCAA tournament time, we tend to idolize those who were born with certain talents and love what they are doing.

Joe wasn’t born to do what has been doing and certainly could have chosen a different path to follow. Continue reading There are heroes all around us…

Every child needs a granny

Those with experience say that grandchildren are so much fun, they should have come first. We didn’t understand until 20 months ago when our granddaughter was born. (I should add that because we have enjoyed our son so much, it was hard to believe that a grandchild could be more enjoyable.)
As much fun as it is, however,this grandparenting thing is scary. What if we do it wrong?
To help us and other like-minded folks, but especially to help our precious descendants, our church is holding a Bible study just for grandparents (or surrogate grandparents) to learn how to pray for their grandchildren.
The first night, we had to describe our own grandparents. That reminded me of a tribute I wrote to my grandmother for Grandparents Day in 1983.
Here is a doctored version of that tribute:

My grandmother was born Beulah Olivine Bridges in the New House community of Cleveland County where she lived until her death at age 88 in 1985. She never traveled very far from there – she never learned to drive a car – until a group of ‘widow women,’ as they called themselves, drove to Florida for a week. We thought that was quite daring considering their advanced age – she was about 60 at the time! As far back as I can remember, she looked like a granny – slightly over five feet tall with a round, apple shape and gray hair she tinted with a blue rinse.
My earliest memory of her is steeped in echoes of the weathered, clapboard barn beside her house. She was a marvel in patience as she put up with an energetic preschool granddaughter who liked to follow her as she carried the metal five-gallon milk pail from the straw-strewn barn where she had milked, to the house, where she stretched a cheesecloth over the top of the bucket and strained the frothy milk into a jar. She then poured a glass for me. Today, the thought of warm milk isn’t very appetizing, but then, I loved it.
Later in the week, Granny would skim the heavy, yellow cream off the top of the milk to make butter in a brown crock. She had an electric churn by the time I was old enough to watch, but she had done her share of plunging the dasher by hand. She scooped out the big clumps of butter in her hands and through a washing and squeezing and slapping process formed balls to press into a wooden mold. She turned the packed mold upside down on a sheet of waxed paper to reveal the wheat design in the top of the golden pound.
All the time, she had a squirming, inquisitive three-year-old eager to help.
The butter went into all sorts of homemade dishes, but my favorite was gooey Sugar Stickies, a dish created out of the necessity during lean times when the meal needed a finishing sweet, but there was no fruit for pies.
I sat at the oil cloth-covered kitchen table to watch Granny press thin strips of biscuit dough on a clean flour sack with a green-handled wooden rolling pin. She spread the strips with softened butter, sprinkled on sugar and rolled the strip up. She placed the swirls side by side in a buttered dish, spread butter over the top and sprinkled with more sugar and popped the dish in the oven.
The resulting confection, served warm, was better than Krispy Kremes when the hot sign is on. Granny never measured anything, but two years before I wrote this tribute, I requested her recipe for a community cookbook. She made the stickies and measured as she went along. She later substituted margarine for the butter when we all thought it was better for you and when milking your own cow became a memory and not a twice daily moment.
More important than the stickie recipe she handed down was the evidence of her faith shared, not through words, but through example.

Granny, left, holds my hand and those of my twin cousins with their other grandmother.
Granny, left, holds my hand and those of my twin cousins with their other grandmother.

Granny lived during two world wars and bought and worked a farm with my Papa while rearing three children during the Great Depression. She remembered the first automobile she ever saw. She remembered news of the first airplane flight and then watched on television as man stepped on the moon. A hard worker who never complained, Granny sewed all her own clothes until later in life when she could afford to buy at a store. I remember going with her to A.V. Wray’s department store and watching her try on a suit and a blouse. Although she didn’t say anything as she turned in front of the mirror, I could see the joy in her face. Continue reading Every child needs a granny

Serendipitous sunflowers…and other things

The serendipity I found on the way to describing serendipity is fun in itself.

It seems the word, which means “a pleasant surprise or desirable discoveries,” was coined in 1754 by Harold Walpole who explained an unexpected discovery he had made by referring to a Persian fairy tale,The Three Princes of Serendip.

The princes, he said were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity of things which they were not in quest of.” (We will leave the definition of “sagacity” for another day.) This weekend, several happenstances aligned to make something nice out of something unexpected.

First, my gardeners are serendipitous and industrious. Their names are Chip and Dale. They have mouse-sized bodies with fluffy tales and stripes down their backs. They hang out under the bird feeder stocking up for the winter by stuffing their little jaw pouches with sunflower seeds and then depositing their harvest in the softest ground they can find.

Ergo (trying out my Latin), sunflowers pop up all over our yard and garden. There are sunflowers growing in all the potted plants, in the grass, in the stone-covered patio, in the herb garden. The first year Chip and Dale worked for us, my first inclination was to jerk those spindly sunflower stalks out of my cultivated flower beds and pots of bougainvillea, but one look at those golden flower heads with their brown seed centers cleared my head. This was serendipity.

A wonderful discovery – we had a cheerful garden because two hard-working rodents had planted it – and I didn’t have to.

I hesitate to use the term rodent because that makes me think of mice, so it was serendipity to learn that chipmunks are part of the squirrel family (also rodents, but don’t say it out loud). Their pudgy cheeks and big eyes make them more attractive than the resident field mouse. Watching Chip and Dale scamper on the lawn furniture is entertainment in itself. No wonder Hollywood has cast them in their own series.

Check out these photos of the work of gardeners who are so dedicated they sleep outside with their creations.

IMG_7150 IMG_7383

Serendipitous sunflowers accent the gerber daisies; grow to good size; and make a cheerful arrangement beside Ginger Spangler's painting of a cow on an antique table in our living room.
Serendipitous sunflowers accent the gerber daisies; grow to good size; and make a cheerful arrangement beside Ginger Spangler’s painting of a cow on an antique table in our living room.

 Serendipity – Act Two

The local thrift stores are mines filled with gems worth discovering.

And a source of serendipity. In the last two weeks, one shop yielded a mustard gold linen runner (it cost 1.29) to set the stage on our pine breakfast table for a vignette of white shell accessories to accent a photo of our granddaughter’s beach trip. The next stop provided a mustard-colored distressed bench ($1) that now holds the photo and adds punch to the display.

Another display in the kitchen is the result of thrift store mining – most of it found on the same day (I visit three stores in about an hour about every two weeks). When folded in thirds, a cotton tablecloth of red, green, and yellow peppers ($1) forms the runner and the base for this fun arrangement. A weathered green box ($.50) holds old cookbooks including a Betty Feezor book found by a friend at the flea market. A set of green enamel ware dishes was a steal at $2. When putting together a vignette like this, just look around the house to find what colors will enhance your finds. In this case, I found mandarin oranges in the fridge for the $.50 signed, handmade pottery bowl; and in the cabinet, found green packages of pistachios to pile in a $.25 saucer for the snackers to enjoy.The carrot candle holder came from my basement, which could be a flea market in itself.

Serendipity is discovering good things and finding how they all seem to work together.

Decorating magazines give good advice when they say that if you like something, buy it, because it will fit somewhere.

You’ll experience serendipity as you see where it fits.

 

 

 

A life changer…

Last Friday at 7 a.m., my life changed forever.

But not as much as it changed for my stepfather.

It was a typical Friday. He and my mother had risen early, stripped the bed of its sheets and had a full washer going before most of us had stretched good.

He had made a pot of coffee and then driven to Hardee’s to buy two sausage biscuits for their breakfast. Growing up on a farm, he used to describe getting up at 4 each day to build fires in the heater and the cook stove before going out to feed the animals, a chore he enjoyed and had traded with his brothers for another chore he hated – milking cows.

At 7 a.m. Friday, he had just sat down in his recliner to watch the news. My 93-year-old mom sat near him in her blue upholstered rocker. He had taken one bite out of that perfectly browned biscuit when it happened – a large stroke, so called by the neurologist describing the large part of the brain affected.

Just three weeks shy of his 90th birthday, his life changed forever. What changed for me was the sudden realization of all the many things I had never said to him, the many things I had never done for him, the many cakes I had never baked for him, the many notes of appreciation I had never written to him,  the many photos I had never taken of him and my toddler granddaughter, who loved to play with him.

I had taken for granted, even though he and my mom have outlived most of their families and contemporaries, that life would just go on as normal. There would always be time to do things.

Wrong, For a long time, I have felt the need to write a letter telling him how much he has meant to us since he and my mom, both widowed, were married 25 years ago. A grandfather to my son, who as a three-year-old carried the ring at their wedding, he did grandpa stuff –  made a slingshot, took him fishing on the creek, and cared for him in the summers while I worked.

I was going to do that for the 90th birthday party planned for next month. At this point, three days into after-stroke life, we aren’t sure where this World War II Navy gunner’s mate will be that day.

Today, I am regretting all I didn’t do to help him. In the earlier days of their marriage, he expanded by mom’s horizons with travel and music and fun. For the last three years, he has dealt with her limited world, doing everything in the house and yard – cooking, cleaning, mowing. My mom has Alzheimer’s. He has been her faithful, loving, attentive, understanding helpmate. Why didn’t I bake more cakes for them, give him more breaks, tell him how great I think he has been to her?

We are so grateful for his active life that had him driving and washing clothes last week, but we are now praying for his recovery.

We don’t know yet how this will turn out. He wins either way because he knows his Savior. I feel selfish talking about the way my life has changed, but I hope this is a wake-up call that makes me more aware of what I should be doing now because we are not promised tomorrow.

I need to look at my life and do to my daily activities what I have to do on my VCR occasionally – rearrange priorities. If you ask the VCR to record too many programs at the same time, it asks you to choose priorities. Which show is more important? Is Downton Abbey more or less essential than Revenge?  What should be number one?

What is the most important thing I have do do each day? Not the urgent or the pressing but the important.

Please pray for Hugh.

 

 

appreciating everyday joys

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