Friday, May 29, 2009

Family Ties

Whatever the occasion, family get-togethers are special times. Last night we sat around the table - and the bar - and enjoyed fresh vegetables from Husband's bountiful garden. Food just has a way of bringing us together! And when we are together, we make wonderful memories.

We made memories as Sister and I put the vegetables, rice, steak and gravy, and fried cornbread in serving dishes and got everything ready to call, "Y'all come and eat!" You don't have to say that twice in our family. Husband said grace like Daddy would have done if he was still with us, and food began to disappear from serving bowls. I had tried to cook the meal "like Mama did" - and Youngest Brother and Sister even called it a "Gracie meal" - but I don't think anyone can cook quite like she did. I wonder - if she was looking down on us - if she noticed my gravy was a little too thick! No, I think she was so very glad to see us enjoying each other's company.

And I like to think that Middle Brother, who has been gone from us for four years now, was listening in to Oldest Brother and Youngest Brother, Brother-in-law, and Husband as they talked in the living room. He could always add the funniest versions of hunting stories that usually began: "Do you remember the day we were hunting on the Tick Misery Road . . . or at the Harve Swag . . . or down the Rattlesnake Road . . . ?" I think he would have loved the vegetables and would have especially enjoyed seeing Husband's garden. I can just hear him say, though, as he looked at the loaded tomato plants, "Hoss, why didn't you stake these plants and tie them up?" And Daddy would agree with him wholeheartedly!

After everyone had eaten their fill, leaving a tiny bit of room for lemon icebox pie, Sister-in-law and Niece washed, rinsed, and dried all the dishes while Sister and I cleared the table and put away food. (Actually, leftovers went into a "Care Package" for Oldest Brother!) What would have taken me hours to clean up was done in no time. Fast clean-ups remind me of the Sister-in-law we've missed for 25 years. I've never known anyone who could get a kitchen back in order and spotless as quickly as she could!

What fun we had in the kitchen as the three of us "old-er women" filled Niece in on "the way it used to be." She listened in disbelief - and sometimes horror - as we told her about can-cans, Dippity Do, Evening in Paris, hair rollers made from orange juice cans, and smelly home perms! She's probably still shaking her head!

I'm so glad that in these often-chaotic days in which we live, we found the time to be together and laugh . . . and remember . . . and eat. I implied earlier that fresh vegetables brought us together last night, and that is true. But that's not the whole story. What really brought us together is . . . love. And love - God's and ours - is what holds us together - even in the difficult times such as our family has experienced. It really is true: Love never fails.

"Blest be the tie that binds . . . "

Monday, May 25, 2009

Empty Boots

Viet Nam Memorial - Washington, D.C. (Google Images)

Today is Memorial Day, the day set aside to remember those who've paid the ultimate price in service to our country. One day a year . . . certainly not what they deserve, but I'm glad we have today. I wonder how many people who are celebrating on this long weekend have realized why today is a holiday. I'm afraid I really don't want to know.

I am so thankful to be an American . . . even considering the shape this nation is in today. America is still the best place to live and raise our families. It is the best place to be because of those who gave their lives defending the freedoms upon which our country was founded. I am so grateful to every one of those countless courageous men and women who left our soil and never returned . . . to the country they defended . . . to their loved ones here at home.

I am grateful to their families whose lives were forever altered with a telephone call or a knock on their doors. How many empty chairs . . . empty beds . . . empty hearts . . . and empty shoes or boots have existed in America's homes during our history? Too many. I can't imagine how these families have suffered. They, too, have made a tremendous sacrifice.

We can't thank those whom we honor today, but each of us can take every available opportunity to thank our veterans and those serving our country today. I encourage everyone to find a way to let them know that they are appreciated. You would be surprised to know just how many veterans, especially those who served during the Viet Nam War, have never heard the words, "Thank you for serving our country." What a shame.

Make the time in the days ahead to say those words . . . as often as you can . . . to as many veterans and military men and women as you can . . . and really mean it! It's the least we can do!
"All gave some. Some gave all."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lilies Aren't Forever

My Easter lilies, which bloom late here, are beginning to fade and die. I wish that were not so. I'd like for them to bloom much longer. More than ever, I've enjoyed their beauty and fragrance this year. Maybe it's because I had more of them - about 40 blooms at one time - in two different beds. Their pure, snow-white appearance and their sweet fragrance are heavenly. Very fitting characteristics for a flower associated with Easter!

But today I noticed several that had turned brown and were hanging limply from the stem. A few blooms had already fallen to the ground. As I broke off the limp lilies and picked up the dead ones, I thought of the fact that today is Ascension Day, the day The Church celebrates Christ's return to His heavenly home. The Lily of the Valley, pure and sinless, died on Calvary. His limp body was placed in a borrowed tomb. But . . . But . . .He didn't stay there! He arose!! He ascended back to His Father . . . and He's alive forevermore!!!

My Easter lilies may not live and bloom forever, but He who conquered death once and for all does!! And one day - a day of His choosing - I plan to join Him in that place where flowers never fade nor die!

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Don't Do Weedeating!

Just for fun complete this sentence: I don't do . . .

For one thing, I don't do . . . weedeating! Husband does that . . . and it's fine with me. In the first place, because my arms are so short (at least that's what I tell myself), I can't hold the weedeater and pull the cord out far enough to crank it. Secondly, husband started it for me once, and I never could figure out how to cut evenly. I made a mess!! Looked like a gopher had been digging in the yard! So, I'll leave that job for him - and he's probably relieved. You've heard the old saying: If you can't do something right, then don't do it! I rest my case!

I don't do . . . extreme heights. Well, OK . . . maybe I don't do heights at all. It's difficult for me to climb bleachers at a game!

I don't do . . . most amusement park rides. It's OK, though, because I amuse myself watching others who do!

I don't do . . . strange, exotic foods. If it's not southern or comforting or thoroughly cooked, or if I can't pronounce it, I'll pass!

I don't do . . . scary movies. Real life is scary enough sometimes! Why would I want to scare myself on purpose?

On a more serious note, however, there are some things that I don't enjoy or feel capable of that I, with God's help, must do anyway. Life has a way of placing many challenges in our paths: trials, temptations, unpleasant circumstances, setbacks, monotony, discouragement, tragedy . . . and the list goes on and on. But as a Christian, I can't sit back and say, "I don't do those things!" In fact, those situations are the very times that my faith is put to the test. Those are the tunnel trips (as I wrote about earlier), where God proves His love and care for me.

I read an article this week by Tim Kimmel which got me to thinking about this idea. He said: I'm grateful Moses didn't say, "I don't do Red Seas." David didn't say, "I don't do giants." Paul didn't say, "I don't do road trips." Mary didn't say, "I don't do virgin births." And I'm most grateful that Jesus didn't say, " I don't do crosses."

"Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for everyone,
And there's a cross for me."

Monday, May 11, 2009

COME and Dine!!

"God provides every bird its food but doesn't throw it in the nest." (copied)
We watched as the male bluebird flew to the spot where my husband had just put out meal worms and had whistled for the birds, signalling that supper was ready. Perched high above on a wire, the female patiently sat.

Husband said, "Watch him take her a worm to eat."

That's exactly what happened! I positioned myself to get a good shot of the pair and snapped my camera just in time!

The bluebirds could have stayed high in the trees and missed an opportunity for an easy meal. Hunger, instinct, and the whistle that they had grown accustomed to prompted them to respond, move out of their sheltered spot and fly to the food.

How many times do I fail to be nourished because I don't respond to the overflowing table that my Heavenly Father prepares for me? He invites me to "come and dine" on a daily basis. His Word is always available to me . . . words that can fill any hunger in my soul. But I must open the Bible . . . and my eyes . . . and ears . . . and mind . . . and heart . . . and prayerfully digest The Bread of Life. Jesus is a Gentle Shepherd and never forces Himself or His Word into my life or yours. I must recognize my hunger and respond. I must do my part . . . and He'll certainly do His! I can always leave His table satisfied!

And when I've been nourished, I think He smiles when I share the Bread of Life with others!
"Jesus has a table spread, where the saints of God are fed . . . "

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea -
the Lord on high is mighty."
Psalm 93:4
"Our God reigns . . . our God reigns."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tunnel Vision

I've never liked traveling through tunnels. On our recent trip, the road took us through quite a few like the one above, and a much longer, more traveled one near Norfolk. I'm claustrophobic and don't like the idea that water - or earth - is piled on top of me! Some tunnels are illuminated to some degree by lights, but the fact that I'm in a dark, dark place is still very real. Signs warn near others to "Use your headlights" - as if we wouldn't think of that! Smells from exhaust pipes are intensified, especially in the longer tunnels, and the noise from other vehicles is incredibly loud. For me - not a pleasant place to be! I can't wait to see a glimmer of sunshine ahead, and the suffocating feeling leaves me as we burst into the sunlight.

So much like life. You understand this analogy as well as I do, for we all must travel through some tunnels, both brief and seemingly never-ending ones. I've never enjoyed any of the circumstances that thrust me into the suffocating darkness; neither have you. But I do know that my Heavenly Father knew where I was every moment; even though I couldn't see Him, He was my constant traveling companion and guide. The noise from my own confusion and the voice of Satan sometimes drowned out His gentle whispers. In fact, in the dark times of life, the tempter seems to shout the loudest as he spews suggestions into my mind - suggestions that only intensify the pain and keep me stalled in the tunnel.

In recent days, God has been speaking to me about abiding in Him - even when I'm in a tunnel. Abiding . . . even the word itself seems to bring comfort. I must confess that I have much to learn about all that abiding means in my life. I do know that I want to be as close to Him as I can and that abiding is something I must choose and consciously practice. Abiding does not take away the troubling circumstances, but it does give me the inner calmness and the confidence to continue on my journey because I know that His grace is sufficient. He is enough! And in His time, I always emerge into the sunlight again!

One day this week, when I turned the page of my Scripture calendar for the day, these words summed up my own prayer so well:
Lord, I don't pray for tranquility, or that my problems may cease; I pray that Your Spirit and love would give me the strength to abide in You during adversity.
"Jesus will walk with me . . . in the night season and all the day long."