The Memory Tree

photoThe season of celebration is here again and we’ve just decorated our tree.  It is weighted down with forty-five years of collected ornaments.

My ‘tree delight’ started when I was a little girl.  I grew up on a farm in Southern Mississippi and my sister, Lynda, who was 81/2 years older, always made decorating the tree so much fun.  My dad cut the tree from our land and once he had it well ‘planted” in an old bucket and dragged into the living room, my sister took over. She beat ivory flakes and water together until it turned to snow and she and I ‘flocked’ the tree. (did any of you do that??) We then strung our big bulbed multi-colored lights amidst the ‘snow’ covered branches and hung our few ornaments.   We finished it by draping ice-cycles all over it. Then we’d call Mother and Daddy to come see our masterpiece.  (Oh, and occasionally after the holidays we had to clean that ‘flock’ off the paneled walls because our “throwed” snow missed it’s mark.) What precious memories.

Today, my prize ornament is one from that farm house tree.  It’s the only ornament left and most of it’s paint is eaten away by both time and that ivory snow. When I look at it, it transports me back to a long ago Christmas – 1975 to be exact.  It  hung on the last Christmas tree ever put up in the farm-house.

I wrote “His Perfect Timing” years ago because I never wanted to forget His faithfulness  and I’d like to share it with you today…particularly since my mom is spending her first Christmas in Heaven this year.  I hope you enjoy the story.

His Perfect Timing

Christmas 1975  – Pam Taylor

Christmas was approaching and I’d just marked off “make a batch of peanut brittle” from my long to-do-list when the phone rang.

“Pam, I hate to have to tell you this, but I have bad news. Daddy’s visit to the doctor didn’t go well,” my brother Jerry’s voice broke as he shared his news. “Daddy has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The doctor thinks it’s malignant and scheduled surgery for December 17th.”

Stunned by the news, I hung up the phone as tears streamed down my face. I leaned against the kitchen counter as I attempted to assimilate the news. Daddy had always been very healthy but he’d recently experienced numbness in his right arm. My husband had a pinched nerve and my daddy’s symptoms were similar so I assumed that was what he was dealing with.

The year before, he’d retired from his lifelong career of teaching school. He wanted to add a new bedroom onto the house and that was his first retirement project. He’d cut down several trees and had them milled into lumber as he prepared to add the addition. I was so sure the hard work was the culprit of the numbness that I’d not given much thought to any other possibility so the news stunned me with both grief and anger.

“Lord,” I cried, “I don’t understand. If this had to happen, why couldn’t it have been after the holidays? Why couldn’t we have had a special Christmas? The timing couldn’t be worse.”

It was my first Christmas since I’d moved to Oklahoma and become a mom that my family and I were going to be able to spend Christmas with my mother and daddy.  I’d carefully planned every detail. We’d sent airplane tickets to them so they could fly up and see our new home. Then we’d all travel together to Mississippi in time to spend Christmas on the farm.

How quickly things had fallen apart. Chunking my once important to-do-list into the trash, I called the airlines and canceled my parent’s plane tickets. Then I tearfully called my husband. He, too, was as shocked as I with the news. He urged me to get a plane ticket for Mississippi. He’d drive down as soon as his vacation time started.

A few days later, I boarded a plane with a diaper bag slung over one shoulder and my chubby little boy, Ben, on my hip. The flight seemed to take forever. As the plane descended, I caught a glimpse of the lush green pines of Mississippi. I held Ben tight as grief washed over me and tears streamed down my face.  My shoulders ached from the stress and so did my heart as the plane landed.

“Lord,” I cried again,” why did this have to happen at Christmas? Please let Daddy be okay! Let Ben grow up knowing my dad. Let him get to do fun things with Daddy—like hunt Christmas trees.” A carousel of distressing thoughts continued to circle through my head as I debarked the plane.

To make matters worse, the Jackson hospital was almost two hours from my parent’s home. It was too far to drive back and forth, so my sister and brothers rented motel rooms the first night so we’d be near my dad. The extra cost strained all of our budgets.

“Some Christmas, Lord.”

On the second day of my dad’s hospital stay, a legislator from our hometown visited us. He was a family friend who had grown up on the farm next to ours. Preparing to leave, he pulled a key from his pocket and handed it to us.

“The legislature is officially on break now, and my two roommates and I are headed home today. If you need it, our apartment is yours through the rest of December. It’s not far from the hospital.”

We checked out of our motel rooms and located the apartment. Each of the three bedrooms had private baths and the apartment was furnished with a washer and dryer. When my sister and I weren’t at the hospital, we shopped for Christmas presents. We all took turns staying with our dad, and we shared many sweet times together, not only at the hospital, but also in our borrowed home.

On Christmas Eve, the doctor dismissed my dad. When we arrived home, someone had brought us a fresh-cut pine tree. My sister and I decorated it late that night. Neighbors and friends had filled the house with wonderful Southern food. We had a very special Christmas after all.

Today as I recall how I railed at God about his timing, I am humbled. My sister and her husband lived out-of-state and were schoolteachers. They were on Christmas break. My husband and I had scheduled our vacation time, too, because of our planned trip. At no other time of the year would the apartment have been available, nor would we all have had vacation time. It’s been thirty-eight years since that long ago Christmas, but the memories and lessons are etched in my heart. Although it was my dad’s last Christmas, he had all of his kids gathered around him as we drew close to God and to each other. And I learned that while unexpected things may blind side me, they never blind side God. His timing is perfect. (The End!)

Reading this story reaffirms to me how faithful God has been throughout my life.  His Mercies are new every morning no matter what comes our way.

 Here are a few of the memories on our tree.  The first pic is of the old ornament.  The second and third are of my daughter, Jan,  who celebrated her first Christmas in Heaven in 2006.  The last pic is an ornament I made as a young bride. It hung on my first tree in 1970 and is a pic of my mom and dad and me.   Love to you, Pam

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Another Gulf Coast Adventure

I remember the first time I crossed the Mississippi River Bridge forty-four years ago.  I was traveling to meet my future In-laws.  I tossed a penny into those ‘well written about’ Huck Finn waters as we drove toward Oklahoma.  I’ve now passed over that bridge hundreds of times and experienced a lot of living in between.

Last year John and I camped at the Gulf State Park for the first time and loved it.  We decided we’d like to make it a yearly event.  That was before John’s health took a dive. With the death of my mom and John’s cardiac situation, we didn’t think we’d be able to make the trip again.  But alas, in God’s Grace, we were blessed to do it one more time.

Hope you enjoy the pictures that follow.  The first is taken from the Mississippi River Bridge, others from the beach, and then some from our camp site.  On days that John was tired, we enjoyed sitting outside our trailer resting and reading and watching the Monarchs and other wild life.  Thank you, Lord.  Oh, and I did my shell-a-thon again.  Pictures will follow later on those treasures.

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Eulogy – Pearl Powell

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Written by Jerry Powell and Barry Powell
Presented by Barry Powell

My grandmother, Pearl, was a lady from a different generation, being born on Feb. 17th, 1914. She was the daughter of Gene and Ada Rayburn. She had four siblings; Wesley, S.E., Lily Mae, and Edna, who are all deceased. Her family worked as tenant farmers for most of her early years and on into her teens. Her dad, except for his last couple of years, did his farming with mule power. Her parents were eventually able to buy their own farm. They lived there until her father passed away. Her younger brother, S.E., was injured but survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. Grandmother said it was many weeks before they knew if he was living or not.

Not long ago Grandmother was talking about the hard but good life on the farm. She said several of her parent’s siblings had better jobs and seemed to be more affluent than their family. However during the depression years some of the families lost their jobs and became destitute. At least one of these families came and stayed for a time with them. She said they didn’t have much, but even during the depression, they had plenty of good quality food.

She married my Grandfather, Sherley Powell in May of 1935, right after she graduated from High School. He had just finished college. Grand- daddy spent his entire career working in the teaching profession and farming on the side. Grandmother supported him as a hardworking housewife and mother. They established their home on a parcel of land, deeded to them by my great-grandfather, Charlie Powell. With a few short exceptions, they spent their entire married life in this home in the Improve community. They raised four children: Wayne Powell(deceased) , Jerry Powell, Linda Landreth (deceased), and Pam Whitley Taylor. My grandmother leaves behind two children, seven grandchildren, nineteen great grandchildren and sixteen great-great grandchildren. Over the years, she suffered the loss of her parents, all of her siblings, her husband, two of her children, one grand-daughter(Janice Marie Whitley), and one great- grandson, Seth Russell.

Yes, she was one hundred years old. She came from a different generation. She didn’t relate well at all to cell phones, lap tops, emailing, texting, Facebook, etc. However she knew what working in the fields was. She related well to thinning corn, picking cotton, smokehouses, outdoor toilets, family gardens, sewing, darning socks, patching jeans, and burning oil lamps. She would talk of when they first got electricity, telephone, television, indoor plumbing, etc. She talked of riding a horse to school occasionally, walking miles to school, and missing a lot of school because of weather, illness or work. Talking, not long ago, concerning some of this, she said, ” I was always behind in school”. She mentioned one particular day when it was especially cold, they stopped on the way to school; her brother Wesley built a fire and they warmed by it. When asked “weren’t you late?”, she said in that day, it wasn’t unusual for students to drift in late because of the weather. Classes didn’t start until most everyone was there.

After Grandmother graduated (from Columbia High School) at twenty-one years old, she married my granddaddy. They were married for forty-one years. She was sixty-two when he died and she spent thirty-eight years as a widow.

After my grandfather died in 1976, Grandmother had a tough time re- establishing a quality life. She was afraid to stay by herself. She stayed on the farm in the daytime and stayed nights with her older brother Wesley, who lived just a few miles away. She made extended trips to Oklahoma and assisted my Aunt Pam with her invalid daughter, Jan. Eventually she moved into a duplex apartment owned by her mother. She helped and cared for her ten years until ” Momma Rae” passed away at age 103. By herself again, Grandmother decided to move into an assisted care facility where she stayed several years until she had a light stroke. After her stroke in 2006, she transferred from Wesley hospital to the Myrtles nursing home where she lived the rest of her life.

Two things I will always remember about Grandmother is Tang and wheat
germ. Once the astronauts took Tang to the moon and the advertisements told how ‘good for you’ Tang was, Grandmother served it regularly to her family. And the wheat germ? She said you could sprinkle it on anything you ate, and it would be good for you!
She drove her last car, a 1984 Chevy Celebrity until she was ninety-two years old. She had it painted twice and a new headliner installed. When she quit driving it had less than 50,000 miles on it. (about a 1/3 of that was on it when she bought it). It was used to transport her to doctor visits long after she quit driving because it was the easiest vehicle for her to get in and out of.

Her comment every time she saw it was “it still looks good doesn’t it?”. My Uncle Jerry would frequently take the car when he visited her so he could keep it checked out and the battery charged. He knew to park it at the end of the parking lot because she would always ask ” did you come in my car?” and if he did, she would ask ” is it parked where I can see it”. Her car is still in the family. It is owned by a great-grandson. She asked a few days before she died if her car was still doing alright.

My grandmother raised four good Christian children, she was devoted to them and to her entire extended family her entire life. I am proud to be a part of this family.

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A Different Kind of Adventure

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John and I have been plunged into an unexpected new adventure. We didn’t choose it but it pounced upon us when we weren’t looking. I wrote in my Super Bowl Sunday post about John’s open heart surgery.  All seemed to go well following that unexpected detour in health and John started back to work after ten weeks of recovery.  We were excited because he was starting to feel better than he’d felt in a long time. On March 14, his fourth day of work, he felt a bit of chest pain.  The cardiologist had told him if he ever felt pain like  before surgery, to get himself to the Doctor.  By Friday evening, when he got off of work, we headed to the ER.  They found nothing but told him to see his Doctor on Monday.  By Monday, the pain was more pronounced, particularly upon exertion.

John’s chest scar was flat and smooth following surgery.   A few weeks afterwards, the incision turned beet red and became raised, beginning to look like a rope.  On Monday, when our doctor saw John’s scar, he suspected a condition called Intimal Hyperplasia.  He’d seen two cases in his long career and in both cases they had the raised keloid scar.  He told us our best case scenario would be if John could be stinted.

So only eleven weeks after his first open heart surgery, John underwent another heart cath and Intimal hyperplasia was confirmed.  (Intimal hyperplasia is the thickening of the tunica intima of a blood vessel as a complication of a reconstruction procedure or endarterectomy. Intimal hyperplasia is the universal response of a vessel to injury and is an important reason of late bypass graft failure, particularly in vein and synthetic vascular grafts.) One in a thousand people have this complication and John was already too blocked to stint.  It hit us like a thunderbolt and all our doctor could say was, “I’m so sorry. I’m just so sorry.”  That brought no comfort.  We went home that day with a handful of new prescriptions and devastated hearts.

Now I’m a veteran at receiving impossible diagnosis’ and I went into research mode (as did many of our family members) as soon as we could wrap our brains around what we’d been told.  Surely we’d find an answer—a Doctor who had pioneered some procedure or a clinical trial that was promising or testimonies of supplements that worked miracles.  We searched and searched.  I searched Mayo Clinic’s site, Cleveland Clinic site, Vanderbilt, NIH, and others for info.  I found that Intimal Hyperplasia is considered the bane of bypass surgery.  It’s a rare disorder and doesn’t happen with most people that have scars that keloid.  Clinical trials have attempted to find something that turns this condition off.  They’ve tried radiation and even chemo.  The problem is the scar tissue is inside the arteries.  Any attempt to destroy it normally destroys good tissue too.  Any attempt to repair it involves cutting and cutting is the injury that causes the scar tissue to go into overdrive.  That means any surgical process will instigate more blockage.  That spells DEVASTATED hearts for all of us.

When we came home from the second heart cath, John didn’t think he’d live more than two or three weeks.  Walking up a few stairs or an incline caused pain.  BUT the new meds started to kick in and they brought relief.  He now wears a nitroglycerin patch 24 hours a day and occasionally has to pop a nitroglycerin tablet.  He takes Ranexa (which I’m told hasn’t been around too many years), a blood thinner, and a pill that keeps his blood pressure low.   We eat a plant based diet and take supplements(among them are CO Q 10, fish oil, niacin, and aspirin. )  So far, in spite of this unexpected detour, we are still enjoying life together.  We see the Surgeon again tomorrow.  Pray for us because John’s pain has stepped up the past week and it’s getting to a point we’ve got to make some more decisions.  Another open heart surgery seems our only option and that’s a scary door to walk through.  SOOO, pray with us. please, as we journey this unknown path.

 

Super Bowl Sunday – 2014

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and I’m warming by the fireplace as I watch the birds flit around in the freshly fallen snow.  The trees just outside the den windows are filled with them as they forage in the cold for seeds.  I’ve not written on our blog since 2013 but today I feel so blessed, I must write.

Christmas is a bit of a blur and so is the dawning of 2014.ImageImage Events occurred slowly, but yet in some strange way quickly, events that led to John undergoing open heart surgery on December 27.  John experienced chest pains in early October that eventually led to an ER visit.  After clear EKG’s and good blood work there, John chalked the chest pains up to reflux but he still felt uneasy about his symptoms.  Thankfully we found a new doctor…after a symptom-giving-interview with John and a quick check-up, this experienced Doctor said,  “I”m seventy-five percent certain you have coronary heart disease.”  That followed more stress tests and EKG’s that once again indicated that John’s heart was okay, but the new doctor then ordered a calcification test.  As he instructed his nurse to make the appointment for this CAT scan, he was adamant about when it was to be done, “No matter what that clinic says, I want that test done today.”  That test saved John’s life.  It showed high levels of plaque build up.  In fact a normal score was 0 to 400 and John scored 3,200.  Our new doctor told John he’d have to have a heart catheterization to determine the degree of blockage.  By December 20th, John’s records were sent to a Coronary Specialist.  The earliest available appointment with  the holidays was the end of January.  In the meantime, if John exerted himself slightly, he had chest pains.  We were scared.  We canceled our planned Christmas trip to Phoenix and opted for another ER visit…this one on December 26th.  Had we not seen our new doctor, the one who ordered the calcification test, this Super Bowl Sunday might be a very sad one indeed because the results of the heart catheterization the day after Christmas showed all arteries almost blocked.  In fact, the Doctor who performed the heart cath said, “You guys are very lucky that you came to the ER when you did.” Triple bypass surgery followed on December 27th.  Not exactly the Christmas holidays we’d expected, but our hearts are filled with Thanksgiving that we are here together to enjoy 2014.   Lucky? I think not!  Thank you, Lord, for the series of Your Tender-mercies that saved John’s life.

Why?

“Why do you stare at sunsets and ponder the summer night sky?  Why do you search for a rainbow in the mist or gaze at the Grand Canyon?  Why do you allow the Pacific surf to mesmerize and Niagara to hypnotize?  How do we explain our fascination with such sights?”

“Beauty?  Yes.  But doesn’t the beauty point to a beautiful Someone?  Doesn’t the immensity of the ocean suggest an immense Creator?  Doesn’t the rhythm of migrating cranes and beluga whales hint of a brilliant mind?  And isn’t that what we desire?  A beautiful Maker?  An Immense Creator?  A God so mighty that He can commission the birds or command the fish?”  Max Lucado from his book, “It’s Not About Me”  

Oceans One

It was mine and John’s first time to visit the ocean together. There we discovered something surprising—I am addicted to “shelling!’ I know the term only because I googled info about some of my treasures. Until then, I never knew there was a shell-crazed-kid hiding behind my wrinkles and Foster Grants.

It started innocently and, thankfully, I can blame it all on John. He’s the one who spotted the little blue plastic shovel tossing to and fro in the waves and waded into the ocean to save it. He would have given it back to the kids that lost it, but we were the only ones left on the beach—so I seemed the perfect kid to receive it. Of course, I needed to try it out and thus my shell addition was born.

Over the next three days I dug up over twenty pounds of shells. John had  images (before the little blue shovel appeared) of romantic sunsets spent holding hands. The shovel dug a hole in that dream!

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                          Amazing incredible God designs!20131101-154045.jpg                   More simply incredible designs of God. 20131101-154025.jpg
(I weighed them when we got home)  I’m not totally correct in saying “I” dug because ultimately John joined me in the dig.  He had to use a broken shell since I’d not let him have back his little blue shovel.

All kidding aside, we loved our time at the ocean.  Won’t you take a walk with us through a little of our adventure?

I’ll start with the lake behind our camp site. I loved the dragon flies that swarmed by the dozens over the water. I snapped pics every chance I got. Most of the rest of the pictures are John’s. I hope you enjoy them all.
20131101-171532.jpgAgain, Amazing beauty and these are bugs!!!20131101-171459.jpg

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Amazing Sunsets!
DSC_2654EIsn’t this capture beautiful?  Possibly my favorite.

20131101-184646.jpgAmazing Food!  The sandwiches, chips, and cookies eaten on the beach were awesome too.  A little sand added texture.

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Bet you know who took the blurry picture above! : )20131101-184844.jpg

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I would have missed seeing this tiny crab but John’s keen eye spotted him.  Makes me think of the saying “enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”   How many things throughout life have I missed the beauty of? They seemed minuscule or were routine at the time but were amazing.  Lord, open my eyes daily to all Your precious moments.  20131101-185333.jpg

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Beautiful sight in the sky- the sun is the brightness on the right.

Beautiful sight in the sky- the sun is the brightness on the right.

I added the above menu picture as an interesting note….we were told this restaurant is owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister.

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Poor John…his lady is “shelling.”
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We thought the little guy above was amazing.  If you look closely, he has a broken foot so he gets around by hopping. Didn’t slow him down a bit.

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Okay, one more dragon fly picture…I’ll have to say I’m amazed by how they look…kinda ugly and beautiful at the same time.DSC_2562E

More than the sounds of the waters, than the mighty breakers of the sea,

                                 The Lord God on High is Mighty.

John and I talk about it a lot.  We are so thankful for each adventure God allows us to share.  We know each day is a gift from Him and we  treasure it.  Thank you, Lord, for time to enjoy the beauties of Your incredible creation.  It truly is indescribable!  And Lord, thank you for the unexpected shovel that led to so much fun.

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The shells displayed today to keep our memories refreshed.

The Road Most Taken

I’ve traveled this road for over forty years…the one that takes me from Mississippi to Oklahoma.  I first traveled it as an excited young bride, later as a new mom, then as a grandma, and eventually as a widow.  Over the years, I’ve made the trip in a variety of vehicles from cars, to vans, to trucks.  I traveled it with joy and excitement and with tears.  (I’m remembering the late night ride to my brother Wayne’s funeral and a bitter sweet drive with Ben when my mom had a stroke.) I am now blessed to travel this path with John and most recently with our Fifth Wheel in tow. Though there have been many changes in the journey, there are those things that remain the same.  I still get excited when I see either of these signs because both signify I’m close to home.

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Some of the changes have been good. The vehicles I travel in have improved vastly over the past forty years too.  The highways have become straighter and smoother and there are more places to stop along the way when we’re tired and hungry.  Some of the scenery has changed along the way too.  For many years there were hundreds of tiny shabby houses lining a part of the drive along the Mississippi Delta.  They stood in rows, side-by-side and backed up to crop-filled-fields.  I don’t remember when those disappeared but one day I realized they were all gone. On our latest trip home, John saw this one at the Cotton Museum in Lake Province, LA….it’s a part of our Southern history and etched in my memories.

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But as I said, many things haven’t changed.  I still love traveling along  the Oxbow Lakes formed by the Mississippi River, the Bayou’s, and other lakes that run through parts of Arkansas and Louisiana.  The cypress trees growing along the route are stunning and always grab our attention. DSC_0026EA summer view above and a fall view below. imageimageAnd as a young woman, the well lit Christmas trees that line the Bayou in Tallulah, Louisiana fascinated me…I’ve just found this is called the Walnut Bayou.  This sight is beautiful on a cold winter’s night when the trees are all lit.  Southern columned homes line this route, too. 20131022-103152.jpgAfter passing through this area,  then I get excited as we cross over the Mississippi River bridge.   As a young woman, I tossed a penny in as I crossed over on my first visit to Oklahoma.

image Passing on through Vicksburg,  a beautiful array of trees flank both sides of the highway amidst many pines.  They’re still standing tall in spite of the ravages of many hurricanes.imageAnd if you look, you’ll see Kudzu along the way still trying to choke out the trees. 20131021-194127.jpgimage The ‘swtiches’ still grow wild all through the land too.  I used to hate it when my mom said, “Go break me a switch.”  I knew I was in trouble. image The hay is still harvested and seeing it brings fond memories of the farm.  As a girl, I’d drive my dad’s old pickup as they loaded it with bales of hay. image The pines still tower on much of the land and are now planted and harvested every fifteen to thirty years by many of the land owners.image Cotton is still grown but the way it is harvested is much more sophisticated than it once was.  I remember having my own little cotton bag when I was very young.
imageLove seeing these cotton fields along the Mississippi Delta. They were in the process of being harvested as we passed through this time.  image

Boiled peanuts are still available all over the place, particularly around Jackson, Mississippi.    Many farmers sell them along the highway.  YUM!  Sweet iced tea is still a staple as is cornbread and grits.  Porch swings are still everywhere!  (One of my favorite things)

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imagePecan orchards still abound and the town of Columbia is still dear to my heart and so are the people.  But there’s one place even dearer to my heart than Oklahoma or Mississippi.  When the sun of my life sets and my journey ends, Heaven, my real, forever home awaits .  I kinda think there’s a tall glass of sweet iced tea awaitin’ me and a long sit in a porch swing with Him.

II Corinthians 5: 1 We know that the earthly tent we live in will be destroyed.  But we have a building made by God.  It is a house in heaven that lasts forever.  Human hands did not build it.20131022-102509.jpg

The Sour Dough Blessings

20131004-153008.jpgOn a cold winter day, my door bell rang.  There stood my dear friend, Ginger, with a freshly baked loaf of sour dough bread.  It was still so hot, she held it with two thick pot holders.  I invited her in and the rich aroma permeated my kitchen. It only took me about thirty-seconds to find out the bread tasted as awesome as it smelled.  On that long ago day, Ginger’s gift of friendship and bread were medicine for my hurting heart.  I’d just returned from a care-giving jaunt to my home in Mississippi.  My dad was dying.  Over the next six months as he died, Ginger brought me the sour dough blessing each time I returned home to Oklahoma.  Her sweet gesture continued to be an amazing comfort.

A month or so after my dad’s death, Ginger offered to teach me how to make the bread saying, “There’s something healing about kneading and baking your own.”  It was a new endeavor for me but with her help, I soon mastered sour dough 101 and for the next ten to twelve years, fresh sour dough bread was a staple at our home.  I followed Ginger’s lead, shared loaves with others, and taught neighbors to bake their own healing loaves too.  The secret to the wonderful bread was a starter that supposedly had been passed down for over a hundred years.  Soon, between Ginger and I both, there were probably ten to twelve ladies regularly baking this bread.  We expanded our recipe to make pizza and cinnamon rolls but it was the pizza people were crazy about.  Friends would call and ask me when I was baking it again. They just loved that pizza.  I have to admit, it was awesome.

Over the years, from time to time my starter or Ginger’s would die because we’d get busy and let it sit idle for too long.  It was no problem because we’d just tell one of our friends we needed a starter and they’d give us one.  I moved out-of-state and then back and my days were too busy to bake bread. My starter died but I wasn’t concerned because I ‘d call Ginger and get another one.  But before I could call her to get one, she called to say she needed one.  Her’s had died too.  We each called everyone we knew who made the bread and no one had a starter–NO ONE!  Everyone’s starter had died. We were sad but we thought we’d get another.  Unfortunately, we never found one that matched the taste of our old original potato water starter.

For about twenty-five years, we’ve lamented over the long-lost bread recipe.  We reminisce about how good it was and about the wonderful aroma-filled-house and the comfort that bread brought. Then we’d try some other starter again but none ever compared to our old faithful.

A couple of weeks ago I was aboard a plane, headed back to Tulsa when I met the sweet lady seated next to me.  She told me she’d been gone over a week and was eager to get back home and make certain her sour dough starter had survived her absence.  My ears perked up immediately.  I asked her about the starter and it sounded very much like the one Ginger and I used to make.  I shared my fond memories with her of our sour dough days.  Then Norma, my new acquaintance, offered to give me a starter. She added, “Assuming it survived my travels.”  We exchanged numbers and I eagerly texted Ginger to tell her I may have found our bread.  The next week, Norma called and invited me to come pick up my new starter.   When I arrived at her home, she had two starters waiting and a wonderful loaf of fresh bread.  I tasted it and it was as if I’d stepped back in time—the taste of that bread washed me with sweet comfort.  I was amazed to think that Ginger and I could make our bread again and perhaps pass the memory to our grandchildren.

My heart is still singing a song of thanksgiving.  I believe God orchestrated my meeting with Norma.  After all, His Word says He’s knows the number of hairs on our head, has engraved our names on the palm of his hand, and collected our tears in a bottle. Why wouldn’t he care about two dear friend’s and their sour dough bread of comfort?

Psalm 56:8 You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.   

Isaiah 49:16  I have engraved you on the palm of God’s hand

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you

Matthew 10:30 And even the very hairs on your head are numbered. 

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Butterfly Moments

photophotoJohn is the photographer in this family so it has surprised me that I’ve become addicted to taking pictures of butterflies.   It’s become a daily photo adventure for me, right outside my front door.  I step out with my trusty camera many times throughout the day to see what beauties have flown in for a quick nip of nectar.  My most popular feeding stations have been my confetti Lantanas and my Arizona Blanket Plant.  At the start of my butterfly adventure, I knew very little about these beauties but now I know many of them on a first name basis….there’s the Painted Lady, a big variety of Skippers, Monarchs, Buckeyes, Swallow tails, and a host of tiny visitors whose names I don’t yet know.  It’s been a blast.  With each sighting comes an awe in my heart of the detail and beauty that God has perfected in these beautiful creatures.   As the days have become shorter and weather a bit cooler, sometimes I pull up a lawn chair and just watch the garden creatures perform.  On occasion, John has joined me and watched me scamper this way and that to capture one more pic.  I ask him if I’m driving him crazy and he says, “I love seeing you enjoy life.”  AND I must say,  I am enjoying life.  Do you know, ten years ago when my heart was broken, I wasn’t sure I’d ever really enjoy life again?  Yes, I knew God’s grace was sufficient for whatever I faced and that He was faithful but still, I thought the grief that consumed me then would hold me captive the rest of my life.  I was wrong.   Joy does come in the morning.  Please sip a bit of joy as you look at the pics that follow and don’t miss the butterflies who have battled for their lives. I love, love , love that they are still flitting around in the sun, sipping nectar.
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Psalm 30:5 Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:11-12 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

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