A week ago my family and I spent the day driving home after visiting extended family 2-3 states away.  We had a great time seeing relatives that we had not seen in far too long.  As we traveled the 14 hours back home, we carried a unexpected treasure back to south Alabama.  The treasure sits on our mantel now, chiming on the quarter hour.

     My kids don’t esteem the new-to-us clock in the same way I do.  And I must admit that hearing the chimes on a regular basis is taking some getting used to.  We are easing in to it.  But with every chime, I travel back in time to my grandparents’ home.  The same chimes rang in their home for as long as I can remember.  In fact, I have memories of standing in their Florida home in the mid 1960′s listening to the same chimes at the early age of three or four.  Whenever I have heard Westminster chimes I am transported to my grandparents’ home.

     My mom tells me that I would have first heard those chimes when my grandmother and grandfather lived in Tennessee, where they both grew up, got married, and raised a family consisting of my dad and my aunt.  Then my grandparents moved to Florida, where my aunt would attend school to earn her doctorate.  That’s the home where my first chime memories occurred.

     Then my grandparents would move with their English professor daughter to Virginia so she could teach at a college there.  When I was eight years old, I spent the first of many two week stays in the summer with my grandparents.  I have many memories of that first summer visit with them.  I enjoyed riding with my grandfather every day to pick up my aunt from the school where she taught, especially when we drove in his brown Barracuda convertible.  I remember getting a stomach virus, which was not very fun when you are far away from home and your mother, who had always taken care of me when I was sick, but I survived just fine.  My grandmother served the best Ginger Ale and saltine crackers that I had ever tasted and she played hours of card games with me sitting on the sofa in their basement den.

     I remember those chimes of the clock, keeping perfect time.

     The clock with the chimes that played in their home at that time sat on the mantel in their family room right above my granddaddy’s recliner, where he would watch the evening news faithfully every day.  This was before CNN or any other news station that broadcast 24/7 existed.   Watching the news was highly important to my grandfather and I learned that when the news broadcast came on the television, it was time for me to be quiet, so my grandfather could listen to every story

     My grandmother and aunt usually sat at a nearby table situated by a large window that overlooked their back yard or my grandmother might be in the adjacent kitchen making dinner.  And the clock kept time.

     The clock that chimed all through my summer visits for many years and my grandparents’ daily lives stopped working somewhere along the way.  For my grandparents 50th anniversary my parents and my aunt gave them a new clock that played the same chimes.  It has a little engraved plate on the top of it noting the occasion. 

     I remember travelling with my parents and two sisters from Arkansas to Virginia to celebrate their anniversary.  It was my freshman year of college.  I remembering listening to the family stories that I had heard many times before. We took photos galore in the living room seated on the wooden furniture with the maroon velvet seats.  That same furniture  is now arranged in the front room of my house.  And the chimes of the then new clock rang out on the quarter hour.

      Now that clock sits on my mantel.  My kids who are not accustomed to hearing the predictable ringing out of chimes.  I think they will get used to it.  But I notice that sometimes quarter hours will come and go with no chiming declaring the time and I realize that one of my kids has silenced the chimes for just a little while. 

     I think we will eventually adjust to this new audible addition.  And in time, when my children are all grown and gone and their children come to visit their grandparents, they will come to know the marking of time at their grandparents’ home by the chimes from the mantel clock.

Snow Days

     Today is NOT a snow day for my two youngest school-aged children in Alabama, but I’m thinking about snow days just the same.  

     Yesterday, my kids had high hopes that it might snow in the southeastern part of Alabama, where we reside.  The weather forecasters were not predicting it, but other parts of our state were actually having the winter precipitation fall on their landscapes and my kids dreamed that it might happen at their house too. 

     It was cold and the sky was filled with the gray clouds that might contain snow…and it was cold.  Did I mention that it was cold?  And it was windy with a bone-chilling wind.

     When my husband and I picked up our youngest from school, where he stood in carline wearing his uniform khaki shorts (yes, my kids wear shorts to school in January because we live in south Alabama) with his P.E. athletic shorts on below his uniform shorts.  I use the preposition “below” because that is where the athletic shorts were…around his legs (not his waist) below his uniform shorts, covering as much of his otherwise exposed legs as they could.

     When he climbed into the back seat of our vehicle, I asked, “A bit cold today?”

     “Yes,” he replied.

     I asked him if he thought it was cold outside a second time, to emphasize the parental point that I was preparing to make, that when he had walked out the door seven hours earlier, that his momma (me) had advised him that it would be cold throughout the day.  That the chilly 40-something degree temperature that had greeted us that morning was only going to drop throughout the day.

     He understood my meaning and then asked if we could make hot chocolate when we got home.

     “Of course,” I said.  “It is the perfect kind of day for hot chocolate.”

     So we made hot chocolate when we got home and even started a fire in the fireplace.

     My 16-year-old arrived home from soccer conditioning (running, NOT practicing) a while later.

     I asked him if he had worn the Northface-type jacket that he had on, when he was running, knowing that if he had it would need a washing immediately.

     “Of course not,” he answered.

     “Then what jacket did you wear because I don’t see you sweat jacket,” I asked.

     “I just wore my t-shirt and shorts,” he replied.  “And it was cold,” he added.

     I made him repeat the “And it was cold,” part and then reminded him that I had issued the motherly warning about cold and windy weather as he too had left for school earlier in the day.

     I felt good that I had been validated as a mom who usually checks the weather for the day so that I can give weather advisories that are never heeded by my children.

     And after I felt validated as a conscientious parent, I joined in the impossible dream that my 16-year-old voiced, “I hope it snows.  I hope we have a snow-day tomorrow.”

     I knew that the weather forecast was for cold dry air to follow the windy-cold day we were having…that the clouds that held any remnants of winter precipitation hopes would be blowing out of our area during the nighttime hours…still I dreamed with them and pretended that it might could happen.

     I grew up in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas and we did see winter weather that dropped snow on our Ozark hills.  We did have snow days…and I loved them.

     I loved being snowed in with school being cancelled and piling on layer after layer of winter clothes to go outside and sled or build a snowman only to come in short time later and have to take off layer after layer of wet-from-playing-in-snow clothing.

     I loved the quiet of a new snow that blanketed the country setting where my family lived.  I loved making boot-prints in the snow and then trying to retrace them exactly so that it looked as if you had traveled in one direction and didn’t return.  I loved looking at the frozen pond in the pasture next to our property and watching snow gather on it. 

     I have lots of memories of snow days.  My children only have one memory of snow collecting in a few inches and covering our south Alabama property.  But it was a grand day!  We had all donned layers of what winter clothing we had and sojourned in our winter wonderland for most of the day.  We built snowpeople and my kids sledded down the little hill in our yard with their boogie boards usually reserved for use at the beach or in the swimming pool.

     And so we dream…my kids and I…of miracle snow days.  And we hope that maybe, just maybe, we will have another wonderfully memorable snow day in the winter months left to come.


all occasions

     I am a part of a Community Bible Study class and we are studying the Gospel of John this year.  I love studying God’s Word…it’s one of my favorites.  

     When we did the lesson on the first half of John 2, I came to a deeper appreciation of the first public miracle of Jesus, even though the public that beheld the sign of Jesus turning water into wine, was a small and limited public.  I love the idea of Jesus being at a wedding with family and friends.  I love the idea that Jesus engaged with people on many different kinds of occasions.  It got me thinking about the many things Jesus did when He became flesh and lived among people.  I wrote some of the things down and here they are.

Jesus, the God for All Occasions

Jesus went to parties.  (John 2:1-11)

Jesus crashed funerals. (Luke 7:11-15)

Jesus hosted picnics.  (Luke 9:14-17)

Jesus took friends fishing. (Luke 5:4)

Jesus grilled out. (John 21:9)

Jesus rode in boats. (John 6:21)

Sometimes Jesus went to sea and didn’t bother taking a boat. (John 6:19)

Jesus calmed storms. (Luke 8:24)

Jesus sent to synagogue. (Luke 4:15-16)

Jesus went to prayer meetings. (Luke 11:1)

Jesus took walks. (Luke 19:1, 4)

Jesus liked gardens. (Mark 14:32)

Jesus hung out by the pool. (John 5:2-7)

Jesus worked. (John 5:17)

Jesus paid taxes. (Matthew 17:27)

Jesus forgave sins. (Mark 2:5)

Jesus played hide and seek. (Luke 19:5, 10)

Jesus held children. (Mark 10:16)

Jesus wrote in the dirt. (John 8:6, 8)

Jesus never stoned anybody. (John 8:11)

Jesus remodeled houses. (Luke 5:18-20)

Jesus got tired. (John 4:6)

Jesus got thirsty. (John 19:28)

Jesus took naps. (Luke 8:23)

Jesus got up early. (Mark 1:35)

Jesus stayed up late. (John 3:2)

Jesus healed the sick. (Luke 4:40)

Jesus raised the dead. (John 11:43-44)

Jesus talked to priests. (John 18:19)

Jesus talked to lawyers. (Luke 10:25-37)

Jesus loved His enemies. (Matthew 5:44)

Jesus confided in His friends. (John 15:15)

Jesus wore sandals. (John 1:27)

Jesus washed feet. (John 13:5)

Jesus ate supper. (John 13:2)

Jesus cooked breakfast. (John 21:12)

Jesus folded His laundry. (John 20:7)

Jesus was a man of few words. (Matthew 27:14)

Jesus was a man of many words. (Matthew 5-7)

Jesus laughed. (Luke 10:21)

Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

Jesus touched the untouchable. (Luke 5:13)

Jesus loved the unlovable. (Mark 5:2-20)

Jesus loved His mom. (John 19:26-27)

Jesus missed His Dad. (Mark 15:34)

Jesus was born in a stable. (Luke 2:7)

Jesus died on a tree. (Mark 15:37)

Jesus rose from the dead. (John 20:17)

Jesus took a direct flight to Heaven. (Mark 16:19)

And Jesus said He would come back for us soon. (John 14:3)

Jesus loves you and Jesus loves me. (John 3:16)

Jesus is the God for all occasions. (Matthew 28:20b)


Meat off a truck

     Yesterday I did something I have never done before…and at the end of the day, my husband told me to never do it again…so I will heed his advice in the future.  

     I’m not sure why I did what I did.  As I have thought about it, I decided that maybe it was a result of breathing the fumes of the bleach cleaner that I had used earlier in the day to clean some outdoor chairs.  THAT has to be the reason why my thought processes were not behaving properly when I purchased the three boxes of meat from the lady parked in my driveway.  Yes, that’s correct… I bought meat off the back of a truck.

     It wasn’t the best of days.  I didn’t feel well and had fallen asleep while reading a book, when two of my sons and one of my youngest son’s friends awakened me, telling me there was someone parked in our driveway.  I groggily went to the backdoor and then out the backdoor to the driveway, where a lady stood by her red, I think it was red, truck that had a freezer in the back of it.

     The lady was nice enough as she told me about this great deal she could give me on this frozen meat.  It seems that she drives a regular route of grocery delivery that includes the road we live on (though I had never seen her or her truck with the freezer in the back before).

     She gave me her sales pitch and I listened while trying to process that there really was a woman trying to sell me meat off the back of a truck  there in our driveway.

     To my defense, I did say, “No,” to her first sales offer.

     Then I do NOT know what happened.  I guess I began thinking about how hard it must be to sell frozen meat off the back of a truck and how she too was just trying to make a living…and the next thing I know, I’m heading in the same backdoor that I had just exited a few moments before, to get funds to buy the frozen meat.

     My two sons and the friend asked me what the person in our driveway wanted as I entered the house.  

     “She’s selling meat,” I told them.  

     I heard the three boys laughing as I got my purse.  “I’m going to buy some meat from her,” I told them as I again exited the house.   Fading laughter noise followed me out the door.

     She gave me my three boxes of meat and I deposited them in my freezer and then went back in to face more questions from my sons and the friend.

     I told them that I was glad that I brightened their day.

     As I closed the lid on my just purchased meat from the lady in the red truck, I wondered what my husband would think.

     As I opened the same lid on the same freezer a couple of hours later to place some grocery items in the freezer with my husband standing beside me, I found out what he thought. 

      I looked up to see his face as he noticed the three strange (strange, as in they weren’t there the last time he looked in the freezer) boxes.  

     “What is that?” he inquired, seemingly already knowing the answer because he is an educated man and probably had seen boxes that frozen  meat sold off the back of people’s trucks look like.

     I told him that I had bought some meat, frozen meat.

     “From someone driving a freezer truck?” he questioned.

     “Sort of,” I answered.

     “You never should do that,” he patiently responded.

     “Ok.  I won’t do it again,” I promised.  “At least I didn’t buy the big package,” I added.

     Yesterday.  It wasn’t the best of days.


I’m a goofball

     After months of not writing a blog entry, I feel inspired to put down on virtual paper a story which will make my husband chuckle, give my kids ammunition to make fun of me relentlessly and maybe provide some reader a moment to breathe a sigh of relief that she is not the only one who has ever done a silly thing.

     It happened this morning.  I was actually running ahead of schedule in getting ready for the day, and after a shower asked my husband to please put some lotion on my thirsty-for-some-kind-of-moisturizer back.

     He agreed because that’s just the kind of helpful man he is.

     I had to go into the next room to fetch my new bottle of lotion (well, I thought it was lotion…read on).  It is one of my favorite brands of lotion, which my upscale lotion-buying locale had stopped carrying.  Wal-Mart does that every now and then.

     So I was very excited a few weeks ago, when my family was doing some shopping in another store and I found the brand of lotion that I really like.  I purchased it and have been using ever since…applying it to my feet so that they will be soft and smooth when sandal-wearing time comes…using it on my legs and arms because they have seemed so dry lately and definitely have needed  a good moisturizing lotion applied often. 

     The product has oatmeal and shea butter in it…great stuff.

     So this morning, as my helpful husband was applying the oatmeal & shea butter stuff to my back, he commented that this lotion seemed different than other lotions. 

     I agreed with his summation and we began a discussion of possible reasons why the “lotion” only got thicker and even seemed to have a lathering consistency the more you tried to rub it into your skin.

     He asked me if I had read the directions on the “lotion” bottle.  Of course I had not read any directions…who needs directions when it comes to applying lotion to dry skin.

     I picked up the product bottle as we continued to talk.  That’s when I realized that the oatmeal & shea butter product which promises to soothe dry, itchy skin wasn’t lotion at all, but rather a bottle of moisturizing body wash.

     No wonder the stuff lathered the more you tried to rub it into your skin!  For about a month, I have been applying this body wash to my legs and arms and wondering why my legs seemed to be more dry than usual.  And you know what you do when you have dry skin…you apply more “lotion.”

     My husband had a good laugh.  I got back into the shower and rinsed the “lotion” body wash off my body.

     I’m a goofball…what can I say.

     And writing this reminds me that I need to add body LOTION to my shopping list. 

     There was a traffic jam at our house last night.  It took place between 11:30 p.m. and 12 a.m., I think.  I’m not totally sure of the time because I was dosing off to sleep and awakened by the traffic jam and I didn’t look at a clock.

     It all started the day before…on Wednesday.    Our house is full right now…I love a full house.  Both college kids are home and the kids who are not yet in college (there are three of those) are home because that is where they stay.   And my husband and I are home, because we live here too.  And my mom is visiting for Christmas…so she is at our home too.  So, as I said, our house is full …full of people…and a Golden Retriever dog and a cat.  (Did I mention that I love it when our house is full.)

     College daughter got home a week and a half ago.  Our grandmother arrived this past Wednesday afternoon and oldest son arrived the next day on Thursday afternoon. 

     On Wednesday afternoon, after my mother, my children’s grandmother arrived; she told me that her car started having trouble when she pulled into our driveway.  We were all thankful that there were no problems until then. 

     Oldest son called to say when he would be home on Thursday and he told me that his car had been having problems and needed to be looked at while he was home.

     When I passed all of this car problem information on to my husband when he got home from work, we knew that we needed to find a mechanic, and hoped that we could since it was only a couple of days before Christmas.

     And then, just to add to all of the good news that my husband had received upon entering our home after a long day at work, two of our sons informed us all that the toilet in their bathroom wasn’t working correctly…the water wouldn’t stop running when it was flushed.  They kind of told us in unison, though they said they didn’t plan it that way.

     So we cut off the water to the broken toilet and directed bathroom traffic to the other two bathrooms in our house…one connected to my daughter’s room, and one connected to my bedroom, which is also my husband’s bedroom because that’s how we roll.

     Our children tend to prefer the bathroom connected to their parent’s bedroom.  So throughout the next day and evening, I watched the bathroom traffic patterns…and the traffic didn’t really stop once it was my bedtime.  I thought it would stop because I thought most of our children went to bed around the same time I did, but then I guess they got up again because it must be fun to walk through mom and dad’s room in the middle of the night.

     I kept hearing footsteps and watching doors open and close and more footsteps and then a “Harumph” sound as the child who had just made the trek across the house discovered a sibling had gotten there before them.  This happened multiple times (tonight no one drinks any liquid after 8 p.m., just like when they were small). 

     The traffic jams not only kept me awake, but they made me giggle just a little bit, listening to their strange noises that communicated their waiting-in-line frustration…knowing that they will survive until the broken toilet is repaired.  Yes, the broken toilet that my man is working on and I have every confidence that he will fix, is an inconvenience, but really nothing more.   Cars needing repair work are inconveniences and really  nothing more. 

     So in the past few days, it seems there have been a lot of little inconveniences piling up around our house…inconveniences, nothing more.  They are nothing in light of the tragedy that struck at a neighbor’s home across the road.  The death of a teenage child entered into their Christmas season this past Saturday, and I cannot imagine what they may be feeling. 

     As I watched the traffic jam in my bathroom last night, I thought of this family.  When I awoke this morning, I thought of this family.  As I wrapped the last of Christmas presents and placed them under our tree, I thought of this family.  I’ve thought of them in all kinds of moments since I heard about their daughter’s death.  I’ve thought about the numbness they must feel…the sadness…the agony…the longing to hold that child again.

     And when I think of them, I pray, I’m not sure what else to do.  I pray that God will somehow be their comfort and their strength just to get through the moments of each day.  God says in His Word that He is near to the broken-hearted and I have to believe that is true.  Jesus Christ is the only source of hope I know when tragedy such as this happens…it is certainly beyond me.

    “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who crushed in spirit.”  (Psalm 34:18) 

     On this day, two days before Christmas, I pray that God is very close to this grieving family, and that my Heavenly Father who gave His only Son, will save those crushed in spirit and experiencing such incredible pain.

Pumpkin bread

     Yesterday, on a Sunday afternoon, I baked the first loaves of pumpkin bread for my family for this fall season.  Pumpkin bread is one of my family’s favorites this time of year.  As we munched on our Sunday lunch, my kids got to talking about the food they enjoy this time of year… anticipating Thanksgiving and the Christmas season.  (And we talked about the pumpkin smoothies that I had attempted the week before, which were less than successful.)

     My daughter, who was home from college for the weekend, decided that her momma (me) should bake some pumpkin bread before she headed back to school,  so she could take a loaf with her.

The pumpkin bread recipe that I use comes from my momma.  My momma always baked her loaves in round metal coffee cans.  As the bread bakes the loaves rise well beyond the rims of the coffee cans and when it is done baking and has cooled, it looks great in its cylinder shape as you remove it from the cans.

So bake some pumpkin bread I did.  It made the house smell wonderful and brought memories rushing back of pumpkin bread baking through the years.

My daughter did get her loaf to take with her, this one remaining week before Thanksgiving break.  Three of our sons and I cut into one of the other loaves as a  tasty dessert treat after supper that night.  It was still warm and the texture was just right.  The first loaves are the best, I’m pretty sure.

This Monday morning, I thought about that yummy pumpkin bread as I read a devotional about holiday foods and not going overboard on indulging in them AND the way physical hunger can actually be a sign sometimes of spiritual hunger that we may not be in tune with.

I read a quote from Chris Tiegreen, “Deep in the soul of every man, woman, and child is a void that nags us for attention.  We think it’s a sign of dysfunction, and we try to heal it ourselves.  Some of us fill it with food, but the sense of taste is only satisfied for a moment…One day, if we’re spiritually sensitive, we understand:  It’s a holy hunger, and only God can fix it….Those who have quenched their hunger with the things of this world have settled for empty calories; they’re ultimately unsatisfied.  The blessing of the true hunger leads us to Jesus, the Bread of Life.”

After reading this quote, I began thinking about some symptoms in my thoughts and actions that might indicate that I am hungry for what only God can supply.  I thought about wrong thinking in just the last 24 hours:  anxiety, worry, jealousy, fear, envy, anger, pride, to name a few.  Yuck!

Then I read some verses in John 6 that tell about a crowd that followed Jesus because He had done an incredible miracle the day before and fed them all with multiplied fish and bread.  Jesus told them not to “work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life,” which the Son of God can give.

“I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty,” Jesus said.  He wasn’t talking about an endless supply of physical food; though, He knows that physical food is necessary for life.  But Jesus taught that spiritual food is also necessary for life.  Spiritual food is necessary for my spiritual life that will affect every other aspect of my day-in-day-out living:  my physical body, my relationships, my work, my play, my everything.

So my prayer today, for myself, for my husband, for my children, as we go about our regular daily activities that involve working for food, preparing food, eating food,…that we will realize and put in right perspective our greater need for the spiritual food that Jesus and God’s Word has to offer AND that will decide to take in the spiritual nourishment God has for us today.


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