Here’s the July issue of RUBY magazine . . . featuring inspirational articles and poetry, devotionals and short stories, summer celebration recipes, and our monthly feature, the Kids’ Korner with a story just for the young people in your family.
Here’s the July issue of RUBY magazine . . . featuring inspirational articles and poetry, devotionals and short stories, summer celebration recipes, and our monthly feature, the Kids’ Korner with a story just for the young people in your family.
“Is your mother going to come after you?” The words surprised me, but I quickly recovered. “No, I have my own car,” I replied. I was cleaning my parent’s house and it was my mother who asked the question.
I had suspected Mom’s problem was more serious than the small strokes and Parkinson’s that had been the doctor’s diagnosis. Sometime earlier Mom had left a note on my front door. The words had been scrambled and senseless.
As the dementia worsened, Mom sometimes became more agitated at night. One night Dad phoned, asking for help, because Mom would not go to bed. When I arrived, she told me, “Mom and Pop just live up the road and I want to go visit them.” Of course, her parents had died many years before. I was finally able to calm her by promising she could visit her parents the next morning.
The years passed and at the age of eighty-one, Mom was only a shadow of her former self. She was able to eat without assistance, but most of her needs were met by caregivers. Then Dad needed surgery and while he was in the hospital, I stayed with Mom in the evenings. After work, I stopped at home to gather clothing for the next day and then I spent the night with Mom.
One evening as I walked into Mom’s house, she asked “Where are the others?” In her mind people were coming to eat with her and she had fried several chicken legs for the occasion. Thankfully, she had turned off the stove burners. Once before, Dad had come home to discover all of the burners of the gas stove turned on.
Mom was a Christian and before the illnesses had read her Bible and attended worship services at her church. Now she made no attempt to read the Bible and she never mentioned her church. It bothered me and I yearned for assurance that she was still holding on to her faith.
Each night after taking care of Mom’s needs, I pulled the covers down on her bed and tucked her into bed as she had done for me when I was a young child. Turning back the hands of time, I’d tell Mom good night the way she had done with me all of those long ago years. I said, “Nighty-night.” She looked up at me, smiled, and repeated, “Nighty-night.”
That ritual went on for several nights. Then one bedtime, as I stood ready to say good night, Mom reached up and grasped my hands. Words began tumbling from her mouth. At first, I didn’t understand what she was mumbling. Looking down, I discovered her eyes were closed. She wasn’t talking to me—she was praying! I heard her conclude with “. . . and Lord, help us all to be better Christians.”
My concern had been needless. Mom was holding tightly to her faith in Jesus Christ. I whispered, “Nighty-night,” kissed her on the forehead, and tip-toed from her room.
I had been given my assurance. I had known all along that the Lord would never forget or forsake Mom, but it was such a blessing to know that under the blanket of confusion in her mind, her faith was still holding.
Norma C. Mezoe began writing after a crisis in her life. She has been a published writer for thirty years. Her writing has appeared in books, devotionals, take-home papers and magazines. She lives in the tiny town of Sandborn, Indiana where she is active in her church as clerk, teacher and bulletin maker. Contact at: email@example.com
There are many special memories of my mother although she left us far too soon at age 44. Life had been a struggle for her most of her early years from the Depression, World War II, and epilepsy to name a few. Despite hardship and struggle, Mother carved out some very precious memories for me not only as a little girl who loved coming home to a huge stack of the most delicious oatmeal raisin cookies. ( I knew how to eat an entire row of them so as not to divulge the exact number consumed!)
Her Saturday morning waffles were to die for. Today, I still make her Sunday pot roast and gravy doing every step of the process she taught me. Her chocolate sheath cake was unrivaled by any other baker I knew including my grandmother.
Mother once walked every store in our little shopping center to drop my name in boxes located in each store for the Miss Meadowbrook Shopping Center Queen contest and I won! Always my greatest cheerleader and occasional critic, she maneuvered my teen years with grace and a few high-pitched corrections. Softening some of the verbal reprimands was a constant array of wonderful deserts at the end of bountifully delicious meals.
Such were the comforts afforded this daughter. Yet one comfort surpasses them all. It came at the end of a very trying day in college. I was engaged to a young soldier deployed during the dangerous TET Offensive in the fall of 1966. It had been almost 3 weeks since I had heard from him. Coming in the door from college I went straight to my room. Glancing in the kitchen, I noticed mother seated at the kitchen table. Distraught, tears streaming from my eyes, I sat on the bed.
Suddenly, I felt mother’s arms around me. There was no need to explain anything. She had not asked…it was as though she totally understood. She pressed ever closer and her warm embrace soothed my tears and comforted my heart. To this day, 55 years later, it remains not only one of my greatest memories of Mother, but the greatest comfort.
Sharon Patterson, retired educator, career military wife, and leader in women’s ministry, has written inspirational encouragement in various forms from greeting cards to short stories, poetry, and Bible studies for over thirty years. She has authored three books, and is a contributing author for several of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She and her husband Garry live in Round Rock, Texas. They have three sons and five grandchildren.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing was written by Rev. Robert Robinson in the 18th Century. He was twenty-two when he penned the words in 1757.
As a young man, Robinson lived a wild life full of debauchery. The story goes that Robert Robinson came upon a gypsy who said, “And you, young man, you will live to see your children and your grandchildren.”
Her words haunted him, and he felt that he needed to change his way of living. His father died when he was eight and by the age of fourteen, he was sent to barbering school. One night he went to a Methodist meeting led by Evangelist George Whitefield. His intention in going was to make fun of those “poor deluded Methodists.” [Read more…]
Judy’s daughter, Tammy, had been ill for a long period of time. Tammy fought her health problem courageously, but eventually, she lost the battle.
Judy’s heart felt as though it were splintered into hundreds of pieces. About the time it seemed her tears were ended, she felt fresh tears streaming down her face.
One day seemed especially hard and she prayed for assurance: “Lord, if you’re really there, will you give me a hug?” Immediately, it was as though invisible hands surrounded her in a loving embrace. [Read more…]
There’s still snow on the ground, and the wind still blows wildly some days, but spring really is just around the corner. I can’t wait . . . how about you?
I hope you will join us this month. In this issue of RUBY magazine you will find creative inspiration for your home and family. There are also inspirational articles, devotionals, poetry, short stories, book reviews, crafts and recipes. So many resources that will be a blessing and encouragement to you every day of the month!
Be sure to read “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” by Robert Robinson, a hymn story written by Diana Leagh Matthews who shares a historical story about some of our most loved hymns in every issue of RUBY magazine. You won’t want to miss the article by Theresa Begin, “Make Your Own Beautiful Chalk Painted Mason Jars.” Read an excerpt from the latest historical fiction novel from Pat Jeanne Davis, “When Valleys Bloom Again: A Novel of World War II.”
You will also find St. Patrick’s Day Fun Ideas for Your Home and Family from Vintage Mama’s Cottage. There are also recipes for Irish Soda Bread by Jeanne Doyon and Quick and Easy Monkey Bread from Theresa Begin. And for a special St. Patrick’s Day dinner, there’s a recipe for Farfalle with Spinach from Joan Leotta. And don’t forget the “Kids’ Corner” where we have a fun activity for kids each month. There is also a short story by Shara Bueler-Repka. This month the story is, “Rider in the Night.” Great reading fun for kids of all ages.
You will be inspired and encouraged by “How We Stand When the Winds Blow,” by Sharon L. Patterson. Don’t miss “My Greatest Need,” by Lisa J. Radcliff, and “Contentment in a Season of Blooming” by Jehn Kubiak. You can also read encouraging words on setting and achieving goals in “A Goal without a Plan is Just a Dream” by Nina Newton. You can also find inspirational poetry by Rejetta Morse and Norma C. Mesoe, as well as a sweet story by Nancy Frantel about her little boy sharing his toys with his friends: “Compassion Inside.”
Be encouraged by the devotional, “Temptation” by Nells Wasilewski and read the amazing story of “Faith on Trial” by Adwoba Addo-Boateng about how God gave her “the most precious gift from God.” There are so many great articles in this issue of RUBY magazine! We feature authors and writers from all across the USA as well as from other English speaking countries. RUBY magazine is an excellent resource for you and your family as you seek to honor God in all areas of your life.
We would love to have you join us in the RUBY community, too, now on Facebook, so it is really easy for you to connect with us. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/rubyforwomen/ Hope to see you there!
Today the soup crew arrives, arms filled with bags of herbs, cans of broth and beans, and bundles of fresh veggies. Two friends will bring soup pots and one a huge cutting board; each brings a favorite chopping knife. I supply the aprons, ranging from a gathered skirt-style in calico print to full-cover types in bold colors.
One depicts a bowl of steaming soup, others a harvest still life and a strawberry field. The aprons are freshly laundered, with a few stains as reminders of previous soup projects.
One apron is always left untouched— a crisp white chef garment, suited to fit any size with thick ties to wrap around the middle. It may intimidate our happy band of everyday soup cooks, but I offer it each time in case…… [Read more…]
From that angle, they couldn’t even see when the coaster crested the top, but they knew. Suddenly they were sitting up and, in a millisecond, face down, plummeting to the ground. If they lived through the first drop, there was more fun to be had.
What had I gotten myself into? Was there a way out of this line? I must be crazy. My stomach churned with nervous excitement. Part of me could hardly wait to get on. Another part of me wanted to run screaming from the line. [Read more…]
“Valentine’s Day is coming!” my daughter exclaimed surrounded by pink and red hearts at the store.
“Yup,” I replied, swiftly pushing my cart past the displays.
Valentine’s Day has long been a holiday that caused an inner battle for me. On one hand, I spout that it’s a silly Hallmark holiday and we should show people we love them every day.
Of course, while I’m saying this I secret long for sweet declarations of everlasting love, preferably with a heart-shaped box of chocolates and flowers. [Read more…]
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. ─ I John 4:7 (NRSV)
When I walk into the laundry room, I smile. While I don’t mind washing clothes, that’s not the reason for the reaction.
I don’t expect to check a pant pocket and find a five-dollar bill or find the missing partner to a lonely sock.
On the wall hangs a dry erase board where I write my to-do list of responsibilities to complete within the next few weeks. This location allows for gentle reminders, which I glance at when starting a load of laundry.
My more urgent “do today or by tomorrow” handwritten list stays on my desk. While I would prefer not to look at the number of tasks on the list, it’s the mature thing to do. [Read more…]
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17 NKJV
2019 steps up to the plate with a bat in hand, ready to hit some major home-runs for God’s glory! [Read more…]
I must have been feeling melancholic on the day I wrote the poem below. I was a young mother with three children, ages two, five and seven.
Only a few months before, major surgery had been necessary to save my life. I was slowly recovering when the words of this poem formed in my mind and found their way into a small book I used for my journal. [Read more…]
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
January is a traditional time for “starting fresh.” We make resolutions that we hope will transform us during the coming year into better, happier people than we were in the year just finished. Usually, those resolutions are to lose weight, work smarter, and a few other similar ones.
It is our hope that making these improvements will bring us happiness—at least that’s true for me. [Read more…]
After the busyness and excitement of the Christmas holiday and the New Year’s Eve celebrations, it is suddenly winter. It is cold and blustery with wind whipping the brittle branches in the steel gray skies. Our windows are covered with misty fog on a winter morning, and give way to frosty etchings on even colder winter nights. It is easy to become weary of the bleakness of bitter winter days, one after another, shrouding our world in shades of gray. [Read more…]
Each Christmas, flashes of childhood memories transport me back to the innocent days of my youth. Sights, sounds, and even the scents of the season captivate my thoughts in a rush of nostalgia.
My reverie may last a moment or two—sometimes just seconds—before I’m reeled back to present day reality. I treasure each precious image that dances in my head like visions of sugarplums.
Life goes on. For me, it has done so for close to sixty years. [Read more…]
“Gingerbread Houses—A Sweet Tradition” by Joan Leotta
In my own childhood and in the early years of our marriage and child rearing, gingerbread houses were not a part of the Christmas cookie baking regimen. But once our children were in school, and began to make graham cracker cookie houses, crafting edible accommodation seemed like a natural addition to our holiday tradition.
School-made gingerbread houses were really graham cracker habitats decorated with a bit of candy glued to individual milk cartons with a sugary icing. These mini creations ignited our family interest in the subject. However, it was a workshop at the National Building Museum that cemented the adding the making of gingerbread house to our annual Christmas celebrations.
Jennie and Joe were in upper elementary when I saw the ad for the workshop in the local paper, for a small fee. The Museum supplied the gingerbread house sides and the roof, baked by a local German baker, the icing and cups and cups of gumdrops, wafers, marshmallows and other candies. Participants were also invited to bring other treats for their own houses as they wished.
Each family group had its own table. We had a wonderful time making the house together. We liked it so much, I contacted the coordinator and signed up to perform stories at the event the following year.
For several years the children came with me and made a house while I performed. When their schedules no longer were as open on Saturdays, I went to the museum, performed, and brought home the house parts and assorted candies. That same night or the next afternoon they would sit at our round oak kitchen table and assemble the house.
Both at the museum and at home, I let the children take the lead in decorating. To avoid arguments, I assigned sides, allowing each total creative freedom in their own space.
Conversation around the activity was the best part of building the house. Lots of laughter. The house activity stimulated interest in houses they had known—our previous home, their Grandma’s house—and in houses I had known growing up.
When Jennie was a junior in high school, we hosted two Australian girls in early December.
While my husband ushered the girls and Jennie and Joe to see Washington sights, including a display of gingerbread houses at a local mall, I performed at the Building Museum and brought home the gingerbread house forms and fixings as usual.
Our Australian visitors were delighted to share the tradition of making the house with us. After all, a house has four sides, so it worked out perfectly.
Conversation around the table that year was particularly fun—I let the four young people work on their own, but as I made dinner that night, I did eavesdrop and loved hearing them talk about all of their family Christmas traditions which gave our two the opportunity to offer up the ways in which we kept Christ as the center of our celebrations.
After Jennie went to college, the tradition of the gingerbread house faded but not the memory of doing it together. Each time we worked on a house, I was reminded of the verse from Psalms 127:1 “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Each time we worked on a house, it brought our family closer together—the labor was never in vain.
All images and recipes are the property of the original websites. RUBY magazine does not own any of the images in this article and they are used only as part of a featured collection. To find any of the original articles, please visit the websites which are linked to each image.
Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows as well as teaching writing and storytelling.
Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband, Joe. www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973
Note: The following is an excerpt from The Pilgrim Chronicles: Thanksgiving Stories for the Stage, a collection of plays/programs with complete production notes designed for schools and churches.
Check out this comprehensive American history enrichment tool by Kathryn Ross, culminating 20 years of teaching this important aspect of American Christian history. Visit www.pageantwagonpublishing.com/thanksgiving-plays.
On October 3, 1863, at the height of America’s Civil War, Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation including these words of note:
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy . . .
I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands to set apart and observe the last
Thursday of November next as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens . . . it is announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord . . . it has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.
Did you know that there are thousands of this type of proclamations with such language on record dating back to the first Jamestown Thanksgiving in 1619 Virginia? In our almost 400-year American history America’s national leaders and presidents have regularly acknowledged our nation’s dependence and gratefulness to God in this way.
But, when the fourth Thursday in November rolls around each year, it is the picture of the Mayflower, pilgrim men and women, and Native American Indians who are embedded in our collective imaginations.
We gather around tables with our families, feasting on traditional turkey and stuffing. But did you know that in the fall of 1621, in an outdoor setting, European Christian pilgrims and Native Americans actually ate more seafood and venison throughout their three-day Thanksgiving feast dedicated to the God of the Bible?
They had much to be thankful for in that day. And much to mourn.
The Plimoth Plantation Thanksgiving Story
The Pilgrims’ story begins in 1607 when Christians in England met secretly to worship God according to the way the Bible taught, rather than the way King James and his state-appointed bishops mandated that they should.
These brave people came to be called “separatists” because they “separated” from the Church of England. They realized that the Bible taught freedom in Jesus Christ to know right from wrong and the principle of self-government with their hearts submitted to God, rather than mere traditions of men.
Religious persecution increased to intolerable levels. The worshipers fled from England to Holland. William Bradford records the details in his famous diary writings:
Thus, being constrained to leave their native soil and country, their lands and livings, and all their friends and familiar acquaintances, it was . . . thought marvelous by many to go into a country they knew not . . . where they must learn a new language and get their livings they knew not how.
It was by many thought an adventure almost desperate, a case intolerable, and a misery worse than death. They were not acquainted with the trades and traffic, but those things did not dismay them for their desires were set on the ways of God to enjoy His Providence and they knew Whom they believed.
Living in Leyden, Holland, the Pilgrims knew relative peace for about ten years. But all was not well. Leyden was a beautiful place of wealth and worldliness. They were free to worship God, but easy-living made it easy to lose the sense of God’s will.
Their children grew up with no memories of England, greatly influenced by the worldliness of the Dutch children. Through a miraculous set of circumstances, King James, who had persecuted them a decade before causing them to flee, granted them a charter to establish a colony in Virginia, in the New World.
The Pilgrims returned to Plimoth, England to set sail for the American shores. During the turbulent ocean voyage, a storm knocked them off course, bringing them to the Massachusetts shoreline near Cape Cod.
It was too late in the year to sail south to Virginia, so they decided to settle where they were. But, before disembarking for settlement, they drafted the first constitutional document of our nation—a declaration of organized agreement amongst themselves.
The Mayflower Compact set forth in writing the Pilgrims’ purposes in coming to the shores of America, and their commitment to each other and God as a governmental body.
They made settlement in a prepared clearing where Indians once lived but had died out four years earlier of disease. Before the cold of winter set in, they had just enough time to build one common shelter. Though a small beginning, they believed God was on their side.
In January and February of 1621, a “General Sickness” fell upon them. With only six people well enough to care for all who had become ill, they bid farewell to many husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, and children who died.
Of eighteen married women, only five survived. Of twenty-nine unmarried men, servants, and hired hands, only ten survived. By March, spring was in the air. Bravely, they pressed on building six new cabin homes.
With the change of season, the “General Sickness” departed, leaving new challenges before them.
Farming the new land required new skills and wisdom in the use of depleted resources. The Pilgrims prayed to God for help to farm in unfamiliar soil. The Lord sent two Indians into their midst who had met Englishmen before and knew the English language.
They also knew God, having converted to Christianity some years earlier. They helped the Pilgrims make friends with the surrounding Indian tribes. Trade was established, providing necessary goods.
The Indians, Samoset, and Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to farm new foods like corn and squash and pumpkin.
In the fall of 1621, one year after the Pilgrims arrived on Plimoth Plantation; God’s blessings were evident in a plentiful harvest, inspiring plans for a Thanksgiving feast. They invited the Indians and the great chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his braves, plus a good deal of wild game meat to roast.
For three days, the Pilgrims gave thanks in prayer, feasted, and enjoyed contests and games with the Indians. No matter how small their beginning, the greatness of their losses, or the trauma of their trials and sufferings, they rejoiced in their freedom of worship, the greatest blessing of all for which to give thanks.
These details and more, concerning the Pilgrims’ day-to-day life, are recorded in The Ballad of Plimoth Plantation, a poem turned folk song written three years after the Pilgrims landed.
It humorously sketched a picture of life on Plimoth Plantation, meant to be heard back in old England. The Pilgrims honestly recorded the highs and lows of settling in the New World.
They encouraged new settlers to join them, trusting God in all things, as noted in the final verse:
Now you whom the Lord intends hither to bring Forsake not the honey for fear of the sting,
But bring forth a quiet and contented mind
And all needful blessings you surely will find.
And, I’ll still praise Jehovah for my God is good.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanks-giving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV
Want to learn more? Curious to know what the Ballad of Plimoth Plantation sounded like when sung? And all the verses?
Check out Miss Kathy’s podcast dramatization of the story with links to a five-part blog series on the Plimoth Plantation Thanksgiving—a critical moment in American history, the establishment of America’s purpose, and a powerful demonstration of the American mind.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
Celebrating Thanksgiving creates a time and space where families and friends can join together and share the wonderful things God has done for them.
Not to say that this practice is a bad thing, but what if we were grateful for God’s blessings on more than just one day of the year?
Think about how often people in the United States complain about what they do not have. They don’t have the perfect car, family, Smartphone, body, budget, house, etc.
Since they’re focused on what they don’t have, these people cannot focus on what they do have: shelter, friends, enough money to get by, family, all five senses, and more.
Furthermore, gratitude is a huge theme in the Bible. Think about Miriam, who praised God during the Exodus from Egypt.
Consider how many times the psalmists––especially King David––praised God for the wonderful things he has done. Consider how many times Jesus thanked his Father in the New Testament.
Notice how many times Paul thanked the churches he wrote to for various reasons, including their spiritual growth. Gratitude is not something a person can neglect.
Those stuck in this negative thought pattern may find it difficult to engage in gratitude. What if we took small steps forward and started thanking God for something each day?
Yes, this might become a hard task if you had a hard day at work, the kids aren’t listening, and your spouse just doesn’t seem to understand how you feel.
However, finding that one glimmer in the dust might make the day even just a little better and remind you about the ways God is Lord of your life.
In addition, gratitude will make everyone in the family healthier because it helps with physical, emotional, psychological, somatic, and relational health, according to Forbes. All of these things will come in handy during the next month––when the holiday blues kick in––and lead to a life of longevity.
This practice of thankfulness can manifest in many ways.
First, use sticky notes. Write something you’re thankful for each morning and leave these notes in different places around the house.
Second, practice art. Create an image of something important to you, such as the place you grew up or even something as simple as the family dog.
Third, pick a different Bible verse to meditate on each day, and journal about how it evokes gratitude.
Fourth, keep yourself accountable and verbally tell someone what you’re thankful for that day––you can even tell the kids you’re thankful for them completing their homework.
Lastly, keep a journal with a list of things you’re grateful for and add something new each day.
This Thanksgiving, invite everyone onboard with the endeavor. Transform it into a family project with a whiteboard full of grateful thoughts. Read devotionals that express gratitude before family meals or during devotional times.
On that note, have a family prayer time focused on thanking God for his faithfulness. Find opportunities to sneak thanksgiving in and capitalize on them.
These activities can last as short as a month or as long as a year, but I encourage you to make them a habit.
Finding the beauty in each day proves difficult if you haven’t stopped to appreciate both the small and major blessings in your life.
However, having that arsenal of thankful thoughts provides a powerful weapon against pessimism and creates a peace that lingers throughout the soul.
I hate weeds! When I see “pull weeds” on my list of chores, I cringe—‘cause, boy, do we have a lot of ‘em! I think every species of weed God ever created lived on our place. There are a gazillion things I’d rather be doing than spending all day yanking those pesky fun-stealers out of their hard ground.
You know, FUN stuff. Riding my horse and swimming in the pool are at the top of my list. Of course, even watching the paint peel off the walls would be better than this!
I stood, staring at the first weed. A mustard weed… the worst! It looked like a small tree!
“Ah, man, I’m never going to get this thing out!”
I frowned. I stomped up to it, grabbed a hold of the top and pulled… and pulled… and PULLED. Sweat trickled down my face as I put my whole body weight into it (which isn’t much at eight-years-old).
Suddenly the little flowers, stems and all, slid through my fingers like a slick rope, sending me sprawling on my backside. Flopped on my fanny in the dirt, I opened my hand. Yellow petal remnants and green stems were all I had to show for my efforts.
“Hmmmm… that didn’t work. Let’s see… I’ll grab closer to the root!”
I pulled again as hard as I could (except with more grunting and growling). Seriously? The stems and flowers didn’t even come off that time!
My eyes narrowed with a sneaky thought, and I chose the next trick up my sleeve. I’ll just whack it off at the top with a hoe, close to the ground. Then I’ll kick dirt over it!
I stared down that mustard weed like a cowboy at the OK corral. It seemed to be staring back at me just as ornery. Armed with the hoe I stalked up to it. I wielded that hoe like a cavalry sword, standing on my tiptoes to land the death-blow. But the blade bounced right off the rock-hard root. Really??
What do I do? All my fun plans were disappearing like the sun that was slowly sinking behind the hills.
OK, now I was mad. I stormed to my dad.
“Those stupid weeds CANNOT be pulled out!” I whined.
“Why can’t we just leave them?”
The corners of his mouth twitched. No way! Was he trying not to smile?
He cleared his throat and quickly turned away.
“Follow me,” he said.
“We can’t leave the weeds there because the snakes like to use them for a hiding place.”
My eyes grew wide.
He hooked up the garden hose to the faucet beside the barn and dragged it over to the tree-weed. He let the water flow around the root, letting the moisture sink deeply into the hard soil.
I shook my head. “That’s only making a muddy mess, dad,” I said.
After a few minutes, he turned the water off and walked over to that horrid plant. He grabbed the root, jiggled it around, and yanked. That ole thing popped right out of the ground!
I gawked at the miracle.
“You see,” he replied, as he washed the dirt off his hands, “sometimes it takes a bit more effort and help to get the tough roots out.”
“And you can’t ignore them because they’ll never stop growing and spreading until they take over the place.”
“And then there’s the snake hide-out thing,” I said.
He rubbed his chin, deep in thought. “You know, getting rid of these weeds isn’t the only lesson here,” he said.
“Yep. Those weeds are like tough places in our heart—like bad behavior… lying, stealing, gossiping, bullying. The water is like Jesus. When we let him help us, he softens those hard places in our heart, so we give up those bad habits.”
I dug my toe in the dirt. “Or like snatching the TV remote from Sissy’s hand when I wanted to watch my show instead of hers?”
He nodded. “It’s like that mustard weed. The “flowers” are our actions, but they grow out of a strong root. In the case of the TV remote, the root is selfishness.”
My face turned red and I ducked my head. “So Jesus can help me to stop thinking only about me?”
Dad laughed. “Of course, He can. He’s just waiting for you to let Him turn the hose on you.”
Suddenly Dad flung some hose water at me.
“Hey!” I yelped.
We both laughed.
The sun disappeared over the horizon, leaving brilliant streaks of gold and orange as we strolled back to the house.
“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was being baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased.’” Luke 3: 21-22 (NIV)
The story of Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3:21-22 establishes a foundation of how He would serve, sacrifice and surrender to God in His ministry to come.
If we look around us, sacrifice isn’t hidden away. It’s there even in what we might see as insignificant moments. In the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist claims Jesus should be the one to baptize him instead of the other way around. But the King steps back to place Himself behind those who’d lined up for baptism- those ready to embrace a new beginning with God are put before God in the flesh.
Jesus obeys, laying down His will and surrendering His all, to be sacrificed for all. The reminder of sacrifice and surrender begs a question from all of us: What if our schedule, our time, responsibilities, needs- even our desires and dreams- what if they all took a backseat to our relationship with God?
What kingdoms am I willing to give up in order to make Him King of my life?
If we look at Luke 3:21-22 what stands out?
The act of sacrifice is to give of something we adore in this life- for a will and a purpose greater than our own. God sacrificed for us, giving the world His Son, and Jesus sacrificed for the world, surrendering His will and offering His life.
The Gospels document Jesus’ baptism, but Luke offers us the only clear indicator that the first thing Jesus did to embark upon ministry was to make Himself last. Instead of taking a step forward to lead and model obedience through being baptized FIRST, Jesus instead took a step back…to SACRIFICE and SURRENDER.
When we surrender to Jesus, we give back our lives- including the desire to hold onto the adored things of this life.
The word “when” in these verses indicated a place in time- meaning “just after”- establishing the foundation of faith through authentic sacrifice and surrender. Other translations of Luke 3:21-22 give the same indication that Jesus held back, placing himself last by allowing others to be baptized before Him.
So what can we take away from these verses?
Jesus was willing to sacrifice displaying what it means to put oneself last in servant leadership, he models surrender in baptism and He seeks God first with prayer at a pivotal moment.
To truly be set free from the enslavement of sin, we willingly make ourselves last. That means taking an authentic look at what we’re slaves to and what we are willing to lay down to find freedom in Christ. We SACRIFICE and SURRENDER- just as Jesus did for us.
What would it look like if we really needed the Word of God in a way that isn’t a chore but a gift with every new day, and we’re willing to sacrifice to do what it says?
KRISTY CAMBRON is an award-winning author of Christian fiction, including her bestselling debut The Butterfly and the Violin, and an author of Bible studies, including the Verse Mapping series. She’s a Women’s Ministry Leader at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, and a passionate storyteller who travels to speak at ministry events across the country, encouraging women to experience a deeper life in the Word through verse mapping. Her work has been named to Publishers Weekly Religion & Spirituality TOP 10, Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books, RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, and received 2015 & 2017 INSPY Award nominations. Kristy holds a degree in Art History/Research Writing, and has 15 years of experience in education and leadership development for a Fortune-100 Corporation, working in partnership with such companies as the Disney Institute, IBM/Kenexa, and Gallup. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, and can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good read.
It starts out as this big community of people, events, and fun leading up to the wedding day. There’s just so much love in the air. It’s the season filled with congratulations.
Working towards making the big day perfect brings all kinds of stress but it’s all going to be worth it when it’s better than we imagined. We’re so focused on THE DAY that we forget about nurturing the relationship.
Then all of a sudden, in a matter of hours, it’s over. The day has come and gone. The people have gone back to their lives. There are no more events. Life feels ordinary, far from all the excitement of preparing for the wedding. We’re in our new place, and it’s quiet. This is where the marriage begins.
Did you get the memo that it was going to be work, real work, but real fun work too? I sure hope so.
Remember why you wanted to be married in the first place. To live a life with your best friend. To enjoy their company forever. To share in a commitment of love. Has that changed? Probably not, but something has changed in you.
The three best pieces of marriage advice I got were:
Make yourself happy. He can never make you happy. It’s not his job, and even if he tried, he couldn’t bear the weight of such a heavy task. If you think about it, a human being cannot do God’s work.
Bringing joy into the hearts of people has always been and will always be God’s work.
And . . .
Your marriage account is empty. You cannot withdraw what you didn’t deposit. If you want love, deposit plenty of it. If you want compassion, deposit plenty of it. If you want reliability, deposit plenty of it.
If you think about it, it’s a biblical principle that leads to a happier you. There is greater joy in giving than in receiving.
And . . .
Love is service. Make a decision daily to outdo each other in showing love. Sometimes we have to go back and be reminded of the true meaning of love in 1 Corinthians 13. To be patient, kind, not envy/boast/be proud, not dishonor, not self-seek, not be easily angered, and not keep a record of wrong. That’s our definition of love.
It’s easy to focus on the other person, what he should do, and what he should be. It’s human nature.
Try this next time you find yourself going down that mental path: picture yourself pointing the finger at your partner.
One finger is pointing at him, and four fingers are pointing back at you. The only thing you can control in life is yourself. Don’t lose yourself in trying to fix another person. It’s wasted effort that yields very bad results.
Focus on being the best you that you can be. Living with purpose and zeal for life and love. That’s the only way you can ensure that you will always be destiny bound.
The marriage in the Bible that we are shown intimately is that of Abraham and Sarah.
1 Peter 3: 6 states, “For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.”
The word “master” captures respect for her husband.
This scripture does not focus on what Abraham did, but what Sarah did. A wise woman builds her house. Let’s serve our husbands and children out of love.
The world says, “I won’t do anything for you unless you do something for me”; but God says I will cause the sun to shine on the good and the bad. Let’s strive to love like our Lord does.
It’s an extravagant kind of love. Never waiting to see how we will respond, but continuously showering us with his love. When we get tired, He will fill us up.
We cannot create marital bliss even with our best efforts, but in obedience to His word love will abound in our homes.
Priscilla Shumba is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, she is currently residing in Australia. She is passionate about encouraging people to live up to their destiny.
November is the month of Thanksgiving and a time to give thanks. This is a month when we concentrate on what we must be thankful for. So, what better time to look at a popular Thanksgiving song?
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come is a harvest hymn that was written in 1844. The song was written by Henry Alford.
In the days when most people survived off the land, they understood the importance of the harvest. There was an urgency to safely gather the harvest before the winter storms rolled in.
The first stanza is written to be an invitation to give thanks to God. The second and third stanzas are a commentary on the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, as recorded in the gospel of Matthew. The last stanza is a prayer for the Lord’s return.
Henry Alford was born on October 7, 1810, in London. At sixteen years of age, he felt the presence of God and gave his life to Christ. He followed in the footsteps of his ancestors and became a clergyman and was a prominent Greek scholar.
He was the author of forty-eight hymns, wrote many songs and published a hymnbook. At the age of 47, he was appointed Dean of Canterbury, a position he held until his death on January 12, 1871.
The lyrics were set to the tune, St. George’s, Windsor written by George J. Elvey. The tune first appeared with Alford’s text in the Anglican hymnal, Hymns Ancient, and Modern.
George Elvey was born on March 27, 1916, and served as organist at the Royal Chapel at Windsor Castle for 47 years. In 1871, he was knighted by Queen Victoria. He died on December 9, 1893.
I absolutely LOVE this time of year! The cooler weather, the colors of the changing leaves, and the joys of hot cocoa and cookies all come together to create a delightful time. I hope you are enjoying autumn wherever you live.
Here’s a creative idea that I came up with and wanted to share with you, just in case you are a little bit like me and really can’t afford to buy or make a brand-new wreath for every season of the year.
Maybe I can do that some other day if I ever have oodles of storage space and an unlimited budget. But since that isn’t going to happen today, not at my home(not to mention that I can not stand waste), I decided to come up with my own version of an “Autumn Love” wreath.
I am so abundantly blessed, no matter whether or not I have a new wreath on my front door, but it is still fun to see something pretty outside when I come home from church, to greet me and anyone who approaches my home, so here’s what I did:
I took out last year’s wreath and changed it up to make a “new to me” wreath this year! I admit I have a special place in my heart for last year’s wreath, but they really are all wonderful memories for the time that they decorated my home.
I removed the old sign and bow. that I had last year, and then started adding some of my favorite colors with items I gathered from the Dollar Store, Goodwill, and even on a beautiful bunch of silk flowers from Michael’s that I got for half price.
The total cost of my wreath update was approximately $6 – $8!! Who doesn’t LOVE that price tag for a “new” autumn wreath?
Just take a closer look at my beautiful “Autumn Love” wreath and maybe you will be inspired to try your hand at updating an old wreath for your front door.
I know that this will be beautiful all season long, and will remind me of my blessings every day. Wishing you all the joy of autumn from my home to yours!
In Honor of Veterans’ Day
My father, Gabriel DiLeonardo, came from a large family—13, most were girls. Since all but one of his sisters and only one brother lived close to us, I did not know them well.
There is one I never met—my father’s second oldest brother—Uncle Egidio. He came to the United States as a young man in 1913 when my father was only three years old. Uncle Dom, the oldest brother took care of him. Until World War One broke out. Uncle Dom was already married.
When the United States entered the war, Uncle Egidio decided to enlist. He wanted to hold up the honor of his new country. He was so proud to be in America! I’m not sure if he became a citizen by serving (laws were different then) or if was already a citizen when he joined.
What I do know is that this man fought for our country and was wounded—seriously. It has been my grandfather’s intention to bring the entire family over, one by one. The war prevented that.
It was not until 1921 that my grandfather was able to bring the rest of the family over to America. My Dad was eleven years old. For the first time, he met his brother Dominic (the two of them were look-alikes) and his brother Egidio.
He did not really get to know Egidio well, because Egidio had been so badly injured by an attack of poison gas in the trenches of France that he could hardly speak or breathe.
In addition, I suspect he suffered from “shell shock,” what we call PTSD today. Uncle Dom worked to get Egidio into a Veterans hospital—where he spent the rest of his life.
Uncle Egidio died in 1976, having lived almost all of his adult life in a hospital. The nurses told me he was a kind and gentle man. By the time he died he probably understood English, but the gas injuries likely prevented him from speaking.
When I hear about how the country behaved toward Italians in the 1920s, it saddens me. My Dad fought in his neighborhood for respect and my Uncle fought so that those who bullied my father, his brother, could do so in a free and safe country.
Those in charge of pursuing the peace when the war was winding down decided it would be nice to have everything end at eleven in the morning on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
So, people fought and died up to the last minute. It is said that thousands died on that last day—due to the hubris of leaders who wanted an “interesting” end time and did not consider the men who would die right up until the last gun was silenced.
It is said that the bitterness, the rancor of the following year’s Treaty of Versailles that carved up the world among the victors was a direct cause WWII and the terrible devastation that brought.
That all seems so long ago. In fact, it was exactly one hundred years ago, this year. My personal connection pushed me to visit some WWI battlefields a few years ago and to look up my Uncle’s records.
I could not find out much about him. So, I invented a life for him. Before and during the war in a series of short stories. The first of those stories has been published.
But even more than that, thinking and reading about WWI and the amazing literature that flowed from it, has given me new insights into our need to be kind to one another, to live as Christ would have us live—to understand and care for the poor and the strangers among us, to love those whose ideas are different from ours, even if they do not love us.
So, for all of this, I wear the poppies of the famous Flanders Field (poem honoring those who died in WWI) on November 11—for my Uncle, for all who died in and because of that war, for all who lived through it, and for our country, that we may never repeat the sins of the past.
“We Gather to Give Thanks” by Rejetta Morse
Jesus transformed a pair of fish
and five small loaves of bread.
He gave thanks before five thousand
and everyone was fed.
More miracles he grants each day
and gives us food to eat.
He heals the sick and blesses us;
our needs he always meets.
Before he died upon the cross,
He thought of you and me.
Is there a greater love to find?
He died to set us free.
And now we gather all around
the table on this day.
We give thanks for our blessings and
for new ones on the way.
Yet amid the sounds of laughter,
we shed a silent tear,
thinking of loved ones gone away;
how we’ll miss them this year.
The air was crisp and lightly tinged with the woodsy smell of a campfire. We children piled into the green VW mini-bus and settled by our favorite windows as Dad hopped into the driver’s seat. We were headed for Grandpa’s house on Thanksgiving morning.
Mother had been busy for hours—preparing a savory dressing; cleaning, seasoning, and stuffing the turkey; and carefully stitching together the flaps of the cavity with needle and thread.
She stayed behind to baste the turkey and prepare coleslaw—and maybe to enjoy a few minutes of quiet. Pies, mincemeat and pecan, and pumpkin-nut bread had been baked the day before, and her traditional cranberry salad, second only to the turkey itself, was already setting up in the refrigerator.
As the “bird” slowly roasted, a wonderful aroma began to fill the house. We knew the fragrance would be there when we returned.
The drive to Grandpa’s took us out of our neighborhood and into the countryside. We traversed narrow winding roads, hills, and valleys, passing wooded thickets and wide ribbons of fallow cornfields that stretched to the horizon.
Eventually Grandpa’s village appeared.
Just a few minutes …… and there he was, waiting for us at the old oak table in the kitchen, sipping coffee and reading. Hugs and smiles later, he quickly gathered up his warm jacket, a bag of freshly-hulled black walnuts from the yard, and the old tin he always filled with fudge from the farmers’ market. Soon we were out the door and on our way home, with him by our sides.
It was a joyful ride through the countryside. We were hungry and anticipated a delicious feast! Dad was humming the tune to “Over the River and through the Woods.”
Grandpa smiled and sat quietly. Maybe he was thinking of years gone by, when he had celebrated Thanksgiving with his parents, then later with his dear wife, our Grandmother who was no longer with us.
Surely his mind was full of happy images of the past. I wish we had asked him to describe these memories. Our questions were more current. What new projects were in process in his woodshop?
Birdhouses perhaps, or was he repairing a neighbor’s fence or building a new shed for someone? The conversation was light and the mood sweet.
The winding road though hill and dale led us home, where Mother greeted us in her fresh apron and crisp cotton dress. Lady, our little beagle, bounced around happily, especially eager to lick Grandpa’s hands.
The roasting turkey smelled wonderful as we entered the house. We girls helped to set the table with the good china and real silverware, while the men carried in kindling and logs for the hearth. Before long, Mother rang the dinner bell.
We took our places around the table, with a special spot for Grandpa, and bowed our heads to give thanks.
Then Dad began to carve the turkey, as Mother carried in steaming bowls of vegetables and casseroles of baked stuffing—always an alternative to the cooked-inside-the-turkey sort. Salads and sweet breads were already on the table.
This was a beautiful time, with six of us gathered together.
We savored the delicious meal, reported to Grandpa about what we were learning in school, told old and new stories, and laughed.
At one point our father asked us to share something that we were especially thankful for. I can’t recall the answers but am certain that this practice helped us develop a sense of gratitude. So many simple blessings!
Time has passed. Grandparents and parents are no longer with us. The family may gather on a day other than the actual date of Thanksgiving—and at a different home.
But, I still wear a favorite apron and prepare my mother’s delicious cranberry salad, bake a Thanksgiving pie or two, and set the table with pretty napkins and candles, just as she did.
And, whenever I find myself driving on a crisp November day down a lane in the country, I can hear my father singing; “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandfather’s house we go.”
Here find my mother’s Thanksgiving Cranberry Salad recipe:
What you need:
12 oz fresh cranberries (4 cups)
1 orange, peeled and sectioned
2 small packs raspberry Jello (or strawberry)
2 c. boiling water
1 c. crushed pineapple, drained
2 ribs celery, finally chopped, (1 c.)
1 c. finely chopped walnuts or pecans
½ tsp salt
2 c. sugar and 1 c. tap water
Let’s make it!
Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!
Vintage postcard image courtesy of Old Design Shop
“My Father’s Garden” by Nancy Frantel
“God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.’ “Genesis 1:29 (NRSV)
When my brothers and I lived at home we looked forward to summer each year. With one exception.
While we enjoyed the break from school, we didn’t enjoy how our time shifted to another assignment–working in daddy’s garden.
Okay, I guess you could call it the family garden, but somehow the three kids spent the most time there.
No matter how much time we worked in the garden, we didn’t appreciate the blessing of having space to grow our own fruit and vegetables.
An attempted excuse, “I don’t like [insert most vegetables]. Why do I have to help?” failed to get any of us out of weeding duty.
Occasional moments of excitement occurred when the strawberries and blueberries ripened. However, opportunities to enjoy their tender, sweet taste came few and far between. Why?
God’s beautiful creatures called birds. Unless they took a day off, by the time we attempted to pick the fruit, few berries remained. Even covering the plants with netting failed to deter them.
We might find blueberries if the birds decided to take the day off, or full from the day before. If that’s even possible−wouldn’t they spread the word?
Especially since they apparently knew about God’s promise to feed them. Matthew 6:26a: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (NRSV)
At least they could help pull weeds while enjoying the delicious buffet.
While weeding wasn’t on their “to do” list, they learned how to pluck the newly sprouted corn plants out of the ground. The small amount of green shaft told them the softened kernel was ready to consume. Ok, I give them credit for being clever.
However, my father learned to protect the corn by using tin cans. He removed the top and bottom, leaving a cylinder. He placed the can around the seed prior to sprouting. The frustrated free-food birds were not happy.
And neither were my brothers and I. The less the birds consumed, the more work for us. We tried different excuses to avoid the garden assignment. Some days the chore list caused a fleeting thought of wishing summer was over.
But we didn’t look forward to school enough to be able to use, “I have homework due tomorrow so I can’t help.”
Then “The Year” came along. Daddy decided to plant a new vegetable−pumpkins. But not just any pumpkins−giant pumpkins.
He always wanted to grow them, but “feed the family” vegetables took up all the space. Finally a plant we wanted to assist with its care.
After several months of pruning and watering, we watched the pumpkins mature.
By October the largest pumpkin seemed to reign over the others. Weighing over 300 pounds, the heir apparent to future pumpkins seemed proud to have survived.
I guess the birds felt we deserved a break. Or maybe they don’t like pumpkins.
Nancy Frantel lives in Virginia, and is a published author of three history books, public speaker and researcher. Prior to becoming a writer she worked in corporate management. A “life interruption” injury in 2010 limited her ability to work as a writer. In 2017, she attended several Christian writing conferences, and felt led to start over in a different genre. Her goal is to write inspirational and encouraging stories based on her experiences, lessons learned by trusting God, and individuals He provides along the way.
Who was Christopher Columbus? That’s an important question to answer as we recognize Columbus Day. Some say he founded America; others just credit him as a Spanish explorer. Here’s the truth: Columbus was Italian, but he lived in Spain later on, according to Biography. Columbus was set on finding Cathay, India, for some spices he could take back to the mainland, according to History.
Contrary to popular belief, his contemporaries did not believe Earth was actually round; the Christian Science Monitor states that although Columbus thought the planet was pear-shaped, most people knew it was round. Regardless, the real question was how big the Earth was––and that’s how Columbus ended up in America, also known as the “New World.” The explorer wasn’t aware of the planet’s size, so he landed where he thought India actually was.
After giving your kids this brief historical background, engage in a couple activities that will help them commemorate Columbus Day.
Craft: Build your own Boat – American Corners Macedonia
According to Enchanted Learning, Columbus sailed on three different ships: the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria, which he captained. The Santa Maria was shipwrecked later, and historians believe they may have found its remains near the Haiti coast, according to the Smithsonian, due to a journal entry Columbus wrote. Chances are you have some empty egg cartons lying around the house.
What would Columbus’ crew have eaten back in the day? According to the Daily Meal, the explorers would have eaten cheese, rice, beans, salted fish, and sea biscuits.
Although those biscuits were traditionally served hard, make it easy for the kids and buy a roll of Pillsbury Grands! which they can put on a cookie tray themselves.
Cook some white rice, salt some fish or beef, and then move on to the beans.
Spanish style bean recipe from Snapguide
Let the water boil with the ingredients for about half an hour. Keep checking the mixture. Take off the burner when the mixture looks thick enough. Serve when ready.
Jehn Kubiak is a Biola University journalism graduate and current pastoral care and counseling major at the Talbot School of Theology. She is a San Diego native who enjoys distance swimming, coffee, dogs, and painting. She loves researching and writing about people, sports, activities, and more.
They grow their gulls huge here, Deanna noted absently. Otherwise, this gull looked like every other gull she’d ever seen. She sighed. Today’s boredom seemed different somehow than the flat fact that most seagull and crashing-wave snapshots look alike.
Am I just getting old? Have I been on one too many beach vacations?
She plopped down on a weather worn wooden bench. Not yet crowded, the wharf would be a good place to let her mind meander through her current malaise. The early morning sun was warm, the air calm.
Back on the sand, a beachcomber lazily lingered, bent over potential treasures. In the quiet, a few artists had set up easels and canvases for perspectives they wanted to paint. The normally rambunctious, roaring Pacific lollygagged beneath the wharf.
Was this vacation just seagull déjà vu? No, she decided. Buried deep inside this boredom was a warning buzzer. The big fat gull cocked its head quizzically in her direction. Seeing no food forthcoming from Deanna’s fingers, it flew off to a more promising perch.
Deanna didn’t want to fly home without finding answers, or at least identifying the warning buzzer. Giving up on this quest too easily would condemn her to the life of that gull, flitting from piling to piling in search of scraps.
A few hours of reflection before her flight home would serve her well. Julian was in town shutter bugging bright pastel stucco buildings, so she’d have some time alone to think. Bright pastel … until this trip, she would have considered that an oxymoron.
But she could see them from the wharf—rows of villas gaily painted in rich colors and whimsically decorated. One was raspberry stucco with aqua curlicues above royal blue awnings; the next was aqua stucco accented with cobalt tiles; a peach-colored house had fanciful fuchsia fishes sculpted above a delft blue doorway.
They had spontaneity, a childlike playfulness, an uninhibited joy. Their perfect freshness was enhanced by nearby clumps of elegant pure-white calla lilies glistening with morning dew.
That’s what I was hoping this marriage to Julian would be like, Deanna mused, realizing her mind had just stumbled into the very danger zone she needed to explore. It disturbed her that the sparkle of their honeymoon a mere five months ago had been greatly tarnished on this trip.
As this week had progressed, she’d become more and more frightened that the rest of their marriage would be this boring. There. She’d identified the warning buzzer.
It wasn’t what they had done during this vacation week that was troubling, but how she and Julian had related.
The problem wasn’t one too many seagulls. It was too few engaging conversations. Too few of the electrifying soul connections they used to make. Not enough sense of adventure. And too few evidences of the partnership she’d hoped for.
Ah, unfulfilled expectations … that old, disagreeable friend of hers. The disappointments of her first marriage reared their ugly heads, like the persistent, grumbling demons that they were. No wonder her current discomfort felt familiar. It had been fourteen long, lonely years since her divorce.
But the loneliness of singleness had not been as painful as the loneliness of marriage. The new marriage had promised the loving companionship. In courtship, Julian had been completely different from her first husband. Now here was that pesky marriage loneliness again.
Although she wished Julian would change, she’d been down that dead-end street before. Changing Julian was not the answer. Changing herself, or her thinking, or something, was. But what—and how?
She left the bench and strolled to the end of the pier. Elbow on a piling, chin in her hand, Deanna lost herself in the spectacle before her. A few enterprising gulls dropped clams on the rocks to break them open for food.
Families of seals basked lazily on shiny, black rocks. Occasionally, one raised its whiskered nose and slid into the ocean to dive for food. Where seals found fish, gulls circled overhead.
Deanna’s mind drifted to a water cooler conversation she’d had with her coworker Jeanne, whose very soul always seemed so well-fed that she didn’t seem to wish her marriage were different.
When she’d asked Jeanne about her level of marital contentment, she’d explained that remembering Jesus’ unconditional love for her gave her the freedom to accept her husband as he was—in areas where he met her needs, as well as in areas where he disappointed her. “If Jesus’ other name is Love, His middle name is Freedom,” Jeanne had said, beaming.
Deanna remembered wondering if Jeanne had beamed with pleasure of clever wordplay or with sheer relief of the concept. Well, thought Deanna, don’t I completely accept Julian? Once again, she sank into her mental list of his shortcomings.
Her reverie was interrupted by a family drama nearby. “Honey, you have to unload your pockets.”
Deanna looked toward the young sunburnt dad explaining gently to his reluctant curly-haired toddler that he didn’t want to see her struggle so hard to walk.
Deanna saw stubbornness in the little cherub’s jaw, then sadness in her eyes, as she obediently drew one treasure after another from her pink corduroy overalls.
Finally, her bulging pockets fell flat. Then she sheepishly dug into rolled-up pant cuffs and pulled out some stones and pine cones and a red and white fishing bobber that her little fingers could barely grasp. Deanna had to smile. No wonder the child had been waddling precariously.
As the little one reached for her father’s hand and skipped beside him back down the pier, Deanna was curious to know what this child had found pretty enough to pick up. She wandered over to the treasures remaining on the wharf after a few had plunked through the cracks into the water below.
Seven lavender and rose scallops, one chestnut cowry, a purple olive shell, a smooth pebble of polished cobalt glass, a gull feather, a small grayish sand dollar, a pearly angel wing, two iridescent midnight-blue mussels … the little girl definitely had an eye for pretty things.
She must have gone to the same beachcombing school Deanna had gone to. But wait. Something was different. These were just broken pieces.
Deanna knew the names of these shells only because she had seen them whole and read their names in books. In all her years of beachcombing, she wouldn’t even waste the energy to bend down to pick up a seashell if it wasn’t whole. In the little girl’s treasure pile, however, not a single shell was whole.
Likely those innocent blue eyes had never seen a complete clam or live scallop or even the Shell gasoline logo. For that matter, Deanna had never seen the perfect marriage she grumbled about not having.
If childlike wisdom sees beauty in imperfection … if she became more like a child in this way … Maybe to bring wonder back to her marriage, she could leave a few expectations on that pier herself.
“Hey there. I’m glad I found you. It’s almost time to fly home.” Julian kissed her gently, then smiled. He looked different. Beautiful.
“Just a second.” She bent down and picked up a small scallop shard and the gull feather to tape in her prayer journal.
With those reminders in one hand and Julian’s warm hand in her other, she smiled—and even skipped a little as they walked together toward shore.
© 2018 Jane Hoppe
Jane Hoppe is an epiphany enthusiast. When writing fiction or nonfiction, she portrays discovery, insight, and growth. Especially when God teaches her something, she wants to share it through writing. Her debut novel, first in the Maria Beaumont series, is called Beyond Betrayal. She writes two blogs, www.aquajane-musings.blogspot.com, eclectic musings on life, accepting middle age, and lots of book reviews, and www.reflectionsoneldercare.com, reflections on elder care, loving Mom and Dad in their old age, along with caregiver resources. Jane’s website is www.janehoppe.com.
Mornings can be hectic, but there is one thing even more important than a healthy breakfast—prayers before school. In order to maximize prayer impact while respecting the likelihood that there will only be a few precious minutes in the morning, I have worked out a formula that was pretty effective at our house.
Of course homeschoolers, not having the need to commute, can use that time for prayer, without dividing the prayer time over several days.
The purpose of these morning prayers is to model for your children the worship of God through prayer, that we can rely on God for and in all things, big and small, and to instill these comforting verses in our hearts and those of our children so that throughout life these verses will emerge to help support them when they need it.
The system involves praying for the week ahead on Sundays for a longer time, using favorite verses of your choice and Ephesians 6:11 et al. Just as you would lay out clothes for the week, you should pray for the protection of God over each child’s week. During the year, you can add activities to this –draw the armor, begin to learn the passage, talk about what they mean.
Although you can do more preparation for the following day at family devotions, to best address the needs of each little heart in the family, wait for the moment when it is just the two of you at bedtime.
Then, add prayers and a verse for each child’s special needs for the following day—a test (maybe a verse on wisdom) meeting new people, how they can be salt and light in the classroom.
Pick a verse that meets that child’s needs. For instance, for my daughter, as for myself, Philippians 4:6-7 would be the verse.
Then a quick morning prayer to go with the quick kiss goodbye from you to remind them that no matter what happens, she need not be anxious about anything.
Of course, then we need to remind them that we will be in prayer for them all day. To keep that promise, I often write down the time of a special event.
When the day ends, be sure to follow up—in the after school talk and at the dinner table, unless it was a confidential request that your child wants to share only at bedtime.
Once they leave the house, it’s time for prayer from Mom to God on their behalf. Here are some of the things I prayed most often and that I still pray for our daughter even though she is long past school, and is out in the working world:
After school time will be much richer if your child knows you have been participating via prayer in his or her day—it gives you more of an opening.
Morning prayer — a must, that can be easily inserted into a busy morning even without waking the child an extra twenty minutes early.
Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows as well as teaching writing and storytelling.
Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband, Joe. www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973
Blueberries are in …..
… and my kitchen is a mess. The sink is piled high with stained utensils, just waiting to soak in warm sudsy water. I just cooked up and put up a batch of blueberry jam! Mason jars of various sizes line the counter, along with assorted extra rings and flat lids.
I’m sitting here at the computer now to rest and gather energy for the clean-up. It would have been easy to select pretty jars of jam at the grocery store or country market. But wait……
I would have missed the treat of going to the farm stand to buy freshly picked berries, the feel of those lovely little fruits as I washed and sorted them, the snappy sound of chopping them with a large chef knife, and the delight of discovering below the deep blue skin a soft yellow-green center.
And, I would have never had the fun of measuring all that sugar. This is where the nourishment factor of jam comes into question. The recipe calls for nearly two cups of sugar per one cup of fruit and states clearly that the full amount must be used.
“Oh well. It will be yummy on toast and muffins. I’ll spread it sparingly,” I think, while stirring the conglomerate of fruit and sugar together with a pat of butter. The butter is to reduce foam. Whoever knew that foam was a part of jam making?
Having stirred and cooked and timed, and after skimming off the surprise foam that snuck into the pot, I carefully ladle the hot mixture into sterile jars, using a funnel to prevent spills. A small portion goes into a custard cup.
Spots of deep reddish-purple end up on the stove and counter and on my linen kitchen towels, but all is well if I manage to keep the jars upright as they fill up with the steaming hot liquid. The potential for burns is real and caution is advised.
With lids and rings screwed on, the whole project is slowly lifted into a pot of bubbling water, one jar at a time, for the final treatment—the boiling water bath.
About ten minutes later, the jars are gently removed to a heat-resistant surface where they begin to cool. The change in temperature causes suction and lids pop as they are pulled tightly onto the jar. I count the pops to be sure all jars are sealed.
Finally, it’s time to relax, leave the jam alone to cool down, and taste the little sample that had been kept aside. It is sweet, still warm, and fresh as a morning garden full of new blossoms.
Hmmm …. delicious. No wonder I love to make blueberry jam!
Cynthia Knisley: After years as a “stay-at-home” mom, Cynthia enjoyed a fulfilling second career as a high school language teacher and curriculum developer. Recently, she took a leap of faith and left the classroom in order to devote more time to family—aging parents, adult children, and lively young grandchildren. Her home is in West Chester, PA, where she plays classical music, bakes bread, and tends a “secret garden.” A novice blogger, she welcomes you to her posts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FROM THIS MONTH’S KIDS’ KORNER
“Be back before lunch!” Mom called out the front door. “I have a meeting early this afternoon.”
I frowned. “Seriously?” I sighed. “I thought we had the whole day to ride, Nocona,” I complained to my horse.
“OK, Mom,” I called back.
I pulled the saddle girth tight and gathered the reins.
“Well, at least we’ll be able to ride for a little while.”
My horse turned his head toward me and I patted his neck. Swinging into the saddle, I gently squeezed my calves against his sides and clucked to him. He moved forward and away we went!
I hummed a tune, enjoying the mountains that towered above and the whisper of the breeze through the saguaro cactus spines. We rode down several trails, stopping on various ridges to gaze across the valley floor and breathe in the unique, sweet fragrance of the desert flowers.
I checked my watch. I knew we should be heading back to the ranch, but the trails were too tempting. “We can explore just one more. We have plenty of time to make it,” I convinced myself.
We happily wandered down another exciting trail, and I lost track of time. After a good while, I finally glanced at my watch again… and caught my breath.
“Oh, no! It’s five minutes to 12:00!”
No matter how hard I tried to urge Nocona to move faster, he seemed content to walk along without a care in the world, oblivious to my problem.
In desperation, I dug my heels into his sides with a bit too much energy. Startled, he jumped to the edge of the trail… right into a cholla cactus!
Suddenly we entered our own little rodeo! He sailed into the air, kicking his hooves up as I hung on for dear life!
He spun and bucked again and again, trying to shake the cholla bulbs loose that were stuck in his back leg. With each leap, a cliff loomed in front of us.
“Jesus, help me!” I blurted at the top of my lungs.
Immediately, Nocona stopped in midair, landed, and calmly stood as I dismounted—like nothing was stuck in him at all! Looking around, I saw no trees to tie him to (only cacti—and that wasn’t happening).
So, pointing him straight ahead, I laid the reins over my arm and stepped toward his flank. My heart sank as I rummaged through my saddlebags. Where are my leather gloves? I gasped. I never leave home without those!
Have you ever been up close and personal with a cholla and its lovely, long, needle-sharp barbs? Yeah, I cringed too!
I took a deep breath, prayed, and yanked out the cactus. Surprisingly (and a miracle), the cholla bulbs pulled out easier than I expected. I didn’t get poked too badly, and Nocona wasn’t hurt.
I breathed a sigh of relief and wiped my hand across my damp face. Surveying the territory around us, I realized that we stood in the only clearing—there were no cacti or rocks, only soft sand and grass! Whew!
I swung into the saddle and headed for home. I didn’t want to look at my watch now. I knew I was way late!
I rode to the barn and pulled the saddle and bridle off Nocona. Quickly brushing him, I turned him loose in the pasture and slunk to the house.
The kitchen door creaked as I peeked through it. My mom stood at the sink, washing the lunch dishes and glaring out the window.
Oh, man. I am totally busted!
“What happened?” she asked.
“I kinda lost track of time,” I replied.
“Kind of?” she said, turning to face me.
I decided to ‘play the sympathy card’ so I told her about my adventure with the cactus, throwing in as much drama as possible. But, although she was relieved I was OK, she grounded me for a week.
As I lay on my bed in solitary confinement, staring at the ceiling, I recalled the events of that day.
Yep, I owned the fact that this whole thing was my fault—from being distracted and staying out too late, to my impatience in getting back and almost sailing over a cliff. And I shuddered when I thought of everything that could have happened.
But I had to smile too. Even though I’d blown it, Jesus still helped me when I was in trouble and hollered for his help. I wonder if He sent a big ole angel to calm my horse?
I guess maybe that’s what grace means—God helps us when we’re in trouble, even when it’s our fault. That’s pretty cool.
But I also learned my lesson today—being impatient never turns out good. But, more importantly? I decided to be more respectful toward my mom in doing what I’m told in the first place!
God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble— Psalm 46:1
Shara Bueler-Repka is enjoying life as a singer/songwriter/recording artist, freelance writer, and award-winning author. She and her husband, Bruce, live in their living quarters horse trailer and call “home” wherever their rig is parked. Their mail-base, however, is Hallettsville, Texas. She also loves riding/ministering with her husband and their horses (aka The Boys) in the backcountry and writing about God’s grace in the various adventures on the trail less-traveled. Join the fun and be encouraged on their website: www.ponyexpressministry.com and her blog: www.trail-tails.blogspot.com, or come for a visit on Facebook.
“Mom, are we going visiting at Uncle Art and Aunt Gertrude’s house tonight?”
That could have been my question on any Friday afternoon when I was a child. The names of my aunts and uncles changed each week, but the plea was the same.
We lived in the country with no close neighbors that had children, but my parents came from large families so I had an abundance of aunts and uncles and cousins.
There was never any visiting on weeknights but when Friday arrived, I knew we would probably go to visit at one of their homes.
My Uncle Art’s house was a favorite because many times, he would make ice cream in a hand-cranked freezer.
The older cousins would turn the handle while the rest of us ran around catching lightning bugs or playing tag or hide-and-go-seek. The adults would visit.
The formal definition of the word ‘visit’ can be a verb or a noun. The noun would describe a visit to the doctor or dentist. Those are things we have to do.
However, the definition of the verb…go to see and spend time with (someone) socially: pay someone a visit…describes something that is voluntary and I believe is slowly becoming a thing of the past.
I realize there are many reasons for this. We are all much busier than we used to be. Many days, if someone stopped unexpectedly for a visit, no one would be home.
The majority of today’s visiting is done on social media, in texts and emails and occasionally, we actually speak to someone on our phones.
Relatives aren’t good at the visiting agenda, either. My adult children and grandchildren stop by if they need to pick something up, or drop something off but to sit down and have a conversation just for the sake of chatting a bit, is a rarity.
At the risk of being labeled as terribly old-fashioned, I would like to think people still crave the ‘sit down and talk for a while’ kind of visiting. I recently attended a county fair.
As I walked around, I saw groups of people at tables, among the displays, in the barns…all talking, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. It was delightful. I would wager that some of them had not visited with each other since the previous year.
Visiting is a way to connect with people we know or may have recently met. It doesn’t involve anger or stressing our own agendas. It should be a means of relaxing, asking about each other’s lives and various activities.
Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend of many years. We don’t see each other too often so we had a lot of catching up to do. It was several hours of peaceful enjoyment.
Jesus visited his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, when he was in the vicinity of Bethany. The Bible recounts some of those teaching times, but they were his friends and I’m sure there were many times when he just dropped by for a visit.
Try to make time to visit a neighbor (even if only for a few minutes while you’re both in your yards) or take a few minutes to visit with friends or visitors after church, invite someone over for a glass of iced tea.
Your house doesn’t need to be spotless; they want to see you, not your cleaning abilities.
Visiting doesn’t need to be stressful or time-consuming. I have NO memories of my aunts and uncles clean or dusty homes…only the good memories of being welcomed, having fun and giggling a lot.
Gloria Doty is a published Christian author, writer and speaker. She has published a non-fiction book, a devotion book, a series of fiction romance books and several children’s picture books. Gloria has 5 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She has recently re-married and she and her husband reside in Fort Wayne, IN.