Can you believe it’s already May?!? We are so excited to see the spring flowers blooming and hear the birds chirping outside the kitchen window in the mornings. This issue of RUBY magazine is packed with inspirational articles and poetry, devotionals and short stories, Mother’s Day craft ideas and recipes, and our monthly feature, the Kids’ Korner with a story just for the young people in your family.
Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar. Teaching your little ones about the Resurrection of Christ as the central point of our religion can seem more daunting than involving those same little ones in Christmas.
After all, everyone can understand the birth of a baby, and the giving of gifts to celebrate, but it is more difficult to understand the mystery of Christ fulfilling scripture by rising from the dead.
I found that the key to working with little ones is to simply teach the story directly from the Bible and reinforcing its importance in doctrine with the general celebration of the holiday, all the while explaining the Christian viewpoint on the secular trappings, as we do at Christmas.
Easter Basket—eggs, jelly beans, chocolate. All of these also have various cultural traditions behind them, sometimes just that the Lord’s word is sweet, sometimes more than the rabbit and the egg are symbols of new life, of spring—new life in Christ, the resurrection of the world from its winter sleep. [Read more…]
Good morning, friends. It’s a nice, chilly morning and what better thing is there to do on a chilly day than bake something yummy to share?! I recently shared a picture of what I was baking the other morning on my Facebook and Instagram pages, just because I love it when something I enjoy so much turns out so pretty and yet tastes so yummy. I have to say I was surprised at the response. I guess this recipe isn’t a given for a lot of people.
It isn’t much work for me, really. My family has made some version of this over the past 50 years, to my knowledge. I have, just recently, realized that everyone makes it a tad different. Not that my way is the only way, but there is one specific way I enjoy making it at my house, that I guess, is a little unique. It couldn’t be better for these cold winter mornings. [Read more…]
It was time to move. We loved our house in the woods. My husband had just finished a years-long decking project around the pool, which may be capable of withstanding the apocalypse.
But it had become clear we needed a home that could serve our needs as well as provide first-floor living for my in-laws. So, we embarked on a house-hunting quest.
With our needs on a checklist, we waded through the online listings and picked several homes to visit. It was about the tenth house we looked at when we realized our quest was about to end.
We opened the door and took in the high ceilings, the impressive staircase, the room colors (no need to paint, yes!), the first-floor bedroom, the chef’s kitchen. I remember thinking, “this is it.” It not only met our needs but was really pretty too.
My only disappointment was the master bath. It seemed unnecessarily large and out of proportion. A huge soaker tub dominated the space, next to a small shower. It seemed wrong to me. [Read more…]
Proverb 16:9 In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (NIV)
Planning is one of my strong points—especially planning vacations. Although asking God’s help and guidance on big things, big plans in my life were not ever a question. When planning the events of the day, or laying out the course of a vacation, I did not (and sometimes still need a reminder) always seek God’s guidance on the small things.
However, on our second trip to Italy, third year of marriage, God showed me in a gentle way, that He is definitely in charge of all of our hours, minutes—and that each day of ours is important to Him.
Before snowfall red birds gather
To search for tiny seeds.
They hop onto the frosty grass
and over plants and weeds.
They rush to spread their wings and fly
Into tree holes to hide;
While heavy snowflakes tumble down –
Grey skies open wide.
I absolutely hate change because it comes with several consequences: uneasiness, frustration, uncertainty, stress, and a whole host of other negative feelings.
Therefore, I often avoid change of all types: change within my actual life and change within my person.
However, there’s a beautiful side that’s often left unappreciated: the transformation. We’ve all heard the common classroom example of a fuzzy, hideous caterpillar that crawls all over the ground and turns into a beautiful butterfly. [Read more…]
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…]
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 my place in line, I watched the roller coaster slowly making its way to the top of the first drop. The many thrill seekers strapped in their seats were actually lying on their backs, their pale faces staring up at the stars.
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…]
Imagine this scenario. Peter always gets home at 8 p.m., even though he’s only required to stay at the office until 6 p.m. His wife, Katie, constantly asks him to come home on time; to join her and the kids for dinner. Even so, Peter constantly makes excuses: “We need someone to provide for this family,” or “We can’t get through life without work.” Katie once really appreciated Peter’s tender heart towards others and the way he affirmed her. Now she only thinks about his lack of generosity or selflessness. [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…]
John and I should be celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary, but it looked like there would be no celebration.
We were spending three weeks with John’s family and friends in England and they included me in everything. But today was to be an outing in the park with our two boys.
However, John had left me there with Josh and Johnny and I was feeling neglected. I paused to watch large white clouds move across a bright blue sky, irritated that I couldn’t share the beautiful scenery with my husband. In three days we would return home.
My sons and I stopped by a stream and watched the ducks glide by. A marching band played nearby.
It happens every 365 days, every 52 weeks, every 12 months, every year a new year dawns. The New Year reminds us that what is past cannot be relived; it points to a time full of new beginnings that started at 12:01 a.m. January 1, 2019. Our minds fill with plans, even well-intended resolutions as newness overrides all negative remembrances of the past year.
We are hopeful, we are determined as if our feet are set in blocks of an impending race. Everything about us is tuned to the moment. The shot is fired and we are out of those blocks, running toward our desired goal-to win! It is 12:02 a.m. January 1, 2019.
Determination is heightened; tenacity is at peak level. “No,” “Not,” “Never” has disappeared from our vocabulary.
The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. – Nahum 1:7
A man was having critical problems. His wife left him, leaving their three children in his care. He was in the army and his responsibilities were many.
Not only was he doing his work, but he was also the sole caregiver to his children.
He talked with his chaplain who tried to encourage the man to allow God to work in his problems.
But the man continued to say he was going to give up, that he couldn’t do all that was needed.
The chaplain decided to try a show-and-tell lesson. [Read more…]
A blizzard was bearing down on the east coast. My family was busy preparing. Our three boys packed up and fled to a friend’s farm to ride it out—and have a little fun in the snow. As a nurse, my husband planned to stay at the hospital in case of emergencies.
And me? I was blissfully unaware of anything going on at home in Pennsylvania. Three days before, I flew out of Philadelphia International Airport for a conference in Chicago.
There had been no mention of a potential storm before I left. I had checked in at home a couple of times. My husband said they were going to get a snowstorm, but it shouldn’t be a big deal.
In Chicago, nothing was out of the ordinary—until we tried to leave.
When we arrived at O’Hare for our return flight, there were some delays, some cancellations. But our flight was still “on time.”
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…]
Hymn Stories by Diana Leagh Matthews
The New Year is upon us, bringing new beginnings and new hopes and dreams for the future.
However, regardless of where life takes us, one thing is for sure. We need a firm foundation.
How Firm a Foundation was published in 1787 by John Rippon. When it appeared in Rippon’s ‘A Selection of Hymns,’ it was signed simply “K.”
All efforts to identify this mysterious “K” have been fruitless, and the mystery remains to this day.
Some reprints show the author was “Keene.” Dr. Rippon’s musical director was R. Keene and it’s believed he might be the author of the text, although it’s just speculation. [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…]
Have you ever created something for yourself around your house that you think nothing of, only to hear all of your friends and family exclaim how much they love it? They declare that they never would have thought to do something that clever and creative!
This is one of those kinds of projects. It came about after finding one more of those big old plastic mugs that some company gave to me for free, with their logo on the side. I’m sure you have one or two of them in your house! [Read more…]
It was our newlywed Christmas. We bought a little tree, just perfect for our tiny apartment, and invited my dad and stepmom to help decorate. Dad bought colored lights for it. The decorations consisted of ribbon and hand-me-down decorations from my husband’s grandmother, along with a few ornaments we had collected as kids. The new lights and the old ornaments made our first tree very special. It also started a tradition of Dad helping us decorate our Christmas tree and taking charge of the lights. [Read more…]
“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.
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.
Pride, by definition, is a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.
But does God hate all pride? Not necessarily.
There are several kinds of pride.
One is pride in one’s own work, which God approves of – He wants us to do well and take a certain pride in what we do – as long as we don’t get too big for our own britches.
The second is taking pride in someone else’s achievements, like when we see our children walk for the first time, or when a friend makes a breakthrough or succeeds at a goal.
The third kind of pride is where God has an issue. This kind of pride makes one look down his nose at everyone, lifting himself above others.
Proverbs 16:18 states, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. “ Read that again. A haughty spirit. Haughtiness, arrogance, and disdain are the triggers that make pride a sin.
Proverbs 16: 5 drives home this point, along with a consequence. “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”
If we look back using our well-tuned 20/20 hindsight, we can all see moments where we’ve been prideful.
So how do we fight this sinful kind of pride? The answer lies in Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Humility is the answer. But what exactly is humility?
Humility is a modest or low view of one’s own importance, or humbleness.
Being humble doesn’t mean we put ourselves down or not take credit for the good work we’ve done – it simply means we let our work speak for itself, and let others speak well of us instead of boasting.
Proverbs 27:2 sums it up nicely. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”
Please note the definition of humility is a low view of one’s own importance, not a low view of one’s true importance.
We are worthy because God makes us worthy; He deems us to be important to Him! His glory shines through us and through our work. And when someone appreciates what you’ve done or said, give God the glory – God will bless you for it!
Beth Brubaker, Assistant Editor is a humorist poet and songwriter, and her day jobs include homemaking, writing, and paper and fabric arts. Beth’s passion is the written word, and is developing ways of sharing her brand of humor with the world through poems, songs and stories. Don’t miss Beth’s columns and puzzles in every issue of Ruby for Women! You can read Beth’s posts on her blog Footprints in the Mud at http://footprintsinthemudblog.blogspot.com or email her at email@example.com.
I wrote this poem several years ago on my best friend Donna’s (I call her DeeKee,) birthday. She has been a monument of Godly friendship throughout the years.
I know she always has my back. DeeKee has filled my life with inspiration and encouragement. Through faith, understanding and mutual respect our friendship gets better with age.
Life is full of surprises. Deekee’s mother and I went to school together; we were in the same class, and, although we liked one another we were never especially close.
Who could have ever guessed that her daughter and I would become the best of friends? God knew even then! Praise Him, Who knows what we need, and sends us each blessing accordingly.
How do you describe your best friend?
You have been my shadow for thirty years—
I hope that I have been yours.
We’ve laughed together,
cried together, prayed and dared to dream.
We were an unlikely pair,
but my head-start of twenty years
was only a blink in our ever-changing journey.
All these many years, we never had a serious disagreement
No matter how much time passed,
you were never more than phone call away.
You held my hand through painful times.
In weakest moments, encouraged and strengthened me.
With a gentle shove, you said:
“Yes, you can!”
You were laughter when things were good and joy when
things were better than good.
When I think of you, words flit
across my mind and echo in my heart:
“Cherished Spirit-Best Friend”
I am who I am–because you are who you are.
Prayer: Gracious God, Who knows our every need and sends us blessings when we least expect them, I thank you daily for sending a best friend like DeeKee.
Nells Wasilewski lives in a small southern town, seventy miles southeast of Nashville, Tennessee. After retiring, she began pursuing her lifelong dream of writing. Her writing has been greatly influenced by her faith in Jesus Christ, personal, experience and nature. She has been writing poems, prose and stories all her life. Nells has recently started writing devotionals. Her work has appeared in Haiku Journal, Barefoot Review, Three Line Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, 50 Haikus, Dual Coast Magazine, High Coupe Journal, Ancient Paths, Tanka Journal, Hedgerow and Penned from the Heart https://nellswasilewski.blogspot.com
Last year, I started keeping a list of prayer requests, dated and described, and then, to my great surprise — answers! Clear direction for a son, help and success in a ministry opportunity, a new and wonderful job for my husband.
Reviewing the list from time to time, I’m reminded to give thanks, and I’m reinforced in my thinking that when it comes to prayer, there is always something new and fresh God wants me to know.
Women Who Move Mountains by Sue Detweiler is clear and comprehensive enough to serve as a primer on prayer for the uninitiated, but Sue has shared so many deeply insightful stories and has woven them so beautifully with Scripture that those who are further along on the journey will also find a rewarding read.
Twice in the gospels, Jesus talks with His disciples about mountains moving at their command. Of course, this is not a matter of showcasing the disciples’ great faith, but rather, the power of God at work on behalf of those who believe.
I have been guilty of praying small and safe, so it was a challenge to hear Sue’s rallying cry to pray with confidence, boldness, and grace. The book is set up with odd-numbered chapters covering real and raw stories of women who witnessed mountain-moving responses to their prayers, while even-numbered chapters pose questions based on living the principles here at ground level.
Belief in the ever-present, always-available Maker of Heaven and Earth is the foundation for a vibrant prayer life. Unfortunately, fear, shame, anxiety, perfectionism, entitlement, and timidity often derail us in the mountain-moving life. Staying close to Truth is transformational, and this becomes evident in the lives of women whose childhood wounds have been healed and whose “orphan mindset” has been replaced with assurance that in God’s eyes, they are a much-loved daughter.
Sue hammers on one truth about this following life that almost cannot be overstated:
“Just because you obey God does not mean that it will be smooth sailing forever and ever.”
Our obedience opens the door to God’s help and connects us to God’s plan, but prayer requires trust at every level. Offsetting the vending-machine-God mentality, Sue reminds readers that Jesus suffered greatly in His time on this planet. The following life is not lived above emotional pain and loss. Women who feel like the walking wounded are encouraged to turn to God rather than blaming God for their wounds.
Biblical examples of women like Hannah who prayed for a child and Esther who prayed for the rescue of her people demonstrate that prayer is a powerful weapon, that it launches us into our destiny, and that — amazingly — it is as simple as a conversation in which we transparently come before God bearing “our stuff.”
Just as conversation builds relationship between people, prayer is a day-long interaction with God. And since it is not simply prayer or my puny faith, but rather GOD who moves mountains, I want to press into that relationship and know the heart of this powerful God. Indispensable to our prayer life is a right understanding of who He is, and Sue has shared rich Scriptural insights:
- Jesus is uniquely equipped to comfort and strengthen us when we face rejection. Remember what happened in Nazareth? When He challenged the hometown crowd, they were ready to drive Jesus off a cliff!
- It’s an American idea that if God calls you to a task and if He is truly in it, then success always follows. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Some of our most enriching spiritual growth experiences come through failure.
- Jesus always had choice words of condemnation for the Pharisees in the crowd and set the example for us. “Becoming a woman who moves mountains means you care more about what Jesus thinks than the Pharisees in your life.”
F.U.N.K. and H.O.P.E.
Sue employs a couple of creative acronyms to stimulate readers to prayer that results in renewed thinking and powerful life-change. The next time you feel as if you are in a funk, realize that you are Floundering Under Negative Knowledge. Everything that seems dark and wrong may be very true, but staying close to God’s truth fights the slide into the pit.
Likewise, when the dark tunnel seems endless, hope says, “Hold On, Pain Ends!” God offers His hope when ours has long ago sputtered to a stop.
God-confidence gives perspective for the long haul of praying in light of God’s specific promises. There is so much that He wants to do as He trains us in righteousness, so many good works, prepared beforehand, that are waiting for us who walk with Him. Thanks be to God that we have been invited to come before Him in confidence, boldness, and grace.
Women Who Move Mountains by Sue Detweiler is available from RUBY’S Reading Corner
Visit Michele on her blog, Living Our Days: Gaining a Heart of Wisdom, for more insightful and inspirational articles and book reviews.
Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. She blogs at Living Our Days because “the way we live our days will be, after all, the way we live our lives.”
This issue of RUBY magazine is literally packed with great resources for you and your family!
You’ll find watermelon recipes from Joan Leotta; a sweet love story by Gloria Doty; a book review by Michele Morin of Women who Move Mountains by Sue Detweiler; pineapple recipes from Vintage Mama’s Cottage; another article in the Vintage Book Treasure Hunt series by Kathryn Ross; an interview with author Debra Gray-Elliott about her new book From Ashes of Pity into Beauty of Purpose . . . and so much more!
Be sure to check out the current issue of RUBY magazine for daily encouragement and inspiration for you and your family.
Linking up this week to the Create Link Inspire Party!
Here I am again, Lord,
I place myself on Your wheel,
shape me, mold me, fill me,
Your hands I want to feel.
Fashion me as you see fit,
I wait as You work and smooth…
Spinning around, help me stay soft,
do what You need to do.
Help me stay on the wheel,
surrendered to Your doing,
trusting in Your vision,
trusting in Your timing.,,
And tomorrow morning again,
may You find me right here,
still asking for Your touch,
always staying near.
Cindy J. Evans is a published poet living in the sunny south, married to the man you just read about! She does receptionist work in the greater Atlanta area and also enjoys walking, inspirational movies and church activities.
Been thinking about endings and beginnings again. As I pondered last month’s piece about Elijah handing off his baton to Elisha (2 Kings 2), it seems to me that endings inevitably lead into new beginnings.
I’m remembering back nearly 20 years ago when my life was upside down. I was newly separated, raising two young boys, and scared to death. At that time a friend who had survived a similar set of circumstances tried to encourage me.
She said her life had come together beautifully, and she was sure mine would as well.
In my heart, I scoffed. I was certain this was the beginning of the end for my children and me. Little did I know, God was chiseling out a path for us to follow at that very moment.
Like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road, all I had to do was take one step at a time and marvel as that narrow, cobbled walkway led into to a city of splendor.
Sometime after the dust had settled in my life, I helped another young mom begin a comparable journey into single parenthood. As we packed up her kitchen, I thought back to a day many years ago when I encountered this same woman in a local produce market. She had two youngsters in tow and was busy choosing edibles for her growing family.
As I watched her, I felt the ugly grasp of envy take hold of me. She appeared to possess everything I longed for – security, contentment, and self-assurance – as she strolled leisurely through the aisles with her toddlers.
Next to hers, my life felt inadequate and depressing. Time has now erased many of the differences between us, and I felt privileged to take her hand as she began climbing this steep but manageable mountain.
Reflecting on that day so long ago, I gave thanks for the work the Lord has done in me. He has shown me time and again not to compare myself with others. When I still occasionally fall into that trap, I always get the same result.
My situation seems either better or worse than the other person’s; instead of walking alongside my fellow traveler, I mentally place myself ahead of or behind him or her on life’s continuum.
Either way, we’re on unequal footing.
This flies in the face of Scripture, which levels the playing field for all of us: “We are all like an unclean thing and all our righteousness is like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
In other words, we all pale in comparison to a sinless God, no matter how “together” we may seem.
Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
Thea Williams’s short story, “Phoenix,” appears in 50 Over Fifty: A Celebration of Established and Emerging Women Writers. Her work appears in Focus on the Family Magazine and Al Anon’s The Rap. Subscribe to Thea’s blog at www.reflectionsbythea.blogspot.com By day, Thea educates and prays for young minds at a local school district. Contact Thea at https://www.facebook.com/thea.williams.16 or https://www.youtube.com/user/theabwilliams.
Watermelon. Just the thought of it reminds me of childhood summers, leaning over large wedges at outdoor picnics as I took a bite, trying not to let the juice spill onto my shirt. Seed spitting contest with my cousins.
Now, I tend to cut it off of the rind into a bowl and drink the remaining juice. Now is the time to experiment if you are so inclined.
Watermelon is plentiful in supermarkets and farm markets all across the United States. But restricting watermelon to dessert or snack status seemed sad. What about the rest of the meal? Watermelon is power packed, full of vitamins and is a good source of potassium.
So, extending its use could only be a good thing. I wondered if watermelon could have a part to play as a savory in the entrée and or side dish part of the meal.
Last year, after hearing NBC’s Joy Bauer recommend pairing watermelon chunks with feta cheese chunks as a simple salad, I began to investigate the savory side of this delightful fruit.
Local chefs here in the North-South Carolina border near Myrtle Beach were helpful in this effort. Many were using watermelon on their menus, often paired with pork belly as an appetizer, celebrating the contrast of sweet and salty.
These creations were a tasty, but prep was complicated in many cases. So, I turned to the Florida-based National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) www.watermelon.org.
Their Senior Director, Stephanie Barlow gave me permission to share some savory recipes with readers. The website is a treasure trove of ideas for new-to-me uses of watermelon.
Here are my favorites from their website:
Courtesy of the NWPB
- 6 cups torn mixed salad greens
- 3 cups cubed seeded watermelon
- 1/2 cup sliced onion
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- dash cracked black pepper
In large bowl, mix all ingredients except oil and pepper. Just before serving, toss salad mixture with oil. Garnish with pepper.
Courtesy of NWPB
- 1 9 or 10 inch round herbed focaccia
- 5 ounces Boursin cheese
- 3 grilled skinless boneless chicken breast halves, sliced
- 4 thin slices seedless watermelon
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 3 ounces baby arugula
Split the focaccia through the center as for a sandwich and spread the Boursin over the cut sides of the bread. Arrange the chicken over the Boursin on the bottom piece of bread.
Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the watermelon and grill it quickly over hot coals just to warm. Arrange in an even layer over the chicken and top the watermelon with the arugula.
Place the top of the bread, Boursin side down, over the arugula. Cut sandwich into halves or quarters.
Makes 2 or 3 large sandwiches
Recipe and photo courtesy of NWPB
(Joan’s note—this recipe calls for “salad” shrimp. I prefer to cook wild caught local small shrimp instead and cut them up to the size of the salad shrimp—taste is much better!)
- 2 cups cooked baby salad shrimp
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon fresh snipped dill
- 12, 4 inch seeded rounds of watermelon about 1/2 inch thick
- 4 large cocktail shrimp
- 4 dill sprigs
Mix together the shrimp, mayonnaise and dill. Chill until ready to serve. To serve, place a round of the watermelon on a serving plate and top with a thin layer of the shrimp salad.
Top that with another round of the watermelon and then another layer of the shrimp salad. Top that with another watermelon round. Place a cocktail shrimp on top with a sprig of dill. Repeat to create four Napoleons.
All recipes in this article are used by permission of the National Watermelon Promotion Board.
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
Half a Rainbow, the Morning after a Summer Storm
by Joan Leotta
Walking down to get my morning paper,
I glanced upward into a barely lit sky
still tremulous with dark
streaky clouds from the
previous night’s storm.
I spotted a rainbow
springing up from the river
running behind the neighbor’s
house across the street.
Bow of color bent over the marsh,
its tail end hidden by a still forming
new set of storm clouds.
I ran back into my house for a camera.
Padding back out still in robe and slippers
I spotted my neighbor across the street
her back to the awesome
sight, as she collected her newspaper
from her own driveway.
“A rainbow,” I cried out,” there’s a rainbow
“I know” she replied, frowning.
She gestured toward my camera.
“Its’ only a half rainbow. Hardly worthy.”
Amazed, I shook my head and snapped away.
I chose and would choose again
to revel even in that small bit of color.
No beauty should be wasted.
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
Hymn Stories by Lucy Neeley Adams:
There’s Within My Heart a Melody by Luther B. Bridgers
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? Psalm 137:4
The news was devastating. It came to Luther Bridgers when he was preaching a revival in 1910 in Kentucky. His wife and three sons had stayed in Harrodsburg with her parents while he was away. But fire destroyed the home and his family perished.
When the young husband and father returned to Harrodsburg, he experienced grief he had never known before. His soul traveled into new territory – a dark valley of sorrow. How could he sing a song of faith with a broken heart – his “foreign land”?
Bridgers stood strong in his faith as he went to the Word of God. The Psalms were comforting because every human emotion is found there. The question in Psalm 137:4 echoed his own despair. The Israelites wept when they were forced from their homes into exile: “On the day I called, you answered me; you increased my strength of soul” (Psalm 138:3). Their hope was renewed.
So it was for Luther Bridgers. The process of healing began. Soon a song was born in which he expressed his bedrock faith. He was inspired to write the words and music for “There’s Within My Heart a Melody.” The melody seems to come from the “sweet and low whisper” of Jesus, who says: “Fear not, I am with thee, peace be still, in all of life’s ebb and flow.” Life has the ebb and flow of trials, but “though sometimes the path seems rough and steep, see his footprints all the way.”
I have seen the footprints of Jesus in the life of one who has been touched by deep sorrow. My friend Glenda knows the God who comforts, sustains, and heals the brokenhearted. When her husband, Paul Ray Troutt, was serving a church in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, a terrible tragedy occurred. On a hot August day in 1971, their car was hit by a drunk driver. Paul Ray and their two young sons were killed instantly. Glenda received severe injuries but she slowly recovered.
In the past years she has been a part of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In a recent letter she wrote: “I feel that God has been able to use the tragedy of my life to bring comfort to others who are experiencing the same devastation.”
Is my faith growing so that, if such a tragedy comes into my life, I am sustained in my grief? Will I hear the melody of God’s Love?
Lord, you are with me, and that is my security. Amen.
There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low:
Fear not, I am with thee, peace be still,
in all of life’s ebb and flow.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know,
fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go.
Luther B. Bridgers, 1910
Lucy Adams In 1984 in Nashville, Tennessee I began to write answers for the question, “Why do people write songs?” Those stories first appeared on a radio program that I created: THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG aired on Christian radio station WWGM.
The program began as I sang six words, “I Love to Tell the Story” and said: “Hi friends, this is Lucy Adams and I tell the story behind the song.” I continued the show for five minutes with a message that answered … who, what, where and why of the hymn – plus a verse or two of the music. These programs continued to play for many years in various towns in Tennessee. Visit my blog to learn more about the stories of our favorite hymns at https://www.52hymns.com/about.htm
Vintage books represent old lives. People from the past, who lived, loved, laughed, cried, and recorded the treasure of their minds and hearts in words on printed pages for posterity. Not just those who penned the words—but very often, those who read those words and subsequently responded to them. Perhaps with handwritten notes of their own compositions in the margins, or back pages.
I came into possession of a vintage book titled, Day After Day: A Manual of Devotions for Individual and Family Use, as compiled by 19th and early 20th century evangelist John Wilbur Chapman. It was published in 1919, at the end of the First World War. One of the first places I go when treasure hunting in a vintage or antique book, is inside, opening to the front page in the hopes of finding an inscription of its owner. I was not disappointed in this small navy-blue volume with gold embossed lettering.
Etched in pencil, in what appeared to be a hurried cursive handwriting, was the epitaph: “To Laura, with love from Emma & Sade.” An error in composition required erasing the original, “from with love,” for the edited, “with love from.”
My only disappointment was the absence of any more clues as to date and occasion. Was it Laura’s birthday? Confirmation? Marriage? Who were Emma and Sade? Best friends? Beloved sisters? With so many unanswered questions, my imagination kicked into high gear, fueled with inspiration. This is the stuff short stories are made of, I thought.
I found only one other clue on the end pages of the book to help me piece together who Laura might have been. A few poetic verses, roughly drawn, in need of an editor. The writer drafted it in pencil first, and then wrote over the pencil in tell-tale fountain pen ink as if to set it in stone. A poem. A prayer. Titled very simply: Peace.
Perhaps, she copied it from another source. Perhaps, she composed it herself. A prayer for peace in troubled times. A young woman living a hundred years ago. In 1919. At the close of a global war that reset both Europe and America. Those who survived would never be the same.
The loss of 126,000 American soldiers stripped the innocence and formality of the Victorian and Edwardian age from society. Fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers were not coming home to loved ones and the potential of a life lived. Add in the 245,000-wounded returned from French, German, and Italian battlefields, it was clear that the year 1919 would be fraught with exhilaration at the war’s end, equal to the anxiety of living in a physical and social landscape dramatically altered. In total, 11 million military personnel died and 7 million more were wounded. Civilian casualties were equally shocking.
Laura, Emma, and Sade—how did World War I touch their lives? Did they suffer loss? Were they newly-minted war widows consoling each other with a book of devotional readings?
I imagine them in this setting, as we celebrate Independence Day this July 4th, and the first of many tragic wars Americans were forced to fight in the past 245 years to secure our liberties and sovereign borders.
Thumbing through the thirteen weeks’ worth of weekly Scripture readings and prayers in Day After Day, I came across specialized readings for select holidays.
Among them was Flag Day, where Chapman selects an interesting Scripture from James 1:25:
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
It is interesting to consider the application of this verse to the founding principles of our nation’s liberty—derived, and well documented as so, from the Bible. In years past, training in “religion” (meaning specifically, Christianity) was an integral part of American education, as Samuel Adams attests in these inspiring words dated in Boston, October 4, 1790:
Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age, by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, of inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy, and, in subordination to these great principles, the love of their country; of instructing them in the art of self-government, without which they never can act a wise part in the government of societies, great or small; in short, of leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system . . .
Boston, October 4, 1790
Prayer and open discussion of the Bible, and how its principles applied to public life as a citizen, were a revered part of every school child’s academic years. Until 1961, that is—a mere forty years since the publication of this vintage family devotional, and only twenty years since the end of the nation’s second war on foreign shores. Not to mention Korea. And the contemporary threats a half century ago, of a Cold War.
Being a doer of the work of liberty—applying the principles of liberty, including a love country—brings blessing, indeed. But often after much loss. Sacrificial love secures liberty. Like that of Christ on the cross. Or a young man on a battlefield far from home.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 NLT
Peace in troubled times seems distant. Laura, Emma, and Sade may have grown up together in a one room classroom learning their American Christian heritage together. In the trauma and aftermath of a world war, they remembered that the anchor of the soul is to be found in stealing away to a quiet place for devotions, meeting in prayer with the Prince of Peace.
Losing a loved one in the defense of the nation might have spurred Emma and Sade’s gift of this little book of devotions to Laura. Perhaps the prayer chosen for the Flag Day meditation brought her some comfort:
Almighty God, Sovereign of the universe, we thank Thee that our flag has always stood for liberty, justice, and freedom, and that the banner of the Republic floated in the battle front across the seas. (Reference to WWI) Great God, may our flag never be dishonored. Grant that through the coming years its stars may continue to shine, and its colors stand for purity, devotion, and sacrifice. May all our citizens be loyal to it as the symbol of national sovereignty. May there soon come to this weary world the morning of universal peace. This we ask in the Name of Thy Son, our Redeemer. Amen.
David G. Wylie, D.D.
Reprinted in Day by Day, 1919
This is the first of my treasure hunt finds in this particular volume. Next month I’ll explore more nuggets of inspiration from this old gold mine of beautiful words and wisdom—the legacy of past lives. The more I learn of the hearts and minds of those who have gone before us, the more I am challenged to pursue my own life’s legacy with purpose—seeds for growing on, rather than chaff for the wind.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness
Til all our strivings cease
Take from our souls the strain and stress
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the hearts of our desires
Thy coolness and Thy balm
Let sense be dumb—let flesh retire
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire
A still small voice of calm
Our Father, Thy life opens fresh and new in my being this day. They love fills my soul and mind and presses me unto faithful service and high purpose. All darkness, all dimness or vision within or without is but a cloud which the lens of Thy reality will turn to light and clearness. My being rests in calm security in Thy love and knows the beginning and the end is peace. Amen.
To hear the dramatized audio version of this article by author/storyteller, Kathryn Ross, visit www.thewritersreverie.com/book-for-laura or click on the PODCASTS page for the link to this and more inspiring audio stories leading to all good things and beauty.
Kathryn Ross is a writer, speaker, dramatist, and independent publisher at Pageant Wagon Publishing with a mission to nurture the seeds of all good things, innocence, and beauty in the human heart. Her inspiring devotional books for journaling and discussion groups, theatrical scripts for church and school, and storybooks and speaking programs engage young and old with dramatic flair as discipleship tools for homeschool and Christian families, designed to minister to all ages—all at the same time. Visit her online where she blogs weekly and podcasts monthly at www.thewritersreverie.com and www.pageantwagonpublishing.com .