Enter Into His Gates

It’s almost Thanksgiving. We’re planning the big feast, looking forward to family gatherings, and enjoying the children’s glee over a school holiday. We’re soaking up the beauty of chrysanthemums and pumpkins. And we’re making thank you lists.

Making thank you lists is fun, it’s rewarding, and–it will destroy depression and pity parties!

Making a thank you list always leads me to a huge sense of gratitude to the Lord God. I’m thankful for salvation, for family, for beauty around us, for church, for friends, for answered prayers, for unanswered prayers, for the ability to read, for Bibles, for the laughter of children, for the scent of pumpkin pies baking–and the list goes on. I’m thankful for family members and church leaders who urged me as a child to memorize poetry and Bible passages like Psalm 100.

I’ve been brushing up on Psalm 100 lately and becoming amazed as always. How incredible is it that in our own homes we can enter into His gates with thanksgiving! I have no better Thanksgiving message for you than to remind you of the wonderful words of Psalm 100. I challenge you, if you have not already, to memorize all five verses. Make it yours, so you’ll have it wherever you go and whenever you need it.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

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A Misty, Rainy Autumn Ride

The peak of leaf color in the North Georgia mountains was past. Family members had reported it was the most beautiful fall ever and, though we’d missed the best, were sure we’d still enjoy fading colors–even on a rainy day!

We drove towards Helen from Clarkesville. The Nacoochee Valley is beautiful whatever season it is. Riding past the little steepled white church on the right and the historical Indian mound on the left, I was swept to other times when, as a little girl, our family took this trip. Also, I was reminded of the many times I traveled this road as a student at Young Harris College. Along the way towards the Chattahoochee River we exclaimed over bright gold hickory trees, a few tulip trees with golden leaves still clinging like birds against the sky, and red oaks standing brightly amongst the gold.

Our first stop was at Nora Mill. This mill and granary hugs a curve and stands on the brink of the Chattahoochee River where the waterfall still gives power for grinding corn into meal and wheat into flour. We purchased a bag of yellow cornmeal just so we could make cornbread at home and remember the quaint mill and its companion river, white water and all.

Driving around curves and finding wonderful views of trees still bright, we arrived in Helen. It is a busy little town even in off seasons, many happy tourists visiting quaint alpine shops. The German theme is captivating, drawing thousands to its Oktoberfest every fall. We were glad to catch it on a quieter day. Glimpsing the beautiful murals on sides of some original shops, we talked about our artist friend, John Kollock, who brought new life to this little mountain logging town. He had been in service in Germany and envisioned turning Helen into a Bavarian village. Years later I was so thrilled when he illustrated the second edition of my book, Stone Gables.

We had intended to drive to the intersection with state road 76 which would lead us to Clayton. But by the time we arrived at that intersection we had decided to go on up to Lake Chatuge, Hiawassee and Young Harris. Charles had sensed my strong pull towards Young Harris where I’d spent such happy college years.

On one side of a ridge the trees were almost bare, but on the other side the foliage was still full and bright. I reveled in every burnished gold beech tree or stray red sourwood. But I was absolutely enthralled when we came around a curve to see a mountainside carpeted in color. At times the sun came out long enough for shadows to dapple the mountainsides, a sight that had always thrilled me.

At Young Harris College we drove everywhere cars were allowed. Of course it was exciting to see all the handsome new buildings, new library, dining hall, sports facilities and all. But I treasured the sight of the buildings I could remember, the little chapel in particular. Young Harris was a junior college when I was there in 1961-63 but is now a four-year college. But the dormitories I lived in are still there backed up against the mountain. As we circled about I vividly remembered faces of many who had helped shape me, like Mrs. Dowis with whom I worked at the Henry Duckworth Library, Mr. Clay Dotson who taught political geography trying to make us understand what was happening in Vietnam, and Miss Hunter who took such kind notice of me though I was a disaster in her algebra class. Driving on beyond the college we saw llamas grazing and, farther on, little Cupid Falls still merrily tumbling along as if years had not passed.

As we traveled on over to Clayton we took some side roads just to see what we could see. Everywhere there was beauty, the sun coming out at intervals, then the misty rain again making the colors seem to bleed into each other.

Past Clayton towards Dillard we stopped for lunch at The Cupboard, a favorite restaurant of our family’s. We jabbered about what we’d seen all along the way as we ate delicious hot bowls of chicken pot pie, the special for Saturday.

The ride back to Clarkesville on 441 took us along the dear familiar landmarks like the Tallulah Gorge. The color wasn’t as magnificent as it had been earlier, but it was beautiful. I’m remembering a time many years ago during another chapter in our lives when we, our children, and special friends climbed down into the gorge, explored rock formations and hiked along the river before climbing back out. It’s hard to believe, looking at the awesome steep gorge, that we ever did that!

As I write this I can enjoy again the beautiful sights on that misty mountain ride–the slopes of color, the distant blue mountains, amazing changes along with the old at Young Harris College, the hickories and beech and red oak all along the way. I can see the drift of clouds on the mountains, the white water of the Chattahoochee flowing past Nora Mill, the tiny steepled white church in Nacoochee Valley. And I picture the church near Hiawassee where we stopped for a midmorning snack. The church was surrounded by autumn color including a brilliantly red pear tree. We viewed it all through a rainy windshield.

Returning to Clarkesville, we were grateful for and delighted with the comfortable apartment where we stayed with Michelle and her childen, Katherine and Joseph. Michelle’s husband, my nephew, Nathan Knight, is presently on assignment with the National Guard in Mexico at the embassy.

What a gift, that rainy misty ride in the North Georgia mountains! Even after the peak was well past it was wonderful to us.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17

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Happy Hens

Candi’s three hens are laying beautiful brown eggs. These are pet hens Candi has grown from chicks who would sit on her shoulder. Now Candi is sharing eggs with us. Amazing!

Seeing those perfectly shaped eggs made me think of the years when I was the egg girl at our house. I learned many lessons about timeliness, faithfulness and not telling Mamma the hens hadn’t laid that day when actually I’d broken them all. I learned that chickens can get salt poisoning when their feed is too salty and someone forgets to water them. Mamma was very sad about losing those hens. I learned how baby chicks are so soft and adorable and how, when allowed out of their safe pen, they become adorable dinner for a swiftly pouncing hawk.

But I learned something else from those chickens. The rooster was always happy when morning came. He crowed before it was even daylight. I could never feel cross about his crowing because he sounded so happy. Just happy for another day.

But the hens sounded happy all day grazing the yard for worms and such. They made a certain chuckling sound as they meandered along. It almost sounded as if they were talking to each other. I didn’t know what they were saying but I was sure they weren’t grumbling about having to hunt for worms. It sounded more as if they were playing while they worked. When it was feeding time they had a wonderful party. They jostled and pounced on their scattered grain, playfully competing with each other over the bountiful feast, sometimes getting raucous in their eagerness.

But the happiest sounds of all were when the hens announced freshly laid eggs. There was a certain utter joy expressed by a hen as she cackled loudly that all chickens might know she had produced another marvelous, perfectly formed brown egg. It was a sound of great enthusiasm no one could miss.

Thinking about Candi’s three hens, I thought beyond the happiness of hens making a day’s super production and all their other daily delights. I thought about us. We have far more to be happy about than those hens. But do we raise our voices in hallelujahs and let those around us know the good things the Lord has done for us?

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the lines “The world is full of a number of things; I think we should all be as happy as kings.” The question follows, are kings really happy? Mr. Stevenson, might we be allowed to change your lines a little? “The world is full of a number of things; I think we should all be as happy as hens.”

All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15

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The Beech Tree

It was an adventurous ride through the woods to the beech tree. Never before had I ridden to the beech tree. I had always walked, or run. But on a special Saturday in September during this year’s Knight reunion my clever and inventive nephews took Charles and me over the hills and through the woods–all the way to the beech tree. Oaky Dover, Nathan Knight (who is deployed now by National Guard to Mexico) and Mitch Harper (married to my niece Evelyn) are determined that Pinedale be enjoyed by our burgeoning family, even those of us who are disabled. Charlie, my brother, has been a great leader as these young people have formed and executed their ideas. For months they have engineered and cut this ATV trail through the forest.

I gripped the handhold and was glad for the seatbelt in the compact and open-sided ATV. I wasn’t at all afraid of Oaky’s very skillful driving. All the same, one can’t be too careful. I didn’t like to think of myself dumped out on a rock or a big tree root. Soon, though, my nervousness turned to awe and glee as we rocked and spun through the woods. At times I wasn’t sure where I was, the forest had changed so much, then I would recognize some landmark. The trail is beautifully engineered to be safe and allow us to see parts of Pinedale we haven’t seen in years. I was wondering where exactly I was when suddenly there we were right by the beech tree.

To me as a young girl with nine siblings, four of whom were close playmates, the beech tree was one of many favorite places to play. It was downstream from Indian Spring, a nice wide clear spring dug out at the bottom of a bluff by Indians a hundred years before. It wasn’t far from our cabin school house, just a quick run, easy to reach for a break between history, geography, and literature. Even then the beech tree seemed both stout and lofty. Its gray bark was like a clear slate, perfect for carving initials.

Though homeschooled, we used the Habersham County curriculum for much of our studies. Every year it was very exciting to go to the Board of Education in town to exchange our old books for new ones on our grade level. Our parents threatened us with severe consequences if we wrote anything or made any markings in our books. The books should be nice and unmarked for the next students. I rather enjoyed finding names and squiggles in my books, a sign that someone else had struggled through the War of the Roses. But, at least for the most part, we adhered to the “no scribble” law. Still, there was something in one’s being that simply requires making a mark.

So if not in a book, then what about the beech tree? Brothers were good carvers and they always had a pocket knife handy. So there are more boys’ initials (and sometimes girlfriends!) than sisters. But it would be hard to prove since, as the tree grew bigger and taller, the carvings became knotty and all but unrecognizable. I could see HBK for Hamilton Brantley Knight, a list of single initials, probably for Pat, Brantley, Virginia, John, and Brenda. The names Grahams, carved in 1978, and above it, Dovers are still quite clear. My sister, Suzanne, and I, with our husbands and children, added those names when we stopped at the beech tree on memorable hikes through the woods.

But fond memories of the beech tree to which, until now, I had always walked or run, didn’t stop at carvings on the trunk. The tree, still so sturdy and healthy, stands on the brink of Indian Brook. Often there we played in and out of the brook according to the weather. In the summertime we caught water lizards and let them slither through our fingers back into the cold water. We dried our feet on soft green moss growing like a carpet near the tree. We hid behind the tree and booed our playmates when they came looking for us. At times I sat by the tree just thinking.

One of my favorite woods games was the one where “It” agreed to be blindfolded, then was led in a circuitous route to some nearby spot. “It,” thoroughly disoriented by the time we stopped, might not even know east from west, especially if the guides chose to spin “It” around. You could only depend on your senses–sounds, smells, and touch. If taken to the beech tree it was easy to be a winner. You could feel the nubby initials on the trunk, hear the chuckling stream, and even smell the damp moss.

At this recent visit I was not blindfolded but still had been somewhat confused on the ride through familiar places, now so different. But I almost cried with joy when we parked right beside the old beech tree. After a good time hunting old initials, observing a cozy camp enjoyed by our young folks, and taking pictures, we started back. We rode by the little cabin school, dilapidated but still standing. We crossed Ramble Brook, spun up Tulip Hill for a quick view of the cemetery and the wonderful new structure another blessed nephew, architect Joe Knight, is building, then back down through what was Apple Bars, across Sand Flat, past the new pond nestled amongst trees, and up the hill to the house.

I am so thankful for those good times when we were growing up and life was so simple. I’m also thankful for family members who take such time now and spend much energy and expertise making these old haunts available to young and old. And, of course, I’m thankful for the old beech tree!

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A Way Out

Every few weeks our turtle, specifically our tortoise, comes to visit. Sometimes we know he’s around because we hear him rustling in the border grass. Sometimes, as it was last week, he shows up in the carport wanting a supper of cat food. Although turtle experts say cat food is not generally good for them, there’s no way with his eating apparatus that this fellow will consume a harmful amount of it. We enjoy watching him turn his head this way and that to get a nibble in his funny mouth.

We named him Red because of an identifying mark we painted on his back. I understand turtles can live to a very old age, maybe 80 like me! So far we know Red is at least six years old. Unlike some turtles I’ve known, Red is very sociable. He doesn’t hide his head; he investigates, sets those claws on the floor and moves about, opens his eyes to see all that he can see. Reminds me of us visiting in a foreign land wanting to take in all the sights.

We like to set him on the porch and talk to him as he scratches around with those sharp claws, approaching our feet without fear, nosing against strange shapes like a flower stand base. We put a nibble of cat food on the floor for him which he seems thoroughly to enjoy. After a while, though, he’s ready to go home (in some cool declevity under an azalea bush, probably) so he starts circling the perimeters to find a way out. When the children are here, they are very loath to let him go, then burst into competition over who will set him free.

This time was a little different. The children weren’t here. We have a new screen that opens with a gentle push and snaps back in place with magnets. It’s very good for people with walkers! We wanted to see if Red could find his way out through this new option.

He circled the porch pausing often to try a little push against the hard wood with, of course, no results. Each time he arrived at the new curtain-like screen we cheered for him to push through. A couple of times he even stopped right at the loose opening and all but stuck his blunt head through. But then he plodded on around his circle. At one impenetrable corner of the porch he worked so hard trying to get out that he turned himself over on his back and Charles had to set him back on his feet.

Charles finally had mercy on him and carried him outside to head home.

Somehow Red’s efforts made me think about how a person can hut in all the wrong places for a way out of trouble, a way to peace and happiness. We may even find the right opening, as Red found the screen, and still not recognize it. We exhaust ourselves hunting the way out when all the time it’s right there in front of us. We may push so hard we even turn ourselves upside down when all the time the door to light and freedom is waiting for us. The only door to freedom is Jesus Christ. If we submit to Him, the Master will lift us in His gentle hands and set us on the path to peace and our eternal home.

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South Georgia Autumn

If I didn’t know it otherwise, I’d surely know it was autumn when Steve and Sharon Wooten put their pumpkins out. They live on a big curve between Cairo and Thomasville and have a very visible nice big yard. Every fall they make a marvelous display of pumpkins arranged in bountiful piles, some in old pickup trucks, some on the ground, pumpkins everywhere!

Yes, it’s autumn in south Georgia! We don’t experience the dramatic seasonal changes as our northern neighbors do, but it’s unquestionably autumn all the same.

Even in south Georgia some deciduous trees are taking on hues of gold, crimson, and pomegranate. We have a five-year-old ghinko tree that is coming into its own this fall displaying beautiful gold fan shaped leaves. The Indonesian cherry tree is not satisfied with only one color, so puts forth varying shades of pomegranate, gold, and almost red amongst green leaves still hanging on. Later the Japanese maples will become our brightest trees as they turn to their luscious red.

Along the roadways goldenrods brighten the landscape. You may hate goldenrods for the allergy reaction they and the accompanying ragweed cause. But you have to admit they are beautiful. Just enjoy them outside. Don’t put them on your dining table as a centerpiece. On a country ride you may see fields of white cotton, a cloud of dust surrounding moving machinery as farmers harvest peanuts, and huge round bales of hay spaced so neatly in plowed fields like so many loaves of bread set out to cool. Chrysanthemums make splashes of color on porches and patios–gold and rusty red are my favorites, and I do love the scent also!

The children are trying to decide what they want to be for Halloween. Charli thinks she’ll be an angel, maybe even have wings. Kaison is considering being some demon-like character with a bloody knife. I told him please not to play with the devil’s tools. When he began drawing a picture of a monster I said why not draw a person dressed in the armor of God. We looked up Ephesians 6:14-17 and he followed my suggestion. Painstakingly, piece by piece, he added armor to his picture of a boy: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, etc. Later, I was cooking when Kaison ambled into the kitchen and asked what I was doing. I told him I was making deviled eggs. “Nana!” he exclaimed, “you said not to play with the devil’s tools.”

Political signs are planted on many street corners and country crossings. Charles not only puts the signs out (with some difficulty since often the ground is incredibly hard) but goes back regularly to see if they’re still there. If one has been removed he replaces it. I used to be so bored by politics. Now I know elections are of utmost importance and political news and analyses no longer put me to sleep (most of the time!). We are subject to losing our freedom of speech, our parental rights, our security, our freedom of religion, even our right to life. We must be informed and we must vote!

The scents of autumn are enticing and invigorating: apples stewing, cotton candy at the fair, barbecue at a family gathering, disturbed chrysanthemums, freshly raked leaves, pumpkin spice cappuccino at the coffee shop, crayons and pencil erasers, and huge pots of boiled peanuts steaming at open markets.

The moon rides high. I hear in the distance the drumbeats of our Syrupmaker band performing at a Friday night football game. As Canada geese fly over I thank the Lord for the change of seasons, for pumpkins on the doorstep, for colored leaves, for little boys with rich wisdom, for wonderful blue October sky, and for one last lonely blue bloom on the hydrangea bush.

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In Ian’s Wake

My heart aches for the folks in SW Florida. As I watch the scenes of devastation and rescues, the inundated houses, the toppled and crippled boats, I put myself in the shoes of those who are suffering. What would it be like to evacuate with quickly chosen belongings and then return to a pile of rubble? What would it be like to ride out the storm and end up clinging to the rafters in your attic? Or to be in your car when it became submerged up to the windows? Or to learn your family members were killed in the storm?

I watch men helping a family out of a rescue boat–an older woman who had to be carried to solid ground, a young woman wading in water around her ankles carrying her baby wrapped in a blanket. There’s an elderly man carried to safety over the shoulders of a journalist. And then a distraught woman wandering in water and debris where her house used to be. A reporter questioned her about what she was doing. She said she was hunting anything, just anything, to remind her of her precious husband who died two months ago.

Rescuers are still searching for people trapped in places where only boats or helicopters can go. I saw some people being lifted in a basket under a helicopter. Firemen, police, Coast Guard, National Guard and all are hunting for the bodies of those who didn’t survive. At this writing the number is about 25 but expected to rise.

And now Ian has blown on up to South Carolina as a category 1, not nearly as bad as the category 4 that hit Ft. Myers area but very damaging all the same.

We watch the storm, and effects of, on the screen and feel such gratitude that our loved ones are safe. But we have this enormous ache for those who were not safe, who lost home and business and even family. We feel an overwhelming desire to help in some way. But most of us can’t go, wouldn’t be of any help if we did! We pray for the mother with her baby, we pray for the widow hunting her husband’s personal things, we pray for the persons in the attic trying to escape the flood. Yet, still, I think the Lord plants in us a huge desire to do more.

What can we do?

We like to give to Samaritan’s Purse because we know, without a shadow of doubt, the responders will be faithful in their compassion, will share the gospel, and will use the funds they received very wisely where it is most needed.

Join us in giving! Go to Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief. You can use your credit card to make a donation in mere minutes. You may never know until heaven how much your dollars meant but you can be assured they will be priceless! What a great investment!

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Sweet Potato Saga

Remember the sweet potato vines I wrote about a few weeks ago? All summer we’ve watched them with great interest. Charles has faithfully watered them and they have flourished beautifully. They have snaked out on the lawn, climbed a nearby pine tree, and sent graceful shoots out into the nandina bushes, not to mention completely covering the big old rusty saw blade. Charles, seeing their energy, said maybe they weren’t sweet potatoes. Maybe they were cudzu!

We both wondered what was going on under the vines. Were there any potatoes down there? It was so quiet. No sounds of activity, just a few more inches of silent growth every day.

Last week Charles and Kaison decided to dig up one hill and see what was there. It was a challenge even to figure out the center of each hill, so thick with vines they were. But they found one and dug up several potatoes, one of which was the biggest sweet potato I’ve ever seen. It took two hours at 425 to bake the thing! But it was wonderfully tasty. Now we knew they were ready. It was time to unearth the whole patch and see how many potatoes the six plants produced.

As Charles pulled the vines out of the bushes, unwound them from the bird house post and the pine tree, we were amazed and amused at the length of them. Charles was curious enough to fetch a measuring tape and measured one vine to be 23 feet long. How did they achieve such length? How did they have the ability to wind around a bird house post, a pine tree? How did they ever even get started from that tiny plant?

Underneath those lush vines Charles found thirty-six sweet potatoes of various sizes from very small rat size (they look like rats with a long tail!) to huge like an odd-shaped pumpkin. They’re all that beautiful pink color even with soil clinging to them. I had a ringside seat (a lawn chair!) to watch the show. I thought how pleased and utterly amused Charles’s farmer dad would be to see us having such a party over a few sweet potatoes.

I like to think these sweet potatoes developing so quietly and with such strength and vigor are just one sign among billions and trillions that God is at work when we can’t see and can’t hear. If He created these lush vines that “knew” how to lace themselves all about and these marvelous bumpy red potatoes hidden from view while they grew, I am assured He’s watching over each of us even when He seems to be asleep, even when we are asleep!

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Psalms 121:3-4

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The Dogs Next Door

The sudden rain sounds like a waterfall. Thick curtains of reeds along the driveway sway in the wind like giant green ocean waves. The driveway has turned into a fast-moving river. And the dogs are barking.

Soon after we moved to our present house we learned that several German shepherds lived next door. They considered they owned our place since it had stood empty for years. So anytime we walked into the front yard they barked ferociously. We talked to them and made friends, to a degree, through the fence. But still they barked. Were they just saying hello? Somehow it sounded more like, Leave this property, you are trespassing!

As time went on, we realized these dogs, sometimes one, sometimes two or three, barked at the sound of sirens, at every hint of rain, thunder or not. A lightning storm threw them into an uproar of baying like so many coyotes. Our bedroom windows weren’t far from the dogs with their tremendous capacity for volume and prolonged disturbance. I prayed they would learn to be quiet.

I loved our new house but I really didn’t like the almost perpetual sound of heavy deep-voiced German shepherds. The barking didn’t bother Charles. After all, he had lived with barking dogs at the animal hospital for fifty years. It was normal background music to him when the dogs tuned up at the sound of a garbage truck or even airplanes.

You’re probably thinking there’s some dramatic end to this story. But the change has been gradual. The dogs still bark but I’ve become accustomed to them. When I hear them in the middle of the night I wonder if a possum wandered through or if they feel a storm coming. When they’re quiet I know all is well. Sometimes I smile at their playful yipping as they run about in their generous yard.

Right now the sky is brightening. The reeds are shedding silver drops. And the dogs are still barking. My prayer was answered, not by the dogs learning to be quiet, but by a change in my own attitude toward them. Their ears must hurt painfully when the high squeal of screaming sirens reaches them. Instead of groaning when I hear them tune up, I say “Bless their hearts!”

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Out of the Shadow of 9/11: a book review

My sister-in-law, Revonda Barwick, gave me this autographed copy of “Out of the Shadow of 9/11” last year. She had heard Christina Ray Stanton speak and knew I’d like her book. I’ve read it twice and both times was horrified, saddened, and very, very blessed. I know you would also be blessed by this account. It is told from a different angle than most you will have heard. It is a story of the transformation of this young couple who found a different life after 9/11.

Christina Ray Stanton was there. Not in the towers but very close by. She and her husband of only eighteen months lived in a high rise apartment building just six blocks from the World Trade Center. They slept late that morning in their apartment on the 24h floor. Christina remembers her husband, Brian, shaking her awake with the awful news that a bomb must have gone off in the North Tower. They both ran to their terrace directly facing the World Trade Center. She describes the smoke as so thick and black and reaching so high into the sky, it just couldn’t be real.

But it was real. From their terrace they watched, running back and forth to the living room to check the television news. It wasn’t a bomb, Katie Couric reported. It was a plane. A plane? How could a small plane have caused so much damage? About then Christina looked over her shoulder and saw a huge jet flying so low she could almost see passengers in the windows. It dodged between skyscrapers like a hawk, then aimed its nose at the South Tower. The impact threw Christina and Brian into their living room on their backs. When Christina first became aware she felt a heavy weight on her chest. It was their dog, Gaby, a Boston terrier shaking with fear.

This was the beginning of a long and treacherous journey for Christina and Brian and their dog, Gaby, as they walked and ran away from the towers seeking safety. She describes scenes of crowds of other terrified folks trying to escape, not knowing which way to go; the enormous number of sirens and flashing lights as first responders rushed to the scene; then the unbelievable horror when first one, then the other, tower imploded. Their clothes, hair, and skin were suddenly covered with a disgusting thick film of yellow dust. Everyone was covered–the trees, the buildings, and Gaby, too.

The two were stunned and sobered by the thought that they could easily have been in the World Trade Center that day. Brian was having frequent interviews seeking a job in the Financial District. He wanted to be rich and successful. Christina was auditioning every chance she got for a role in a Broadway play. In the meantime she worked as a tour guide for NYC. She could have been showing a group the World Trade Center, maybe even at the top. The fact that it could have been them made them face the reality of how fragile life is. Later they were to learn that one of Brian’s close friends, a fraternity brother from Clemson University, was in one of the towers that day and was killed.

Their escape route finally took them aboard a boat headed for the New Jersey shore. There they encountered stares and disbelief that anyone would be out walking barefoot in a flimsy gown with no bra. Some folks were positively rude as if the couple and their dog were aliens from Mars or had contracted a horrible disease. Others were unbelievably kind like the lady who realized their dire need and invited them up to her bathroom. They were finally able to use a borrowed cell phone from another kind person so they could let their families know they were safe.

Christina, who has trouble verbalizing the horrors of that day and ensuing homeless days, has now written a compelling account because, she says, We must never forget. She draws the reader to experience stark, breathtaking scenes as she remembers realizing she in her hurry hadn’t put her shoes on. She was dressed only in a flimsy nightgown with no bra, no identification, and no money. Brian had remembered his wallet and credit card and shoes with socks (Christina wore his socks for miles across railroad tracks and all.)

As bad as those first few days were, there was much more to come, both bad and good. There were some very kind people along the way. Christina’s friend Sarah took them in to her small apartment for several days. A perfect stranger who, having fled the city herself, allowed Brian and Christina to stay in her studio apartment rent free.

They finally were allowed back in their apartment and began the overwhelming job of cleaning up the thick dust and debris. There were even snippets of paper from World Trade Center offices blown into their living room through the terrace doors which, in their panic, they’d forgotten to close. For weeks the dust kept accumulating.

Other challenges included getting Gaby to a veterinarian because he wouldn’t eat, was throwing up, and scratching his eyes. That’s when they learned that one of the many components of the horrible dust was ground glass which had injured Gaby’s eyes and her stomach. And then there was the vet’s bill of $517.

Their budget was stretched to the max since now neither of them had a job. Against Brian’s wishes Christina sought help at the Redeemer, a Presbyterian church a friend of hers attended. That contact turned out to be God’s avenue for giving this couple, not just material help, but spiritual and mental help as well.

The weeks of PTSD and searching for jobs, were a learning process for which now Christina and Brian are grateful. They both now have jobs at Redeemer, Brian as a financial advisor, Christina as director of short term missions. Christina’s passion now, instead of aspiring to Broadway fame, is to lead and/or send missions teams around the world with the Good News.

In her epilogue Christina writes: “The lives Brian and I have built since 9/11 are in many ways like the memorial, which is beautiful and meaningful, even though it looks nothing like the towers it replaced.”

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