Monthly Archives: February 2020

My Best Mistake

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I’m knitting using a pattern called “Mistake Rib Scarf.” How could I go wrong with a pattern that is made up of mistakes? Well, it was easy for me to go wrong.

It’s like playing tennis without a net or traveling on a road with no speed limits or writing an essay with no grammatical restrictions. Without restrictions or rules, there is no rhyme or reason. The “freedom” soon produces chaos. The “Mistake Rib Scarf” is a pattern, and if I don’t follow it step by step, stitch by stitch, my scarf is not going to be as it was intended. This pattern is called “Mistake Rib Scarf” because a knitter made mistakes and realized she could turn her flawed scarf into a thing of beauty. She changed the pattern and used a new plan.

Mistakes can be very valuable.

Edison made 2,999 errors before he finally arrived at the right design for a light bulb in 1880. I’ve often wondered how discouraged he must have been after fifty, one hundred, two thousand mistakes. I’m glad he didn’t give up after 2,998 times of fiddling with that filament.

Ben Franklin accidentally shocked himself in 1746. That mistake led to the discovery of a way to protect buildings from lightning. It’s called a lightning rod.

“Be very careful how you step in them pies,” was the injunction of the mother in a favorite old childhood story, “Apaminondous.” Apaminondous took her literally and, while she was gone, stepped right in the middle of each pie she’d left cooling on the steps. I can’t remember whether the family still ate the six pies or whether they let the dogs have them. It’s a hilarious story poking fun at a little boy who, time after time, misunderstood the instructions of his mother. When you think about it, you wonder who really made a mistake, Apaminondous or his mother. Why would she leave pies cooling on the steps? And why wouldn’t she have realized how literal-minded her child was? She should have rephrased her command to: “Do not step in them pies.” But what fun would that story be? No publisher would have taken that on.

Back to my scarf–I was following the “mistake” pattern just fine, I thought. Then I realized I had consistently goofed on one side of my scarf so that it has a different edging. I had made a mistake on the “Mistake Rib” scarf and now had a choice of unraveling the whole project and starting over, or going ahead, making sure to keep my mistake consistent, thus a new pattern. I’m telling myself, as I continue knitting, that my scarf will be unique, one of a kind, a true “Mistake Rib” scarf!

There are horrible mistakes that wreak long lasting damage. The young man on the Titanic who didn’t stay alert caused a huge tragedy. The person who panicked and hit the accelerator when it should have been the brake, the people who put their confidence in Hitler, the bus driver who changed lanes at the wrong time, the air controller who gave the wrong instructions to an incoming pilot–these mistakes have consequences that go on and on.

There are humorous mistakes. My mother got mixed up once and used salt instead of sugar when serving tea to guests. At the time, she was terribly embarrassed but later was able to enjoy laughing at herself. The football player who ran the ball the wrong direction gave fodder for many laughs. Filmers win prizes for making the “funniest” videos, like the one where a biker goes airborne and lands in the swimming pool or a cook flips a pancake that falls on the head of her little dog who then runs in circles trying to shed it.

A day doesn’t go by that we don’t make mistakes, whether good or bad. But some are far more memorable than others. I made my best mistake while a student at the University of Georgia.

I was the editor of the Baptist Bulldog, a small monthly paper published by the Baptist Student Union. We had a brand new BSU president that year named Charles Graham and I wrote an article about him. One night at vespers I saw him coming towards me and I put on my best smile. My hopes for a friendly conversation with this man I’d been admiring from a distance were dashed as he began to point out my serious mistake in the article. I had stated in that story that he was a senior in the School of Veterinary Medicine when, as he pointed out, he was a senior at the university but only a freshman in veterinary medicine. I ran a correction in the next issue and thought he would never speak to me again. Weeks later when I saw him again coming toward me in a crowded room I felt my heart rate go crazy. What had I done this time? But that time he had a warm twinkle in his eyes and asked me out on a date. We have been married now for 54 years.

Some mistakes are valuable. And all our mistakes can be used for good in the hands of Jesus.

I love the song, popular several years ago as sung by the Gaithers: “Something beautiful, something good. All my confusions He understood. All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife, But He made something beautiful of my life.”

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

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Tree Climbers

 

20200116_152644When Charli hoisted herself onto a limb of a Japanese maple and happily requested her book be handed up so she could read up there, I was reminded of many other tree climbers and situations.

Since Hurricane Michael whipped through Grady County in 2018 we’ve seen a lot of serious tree climbers. Well, they don’t actually climb the trees but they climb to the treetops in their buckets. I am in awe of the skill and the daring of the tree service men.

But I’m thinking more of climbing trees for fun–like Charli.

My sister Jackie remembers a time when she and several siblings were in “The Big Redpine” the afternoon a great announcement was made. She said she didn’t dare climb as high as some of the others but was far out on one of the lower limbs. The tree was remarkably good for a lot of climbers as it had many long sturdy limbs, lower ones that brushed the grass, higher ones easy to scramble up to. The tree was shaped like a huge Christmas tree and stood on a grassy knoll in the pasture. The whole tree was thick with Knight kids that day because they’d been strictly forbidden, for some reason, to enter the house. The reason finally became known when our oldest sister, Pat, called out from the top of the next hill that a new baby brother had been born and the children could now come see him. Jackie remembers seeing the doctor’s car head down the driveway and wondering why he had come to see the baby.

I really identify with Charli in her love for climbing trees because that was one of my favorite things to do. I’m sure having all those brothers and sisters scaling trees influenced my yearning to go up high and to hide in leafy treetops. One of my favorite trees was a dogwood near the kitchen door that was so tall it reached above the roofline of the house. From a comfortable spot high in that tree I could see but not be seen. It was a little hard to carry my book up there with me but sometimes I managed. I felt almost free as a bird up there. But the day I put my weight on a spindly limb and crashed earthward I had no wings to help me out. In fact, I landed on my little sister, Suzanne, who was sitting on a stone under the tree. Somehow she broke my fall and neither of us was hurt.

Another time Suzanne and I both were aloft in a very tall white pine.

I had to stretch pretty hard to pull myself up one limb to another as they were so far apart. Suzanne followed behind me but she was having to stretch harder with her short legs. We were intent on reaching a squirrel’s nest where we were sure there were tiny babies. When I realized I couldn’t climb as high as the squirrels did, I looked down and saw earth far, far below. The chickens eating their evening corn even looked tiny. After surveying the whole yard from my lofty height I admitted to Suzanne that we weren’t going to see the squirrel babies and that we’d better start down. Suzanne balked. She had climbed up but she wasn’t going to climb down. No amount of urging her did any good and night was falling fast. We both yelled until dear Jackie came to the rescue. She climbed up close to Suzanne and gave careful encouraging instructions to guide her down, step by step.

My children enjoyed climbing one of two tung oil trees in our pasture. Its limbs were sturdy and generous. It even had good limbs for building a level tree house. William and Julie hauled sandwiches and books to their platform using a bucket and a rope. It was always more fun when they had friends Mike and Kimberly with them. It’s amazing how a little elevation can give you a different perspective, a feeling of detachment and maybe a little power. Once you were safe in the tree house, the cow couldn’t chase you nor any imaginary monsters.

Our grandchildren spent hours in an old overgrown Ligustrum tree in our backyard, the tung oil tree being long gone. The Ligustrum was so leafy and wonderful for hiding in, climbing to various levels, for playing war, jungle living, or trying out roping skills. The fig tree, an ancient one with sloping limbs thrusting in various directions, was not as good for hiding but was excellent for a quick perch with a cookie in hand.

One of the best climbers I’ve known is our great granddaughter Candi. She could “walk” her way up the trunks of a pine tree and magnolia. When she reached the high limbs of the magnolia she would swing herself over and perch in the top story of that tree for a long time. “Where is Candi?” we would wonder and one of the other children would report that she was up in the trees.

One tree I remember so fondly from my tree climbing days was an oak far back in the woods. Its limbs were all too high for us to reach except for one that was thick as a tree itself and grew horizontally some twenty feet from the trunk. It was high enough from the ground that our tallest brothers could just walk under it. They could jump up and get a hold for pulling themselves up. It seemed an eternity before I was able to climb up. But once up in that tree, one had a wonderful view of the woods, a little brook bubbling by, and smaller children and dogs who couldn’t go so high. Balancing oneself for a walk along the limb was a competitive sport as was the daring jump back down to the ground. In spite of all our tree climbing and many falls, none of us ten children ever suffered a broken bone until after we left home.

I’m encouraged when I see Charli and others enjoying tree climbing. With all the playground equipment available and with trampolines and go-carts and gymnasiums, children still find great pleasure in the simple sport of tree climbing.

Needless to say, I no longer climb trees. But this I can do. When things get a bit dicey or overwhelming, when I find myself in an MRI tunnel or facing problems that seem unsolvable, I can take just a moment and “project” myself into a tall, gently swaying pine. It is important, of course, to come back down, hopefully with a better attitude. I’ve always enjoyed hearing and telling the story of Zacchaeus up in that sycamore tree. The best part of the story was when he came down and Jesus went with him to his house for dinner.

 

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Pink Rain/Blustery Wind

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The day after the storm–all blue skies and pink petals still clinging!

Charles looked out the breakfast room window and said, “It’s raining pink petals.”

The Japanese magnolias were dropping petals in showers as the wind picked up. You probably know the wind I’m referring to. The storm, Thursday, February 6, brought rain, wind and snow to a large portion of our country. It affected nearly all the lower 48 in some way or other.

I know the wind causes harm to so many. I ache for those who suffered from the brutal tornadoes and flooding rains. But I do love to hear blustery winter wind chasing itself around corners of the house, whining in the pines, roaring like a lion on the warpath, then dying down to a hum.

Since I have no control over the weather (thank You, Lord!) I simply intend to enjoy it.

So the day of the storm I got out my knitting and my book, turned on the gas logs, put a load of clothes in to wash so I’d seem a little less lazy–and settled in. Soaking and then cooking a pot of dry lima beans added to the coziness of the “inside day”.

The wind kept the chimes tinkling all day long. At times the rain came down in torrents. I kept my television on the weather channel so I’d be aware if a tornado were coming. If the siren went off downtown I’d go to my safe place with pillows and blanket. Otherwise, I’d keep track of how the storm was hitting other parts of the country, I’d watch the sheets of gray cold rain and be glad I wasn’t trying to herd a flock of sheep to safety.

I was glad to know our grandchildren were out of school because of the threat of tornadoes. Aside from being glad they were safe, I was just glad for them to have a holiday. There’s something very special about a weather holiday, definitely a gift out of season. Of course parents might not be so happy!

Whenever the storm abated even for a few minutes, birds flocked to the feeders. Poor little guys, I guess they get mighty hungry when the wind and rain comes on strong. And where do they find refuge to hide from the storm?

Charles came in for lunch and reported he had been so busy treating animals for various maladies, he hadn’t had time to see what was going on outside. But he had heard the pounding rain. We heard from Will that Birmingham had areas of flooding. We were thankful that he and his family, though they’d spent a large portion of the night in their basement, were now safe. Our folks in north Georgia were safe, just dealing with rain, rain, and more rain.

All afternoon the rain came down and the wind was like an angry witch who just couldn’t throw a strong enough tantrum. Our thick bamboo barrier along the driveway looked at times like a huge green ocean wave, at others reminded me of a swaying, whipping curtain. When the wind subsided between fits, I could hear the German shepherds next door barking and baying at the storm. They don’t even like regular calm rainy days, much less such stormy ones.

For supper the lima beans tasted so good along with baked chicken, sweet potatoes and turnip greens. The chimes were still frantically ringing. The cats curled into their cozy comfort spots. Bird feeders swayed in the wind, no birds brave enough to fight the weather any longer.

Into the night the wind still roared in fits of unrest. But by morning all was calm. I looked out, dreading to see the Japanese magnolias stripped of their blooms but was cheered to see them still clad in pink, though the ground at their feet and across the lawn was also carpeted in pink. The bamboo was strong and sturdy. No trees had fallen. All was well.

The sun came out strong as if to say, “Did you have a nice day of darkness? Never fear, I’m back!”

Saturday my sister in north Georgia sent me pictures of their beautiful snow–horses in a field of white, branches with tiny snow drifts on them, jonquil blooms half buried in freezing fluff, and the Dovers’ log house surrounded by white right up the porch steps. They had rain the day we did, then a day of sunshine, then an all day snow-fall accompanied by freezing temperatures.

I’m reminded of the little song we used to sing: “We’ll weather the weather whatever the weather whether we like it or not.”

He has made everything beautiful in his time…  Ecclesiastes 3:11

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Time for Laughter

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Christine Clark Mission Group on our sewing day

There were ten of us. We were all taking part in a sewing venture, making small pillows for mastectomy patients and shirt front bibs for residents of a veterans’ home. We were women with a good cause. But I think we all agreed afterwards that the best thing about our working together was the fun we had, the laughter we shared. Women need girl time, just as men need those hunting trips and sessions around a paused tractor.

In our busy, fast paced culture there’s far too little time for friendly banter, for catching up on each other’s needs and wants, for simply laughing over nothing.

In pioneer days families were separated by miles of wilderness or weary stretches of prairie. A highlight of their existence was the rare occasion when they all came together for a quilting party or a picnic, a barn raising or a spelling bee. At those times, inevitably, men would cluster to share their latest successes and failures. And women would find a chance to chat as they laid out precious scraps of material for quilting or organized delectable dishes on the church’s long dinner-on-the-grounds table.

Our lives are so different from that of the pioneer families. We’re surrounded by people all the time. We go to church, to Walmart, to the library and the post office, to our places of work. We pick up the phone and call our wonderful family members and friends. We turn on the television and hear the latest news. We turn on our computers and catch up on social media notes or play You Tube videos, or study some ponderous subject.

None of those contacts takes place of simply getting together for the common goal of getting together.

At our sewing gathering there were comments like “Pass me the other scissors. These won’t cut.” or “Did you mean to leave this seam open?” and “What did you say these pillows are for?” Or there was a question like “Have you heard how ____________is?” One of the “girls” (we’re all over fifty but still girls) told a hilarious story on herself which reminded others of their own tales.

We were working in two adjacent rooms but couldn’t hear everything that was said at each table. At one time those at one table erupted into gales of laughter. When the other group demanded to know what was so funny all we could say was “It’s not what she said, it’s what she didn’t say.” Then someone added, “It’s how she said what she didn’t say.” In the ensuing laughter it’s a wonder any of the seams turned out right!

We all got very serious talking about troubles in our world–fires in Australia, the new strain of flu, conflict in Washington, and various ideas for removing stains. We considered the patients who would be using the pillows we made and hoped they would be comforted. We talked about the veterans and how they might find the shirt front bibs helpful. We wondered out loud how those in trouble can survive without the sustaining power of the Almighty–and friends.

But laughter is what I remember most from that afternoon of sewing. When my two young grandchildren came from school, they helped me serve light refreshments. I hope they, too, will remember the laughter and fun of that workday. I hope they’ll realize that gray hairs may be a sign of wisdom, but they don’t mean we can’t have a good time.

As I picked up loose threads and straight pins and stowed away the sewing machine I smiled again at the memory of each one who was here. We are all better, I think, for talking and laughing and working together.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. Psalm 126:2

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