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Tools That Really Work

IMG_0167Among the things I’m thankful for are simply those tools/gadgets/machines that do what they’re supposed to do. I heard about the PC user who threw a computer out the window because it wouldn’t do what he wanted it to. And there was the “little moron” joke about the roofer who threw nails away, one after another, because they were upside down. But what about the faithful can opener which, time after time, neatly opens a can? Or the mixer that mixes, the juicer that juices, the iron that heats and the fan that oscillates?

We have an apple slicer. Just position it with apple stem in the center and press down. Voila! A beautifully cored and sliced apple perfectly portioned. Such fun! This is something the children really like. Charli likes to slice an apple and take it to school in a zip-lock. Good thing about that thing-a-ma-jigger is it doesn’t have to be plugged in.

Same for my trusty funnel. No strings attached. Place the funnel in a jar and ladle jelly in with no mess. I even made my own enlarged funnel from an upside down gallon milk jug with its bottom cut off. And, oh my goodness, the right ladle, how nice that is! Or the right spoon for a stirring job. I have an old Dollar Store spoon that is stained and scarred, apt to break any day. I’ve looked and looked for a replacement and there simply isn’t one out there, even at the fanciest kitchen store. I handle that poor old spoon with great respect. It’s just the right size for stirring a small pot, for dipping from a mayo jar, and for scooping flour into a cup.

But of course there’s a need for things that require power.

There’s the blender, good for making lemon slush, kumquat marmalade, and smoothies of magnificent concoction. When Charles Douglas is in the mood he can make a mean smoothie. He throws in almost everything but carrots and mushrooms and watches our faces to see if we like his latest recipe. I recently discovered a new use for the blender. I was making loaves of herbal bread and needed parsley and rosemary chopped very fine. Yes, the blender made green snippets in seconds!

I had a crepe maker for several years. A smooth rounded surface heated perfectly, then dipped in thin pancake batter turned out such neat little crepes. We could roll almost anything up in a crepe and the children would eat it! (We didn’t try mush-rooms!)

Thomas, one of my Birmingham grandsons, noticed I really like shoulder massages. For Christmas he gave me an electrical neck massager. It fits around my neck like a dog collar and, while I’m reclined in my chair, will give me a luxurious workout. A cup of coffee adds to the luxury.

And I mentioned a can opener. What is more satisfactory than a can opener that works? I remember the fights and groans and blood and tears using those old cranky things. Then there were all kinds of “dreamy” can openers, some of which worked if you held your mouth just right. My mother gave me a can opener (a nice simple one) and a paring knife not long after I married. She said I would never survive without those two things. I think she was right! When you find yourself cooking in someone else’s kitchen those are the things you simply have to locate. My present can opener is a jewel of a utensil and I don’t care if “she” hears me bragging on “her.”

Oh, did I say anything about the coffee maker? Who can carry on without a coffee maker? Of course coffee makers never give off the totally friendly aroma that a coffee pot on a wood cook stove does. But the brewing is mighty quick in the mornings.

A waffle maker is a really fun device. If I just remember to spray top and bottom with baker’s spray and spoon the right amount of batter in, I can produce a near perfect waffle. I remember fondly my mother making waffles. She made hers in a waffle iron that she set over an open flame on her wood burning stove. It was a trick to know just when to flip the iron over to put heat on the other side. I loved to watch her. And, even better, loved to eat some waffle drenched in honey or molasses. Since there were many hungry mouths for her to feed, we only got a small portion at one time. Hmmmm. I wonder if she ever did get even a scrap of waffle!

All this being said about tools and gadgets, it’s easy to complain about things that don’t work. I just thought today was a good day to praise the ones that do what they’re made to do.

And I had this thought too. Are we, as God’s instruments/utensils/tools, doing what we were intended to do?

Ephesians 2:10: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

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Conversation

One day Charles and I dropped by the Mitchell County Animal Hospital on a day Dr. AlexGreenberg was the veterinarian. His Great Dane named Sir was trying to be a pal to the orange hospital cat. I took a series of pictures of Sir’s attempts at “conversation” with While Drs. Greenberg and Graham were conferring with each other. Later, I showed five-year-old Kaison these pictures and made up a conversation between the dog and cat. Kaison became the cat, I the dog, then we switched roles. Following is a semblance of the conversation we made up.

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Everything’s New

IMG_0242Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I Peter 1:3-4

When Charles and I were students at the University of Georgia our campus minister invited a Rabbi to come to the Baptist Student Center a few days before Easter. The Rabbi and our campus minister, Brother Dick Houston, presented a combination Passover meal and Lord’s Supper, correlating the two. There were bitter herbs to taste with explanations of their meanings. There was meat from an unblemished lamb. Then there were wine (or grape juice) and unleavened bread with a graphic explanation of how Jesus came to fulfill the prophecies of old and became the perfect Unblemished Lamb to pay for our sins.

I don’t remember what all the herbs were and certainly not all the words, but I remember being so thankful that Jesus died for us, that we no longer need stumble along offering strange sacrifices that we hope will “work,” but instead can know without a shadow of doubt that we are “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

These verses from I Peter tell me five things to help me celebrate Easter:

  • We can bless God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by worshipping Him.
  • He has saved us according to his abundant mercy.
  • He has begotten us “again,” re-created us who already were made in His image.
  • We now have a lively hope, not an insecure possibility, a “lively” hope.
  • Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we too can live.

Springtime is full of symbolism pointing to the new life in Christ. Flowers are bright and beautiful, sprung from the brown cold earth. Trees are budding. Grass is so bright and green. Birds are full of song, starting new families. I’m reminded of a friend years ago who, every Easter, very deliberately bought new clothes, “from the skin out,” as she put it, to represent her new life in Christ.

Eggs, little chicks, baby bunnies, all are examples of new life. As Easter Sunday approaches, I’m thinking about the dozens of eggs we’ve colored over the years and the hidings of eggs in jonquil bunches, beside tree trunks, perched on forked limbs, disguised in a ruffle of leaves. I remember the squeals of the children as they race to find the eggs, how some children focus completely on good hiding places and methodically fill their baskets, while others watch fellow hunters to see where they’re finding them and pass right by some real beautiful specimens.

And always there’s at least one lost egg. Invariably. We hiders make mental notes and all but swear that this year none shall be left unfound. But it always happens. We just recently found half a plastic egg in the back yard.

And now it’s almost time to hide them again!

I like to color with crayons at least a few eggs with symbols of the true meaning of Easter on them, a cross, a fish, a Bible verse. Not only is it a joyful exercise for my soul, but it takes me back to the old, old days when crayons were all we had, no food coloring or “magic” sheets, no plastic eggs.

Easter is the most joyful celebration of the whole year. Our church’s music last Sunday, under the able direction of Cameron Crapps, set the stage for us to worship with bursting hearts. I can hear some of the phrases singing in my head: “I will rise again…” “That’s when love broke through…” “Let the grave be opened.”

When Christ’s love is allowed to take over, Everything is New!

Happy, blessed Easter!

Come worship with us at Cairo First Baptist Church Easter Sunday at 10:30. You will be glad you did!

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An Iron Kettle

image000000I was at an estate sale when I saw it. It wasn’t one of the things I bought but I wanted to. Just because of all the warm memories.

I bought an old hymnal, an edger with dried clay on its blade, a tiny Hispanic doll made of woven straw from Ecuador, several tiny memo pads with colorful bird pictures, and a marble topped foyer table. I didn’t know where I would put that heavy black kettle and I left it there amongst various other iron pieces–corn stick pans, irons, a waffle iron, several skillets, etc.

That iron kettle had so many stories to tell, I’m just sure. It was larger than the one I remember, probably held a whole gallon of water. The spout was generous, the handle a little crooked from some escapade. I could imagine mornings of long ago when that kettle stayed on the back burner all day long, ready for producing hot water. The iron was a bit ashy looking as if it had only recently come out of hiding in this modernized electrically equipped house. Some restorative measures might have made it perkier.

But then a big iron kettle like that isn’t intended to be perky.

Mamma’s iron kettle was almost a part of her wood burning stove. If there was a fire in the stove, the kettle was humming, steam issuing from its spout. Whether it was time to prepare a dishpan for after-supper clean up, or make a pot of tea, or hand wash some laundry, the water was ready. But there were times when the need for hot water was more dramatic.

I’m guessing that kettle supplied the hot water for the births of eleven babies my mother delivered at home. I don’t personally remember those times, although the eleventh birth brought me my dear little sister and I do remember the occasion very well. Not from the perspective of the kettle but from the perspective of a three-year-old wanting Mamma to tuck her in bed and not understanding why that night was so different from others. The doctor and my Dad were very kind to me that night when they finally let me see my Mamma with an incredibly small pink wiggly bundle beside her.

Then there were the times Daddy prepared to drive the old Packard and it wouldn’t crank up. There was a hasty call for hot water and someone would take it on the run to pour in the cold radiator. Sometimes a push-off was required also before the motor “turned over.” I’m told my older brother Charlie, when he was a little tyke, lined himself up with the rest to push the Packard. But when the rest let go as the car picked up speed, Charlie was still holding tightly to the bumper, his little feet flying over the ground. Big sister Pat ran to rescue him!

When Mamma opened a little block of yeast for making bread she’d reach for the kettle and pour hot water over it in a bowl to dissolve it. If Daddy had lumbago Mamma would send someone to fill the hot water bottle to apply to his back. On cold mornings when Mamma gave us kids a quart of cocoa to take to our woodland schoolhouse, she’d heat the jar first by pouring hot water over it in a pan–so it wouldn’t crack when the hot cocoa came in contact with the glass.

If Mamma or one of the girls needed hot water fast and the kettle had gotten low, they’d take a griddle off the stove and set it aside, then set the kettle right next to the flame. Soon the water would be boiling. I can remember, too, the white enamel pan with a red rim we used for what we called “spit” baths, or just to wash our hands and faces. Mamma declared war on dirty faces. She said she hoped her mother had dirty faces to wash in heaven or she wouldn’t be happy. I think she hoped that would be true for her too because she sure liked to make our faces clean.

When Daddy killed a chicken for Mamma to dress, she depended on a good full kettle of hot water for scalding the chicken in the de-feathering process. If I hated the killing of the chicken in the first place, I also hated the smell of scalded skin and hot feathers. I was amazed recently to hear one of the grandchildren talking proudly about how she’d helped de-feather some quail.

When brothers brought in the milk morning and evening, the girls would strain the milk and then wash the milk buckets, ending with scalding them good with water from the black kettle.

I’ve seen my handsome father shaving in the kitchen with a straight razor and, of course, water from that kettle.

Amazing, isn’t it, how many pictures you can see in your mind prompted by one simple object. Now I wonder if I should have bought that black kettle. I can just see its face drooping a bit when I finally turned away after considering it for the second or third time. I hope someone else finds it who can give it another life.

Hey, I saw this Bible reference on the Piggly Wiggly sign this week: Romans 15:13. I looked it up. Here it is: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

That’s my prayer for you!

 

 

 

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My Friend Billy Graham

How could I be so brash as to claim Billy Graham was my friend? I never talked to him, even on the phone. I never received a personal note or letter. I never shared a cup of coffee or glass of water with him. I never shook his hand.

Yet I confidently do claim he was my friend. He was America’s pastor and he had the God-given talent of reaching by television, radio, movies, and the written word into our very homes, sharing the love of God in a personal and compelling way. The man who took the message of Christ’s grace all over the world was never rude or arrogant or unkind, just straightforward and real, as much so to us in our living rooms as to the millions in huge arenas.

I miss him from this planet. But I rejoice with him for being reunited with his Ruth, his friends George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows, and for seeing Jesus face to face. And I can’t imagine his joy as he meets some of the millions who are in heaven because of his messages.

I was eight years old when I first listened to Billy Graham on his radio show “The Hour of Decision.” The year was 1950. My father only listened to a few shows but that was one of them. I guess I knew it wasn’t something a kid of my age should volunteer to listen to so I took it all in from a tiny attic room right over Daddy’s study. I was fascinated by the way Billy Graham talked so fast yet so clearly. I also liked to hear him say “God bless you real good” at the end of the program.

Not long after his show was aired, Billy Graham held a tent revival in Atlanta. Because of rare circumstances, my mother and I accompanied my big brother John to one night of that crusade. I had already made a commitment to the Lord Jesus and knew that I was a redeemed child of God. Maybe that’s why that night was so very special. I remember the smell of the thick sawdust on the floor and how thrilled I was to see Billy Graham, even if he was so far away he was only about an inch high.

As a teenager in the 1950s I was stirred by the occasional messages I heard on television as Billy Graham spoke to phenomenal crowds. We acquired a book about Graham which had black and white pictures of him and his family. I started praying for them. Ruth Graham’s writing was an inspiration to me. I wanted to write like that myself.

Early in my marriage to Charles Graham (no kin to Billy!) he was asked to be chairman of the committee preparing for and presenting a BGEA movie, “Time To Run,” in our small town. That very rich experience gave both of us opportunities we couldn’t have imagined. I was a counselor following the movie for several showings. I counseled a sweet twelve year old girl who gave her life to Jesus. In the years of following up her commitment with visits, a backyard Bible club, and prayer with her family, we built a friendship I cherished. She died of some rare disorder when her son was still quite young.

My church in Cairo, about 1990, provided a bus for a large group of us to go hear Billy Graham at the civic center in Tallahassee. He was no longer the young preacher speaking so fast trying to get all his words in. His hair was white, he leaned on a stool, his words were more measured than before. But there was the same passion, the same zeal, unsquelched after all those years. And the power of God Almighty was present that night as crowds responded to his call for commitment.

I have read several of Billy Graham’s books and gained spiritual strength from each one, “Angels,” “Just As I Am,” and others. But the little paperback “It’s My Turn” by Ruth has given me recently the sweetest peek into the Grahams’ home life. I’ve been reading it in small segments to my Magnolia Place devotional group. Ruth kept the home fires burning, literally, while Billy was away for sometimes weeks at a time. But she sometimes traveled with him. She tells of once when she was counseling at the London Crusade in 1954. She sat down beside an attractive young woman and asked if she could help her. The lady said wistfully, “I just wonder what it would be like to wake up and find yourself married to that man!” Ruth answered her, “You’ve asked the right person. I’ve been doing it for the past eleven years.” Ruth followed up that funny story with her statement of surety that if she could have picked from all the men in the world, she would still have chosen Billy. She said she would rather see a little bit of him than a whole lot of any other man.

But back to Billy’s books. I have his very last book. I’ve read several that he thought might be his last one. But this really is: “Where I Am.” I’ve peeped into it just enough to know from, Franklin’s foreword, that Billy based his title on John 14:3 which is words of Jesus saying, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Where I Am. Billy told his son Franklin with resolve, “When I die, tell others that I’ve gone to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ–that’s where I am.

Worldwide Pictures, an arm of BGEA, has done videos of classic crusades by Billy Graham. I just watched one including clips of the London 1954 crusade. Consistently, throughout that crusade, and all his ministry, we could hear Billy preaching “the Bible says,” and emphasizing that the awesome actions, the swelling crowds of converts, was because of God and only Him. And even now as I hold my iPad in my lap and watch the young Billy preaching so passionately, a message comes up on the screen telling the viewer how to find help, how to know he/she is going to heaven. Billy’s gone to heaven, but his ministry is still going on here!

Someone has said that perhaps Billy’s death will bring on a greater revival than ever happened in his life. I think that would take the participation of all God’s people, all of us who claim to be Billy’s friends and, more importantly, friends of his master, Jesus.

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Trout Lilies

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Trout lilies typically bloom mid to late February.

 

It was a beautiful day for walking amongst the trout lilies, one of those sunny, not quite hot days in mid-February that make us so happy to get outside. Neither Charles nor I had demanding appointments and we started out eagerly to explore the trails of Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve, the greatest expanse of trout lilies in the world, right here in Cairo, Georgia. Some years we totally miss the show and maybe they were past their peek this week, but we agreed we could hardly have absorbed any more beauty. I thought about my brother John who would have been so happy to know we were walking in the woods on his birthday.

Walking in the trout lilies we also found many other interests: spotted trilliums, a rare variant four-leaved trillium, an orchid that will bloom in early June, beech drops, blue stemmed and needle palmettos, at least on Florida maple tree, lots of hardwoods, some elderberry bushes, muscadine vines, ferns, two creeks, some other visitors fun to talk to, and well-serviced paths with excellent markers.

The trout lilies literally cover acres of forest floor with their golden blooms. Individually, they aren’t showy flowers. They’re so low it’s hard to photograph them without lying down. But all together as they sweep between avenues of tall trees, they make a spectacular show. As we followed the meandering trails exclaiming over each new discovery we talked about our friends Cecil and Sue Hinson. Cecil’s forestry business was able to donate these some 140 acres for preserving the lilies and other beauties. And Sue spent happy hours photographing flowers and all. I enjoyed looking at some with her not long before her untimely death. They were some of our favorite people and we miss them so much. But tramping the trails makes them seem close.

The deep burgundy trilliums are actually more dramatic as individual blossoms. I so enjoyed finding them blooming beside rotting logs, a hornbeam tree, or snugged up against a gnarled oak tree. We first became acquainted with the spotted trillium 350 miles north of here on Black Rock Mountain, then were surprised to find them here the next year. They bloom here about three weeks before they do on the mountain.

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The beautiful burgundy trillium also blooms in the mountains.

 

We were intrigued by the little crane fly and green fly orchid plants. We wouldn’t have known they were there had it not been for the wonderful markers. The marker announces there will be orchid blooms in early June so maybe we can go back then. Right now the plant seems an odd combination of low leaves with purple undersides and funny dried stalks.

We found blue stemmed and needle palmettos. The needle palmettos have pointed fronds but I saw no sign of blue stems on plants identified as such. Maybe the blue is right at the soil line or appears at a different season. I remember how taken I was by the palmettos of any name on my first trip to South Georgia. I carried a frond back with me to my dorm room at UGA and pinned it on the window curtain. Of course, I was far more “taken” by the South Georgia boy I’d been to visit named Charles Graham!

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Palmettos–needle, blue stem and others–are abundant in South Georgia.

 

Even without the wonderful flowers, the walk would have been delightful. There are many hardwoods in the comparatively young forest. We found white oaks, live oaks, and some hornbeam trees. The hornbeam belongs to the birch family but I thought the leaves looked like those of a beech tree. The trunk is naked like a crepe myrtle. There were also maples, sweetgums, and beeches. And under the beeches were some very interesting little growths called beech drops. They are completely sustained by nutrients from beech tree roots, according to the marker.

We came alongside two creeks, one deep enough for a shallow swim in places. The sun was shining through the slow moving current showing a ripply sandy bottom.

Folks we met on the trails were from Thomasville, Tallahassee, and places beyond, They were all, including several young children, enjoying the spring day at this unusual preserve so nicely protected and sustained.

Thank the Lord for the foresight of all those who had a part in making this preserve possible, our friends the Hinsons and many, many others. Thanks also to the Eagle Scouts for a very nice sign at the entrance off Wolf Creek Road.

I urge you to discover the sights at the Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve between Cairo and Whighan. Look them up on the web!

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Valentines, Both Bitter and Sweet

IMG_20180214_112846343We only really want the sweet ones. But life happens on Valentine’s Day and it isn’t always sweet.

Take February 14, 2000.

Our phone rang at 6:00 that morning, someone calling to tell me that my dear friend’s son had been critically injured, his wife and baby killed, when their mobile home took a direct hit by a deadly tornado. I hurried over to the hospital to hug my friend. She was so strong, like an oak tree with deep roots. We her friends were crying for her but she refused to be overcome. She had worked her entire career with FEMA and, though under such stress with her own family and the many friends who also had suffered loss, she took time to brag on the quick, decisive work of the rescue teams. I was so touched, too, by her smile as she said, “No hospital in the whole USA could have responded any better than Grady General has.”

My friend’s son lived, having to undergo several surgeries. His wife and baby were buried in the same casket. He, like his mother, is a strong Christian. He is active in his church. He and his second wife have adopted two wonderful children. Whereas some might be stuck asking the question “why?”, he has moved on.

Valentine’s Day, 2004, was a wonderful day, the day my brother Orman married my friend Reggie. Separated by most of the state of Georgia, Orman and Reggie met because God planned it that way. There was no other way they would have found each other. They met as senior citizens, he at 79, she several years younger. Each had lost their first mate and each had prayed that if God saw fit He would send another spouse.. Each had traveled a lot, he as a missionary, she as a military wife. Each was excited about leading Bible studies and in more traveling. Only months after they met, on a beautiful Valentine’s Day, many of us from both ends of the state met to celebrate with them at their wedding in Albany.

After the wedding, several members of my family from North Georgia, as well as Reggie’s sister Sally and her husband Wes, gathered at our house. We had dinner together, sang around the piano, had a wonderful time celebrating this second love for Orman and Reggie who, of course, were by then gone on their honeymoon. We were all so jubilant. How could anyone be sad that night?

Yet that day, too, had a very sorrowful end.

The phone rang, interrupting our joy. One of our dear church friends, very close to those in our intimate circle that night, was struck by a car while crossing the street in a dense fog. Her death sobered us all and reminded us that joy and sorrow are never very far apart.

There was the joyful Valentine’s week in 2007 when our third grandson Thomas Hamilton Graham was born. Such excitement there was as we welcomed him. Will and Christi had a family suite at the hospital where little William, three years old, could be with his parents and his new brother. Grandparents and uncles crowded in, too, on that February day to celebrate Thomas. Now he’s in the 5th grade, excels in sports, is a great student, considers being a scientist someday, and is a top notch Monopoly player. He has a keen sense of humor, too, never misses a chance to crack a joke or pose a riddle. His birthday is February 15.

One of the funny Valentine outings I remember was the year Charles and I decided to have a night out in Thomasville. I said I wanted to get out of Cairo so we could have one whole conversation uninterrupted by clients asking questions about their pets. Charles didn’t really understand my request because he loves to talk any old time with his clients. But he went along. We both thought he was off that night but as the evening developed, one emergency after another came in, either by phone or at the back door. The evening was far spent when we slid into a booth at Shoney’s. We’d barely picked up our menus when someone spoke from across the aisle, “Doc, I’ve been meaning to ask you…” Turns out, we were surrounded by sweet, interesting Grady County folks who were delighted to have the vet’s ear for their latest questions.

In the winter of 2012 I was having chemo treatments for breast cancer. Charles faithfully took me for my infusions, waiting patiently with me for long hours, entertaining the nurses with funny stories. If the timing was right we would go for a snack at my favorite deli after chemo, giving a touch of party to the day. Day after day, he did many things to make that time easier, coming home at odd times to check on me, sending me flowers, cheering me on when my hair all fell out. But the most astonishing thing he did was to take me for a private meeting with Ralph Bishop one Saturday in February. He wanted Ralph to fit me with new wedding rings since I could no longer wear the treasured ones he’d given me when we married. When I look at my diamond now, so lively with rich sparkles of rainbow colors, I’m reminded of that dark time made bright and wonderful by his love.

Our church traditionally has a Valentine’s Banquet, a fundraiser for youth summer camps. Youth waiters serve tables, plates of delicious smoked pork chops, green beans and mashed potatoes with a roll and then, of course, red velvet cake for dessert. After dinner the fun begins. Many cooks donate cakes, pies and other goodies to be auctioned to the highest bidder. Everyone is conscious of the cause and they become quite ferocious even in trying to make the bids go as high as possible. It’s hilarious to watch family members scrambling to outbid each other on peanut brittle, thirteen-layer chocolate cakes, dreamy coconut ones, and all the rest. Amanda is baking a couple of cakes this time so this is going to be interesting.

Valentine’s days–bitter and sweet. But one thing is always true. God’s love is sure and eternal. Whatever happens, He will be there for you.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

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