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Sewing Masks

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As I feed another mask under the sewing machine needle, I pray for the one whose face it will protect. Lord, heal this person if they’re sick, protect them if they’re not sick, give them a heart for seeking You.

When Sally asked me if I’d like to join her in sewing masks for Archbold Memorial Hospital, I was delighted. Yes! Some way to help in this awful time. I’m not a seamstress but I have a sewing machine. I could do this!

The masks those on my team are making are strictly utilitarian, designed to be passed out in hospitals and doctors’ offices when someone shows up with no protection. They are very simple, though I took all day figuring out how to make the first one, using advice of Mary Alice who, early on, said beware of the rubber bands. My machine didn’t like the rubber bands used to go around ears. In fact, after nineteen masks, that machine made a very horrible sound and, like an old mule in the middle of a corn row, it said “Not a stitch farther.”

I learned “Jimmy’s Sew and Vac” was open in the afternoons, curbside service. So Charles loaded the sewing machine into the car and we took off to Thomasville. There, Glenn kindly said that since I was sewing masks, he would quickly look at my machine and, hopefully have it ready in an hour. When we went back he came out with a sad look and informed me my machine was hopelessly broken. Seeing my disappointment, he suggested that he had a used machine in his shop I might like for a reasonable price.

Back home, with a new old machine, I began again. That machine, a Kenmore, worked sweet as pumpkin pie–until the bobbin gave out. Faced with a different machine, directions like a Chinese puzzle, I struggled. I longed for my “sewing machine whisperer” friends who would have wound that bobbin and rethreaded the machine quicker than the snap of Mary Poppins’ finger. Problem was, my friends were all social distancing.

I took a deep breath, several deep breaths. I prayed. Charles, my veterinarian husband whose sewing is of a different nature, tried to help. Miraculously, the bobbin did finally spin neatly and we rethreaded the machine almost correctly. The machine sewed like a dream then and I knew I was blessed to have one that made prettier stitches than my old one ever had.

I think I’m starting on my 140th mask. I’ve lost track. This I know. It is wonderful to be part of this tiny force of help for our hospital whose brave and faithful doctors, nurses, custodians and all are working long hard hours to fight this war.

Though we are blocks and miles apart, there is a feeling of happy togetherness amongst those of us sewing. On my team are Sally Whitfield, Mary Alice Teichnell, Jane Poole and Pat Orr whose daughter Julie Padget in Valdosta gave us a good clear video showing how to sew these masks more efficiently. There are many, many other mask makers as well. When I called Jimmy’s with a question I was told he had 25 sewing machines waiting for repairs, all belonging to mask makers. Seems some other machines didn’t like those rubber bands!

Some people are sewing using their own materials. I’ve done a few of those, but I can’t make the pretty tailored masks like the ones our friend Myra Easom made for us. On a rare trip to Wal Mart I saw patriotic masks, camouflage masks, bandanas, some kind of sock get-up, all kinds. I’ve even heard one might turn a bra insert into a good breathable mask!

As I sew I think also of sewing machines humming around the world as we all try to make folks a little safer. I even feel a kinship with those who have so willingly served in multiple ways on the home front during many wars. I think of my mother who knitted sweaters for soldiers of two world wars. During WWI she was only a slip of a girl. During WWII she had nine children and would have one more.

I just heard the good news that many states, including Georgia, are “opening” back up. But we’ll still be practicing social distancing for quite some time. That includes wearing masks wherever we go. So I don’t think Archbold Memorial Hospital is about to tell us “No more.”

A wise person said if you see the light at the end of the tunnel you’re still in the tunnel. So keep wearing those masks–tailored, camouflaged, or just plain utilitarian.

Enough talk about masks. I better start my sewing machine humming.

 

 

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What Are You Doing?

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Sassy says, “Stop and smell the roses.”

I love to hear what folks are doing with their time during these Covid-19 days. The question “What are you doing?” brings some interesting answers revealing inventiveness, resilience, courage, obedience, imagination, perseverance, and a host of other qualities. For instance, I heard that residents in a neighborhood near us formed a parade of children waving palm branches on Palm Sunday. The children and their parents walked around the block, keeping their six feet of distance, a quiet joyful remembrance of that day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. I’m told eager observers waved from patios and windows.

Let me share some other isolation activities as gleaned from phone, text, e-mail, and snail mail. I didn’t start out doing a survey to see what everyone was up to. These are simply off-the-cuff reports from folks I know as we experience “togetherness from afar.”

From Birmingham came the news that Will and Christi, her dad, and their three children held a very special Maundy Thursday service last week. They used their breakfast table as an altar and each member participated in some way, reading scripture, praying or singing. Christi printed out a program for them to go by. They had communion and even a foot washing ceremony. Then Friday found them painting a wooden cross to place on their front lawn and coloring eggs to hide.

Suzanne and Bill in Clarkesville, Georgia went to our old home place to have their sunrise service for two on Tulip Hill. She sent pictures of purple myrtle completely mounding over the stump of our dear old maple, a picture of resurrection.

Joan in Plantation, Florida wrote of her family’s way of handling social distancing. She said her daughter Lindsay and her family come over every day to visit. They sit in chairs in their driveway six feet from Joan and Donald and talk for ten or fifteen minutes. Joan and Donald love this interaction but long, I know, for the day when they can start hugging again.

I talked to Beth Knight-Pinneo in Colorado. It was beautiful that day, she said, with birds singing, a blue sky, sunshine. She is working at home and finding many good things about this time. She has extra time with her family, takes nice long walks during her breaks, and her husband prepares lunch for them all. She said she prays Psalm 91 for her family and loved ones every day.

My country singer nephew, Neil Dover, in Fairhope, Alabama, was so cheerful when I talked to him. What was he doing? Same as other musicians everywhere, he said, at a standstill because of cancelling all gigs and concerts. He is still doing his Facebook live shows from time to time. He said he and Katie decided they would plant some flowers so went to Lowe’s to find some. The lines of people six feet apart were very long, he said. Everyone was planting flowers!

When communicating with Charles’s sister Revonda in Thomasville, Georgia, she talks about walking their family dogs, Buck and Piper. Buck is somewhat stricken in age so doesn’t go very far, Piper walks a mile. Thinking of them reminds me of a comic strip Charles shared the other day. Two dogs on leash were walking and looking very tired. One said to the other, “I’ll be so glad when we get back to just two or three walks a day.”

Lorna, in San Diego, working at home, took time to describe her pretty view from spacious windows, of nearby grass and flowers and tall buildings in the distance. But her days right now, aside from answering tons of tough research questions all day, are filled with expectation. Any day the phone will buzz and she’ll hear that her daughter has birthed Lorna’s second grandson.

As our friends Ron and Carol Collins remind us, this waiting time is a good opportunity to talk to–and listen to–God. Their wonderful organization in Columbus, Georgia, called International Friendship Ministries, has adapted to the crisis. Instead of art classes for the children, they’re inviting children to send work in online. Instead of Bible classes in person, they’re making lessons available electronically. They really miss, though, the social interaction with military and college groups. This organization has made an impact for Jesus in the last year to folks from 102 countries without ever leaving Columbus.

We got word the other day that Charles’s Uncle Ellis had died, not from coronavirus, just because his body was worn out and it was time to go to heaven. There were thirteen children in that family and now only one is left. Normally, Uncle Ellis would have had a funeral attended by a crowd of nieces and nephews. As it was, only ten people could be there for his graveside service.

The big little word is wait. We wait. Our hair grows long and our patience grows thin. But let’s keep sewing, cleaning, pruning (azaleas are getting short “hair” cuts!), cooking (minimal jaunts to the store make for some interesting substitutions in the culinary department!), watching birds, discovering rare blossoms and sharing stories with each other. In the words of Henry W. Longfellow, “Let us, then, be up and doing With a heart for any fate, Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.”

And we must keep laughing. One day when I called a dear friend and sked her what wonderful things she’d been doing, she chuckled and said, “I just had a really nice nap.” Now that is a great idea!

BREAKING NEWS!!! Lorna’s grandson was born April 14, weighing nine pounds, a healthy little boy. Grace was only allowed to have her husband, David, with her for about an hour after the baby’s arrival because of the coronavirus danger. A new baby! A sign of hope in a broken world.

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The Sun Will Always Rise

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On a vacation at the coast a few weeks back my granddaughter Mattie eagerly asked me to get up our first morning to watch the sun rise with her. She faithfully woke me for the event and we padded out on the deck to watch the beautiful show that God puts on every day whether or not anyone is paying attention.

These days coronavirus has us in its ugly grip. We can’t gather for church, we can’t shop except for necessities, we can’t even visit our families in our usual lighthearted way. Many are working from home. The internet is overloaded. The streets are empty. When I see new clips showing Wall Street and Bourbon Street I shudder at the lack of traffic by foot or auto. We seek curbside service even for a watch repair. At Cairo Animal Hospital clients call from the parking lot, a tech comes out to receive the patient and brings it back when treatment/shots/exams are complete. Everywhere we go, which is only by necessity, folks are wearing masks. It makes me feel as if we got dumped into a science fiction movie.

BUT–the sun rises and sets every day right on time. Birds are singing and nesting. The wind stirs leaves of magnolia and maple. The grass is green, rosemary lends its calming scent, and children play their games. The mulberry tree has an abundant crop of berries developing and the birds are discovering the tasty morsels, shaking the boughs with their foraging. No squirrels as yet. Bluebird scouts splash happily in the bird bath.

While sewing masks for Archbold Hospital, I pray for those who will wear them. I worry about my friends in nursing homes and then realize the mail is still running so we can all send cards and letters. The phones work too. We can call family members in California, Florida, Alabama as well as friends down the street. We are so blessed!

We’re told by authorities that this will be “a very hard week.” Families all over the globe will face illness and death. My friend Lisa just reminded me that this was “a very hard week” for Jesus too. Yes, it’s Easter week, the holiest week of the year, when we remember Christ’s sacrifice and celebrate His resurrection.

It will be a very different Easter. Revonda says her church will be participating in virtual communion Thursday night. Members will gather at their computers with whatever elements they can use, whether wine, grape juice, unsalted crackers or bread, and share the “Last Supper.” We have already experienced several weeks of “virtual church” on Sunday mornings. We had hoped to be back in our pews for a literal time of rejoicing on Easter. But we will just have to sing “Hallelujah” in our homes. We realize more than ever before that the church is God’s people, not a building.

We have always enjoyed big family dinners on Easter Sunday as I’m sure you have too. After dinner some would hide the eggs for excited children to hunt. Well, we may have virtual baby showers and virtual doctor appointments but I haven’t thought of any way to have a virtual egg hunt. I’m planning to boil some eggs nonetheless. Maybe I’ll even color a couple of them with a cross on one side and “He is risen” on the other.

Charles has just finished planting wildflowers in and around an old wheelbarrow. We saw our neighbors unloading a huge pile of branches they’d cut and we went over to chat a minute, standing at least six feet apart. Our days are full but not hectic, definitely slowed from the fast pace of a few weeks ago. We get excited about small things like lunch, a new bird at the bird bath, a flower we hadn’t noticed before.

I know “this too shall pass.” I know that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

And I know the sun will rise until Jesus comes.

I remember that beautiful sunrise Mattie and I enjoyed so much. One other morning Charles and I watched a sunrise while sitting in a swing looking out over the bay. The colors are different every day. Sometimes the colors are soft and muted, others so vivid and rich. Sometimes the mist shrouds the brightness or the sun doesn’t appear at the horizon but in full force above a cloud. Sometimes the sun comes up like a huge egg yolk and sometimes it reminds me of a child throwing back the covers in passionate eagerness to see what the day may bring.

No matter what, the sun does rise, even if we can’t see it. It is a daily reminder that God is at work. He hasn’t forgotten us. As an old song says, “He has the whole world in His hands.”

 

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Stand Up and Be Counted

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Poster by Charli, third grade

In the midst of staying close to home during this coronavirus pandemic, we should have plenty of time to fill out our 2020 census form. To me, filling out this simple form feels like one tiny way of showing loyalty to my country.  My mind tracks back to 1970 when I was a U.S. census taker.

I just filled out our census form online. Easy! The forms a census taker will need to collect this year are from those who don’t respond. In 1970 it was different.

My son was not two years old yet. I left him each morning with my friend Barbara Smith who had a little boy almost the same age. After training, each one on our team was given an assignment. Mine was the northeast section of Cairo, Georgia. Later, one of the other team members had to leave us and I was gifted part of her southeast quadrant.

The day began at 9:00. I’d park our good old Buick at a southwest corner of a block, then walk door to door clockwise as stipulated. I picked up short forms at every house, helping those who had not yet filled them out. Then at every fifth house I was required to give the occupant a long form to fill out. Fortunately, for me, the first few long form houses went pretty well. But I soon learned that there were folks who highly objected to giving the government any information.

My mother had worked as a census taker in 1940 and I’d heard some of her stories of her experiences. She couldn’t drive so my oldest brother drove her in the family’s Packard. This was in Habersham County where some country roads rose steeply upward. Once, she and Orman were approaching a house far up a hillside. It was hot weather, the car windows were down, so they could hear voices as they drew near. As Mamma climbed out of the car she heard someone yell, “There come some of them lowlanders. Better watch out!”

I wasn’t ever called a lowlander but I was greeted with far less than enthusiasm a number of times. This was especially true at the fifth houses. I began to dread them. Not only were some folks grumpy about answering questions, but it was a time-consuming process. There were numerous questions on the long form, such as number of rooms in the house, number of square feet, and even the annual salary of those in that household. That last was the question that angered some citizens.

One person in particular gave me  a very hard time, in fact refusing to give me the information, resorting to yelling at me that I had no right to ask how much they made per year. Both occupants of the house were angry and abusive in their response. My superviser went back with me the next day and, with her more authoritative voice, persuaded the householder’s compliance. If they’d only realized how many forms I had to deal with and what a poor memory I had they would have known I couldn’t remember any of their figures.

It was hot walking from house to house. The dogs sometimes threatened to eat me up. Sprinklers were a challenge to dodge. In some homes smells of frying chicken or pork chops assailed my nose making me long for something more than my peanut butter sandwich. I ran out of gas one day and had to call Charles to come get me going again.

In spite of snags, though, I remember the whole experience fondly for two reasons: I was happy knowing I was doing something for my country and I met some really sweet interesting people I never would have met any other way.

One of those whom I remember with pleasure was a little old lady (probably about the age I am now!) who was making a quilt in her tiny living room. The quilting frame filled the room so that, it seems to me, I had to sit opposite her and question her across her colorful quilt. She lived alone and was lonely. By the time I left, after about an hour, I felt like hugging her. Taking note of where she lived, I went back near Thanksgiving to take her a meal and had a really good visit. Soon after that, I saw her obituary in the paper.

One lady and her husband were belligerent about filling out a long form. They finally did so very begrudgingly. I left there hoping I’d never see them again. But God works in mysterious ways! A few months after that when Charles and I moved across town I discovered that my neighbor across the street was that same couple. Turns out, they loved watching our little blond boy playing and I learned they enjoyed growing exotic flowers in their house.

There were many more friendly people than grumpy ones. There was a minister just getting ready to go on hospital visits who cheerfully stopped to answer my questions. There were those who expected me and quickly handed me their forms all filled out. There were those who had forgotten all about the form and had to dig it out from under stacks of mail and magazines. Some even offered sympathy realizing how tired and hot I was by 4:00 in the afternoon.

By the way, the pay I received as a census taker was 50 cents per short form and $1.00 per long form. I didn’t strike it rich.

I don’t know how the additional data collected on long forms will be acquired this year. Should a census taker come to my door and ask to interrogate me for “long form” information, I plan to fall into the category of a cheerful citizen rather than a grumpy one.

Lee Greenwood sings about his pride in being an American. Let’s sing with him. “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died to give that right to me, and I’ll gladly stand up next to you (six feet apart!!!) and defend her still today ’cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land. God bless the USA.”

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Poster by Kaison, first grade

 

 

 

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A Curse in the Morning

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One early south Georgia morning

I know. That’s a startling title. But you’ll see why I used it in a minute.

In the old days, while I was cooking breakfast Charles often was the one who went upstairs on school mornings to call the children. Being a very upbeat cheerful guy, he would climb the steps singing, “Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day…” He was always mystified at the utterly negative responses he got, not only from our two, but later from our grandchildren as well.

As adults our children still laugh about how awful it was when Daddy came up the stairs singing or whistling. “Why did you have to be so cheerful?” they ask.

Until recently he still didn’t understand. Then one day he came in the kitchen chuckling.

“I just read Proverbs 27:14 which says, ‘He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.’ All this time I wondered why my good cheer didn’t rub off on the kids. Now I guess I’m learning good cheer is not always an appropriate attitude.”

Dear insightful author Eugenia Price wrote a book years ago titled “No Pat Answers” in which she addresses the problem of how to relate to folks who are unhappy. It doesn’t help a very sad person, she said, to have someone slapping him on the back and telling loud jokes, or recounting to him what he needs to do to fix his problem. Instead, it’s better to be sad with them, help them bear their sadness by sharing it. Maybe that means even the short lived “sadness” of extricating oneself from the cozy bedsheets should be met with a similar mood.

Back to the title “Curse in the Morning”—Some folks rise every morning with energy and enthusiasm viewing even cloudy or foggy mornings as “beautiful.” Others are slower to reach high gear and just need a little time to coast toward being cheerful. Some like eggs sunny side up, others want only a bagel or nothing. Some start their day with a whistle, others long for blessed quietness or, in the case of teenagers, a loud radio, not loud parents.

According to Ecclesiastes, there is a time for mourning and a time for joy. To use a homonym, there’s also time for “morning” and time for noon.

So what is a cheerful soul to do when meeting faces of gloom and doom? I guess you spend your whistles and buoyancy on the pets. Cats and dogs are always ready for good cheer. They’re always ready for breakfast too! Anyway, they can’t read Proverbs and don’t know about that “curse in the morning” so, for them, anytime is a good time for joy.

Lest you read this article as putting down optimism, know that one of my favorite verses is “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24) The Lord wants us to rejoice but also to be compassionate towards those who can’t.

I love sunrises. Songs of birds and whistles of cheer are uplifting to us any time of the day–well, maybe not in the middle of the night. Is that the consideration here? Maybe some folks just don’t switch from night to day as quickly as others.

I think I’ll grab a cup of coffee and go talk to the cats.

 

 

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A Turtle Came Visiting

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Kaison and the turtle

Our children are learning new words: coronavirus, quarantine, social distancing, sanitizers and pandemic, words a few weeks ago were not on the tongues of any of us. But now that the weight of this disease has fallen upon our planet let’s look for some positives.

We thought we were leaving for Ireland on Friday, a long expected trip with our Birmingham children and grandchildren. But the coronavirus changed all that. Suddenly our priorities are turned to finding toilet tissue and sanitizers,  canceling hotel reservations and trying to get refunds on cancelled flights, and–taking care of children on prolonged school vacations.

That’s where the positives begin. This morning on national television, I heard a father of six or seven, a retired athlete, expressing his thanks for the special opportunity of spending quality time with his children. I feel the same way. The days will stretch long as the weeks go by. But we’re going to have just as much fun as we can!

So far, we’ve done leaf rubbings, a scavenger hunt, and created art work to send to Aunt Jackie who has to stay home. We’ve played several games (I’m holding some in reserve!), climbed trees, and spent lots of time swinging on the porch.

Inevitably boredom does settle in and it takes a lot of energy for an old great-grandmother to keep things lively. So there for a bit I was at a loss. I was considering whether we might set to and clean the splattered floor or maybe cut the mint for making a jelly fusion. Suddenly there was a rustle in the deep monkey grass beside the porch. The children began cautiously investigating and then let out piercing screams of terror, then delight. There was a turtle in the grass.

Now, this is not just any turtle, as I explained to the two. I know this turtle by name. This tortoise/woods turtle has lived at this house as long as we have. Charles smeared one dollop of red paint on his shell when first he appeared six years ago. At rare intervals he will show up, sometimes eats cat food, basically turtles around as if curious and maybe a little lonely. Red, as we call him, had not been to see us in a long while but he showed up on a very good day, perfect timing.

The children welcomed Red ecstatically. They wanted to pick him up, then squealed and jerked back, asking me to pick him up, which I did. Soon they were taking turns holding him and wishing he would stick his head out. We let Red visit on the porch for a while so we could observe his movements. We talked about his interesting shell of a home and about his only defense being to draw into that home. As we waited quietly, a very hard thing for Kaison to do, Red finally edged his head out and then put down his leathery legs and began to move.

The whole episode from wild discovery to wistful turning loose was far better than any movie.

Today Kaison said, “I wish I could find Red again.”

“Red will come when he gets ready,” I told him. “You probably scared him so he’s gone into permanent hiding.”

Not long after that, we heard screams and babbling. The children ran to the house fearlessly carrying Red. They had found him near the blueberry bushes. I didn’t feel sorry for the old turtle. He had definitely asked for it this time. I could only think he was lonely and bored and needed some excitement like the rest of us.

Red had another good visit on the porch during which he hid his face for a while before clicking about and showing that turtles are not as slow as they’re given credit for. It was with great compassion and some sadness that the children delivered Red to a space of lawn from whence he could find his way home. We watched as he slowly realized he was free and began his journey.

At a time when friends are advised to stay home, when churches can’t have meetings, when schools are closed and restrictions abound, a turtle came to visit. I can only think that God daily watches out for bored children and tired great grandmothers.

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Kids and Kids

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One Mother with Kids

Amanda sat at our breakfast table enthusiastically and with body language describing the antics of her new kids, goat kids. The babies were born just a few days ago but are already leaping and cavorting with amazing energy around their pasture. In fact, I saw the kids only an hour after they were born and watched them nursing hungrily and playing with each other. Amanda’s own “kids” greatly enjoyed cuddling the new offspring.

“The most amazing thing, though,” continued Amanda, “is what a very good mother Hershey is.” Hershey, a beautiful black nanny, knows how to place her young and keep them safe while she grazes and browses. When she’s ready for them she gives a call that they instantly recognize and up they leap.

How does she do it, Amanda wondered out loud. “If only I could get such total and instant obedience from my children.”

I thought back to many years of owning goats and remembered so many times seeing babies “planted,” as I described the situation, beside the trunk of a tree or in a safe corner of the barn. I called these little settings of kids “goat nurseries.” More than once, a mother not only “planted” her baby but hid her kid so well, we spent hours hunting for it. There were other signs of a mother’s love and care. If one strayed and found itself on the wrong side of the fence that mother didn’t rest until, by repeatedly bleating and nudging, she corralled her young back to its proper place. I’ve seen a loving nanny goat patiently walking with her two or three kids, stopping every few feet to let one or the other nurse.

But, Amanda and other young mothers, you, too, are showing yourselves to be very good mothers.

When you can’t be with them, you “plant” your children in safe care. You teach them day by day. You keep in touch with teachers. You scan the homework papers. You discern what illnesses need a doctor’s attention. You nurse their bumps and bruises. You urge them to brush their teeth and you celebrate each lost pearly white and its new tooth. You make quality time for each one with their different emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. You feed them. Oh, my, do you feed them! It may be pizzas, macaroni and cheese, hamburgers and hotdogs. Or cabbage and roast beef, or chicken and rice, and oh, lots of delicious fruit. And broccoli and carrots and corn on the cob.

You correct and push and prod them to do their best. That’s a hard daily job.

Maybe they don’t leap up at your call and rush to obey you every time. But they listen far more than you give them credit for. Could even be, they’re listening when you wish they weren’t!

You are thrilled over their every achievement. You celebrate lavishly every birthday. You plan fun events. You know all their sizes and their various preferences and you shop diligently for the best clothing buys. If you have five children to shop for, that can be quite an undertaking.

You stand strong on such things as cleaning their rooms, minding their manners (of course they’re not perfect, you realize that!), washing dishes, quite a number of things nanny goats don’t have to worry about.

A big all-important thing that you do is to go to church with your children on Sunday and other times. When they see you worshiping God, they will often want to follow. Which is not to say that all is calm and sweetly peaceful in the pew. Our youngest great grandchild requires much shushing as he draws pictures and tries to explain them or attempts to fly a paper airplane. I love to see young families in church. When a mother takes one to the bathroom the whole troop of three or four follow her up the aisle and two thoughts flash through my mind: “How blessed she is!” and “Bless her heart!”

Sometimes it sounds as if a nanny is laughing, whether at her young or at herself. Whether or not she is, it’s a good thing for any mother to recognize the humor in family situations and lighten everything with a good laugh. Did you hear about the little girl who exclaimed concerning a half moon, “Mommy, look at the moon! It’s broked.” Or there was the child who interrupted his spanking by turning to ask “Did that hurt your hand?” And there was a Ruth Graham story about her daughter Anne giving her younger sister a biblical lesson. Ruth discovered the two when little sister Bunny cried out. When asked what in the world was going on, Anne explained that she was teaching her sister to turn the other cheek. She would slap one cheek and Bunny was to turn the other one. Bunny wasn’t enjoying the lesson.

All else aside, young mothers do have a huge challenge, and we need to take every opportunity to encourage them. Amanda is wistful about the care of her children as she starts a new job. She’s worried about not being as close by when they might need her. Her comment about Hershey’s being such a good mother reminded me of how much we need to pray for all our young families, the mothers and the fathers. Their job raising up their “kids” is more important than any other! Raising kids and coping with a job away from home makes life more challenging. The key is to lean on God day by challenging day. And I’m glad Amanda’s Nana (me!) can be a safe place for her to “plant” her young ones at times.

Kids and kids, alike and different, and so cute together!

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Time With Miss Marjorie

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Camellias in Miss Marjorie’s crystal basket

When I think of elegance and fun wrapped in the same package I think of “Miss Marjorie.” Marjorie Mayfield was one of several ladies I looked up to when my husband and I joined First Baptist of Cairo in 1968. She wouldn’t have considered me one of her “close friends,” yet she made me feel like one. She exhibited a spirit of quiet joy and it was simply a delight to spend time with her. Though she was a grandmother at that time, she was as vivacious as a teenager, her face alive with interest in everything.

Whether it was a New Year’s Eve party at the Mayfields’ house in town or a Sunday school party at their farm, Marjorie was a charming hostess. On one occasion Charles and I went on a hayride to the Mayfield farm. It was a Sunday school class outing and there must have been thirty or forty of us. That was my introduction to the farmhouse and beautiful grounds near Calvary, Georgia. Charles had been many times to see cows and horses needing veterinary attention but that was my first time to visit. A giant live oak between the house and the swimming pool was circled by a generous table Mr. Judson had made. The best thing on that table laden with vegetables, sandwiches, salads, and cakes was Miss Marjorie’s egg salad. I’ve never tasted any egg salad anywhere that even compared. Miss Marjorie and Mr. Judson seemed personally interested in each of us, inviting us with genuine persuasion to come anytime to swim, to visit, to enjoy the country sights and sounds.

One year we were invited to the Mayfields’ home in town for a drop-in New Year’s Eve party. “Bring little William with you,” Miss Marjorie insisted, her brown eyes sparkling. “Little William” was about four then and looked forward with great anticipation to this party. Soon after we arrived Miss Marjorie came to me inviting me enthusiastically to try the eggnog. When I said, “Oh, William loves eggnog,” she looked doubtful but urged me still to follow her to the beautiful crystal punch bowl. “Maybe you better try it first,” she suggested but I, being a good mother, gave the treat to my son first. Miss Marjorie had turned away and missed seeing William splutter and make a sour face. This was not the dairy product eggnog we loved; it was laced generously with something quite strong.

Miss Marjorie was a passionate history buff. She wrote our church’s history for its centennial celebration in 1974. She visited charter members and other longtime members, gleaning as many of their memories as she could. She studied church records and pored over ledgers. The result was a beautiful copy including many pictures. I was thrilled to be chosen to serve on a committee to write a pageant using her history as a source. It was a great honor to work alongside this imaginative lady.

Many times the phone rang and I would hear Miss Marjorie’s bright voice inviting me to bring the children swimming. Those were such pleasant afternoons with the children (my two plus a couple of their friends and sometimes some of Miss Marjorie’s grandchildren) happily diving, doing stunts, and playing Marco Polo. Miss Marjorie always put on her suit and she and I swam a few minutes, then sat in the shade of the live oak tree chatting away. She shared wisdom in such a humble, non-assuming way that it was as if we were the same age. I can still hear the click of the old windmill, feel a summer breeze, smell gingerbread cookies, and taste the sweet tea she always made.

One of Miss Marjorie’s passions was recycling. It troubled her when she saw young people disposing of pieces of tinfoil after only one use or throwing away plastic containers. She was always dressed beautifully and enjoyed giving good parties but it was very important to her to use resources wisely. Even now when I wipe a piece of foil for future use, I think of Miss Marjorie. I feel her unhappiness when I hurriedly toss a reusable item.

Along with her conservatism was a sweet generosity that extended beyond entertaining or giving of her time to her church. I was so amazed one afternoon when Miss Marjorie came to visit and presented me with a charming small crystal basket, a beautiful candy dish. It wasn’t Christmas, my birthday or anything. As my little son would say, it was “just a plain old day.” Yet there was Miss Marjorie giving me such a unique gift that I’ve enjoyed ever since.

After Mr. Judson died Miss Marjorie was still bright as a sunny morning but, in time, she began to falter some. One of the first times I noticed any problem was the day she invited me to go shopping with her in Tallahassee. She offered to let me drive her car but I wasn’t eager to drive another’s vehicle and climbed into the passenger seat. I promptly realized my mistake. Miss Marjorie drove over curbs, ran a stop sign, raced through speed zones and generally scared me so I wondered if my children would have their mother any longer. When we stopped for gas I said as nonchalantly as I could that, after all, I thought it would be fun to drive her car. She was the passenger from then on.

It became our joy to take Miss Marjorie to church every Sunday. We noticed her speech changing. She referred to any item as “that thing” so it was hard to follow her train of thought. She called one of her sons her brother and sometimes spoke out in church. She was still a considerate and merry person as she moved into a different world where her memories were garbled and she couldn’t make good judgments. I was very touched by the way Miss Marjorie never forgot the name of Jesus and often whispered His name.

She was the first Alzheimer’s patient I knew closely. I hated the disease that took her away even before she died. Since then I’ve known many beautiful people, men and women, who have faded into a different world even while their bodies were whole.

But Miss Marjorie would want us to remember the good and the beautiful, the merry and the bright. As I drive near her country home my mind restores the sights and sounds of those good days when, unknown to her, she was my mentor. I hear the windmill creaking as it made its turns, hear the occasional low moo from the nearby pasture, smell the leafy ferns over by the outdoor dressing room, hear the mourning dove or a raucous crow. When I drive by her big two-story house in town, now occupied by another wonderful family, I remember her gracious teas and how she always looked so nice but was slightly flustered as if she’d packed too much into each hour.

 

 

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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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