Windows

Maybe it’s the need for cataract surgery that has me thinking about windows although, truth be told, I just really like windows. Who doesn’t? As we age our lens become like dirty windows, as if our glasses are always smeared. But no cleaning will do it. The lens have to be replaced, thus surgery. I’m so looking forward to being able to see clearly again.

But, yes, I do like windows. The first thing I like to do when we enter a hotel room is to pull back the drapes and see what’s outside. It could be a beautiful garden, distant mountain slopes, a sandy beach with surf rolling in. Or it might be a view of the interstate or another building not far away. Whatever the sights, almost always there’s a view of sky, blue and bright, gray and threatening, or suffused with sunset color. The view outside the window is almost as important as the comfort of the bed.

For some the view from a window may be all they have. As a youth I read a book titled Eight Panes of Glass. An invalid lady told the stories of people in her community as she viewed their comings and goings through her eight panes of glass. The lady was confined. But she had a window.

In the first prairie houses, the soddies, there often were no windows. Through the dark cold winter months it had to be so dreary inside those little houses. Families were protected from the wind and warmed as they made quilts by candlelight. But–no windows?

At Stone Gables washing windows was a pretty big deal. Every spring and whenever there was to be a wedding, Mamma set us to work washing windows. It was a real challenge to wash the outsides of upstairs windows. I remember clinging to the stone wall while standing in a swivel window trying to reach every pane. But I enjoyed cleaning the hundreds of small lead-framed panes so the beautiful outside world could come into focus.

Sometimes no amount of elbow grease and glass cleaner results in a clear, bright window. Whether using greatly acclaimed new cleaners or old-fashioned ones, like vinegar applied with newspaper, the finished job can be very disappointing. Our kitchen window needs washing often, on the outside and in. It can seem so clear after a good cleaning, almost as if it weren’t even there. Then the sun shines in and suddenly I can see smears and smudges on every pane.

Aside from real, physical windows, God gives us windows into the world through the written word and other media. What we see outside our windows can be affected by our mood, whether expectant or bored, thankful or stagnant. We might see a whole story develop like the author of Eight Panes of Glass or we might see a lovely little wren clinging to a tree branch.

When our own windows, our eyes, even the eyes to our souls, become smeared with worry and fear, God’s sunshine will show us we need a window washing, more than just cataract surgery. Prayer, scripture, interaction with other Christians, a lot of singing–all these can contribute to a good dramatic polishing of our “windows.”

Yes, I’m looking forward to seeing better after cataract surgery. I also have the very real hope that in heaven I will have perfectly clear sight. Our vision will be so good then and we will be amazed at the wonderful sights before us.

For we now see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known. I Corinthians 13:12

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Thy Word Have I Hid

On the front page of The Cairo Messenger a headline caught my eye: Cairo is part of statewide Bible reading event. I was immediately excited. On Thursday, July 14 at 7:14 a.m. all 159 Georgia counties will participate in reading the Bible at their respective courthouses. Each county will have a designated scripture which volunteers will read. The goal is for the whole Bible to be read that morning in Georgia alone.

This interdenominational project, according to The Messenger, was started in Iowa by Dianne Bentley in 2018. Last year there were 16 states and 57 countries that participated. The exact time for the beginning of the one-hour reading probably piqued your interest. The basis for this reading, according to organizers, is 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says: “If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

There’s so little we can do to counteract the unconscionable things going on in our country. Horrible violence, defunding of police, convicts turned out on the streets while innocent people are sent to jail, folks demanding rights for women but paying no heed to the rights of helpless babies, all these and so many more. Parents are losing their rights to be involved in their own children’s education. In fact, there’s a movement demanding that parents no longer be called father and mother. Children four and five years old are being instructed in some school systems that they can choose whether they want to be a girl or a boy. Oh, and in some places, such as Disney World, children are not called boys and girls but simply people. Wonder what Mickey and Minnie think about that.

So–what can we do? Of course we can vote and that we must! But, mainly, we can follow the instruction of the God who made us and knows what is best. We can pray. We can seek His face. We can turn from our wicked ways. Then, if we are “called by His name,” He will hear us! And He will heal our land. We can meet July 14 at 7:14 and be a part of this Bible reading project, thus taking this opportunity to “stand and be counted.”

For more information e-mail: Georgia state project leader, Jerri Tuck, jerrituck40@gmail.com. For Grady County information e-mail Jessica Lee jnlee06@gmail.com.

A Bible verse I learned as a child and have “owned” for decades is Psalms 119:11: “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against thee.” 7:14 is early for me and my walker but I plan to be there! How could we not?

See you at the courthouse!

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The Wedding Cake

My son, Will Graham, sent me this picture from his travels over central Alabama. He’s a sales representative for Covetris, a large veterinary drug company. He calls or sends pictures often while on the road from Birmingham to Montgomery, from Tuscaloosa to Anniston and points between. When I saw this picture of a yucca plant I was immediately reminded of my sister’s wedding in 1952, particularly the cake Mamma baked.

Pat was the oldest girl of ten children and hers was the first wedding to be held in our house, Stone Gables. She was teaching school in Virginia that year having recently graduated from UVA where she’d met David Peck. During her spring break they came to Georgia to finalize plans for their June 12 wedding.

We were mighty intrigued with David Peck. Mamma was won over for two reasons: he obviously cared deeply for her precious daughter, and he was a master at reciting poetry. We all laughed and cringed at his dramatic presentation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” Daddy discovered he was a very good conversationalist and was openly impressed that, with a doctorate in chemistry, David would always make a good living. We all were taken with David’s sudden peals of contagious laughter.

Pat wanted my little sister, Suzanne, and me to be flower girls. I was nine and she was six. We were eager to do anything for Pat so, though we weren’t sure what being a flower girl meant, we readily agreed. Suzanne thought she was to move to West Virginia and pick flowers for Pat so was very happy to learn she didn’t have to leave home. Ginger would be the maid of honor and, with Mamma’s help, make all our dresses. Our uncle, Burns Gibbs, aka as Uncle Pete, would officiate along with David’s father, a Methodist minister. Jackie would be in charge of decorations. And Mamma was to bake the wedding cake.

That whole spring was packed with preparations for the wedding. Daddy hired a family friend to finish plumbing our big old house. Mamma set us to work washing the dozens of windows. Suzanne and I greatly enjoyed skating with old towels on the newly waxed slate floor in the Hall where the wedding and reception would take place. The boys worked diligently trimming shrubbery, pulling weeds, and mowing.

Everyone was busy, but as the big day came closer and closer Mamma’s focus was on that wedding cake.

The hens had slowed down on their laying so the week before the wedding Mamma declared we’d have no more scrambled eggs. She’d need plenty for the cake. She started three days before the day baking layers, and it was good she started early. Because the first layers were very obviously lopsided. Daddy laughed and said she could pile extra icing on the dipped sides but Mamma didn’t think that was funny. Daddy patiently (which was hard for him!) began sliding thin chips of wood under legs of the wood burning stove to level it. It took two more bakings of layers to produce the perfect ones Mamma wanted. We kids were not sympathetic with Mamma because we thoroughly enjoyed eating all those lopsided layers!

At last the day before the wedding Mamma and Jackie hauled the fully iced cake to the buffet. Mamma told us not even to breathe until the cake was in place. Daddy admired it and said she’d be in practice for the next four daughters’ weddings but she shook her head and said, “This is my first and last wedding cake.”

When Pat saw the cake she was overwhelmed at its beauty, stood back admiring it, gave Mamma a big hug. “But,” she said cautiously, “it needs a decoration on top. It’s sort of–plain, don’t you think? I wish we had a little bride and groom to put on top.” Of course we didn’t have a bride and groom. Nobody had thought of that.

The morning of June 12, the big day, David overheard whispered conversations about the bride and groom figures. He quietly left and came back hours later with a little package. Pat opened it and squealed with pleasure. She herself set the bride and groom on top of the cake. Then Jackie said wait a minute, that she had one more idea. She came back in the house with her hands full of ferns and yucca blossoms. She carefully wound ferns into an arch, then hung two yucca blooms right in the middle over the bride and groom, perfect wedding bells.

It was almost time to get dressed for the long-expected occasion. All this time I had been so enthralled with preparations I hadn’t absorbed the devastating reality: Pat, my adored oldest sister, would no longer be spending school holidays with us. She and David would live in West Virginia, far, far away. The big beautiful cake, all our pretty dresses, the floor so shiny we could see ourselves in it, the house full of house guests–it was all so exciting. But suddenly I needed my safe place. I dashed out the back door, hid behind a big hemlock tree, and burst into tears.

Only at a wedding would anyone drive so far behind the house they would see a little girl crying under a hemlock tree. But there was a crunch of tires and there was Uncle Pete in his fine gray suit walking towards me. He knelt down where he could look me in the eye and next thing I knew I was crying on his shoulder. “Look,” he said. “I cried when my sister, your mother, got married. It’s okay. You’re getting a new brother, you know.” Somehow the idea that this very sedate preacher uncle had cried when Mamma got married made me want to laugh. Uncle Pete loaned me his handkerchief and said we’d best be going inside.

The wedding was beautiful. Aunt Ruth directed us to descend the stairs at just the right time. Pat was gorgeous and radiant in her elegant white gown floating down the stairs on Daddy’s arm. I think David winked at me as we all stood in our places in front of the big north fireplace which was banked in greenery.

And that cake with yucca blossom bells over the little bride and groom was the most marvelous cake ever, bar none. But it really was the last wedding cake Mamma baked, though there have been many more weddings at Stone Gables.

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Conniesville

As June slides towards July I think of summers at Pinedale when I was growing up. Remembering summers naturally brings up images of Conniesville, a complete miniature village of doll size houses we four youngest of ten built in the woods one year.

Stanley was the oldest of the four. He and Charlie had the best ideas and the engineering skill to develop them. Suzanne and I were happy to follow their lead most of the time. None of us objected to Stanley’s choice of a name for our village. He was smitten at the time by a little girl named Connie so we all agreed on Conniesville. I truly believe Connie never had any idea she had a village named for her.

As I suppose happens with many villages, ours had an overall plan but developed into further buildings and streets as the weeks went by. We chose an area where the topography was nicely undulated to give our village slopes, as well as even terrain and a mountain or two. The whole village was only as large as a normal living room. We each picked the site for our own house. I think mine was on the northeast corner not far from a leaning sourwood tree. I liked the patch of soft green moss which would be the lawn for my manor. We each also chose a village business or institution on which to work.

We hauled small rocks and stones from a nearby brook. From time to time someone would visit a clay bank, wet the good malleable gray clay until it was almost soupy and lug it up the hill in an old worn out kettle. Finding the perfect sticks for ridge poles and rafters was very hard. My roof collapsed several times before I learned how to strengthen it by watching the boys’ tactics. I was careful and subtle about my spying for fear they would shoo me away to make my house on my own, or that they would become even more prideful than they already were.

Charlie had a toy dump truck he’d received the Christmas before. We used that to help build the streets. Our streets meandered romantically around hillsides, had tunnels even where they weren’t needed and, of course, bridges. I can just see right now Charlie’s earnest expression as he created one of those tunnels, as if it were the construction of a tunnel in the Smoky Mountains.

I know we were awfully grimy when we went in from playing. But I only remember Mamma being slightly frustrated a time or two. When we explained what we’d been doing she smiled and shrugged her shoulders before grabbing a bar of Octagan soap.

After some weeks our village really took shape. Charlie had created a bulldozer business in a low place where he could dig nice red clay. Stanley built a grocery store with a semblance of a gas pump in front. Suzanne built a shop for selling fabric and made a sign that she would take in sewing. I thought a bakery and a library were musts but the roof kept falling in on the bakery and my library was quite crooked. We all worked building a church which turned out really nice except that the steeple ended up like the leaning tower of Pisa.

We held a town council over which Stanley presided. Our main order of business was the naming of the streets. It boiled down to each of us naming our own street and then voting on the main streets, whether they would be Hickory Avenue, Rosemary Street, Churchill Boulevard or just plain Main Street. Or maybe one was Spruce Mountain Road.

Okay, so I’ve taken a few writer’s privileges in describing our village. After all, it was a long time ago. How would I remember all those particulars? But I do remember vividly the fun we had, the finished village, how Mamma and Daddy were so impressed they brought house guests to look at Conniesville. I remember the disappointment when a big rain came and several of our charming buildings collapsed. That soft clay melted in the deluge. I remember we endeavored to plant small trees the appropriate size for the little houses. As the summer turned into the hot days of August those trees wilted and turned brown.

It was a magical summer of innocent play. Yet now I can see foreshadowing of who we were to become. Stanley became an entrepreneur owning, among other small businesses, a gas station with a line of groceries. Charlie followed several careers including years as a forester, running a sawmill and other large equipment. Later, both boys teamed up in building car washes all over Georgia, now known as Carwash Specialist. Suzanne and I became happy homemakers. She developed seamstress skills, making wedding dresses for her twin girls, along with a doll repair business. And I–well, I’m just telling the story.

In later years I told my children about our village. We were even able to find remains of our little houses, piles of small stones here and there in the underbrush. But mainly, in our minds, something of that playful summer even still survives, echoes of a village named Conniesville.

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Songs in the Night

Though I love to hear cicadas “sing” and whippoorwills answer each other, nighttime when it is dark of the moon can seem so long. I don’t like caves and caverns where darkness is thick and overwhelming. When we drove years ago through long West Virginia mountain tunnels, I had a tendency to hold my breath until we could see daylight at the end.

The darkness of sorrow, of injustice, of illness, tragedy, and distress can stretch before us like a never-ending tunnel. One seeks sleep hoping with unreasoning hope that the horror will be gone when one wakens. Instead, our consciousness returns and we realize with a dull ache that the darkness of sorrow or pain is still our close companion.

I just came home from attending a beautiful funeral, that of my husband Charles’s partner of forty years, Dr. Eugene Talmadge Maddox. They practiced veterinary medicine together at Cairo Animal Hospital, founded by Dr. Maddox in 1963. The eulogies at the funeral were funny, touching, and inspiring. His pastor reminded us all that Dr. Maddox is now enjoying the delights and amazing rewards of heaven.

But no matter how wonderful the knowledge that Dr. Maddox knew Jesus and is now with Him, we still grieve. His sons, his dear wife, Patsy, grandchildren and great grandchildren are going through a dark time. They are comforted, yet the fact remains Dr. Maddox will not be telling his colorful stories, playing with his grandchildren, or giving his sons advice.

A tragedy recently occurred in my extended family. A beloved young man of seventeen was killed in a single car crash on his way home from an after-school job. It was a rainy night and somehow his car didn’t make it around a curve but slammed into a tree. Our whole family, especially his immediate family, is in a state of heavy darkness.

I find Psalm 42:6 very comforting, very reassuring. It says “Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me.”

I woke this morning with lyrics of an old song in my head. It’s a song I learned from my missionary brother, Orman, many years ago.

In shady green pastures so rich and so sweet

God leads His dear children along.

Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet

God leads His dear children along.

Some through the water, some through the flood

Some through the fire, but all through the blood,

And some through great sorrow, but God gives a song

In the night seasons and all the day long.

I’m sure the writers of this song, Jason Saetveit and Richard Hall, must have known great sorrow through which God gave them a song.

I pray you can listen for the song in your darkness, not just the song of a whippoorwill, but a song in your very soul, a song of peace that passes understanding, a song from Him who knows sorrow down to the very bone and feels it with you, the one who also can give you joy again.

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Quilts of Valor

It isn’t Christmas, I know. It’s Memorial Day. But it was the day after Christmas in our family home, Stone Gables, when our friend Judy Purdy of the Quilts of Valor organization surprised our brother, Charles C. Knight (army veteran 1963-66) with his very own quilt of valor. Several family members–sister Suzanne Dover, sister-in-law Reggie Knight, and I–had enjoyed sewing squares for the quilt. Suzanne and Judy put it all together and quilted it with Charlie’s wife, Elaine, and daughter, Evelyn, involved in final touches. Most of us, along with other close family members, were there for the sweet, short ceremony by the Christmas tree.

Pictured above are, left to right: Brenda, Suzanne, Charlie, Judy, Evelyn, and Elaine holding grandson Joseph.

I was so proud of my brother as Judy wrapped him in his quilt and explained the symbolism of the quilt and its three layers. 1)The top of the quilt–with its many colors, shapes, and fabrics–represents the communities and the many individuals who make the quilts. 2)The batting, or the filler inside, is the center of the quilt and provides a quilt’s warmth. It represents our hope that this quilt will bring warmth, comfort, peace, and healing to the individual who receives it. 3)The backing of the quilt represents the strength that supports the other layers. We think of it as the strength of the recipient, the support of his or her family, our communities, and our nation. The stitches that hold the three layers together represent love, gratitude, and sometimes tears of the maker.

A word about my veteran brother: After finishing basic training at Fort Gordon, Charlie went to Fort Bliss, Texas, for a year’s training in anti-aircraft technology. He was then stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany where he worked for the “Hawk” missile battalion. This was a new missile which, contrary to those used in World War II, was able to hone in or lock on an aircraft and follow it. Charlie has always been so happy that he could serve his country in this way. But the best thing about his time of service was that he met his future wife, Elaine, during his tour of duty. Her father was also stationed at Fort Bliss and then at Wiesbaden, Germany. Our whole family has been blessed by these two who started married life in Alaska during the cold, dark part of the year 1969. They later settled in Clarkesville, Georgia, and now have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

Two years ago, before we started this quilt project, I’d never heard of Quilts of Valor. Since then, I’ve been so inspired by the work they are doing to honor our veterans. Maybe you, too, are not familiar with this great effort. Rather than try to tell you about it myself, I asked Judy Purdy to send me her description. I’d like to share parts of her article with you:

Founded in 2003 by “Blue Star” mother Catherine Roberts, Quilts of Valor is a national organization of volunteers from every state whose mission is to honor and cover service personnel and veterans touched by war or the threat of war with comforting and healing quilts. Volunteers make the quilts either as individuals or as part of a QOV group, and quilts are then presented to recognize the service, sacrifice, dedication, and valor of current and former members of all branches of the military. The organization’s volunteers have made and awarded many quilts in grateful appreciation of the personal sacrifice and honorable service of those who leave home and family to stand in harm’s way to preserve the freedoms we Americans enjoy.

On behalf of the Quilts of Valor Foundation and a grateful nation, and with our deepest appreciation, we present quilts to thank members of our military for their service. It is our hope that the quilts will be a tangible reminder that there are thousands of women and men across this land who are forever in the debt of these brave veterans serving in war and in peace. It is our pleasure to honor each one.

For more information or to nominate a current or former member of the US Military, please contact http://www.qovf.org.

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Graduate Words

The time has come. You’re excited over your child’s achievements and the future they’re stepping into. But you’re scared, too, and sad even if you do joke about the thrill of having an empty nest. As that beloved child winds up his/her high school career, you may try to think of the very best things to tell him. And then as he/she actually gets ready to drive away, you almost choke in your eagerness to say all that is in your heart. You want your child to leave with wise, strong, good advice–but your mind goes numb and you can’t think of anything.

Do any of the words from your parents still ring in your ears? “Do your best,” “Keep your nose clean,” “Remember who you belong to,” “Mind your manners,” “The grass is not greener on the other side,” or maybe “All that glitters is not gold.”

My dad died before I went to college. But I can hear his voice in my head reciting all four stanzas of “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Even though the poem was written to a son, I always thought the challenges in the verse pertained to women too. Of course, as all life challenges are, they are unattainable but reaching for them will make for characters of integrity. Surely Mr. Kipling would not mind if I give you a few of my favorite lines from his most well-known poem, a poem printed in many congratulations cards for graduates: “If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on youIf you can dream–and not make dreams your master, If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim…If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”…If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

My mom said “Always remember where home is.” She, like my dad, recited many poems but I think her favorite quotation was Psalm 46:1 and I carry it in my heart wherever I go: “God is a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

What did I say to my children when they left? I’m not sure. I simply wanted to cling to them and borrow one more year. But of course I couldn’t. Maybe I said, “Be yourself” or “Don’t forget to brush,” some inane helpless advice like that. I hope I told them to remember Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”

What can you say? Warn them against dangers such as drugs and smooth talkers. Caution them to stay with a safe crowd of friends and to stay clear of doubtful situations, late night walks, and texting strangers. Urge them never to let instructor or anyone else convince them that their skin color means they are either oppressed or an oppressor. And, by all means, tell them to think for themselves and to sift all new ideas through the lens of the Holy Bible.

But when all is said and done, what our young people take with them is as much what we did, how we responded to crisis and everyday life, as it is what came out of our mouths. It is the total fabric of their growing from cuddly babyhood through Little League, tumbling, hormonal pre-teen time, braces, crazy haircuts, and learning to drive. It’s drying tears time, peroxide and bandaid time, listening and sounding off time. It’s the way you encouraged them when they failed, rallied them on when they wanted to quit. It’s the little things. Like birthday sleepovers, ice cream stops, playing board games, laughing at silly jokes, soothing their fears of new experiences, riding the highest coaster with them when you were scared to death. It’s not fainting when introduced to a pet snake. It’s telling them one more time to clean up their room. It’s ball practice in the back yard. It’s vacations at the beach, camping in the rain, catching fireflies, and working as a family team to clean up after a hurricane. It’s just being there.

Words for the graduate? Instead of trying to come up with a wise and forever quotable line, just say “I love you.” That will cover everything.

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A Mamma Memory

Eggs were very important in our large household. We needed every single one the hens could produce. Every evening someone collected the eggs laid that day by various yard hens (we always had at least a dozen hens) in several different nests. I remember well one of my experiences as the egg collector.

One late afternoon when Mamma called me to go bring the eggs in, I put her off. I was deep into a book (“Little Women” or “To Have and to Hold”) and I just had to read one more page. I lay on a bench by a western window unmindful of the fading light as Mamma called me again and again.

When I finally started out to do my job I realized it was almost dark. One hen laid her eggs in a cozy nest far back in the stable. I’d better go there first before it turned pitch black. But it was already dark when I entered the stable. The rhythmic munching of a cow finishing her hay comforted me only a little. I crept toward the back of the stable hoping not to step in anything slippery. As I reached down to pick up the egg I knew would be there my neck prickled. Something wasn’t right. Yes, it was dark. But, still, I should be able to see the egg’s white shape in the dark straw.

I drew in my breath and pulled my hand back. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could see that the nest was especially dark. It was black. There was a movement, a slithering movement. There was no doubt about it. A snake was coiled in the nest.

As I ran for the door I didn’t worry about stepping in a cow pile. I screamed as I dashed through the gate heading pell-mell for the house. I hadn’t even reached the top of the hill when I saw her coming. Mamma was armed with a hoe which she clicked against the rocky path like a shepherd’s staff. She had to have been on her way before she heard me screaming.

Mamma hated to kill anything. She even went to great pains to rescue spiders that rode in on a log and found themselves in the fire. But she picked that snake up on the crook of her hoe, hauled him out where there was still a little light, and chopped his head off.

Mamma was a lady of deep resolve. She expected her children to do the right thing but if we were disobedient she was always there for us anyway. And she didn’t hesitate to kill a snake who dared to swallow one of her precious eggs.

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Safe Dwellings

Birds’ nests fascinate me. They are so skillfully made, custom fit for each bird, large or small, so carefully situated. Whether a house wren who feels safe cozying near humans or an osprey constructing its penthouse dwelling above all the bustle, birds make their homes to suit their very different needs and preferences.

As children, we were elated when any of us found a Carolina wren’s nest, a neat little cave hidden amongst leaf mulch under low huckleberry bushes. At our dear old place we called “Lane of Palms” I’ve observed with wonder a mourning dove pair build a house of sticks on a palm tree branch. From a north window I could see them walk nimbly up and down that palm frond “ramp” and then teach their offspring to do the same.

A major concern for a bird’s choice of nesting place has to be security. But sometimes, in the interest of beauty, convenience, or romantic location, they choose to build in highly insecure places. Like the wren who built her nest in our door wreath one year.

It was a very pretty wreath for ushering in Spring. A few yellow forsythia sprays were wound into a coil of grapevine. There were three bird house fronts, each a different size and style, with a bright angle of roof and a perfect round hole for a bird to fly in and take possession. But they were false houses, just decorated cut-outs fastened on the wreath.

One day when I went out to sweep cobwebs out of the corners of the front porch, a little brown wren swished past my face. At first I thought she was building a nest in a nearby shrub. But it didn’t take long to realize she had chosen one of those false birdhouses for her home! While she was out choosing fine twigs and grasses for her nest I peered behind the wreath. There was no room for a nest, yet she was building it anyway. I was amazed it was clinging in place, so precarious it was. One vigorous swing of the door and it would fall. I warned everyone in the family about our new “renter” and we agreed not to use the front door until the babies hatched and flew. We did slip up the front steps a few times just to peer in at the eggs and then the babies.

My daughter-in-law, Christi Graham, gave me frequent enthusiastic reports on a cardinal pair who constructed their nest on a limb right outside her kitchen window. The human family could enjoy the development of the cardinal family in full view.

Sadly, some of the nests in the safest places are the ones ravaged by an enemy. One spring a house wren built her nest on a high shelf in our barn. We thought it was a pretty smart location for her until one day we found the nest demolished, nothing left but a few eggshells. We deducted that one of our cats had leaped to that high shelf and made a meal.

I am reminded, thinking about those feathered parents, of how hard we try to keep our young safe. Yet we and they make unwise choices sometimes. The world is full of unkindness as aggressive as a leaping cat, and horrible things do happen. Snakes take advantage of secluded nests, hawks attack fledglings, storms throw nest, babies, and all out of their safe place. There is no total safety this side of heaven for any of us. But–we can look back and recognize many, many times when God protected us in our foolishness, as we did the wren on our door. We can trust that, just as He knows where each mourning dove and every cardinal makes its home, He also knows exactly where we are, what dangers we face, and what are the longings of our hearts.

I love Sidney Lanier’s poem “Marshes of Glynn.” He writes: “As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod, Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God: I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies In the freedom that fills all the space ‘twixt the marsh and the skies.”

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One Fearful Day

God answers prayers before we know to ask of Him. That’s what happened to us one fearful day.

It didn’t start out fearfully. It was a normal day for Charles at Cairo Animal Hospital and for me finishing a chapter in the book I was writing. It was a regular school day for our two boys. Our grandson, Charles Douglas (I call him Charles D), lived with us then and his friend, Jesse, was spending a couple of weeks with us while his parents were out of town. Charles D’s room was upstairs, a room we’d restored to reveal hand hewn logs of our pre-Civil War house. Jesse’s was across the hall adjacent to attic space above our dining room.

I looked out at our beautiful sunny back yard as I considered the story I was writing. Then I glanced at the time, 11:30. Where had the morning gone? But Charles wouldn’t be home for almost an hour. I could finish this chapter, I thought, and be done in time to prepare him a nice lunch. I dived back into my story, lost to everything else.

The sound of Charles’s truck pulling into the carport startled me. He was never home before 12:15, most often 12:30 or after. And here it was only 11:55.

I scurried to the kitchen to slap sandwiches together thinking he must have an after-lunch appointment so I’d better be quick. But he shrugged when I asked why he was home so early. He didn’t know. It just worked out that way, he said.

We were about to sit down at the dining table when I said something smelled peculiar. Charles, humoring my sensitivity to smells, said he’d go check outside. He was sure neighbors must be burning trash.

Charles rushed back in and headed for the stairs. Smoke was billowing from every vent in our roof, he said. I called 911.

By the time firemen arrived, there was a glowing ceiling tile above where I would have been sitting, and as they sawed into the ceiling (this was a solid old house with thick boards above the celo-tex) to get to the fire, flames licked out. Outside, standing with neighbors, family, even our pastor, who had come to see about us, we watched fearfully as our house was invaded by flames, smoke, and lots of water from the firemen’s hose.

But our house was saved!

Though our recent renovation of the downstairs–new carpet, drapes and painted walls–was all ruined, our house was intact. The firemen said the fire started because of faulty wiring. It had probably been a hazard for several weeks, could have started anytime–while we were asleep, while Jesse was asleep in that room only feet away from the flames. One fireman told us that within thirty more minutes the fire would have engulfed our old house and been impossible to squelch. That’s when I understood why Charles had come home early. God knew we needed to come to our table at that exact time.

As the four of us huddled in a motel room that night we were very thankful we were all safe and our house could be cleaned and repaired. The only complaint the boys had was that they’d been at school and missed all the excitement.

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