Prayer Shawl in Progress


The very rhythm of knitting is soothing and healing


I took my current knitting with me to the assisted living facility where I give devotionals each week. I wanted my “girls” to pray over it with me.

Most of the ladies understood my request. I showed them the dozen or so rows I had finished and explained how long it would be. We talked about the recipient of the shawl, that as yet I don’t know who it is but am sure God does. We talked about the mingled shades of blue and dusty green and about how the variegated yarn makes its own pattern. I told them I would pray out loud while they prayed in their hearts and passed my knitting around the circle so each one could touch it as we prayed.

A prayer shawl, as described by the original Prayer Shawl Ministry team, is a shawl prayed over in the making, given to someone who is prayed for, who then can pray while comforted by its warmth around her shoulders. To learn more about how to knit and about the ministry, go to

My sister Jackie introduced me to the making of prayer shawls. She and another knitting sister, Suzanne, are part of a knitters’ group who make prayer shawls every year where they live. I don’t belong to a group. Thus, my desire to ask my sweet praying friends at Magnolia Place to pray over my work with me.

It was a sweet prayer time, each passing yarn and needles to the next as I prayed. We prayed for the well being of the shawl recipient, whoever she is, for her health and happiness and peace. One lady misunderstood about passing it so sat clutching it too long. I had to gently extricate it from her fingers and send it on around the circle. With these friends, misunderstandings are frequent because of hearing loss or confusion or whatever. And it’s all okay, because we understand each other’s hearts.

And certainly God understands too!

One of the “girls” asked me to teach her how to knit. I said sure I’d love to teach her. Immediately, she began back-pedaling. Oh, no, she said, she’s too old to learn. Fear fleeted across her face. I wished so much I could pass on my little bit of skill because I longed for her to have that comfort and companionship.

The very rhythm of knitting is soothing. Aside from that, it is a joy to create something beautiful. God made us in His image and there’s something in all of us that cries out to “make something.” Then, thirdly, what absolute fun it is to give away a completed prayer shawl, pair of mittens, or a hat.

If you are a knitter or a crocheter I hope you’ll consider making a prayer shawl. If you’re not either of those, maybe you’re a baker, a tailor, a photographer, a gardener, or a candlestick maker. Or maybe, joy of joys, you make music! Whatever you make, use it to make a “joyful noise” unto the Lord!


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One Bag of Balloons

I think those balloons cost about $1.87. But of all the activities in which our grandchildren were involved the week of our “Camp 1010,” the balloons were near the top of the list. Maybe not capping the wonderful washing they gave my car!

The boys particularly (William 13 and Thomas 10) are very athletic so every day was punctuated with the sounds of the basketballs being dribbled or swishing through the nets. They all three rode bikes. They loved riding around and around our almost quarter mile paved driveway. Mattie (8) built up too much speed one evening and landed in the bushes, which scared us all, but she came through that accident like a trooper after some good ice packs and attention from Grandaddy.

One day we went to Bald Point State Park on the Ochlochnee Bay and had a marvelous time discovering crabs, even a live horseshoe crab, and seashells. Mattie was enthralled with every little seashell. Then we went to the wildlife lab in Panacea where we all had a blast handling star fish, scallops, clams and coral, as well as getting a very close view of several sharks. Eating seafood before we left the bay was a big treat. William ordered flounder tacos and ate every bit of them.


The Lemonade Stand is an annual event. They make lemonade, posters, and all


Aside from the annual Lemonade Stand (which, this year, thanks to our very generous neighbors, brought in $109 for the hungry), we made mayhaw jelly, played badminton, croquet, and corn-in-the-hole. We played a Monopoly game that became a fixture in our living room for parts of three days. And they beat me (trounced me!) in Authors cards time and time again. We made homemade playdough the day Amanda’s two little girls were part of our group, and that day Charli netted a beautiful orange butterfly.


Mattie, Charli, Caitlin creating with playdough


But a great highlight of the week was the balloons.

I had intended to make slime instead of playdough, thinking the boys would like that better, but I never quite figured out the recipe, or maybe never worked up my nerve. Along in the afternoon that last full day, the girls began pleading for a teaparty, and the boys were not quite enthusiastic about that. I decided it was time to bring out the balloons. I thought they’d all, from six-year-old Charli to 13-year-old William, enjoy balloons for a few minutes.


Mattie, proud of her very big balloon she blew and tied off


It was an evolving activity that stretched into several hours and even the next day.

Some of the children had never blown up a balloon so it was a learning experience for them. They learned how to control their breathing, how to hold the “neck,” how to minimize their slobber, and even, eventually, how to secure the opening and have a bouncy toy instead of a deflating flutter. The fluttering, of course, brought squeals of delight.

The boys remembered that balloons pop quickly on hot asphalt. They also realized a nice full bag of balloons was available so popping them was an okay sport. The police never drove up to check on the explosions.

Aside from popping, other sounds filled the air. The balloon players became versatile in making balloon noises, some almost musical, some disgusting, and all quite hilarious to this porch crowd.

The activity gravitated to the water hose where water balloons became the new thing. The boys showed the little girls the techniques of filling the balloons with just the right amount of water. Squeals erupted as balloons of many colors popped and splatted on the asphalt (or on each other!). I stayed safe on the porch.

When Amanda came to pick up Caitlin and Charli, I instructed the children to pick up the many pieces of popped balloons and, of course, that command met with a few groans. After the little girls left, the other three straightened up the porch and each went to read in a favorite chair or corner before our much-anticipated supper with cousin Charles Douglas at Mr. Chick’s. I thought that was the end of the balloons.

The next day we had to take our three Birmingham grandchildren home. Somehow that depleted bag of balloons got in the car. And it wasn’t as depleted as I’d thought!


These Siamese twin balloons required a double blow from William and Thomas!

Driving toward Dothan we heard the sounds begin, the breathing, the squeaky twisting of inflated orbs, the deflating, the giggles. Confined safely in seatbelts those kids managed to play ball, to play a symphony of sound effects, to compete over who could blow the largest floater and much, much more.

Suddenly Thomas was bleeding from one of the warts Grandaddy had frozen for him (one of the perks of having a veterinarian Grandaddy) so we exited the highway. When Grandaddy opened the back of our vehicle to find a bandaid, a colorful river of inflated balloons escaped drifting quickly across the parking lot like live creatures. Our laughter notched to a high level when, as we drove down the service road to get back to interstate, we were actually sharing the road with a great big red balloon. When last we saw it, that balloon was bumping along on the median as if hunting for the right road.

So if you’re among the brave and the free, buy a bag of balloons (a big bag) and turn your children loose with it. You will be amazed at what develops!

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Harris House of Good Hope

Good Hope, Georgia, has a population of 274. The Harris House, completed, July, 1908, has now been turned by a loving couple into a year round Christmas house for their family and friends.

We were in Good Hope visiting Betty Lowe Bowers (lifetime resident) and her husband, Nelson Bowers. Betty was my roommate at the University of Georgia in 1963-65. I had visited her in Good Hope when we were students and our families had visited once or twice over the last fifty years. But we had seen each other only seldom. Our friendship is such, though, that no matter how much time has passed, conversation is quick and easy as if we’d seen each other yesterday. We are both graduates also of Young Harris College, at the time a junior college nestled in a North Georgia valley, and that bond lends us fodder for long spirited interchanges.


Brenda and Betty in the Harris House parlor

Charles and I agreed to meet Betty at her house that spring Sunday morning and go with her to the church several miles away where she is the pianist. We got out of the car laughing because, even in such a tiny town, we had gotten “lost.” I had forgotten to turn at the one store and drive up past the Harris House to arrive at the Bowers’ sweet beau-tiful home where they raised their three children.

When I called Betty to see if it was a good time for us to come I told her Charles and I would like to take her and Nelson out to eat after church. Her response was “Oh, no, we’ll eat at the Harris House if that’s all right. You know, it’s right around the corner from us, the house my daddy grew up in. Nelson and I own it now and we’ve made it into a meeting house, a guest house. I know you’ll like it.”

We went to church with Betty and Nelson, and Betty seated us close to the front on the piano side. That way I could fully enjoy the prelude music she’d picked out, I think, just for me. All old hymn favorites. It was food for my soul!

After church we rode through the countryside back to Good Hope, back to the Harris House. And there began a fantastic show. We were instantly captivated by this old house turned by a loving family into a holiday house for many to enjoy. While Betty and Nelson heated barbecue and set other scrumptious delights, like potato salad, we were free to wander through the house. Betty called out interesting facts along the way, such as “Yes, that really is my wedding dress hanging on the closet door” or “That’s the little room Nelson made cozy for his mother when she needed special care” or “That’s the room my granddaughter sleeps in when she comes for a few days.”


Nelson and Betty preparing lunch

Betty has written a brief account of the house’s history to help us (and other visitors) absorb it. The house is affectionately referred to as “The Harris House” in memory of its original owners and occupants, Golden Charles Harris and Jimmie Robison Harris, Betty’s great uncle and aunt. “Uncle Golden,” Betty writes, “also owned The General Store in Good Hope and was Postmaster for fifty years. The house was completed in July 1908. The story is told that Aunt Jimmie said that she would not marry Uncle Golden until the house was finished! They married in July 1908! (I guess she meant what she said!)”

Betty and Nelson gained ownership of the property in 1993. “Since that time,” Betty writes, “we have been gradually attempting to restore the house to its original beauty and authenticity while, at the same time, making it a bit more comfortable with some structural changes and ‘modern’ conveniences.” Nelson is a skilled woods craftsman and can do “anything,” including making a little broom closet into the cutest little maze between kitchen and den. She adds that, though they’ve come a long way, it continues to be a loving “work in progress.”

Other family members and friends have been invaluable help. One of the ones she mentions is their daughter Christy’s husband, Justin Myers. He, it seems, is largely responsible for the Christmas decorations inside and out. Betty said that when they realized what joy the Christmas house gave for Sunday school classes, choir groups, and family gatherings, she and Nelson decided simply to leave them up all year. “It’s a lot easier that way, too,” she says with her infectious laugh.

I was fascinated by the egg tree. Yes, it’s a Christmas tree, but covered with decorations made from real eggs–ostrich eggs, chicken eggs, duck eggs, goose eggs, all kinds of eggs with tiny, intricate artwork transforming them to nativity scenes, poinsettia blossoms, Santa Claus’ workshop, etc. These eggs were all created and contributed by special lifelong friends, Chet and Marye Frances Phillips Moss.


The Harris House main Christmas tree–all egg decorations! Notice the doll–so sweet!

I cannot refrain from giving you just a touch of “the rest of the back story” to this house. You see, when Betty refers to Uncle Golden and Aunt Jimmie it is really a reference to her second set of paternal grandparents. When Betty’s father was born in 1915 he had a twin brother. On that same day the babies’ mother died. The mother’s sisters stepped in and took care of the babies. The babies’ father, times being very hard, could not give them the care they needed. Golden and Jimmie all but adopted little Harris, as they named him. Abiding by the wishes of his father, however, they never changed his last name so he was Harris Lowe. And Betty always knew Golden and Jimmie as “Uncle” and

Needless to add, I really enjoyed and loved getting to know “The Harris House,” having loved Betty and her family all these years. She quotes T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings at the end of her little history: “Why do we love certain houses, and why do they seem to love us? It is the warmth of our individual hearts reflected in our surroundings.”

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In Appreciation of Spiders

E. B. White immortalized the ingenious spider in his classic “Charlotte’s Web.” Have you taken time lately to appreciate what Charlotte’s descendants and neighbors can do? It’s not that I’m in love with spiders and, no, I do not have one for a pet. But they are very interesting and deserve more attention than just squashing and sweeping out the door.

I was sitting alone recently in Stone Gables, the big stone house where I grew up, just enjoying the scents and quiet conversation of the house itself. It was late afternoon so the sunshine was filtering through tall windows creating leaf shadows on wide window seat and slate floor, shadows that gracefully and quietly shifted. The stairs let out a comforting creak, just a house-breathing sound, and an acorn hit the roof far above.

As I sat there at a little card table sipping coffee and remembering all the many, many times this house had put its arms around me, around my family, in joyous and sad occasions, I noticed the spider webs. They graced window corners and draped across the tops of arches up the stairs. There was even a fine zip-line of a spider’s game from a bookcase to a nearby lamp. I immediately smiled at the picture in my mind of my sister Pat, broom in hand, swiping down cobwebs right and left.

Our house always attracted spiders and our mother was loath to kill them. She said they were our friends, that they kept the fly population down, loved mosquitoes, and didn’t hurt anyone. We knew a black widow spider was to be killed, but other than that very poisonous arachnid, we were urged to leave them all alone. (At that time we didn’t know about the mean little brown recluse which, I believe, does not make a web, just hangs around in dark closets.) That meant, of course, that someone was regularly dusting down webs, both elaborate and mundane. Because Mamma’s kindness toward the spider did not go as far as leaving their webs hanging.

Speaking of elaborate, have you ever really paid attention to the wonderful patterns in spiders’ webs? Of course we never see any like Charlotte’s. But you can see some wonderful beauties. I read that spiders, most of them, have three spinnerets from which to spin. They have the ability to spin three different kinds of “rope.” They can build, they can span, and they can kill. It isn’t true that all webs are created as prisons. Some are for taking care of egg sacs and some, it seems to me, are just works of art to inspire and encourage and, perhaps, irritate.

There are circular webs, triangular webs, flat webs and what I call “picture webs.” If you’re walking in the woods, you may find yourself peeling web from your face. Hopefully, though, you will see it before you would demolish it and, instead, be able to study the infinitely meticulous pattern, almost like a picture suspended between trees. The web patterns are as varied as tatting or lace patterns and the spiders have no copies of crochet designs to follow, or maybe they do have patterns hidden in their bodies. Anyway, if you think the webs are beautiful on a clear afternoon, try viewing one after a shower when tiny droplets are catching the light like prisms along each tiny vein.

An example of the flat webs are those you may see stretched like tiny filmy sheets on blades of grass in the morning. Some kind, imaginative adult told me, when I was a child, that those were fairies’ blankets spread out to dry in the sunshine. I wondered if fairies have accidents in their beds.

But to other appreciation points of spiders. Their silk has been greatly envied and admired. I remember reading a story as a teenager about someone’s life being saved by the silk web of a spider. There is vitamin K, a clotting agent, in the silk and, supposedly, laying thick layers of web across a bleeding wound could actually serve as a “plastic surgery” effect, the fiber latching on to the raw flesh.

Aside from medical uses, some have tried to use the silk for creating fabric. One of the largest pieces of cloth, maybe the largest, was 11 x 4 feet made in Madagascar. Another use was to make the crosshairs for guns and microscopes. And, the most astonishing to me, was the attempt in 2012 to make violin strings from spiders’ web strands. I don’t know how successful that was!

Some spiders’ webs are very, very strong. If you run into a web formed across a hiking trail, a web by one of those monster yellow and black spiders, you will experience the strength and the stickiness. But it was a surprise to me to learn that a given weight of spider silk is five times as strong as the same weight of steel.

Spiders are persistent, can build back a web in minutes. They’re fine weavers, designers, and wonderful acrobats. Have you seen one swinging from a single fine thread? They are zealous reproducers and go to great work in protecting their egg sacs. And–they love insects! Their favorite Sunday dinner is a wasp trapped on Saturday or mosquitoes or flies, or even much bigger meals like a dragonfly. They are excellent trappers. They know how to wait with great patience for their prey and they sometimes have back doors where they can exit the scene if it gets too dangerous. Clever critters!

All this being said, I now have a confession to make. I came around a corner that day in Stone Gables heading to the kitchen to wash my cup, only to find a creature dark against the concrete floor, a very fat meaty body with eight legs, the whole thing being at least four inches wide. A spider. I didn’t feel friendship oozing from this thing. I didn’t feel the beginning of a warm and sweet relationship. I shuddered. What would Mamma say about this one? It didn’t take me long to decide. He was soon a dead arachnid headed out the door in a dustpan.

“O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”–Sir Walter Scott

“The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.” — Proverbs 30:28

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Discovering Birds’ Nests

When Jared, my grandson-in-law, told me about the mourning dove’s nest built under an eave of a house he and his brother Rusty are building, I was intrigued and asked him to send me a picture. (Look below) Jared and Rusty are trying to avoid that part of the building until the mourning dove finishes raising her brood. That may turn out to be difficult since the bird is on her fourth set of eggs this year. She’s already mothered three sets of hatchlings and seen them fly away! Jared’s report and picture have made me remember birds’ nest discoveries of years ago and not so long ago.


I can still remember the surge of excitement whenever, as a little girl, I discovered a birds’ nest. All ten of us children entered into the friendly fun of seeing who could find the most nests each spring and summer. No one won a prize or even had their name on a poster or had a special announcement made at suppertime. The joy was in the accomplishment.

I think our all-time favorite nest to find, partly because it was hidden so well, was a Carolina wren’s nest. The ones I remember were tucked down under low huckleberry bushes. The best way to find this nest is to be leaning far down picking the wonderfully sweet tiny huckleberries. The nest is built on its side like a neat cave. One can almost step on it and crush it before noticing it, except that the little mama in her muted colors gets nervous when someone’s nearby and begins chirping an trying to lead you in another direction, often feigning a broken wing for sympathy. Her anxiety gives her away. When you find the nest, you must get all the way down on your knees in the soft accumulation of leaves to peer inside and see the perfect clutch of three or four eggs. All our adult lives my sisters and I have compared any wonderful find to “like discovering a Carolina wren’s nest.”

Another nest that was a wonderful find when we were kids was a vireo’s nest. Suspended from a forked twig, this little nest would be tightly woven of very small materials like bits of moss and dead leaves and milkweed cotton. It was like a soft velvety-lined cup just the right size for a little vireo whose song we heard much more than we ever saw her. I can remember being held up by strong brotherly arms to see inside the tiny nest, and maybe once when I was older, trying in vain to climb to a position where I could see in one. These birds are very shy and we don’t seem to hear about them any more. But that could be because we’re not in the woods climbing trees!

Now house wrens are not into seclusion and remoteness. They build in friendly proximity to the human touch. My sister Suzanne has one right now in a bucket hanging on her porch. One year a wren built her nest in a door decoration at our South Broad house. The “wreath” sported a false bird house front and I guess it fooled that poor little bird! She managed to squeeze her weaving of pine straw, a piece of plastic bag, some bits of grass and leaves, even a little girl’s hair ribbon, into a sweet little nest between the door and that wooden decoration. If one of us forgot and opened the front door, she’d fly away in a flutter of startled wings.


Suzanne’s wren’s nest on her porch


Almost everyone, I guess, has found at one time or another, a wren or sparrow’s nest in a boot, on the back of a mailbox, or perched precariously over the top of a screen door. But the best one I’ve heard of was the find of Mr. Julian Roddenbery. For some reason his car wasn’t moved for several days and then when he went out to drive to town he discovered a little brown bird had built a nest in his car’s grill or in the edge of the hood. He began walking to town, wouldn’t move his car until that bird was all done with her nest. What a gentle man!

It takes a very sharp eye to spot a hummingbird’s nest. They like to build high in a tree and their nests are, of course, so tiny. Still, my alert brothers and my dad found hummingbird nests. Then, about twenty years ago, several of us were astonished when a hummingbird built her nest only feet above our heads in a maple tree near Mamma’s room. Mamma was very sick that year, not able to get out much. But she could see that tiny, thimble-sized nest attached to a twig and it brought many smiles to her face. She enjoyed hearing about the Canada goose family living at her pond that year, and she could take joy from seeing the birds at feeders outside her window. But the gift of that hummingbird’s nest so close by seemed like an acknowledgement from God that He cared about her so much and was watching over her.

Our two oldest brothers, I believe, were always the winners of the birds’ nest finding contest as long as they were at home. They each got credit for finding over one hundred nests in a given summer. After they left, others of us were winners, though I know I never did win. I have no idea now what my highest score was. We had some rather loose rules. We could count nests already found by someone else as long as we could honestly say we hadn’t known about them before our own discovery. We could not remove a nest from its place unless the birds were obviously done with it. Our tallies were according to the honor system for we had no cameras to prove our discoveries.

I have come close to having my eyes pecked by angry brown thrashers who thought I was getting too close to their nest in a camellia bush. They seem to grow the most anxious about the security of their homes. But then there are mockingbirds who turn ferocious if a cat even strolls by, and robins who go into frenzies when someone gets too close.

To take to the sky, what an awesome sight is an osprey’s nest, all lonely in a dead cypress, silhouetted against a Florida sky. Or a crow’s nest high in a pine tree. And have you ever “found” an eagle’s nest. No matter how many other people have already discovered it and even if a guide has to point it out to you, what a wonderful sight that is!

It is a healthy thing to watch birds “at work” and to discover their houses so cleverly constructed. The more I learn about them, the more in awe I am of the One Who created them!


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Stars and Stripes Forever

Look for our flag to be flying on the Fourth of July!

You’ll smell the smoke from our grill as Charles barbecues a goat. There will be roasting ears, sliced tomatoes, potato salad, baked beans, all on a red and white tablecloth. And plenty of sweet tea!

The children will come. The sound of bikes wheeling around our circle driveway will be punctuated by sporadic firecrackers in the distance, fired by folks impatient for the real show later in the evening.

There will be a passionate prayer of thanksgiving at our table by our head of the house as he talks to God about our precious freedoms. (Well, that will be after the little ones say their blessing of “God is good, God is great, thank you for this lovely day; By His hands we are fed, thank you for our daily bread.”) Charles will also include prayers for our president, his cabinet, and, of course, our military including, very particularly, my nephew Nathan about to ship out for a year in Kuwait leaving a wife and four-year-old-daughter behind.

As I pull out patriotic trappings “getting ready,” my mind rushes to other Fourths.

There was the year we pulled up peach trees at the Lane of Palms. Some of us longed to go to the beach. Or to the mountains. Escape the unrelenting humidity and heat of South Georgia. But Charles was the veterinarian on call and we weren’t going anywhere. Instead, Mama and Papa Graham were coming and we were all, one way or another, going to be involved in pulling up peach trees, a whole little orchard of them!

The peach trees had proven themselves infertile and had been condemned. Our plan was to concentrate on blueberry bushes and have a good place for a badminton court and a basketball goal.

But did we have to do it on the Fourth of July? Our children groaned.

We started early after a big breakfast. It turned into one of our biggest, most heated, funniest, and most memorable of all Fourths. With Papa’s truck, a chain, the shouts of “Pull!” and “Whoa!” those peach trees were all gone in a couple of hours. But in our minds we remember an all-day torture ending with a feast of hamburgers, mounds of fresh vegetables, and a huge blueberry pie. Ever after, our children have remembered that day as comparable to the Israelite slaves in Egypt building the pyramids.

And there was the year at my birth home when we all gathered around for the cutting of a watermelon. It was a volunteer watermelon we’d watched for weeks growing in a corner of Mamma’s garden. She kept telling us it wasn’t ready but on July 3rd she thumped it and decided, a little dubiously, that we could enjoy it the next day. She instructed Stanley to take it to the spring to cool overnight. We all, about eight of us, gathered around it as Mamma prepared to cut it open, our taste buds wild for the rich red juicy texture. The melon opened–and we all gasped in disappointment. It was the first time I ever had heard of a citron, green and tasteless as grass! To this day, I remember the disappointment unappeased by any substitute.

Charles and I have enjoyed many fabulous family vacations at the Gulf, viewing a parade in Demorest, Georgia and watching kayaking through Tallulah Gorge, enjoying the blue Smoky Mountains, roasting marshmallows in the backyard, watching fireworks at Disney World and at Cairo High School stadium with children and grandchildren. There have been gazillion churns of ice cream, delicious indoor picnics at our church–and one year a very quiet trip to St. George Island with our daughter Julie.

Julie couldn’t get out much in those days. She was in pain and discomfort so much of the time due to a neurological disease. On that Fourth (about 2010), we talked her into going with us for a day trip to the beach. We took folding chairs and established ourselves under a shelter. The wind was brisk, as it always is at St. George, but there were no flies, no-see-ums, or mosquitoes. We ate sandwiches, drank ice cold sodas, watched the seagulls and the blue water. I think I took the game Trionomos, one which Julie always won.  But she didn’t feel like playing that day. Charles, always trying to make things better, tried to figure out a way to push Julie in her wheelchair down near the water. Julie stoutly refused his offer, however. She said she never had liked the sand that much anyway. We stopped on our way off the island at an ice cream shop, a traditional stop for our family. Charles and I climbed the steep steps and purchased cups of ice cream for us to eat in the car. We drove home without stopping for fresh seafood because Julie cared nothing for shrimp or fish. It was when I saw how glad she was to get back to her little apartment that I realized she had gone because she wanted to make us happy.

Charles shared an article in Thomasville Times-Enterprise yesterday about our nation’s birthday. We were reminded that it was actually July 2, 1776 when our founding fathers voted to form the United States of America. The first signatures were written on July 4, but it was as much as a month later before all the signers had affixed their signatures on that earth changing document, the Declaration of Independence.  The last paragraph of the Declaration says: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Each person who signed the document had to know it could be his death warrant, pointed out the journalist team writing for the Times. Yet they signed it, imperiling themselves and their families. Freedom meant that much.

Yes, we will be flying our flag on the Fourth. We are free to salute that flag, to praise the Lord for His goodness, to raise our children in peace, to read books of our choice, to sing our national anthem, to object to what we think is wrong, to shoot squirrels that are eating our lawn furniture, to butcher a goat for a feast, to gather friends and family, to vote for our choice of president and to work together if our choice didn’t win the election. We are even free to pay taxes about which we are regularly informed and to enjoy results, such as traveling safely across the land.

What a great country we live in! Thank God for the USA!

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Watching the Martins


It was a beautiful morning when Susan and I traveled out into the country to visit our friend Sherry and watch the martins. Sherry had invited us pretty urgently, cautioning us that she thought they were about to leave for the season. In fact, there weren’t as many that day as there had been earlier, she said, but it was still a great show.

Charles and I have tried to attract martins but never with success. We’d love for them to feast on our mosquitos. But now I know we didn’t try hard enough. If you erect a whole community of martin houses in the open with lots of sky view, they will come. That’s what Sherry and her husband, Jerry, have done, Sherry having the vision and Jerry the skill and muscle to make it happen.

Sherry served us coffee and muffins on her generous porch. From there, looking across the peaceful blue swimming pool, we could see the martin condominiums with birds flying in and out the openings. Some would take to the sky while others were taking care of housekeeping.

“There really aren’t many today,” said Sherry anxiously. “Ya’ll should have come sooner when the place was packed.”

“We didn’t come just to see the birds,” Susan assured her.

“And anyway, it seems pretty lively to me,” I added. “We certainly don’t see them at our house.”

“There’s a nest with eggs about to hatch, I think,” said Sherry pointing to one of the martin mansions.

“Well, they’ll have to stay a while longer then,” I said. “They’ll have to wait for those babies to grow enough to fly with the rest.”

“That won’t take long,” said Sherry. “You know how fast our children grow. They grow up overnight.”

That brought on discussions and stories about grandchildren. Pictures were passed around. We became so enthusiastic we almost forgot about the birds.

Then I noticed the sounds of chickens clucking and chuckling around the porch, tending to their morning’s work.

“Hens laying these days?” I asked.

“We get some day by day. Enough for an omelet now and then. Jerry gathers them. One day when I was fetching the eggs I found a big gray snake in the nest with an egg half swallowed. I let the snake have it. Had nothing in my hands to finish him off with!”

I shuddered.

Susan remembered her own recent snake story. “I went in a shed at the back of our house to get a tool. Reached up and plucked it off a hook and turned to go out when suddenly something came down across my head–a sizable snake!”

“How long was it?” asked Sherry.

Susan held up her hands to indicate eighteen inches, then laughed. “Johnny says it was only this long,” she said sizing down to about six inches.

Sherry insisted on our getting more coffee. She, being very short of breath because of a lung disease, let us serve refills for ourselves.

The martins were busy again, some wheeling in the sky, others flying into their homes. Some were sitting on their porches, like us. We talked about their distinctive shape, their deep black shimmery color and their ability to one day simply pick up all their luggage and go to a distant land in Central or South America. We marveled at how God has made every creature able to take care of itself. How can the birds know where to go? How do they make such a long journey? We’d never be able to do that (without all our super aids). But “we” can build martin houses–and skyscrapers!

“One day we’ll look out and there will be no martins,” said Sherry. “Just all their empty houses. And Jerry will go to work repairing and cleaning out their homes. So they’ll be ready when the birds come back.”

“And about when is that?” I asked.

“Maybe about March. Early spring. We look out one day and there are a few scouts flying around, then soon there’s a flock wheeling, building nests and all.” She laughed. “One day I was sitting here watching and this one bird flew up to his door with a stick about a foot long. It was a show watching him force that stick into the small hole but he did it.”

It was a very good morning. Susan and I agreed it was one of the most fun visits we’d ever been on. As we drove back to town full of coffee and muffins and blessed with good conversation, we remarked that this was really life, taking time to stop and watch the birds with friends.




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