Overcoming Evil With Good

This week, I have been the fortunate recipient of several unexpected gifts of goodwill. I was given five dollars while standing in a check out line at a local retail store. I was given the sale price a day early for a 12 pound turkey at the grocery store bringing the new price to just over $5. In the same store a week earlier, I was given a free boxed lunch because the packaging was unmarked.   Recently I also had my lunch paid for by another patron as I went through the drive through at Chick-fil-a.

I don’t know if people are making more of an effort to be kind to their fellow men because of recent incidents of violence and terrorism in our country. It does give me hope, however. This year at Christmas, we should emphasize to our children especially.” Yes, children there are still good people in the world.” Despite the rampant evil that is everywhere, keep doing acts of kindness to others. In so doing, we can overcome evil with good….as Paul admonishes Christians to do in Romans 12:21.

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An Idyllic Mountain Vacation Setting

Recently my family and I took a much-needed trip to the mountains. As on most vacations, we never know what our accommodations are going to be like as I reserve lodging spots sight unseen. It is a little easier with the use of the internet. However, as each owner makes their own rental sound simply amazing and breathtakingly appealing, it can be somewhat misleading and we never quite know what we are going to get until we arrive at each vacation destination. At a certain price point, we can be pretty assured that it will be acceptable. However, one never really knows what awaits. Will we be out in the sticks, miles away from town and unable to find grocery stores, restaurants and shopping? Will everyone be happy with their designated bed and/or room? We have rented houses in the past through real estate rental management companies and have recently discovered vacation rentals by owner. Most often, we have been happy.  One time, our house was up a very steep hill that left us all scared to make the ascent each time we would go to and from our rental property. We have been far away from civilization and were exhausted each time we had to find a grocery store to gather our supplies for the weekend. We have had rustic quarters where someone had to sleep on a cot, a sleeper sofa or worse, on the floor.  We have stayed in what we refer to as “the elf house” that was literally so small that we could barely turn around. We had to make up the couch/bed and push aside the kitchen table each day in order to have a spot to sit down or eat.

The story that tops them all is when we stayed at a “resort” in West Virginia. I use the term lightly as this is how it was advertised. Little did we know that it had been a former women’s prison in the early part of the 20th century.  We stayed in a room that had been the infirmary. The bathroom had no updates and I got an uneasy feeling about the sanitary condition of a place that must have treated contagious diseases and all sorts of ailments. Even worse, the twin beds in the room seemed like they were original to the prison.  We could barely sleep with imaginations of what prisoners had stayed in the room before us. However, what was unnerving were the eerie sounds in the building and particularly in the floor above us throughout the night. Upon closer examination the following day, we discovered that there were still cells and bars on the windows in the upper rooms. It was a space that was rented out each Halloween as a haunted house. It was equipped with a coffin, skeletal figures and other ghoulish apparitions. We could not leave that vacation spot quick enough.

We have been on the other end of the spectrum  when we knew we had spent too much for our rental and the space was so too nice that we couldn’t really relax for fear that we would mess something up and would forfeit a rental deposit. One time our children marvelled at the sight of a refrigerator in an upscale hotel room.  They took treats out of the refrigerator all through the first day of our stay before we realized it. Of course they did not know that those candy bars and sodas were not free and were attached to our already expensive bill at then end of our vacation.

I guess this is part of what makes vacationing an adventure.  Our family always has a ball together. We laugh at each other until we almost cry. It is a much-needed break from our hectic life and we love times that we spend together.

This year’s fall mountain trip offered us one of the best accommodations yet.

We scheduled to stay in a house in a lake community that was built in the 1920’s. From the pictures, I could tell that it had a nice front porch with a view of the lake.  There were plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms for everyone.  It sounded nice enough and since it was in an area where we had never stayed before, we decided to take the risk. It was not far from town, so we figured there would be plenty to do if our house was not quite to our liking and we wanted to venture out.

We arrived in two cars. My mother, son and I arrived earlier in the day. My husband and daughter arrived later that night. We found the house to be better than we had imagined.  It was old but charming because it reminded us of a grandparents’ house. It was furnished in craftsman style with oak wooden floors and moldings.Wallpaper from another era was still on bedroom walls. The bathrooms were not modern.  We found cast iron tubs  in two baths upstairs. There were quilts and rocking chairs throughout the house.  The lack of updates added to the appeal by taking us back to a simpler time. There was only one television in the lower downstairs bedroom. We discovered that we were actually relieved to do without modern technology. It was good to be coerced to unplug for the weekend. We played card games, communicated a lot with one another and  found interesting reading material amongst the many bookshelves throughout the house.

The community was private and quiet.  There were walking trails around the lake.   Canada geese waddled by the lake’s edge. Other water birds could be seen floating  in the distance.  Among them were ducks, swans and loons. These birds were delightful to watch even though they made quite a racket and disturbed our sleep by their constant honking throughout the night.

My daughter took the opportunity to go for a run each morning and made it all the way around the lake.  She explored the neighborhood and brought us back to see a cross at the top of the tallest hill and a bridge that crossed the lake at its narrowest point. There was a feeding area for the swans and a couple of gardens that were maintained by residents throughout the year.

The weather was balmy the first day. My son and I took the opportunity to sit out on the porch and read for a while.  It was good that we did for it rained the next day and turned colder.  We had no choice but to take an indoor shopping excursion and a car tour of the area. The night before we left, the temperature dipped into the 30s. It caught us by surprise forcing us to bundle up as we packed to leave. We started to see snow flurries on our departure and even heavier snow fell along the mountain roads as we travelled home. None of us cared because we had a wonderful time and fond memories of out trip to the mountains.

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Eyes That Can Still Cry

I attended my nephew’s wedding this weekend. I wore the purple dress that I had picked out months ago at an end of season sale. I wore silver sequined accessories including shoes, purse and shawl in case the weather became cool as one never knows what to expect the first week of October in the Carolinas. It turned out that the day was rainy after almost a month of drought.  The wedding venue was on a farm. The outside ceremony had to be cancelled and brought indoors.  The barn was decorated in farmhouse style with chandeliers and rustic tables.  Lovely peach and pink roses mingled with sprays of eucalyptus in arrangements at each dining and serving table. Lace runners ran along the tables which were dotted with mercury glass candle votives. At each place setting was a lovely english china dinner plate that the british wedding planner had supplied for the occasion. The “naked” lightly iced but beautiful five layered cake sat on the serving table as a focal point. It was decked with more sprays of flowers that matched the bridal bouquets.

A string quartet played a collection of classical and contemporary wedding music including Pacabel’s Canon as the guests arrived.  My own brother played an oboe solo entitled Gabriel’s Oboe. The mood was perfectly romantic and as the guests arrived they shook off rain droplets and left umbrellas at the door. It was apparent that a little rain was not going to damper this beautiful wedding. Everyone seemed happy and not at all upset by the weather.

I had prepared myself with kleenex tucked away in my purse because most women cry at weddings.  I thought I would get emotional on this day, especially because my nephew was the first in our family of four grandchildren to get married. I watched as my brother’s handsome son stationed himself beside his pastor before the crowd that was gathered.  With a beaming smile he beheld his beautiful bride as she linked arms with  her father. She trailed behind her bridesmaids who were dressed in seafoam green gowns and walked down the aisle towards the makeshift altar. She was radiant in her sleeveless white gown with sweetheart neckline. It was embellished with lace appliques and beading on the skirt, vail and train. She wore her pretty long blonde hair down around her shoulders. It fell in curls and was pinned up in the back with white satin roses that were attached to her vail.

The pastor gave a stirring message about marriage which encouraged all those present to reconsider their own wedding vows and dedication to Christ. It is true like he said, that many today don’t make their marriage the focus but focus too much instead on the wedding itself.  As the couple exchanged vows and rings, I noticed the bride’s and groom’s mothers get emotional. The groom’s grandmother teared up because she had longed for this day. She had hoped that her own husband would have lived to see their grandchildren get married. I was touched but remained fairly emotionless. My two children attended the wedding. My son was a groomsman. My niece was a bridesmaid. My daughter sat beside us and took pictures. With all my family around me, my heart was warmed but I was not emotional.

It bothered me following the ceremony that my emotions had not been more stirred. Why didn’t I shed a tear? Perhaps it was because only the previous week there had been a mass shooting in Las Vegas, the biggest one in US history.  I have gotten used to seeing horrible acts of violence from terrorist attacks or sniper shooters spread across the television screen in recent years. There have been dangerous hurricanes and pictures of suffering people almost every week on the news only in the last several months. It is numbing to the senses to see such carnage and violence repeatedly.  Our emotional well-beings are not meant to handle and process that kind of information on a regular basis.

There is a lot that is ugly and vile in the world in which we live. We were made to behold or meditate on what is true, noble, or lovely.  Philippians 4:8

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take away our breath -George Carlin. This wedding was one of those moments for me. It gave me a chance to meditate on something beautiful and refreshing to my heart and soul.

Seeing two young people in love with wonderment in their eyes and enthusiasm for their lives ahead gives me hope. There are good people who follow Christ in this world.  God has called them to a mission to make their world a better place and to share His love with all they meet. I pray for their courage to face this world and to continue to be a beacon of light in the darkness.

 

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In Search of “Good” Reads

I have always enjoyed reading stories and books of an inspirational nature….you know, the kind of stories that share survival from some sort of life struggle or trial.  The narrator has lived to tell a story that convinces others that they too can endure pain or heartbreak, with the grace of God.

I enjoy biographies in which others share their life’s story, their childhood and how it influenced them or shaped their outlook on life, the loves and losses they have known and how God has used different challenges through their life journeys to increase their faith.  I enjoy classical novels that have a good moral lesson. I enjoy historical fiction that takes me back in time to another era.

Yet, sadly I don’t know how many times I have picked up a book with an interesting title, brought it home thinking I would enjoy reading it, then have been disappointed by its content within the first few chapters. Either the language becomes offensive or situations become suggestive and leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. Many of these books have even been on the New York Times’ best sellers’ list and I have naively trusted their endorsements.

I wish that there was a rating system for books like there is for movies to warn the reader of offensive material that is not suitable for the general audience or “any” audience in my opinion.

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A Wedding Day Miracle

Ken and I were married on June 27, 1981 just one month before the very publicized and anticipated wedding of Diana Spencer and Prince Charles of Wales.  Our wedding was much simpler than theirs, of course, but there were a few similarities.

My wedding gown was made of white Chantilly lace studded with pearls. My neckline was a low lace cut-out. My sleeves were slightly puffed, long and cuffed. The skirt of my gown was full and was cinched at the waist with a satin sash.  My train was three feet long. My veil trailed to the small of my back and was made by a seamstress who also made the bridesmaid dresses. She sewed lace trim on the edge of  sheer netting which was attached to a silk capped headpiece. I wore my hair in a medium length layered cut.

Princess Diana’s gown was ivory and was made of taffeta and antique lace studded with pearls and sequins.  She had a ruffled neckline. Her sleeves were very puffed and were quarter length with ruffles and lace trimming at the gathering on the bottom. Her skirt was full and gathered at the waist. Her train was twenty-five feet long. Diana also were her hair in a medium length layered cut.  People often said that I looked like Diana as a young woman. It may have been partly because  my hairstyle resembled hers.

We wanted to play the Trumpet Voluntary wedding march but instead opted for some favorite songs that we had sung together in church while dating. We wanted our wedding to be a witness to others of what Christ had done in us individually and now in bringing us  together as a couple. We each chose a scripture verse for the pastor to read to us and had those scriptures inscribed in our wedding rings. We used  the Jeremiah 29:11 blessing for the future and the Ephesians 5 passage on marriage. The wedding bands were special because both sets of parents had contributed some gold rings and jewelry to be melted down to create ours.

My dad played ” Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” on the cello and Ken’s sister, played a piece on her violin.  A close friend sang a special song that had been written for another couple. The words were especially meaningful because it described a wedding as a symbol of the love of Christ for the church. We got special permission to use it in our wedding.

We had planned a church wedding with a reception to follow outside on the church lawn. We got worried because there was a heat wave the week prior to the wedding. Temperatures had reached the middle 90’s for a week to ten days straight. However, on our wedding day, we were amazed to awaken to milder temperatures. There was even a breeze bringing the temperature down to a comfortable 70 degrees. It was perfect for our outdoor reception. We felt God’s blessing on our special day.

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It’s What’s Inside That Matters Most

My husband and I attend a small church in our community.   The church building has been there since the 1970’s.  Through the years, different projects have been done to update the interior as the budget would allow or if members gave donations for church improvements.  It is a work in progress but as we know, it is not the building that makes the church, it is the people.  The love that is there will draw others in to fellowship even if the building needs some work.

Since my husband and I have become a part of the fellowship, we have tried to do our part to help out in projects. It is very fulfilling to use our gifts and talents to the glory of God.  One of the projects we recently were involved in was on the church grounds.  There were no plants around the church building other than some knock-out roses which had been planted several years back. I don’t know if there were ever any plants around the building’s foundation, whether some had died and had been removed or if none were planted due to lack of funds or interest.  I suggested to the pastor that it would be a wonderful improvement to the church property and would add to the outside appeal to have a few plants added along the church’s foundation next to the parking lot and entrance.

I was thrilled when our pastor decided to let me come up with a design and choose plants within a limited budget based upon a small donation that had been made by one of the members. I commissioned a landscape company to transplant the rose bushes and plant hollies, cleyeras and red twig dogwoods where they had been at the front of the building. They also planted arborvitaes along the side of the building in between the stain glass windows and some crape myrtles beside the side entrance.

We are all pleased with the results and are hoping through God’s love to draw people from the outside in.IMAG0310 (2)

 

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Is Writing A Memoir Narcissistic?

I have heard it said that writing a memoir is narcissistic.  Those who know me well should realize that can’t be further from the truth for me. I have spent my whole life trying to remain unnoticed.  I am very shy by nature. I want to hide if any conversation focuses on me. I would rather stay behind the scenes and let others do the talking or shine in the spotlight. Perhaps, writing is an easier method of expression since my spoken voice is not often heard.

It has taken a lot of confidence building to think that I have anything worthy of sharing. Yet, by taking a few simple first steps, I have a new-found freedom that I never before thought was possible.  I attribute that only to God’s working in my life. He has given me a greater realization of His love along my life’s footprints. He has also offered me hope that others could benefit from my stories or sharing of struggles.

Through the years, I have been encouraged by others who have been transparent enough to share their inner conflicts. I love testimonies as they offer us a light at the end of dark journeys. God gets the glory. We don’t focus on ourselves but on how He brought us from one place to another. I like to reference passages of scripture in my writings to show God’s Word becoming alive to me in real-life situations. I want my writing to reflect less of me and more of Him.

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