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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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A Taste Of The Country

Last weekend, I travelled with my mother and daughter to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. My mother is delighted anytime we take her near her childhood home of Christiansburg. I searched the internet for bed and breakfast accommodations near Abingdon and discovered an 1880’s farmhouse that sounded idealistic.  We have taken risks before by staying in unfamiliar places. Sometimes it has worked out to our advantage but other times it has been disappointing.

I spoke to the owner of the farm when I made my reservations. She warned me that the farm is difficult to find in the evening because of the dark and winding mountain roads.Our goal was to arrive well before sunset.  However, we were not prepared for an hour-long delay travelling through Charlotte last Friday afternoon due to a traffic accident along the interstate.

We arrived in Abingdon just as the sun was setting. I phoned the farm-owner. She said we were about twenty minutes away. She gave me directions and said she would have the lights on.  The travel time seemed longer than what we anticipated and the road was DARK! Finally we reached the church where we were to make a right turn but we were unable to find road signs leading to the farm. Fortunately, the lady had parked her car at the bottom of a hill. She stopped us and led us up the road leading to her farm.  When we parked, we could make out only a shadow of the farmhouse. She got out and led us by  flashlight along a sidewalk towards the house. She warned us of a metal boot scraper that was imbedded in the concrete just outside of the gate.

She showed us around the inside of the house.  It was filled with interesting antiques and portraits of her family. The house had been updated with a modern kitchen. There was a living room, dining room, family room and bathroom downstairs. IMAG0098.jpgimag0096IMAG0099.jpgimag0100Upstairs were four bedrooms and an additional bath with a claw foot tub that had been added to the original house. We were very comfortable because each of us had our own room.The only drawback was that there were four steps down from the landing to reach the bathroom.  In the middle of the night it got very dark in the house so we had to set up lamps near the stairs so that my eighty year old mother could find her way down the steps.

We went to bed early as we were tired from the trip. We were excited to sleep in old beds covered with beautiful antique quilts and soft down filled pillows. It was easy to fall asleep in such luxury. However, the real delight came in the morning when we peered out our bedroom windows and finally beheld the surrounding countryside.  We spotted cows and horses grazing in pastures of rolling hills with distant mountains behind them. Barns and sheds near the house seemed to beckon for us to explore them.

We excitedly ventured downstairs into the kitchen and discovered a vase of yellow and red roses on the table and a basket full of delicious breakfast treats.  Our hostess had bought pumpkin doughnuts and apple bread from a bakery in nearby Bristol. She had also tucked an assortment of fruit, cereal and coffee in the basket.  We felt very pampered and were delighted to get a taste of the country for a weekend.

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Having a Teachable Spirit

I once loved to sing.  I sang in school choirs as I was growing up. I  credit my high school chorus teacher for instilling a passion in me for singing. He made choir performances fun and very entertaining.  He selected songs for us to sing from various show tunes such as Oliver, My Fair Lady and South Pacific. He stretched our voices and tested our ranges.  He encouraged me to audition for a soprano part in a small ensemble. My audition music was O What A Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma. I was pleased to learn that I had been selected to be a part of the group and we went on to perform in musical programs for the school and at various community events.

Through the years, I became a part of music groups in churches.  I helped lead worship on some praise teams, sang in church choirs and even did some solo performances.  Then there was a long time when I pulled back.  Either I felt like I was getting older and did not want to be on stage anymore, the music had become too contemporary and unfamiliar to me or I became involved in other areas of service. I still enjoyed  accompanying my daughter when she played the guitar for family get-togethers or in more private settings when we worshipped  together at our home.

Since my daddy was a classical cellist, music has always been a big part of my life and stirs my soul.  It has never left me, it just has become more subdued and pushed deeper inside of me.

Recently, in church I was asked if I would like to join the praise team again. At first I was hesitant. The members of the group are talented musicians.  At first, I felt inadequate since I  had not been involved musically in a while. I decided to step out in faith to offer up my voice once again in worship.

It has been a season of growth for me. I am learning new songs and harmonies. The experience has been very rewarding.  I have learned that one is never too old to learn something new if we will just be humble, make ourselves available and have a teachable spirit.

 

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A Gardener’s Lament

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My first attempt at growing sunflowers from seed proved to be quite successful this summer.

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The Knock Out Roses are not affected by the heat and drought.

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The crape myrtles are in their glory now. This is a stunning miniature variety called Cherry Dazzle.

Since my last post, we have had a long drought in South Carolina.  If there is rain in the area,  it seems to skirt us and we miss it.  I have been watering my plants diligently but am now beginning to lose some. I have focused on my newest plantings but older ones have started to get neglected. My once beautiful petunias on the back porch dried up weeks ago. My planters on the front porch have only survived since it is a shady spot most of the day.  A rosemary plant that is generally pretty hardy near my back patio has bit the dust. My new camellia has been struggling as it is just beyond reach from my garden hose and the water it gets comes only when I concentrate on it with the fullest power of the spray head attachment. My new purple-leafed crape myrtles are also beyond reach of the hose so  I have had to resort to carrying buckets to water them.

I had great plans for my vegetable garden. It started out beautifully. The tomato and cucumber plants took off due to the early rains of summer. Then the weeds started to grow.  I tried putting loads of mulch around to try to keep the weeds down. The hotter it got, the more they grew and the less I wanted to go out in the heat to battle with them. Before long I gave out and the weeds took over.   I have decided that next year I will  put black weed block in the garden as mulching alone isn’t enough.  On the plus side, my sunflowers look great if you can overlook the weeds.

I am glad I decided to go with the hardiest plants in my ornamental garden as weather conditions can be pretty severe  here in the heart of the summer.  We have had several weeks now when the temperatures have risen to the upper 90’s or near the 100 degree mark on the thermometer.

As I am writing this, I hear thunder. If we get rain, I am tempted to go outside and  dance in it as it has been such a long period of sweltering heat. It is amazing how long periods of severe weather zap energy and lead to an overall depression of mood. The thought of rain suddenly revives me and lifts my spirit.

This is also true spiritually. We need times of refreshing and renewal in the long haul on our spiritual journey if we are to stay strong and endure the fight or race we call life. We also need to stay on top of keeping bad things out of the garden of our mind and heart if we want to produce abundant and healthy fruit.

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