Saturday, January 27, 2024

Touching on Several Things

my desk

Per my usual form, today's post will hit on the past several days with highlights, snapshots and appropriate commentary.

Being a creature of habit works well for me, and more so as the years add up. Most Fridays find me at my desk composing a letter to my mother. She's in a senior living home and can't hear well enough for telephone conversations, so my weekly letters inform her of the escapades activities keeping me busy. 

Her hearing loss and lack of understanding about things make it wise to keep the letters to just one page, usually with a photo and some small decoration in the header. A Bible verse is always at the very bottom, which I'm told she appreciates. (she is the one who led me to Jesus when I was very young)

meditating with colored pencils

Another activity I like to do at my desk is doodling with colored pencils, sometimes with contemplative music in the background. I start with a pen to create large S curves and then choose a palette of about 5 colors, always including white, and usually black or gray or brown. Verbiage is added inside some of the cells: words of encouragement, verses, prayers, even. It's a very relaxing process that helps to settle me.

Soduko

Have I mentioned before my new-found enjoyment of Soduko? Sometime before Christmas I came across this spiral-bound book of games and it's become nearly an addiction. There is no math involved at all, in spite of its appearance. It is logic, order, observance, and challenge. I keep this book beside my recliner so it can be easily picked up where I left off while listening to the news. It's good for waiting on car repairs, medical offices, etc.

studying the instructions

While I'm on the subject of challenging the brain, we had a larger puzzle to solve with a free-standing bathroom cabinet to assemble. I will tell you this was not as hard as those kits from IKEA, but we had to make an alteration that required creativity. This unit stands above the toilet, but if one ever needs to lift the cover off the toilet tank, the whole cabinet has to be pulled out from the wall. 

Okay, we were prepared for that. But then we realized an important support board was supposed to go at the back, down by the connection of the toilet to the wall. With that installed per the instructions, the cabinet could never be easily removed to slide out.

Hmmm. Eventually we decided to create a support to put in front of the tank, behind the opened toilet lid. This involved digging through  wood scraps, cutting a board to the necessary length, painting it white, and then attaching it with screws. This Gary did beautifully. 

But then the very last step for the entire project involved anchoring the cabinet at the top back to the wall. This was important for stability.

So much for easily sliding the thing out when there's an issue inside the tank!! In retrospect, we probably should have opted for a cabinet that is hung on the wall, and high enough to avoid the tank problems.

cabinet ordered from Lowe's

We made a trip to the cemetery in observance of the 3-year anniversary of Edith's passing. Marveling that it's been that long already, we stopped first at the grocery store to buy flowers. They were having a 2-for1 sale, and we wanted flowers for Tom's grave, too, so the sale worked in our favor. 


We always go to Tom's grave first, spending as much time as I want, and then proceed to Edith's place. While the cemetery is beautiful with many trees, there are none positioned close enough to Tom's grave for shade. We always take our folding lawn chairs, then after time is spent with Tom, we get back into the car to move over to Edith. 

Edith's grave

My regular readers know that Gary and I go to the cemetery every month or two. You may wonder why, so often, and what we do when we are there. What do we think about? Do we cry all over again? Do we come away miserable after having dug up the pain all over again?

This time Gary said, "You don't have to answer this, but what do you think about at Tom's grave?" Then I asked him the same question regarding Edith.

Our answers are too private to share here but I'll sum it up by saying we focus on the good things, the happy memories, aspects of our people for which we are grateful. Yes, I had some darker thoughts on the nearly hour-long drive to the cemetery, but with that out of the way, I moved on to themes of gratitude, for there is much to ponder there. 

Hard times come to everybody in all manner of ways, but in God's economy, nothing is wasted. Eventually, for those who trust in God's sovereign ways, good comes out of the worst of times. If I did not believe that, I would lose my mind.

The times spent at the cemetery are beneficial. We always follow that with lunch on the way home. 

breakfast for lunch

This picture is not from that lunch, but to illustrate what Gary cooked for us this past Sunday after church. Aside from baking, which Gary does not do, I cook very little these days. He does an excellent job of keeping me fed every day.


Not only do I not cook real often, but when I do, it's usually not from scratch, which was my practice for 50 years. As Ivory Joe Hunter says in his song, "Since I met you Baby, my whole life has changed....." (click on the title to hear the song on Youtube)

Muffins from a boxed mix does not qualify as "from scratch" but they satisfied my guy this morning, so, good enough!

A few days ago, I did make Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots in Gary's air fryer:

photo from the recipe book
It was super simple: wrap raw bacon around each tater tot and cook at 400 degrees (the French Fry button) for 8 minutes. Remove from the air fryer and top with sliced scallions and shredded cheese. Serve with sour cream. 

Note: cut the bacon slices in half before wrapping the tater tots. I wrapped the entire slice around each tater, so mine came out not as pretty as the picture I've provided above. But the taste was great!

Observing National Pie day
(a couple of days late)

One more foodie paragraph here: I missed National Pie Day earlier this week. Not one to ignore an important holiday, we bought a frozen Coconut Cream Pie from the freezer case at Publix and shared half of it with neighbors. 

Now turning to something I find fascinating about a fellow citizen of my area, here is a photo collage of the home of actor John Travolta:


He lives in a fly-in community north of my town and has an interesting collection of aircraft, some of it quite large (examine the pictures closely). Aviation has been a strong influence my whole life with various family members, although flying anywhere these days does not hold as much appeal to me as it used to.

Well, this pretty well captures the past week for us. God is good, all the time, even if that goodness is hard to recognize. Our faith in His character makes all the difference. 

Here's some pithy truth that should bring a smile to your face:


Until next time, grace and peace.














Sunday, January 21, 2024

Growing a Sermon From a Gourd


gourd for darning socks

About six years ago when Sister and I were emptying our mother's house, I kept a box of Mama's sewing notions. She taught me to sew when I was nine years old. Sister does not willingly embrace needle and thread, so it was only right that these supplies came to my house.


Mama's collection included very old black and gray pinking shears, spools of thread, a cute little wood needle keeper, a metal thimble, safety pins, sewing needles, a tape measure and two wood forks and spoons with crocheted dresses.


Some readers of my generation may remember fork-and-spoon girls with dresses like these. It was a popular pattern in the 1950s. The blue one hung in my kitchen for many years. 

When I was having problems with my second pregnancy, Mama flew out from Chicago to our home in South Dakota to help me for a couple of weeks. While she was with us, I asked her to teach me to crochet. Let's just say, I didn't have a very teachable spirit..... 

Sometimes when things don't go well, it's best to agree to disagree and move on to areas where we can exist together in peace.

Anyway, one day this past week Gary was taking off his socks when he found a hole in the toe. In his Air Force days he sewed insignia onto his uniforms, so he is familiar with a needle and thread.

He mused to himself that he could probably sew up the hole in his sock. I came over to take a look and remembered the gourd in Mama's sewing box. My grandmother used it to darn socks. Gary was not familiar with using a gourd to repair socks.

I showed it to Gary and told him I'd like to sew up the hole for him. I kinda think he wanted to do it himself, but I talked him out of it because I wanted to use the gourd. Slipping the bulb of the gourd into the toe of the sock, a hard surface was created on the underside to make the mending much easier.

Gary has not worn that sock yet because it's in the laundry basket. But he tells me (quoting him here): "Most likely that will be the most comfortable sock I've ever worn in my life!" 


Sweet comments like that fuel our romance. We've been together over two years now, still feeling like the newlyweds we were the day this picture was taken.

On the topic of words, I'm reminded of the Old Testament verse that teaches "[encouragement] spoken at the right time can be extremely valuable to the hearer." (Proverbs 25:11)

We live in a culture where words are daggers more often than a balm, or so it seems. Hurtful communication has been around since the time of Cain and Abel, and it does not serve a person well. 

Of course, we see that even more in an election year (here in the USA). It's only January. We've got nine months of harsh rhetoric to endure before ballots are cast. 

"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Silence speaks, too, but often is not as ugly as "speaking one's mind." As one of my family members has said, "Just because you think it doesn't mean you have to say it."


This past week found us in doctor's offices and the dentist's chair. As they say, "when you get old, it's just patch, patch, patch." Rest easy. We are fine, just taking care of what's needed to keep up with the Energizer Bunny. 

But to continue with thoughts about positive words, one of the offices we visited had a computer monitor in the exam rooms that cycled through a series of Bible verses. There must have been about a dozen verses, surely chosen to be of comfort to patients needing reassurance. That is, without a doubt, an example of "a word of encouragement spoken at the right time."



Conversely, careless communication, judging, critical, accusatory words even -- are hard to forget. Words contain power, energy that can change a mindset, de-motivate, discourage, and in some cases even make a person ill. It goes without saying that ill-chosen words can destroy relationships.

Surely I am not alone when stating I know the truth of that. What usually follows is brooding over the negative words which in turn negatively affects sleep, appetite, and how we manage everything that comes our way.

Unless the harsh words are true, and honest reflection reveals changes the victim should make, we do ourselves well to give the negativity to God to deal with. He assures us He will deal with the ones who spoke them. It is usually not our place to "set them straight."

Two scriptures that have helped me deal with harsh negativity are these:

Luke 23:34 "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do..."

Romans 12:19 "... Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."

Choosing to think most people would do better if they really understood what they are speaking against, I believe they often don't know the harm they are doing.

And no matter how or why they say hard things, God sees it all. Nothing escapes Him and He deals with them much better than we ever could.

How do I know that? I know it because there have been times when I was the guilty one, the person who spoke what should not have been said and eventually those seeds of discord I had sown came back to judge me.

The late Dr. Charles Stanley put it this way, "we reap what we sow, more than we sow, later than we sow."

Well, this post became longer than intended but addresses issues we all face. (Well, maybe not the beginning about the gourd.... 🤔)

Until next time, grace and peace.










Friday, January 12, 2024

Stormy Contemplations

 


Cloudy Day water color

The caption that goes with this artwork I found on the Internet is this: "'Cloudy Day' at the beach. Good day for a sweatshirt and a book..."

This would be a good day for that around here. Currently this afternoon our outdoor temperature is about 72 degrees, it is definitely cloudy, there's a breeze, but perhaps a rain jacket would be the better choice over a sweatshirt because we've had some of that.

As I considered the theme for this week's blog post, the realization came that this has been a sort of bleak few days. Adding to it that I have not taken many snapshots at all, it looked like I might need to acknowledge there are times when the somber things outnumber the chuckles. 

But don't worry, I'll not let my typing here get too dark. Just now the sun peeked out for about 45 seconds to shed glorious light on the lanai where I am sitting. Even with the darkest of weather, there is sunshine above it all and an occasional break in the clouds to allow some light.

local TV weather forecast on January 9th

Early in the week local media was very busy preparing us for a strong storm with a possibility for tornadoes. Our house is in the orange area, so Gary brought in the yard birds, disassembled some of the statuary, and tucked the potted Poinsettia and Plumeria inside the garage. We once again agreed on our "safe place," that location in our house where, if at all possible, we would seek for protection from impending disaster. 

For those who are nosey (or might later need to know if searching for us), that location is our master bedroom closet, which is the safest place in the center of our home with lots of padding (the hanging clothes), away from glass and really close to a toilet (assuming the disaster does not impede its operation, of course). 🙄 

Blessedly, we were spared all harm in every form, although parts of Florida's panhandle took some bad hits. 

On the heels of that, a text informed me of the passing to Heaven of a friend living out West. Not unexpected, and fully confident of his good relationship with Jesus, the news was still a blow to read on my phone. 

Earlier today I had lunch with a dear friend I met in GriefShare a couple of years ago when we both were working through the loss of a husband. Since then she and I have re-married, but now similar loss has come to her again. We had a sweet visit of sharing. I got to see first-hand how the Lord is caring for and sustaining her, even comforting her, in this tough time.

Then one of our own blogging friends that many of you know and love, Martha Jane, wrote to say that the death of a precious pet had occurred on Christmas, a keen loss, especially to the primary caretaker, a young person. You'll need to read the story at this link: Meditations of my Heart

All of these passings were relatively peaceful, which is what we all would want. Years ago my friend in Tempe told me that her own father went to bed one night and "woke up dead." He passed in his sleep. What a blessing to slip away like that!

Youtube "Lead Me Gently Home, Father"
by the Gaithers

If you click on the link underneath the above photo, you'll hear the desire and prayer of my heart whenever I know someone is nearing death's door.

Then there are those who seem to linger at the gate, so to speak, waiting for the Lord's perfect timing to usher them into Heaven. My mother is one of them. Nearing 99 years old, she has an extremely quiet life with great disabilities and sleeps more than anything. Yet she remains with us. 

Since I live about a thousand miles from her nursing home and she is incapable of phone conversations or email, etc, I've been writing a letter to her every week for years, keeping the content to one page with typed words in a large font. At first she read them on her own, then it became necessary for Sister or a nurse to read them to her. Now I'm told the unopened letters tend to stack on her tray table until a visitor or staff initiates the reading. Can she even hear them? 

Should I even bother to write? OF COURSE! I'll continue as long as someone will read my words to her. None of us really knows how much she can mentally grasp underneath that head of pretty silver hair. It may be more than we realize but she just can't communicate that to us.

Life is perplexing right now in so many ways. There is no doubt we live in a time of "wars and rumors of wars." (see Matthew 24:6) Much of our culture is not kind, nor forgiving, let alone forbearing or patient. There are times when I hold my bowed head in my hands, my eyes leak tears, and I wonder what to make of it all. 

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness

A song from church youth choir days often comes to mind. If you remember it and want to sing along, click on the link with the above photo. Truly, this is the time to trust the Lord to get us through this wilderness.

And He will. He often gives me some mirth, so to speak, when my thoughts get too dark. Over Christmas I was describing to Gary a Christmas decoration I no longer have; then this week FaceBook popped this photo into my computer from 2016. It was taken in the entry hall of the last home I had in Colorado:

the hiding elf

For those who sometimes get trapped in too much serious thought (raising my hand here), I'm sure the Lord gives us these chuckles to lighten the mood. 

Then there is this to ponder when times seem impossible:


But perhaps the best is this one, from one of my Colorado quilting friends, Robbie, who is the most-traveled person I have ever known (and that includes one of my family members who travels for a living). Can you guess where she is right now?


If you said, "Antarctica," you're right! This is only one of the many astounding snapshots she has sent over the years from her globe-trotting. I did not ask prior permission to post her photo, but she reads my blog all the time and always has such kind things to say.

This scene tells me that even when we might find ourselves at the very bottom of the world, there is light to show us the way! 

Quoting the Lord here, this is a verse that says God can and will show us possibilities we never dreamed of:

Call unto me
and I will answer thee
and will show you great and mighty things
which thou knowest not.
Jeremiah 33:3

Until next time, grace and peace.


Friday, January 5, 2024

Friday Afternoon Musings

 

a pedestrian
This Egret crossed my path this afternoon as I was walking through the neighborhood. While this picture was taken with the help of the zoom feature on my iPhone, he did allow me to get (what I thought was) surprisingly close. We see a lot of his/her kind around here at this time of year. They have to poke their head out in front of them to get their legs to move the body forward (or so it seems). 

This one did not seem inclined to converse with me. They are always on grocery trips when we see them, so chatting with humans is not a priority with them.

back of our house 
as seen from the multi-purpose path

It's wintertime in Florida right now. Our bike rides have not been a daily thing due in part to the cold but more so because riding into the wind is very tiring. However, as a follow-up to comments made in my last post regarding the padded bike pants, WOW! What a difference that makes. I have two pair, one padded with foam and one with gel. Both fillings make a comforting difference in the comfort of the bike ride, but the gel is my favorite of the two.

I resisted asking Gary, "Do these shorts make my butt look fat?" because I just didn't want to put him in that awkward spot. However, my "bulk" does not tend to rest in that part of my anatomy, so it's not a concern to me. 

my New Year's Day menu 2018

New Year's Day we did not have the traditional black-eyed peas with cornbread, ham, and cooked greens (and Waldorf Salad, pictured above), which was my norm for many years. While it's a wonderful menu, I am now 70-something and I can say with certainty that what I eat on January 1st of any year has absolutely nothing to do with my good fortune (or lack thereof) for the rest of the year. 

But more accurate for this New Year's day of 2024, I was not the chef in charge of the kitchen, so we had what he was serving. It is our habit to have "Gary's World Famous Bacon Sandwiches" on most Mondays for lunch, finishing off the package he opened for our breakfast-for-lunch on the day before. So we had that, and as always, it was very good. By the way, Gary has bacon, tomato and mayo while I add a couple lettuce leaves for added crunch and nutrition.

Edith's bowl-and-pitcher
atop my quilted table runner

The day after New Year's, a visit to a new dentist resulted in an invitation for me to get two cavities filled later this month. These are my first cavities in a very long time, so I'm grateful.

sealing the pavers

Another necessary but not especially pleasant event this week was getting the paver bricks in our front patio sealed. The result is beautiful and does not need to be repeated for two years, but the strong smell of the chemicals are headache-inducing. 

3pm tea and chocolate-covered peanuts

In spite of it being an absolutely beautiful afternoon outdoors, we retreated to the lanai on the back of the house to read, talk, and blog.

Sudoku

Here's a question for those who like to leave comments: have you ever played Sudoku? 

I began a month or so ago and absolutely love it. Once I realized it does not require math (not a bit!!) and it is said to be of help in staving off dementia, I decided to give it a try. Now this book sits beside my recliner where most evenings I work the puzzle in front of the evening news. 

If you are interested, here is one of many Youtube links explaining how to play: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWfZ77Z9q4Q


photo credit:
Google: water color journal

Another question I am inviting my readers to answer is this: why do some of us blog? The 15th anniversary of my first blog is coming up in a few weeks yet I still ask myself that question. Why do some of us feel the need to share our thoughts with who-knows-who is reading?


Why would anybody care to read my stuff, and especially if they don't know me personally? Am I trying to educate, evangelize, or enamor?


What has recently occurred to me is that being heard is a human need and in this culture of so many voices talking all at once, it's easy to feel nobody is listening. To feel heard, understood and validated is a basic human need.


And some of us just like to write.


Well, I'd be interested to know what my readers have to say about Sudoku and/or blogging, just to get a general feel for your opinions. Thanks, as always for stopping by.


Until next time, grace and peace.


Let the words of my mouth,

and the meditation of my heart,

be acceptable in thy sight,

O LORD,

my strength and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 KJV


from Cottage-Style Charm by 
Natalie Bird (Martingale)










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