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Monday, March 31, 2014

 



 
 
"Fellowshipping with one another when we walk in the light..."  When the first three were young, we played that song on a cassette tape almost every morning as it was sung by "Acapella."  Even though cassette tapes are almost extinct, the truth of that melody still resonates.


Mix in one happy morning spent at church, a double serving of  a three year old twins' birthday bbq, a heaping helping of family, add friends for flavor, beat the clouds to a froth in the great outdoors on a day which couldn't decide whether to be beautiful or petulant, sprinkle in a generous portion of a herd of kids, a dog and a cat, and it couldn't get better, except for a few skinned knees.  After all the presents were opened, what did the birthday twins enjoy playing with?...the buckets where the ice had melted into water cold enough to freeze their little hands while laughing and splashing: simple pleasures.


What could be sweeter than watching the birthday brother and sister dressed in yellow shadowing each other walking through the midst of the crowd of kin not straying far from each other's side throughout the day in a close fellowship woven in the womb.  Precious.


Waiting for the breaking of the bread...

Earlier in the week Aden and Grace had taken to collecting pet snails.  The four year old spent his time racing them, carrying them around, kissing them until he was called in, "Aden, come wash your hands.  We're going out to eat."  He was heard saying to his slimy pets, "Hear that guys?  You get to go too!"  Oh, the sweet fellowship!  But we have to draw the slimy line somewhere.


 

"...breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart..."  Acts 2:46



and even after everyone else has gone home...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

 
I surprised myself with an almost unconscious thought: "Shouldn't I be worrying about this?"
Oops.  No.  I should be trusting, seeking, asking, knocking.  Worry is the opposite of trust.




Peace is promised by the Prince of Peace.  But Beth Moore makes a startling conclusion: "peace means absence of fear and turmoil, not the absence of pain and grief."  The Prince of Peace was also a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. 


"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7


I get the mental image of the garden of fellowship with God with His angels guarding our hearts and minds giving us peace.  Peace can also be translated "tranquility."  Sounds a little like the rest that God has promised His people.


"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."  John 14:27

 

Peace sounds like a gift Jesus wanted and still wants to give His disciples.  Hmm, peace or fear?

 
Pictures by Michael Underwood, Lake City, Colorado
This is where my brother lives, where I grew up camping.
I am blessed to have this beauty soaked into my soul.
Peace is active, thought at rest.  It's like camping here
in these beautiful mountains where we let go of the everyday
and reduce ourselves to the essentials so we can enjoy
the tranquility of what He has created for us.
 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Grandma Fairless told me the story of WWI when her husband was overseas fighting and she lived with her in-laws.  A brother, also in the service, came home on leave and brought home that terrible flu of the epidemic of 1818.  She nursed the family as best she could.  There was no medicine to reduce the fever, and the doctor told her to pile on the blankets.  She refused, just knowing that couldn't be right.  Still her husband's parents, little sister, and the soldier brother all died there at home.  This inspired my short love story
 
 
 
EMILY
 
By Celia Jolley
 
 
 
 
"The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness--
...when it went to find its rest...
'I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.
Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!
Again you shall take up your tambourines,
And go forth to the dances of the merrymakers."
Jeremiah 31:2-4
 
Emily had always brought her eggs to the Tipton's on her way to school.  Mr. Tipton would take them to stock his store shelves with her fresh eggs every morning.  She and his daughter Heather had always been best friends going to school all the way, desks side by side, from kindergarten till they were freshmen in high school.  Now Heather was gone, dying in the flu epidemic of  1918, the worst year of Em's life.  So many died.  Hard to realize every day that her best friend would not be waiting when Emily opened the screen door on the porch where she set her eggs down.  She walked on alone.  The epidemic seemed to have settled down, and school had begun meeting again.

During these war years, Heather had promised to write her brother every week when he was sent overseas.  She begged Emily to help her eek something out of the ordinary to write about.  Together they wrote tidbits of this and that and essays of life in Bunting, Tennessee, of funny things people said or did, or of the beauty of the changing seasons.  The girls related which hound had pups, who got poison ivy, snake bit, who had babies, who got married, and who died.  Sometimes it seemed for awhile that's what they wrote about the most, who died, between the war and the flu when it came uninvited to town.  They never wrote him about Emily's sister Beth getting married to William, his best friend. She was Josiah's promised when he left, but was unfaithful to her promise.

Most think it was Billy Frost who came home on leave that bought the flu with him.  It hit his family first taking his mom and dad and little sis leaving two boys too young to go off to fight, and barely old enough to carry on with the farm.  Billy didn't make it either, a young soldier who died not on the battlefield, but at home from the flu. He had come home well, but left in a box. 

It swept through town like a wildfire, skipping some homes while consuming others.  Schools closed, and even the churches while still urging everyone to pray.  Only outdoor gravesite services were held where people hung back from the grieving.  It seemed strange that no one was hugging each other anymore or bringing food.  One couldn't be too careful.  Entire families were wiped out while families like hers were spared. 

It seemed the local epidemic was about gone until its wicked tail whipped around and stung one last time by striking the Tipton household.  Not only had Heather died, but so did her sweet mother.  Mr. Tipton was a shell of a man in his grief.  His only son was across the sea fighting in that terrible war.  The Lord only knew if Josiah Tipton would survive.

Emily's parents would not let her go see Heather when she got sick.  She sent her notes though leaving them with her father at the store.  She had to take her eggs clear there when her mother wouldn't let her step foot on the Tipton's property.  Most people didn't even want to go to his store when the word got out that the sickness had visited upon his family.  That's when he hired help and stayed home to tend his family.

After Heather died, her father came to Emily's home and sat down on a stump in the yard twisting his hat while she sat on the porch step.  Her parents stood behind her and spoke their condolences that were like a breeze that did not even stir the hair on his balding head.  Everyone waited for him to speak.  Finally, he said, "I don't want to let my son know of our grief here.  It will be enough for him to bear when he gets home, but I can't let him suffer more while he is over there fighting."  He wiped away tears with his bare hands and went on, "Heather promised to write him every week, and I know you helped her, Em.   I come to ask you a big favor as her best friend.  Her last request was for you to keep on writing those letters to her brother and sign her name for her." 

He paused and carefully minced his words, "You know your sister was his gal, and she never did write him like she promised.  She did not wait for him like she promised.  I hope she's happy, but I know it hurt him bad.  So, I know he looks forward to those letters of yours when they do get through.  If you'll do that for Heather and me, I would be indebted to you, Miss Emily.  I will provide the paper and envelopes and the postage and see that they are mailed, if you'll just bring 'em with yer eggs."

"Sure, Mr. Tipton.  I can do that for Heather, for Josiah, and for you."  At the same time her fists were balled with white knuckles thinking of how her sister had treated the man who Emily admired more than any other that Bunting had produced.  Josiah Tipton was a man worth waiting for, and Beth didn't.  She got pregnant with William Fresson's baby, and had a hurry up wedding.  Then, of all things, they moved right in to what had been her late grandmother's room.  It seemed a sacrilege to her righteous memory.  His voice brought her attention back to the present.

"Alright then.  Come by the store on your way home sometime and pick out the paper you want, and pen and ink even."  The man flashed a ghost of a smile which then crumpled in grief.  He turned and walked away with his shoulders heaving seeing the flash of his white handkerchief as he yanked it out of his pocket. 

They all stood silent in mournful respect for the sorrow of their friend and neighbor.  Finally Emily asked, "Ma, Pa, is that alright, I mean, I promised to do that, but is it honest to write in Heather's name?"

They were silent thinking on it, then her mother said, "I think it will be alright.  Didn't you sign your name with Heather's at times?  Just keep on doing that.  It's not withholding the truth forever, it's just waiting for the proper time, and now is not the right time for telling.  He'll know it all when he comes home."

"And if he doesn't, I mean, if he never makes it home, he'll know I was lying when he gets to heaven and sees his Ma and sis there waiting for him."

"We have to have the hope that he will make it home, Em.  God will sort it out so we don't have to worry about it.  Just keep praying for him like I know you have been.  Think of the happiness your letters will bring.  That's what Heather was counting on you for. Right?"

"But God didn't answer my prayer for Heather to survive.  I don't think my prayers are worth squat."

"Don't use that course slang, child.  Of course He hears you, but it is already written in God's book when He calls His children home.  Our prayers are there for their home going, whether it be coming through it here or going on to heaven.  Don't you think, Em, that Heather felt your prayers even though you couldn't go to her?"

"I hope so."  But Emily wore her doubts on her shoulders like a heavy clock. 

The next day when she came home from school, she walked out to clean the chicken coup, one of her many chores on the place.  With her sister's pregnancy, she distained the outdoor work saying the smells made her nauseous.  William was working long hours at the mill so that he wasn't worth much at home.  As usual, it was she and her Pa who did the dirty work.

Beth and William lived with them because they were too poor to live on their own with a child coming.  The mill work didn't last all year.  Emily hated it because she could hear too much when they fought, which was pert-near every night, and had to cover her head with her pillow when they kissed and made up.  Most times in the summer, she slept out on the screened porch on a cot to avoid being only a thin wall away from the newlyweds.  She dreaded the cold weather when she would have to move back inside.  She hoped not all marriages were like that, but knowing her sister's picky, pouty side, she knew not to expect much better from her.  Hadn't she fought with her their whole growing up years?  Emily didn't know what Josiah Tipton had ever seen in her and was glad in a way that her sister didn't wait for him.  He might think he had a broken heart, but it would be better than coming home to her.  He deserved better.

She alternated using the pitchfork to toss in new hay and to ward off the threatening spurs of the rooster.  He was an onry one.  As much as she like her hens, she despised this rooster.


She heard her mother call, "Em, I want a chicken for dinner.  Would you bring me one, please?"  It was worse than fighting the rooster, having to kill one of her chickens.  She decided to choose the one who was most hen-pecked and rung her neck.  She then put it down fascinated in the strange attraction watching it running around with its head cut off before collapsing.

Then she called, "Ma, I killed one for you, but can you have Beth come pluck it?  I have to take eggs to Miss Tillitson.  She asked me yesterday, saying she was waiting for my eggs to bake a cake. Alright?"

"Go on then.  I'll tell Beth."

Emily knew the only thing worse than killing a chicken to her sister, was plucking one to prepare to cook for dinner.  Oh well, let her eat cake, which she was more than likely to do refusing to eat the meat her mother would lovingly make out of that raw chicken.  With a bit of a mean streak, Emily hollered, "Tell Beth it was my chicken named Sissy.  I think she's done dancing now."  Putting a beady-eyed face in her mind's eye in the plucking always made it worse when you where holding the headless thing.

After she delivered the eggs, she would go by the store, pick out the stationary, then come home and write Josiah Tipton a letter for his sister.  Emily then thought about her friend Heather the rest of the way.

It was harder than she thought choosing the paper.  Mr. Tipton pointed to a pen as well careful not to touch the merchandise himself.  Customers didn't like their things handled by him still.  Usually he stayed back in his office and let his assistant help the people since the flu had not visited her house.  He only came out because he heard Emily there.  His eyes seemed to search her as if to find his daughter alive in her presence.  Emily finally chose pale blue sheets with matching envelopes.  It made her think of the color of Josiah's eyes, but she would not write about that.  She thanked Mr. Tipton and walked home looking around her to see anything of interest to write about in Bunting.

She remembered the huge tomatoes in the tilted display boxes in front of his father's store and thought about how much Josiah loved a juicy tomato.  She knew he would practically be able to taste that tomato when she wrote about it.

Then she saw the boy on the bike who delivered the messages that usually were bad news.  Nobody liked to see him coming with his telegrams and would hold their breath until he passed by.  Emily stood stalk still as she saw him go to the Anthony's, his heavy steps sounding like a hammer on an anvil going up to their porch to knock on the front door.  The door was cracked and the letter was slipped through to a shaking hand.  Even when the door closed, the wail heard told the story of another soldier not coming home to Bunting.  It gave Emily the shivers and ran home to tell her Ma all the while praying that Josiah would make it home safe.

Her mother heard her calling and was folded into her waiting arms.  Richard Anthony had been a classmate, only a year older than she.  Emily told her the news between sobs.

"I must make this into a chicken soup so we will have enough to share with them. Emily after you've had time to lie on your bed to compose yourself, would you gather some vegetables to put in the soup?  Sometimes it's the staying busy that helps.  I'll begin making the noodles.  Poor, Mrs. Anthony.  I'm so glad I only had girls.  I can't imagine what she is going through."

Even Beth came in to sit beside her for a minute on her bed without saying a word, just patting her shoulder.  Finally she said, "I'm sorry sis."  Then she left letting Emily sort through her misery that life seemed to have around every corner.  That made four of her classmates gone due to the war or the flu. 

It wasn't until the pot of soup and rolls were delivered and they had sat down to their own meal at home that her mother asked, "Are you going to mention the loss of Richard to Josiah in your letter, Emily?"

"What?  What do you mean about a letter, Emily?  Why are you writing a letter to Josiah?"

"His father has asked me to carry on writing him for Heather."

"He came by this morning to ask her while you were out."

"Did he come in our house?  I don't want to be exposed to that horrible flu.  Think of my baby for goodness sakes."

"No, he spoke to her from the yard.  Don't worry, Beth.  He did not bring any germs into our home."

William, Beth's husband, kept up his steady slurping spoonfuls, hungry from a hard day of labor not looking up.  Her father also was quietly eating as usual.  His eyes just followed whoever was speaking.  Now William spoke with a mouthful of roll in his mouth, "Yep, that's a good thing about working in the woods, not as exposed to those stupid flu germs."

Her mother asked Beth to help her with the dishes, not her usual chore since she complained so of a backache.  It was to allow Emily time to write her letter.  The one good thing about having Beth married was that now she had a room to herself and privacy for the task set before her.  Afraid to mess up the beautiful stationary, Emily wrote a rough draft in her journal with more things crossed out than left in.  She had to write it so that it sounded like Heather.  They had done it enough times together that she understood a little of what to include.  Emily found herself thinking more of what she wasn't including like Heather and his mother's death, his father's grief, her sister's pregnancy, then marriage, Richard Anthony as one of the war dead.  She sighed and began writing,



Dear Josiah,

You sure are sorely missed here.  There's no one to take us fishing now.  We don't dare cross old man Smith's property to get to our favorite fishing spot without you.  I bet you wish you could eat a pan full of fried catfish about now.  Did I tell you about how beautiful the display of tomatoes is in front of the store?  Makes me think how you liked to bite into those juicy red things and had juice dribbling down your chin.  Am I making you hungry yet?  You know Emily helps me write my letters to you cause we've always done everything together.  Oh, and we had a good rain this week that helped the garden along.   Mr. Harper's hound killed a copperhead this week.  They think the dog will survive.  They say the man lets it up in his own bed to tend to it.  Can you imagine that? But I guess you can 'cause you used to always sneak your dog up into your bed too.  Now he hardly gets off the porch.  He hasn't got to go hunting since you left.  It's like he's waiting for you.

If you can write, tell me what you think about most in your trench or fox hole.   Then I can tell you about it if you are thinking about home.  School is not the same since the war.  Not very many boys are left in the top classes.  More women are having to fill in jobs here with so many men away.  Dad has even hired Miss Schofield to work in the store.  I must admit, she's tidied it up a bit.  Did I tell you that we have a lady postmistress now?  She smiles when she sees me coming when she has a letter for me from you.  There is nothing that makes me happier on earth than hearing from you.  Write when you can.  Be assured we are all praying for the war to be over and for you to come home soon and safe.  Love, Heather and Emily.

She carefully copied it onto the stationary then showed it to her mother.  "Do you think this will be alright?  Do you think he'll guess that Heather didn't write it?" 

"I'm sure he will be happy to receive it..  Isn't it like the other letters you girls wrote to him?  It is good to fill it with cheerful things, thoughts of home.  War is more horrid than we can imagine, and a letter like this is a piece of sunshine." 

Her sister Beth had a cross look when they were talking about it.  "Please don't talk about Josiah or your letters to him in front of me.  It pains me to hear it."

"Pains you brought on yourself," Emily couldn't help adding.

"Emily, that's enough.  That's all water under the bridge.  We will try not to, dear, but I can't promise we will tiptoe around you either, Beth.  That's just life, and you must learn to live with the choices you make."

That was about as much of a rebuke she had heard her mother make since Beth came home to announce that she and William had married in the next town over and needed to live with them because they were expecting.  Mother mostly cried then.

Emily was faithful to write to Josiah, and Mr. Tipton was good to let her read the letters he wrote back.  He never included the horrors he must have faced, but seemed to like to respond to what she had written, things like fishing or ripe tomatoes or his dog on the back porch.  Heather said he had quit asking about her sister Beth months before even though they never told him that she was married or expecting.  When he mentioned that he had a souvenir for his little sister, it made Emily cry that Heather would not be there for him when he got home. 

It was the middle of November and her sister was very large nearing her due date. Now, she was no help around the house at all.  She kept busy making baby clothes and blankets.  Pa brought down the cradle from the attic that he had made when she was a baby. They were trying to decide on names.  Every one they picked, Emily already had a chicken by that name.  That only made her sister mad.

At school, Emily was in the middle of a spelling bee when the church bells started ringing.  When they did not stop, the boys first, then everyone stood up and went outside to see if there was a fire, if they smelled smoke.  Finally, Kenny who had played hooky that day to go hunting early with his pa came running up to say the war was over!  An armistice had been signed.  Emily whispered to herself, "Josiah is coming home," and tears filled her eyes with the sad news of what he would come home to find. It was all she could do not to sob out loud.  She grabbed her coat and ran home.  Her thoughts were a tumble.  She hoped he would not be angry when he found out it was she who had been writing the letters. 

Emily had not seen him for almost two years, when she and Heather were fifteen.  Sure she had a crush on him then, but it was silly as he only had eyes for her sister.  Beth had bawled her eyes out at the kitchen table saying she did not know how she could live without him when he left, while Emily went into her room and shut the door to smother her tears in her pillow.  In a matter of months, her sister was back to going to dances and flirting with whoever looked at her twice.  She was beautiful and knew it.  Emily was too, but did not know it, or at least paid no mind.  Beth was golden while Emily was a striking beauty with her raven black hair that almost shimmered and eyes that flashed lightening strikes gleaming with a heavy fringe of lashes that swept down in modesty most of the time unless a storm brewed.

Harold Bloomfield had set his cap for her, but he repulsed her with his coarse ways.  He would try to kiss her when he could get her alone in the cloak closet which she carefully avoided.  She had even slapped him once, hard. Skip Hawthorne liked her too but was like a moonstruck puppy and followed her everywhere.   Because of them, she never even asked to go to any dances.  Besides that, she went to the Methodist Church with Heather while Em's parents were Presbyterian.  The Methodists frowned upon dancing.  She still went and sat by Mr. Tipton on Sundays.  Her mother and sister thought it a little odd, but allowed it.  It seemed to bring him comfort.

Emily had just come home from school when she heard his a familiar voice in her house.  She froze then slipped down weak-kneed to sit on the porch floorboards so as not to be seen.  She refused to go in and interrupt what sounded like a heated conversation.  She pulled her coat up tighter around her knowing she shouldn't listen, but was so happy to hear his voice again she couldn't tear herself away.

"What happened to your promise to wait for me, Beth?  How long did you wait?  I haven't been gone  two years, and you are married and now due any time. I waited for you.  Guys, you know, over there, have a lot of temptations which I resisted for you.  I still hoped to find you here waiting even though you quit writing me after the first few months.  I was in love with you, you know." 

"I was in love with you too."

He snorted, "Yeah, and I believe the moon is made of green cheese."

"No, truly I was, it's just that..." and because she had nothing else to say, she began sobbing.

Emily knew her sister had no defense.  She had been unfaithful in her love seeking pleasure over commitment. 

"I just found out you were married, but nobody told me you were in the motherly way too.  I guess I had to see that for myself.  You must not have waited very long, that's for sure, and he stormed out slamming the kitchen door.  Beth ran crying to her room.  Josiah stood on the edge of the porch clenching and unclenching his hands.

Emily stood up, "I'm glad you're home, Josiah.  I'm sorry I couldn't tell you about your mother and Heather, but I promised your father I wouldn't."  The tears were running down her face in a fresh grief.  He turned his stormy countenance toward her, blinded by tears just thinking about his little sister. 

"She was your best friend.  You two were inseparable.  It must have been hard for you too."

"The last thing she asked me to do was to keep writing you the letters.  I couldn't say they weren't from her, but I felt badly not being truthful with you."

He came over and gave her a big hug resting his chin on her head.  "It's okay.  I couldn't have kept my sanity without those letters.  We would go weeks without any, but then I would get a whole passel of them at once.  I read them so many times, they almost fell apart.  I saved them all, you know."

"Your Pa read me some of your letters too.  You never wrote about the sad things, though I can't imagine how terrible things were for you.  I'm sure you wish you could wipe it all away from your memory."

"Yes and no.  There were friendships forged there that were the best.  Many of them did not make it, but even those, I'm glad to say, I will see in heaven again one day.  I'm sure they've already met my mom and sis.  That makes me happy.  But the rest, I wish I could forget..."  He paused remembering.

"But thanks for writing me, kiddo.  He kissed her forehead then held her away from him by her shoulders.  Wow.  You are not the kid that I remember, Em.  I started dating your sister when she was younger than you.  You must be making some guy pretty happy."

"Are you kidding?  It's been slim pickings with the war and you soldiers marching off.  I haven't seen a date I wanted to accept yet."  She tried to laugh it off, but his nearness was making her heart do strange poundings, and she hoped he would not notice.

.

He pushed a stray strand away from her face still studying her.  I bet you really miss her, don't you.  The tears spilled out again then, and all she could do was shake her head.  He bent down to kiss her cheek, but she turned her head up to his to say something, but found herself kissed instead.  It began gently, then the two years of longing for a kiss seemed to come her way as she wrapped her arms around his neck feeling his hair along his neck in their embrace like she always wanted to.  Never had she imagined it could be like this, and she held on tightly.

"Sorry," he said hoarsely, pulling away.

She was sure she was turning scarlet, but was not sorry. "I know you just needed a kiss, and it wasn't really meant for me.  But that's okay.  Truly, I did not mind one bit," and she was ashamed that she sort of giggled.  She drew her hand across his cheek and he took it and kissed her palm. 

Just then Beth came out and practically screamed like a crazed person, "Emily get in here this instant!"  she hissed.  Emily wondered what she would have done if she had seen them  a minute earlier.

Josiah put his arm around Emily's shoulders and gave her a squeeze.  "I was just leaving.  Thanks again, sweetheart for writing me all those letters."  Now he was mockingly starring at Beth.  It made her want to laugh, but then he whispered, "Maybe you could come over sometime and visit with me and dad so we can talk about Heather."

"I'd like that," Emily smiled.

After he left her sister seethed, "How dare you stand there on the porch in public making a fool of yourself, Emily.  You are too young for a soldier like that anyway."

"What difference does it make to you anyway?"

"A lot."

Just the same, Emily found she was too nervous to go to the Tipton's even though Josiah had invited her to drop by.  Yet, one morning a few days later, he came out just as she was delivering her eggs on the back porch. 

"You're still doing that, huh?"

"Yes, I'm saving my money for college, but I don't know when I'll have enough.  Probably not next year."

"Are you graduating in the spring?"

"Yes, Heather would have graduated with me."  She tried to look anywhere else but at his face remembering his kiss. She found herself trembling.

He reached over and took her hand in his pulling her down on the porch step beside her.  "That kiss kind of took me by surprise."

"Me too.  I did not know it would be like that."

"Like what?"

"It was my first kiss.  I don't know, melting."

"Uh, first kisses aren't usually like that. I know what you mean; it was pretty hot.  The trouble is, it always leaves you wanting more."

"Yeah," she said softly while he chuckled.

"Well, I'll be, Miss Emily, you certainly have been a pleasant surprise.  Sometimes we think we have things figured out, make plans and dreams and then they all come tumbling down.  But sometimes, something better is left standing in their place."

She was looking searchingly at him now, and all he wanted to do was kiss her, but the little thing had to go off to school.  "You better run off, Emily.  Isn't there a bell that the teacher still rings?"

She did run off as fleet as a deer and he watched her until she turned the corner.  He figured he'd better not hang around the house on school mornings any more, or he might just make her tardy one of these days.

Sunday came like clockwork, and she wasn't ready.  Emily was trying to choose.  She wanted to go to church to sit by Mr. Tipton, but now Josiah would be there too.  He might think she was just coming for him, chasing him.  She hoped Mr. Tipton told him that she always came.  She brushed her hair till there was a sheen on it in the morning sunshine bright for a December morning.   She decided she would keep on doing what she did before he came home.  With her Bible tucked up against her chest, she walked to the little white church.
 
When Emily paused before going down the aisle, she could see that he was sitting by his father in the usual place.  Indeed he did look surprised to see her there catching her eye as he looked around.  Mr. Tipton scooted over so that she could sit between them.  He leaned over and whispered to his son, "Emily has not missed a Sunday sitting by me since we lost your mother and sister."  Josiah looked at her until she had completely sank in his eyes.  He reached over and held her hand and did not let go the whole time they were sitting down, only when they stood up to sing out of the hymnals.
 
The pastor was saying, "We all want to welcome Josiah Tipton back home as an answer to our prayers.  We all grieve the loss of his mother and sister however.  Welcome, Josiah.  And we remember our others who died in the war and in the epidemic."
 
He preached from Jeremiah 31:2-4,  "The people which were left of the sword found grace
in the wilderness; ...I went to cause him to rest...Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.  Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets (tambourines), and shall go forth in the dances of them that make merry." 
 
Emily looked over and saw Josiah on the edge of his seat drinking in the message gripping her hand tightly.
 
When the service was over, he kept his hand in the small of her back all the way down the aisle.  Emily became aware of the glares of several of the young ladies her sister's age.  She realized she wasn't the only one who was waiting for him to come home.  He finally left her outside by his father to go over and hug Mrs. Anthony and let her cry on his shoulder.
 
Walking back to his house together, he asked, "Want to eat dinner with us today, Miss Emily?"
 
"Please, do, darlin','" Mr. Tipton agreed. 
 
"Oh, then maybe I will," she agreed.  I think my folks will know where I am.  Your father has fed me more than once."
 
It was a pleasant Sunday dinner.  It was the happiest she had seen Mr. Tipton since he lost his wife and daughter.
 
After they were done eating, they sat around and told stories.  Josiah wanted to hear everything she could remember to tell him about his sister. Then he seemed to get pensive.
 
 
"I think the preacher preached that sermon right to me today.  I have escaped the sword, and he has brought me to rest out of my wilderness.  I know God has followed me with His lovingkindness.  In some ways though I was feeling torn by the war, by the losses there and here at home--my gal, my  mother, my sister--I think He was promising me today that He will rebuild me.  I just need to find a virgin to dance."
 
Oh my, did Emily blush then while his father roared with laughter.  "You sure are bold, son, my goodness, I can't believe you just said that."
 
"It's all in the Bible, sir," and he winked at her.  "Excuse me for a minute."  He left the room.
 
"My gracious, it's good to have my son home," Mr. Tipton said patting her hand, "and to laugh again.  Thank you for coming today and all those other Sundays when I was alone.  I won't ever forget that.  It was wonderful to talk about my little girl today.  Having you here is as close as I can come in this life to being next to her.  That makes you one special person to me, Miss Emily."
 
"Thank you," Emily said.
 
When he came back in the room, Josiah did not sit down.  "Would you walk with me, Miss Emily?"
 
They walked in silence.  He reached out and she gave him her hand.  Josiah walked her towards Mr. Smith's pond where he had taken his sister and her fishing.  Today, they sat on a log in the December sunshine.
 
"Did my father read you the letter when I said that I had a little souvenir for Heather?  Well, it's nothing too special, but I thought she would like it knowing I was thinking of her making it while I sat in a muddy trench in France.  I thought maybe you would like it now in her stead.  After all, in those days,  a body couldn't think of one of you without the other."  He pulled out a thin silver band and put it on her finger.  "It's just a trinket that we learned to make to beat the boredom to keep our minds off when the next set of explosions would come at us.  It's made of a dime drilled and slowly pounded out."
 
"It's beautiful, more so knowing that you made it for Heather.  I am honored you have given it to me, Josiah."
 
"You know, Emily, I wanted to bring you out here to talk with you.  I'm not the kind of fella that can string a girl along just for his own pleasure.  Of course, you wouldn't know that when I kissed you the other day, the first day I saw you were not a little girl anymore.  It woke me up.  I realized that you were the one who was faithful to remember me.  Oh sure, I got a few letters here and there from some of the other girls.  I'm sure you saw them today trying to stare you down. But, you were the one who never stopped writing.  You were the one to stand alongside my father in his grief when I couldn't be here for him."
 
"You are very handsome and catch all their eyes, but it's more, Josiah. You are all that a girl could hope for in a man."  She spoke so sincerely, he knew it was not pure flattery.
 
He pulled her closer.  "That's what I wanted to ask you.  Do you think you could be my girl, Emily?  After what I've been through, and all I've lost, I don't want to dance with the wrong gal again, if you know what I mean?"
 
Emily could hardly breathe and could only nod.
 
"You said when I kissed you before, that it wasn't really meant for you.  I've been thinking about that all this time.  What I think about that kiss, the kiss I thought about coming home to give my girl all that time over there is that though I didn't know it was for you, it really was for you and no other.  I never kissed anyone like that before. Just because it was a surprise to both of us doesn't mean it wasn't meant to be.  Do you know what I am saying?"
 
Slowly a smile crept over her face.  "I think I'll know for certain when you give me a kiss that I know is meant just for me.  After all, that was just my first kiss."
 
He pulled her up in his arms and asked, "Does this mean you will be my girl?"
 
She pulled his head down and answered with her lips.  Her heart was just like the Scripture said, very merry and dancing indeed.
 

 

Friday, March 28, 2014

 
 
Growing up camping in the Colorado mountains, there wasn't a campground, just us, the break your ice in the bucket in the morning in the middle of summer, swim in the snow-fed frosty frothing river for your Saturday bath, eat the left-over cornmeal fried trout for breakfast, hike up above timberline kind of camping.  Then someone else had camped below us and left a survival training spot for their Outward Bound program where city kids were taught survival skills and then sent out to climb a mountain by themselves with little but a pocketknife and a very few essentials.  We tried to shimmy up the obstacle course poles to walk cross the log suspended about twelve feet above the ground.  It was a great achievement to make it across enough to make us want to dance once we hit the ground again.

 


 A promise for a survivor...


 
"'At that time,' declares the Lord, 'I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people."  Thus says the Lord, 'The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness--Israel, when it went to find its rest.  The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.  Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel!  Again you shall take up your tambourines, And go forth to the dances of the merrymakers.'" Jeremiah 31:1-4
 
 

  

Finding grace in the wilderness, finding rest, being drawn with lovingkindness, what a picture of beauty for the soul to dwell on, to dwell in enough to have the music in your soul to want to dance!

 

The word, which my spellcheck doesn't recognize, lovingkindness is "hesed' in the Old Testament.  It means the very intimacy of love of the deepest kind.  It is not the "I like this or that" or even the "I love my dog." (By the way, isn't the reason we love our dogs is they offer unconditional love?)  Perhaps we live in a society which yearns for this lovingkindness, but few know.  It is the prevenient grace that draws us to God Himself.  It is the kind of love worth dying for, which Christ did actually.  Do you know this kind of crazy love?  Marriage is the divine example, but in human form imperfect at times.  For God, it was love at first sight!

 
It is the divine romance beckoning, built into life that makes us seek love.  When it is God who pursues us and when we respond, we receive grace, rest, and an everlasting love that rebuilds, restores our soul and causes us to make music and dance.

 

Our world is a wilderness.  We are aliens, illogical immigrants here, just passing through looking for the narrow way apart from the crowd.  From afar He has appeared and is beckoning saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love," undying, eternal, unconditional, unreasonable, beyond logic, and He has invited us to dance with the merrymakers. 



Find grace in the wilderness you survivors of the sword!  It's a war out there, but there is a rest promised for the soul.

 

 

 
 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

MY MOM TOLD ME TO PICK THE VERY BEST ONE
AND YOU ARE IT!
 

 
When is it okay to spoil them?  When it's your spouse, right?  I'm the first to admit I'm very, as in extremely, spoiled.  My husband is the best spoiler in the world.  He knows I don't need bouquets, jewelry, or even the small gifts, 'cause he encourages me to get the little things that make me happy like books or thrift store treasures that he could never pick out.  Just driving down the road past a mall gives him anxiety, okay?  But he spoils me in the daily ways that gives life a sigh of relief.


I hate the smell of gas, have had the stupid thing spit on me once too often, was spoiled by years in Oregon when it was against the law to pump your own gas, so he spoils me by keeping my tank full.
Between my neuralgia pain from shingles and my sjogrens...which gives me dry skin, dry eyes, dry throat and the fatigue and aches and pains that mimic other autoimmune diseases like the fibromyalgia I was originally diagnosed with... my hands split and crack, and I run out of energy easily or feel a yucky sense of malaise like when you are starting to get the flu. So I cook and do the dishes, usually, but he does the pots and pans which require more hands in the water, and scours the sink, a no-no for me.  He allows me to have a friend clean for me to keep my hands from being exposed to the water and breathing the chemicals which can  trigger my asthma and because my energy is so limited.  He works two jobs so we can get insurance.  If I'm too tired, he knows how to cook, clean, wash, and do everything that makes up my job description as a homemaker.  I garden but he mows the lawn.  I try to keep him from having to go into stores, but he picks up prescriptions when needed or the gallon of milk, etc. or that fast food meal that will tide us over until I feel better.  If you're spoiled and you know it, say 'amen'!

 

Did I mention that he often makes me an orange juice milkshake and popcorn popped in the pan best kind of popcorn with real butter melted on it and sea salt?  He brings it to me and takes away the empty glass and bowl.  He leaves me my morning cup of coffee ready form me. His Saturday morning breakfasts are the best!  He has the gift of service I don't have so it amazes me every time he does it.
 


He indulges me in my puppy love and allows me to have my animals which sometimes makes our house an animal house, hard for someone who likes order to come home to.  Naughty puppies do bad things and upset the apple cart on a regular basis.  If I'm holding my pug, and my husband leans in to kiss me, more than once the pug is quicker giving an unexpected kiss.  Yes, the dogs are spoiled too: just look at their baby toys and road kill looking chew things scattered all over the floor.



He's learned after 40 plus years of marriage to pick up on my wellness meter and often asks, "How are you?  Are you okay today?"  It's nice to know someone gets it when you look alright, but are feeling like a mag truck ran over you.  Autoimmune diseases are like that, making life hard in hidden ways.  Spoilers are like that, looking for ways to make life better in little ways that weigh a ton in happiness.  I don't know how to spoil him back, except appreciate every little thing he does.

 
God's a little extravagant in His love for us too...
 
"to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond
all that we ask or think..."
Ephesians 3:20
 
That's my kind of God!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

 

 
Notice this is not real: she is in a maid's uniform.
What?  You don't have one of those to fold your laundry?
Neither do I.
 
My daughter went through her husband's closet and brought over a pile of his hand-me-downs for my boys to go through. Yep, they're man-sized now.  The thing of it is that when I have disgards, I wad them up, stuff them in a bag or something.  The T-shirt pile  she brought over looked like she had ironed them.  (It was one of those don't ask, don't tell moments).  My laundry has never been that neat.  I go for years at a time not even knowing if I own an iron: let's see, if I had an iron, where would I keep it?  I really have tried.  I have given myself laundry folding sessions, alone in secret where no one can see my ineptness.  I just have never folded a neat piece of clothing in my life.  I'm not good at origami either.
 

In my dreams...
 

I have known certain individuals who actually have ironed their sheets and even their husband's underwear.  I got their autographs because I knew I was in the presence of greatness far beyond what I could ever dream of achieving or even wanting to.  My daughter and I are a lot alike in many ways, but she did not get her neatness or cleaning gene from me.  It must be a throw-back from generations long ago because I know for a fact that even though my grandmother's house was always tidy, she hated to clean.  She had a love-hate relationship with her vacuum.  I have an inability to commit to mine as well. 
 
My reality.
 

What's the spiritual lesson in all this?  I don't know.  I haven't moved beyond the vision of that neatly stacked pile of T-shirts yet shuddering to think how I disassembled them, unfolding them, messing them up to throw them at the boys yelling, "Who wants this?" I felt like a crook dividing up the loot.  When I got done, it looked like a crime scene with clothes strewn all over a couch and two chairs, the floor and two boys in messy mounds.  All I know is that when we get to heaven, we are going to get white robes.  There're no irons there because it will be heaven not...the other place.   And I'm sure they won't even allow me near the passing out tables knowing what I would do to the nice, new, neatly folded robes, "Here's an X-large!  Who needs a medium?..."

"...behold a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes..." Rev. 7:9

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

 
 
Free range children...
 
or how to take the leash off...or how to land the helicopter if you are a hover-craft parent...or wwjd?

I've never considered myself as a helicopter hovering type parent.  I can handle a lot of their self-induced mess as long as their bedroom door is closed and it doesn't ooze out all over the house which it has a tendency to do.  My boys can walk to their friends' houses, even those a few blocks away. The most dangerous play I allow is when they go out in the side yard where the little pile of boards is with rusty nails sticking out: I figure that the threat of a tetanus shot if punctured should be warning enough. 

 

 

We have a beautiful park a block away. We live in a nice neighborhood and our kids have nice friends "in the hood" to play with, Christians even.  However, because there are drug dealers who hang out even on the best playgrounds, and we've seen pot-smokers pushing their baby strollers through the haze of their own smoke, and my kids have been chased home by a deranged mom who was found in our neighbor's fenced back yard who accused them of making fun of her son with a special needs challenge (my son also has a special needs diagnosis), I confess I have a little paranoia of letting the leash out.  We've had the rule: no adults, no park. 

Did I mention that years ago when my daughter was a teenager rollerblading by herself a block away, some men in a van pulled over and tried to grab her.  God gave her the ability to skate really, really fast for a beginner.  We live not far from a freeway, and we could have lost her.


Boys with their little Oma.  Add 6 to 9 inches to their height now.
I think she'd feel safe crossing the street with them.
 


However, my sons and their friends have grown to man-size.  They are not loners and like to hang out with each other.  Some of their friends have belts, the kind that doesn't hold up their pants. They want to take long-walks to get a slurpee at the 7-11.  My boys are turning thirteen and sixteen.  When do I let them become free range children?  What would Jesus do?  Walk with them to 7-11?  Actually, I think He might.

It is actually more dangerous in our home with access to the internet and netflicks.  We need more blocks to prevent experimentation with viewing.  So far tattling on each other has worked as well as  restricted use.  We have some blocks, but we need more. Did I mention that we didn't even a television for the first batch of children until the youngest was eight years old. 

The best protection is the armour of God: the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel, the breastplate of righteousness, and the sword of the Spirit.  We've been talking about the war out there, the war for their souls and their choice of which side they're on.  When do I start singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" and let them walk out the front door and beyond?

How about you?  Are you chicken like me to let your children go free range? 





Monday, March 24, 2014


Thoughts because I can see sixty from here, at least with binoculars...


I discovered a nugget last night, a book by one of my favorite thinkers, Paul Tournier.  In one chapter he is talking about growing old, how the best is yet to be. Tournier says, "If they look upon life as an adventure...they are preparing for a happy old age, because old age is the fruit of the life one has lived.  It is like a sort of moment of truth in which is revealed either the plenitude that is within us, or else the void...it is because they have lived with a meaning to their lives, a meaning which will go into old age...There are people who have the gift, even when surrounded by apparently uninteresting things, always to be learning something....An enormously important role is played, in making a success of old age, by that spirit of curiosity and adventure."  This was my grandmother.



"I am astonished at the number of people who manage to educate themselves--clandestinely, you might say.  They think themselves uncultured because they don't have a degree of some sort, whereas they are much more cultured than they imagine, and are often really rich personalities.  All art belongs to culture, and all philosophy.  And there is a philosophy which is not confined to the philosophers: it is a philosophy of life, that is to say, a search for the meaning of life, a thirst for life, which is one of the characteristics of true culture."


Here's an example: I was a college art major, yet on Pinterest I have found samples of art, even those by famous artists, that I never saw before.  It is so readily available that it is absolutely amazing. (this is not it...)


"There is a kind of prejudice which disparages old age, against which we must fight tooth and nail, because human beings are not validated by work; it is work which has its value because it comes from human beings...The only possible purpose is the development of the person, and that development is not work, but one's soul, one's innermost self."


"retirement is four new tires and ready to go!"

"The idea has got through that retirement means rest, (quitting.)  But it need not mean rest, it can mean the chance to construct a life based on things one likes doing, on one's interests, on one's own drive and inspiration; a life of freedom in place of life amid the shackles of work."


"...the direction of real living is always forward.  The old people who are happy are the ones who have a plan for tomorrow, not those who are always thinking of what they were doing thirty years ago."

The only thing I have to add is that whatever we decide to do needs to be free or inexpensive,

 
because, 40 + years later, the cake is mostly eaten.
 
The good news is...
 
"It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
...Your old men will see visions..."
Joel 2:29
 
It is never too late to have dreams.
 
 
Start practicing for old age by being interested and interesting now!