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I met my friend Ann the first time as we waited to pick up our kids from school. Like me she had two in elementary and one in the car. We hit it off immediately, mostly because we shared the same warped since of humor. By summertime we piled the kids in the car and headed to Morrow Mountain for swimming lessons and pbj’s several times a week. We were at best a six ring circus on wheels. Make that eight counting the clowns in the front seat. Angels flew low surrounding her station wagon on all those trips up and down the mountain. Not one mishap! We won’t speak of the twenty-five mile per hour zone and the park ranger with nothing else to do. I’m sure he’s gone to Glory by now and is happily handing out tickets to all those flying past his little cabin doing thirty two.

One day I spotted Ann’s car in a parking lot. This was BW [before Walmart] so maybe it was Roses’ at the Rowan Mall or Sky City at the Towne Mall. The particulars are fuzzy. But I do remember seeing a nasty disposable diaper in the space where she had parked. Just for fun, I scribbled a note and placed it on her windshield.

“Hey Lady- Is that your dirty diaper? Don’t be a litter bug!”

Since we were rather new friends, she had no idea that it was my handwriting and was quite insulted. All manner of unpleasantries rattled around in her head. It took a while before I confessed my mischief. It’s a wonder she ever accepted me back into the beloved.

Our children are grown and now we share a different bond. We’re both Grammys. Oh the joy! However, piling the kids in the car and heading to the park takes a lot more energy. Not because we’re about a hundred years older, but now we have to deal with all those pesky car seats. Back in the day we just stacked the six kids in like loaf bread with halfhearted instructions not to kill each other.

Recently as I cleaned out my desk, I came to grips with the fact that I cannot keep everything. Sadly, stacks of cards from kind people over the years needed to be tossed. However, all of Ann’s notes made the cut. Often she has written just a small word of encouragement at exactly the right time. How does she know? Around the same time she was also going through some stuff and found my windshield note from yesteryear. She sent me a picture of it saying, “The things we choose to keep.”note

Through the years we’ve endured a lot of life. Together we’ve learned the power of friendship, encouragement, and humor. While I tend toward mischief, she leans more to the kinder side. I’m just glad I made the cut. Maybe because we are still just a couple clowns joined at the heart.

I was in a hurry. It doesn’t matter what time I get up, the last few minutes before blast-off always vanish into thin air. I scurried across the road to my sweet mom-in-law’s to retrieve her newspaper. She likes to read it early so she can “solve the problems of Salisbury before she starts her day.”  Everything was wet from the previous night’s storm. Crepe Myrtles bowed heavily over her driveway with rain filled blossoms. With head down watching for puddles, I was moving too fast to notice.

BAP! Right square in the face it nailed me. The giant pink plumage soaked my hair and my shirt, then recoiled and smacked me again. I felt like a carnival contestant being hit with a giant wet sponge.

You know… there have been times when that would’ve been occasion to call fire down from heaven. I mean really.

As I stood there dripping, looking up at the laughing tree, I happened to remember that me and crepe myrtles go way back. The first time I recall noticing one was in the early seventies. Though I couldn’t tell you what I wore to church last Sunday, I actually remember riding through China Grove with my sweetheart, expressing to him how much I’d love to have a crepe myrtle tree in our yard someday. The first years of our marriage were spent in an apartment in south Florida, so it wasn’t possible. But once we moved back home, my beloved mother-in-law spoke to her neighbor and together they retrieved sprouts from her giant tree. I planted crepe myrtles everywhere we lived. About the time they’d grow large enough to sport a little plumage, we’d have to move again.

Once, when we bought our “forever house” between Rockwell and Gold Hill, I had an especially nice one with a great shape. Though I lovingly pampered it the five years we were there, it refused to bloom. Unexpectedly, we found ourselves moving again due to a job change. That rascal finally bloomed the day we moved. I cried all the way to Lexington.

Fast forward about more twenty years.

Through many crazy circumstances, we have come full circle. Even though this was not our plan, currently we live in the house where the lady lived who shared the sprouts with me forty years ago. And now I am surrounded by giant beautiful crepe myrtles.

Every once in a while, we’ll go through a spell where nothing works. It’s natural to wonder if God cares at all. Then like a wet sponge to the face it hits us! Out of the blue He does something so kind and generous that only He could think it up.

So go ahead and laugh you crazy wet crepe myrtle! And thanks for the reminder to slow down and remember the Lord’s sweet care!

myrtle

tree

 

 

“You will live in joy and peace.

The mountains and hills will burst into song,

and the trees of the field will clap their hands!

Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.

Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.”

-Isaiah 55:12,13

Slow Process

It’s been right at a year since our middle daughter’s family got news of a job change which required their move to Corpus Christi.

“Y’all know that’s in Texas right? According to the world wide web it’s approximately 1293 miles away; or 21 hours and 24 minutes by car.” I wondered silently if the estimated time included at least one potty break per state. I may need to save my North Carolina one so that I could have two in Texas.

As I helped Amanda get rid of the unnecessary things in her desk, I found myself rescuing items she was hurriedly tossing. This morning just as I was thinking of her, a pink notecard fell out of my Bible. Actually it was half a notecard. Amanda’s thrifty like her mom and cuts stuff in half to make the stash last longer. Like those scrubby sponges with the yellow on one side and green on the other. My hubba picked up one I had cut in half and gave me “the look.” Apparently his man hands did not appreciate my thriftiness.

Annyyywayyy…

Amanda’s half a note card has this written on it. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in You.” – Psalm56:3

Long before Amanda’s family was called to leave home for the foreign sandy soil of coastal Texas, God was preparing her… and me. I love the little verse even more because it’s in her handwriting.

Like mama’s recipe card for banana pudding written in her own hand, it draws me to her. Suddenly she is right here, telling me not to get impatient. “Use low heat. Keep stirring and it will turn out just fine.”

Night after night the Lord writes His beautiful care across the heavens and splashes the sky full of stars. With His own hand He pens a message filled with creative genius for all who will look.

“For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.” –Psalm103:11-14

Again I’m reminded by the distinct handwriting of those I love:

God can be trusted. He knows that I am as fragile as the North Carolina clay from whence I came. And life, like pudding is a slow process. Keep stirring. Eventually things will turn out just fine.

handwritten

Dressed all fancy and standing tall among her peers, the white lace seemed a little much for one of such questionable background. Apparently someone thought highly of her and gave her a rather royal name. It changed the way she thought of herself and others.  There was a time when shame was her clothing, uncertainty her mindset.

But no more.

Now she thrives in the lowliest places, especially amongst the common. Living just to brighten the world around her, she asks for nothing in return. Lifting her face toward heaven she stands confident that the One Who made her would also provide.

And He does.

queen ann

 

“So don’t worry about these things saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously and He will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Queen Ann’s Lace: What a commoner!

Yet there she stands like royalty, beautifully dressed by her Creator. She wisely whispers to all who will hear.

“If God so sweetly cares for me, won’t He surely take care of you who are made in His image?”

queen ann close

Some guys we love are planting a church, so we asked what we could pray about.

“Wisdom!” was the collective reply.

So many decisions, changes, and responsibilities.

Sometimes life is downright exciting slash terrifying. As we were raising our children my go-to prayer became the one in Colossians 1:9-11.

Wow. What a prayer!

In one fell swoop it covers all things needed. Endurance and patience are tossed in for good measure. Sounds like a good request whether raising children, planting a church, sending kids to college, or just living a life that honors the Lord.

Currently I find myself in a season of not knowing what to pray. Many things in my life feel “undone.” Have you ever been there?

Maybe that’s why the Lord reminded me again of my go-to prayer.

In light of that, here’s a picture of one of our finer moments. We are totally rockin’ the big hair and mega-stache. David kept that no-nonsense look in his eyes for all the guys coming around our house.

The Christmas tree behind us was tied to the stair railing because it kept falling over. That’s a little disconcerting in the middle of the night.fam 90s

Thankfully the God Who answered my prayers way back when we were so stylish is still faithful.

So if you’re wondering what to pray today, here’s a great “go-to” prayer:

“We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father.

AMEN!

A Perfect Gift

She had a little sparkle about her. As I searched the consignment shop for something with the name of the town on it, we ended up in the same corner. The old general store where I used to go as a kid for homemade doughnuts is situated at a NC crossroad near Lake Norman. It also used to carry mugs and cookbooks with the town name.

But not anymore.

It’s been turned into one of those places filled with antiques and artsy stuff. But oh how I long for the doughnuts! Some lady of yesteryear used to fry those things up hot and fresh and deliver them on Saturdays for anyone blessed enough to get there before they were gone. All yeasty with just a hint of cinnamon and a light sugary glaze, it is with great reverence that I admit loving them better than Krispy Kreme.

I know.

Borderline blasphemy.

I asked the guy running the store if he had any idea where to get the doughnuts of yesteryear.

“People come in here all the time wanting them, sometimes driving for miles. I always hate to tell folks I don’t have any idea who the lady was or if she’s even still alive, much less making doughnuts.”

Sadly I made my way to the far corner looking for a gift. I spotted a box of notecards. Because I tend to think everyone wants to know the details of my very exciting life, I shared with the lady there my joy in finding the cards.artist2

“They’re perfect! There’s a painting of this same general store, just the way it looked back in the day, with Terrell’s Country Store right across the front! You see, my friends’ last name is Terrell and it’s their anniversary. I was beginning to think I wasn’t going to find anything.” I rambled on with the patient lady. When I finally came up for air, she said softly, “I’m glad you like them. I did that painting. I added the sign to point to all the towns nearby. I thought it would be a nice touch.”

“You painted this? Wow! I love it!” I felt humbled to be in the presence of the actual artist. She seemed a little embarrassed when I asked for her autograph. As I looked around her booth at her beautiful work, she and her husband were warm and friendly. She mentioned in passing that she is a five time cancer survivor and still paints.

Five times. I cannot begin to comprehend all that entailed.

Without knowing it she really encouraged me. I guess everyone questions at times, if they’re making any difference at all. Next time that enters my thinking, I plan to remember the lady with the sparkle who didn’t give up. Someone needs what we have to offer. Even if it seems insignificant to us, to them it might be the perfect gift.

And man!  Even though I never met or had a chance to thank the doughnut lady, I sure do miss her!artist

Atlantic Beach Pie

My friend Ann and I make fun of another mutual friend who will take a recipe and substitute so many things in place of the original that it becomes an entirely new dish. The friend who shall remain nameless lest I get myself in a jam cooks like this:

“I didn’t have cream cheese so I used cheddar. I replaced the bread crumbs with crackers. I don’t care for beef so I substituted chicken. I was out of potatoes so I just threw in some carrots. It called for a round casserole dish but I used a brownie pan. My oven wasn’t working so I cooked it in the microwave. Oh dear! I have no idea why it didn’t turn out like yours!”

Chef Bill Smith shared this recipe for Atlantic Beach Pie in the May 2014 issue of Our State magazine. It is truly wonderful. According to Bill, it was considered absolute truth in the 50’s that if you consumed dessert after a meal of seafood, you would surely keel over. One exception: Lemon pie. So after some research including a church cookbook, memory, and a few phone calls, the result is his wonderful Atlantic Beach Pie.

Oh. My. Goodness!

The crust made of salty crackers makes the difference. However, when I started typing the recipe to share with you, I realized I have become the person I described above. So listed first is how a professional does things. Or click here for the original article.  In the parentheses is what I did. Either way, you are going to love this pie!

Crust:

  • 1 ½ sleeves of saltine crackers [I use Townhouse because I’m a delicate flower and cannot have cottonseed oil]
  • 1/3 to ½ c. softened unsalted butter [I use ½ c. which is one stick & I don’t care that it’s salted]
  • 3 Tablespoons of sugar [I don’t add this because I keep forgetting]

Filling:

  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk [like Eagle Brand but I use Aldi brand]
  • 4 egg yolks [save the whites for tomorrow’s omelet; set them on top of your egg carton in the fridge so you don’t forget you have them]
  • ½ c. lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two [So far I’ve only used lemon because I had no limes]

Topping:

  • Fresh whipped cream [Yes! Like in the carton and whip it yourself. Do not insult this pie with Cool Whip]
  • Coarse sea salt [I used coarse kosher salt because that’s what I had]

 

Preheat oven to 350. Crush the crackers into small coarse crumbs by hand in a large freezer bag. Add sugar if you remember it. Thrice I have forgotten it with no adverse consequences. Add softened butter to bag of crumbs and toss together. Just be sure your butter isn’t hot. Pour into a deep pie pan. Press to make the crust. Don’t worry if it’s a little loose. It will firm up enough when you bake it. Chef Bill says to chill crust for 15 minutes but I forgot that too. Obviously I cannot be trusted.

 

Bake for 18 minutes or until the crust is a little toasty. When you remove the pie crust from the oven, place on a rack or an inverted muffin pan so that it starts to cool.

 

In the meantime, beat the egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk together. Add lemon juice and beat. Be sure these three ingredients are well combined. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until set. Chill until cold or it won’t slice well. Top with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of salt. Thanks Chef Bill and please forgive my tinkering. It was necessary because I cannot leave well enough alone.

 

PS:

Readers please also forgive my double standard as you will notice that I deemed it acceptable to change Chef Bill’s recipe even though I advised others not to insult the pie by exchanging real whipping cream with Cool Whip.

 

It’s true.

 

I am a hypocrite.

pie1pie2

pie3

 

The cream is important because, like love, it covers a multitude of  imperfections. Sorry there’s no picture of the completed pie with cream.

I forgot that too.

Perhaps I should quit making fun of people.

 

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