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An EncouragingU Christmas is a collection of holiday stories from five local authors including Doug Creamer, Ann Farabee, Roger Barbee. David Freeze, and ME! Click here to check it out! After the year we’ve had, I think you’ll love getting your hands on something positive. May the Lord use our book to lighten your load just in time for a very Merry Christmas!

Much love! Lynna

PS: Copies will also be available at Attractions on Main in Salisbury and Missions Pottery in Lexington starting in December.

My mom-in-law used a handful of catchy phrases that she deemed appropriate for certain situations. For example: If someone thought they were “all that” and dropped the ball at church or a family function, she would remind us that “One monkey don’t stop the show.” If something hurtful happened she was quick to remind us that “What doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.” When plans changed unexpectedly we knew we could count on her to say, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.”

I think my favorite, and her wisest saying was that “Things won’t always be this way.” In 2020 after the year most folks have had, I believe we can all shout a loud “Halleluiah” to that!

I hear talk about our new normal.

Nope.

I refuse to let this become my new normal. I look forward to handing out all the hugs I want; to smiling without hiding it behind a mask; to watching television without all the fearful warnings and even better, without the political ads filled with lies and character assaults.

I think we’re better than this.

I think this year has been a wakeup call to remind us of how good it is to work hard, send our children to school to professionals who know stuff; to shop for groceries without looking at each other suspiciously; and best of all to worship without fear. Let’s return to THAT normal!

After all, what hasn’t killed us has surely made us stronger!

PS:

While the proverbs of my beautiful southern mom-in-law are very wise, she would agree that Scripture is wiser still. May the Lord strengthen us to rest in His promises.

“The Lord is good, a Stronghold in the day of trouble. And He knows the ones who trust in Him!” – Nahum 1:7

Amen!

No Blueberries

So how was your Labor Day weekend? I heard a lady say once that growing up on a farm with seven siblings, their dad had them convinced that Labor Day was the one day of the year when folks worked the hardest. No picnics on THAT farm!

Traditionally our family gathered at Mama and Daddy’s lake house. He would fry fresh chicken outdoors in a giant cast iron skillet over a fire. He knew exactly how to keep the temperature right so the chicken would be tender and juicy inside but crispy on the outside. THAT my friend is an ART! My mouth waters at the memory of it. Mama made homemade potato salad and slaw. We’d usually have green beans and corn from the garden and plenty of desserts. On patriotic holidays Mama would also make cherry yum-yum to look like the American flag. Blueberry pie filling in one corner represented the stars while alternating stripes of cherries and cream cheese filling completed Old Glory. One of the new sons-in-law, made the mistake of dipping into the stars all willy-nilly. Every relative there had to point out that “THE NEW GUY ATE ALL 50 STATES!” The NERVE!

After Mama’s passing, Daddy moved to the lake full time. It’s a beautiful place with a gorgeous view. But we sure miss Mama. She was in charge of life jacket reminders, menu assignments, small flags for the grandchildren to wave, and generally keeping the chaos organized. Of course she also kept watch so no one went swimming before waiting the obligatory thirty minutes after eating. Her biggest job was keeping Daddy in line. That always turned out to be her most challenging assignment.

Daddy’s birthday is near Labor Day. He turned eighty seven this year. Praise God he is still strong and healthy. It may or may not have something to do with the t-shirt one of the kids gave him years ago. It included the blessing/curse assuring that the grumpier one is, the longer God lets them live.

Just sayin’.

We didn’t get to go to the lake this year. I really missed it. But apparently Daddy has been grumpier than me for he’s still kickin’ while I can barely function. It’s hard to come to grips with change. Seasons come and go. It shouldn’t surprise me that change is going to happen. Then it does and I find once again that I don’t much like it. Currently our country seems to be going through an extreme amount of change all at once. I had a teacher who used to say, “Do the best you can with what you’ve got; then forget the rest.”

So for now, while we still can, let’s have all the picnics, wave all the flags, find reasons to laugh with one another, and forget the rest. Life and change will continue to happen. Let’s make the best of what we have and by God’s grace let go of the rest; Even if it means no blueberries in our yum-yum.

Cone of Uncertainty

Currently there are two hurricanes headed for the Gulf States; twin harbingers of chaos and destruction named Laura and Marco. Twins are like that you know. My mom used to tell of taking us three girls to Noah’s Five and Dime in Landis when we were small. My sisters who are twins would immediately wrench their little hands from our mother’s grasp and take off in different directions. It was a fun game of cat and mouse… until mama got them home. This regular occurrence was not due to lack of discipline. Believe me, there was plenty of that. I think it was more about what my two younger siblings considered to be fun. Apparently they inherited our daddy’s talent for mischief. I remember one time coming back to the house from the garden with mama and finding the screen door locked with those two goobers inside. Like a couple spider monkeys they sat on the kitchen counter with a box of vanilla wafers, stuffing as many in their mouths as possible. Through the screen mama implored them to unlatch the door.

“Cain’t,” mumbled one of them. “Stuck,” mumbled the other. Eventually mama convinced them to use the broom handle to pop the latch off. It took a while as there were many cookie breaks between tries. Sometimes I wonder how mama held it together raising us three. Of course I was a lovely child never prone to wander. So at least there was that.

As David and I watched the weather channel the other night detailing the projected paths of the twin hurricanes, the weather person pointed to the map and a large red swath moving inland from the Gulf. With a solemn voice meant to relay the severity of the situation she intoned. “This is the cone of uncertainty.”

We looked at each other and laughed. “Really? So that’s what that looks like! Only shouldn’t it cover the entire world at this point? Or at least our whole country?” If you’re like us, life feels a lot like a big fat cone of uncertainty. Chaos and destruction are reported on every hand. You can’t watch a Braves game without Covid being mentioned a hundred times. At least the victory celebrations have gotten more interesting. Grown men dancing in the outfield approximately six feet apart is kind of fun.

For now, I think I shall relax in the uncertainty. Though I am not one who likes surprises I’ve learned. It’s not about what I like. We’ve lived long enough to have suffered loss of loved ones, loss of homes, loss of churches and health and jobs. When you’ve been through a few crap storms you grow to realize. There is only One Who knows the end from the beginning. He is not surprised or caught off guard at our current events. The important thing to do is to pray. Hand it all to Him. I’m telling you this from experience. Giving Him the load to bear and trusting Him for the outcome is the only way to navigate the current cone of uncertainty. That way, when the dust settles, the troubles we have are not of our own making; like ulcers from worry, high blood pressure from irritation, or guilt from an angry response. In fact, I think a vanilla wafer might be in order. Perhaps with a little peanut butter. The world can yell through the screen door all it wants. The Lord is in charge of me. He alone is faithful.

 

I got a call from my granddaughter Kianna the other day. In the midst of delivering pizza to NAPA, the auto parts store, she was verbally attacked by a customer. It seems because Kianna was wearing a mask the lady in line decided that my granddaughter was in need of enlightenment. She accused her of being brain washed by the media, questioned her heritage and political persuasion, then proceeded to tie everything together with a sound cussing.

Sorry. I exaggerated a bit when I used the term “lady.” The strange overheated woman leaned in close and coughed on my granddaughter in hopes that she would realize a mask could not protect her. Never mind the fact that Pizza Hut requires masks on all their personnel. So I did what any Godly grandmother would do. I tossed several shovels into the back of the truck and headed to NAPA. As Kianna and I continued to talk I asked her how big the woman was.

“I think we can take her,” my lovely granddaughter replied.

“Alright honey. Here’s the plan. I’ll whack her in the head with my shovel. You hit her again for good measure. I’ll take her arms, you grab her legs and we’ll drag her into the woods. Between the two of us we can dig a hole deep enough to cover her crazy. Then I’ll explain to her that germs, politics, and brain washing are not the only dangers in our society.” I imagined pointing my finger in her face to drive my point home. “Now you lay there and think about what you’ve done!”

Kianna seemed pleased with the plan. The only problem is that she lives in Illinois and I live in NC; approximately seven hundred and twenty one miles apart. Even as fast as I drive the woman would likely be gone by the time I got there. Oh how I wish I could shake her ‘til her teeth rattle and explain the futility of a life lived in anger. I mean really! What the heck? What she doesn’t know is that my granddaughter just graduated high school in a year that was less than ideal. The child works two jobs and saves every penny toward college. When she is not delivering pizza she takes care of a beautiful little girl with severe autism. Instead of answering her attacker, Kianna took a step back and celebrated the $5 pity tip the guy who ordered the pizza gave her.

I couldn’t get there in time to make good use of my shovel, so I offered a bit of wisdom instead. Since she is headed to New York for college I reminded Kianna that the Lord is preparing her for big city life. “He’s promised to equip us for the things He asks us to do. Maybe He knows you need to get used to all those swear words.” She nodded and laughed. “Then I should be good to go for a while.”

I don’t have any idea how to end this story. Maybe the moral is as mentioned earlier: Living a life filled with anger is futile. Perhaps we should all leave our sharp words and shovels at home. Maybe we could even tip folks extra good to help make up for some of the ignorance going around. Or maybe we could just take a step back and hope to God that crazy is not contagious.

My Kiannagirl and me having tea about 8 years ago. Seems like yesterday.

Sweet Caroline

Ahhh… summertime in my sweet home of North Carolina. Where it’s not only hot enough to fry an egg on the hood of a truck, but also a great time to try out the meatloaf recipe you can bake in your mailbox. Where construction crews are busy spreading molten tar but are kind enough to put up warning signs if there’s going to be a bump in the road. A magical time when children run through the sprinkler just to cool off; that is if you can coax them outside into this blazing Hades we call July. But first they must be coated with sunscreen compatible with the surface of the sun. A thick layer of bug repellent is also mandatory lest mosquitoes the size of chickens carry them off. Then of course it’s important to thoroughly wash all that off the moment they come back inside so the poison applied for protection doesn’t cause brain damage.

Don’t tell anyone. But being the tired grandmother that I am, I’ve begun ditching the obligatory outdoor time. Instead I just toss them into a bath of lukewarm water where they can slosh and play all they want. It’s my idea of skipping the middle man. They’re not permitted to get bored until their little fingertips shrivel up like tiny raisins. Then and only then are they allowed to dry off and go to the next level of entertainment. I think to myself, “What a wonderful world!” Well… and also, “Legos don’t look so boring now do they?” MUWAHAHAH! This granny wasn’t born yesterday! [Obviously]

When their moms return from grocery shopping they are greeted by excited chatter explaining their Lego village. I stand amazed at the construction before me which easily rivals the Charlotte skyline. There are shops and vehicles and picnic tables and rooftop patios and even a little windmill suggesting a miniature golf course. Suddenly their moms are having a hard time getting them to leave. So a timer is set for thirty minutes of grace given for extra play. The adults retreat to the den with blankets and cups of coffee since the air is cranked up to a comfortable “granny level.” Though the timer has long ago sounded, everyone is quiet lest the spell is broken and playtime grace is ended.

When our three kids were small, they played outside all day. It was a necessary strategy in order to maintain my own delicate psyche. So at first I felt guilty for allowing my grands to play inside. But dang it’s hot! This happens every year and I’m just now recognizing this little bump in the road. Therefore I’ve decided: the kids can play outside this fall. And if they beg to come in, the reply on our lips shall be, “Sure! I’ve got a laundry basket full of socks to sort. You can help!” MUWAHAHAHA! Suddenly jumping in the leaves will look pretty fun again!

OH! I must go. I almost forgot to retrieve the meatloaf from the mailbox. Our mail carrier might think I’m nuts if I let that thing burn!

WHOOPEEDAW!!!

 

If I were ever nominated for sainthood I’d have to decline the honor. I remember vividly one day years ago when our three daughters were young enough to toss into the tub together. We were in a very small rental and I was struggling physically. I thought that if the girls would play in the tub maybe I could sit in a chair and rest for a few minutes. When I stepped in to check on them the lovely green shag carpet squished beneath my feet. The floor was saturated with at least two inches of water.

“HOW DID YOU GIRLS MAKE SUCH A MESS?!”

[In case you’re wondering, the caps aren’t locked. I was screaming. Generally I’m not a screamer but at that particular moment I made an exception.] Three cherub faces went from exceeding joy to fearful explanation. “We were just playing Whoopeedaw.”

“WHAT THE BLANK IS WHOOPEEDAW?!!” [Yes I was swearing. Until that point the girls had only heard that word in Sunday school in the Biblical context.]

Tearfully the eldest explained. “You know… WHOOP-ee-daw! That’s when we slide to the front, then slide to the back, and a big wave comes and we yell ‘WHOOPEEDAW!’’ By then all three of them were sitting quietly trying to suck tears back into their faces. It’s funny today, but at the time I thought I might lose my ever-lovin’ mind. Along with this episode and a few others which shall remain unconfessed, I nullified my chance at mother of the year.

Have you noticed the current trend? On Mother’s Day we extol the virtues of those who’ve raised kids to near sainthood. But on Father’s Day, woe to the man who ventures into church. Typically he will be chastised and berated for defects he may or may not have. Sadly it’s much easier to spot the shortcomings of others than the failures in our own lives.

Another current trend is all inclusive blame. ALL democrats are blank. All Southerners are blank. All men are blank. It’s gotten so bad I feel guilty for being alive. Can we just stop it? What if we lived without condemnation and allowed others to do the same? I doubt seriously that any of us really qualify for sainthood. Remember that time YOU made a mess for someone else to clean up? Remember that time you said hateful words while you were angry? Remember that time you got aggravated at church and wished you were on the golf course? Yeah… me too, except I don’t play golf. Let’s take a step back and realize that in the grand scheme of things, we’ve got it pretty good; even if our green shag carpet is soaked beyond repair. The Lord, as usual, cuts to the chase with a few simple solutions. “This is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” –Micah 6:8b

I think it’s worth a try. WHOOPEEDAW!

Sneeze of Shame

Too bad the Corona virus hit during allergy season. Most of us don’t know if we have a week to live or if we should just take a Zyrtek. My poor husband was in line waiting to get into the grocery store during “senior hours” the other morning when he had a sneezing fit. He felt obligated to shout loud enough for everyone standing six feet apart to hear that it was just the pollen trying to get out of his head. Who would’ve thought that a sneeze would prompt dirty looks instead of the traditional Southern blessing? So I’ll say it instead. Bless his sweet heart. He’s doing all he knows how to lighten the mood when he has to go out. He’s friendly and makes funny comments about washing his hands so much that he no longer has fingerprints.

“Eventually that’s gonna come in handy since everyone is used to wearing masks, even to the bank.” I’ve begun to notice that his laugh is a little suspect. Silently I wonder if he’s got a plan to stimulate our own personal economy.

Our son-in-law finally found toilet paper at the Family Dollar. He didn’t realize it was lavender scented until his son informed that he didn’t much care for it. The general consensus is that the bathroom should smell like either flowers or poop but definitely not both at once. David found hand soap and bought it even though we don’t care for the floral variety. Like our grandson, there’s just something amiss about honeysuckle combined with certain odors.

I feel sure we’re all making do and learning new things during this funky time. I had my six month cancer check-up online last week. Somehow we opened a portal and the nurse practitioner, who was working from home, got to view my lovely giant head on her screen as she conducted the exam. She had to stop at one point to check on her kids. I was just thankful she opted out of the virtual breast exam. Praise God for small favors. My regular doc, beloved Ms. Adams, had her nurse Kourtney call to check on me too. These women are bound to be exhausted. But what kindness! Nobody has to shout “Bless you!” for me to know I’m blessed.

David’s learning to work from home during all this. He can make calls and set appointments through his laptop… unless the internet dies. For three days he struggled with lost signals, dropped calls, etc. until finally a nice guy in tech support tried to help. Though eventually Raul lost connection and David had to start all over, Rosette stepped in to rescue. Several hours later, access to the World Wide Web was once again at his fingertips. Like me when I figured out how to enter the Medical Portal of Wellness, the man was nearly dancing with joy over his accomplishment. When I asked how he got it hooked back up he shook his head. “I have NO idea.” I think if he could, he’d send Rosette flowers. Perhaps she would enjoy a virtual bouquet.

It used to be considered an act of kindness to rewind our videos from Blockbuster. Currently I think kindness is about realizing that everyone is going through an unusual set of circumstances, then doing what we can to lighten the load. Here’s to those of you going the extra mile. Please accept this virtual bouquet from my heart to yours. May God bless you even when you must sneeze the sneeze of shame.

A Good Sign

We might be nearing the end of the current pandemic. David’s been saying all along we’d be able to tell that it’s almost over when we not only FIND toilet paper, but are able to purchase the SOFT rolls of choice. Well, yesterday he hit the jackpot! He commented to our friend Natalie at the grocery store how pleased he was with his good luck. She advised him to go buy a lottery ticket.

Poor man. Since I’m a delicate flower and currently going through another season of pain, he’s running all the errands plus doing the grocery shopping. He found a few paper face masks in our paint supplies but was afraid to wear one lest he be chastised for mask hoarding. But he promised not to kiss any cashiers or lick anything whilst he was out among the teaming masses.

Our Illinois daughter Stephanie, hoping to lighten the mood wore a mask left from Halloween while she shopped for groceries. Instead of laughs she received more than a few suspicious looks. But it sure helped with social distancing. Everyone seemed to be afraid to make eye contact. If they had, they could tell by the girl’s sparkly eyes that she really is smiling behind her mask.

Our granddaughter Kianna will graduate high school this May. Celebrations have all been cancelled. We wanted to encourage her with a card. But apparently graduation cards are not on the essential list. However, David found two random cards so we could at least mail her a check. As he showed me the one with the pig in a saddle [which advised the recipient to live high on the hog] he advised, “Just mark out Happy Birthday. Or if you like this one with the dog better, mark out the ‘I’ and make it ‘we.’”

I chose the dog card because obviously it was much classier, and corrected it to say “WE’ll always be there for you.” It still didn’t make sense so I marked out the ‘t’ in ‘there’ because technically we can’t be THERE, but we can be HERE. Looking at the edited mess, I included the sentiment, “We love you way more than this card would indicate.” Hopefully the gift will reflect our heartfelt sentiments better than the jacked up card. I’m just glad David remembered stamps at the grocery store. Bless his heart. It only took three weeks.

Two of our local grandchildren came by one day and hung out of the windows of their truck to throw me “air hugs.” They see me in pain often and their mother always warns them not to hug too hard. Jesse nearly made me cry when he commented with his air hug, “This way I can hug you as hard as I want!”

Yep, surely we’re nearing the end of the crisis. I am really looking forward to being hugged as hard as I want.

DIY Fail

I say a lot of things I shouldn’t. Try not to judge. I’m working on it. The other day I heard words tumble out of my mouth that I don’t ever remember saying before. It surprised and saddened me.

Generally speaking, I’ve always prided myself in being able to make something out of nothing. I love getting creative using whatever I have on hand. David and I fetched a few boards, a grapevine wreath from the shed, ribbon leftover from a wedding and white spray paint from another project. I could tell my strength was going fast so I commandeered my beloved to saw the boards and fashion the creation I had in my head. For some strange reason he could not read my mind. Usually he has no problem. This time however he couldn’t catch the vision. I worked until I used up every ounce of energy I had then collapsed in a chair. Stupid mystery illness. Once again the pain took over and would not be silenced. That’s when I said it.

“I give up. I can’t do it.”

Slowly I made my way into the house and had a good cry. As the pity party picked up speed, I wondered why it was such a big deal to put an Easter wreath on the front door.  I take great pride in showing off Jesus. But this seemed to be about something more. I guess everyone likes to feel strong and independent. A bit later David came inside holding the creation that had caused the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. The man does many things well. But creativity involving junk from around the house is not his strong suit. Apparently he had not only read my mind but had also figured out how to put the parts together without the proper plan or tools. It looked good.

As I rehearsed the situation later I realized something. I’ve dealt with pain for many years. It’s been a matter of pride to keep on keeping on no matter what. Then I heard the key word I’ve used in this little story.

Pride.

Pride in my own creativity, resourcefulness, strength, and ability has become a part of my life. When I look on the homemade addition to our front door it reminds me of the simple truth of Resurrection Sunday. Pride will get me nowhere. Until I realize that I can’t do it myself, the cross of Christ means nothing. His sacrifice gained Heaven for me when my hands were empty. “I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith.” –Phil. 3:9

When you think of standing before the Lord someday, what will you trust? He demands righteousness. In a world where DIY is king, may we learn to rest in the only One Who holds eternity in His hand. That is an area where no matter how capable we are, we cannot do it ourselves. For if we could, Christ truly died in vain.