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Don’t you love the sound of moving water? Waves gently lapping on the shore, a mountain stream tumbling over rocks, summer rain hitting a tin roof: there’s something about the sound of flowing water that gives the soul a gentle rest.

A while back David and I designed a fountain using a watering can and a tin tub. A small pump pushes the water up through a hose which is tucked into the watering can. The watering can sprinkles water into the tub making the soothing sound of rain. Oh how I love it. When we first came up with this idea we were in our “forever home” and assembled the fountain in the front yard. Neighbors would stop as they walked by to study how our engineering marvel worked. If we noticed them we’d step outside and point out the black hose which was hidden in plain sight. It’s funny how some things aren’t visible unless you’re looking for them.

When we thought we had sold our house and moved into this little rental, we took our fountain apart and tucked the pieces in the shed. There was no reason to reassemble it since this was only a temporary residence. When the sale of the other house fell through and the bottom dropped out of the economy, we also found ourselves unemployed and waiting on next. About a month ago God brought about an amazing turn of events. The perfect job opened up for my sweet David. But the best part is that we get to call this little temporary residence home now. Finally it felt right to set up our fountain again.

Just look at her pour!ftn

I love Matthew 11:28-30. Beside it I wrote the date May 7, 2014 and a note which says, “during a long night of worry.” So much sickness and financial strain. By then we had been jobless for seven months. But the Lord reminded me that night that He can be trusted to bear my burdens and gently teach me in the process.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to Me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’”

We moved here eight years ago and the whole time I’ve been thinking temporary. “Don’t get too attached” I warned myself. Now suddenly I’m free to enjoy the lovely little home the Lord provided. It was hiding in plain sight. How funny that we didn’t think we’d be here very long. Now I am allowing myself to do the dance of joy. My fountain is out and making a beautiful sound as it softly splashes a happy song.

“You’re home my dear. Listen and find rest for your wandering soul. What’s that? You have to tinkle again? Well bless your heart.”

Thank You dear Lord for my sweet little fountain, for indoor plumbing, and for my home.

There’s just no place like it!ftn 2

Wonderful Reality

Is it just me or has television evolved into a reality show nightmare? One can choose to take part in the riveting adventure of pawn shop dealers, alligator hunters or the heart pounding drama of a single woman having to choose between numerous pretty men. What is reality anyway? Is it what we see or what we perceive as truth?

How do we know what is fake? Surely none of the reality shows would be scripted by highly paid writers who have studied ratings and viewer trends. They ARE real, right?

I have to say though, folks looking for beach property within a measly budget of 1.5 million… now that’s worth watching!

Let’s do a little reality check. Look at a few phrases from Colossians 3.

“Set your sights on the realities of heaven.”

 “Your real life is hidden with Christ in God.”

If we claim to trust the Lord for eternity then surely His promises are reliable. Heaven is an actual truthful unscripted real place. As beautiful as the beaches in Costa Rica are, they surely dim in comparison to our future home.

To quote my good friend Randall: “WOWZER!”

What if the One Who loves us began preparing a drop dead gorgeous place for us to retire?

No… make that a place to enjoy FOR ETERNITY!

What if we set our thinking on that place so often that the stuff going on in our own drama filled lives seemed very insignificant?

What if we set up an eternity fund, sending our deposits ahead?

“Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance- an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you…” -1 Peter 1:3,4

Now THAT is wonderful reality!beach reality

 As we started out onto his new pier, he turned and said, “Let me get my stick.”

“Are you expecting trouble?” I asked.Daddy's Stick

My daddy lives on Lake Norman. After mama died he moved there full time. What once was a summer cabin has now become his home. He’s turned it into such a nice place and his view is amazing. Most evenings end with him on the porch swing watching the sunset over the water. I remember when he and mama went out on a limb to get the property way back before the area was developed. The land was overgrown and thick with briars. Many a week-end was spent clearing the property. Our reward as kids was to swim in the muddy water, but not until we’d been warned a thousand times to stay close to shore. We’d end the long day a copper-toned mud color, wore out and happy.

Gradually the place was decent enough to add a picnic table. Then one year they were able to build a pier. Finally we could jump off into the deep clear water, swim around to the ladder, climb up and do it all over again. Oh what sweet exhaustion!

One summer daddy found a giant tractor tire inner-tube. We’d take turns tucking inside and rolling down the hill. Even better, that giant tube made a great float. We’d work and work to get four or five of us on it before it flipped over flinging bodies across the water. After that got old, we figured out how to stand up on our giant float. Keeping balance by holding onto each other, waves would rock us until we could stand no longer.

Mama and daddy dreamed for a long while about building. He and a buddy drew up a plan on the back of a calendar then began gathering supplies. When the house was finished we all praised God for a place to potty and change clothes. As grandchildren came along, we continued to gather there for cook outs, swimming, volleyball, horseshoes and softball. Daddy would kick the summer off by frying chicken in his giant cast iron skillet over a campfire. His skill at getting the wood to burn at the perfect temperature was always amazing. Mama’s favorite holiday was July the fourth with fireworks across the water as we listened to the radio blast patriotic tunes. Waving tiny flags in time with the music, we thought our summers would always hold such fun. Memories stacked on top of memories, joys on top of joys, the lake house was always home base.

However families like seasons change. The kids have scattered like leaves on a stiff cold wind. Our gatherings are fewer and farther between. We drove up to see daddy one sunny winter day.  The lake sparkled beautifully beyond the new pier. He had replaced the top one board at a time, using screws instead of nails so that it would be even sturdier. Five screws per board, it was amazing. Who does work like that anymore? As we walked out he carried his stick so he could measure the depth of the water by the floating section. “It’s dropped six inches since Thursday,” he observed.

Memory making continues with great-granddaughter Marie.

Memory making continues with great-granddaughter Marie.

Memories flooded back as I looked at this man I love with all my heart. Thank you Daddy for giving our family a home base all these many years. Thank you so much for the wonderful memories. The measuring stick of time reminds me often how rare and beautiful days with loved ones really are.

Better Than Gold

Remember when folks used to celebrate anniversaries with traditional gifts according to the years of wedded bliss? Silver for the twenty fifth and gold for the fiftieth are probably the most well-known. I remember when my Grandpaw and Grandmaw Pittman celebrated their fiftieth they received all manner of “gold” crap. Somehow it just didn’t fit their life. Raising twelve kids on a cotton mill income didn’t give many opportunities to use shiny vases and platters. However, celebrate we did and I remember how pretty Grandmaw looked in her white Sunday dress. She even tied a scarf about her neck which was rather uptown. I guess the gifts of gold were symbolic of something I didn’t understand at the time.

David and I just celebrated forty-one years of marriage. Even Hallmark skips number forty-one as though the significance is minimal. Lost somewhere between rubies for forty and sapphires for forty-five, I received something even better.

You see the last ohhh… about fifteen years have been rather rough. Around 1998 we remodeled the prettiest old house which in my mind was to be our forever home. Right beside our little church, it was the perfect location to finish raising our kids. With a great big dining room we would have plenty of space to gather our three daughters with future sons-in-law and grandchildren for holiday meals. The attic we finished with additional bath would make a great place for overnight stays when the kids were in town. Visions of toddlers on tricycles riding fast and furious in the big basement made my mama heart happy with hope.

But it was not to be.

Our little neighborhood began to lose families which were replaced by, as King James would say “lewd fellows of the baser sort.” Residents beside us opened a dog kennel housing upward of twenty barking poodles in a very small fenced lot. The odor was less than pleasant. Nights were less than restful. A year later our little church closed.

When a neighbor a few houses up from us was shot and robbed on his front porch the need to sell was confirmed. Moving from our “forever home” to a tiny rental would only be temporary, but it would give the anxious buyer a chance to rent to own. It would also give us a way out. Fast forward eight years and two such “buyers” later, and we are still in our temporary home. Our forever home was foreclosed on in the summer of 2013. A few months later David lost his job. We sent resumes to churches all over the country as we tried to pray in “faith without borders.” I began getting rid of anything we didn’t need in anticipation of the inevitable move. “Lord help us,” I cried often.

Out of the blue just prior to our forty-first anniversary came an opportunity we had never considered. One interview, two interviews, many prayers, more prayers, surprise, provision, peace… sweet indescribable peace, and a new ministry is ours. And get this! We don’t even have to move!

“‘I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray I will listen.’” –Jeremiah 29:10-12

This year for our anniversary I got dirt… wonderful rich black dirt so we can make new flower beds in the place where we’ve been afraid to get too attached. Like Grandmaw’s gold it’s symbolic of something precious. Dirt fits our lifestyle perfectly for it’s all about putting down roots and new beginnings in a place we can now call home.

In fact, this is without a doubt my favorite anniversary gift ever!

 

David really loves it when I take his picture. ;)

David really loves it when I take his picture. ;)

 

Commercial break:

Anyone in the Salisbury- Rockwell, NC area in need of an awesome gift for the little woman, be sure to check out F&E Landscape Supply for great deals on mulch, gravel, and anniversary dirt. John Fender will treat you right!

Empty

The page before me was blank, like my heart. Nothing would come.

Empty.

With a loss, we go through various emotions. I think one of the hardest might be emptiness.

I remember when our little church closed and we knew it was time to give the building to others who needed it. Walking through the sanctuary, knowing our time there was finished…

Oh, such emptiness.

When my mom died and I knelt by her grave, arranging flowers in the heavy metal vase. I shivered not so much with the cold, but with deep sorrowful emptiness. Sure, she is with the Lord and certainly better off. But my soul was empty.

We rode by our beloved house one last time. We wanted to speak to the tenants before it was auctioned off, maybe have some sort of closure. The trees out front dropped golden leaves spreading a blanket on the lawn. All the vehicles were gone. Even the lawnmower they kept chained to the tree was missing. I used to love that place. Sitting on the big front porch we often prayed for our little church next door and wave as the neighbors walked by. As I knocked on the glass door I could see through the lace curtain.

Empty.Great marketing, just not God's timing

Anyone who’s ever lost a job knows the feeling. The first few days of not having to set an alarm feel like vacation. Then suddenly there’s the office to clear out, and the questions to answer, and the direction to find. Emptiness can nearly suck the life right out of one’s soul.

Unless…

Emptiness is replaced.

Not because things are suddenly better.

But because the Lord gives something to hold on to… a sweet word of hope.

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” –Isa.43:19

Like a new season which bursts forth dressed as a thousand burning bushes. She shines like a fire that won’t go out reminding me that, “For everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” –Eccl. 3:1

In the Lord’s kindness He speaks a word of hope. His comfort fills my empty soul with promises of a beautiful purpose ahead, and something new.

Should I linger on the porch, peering into what used to be?

Perhaps it’s time I realize…

He’s taking me through empty places…

in order to give me something beautiful and new.

Dear Sweet Lord, Please set our hearts on fire like a thousand burning bushes that won’t go out! Strengthen us to step out of the emptiness and walk by faith into a fresh new place of service. Thank You that Your mercies are new every single morning of our lives. We love and trust You evermore!

Okra Sprouts

We don’t have time or space for a vegetable garden, but I thought I’d try my hand at growing a little okra this year. Hannah gave me some seeds she had saved. This variety produces large white hibiscus-like flowers with deep red centers and is aptly named “red velvet.” Did you know that okra and hibiscus are in the same family? I soaked them in water the night before planting, then dropped a few at a time in the hard red clay I had scratched up. I sprinkled potting soil on top for good measure. That poor flower bed refuses to grow hardly anything. So I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for a bumper crop of “okrie” as we say around here. A few days later I checked their progress.

Would you look at that? They’ve sprouted!

Hannah told me to thin them out so they wouldn’t compete with each other for space and nourishment. It hurt my heart to pull some up. But it had to be done.

At times there are perfectly good things in our lives that need to be pulled up. They may look useful but they’re taking too much time and energy.

It can be something as beneficial as sports for our kids. But if it’s sucking the life out of our family we may need to yank a few of those sprouts out of the way. [The multiple athletics… not the kids.]

Or it may be as godly as church activity. If you find yourself bedraggled and hating life because your family is expected to be at something churchy every single night of the week, may I suggest that you reassess the situation?

At the risk of getting stoned, and not in a fun way, may I also suggest that if Sunday is your only day of rest and it wears you out more than any other day of the week, you may be missing the point?

Do I hear crickets chirping?

Today is a great day to weed [and thin] the garden. Start building a little margin for your family. They will bloom even more beautifully with extra space and rest.

 

Too close for comfort

Too close for comfort

 

“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to His loved ones.” –Psalm 127:2

Biker Village

I still feel the dread in daddy’s voice as he spoke the terrible news. “I’m being laid off again. Or they’ve offered to transfer me to the warehouse in Ruby, South Carolina.”

“Where is RUBY?” my mother questioned not really wanting to know.

A short while later we moved to a tiny town in the Sandhills of South Carolina. Only two hours from home, but a world of difference. In the 60’s folks there were either very rich or dirt poor. We didn’t own much but when we moved I felt so rich it was embarrassing. I had a nice bicycle with double baskets flanking the rear tire. Mama would send me to Miss Lilly’s grocery store with a list. With groceries in tow I remember pedaling home as fast as I could so no one would see me on that bike. To be so rich was downright shameful. We moved there when I was in third grade and back home when I was in sixth. No matter how hard we tried we never did fit in.

Our oldest daughter Stephanie and her pastor hubby Jeff got the call to move to the village of Ramsey Illinois last fall. She feared for their two teen girls when they decided to move. How hard would it be to make new friends and fit into a small town where everyone has known each other since before birth? But oh how they love it! Almost every evening one of the girls gets a text that a game is in the works. Around the corner in their neighborhood the coach leaves a basketball under the hoop so kids can stop in for a pick-up game anytime they want. Friends are just a short bike ride away. In fact they walk or ride bikes nearly everywhere they go. Riding by the school the other day she noticed that with warmer weather the bike racks were full. Little bicycles lined up for the elementary kids then gradually became larger through high school. And no one had chained their bike in fear of thievery.

Their local Dairy Dee had an unusual rush of customers one afternoon. Apparently quite a few tourists happened upon the cute little burger and ice cream hut. She said the locals were waiting in line patiently because they are aware that Mrs. Diane drives a school bus at 2pm, leaving Mr. Paul to run the place all by himself. However, the out-of-towners were getting a little testy. So he just invited Stephanie and Jeff to step into the hut to assemble sandwiches and ice cream treats. Together they cleared the mob quickly and nobody went hungry in the process. Stephanie did confess to serving a few tipsy cones. Thankfully she refrained from straightening the scoopage with her tongue.

I wish we all lived in such happy places. Where ice cream huts were run by friends and neighbors happy to serve… Where parents didn’t fear to allow children out of their sight…. Where coaches encouraged neighborhood kids to have fun together… Where new people were quickly treated like family…

And every kid knew they were rich because they owned a bicycle.

Somebody's rich in Salisbury!

Somebody’s rich in Salisbury!

 

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