Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Memories

Early in our marriage, my husband and I moved from Texas, to Kansas City, Missouri, so he could attend Midwestern Baptist Seminary. I was pregnant with our second child when we moved in July. On December 19, it was time for our baby to be born, and Debbie was a beautiful baby with very dark hair long enough to curl around my finger as it lay on her neck.
We had a little 3-foot silver Christmas tree sitting on a table in the living room of our apartment, and I had bought a few Christmas presents, hiding them carefully, so our inquisitive 20-month-old son would not find them. I even forgot about some of them and found them a few months later when we moved to a house on our church field in Bosworth, Missouri.

The baby bed was ready and baby clothes were in the dresser. In those days newborn babies wore dresses, whether they were boys or girls, so the clothes for Debbie were the same ones we had used for Steve. We had bought bunk beds for Steve, putting one in his room and the other one in another apartment, where we stayed on weekends while my husband preached at a little church a hundred miles away. I thought all was ready, but I didn't count on post-partum depression.

We were far away from family, 100 miles away from friends at church, and when my husband had to go back to his duties and leave me in our lonely apartment, the depression hit me hard. I was young with two babies in diapers and I could not deal with my feelings.

Christmas that year was just the four of us, snow covered the ground, and the two Texans in that second floor apartment had never seen snow like that. Even though I had two beautiful babies, I felt a sadness that I couldn't shake off.
 After several years and two more babies, God delivered me from depression in a miraculous way (see my book A Heritage of Faith for the full story). But still, sometimes Christmas brings me overtones of sadness.
We are still far away from family 55 years after the Christmas when Debbie was born. God has done amazing things to lead us through the years. He has provided substitute parents and grand-parents when ours were too far away from us. He has given us other children, those in our churches who loved us and befriended our own children. He has brought us so very far from our humble beginnings.

I praise Him this Christmas as we prepare to see our family in Texas: a new great-granddaughter that we will see for the first time, two of our children along with their grown children, my sisters, my husband's brothers, and my precious 93-year-old mother who lives in a retirement village in Denton.

I've learned that Christmas is not a place, it's not a special gift, but it is the presence of Jesus in my life and the safety and hope He gives. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas this year and as the New Year comes in, I pray it will be a good one for us all.

She Makes it Look Easy

Marybeth Whalen and the David C. Cook company have produced a novel that entertains, while pointing up the various personalities in a close-knit modern community. I downloaded this book to my Kindle and read it in less than two days. It is compelling, free of offensive language, and complex in its scope. The sub-plots keep the reader turning the pages faster and faster.

The author created three main characters: Ariel, Justine, and Erika, women who live with their families in the new, large homes you see everywhere, where the backyards join and people get together for fellowship and various other reasons. Ariel is the new neighbor who moves in and immediately meets Justine, whose house is directly behind her. Large play equipment for the kids are in both back yards, and because of the kids' desire to play together, Justine becomes Ariel's new "best friend." She invites her to community functions and to her church, where Justine is one of the women in charge of everything. She has her own little following of disciples, women who want to be just like her.

Erika tries to befriend Ariel, but Justine tells her to have nothing to do with her. (The reason for this is the surprise ending-- and it's very unexpected).

While these women and others are loyal to their church, their life experiences do not always reflect a Christian life. They try to follow Christ but life throws things at them that are difficult to resist. Many can relate ro these experiences and I, personally, hope to hear more from Ariel, Justine, and Erika. The website did not say Ms. Whalen is planning any more books with these characters, but I hope she does.

The cute, pithy sayings of the kids are certainly from the author's personal experience. Nobody could make up such cute things that we all hear from little ones. I hope you read this book, you will love it. Check Amazon for the price and availability.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eleven Days Before Christmas

This came to my email box today:
Twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.

"Where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
"This is heaven." declared a small boy. "We're spending Christmas at God's house."

When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their Savior. The children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same,
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.

And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring;
Those children all flew into the arms of their King
And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
One small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had
,He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of mom and dad."

Then He looked down on earth, the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe,
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
"Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
"May this country be delivered from the hands of fools"
"I'm taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools!"

Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
"Come now my children, let me show you around."
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran,
all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
"In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT."

Susan Griffith Donaldson

To be born Welsh is to be born with music in your blood and poetry in your soul.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Massacre at Sandy Hook

      I am sure I'm not the only person whose heart is heavy tonight. After the senseless shooting of innocent children and teachers yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut, I am devastated. I spent my working life as a teacher, caring for and educating children just like the ones who were victims yesterday. Now, tonight, after seeing some of the beautiful little faces and reading their names, and after hearing stories about heroic teachers who gave their lives to protect the children in their care, I cannot process my thoughts. As I watch the faces of parents on the television screen, I cannot imagine their grief and despair.

      What would motivate a person to do such a heinous act? To kill his own mother before starting out on the path he set before him; to break into the school in order to get to those precious little ones. What went through his mind? How long had he planned this? What can be done to prevent another attack like this one?

      I googled "Newtown School shooting" and read some of the articles on their website, but no reason has yet been given for the distraught state of mind Adam Lanza must have been in before starting out on this dreadful journey, I remembered the Columbine shooting and the pact the two boys had made to get revenge on students who had made fun of them. But these little children had done nothing to cause this.

       The website writer listed 13 shootings in 2012 on the Newton website. Thirteen times this year, some deranged individual used an automatic weapon to kill people somewhere in the United States.

        1.  On February 22, there was a shooting at a health spa in Norcross, Georgia. A 59-year-old man killed four people, then turned the gun on himself.

        2.  On February 27, in Chardon, Ohio, a 17-year-old killed three students and injured three others before school began one morning.

        3.  On March 6, in Tulsa, a 23-year-old man began shooting at the Tulsa Court House. Three people were wounded.

         4. On March 8, a 30-year-old man killed one and wounded seven at a Medical Clinic.

        5. On April 2, it was a 43-year-old man at a small Christian college in Oakland, California, who opened fire, killed seven and wounded three. He then walked into a grocery store and said, "I shot some people," and police were called.

        6. In a Seattle cafe near the Washington-Seattle campus, a man opened fire on May 30, killing four. He was angry because he didn't get his tuition money back when he dropped out of school.

        7. A pool party in Auburn, Alabama, was the scene of the next shooting on June 9. A man was angry about a dispute over a woman, and he opened fire, killing three people and injuring three others.

        8. At Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on July 17, at a crowded bar near the University of Alabama, seventeen people were injured but no one was killed by gunfire. Before going to the bar, however, the man entered a home and shot at a man. The perpetrator was charged with 18 counts of attempted murder.

        9. On July 20 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, a man dressed in black killed twelve people and injured 58 others.

         10. On August 5, at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconson, a 40-year-old man walked in while people were meditating and praying. He opened fire and killed six.

        11. October 21, at a day spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin, a 45-year-old man killed his wife and four other women before shooting himself.

        12. On December 11 at Clackamus Town Center in Clackamus, Oregon, a man wearing a helmet and an ammunition-packed vest killed two people and then himself.

         13. December 14, just yesterday, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a 20-year-old killed 12 little girls and 8 little boys, all aged 6 or 7 and in the first grade, he killed 6 women in the school who were teachers or administrators, and he killed his own mother, before turning the gun on himself.

         This senseless killing has turned into an epidemic. Is there anything that can be a common denominator in all these crimes?  Is there any way to put an end to all these killings? How can people cope with the devastation that comes into their lives when a loved one is killed so senselessly?

          I'm sure the experts will have answers for us eventually, but meanwhile, funerals for babies must be planned and people must come to grips with these deaths. With only ten days until Christmas, how can these families go on with some semblance of life?

          Please pray for Newtown, Connecticut. Pray for those whose children are dead. Pray for those whose children survived. Pray that parents will know how to help their children alleviate their fears about going back to school, and help them go on with their little lives. They have a lifetime of memories. Their innocence has been taken away. Christmas will be very different in Newtown this year. Remember to pray for all those people on Christmas Day.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Christmas Surprise

This story was published in Celebrating Christmas with…Memories, Poetry, and Good Food, Editor, Donna Clark Goodrich, 2011

            Three tow-headed little boys looked out the window. They were waiting for their dad, Bill, to come in to eat supper. Their mom, Thula, had beans and cornbread prepared, but nobody could eat until dad walked through the door. They were hungry. They watched mom dish up the beans and pour the fresh milk. She had milked the cow that morning, then chilled the milk so they would have a nice, cold treat at suppertime.

            Most of the time, beans and cornbread were the fare at their house. They killed a beef once in a while but the meat had to be used sparingly. More often, they butchered a hog. Then they had bacon, sausage, and ham curing in the shed. Mom sometimes put some of the pork into the beans. The boys all hoped to get pieces of meat with their beans when that happened. But they ate what was on their plate, and if they got lucky and had some meat, they were glad.

Bill was foreman on a ranch just west of Fort Worth, and he was fortunate to have landed that job. Before they moved to that area, they were sharecroppers working farmland on the banks of the Brazos River, way down in south Texas. Times were better now, but still it was nothing special.

Christmas was just two days away. The three boys knew not to expect much at Christmas. They knew they would get an orange, maybe a banana, maybe a pair of socks and a small toy, probably something Bill carved out of wood for them to play with. But they didn’t expect anything else, because that was the way it had always been. There were hard times in the 1930’s in Texas during the Great Depression, and they were all used to it.

            Ed was the first to see his dad. “Look, Thuriel, there he is!” he shouted. Ed was eight and the oldest of the boys. Thuriel was six and George was four.

            All three boys clambered to get to the front door first, to grab daddy around the legs and give him a hug. Ed, being the oldest, always got there first, but Bill had a special hug for the other two, as well. He was a loving dad who didn’t leave any of the boys out. Ed hugged him around the waist while the other boys each grabbed a leg to give him a proper welcome home. It was the highlight of  Bill’s day to look at his three boys and then to sit down and hold them on his lap for a few minutes before sitting down at the table. He was proud of his boys.

            That night, Mom had baked a cake for dessert. She dished up three slices of cake and set them before the boys after their meal was finished. Thuriel looked at Ed’s piece and said, “He got more than me.” Ed grabbed his fork and began eating. Nobody was going to take his piece away, if he was quick at getting a bite of it.

            “Just eat your cake, boys, and be glad you got it,” said Thula, as she gave Bill his and put hers on her plate. As she watched the boys she thought of a plan. Next time she baked a cake, she would let one boy cut it, and the other two would get first choice of the pieces they wanted. That will help them learn to be careful and it just might solve the problem of the rivalry, Thula thought.

            They had filled up on the beans and cornbread, and before long it was bedtime for the boys. Then Bill and Thula sat quietly, cherishing their precious time together. They made plans about Christmas. Bill showed Thula the little cars he had carved for the boys to play with, and she told him she had three oranges, one for each boy’s stocking. Money was scarce, and there was nothing to be done about it. They would not go into debt, and they would do what they could, and it would be as it always had been.

            Bill and Thula did not get to go to church very often, but everybody at church knew them. They were regulars when they could get there. It was a five-mile walk to the church, and with the little boys, they didn’t make it every week. Sometimes a neighbor with a car would piek them up and take them to church. They read their Bible at home and told the boys stories about Bible heroes. They didn’t want to neglect their boys’ Christian education, so they made a point of telling a Bible story most nights.

            The next day, December 24, Bill took the boys out and cut a tree from the woods around their house. They proudly trekked back, pulling the tree. Excitedly, the boys waited until Bill nailed it to a couple of pieces of wood so it would stand up, then Thula pulled out the box of decorations. Happily, the children were chattering and decorating the tree when they heard the sound of a car close to their front door.

            “Who could that be?” Thula wondered. When she opened the door, she saw three ladies from the church as they carried in a big box.

            “We brought you this food,” one of the ladies said. She set the box on the table and began taking items out—there was a turkey, some home-canned vegetables, and some produce.

            Bill and Thula were speechless as they considered the gift they were receiving. The boys knelt in chairs by the table as they pulled things out of the box, amazed at the bounty.

            “Oh, we have more,” one of the ladies said. She opened the door and brought in some toys—a truck, a play lawnmower, and a little car big enough for a boy to sit in! The boys looked at the toys, and each of them figured out which one was his. The car was too little for Ed, it was too big for George, but Thuriel fit into the seat perfectly. It was made for him. He pushed the pedals and the car began to move around the room. He was in little boy heaven. He had never had a gift like this one! Ed grabbed the truck and George began pushing the toy lawnmower.

            That Christmas was the most memorable one Thuriel ever had. People thought enough of their family to bring them toys, and he was the luckiest one because he was just the right size for the best of them. He rode that car until he was too big to get into it any more, then it became George’s. By that time, two more boys had been born to the family, and they got to ride the car when they were old enough, too.

            On Christmas morning, the boys could hardly wait to get their toys and begin to play with them. They took their stockings from the mantle and exclaimed over the oranges. Ed stuck his thumb into the thick skin and began sucking the sweet juice out. An orange was a rare and wonderful treat for each of the boys.

            Thula roasted the turkey and made cornbread dressing. She opened a jar of the home-canned green beans, peeled potatoes for mashing, and made a feast for her family. They counted themselves among the privileged on that Christmas in 1934, thankful for people who cared enough to think of them and bring them gifts.

6 cups cornbread and 4 cups biscuit or soft bread crumbs—soak in 4 cups milk, stock, or water.
Saute in hot fat until golden brown—1 large onion, celery (part leaves)
Add onions and celery to crumbs, add 4 well-beaten eggs, 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon sage or poultry seasoning.
Add 4 more cups milk, stock, or water. Taste and add more sage, if needed.
Stuff bird. Cook in medium oven about 25 minutes per pound.

Note from the author:
(This is a true story. My husband, Charlie, was called “Thuriel” by his mother (THUR rul), a name I never heard anyone else called.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh

          Move over, Nicholas Sparks! I just read my first book by Dan Walsh on my Kindle. I immediately went to and ordered four more books that he has authored! I enjoy Nicholas Sparks--have read most of his books, but Dan Walsh can compete with his writing style, and he is a Christian author. I would love to see this book about Christmas as a Hallmark movie.

          This was about a man named Rick, whose parents divorced when he was eight. His mother remarried, but Rick kept his heart closed and wouldn't let his step-father in. Finally, he grew up and moved away from his home in Florida, his heart still filled with bitterness because of the loss of relationship with his real father, whom he adored.

          Rick finished college and earned his MBA in accounting. He had worked in a productice office for about ten years when his mother called him for help. Art, his step-father, was in the hospital with what doctors thought to be a stroke. It was the week after Thanksgiving. Rick reluctantly went home, counting the days until he could get back to his life, and hoping not to "waste" too many vacation days helping his mom.

         While he worked in his mother and step-father's bookstore, along with an attractive single mother who worked there part-time, he began to see his mother and her husband as those who came into the store saw them--people who cared about others and wanted to help them.  The quirky book store customers add much to the book, as the reader is introduced to each of them.
He was attracted to the young woman who worked there part-time and to her delightful little daughter, but he knew they didn't have the same lifestyles. He was on the fast-track to success and she just wanted a much slower life.
         As time went by and Art remained in the hospital, Rick kept having to call his boss for more time off.  He realized he was about to get fired if he didn't get back to Charlotte.

         Rick's heart began to mellow and he understood more about Christmas as he interacted with all the characters. An unexpected twist near the end of the book helped him realize that his best life might not be about becoming a millionaire, having expensive skiing vacations, and drinking bouts with his friends.

           Be ready to laugh and to cry as you read Remembering Christmas. I won't give away the ending, but if you choose to read this book, you will be blessed. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

           Download this on your Kindle or you can order it from Amazon. It was published in 2011.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Bit of Marital Advice

       When my husband and I met in college and married just six months later, we didn’t have much time to find out about how to be a married couple. We had to “learn as you go” and are still at it fifty-six years later, thanking God for our years together. However, there is one little tidbit of advice we received that has meant more to us than anything else.
         My dad was a preacher, and he married us. The only thing I remember him telling us in the way of marital counseling “Kiss her when you’re going out or coming in.”
         Back in the 1950’s when we married, most of the wives were homemakers. They stayed in the house while the husband went out to “bring in the bacon.” So the man did most of the “going out and coming in”. Early in our marriage, though, both of us were working, and we remembered the good-bye kiss almost every time one of us left to do something, or when we came back home. It became a funny ritual we always did, and it helped us to remember my dad, and his homespun wisdom.
         Nowadays, both husband and wife are usually needed to help with the family income, so both are coming and going a lot. That’s a lot of kisses. And when you’re kissing a lot, you don’t have time to get mad at each other.
          It doesn’t hurt to give a little squeeze along with the kiss. At our house, it always brings a smile and a happy memory when I see my husband puckering up for a kiss, as he comes toward me, his keys jingling in his hands, as he announces, “I’m going out!”
(Written by Juanita Nobles and published in Love is a Verb, compiled by James Stuart Bell and Gary Chapman, 2011-- picture made in 1963)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Delightful Christmas book

If you want a quick read, and a delightful one, read Melody Carlson's new book, "Christmas at Harrington's." I recently downloaded it to my Kindle and finished it today.

The book opens when Lena is on a bus, after being released from prison, heading for a new location to start her life over. Lena was the daughter of a hard-nosed father and a frightened mother, and she married a preacher. Or she thought he was a preacher. As the book progresses we learn that this man was not what he professed to be. He was the cause of Lena's prison term.

Lena meets new friends and thinks maybe she can put her past behind her, but that is not to be. Someone from her old life recognizes her and she is ostracized again. Fortunately. the handsome son of a friend, who happens to be a lawyer, comes to her rescue.

Read the book to find out what happens, and to delight in her friendship with a child who needs someone to love and care for her.

This is light and easy reading, with a Christian twist. From the way the book ends, I sense a sequel--maybe Romance after Harrington's-- Hope to see this book soon.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Memories--The Lost Doll

Christmas memories are sometimes hard to pull out of the recesses of our minds. We all have them. Sometimes they are happy ones, sometimes they are memories we would like to forget. Even sometimes, they are so harmful, we only remember them in bits and pieces. My earliest Christms memory was when I was a very little girl--five or six, maybe even younger.

The United States was coming out of the Great Depression. World War II may have still been going on, because I can't put a date on this one. My parents and I lived with my maternal grandparents in an apartment. People in those days lived together to share the rent, since money was so hard to come by.

I remember getting a doll, one of the first ones I received, I think. I don't remember what it looked like, but I remember being happy, holding it and playing with it until, like all little children, I became distracted by something else and left my new doll on the floor. Or maybe it was thrown askew on the couch. Whatever happened, my grandmother must have thought I needed to learn a lesson. Because later in the day, when I looked for my doll, it was not there.

I looked everywhere and finally cried out, "Where is my doll?"

My grandmother said, "You threw it down. I guess Santa Claus came and got it because you didn't take care of it. He probably took it to a little girl who would love it and not throw it down."

I began to cry. I said I was sorry. But the doll was gone. I thought it was gone forever and I cried bitterly.

Later in the day, I found the doll. It was on a chair or on the couch, I don't remember where, but there it was! I grabbed it and hugged it to myself, rocking and cooing words of pleasure. My doll was back. I looked up and saw my grandmother's eyes. She said, "Well, Santa Claus was watching and he saw that you were sorry you didn't take care of your doll, so I guess he brought it back. He's always watching you, you know. So you'd better take care of it this time."

I'm sure my grandmother didn't intend to be mean. She wanted me to care for my things, but I was too small to understand the concept. Perhaps my parents could not afford to buy the doll, and my grandmother wanted me to appreciate it. However, I learned to watch my back, because a powerful person was watching me. This experience gave me a fear that I carried with me for many years.

Do you have a Christmas memory that you would like to share on my blog?  It may be happy or sad, just something that you remember that made a deep impression on you. I'll be adding more of my memories, too.

Leave a comment on the blog or email me at with a short summary about your memory. I'll get back to you and perhaps we can agree to put it on the blog. I'll help you "beef it up" and we'll swap memories.

Names of those who contribute entries to my blog for the month of December will be in a drawing to receive a free copy of my book, A Heritage of Faith. Drawing for the book will be held December 31. I'll post the name of the contributors and of the winner. If you win and you already have my book, I'll send you a copy of my unpublished book--the one about Bible characters, Ordinary People Come Face-to-Face with Extraordinary God.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

58 Years

November 27 was an important day in my life. It was our 58th wedding anniversary. Never dreamed I would be this old. Never dreamed I would be married this long. But I'm thankful for both things.

Charlie and I married only six months after we met. My parents and grandparents shuddered at the thought that I would marry someone I had only just met. But to both of us, it seemed the thing God would have us do. Despite my parents' objections, we had a wedding, went back to college, and continued our lives. Within a couple of years, Charlie was pastoring a church and I was playing the piano and teaching Sunday School. Of course, I was only nineteen when we married, I knew nothing about teaching adult ladies, but I followed the teachers' guide and off I went, happy as a lark. God protects the young. They don't know how many mistakes they make. And I surely made a lot of them.

God WAS in charge. We love each other deeply. And now we have been married all these years.

A couple of days after our anniversary, a package arrived in the mail. My daughter-in-law had alerted me that we would be getting a late anniversary present, so I was ready for it. I slit the tape and opened the box. Out jumped a bag of colored drinking straws. OK, so I drink water all day long and I need the straws, but this was strange.

I dug a little deeper and found 58 birthday candles, then 58 toothpicks! What was this, I wondered. I looked at the straw package again, and sure enough, someone had opened it, scratched through the number 50, and had written 58 over the number. Then I found a sleeve of money, then another. I looked closely and there were 58 quarters, 58 dimes, 58 nickels, 58 pennies, and even 58 postage stamps. And there was a CD. Written on it were the words, "58 pictures of our kitties."

I burst into laughter. Our son and daughter-in-law are always coming up with something unusual, but this is the icing on the cake! They sent 58 of several items to celebrate our 58th wedding anniversary.

Then on the bottom, I found a note.  This is what it said:

58 stamps --- 26.10
58 quarters-- 14.50
58 dimes ----   5.80
58 nickels ---   2.90
58 pennies --     .58
58 straws ----  1.53
58 candles----  4.50
58 toothpicks - 1.09
58 picures of kitties -- 1.00
Total             $58.00

Knowing that your parents and grandparents
have been together for 58 years...................     PRICELESS!

It was signed by our son and his wife, our grandson and his wife, our granddaughter, and the two cats and one dog that live at their address.

What a memory! And what a lot of work they did to make this all work out to $58.00.  Thanks, David and Margaret.