A Farmers Prayer

The Miraculous Answer to a Farmer’s Prayer
by Nadine Pfotenhauer

In July 1973, when I was 17, a drought struck my family’s farm in Burnsville, Minnesota. It began with several days without rain. Normal for summertime. But the hot, dry days stretched into weeks. Our farm was our livelihood. We counted on the profits from the corn crop to get us through the year, and the corn was dying before our eyes.

My father was a man of faith. He prayed before every meal and firmly believed God would look out for our family. Each day, Mom and I would get up, hoping for rain. Each day, Dad would expect it, even though there wasn’t so much as a wisp of a cloud in the harsh blue sky.

Around the one-month mark without rain, Mom, Dad and I sat down to lunch one day and bowed our heads in silent prayer, as usual. Mom and I looked up, ready to eat. But Dad didn’t move. We waited so long that I asked if he’d fallen asleep. “Hold on,” he said. “I’m not done yet.” I looked at his hands, calloused and cracked from years of farm work, his nails permanently stained by dirt. They were clasped together so tightly that his knuckles were white. I’d never seen Dad pray so fervently. I knew it was about the drought.

After lunch, Dad returned to the fields, wandering through the yellowing stalks, doing what he could to try to save the corn, which was only a couple of weeks away from being ripe enough to harvest. He stayed out there while Mom and I had dinner. I finished my chores, wiping the sweat off my brow, desperate for a break from the stifling heat. I opened every window in the house, hoping to coax a cross breeze. The air was stagnant, save an occasional hot, weak puff. I sat in our living room, fanning myself and thinking about Dad, a man at the end of his rope.

I needed something to distract myself. I looked at my wristwatch: 7:55 P.M. I was expecting a call from my older sister, Celeste, who lived on her own. She’d promised to call for an update on the crops after she got home from her church choir rehearsal, which ended at 8:00. Hearing her voice would be a comfort.

Boom!

The noise startled me. The house shook. I jumped up and ran to the window. I stared in disbelief. It was pouring rain! My mom and I ran around the house, closing all the windows. Dad came running in, his shirt soaked, his boots caked with mud, beaming from ear to ear.

“Look!” he said, pointing out the front door. “There’s no rain anywhere but on our farm!” He was right. In the distance, on all sides of our property, the skies were clear. There was a rainstorm only over our crops. Eventually, the rain let up. But not before the corn was saved. Dad said the stalks would be healthy by morning.

Celeste called as promised, and we told her about the miracle rainstorm. “You’re not going to believe this,” she said. “We finished choir class a few minutes early. The director asked if anyone had a request for a song we could all sing in praise together. I asked if we could sing ‘There Shall Be Showers of Blessing.’”

I knew the song well. “There shall be showers of blessing / Precious reviving again / Over the hills and the valleys / Sound of abundance of rain.”

They were singing right when the rain started. Years later, the events of that day remain my strongest reminder of the power of faith. Dad’s dedicated prayer was followed up with a whole choir, and God answered with showers of blessing.

Halloween Hermit- Lou Dean

It was a week before Halloween when my new stepmother, Anna, called us into the kitchen of her house in Purcell, Okla., and laid down the law:”You kids stay away from the rent house. That old Indian man who moved in there is crazy.” Anna looked right at me as she spoke. She might as well have sent me an engraved invitation.I was 12 at the time, angry and rebellious. My mom had left us when I was seven. Since then, I’d experienced my parents’ divorce and custody battles in court. I’d been chief cook and bottle-washer for my dad and younger brother, David, on our Oklahoma farm. I spent any free time between school and housework riding our horse, Maybelle, across the meadows with my dog, Shorty, running alongside. I imagined I was Geronimo, and Shorty and I were the last of our tribe.Then in late August 1960 Dad sat David and me down and told us gently, “I’m marrying Anna. We’re selling the farm and moving to her house in Purcell.”The day of the farm auction, I’d watched my beloved Maybelle disappear in a cloud of red dust, her eyes wide and wild in the back of the horse trailer.I’d stumbled off to the far side of the farm, where I couldn’t hear the voice of the auctioneer or see the people leaving with our animals and cherished possessions. I painted myself and Shorty with pokeberry juice and sang an Indian chant. Before we left for Anna’s house in Purcell, about 150 miles away, I cut my hair with pruning shears in a straight bob that resembled Geronimo’s.Anna and I got off to a very bad start in Purcell. The first day, she took me to her beauty parlor and said, “Do something. Anything!” Then, in an attempt to help me adjust to my new life, she took away my cowboy boots, Levi’s and the special Indian war paint and “potions” I’d mixed in mason jars and brought from the farm.So, that fateful morning the week before Halloween when Anna warned us about the old Indian, I perked right up.”His name is Mr. Tyree,” she said. “He’s a hermit. Stay away from him and the rental house. Both of you.”Dad, having rented the house on the edge of Anna’s property to the old man, had spoken to him several times. He laughed when Anna called Mr. Tyree a crazy hermit. “He’s just a lonely old man. A little eccentric, maybe.”Words fascinated me, so I ran to the dictionary. “Hermit: one who retires from society and lives in solitude.”That made my heart pound with anticipation. I’d had about all I wanted of society. Every night I cried myself to sleep, thinking about the farm and my old life. I’d already considered running away with Shorty and living alone on the Arkansas River. My long-standing romance with Native American history made Mr. Tyree all the more appealing. Somehow, I had to meet him.For days I watched the rent house, letting David’s baseball roll close enough to peek, or walking Shorty down the sidewalk past it.Mr. Tyree was an owl, never coming out during the day. He didn’t have visitors. The mystery surrounding him seemed to blend nicely with Halloween, so I decided that night was the perfect time to make my move.David was trick-or-treating with friends as the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, and Anna told me to dress up as Dorothy and go along with them. At the end of the block I stopped and eyed the rent house. “You guys go wherever you want. Meet me back here in an hour.”The Lion looked at Mr. Tyree’s dark yard and then at me. “What’re you gonna do, Sissy?””Go get you some candy and courage,” I said, pulling his tail. “Don’t worry about me, little brother.”I held my dog in my arms, like Dorothy, when I knocked at the door. Except for the full moon over my shoulder, everything was black. The rent house was the only one on the block not lit and decorated.I admit I was a little apprehensive. My first knock was feeble. I strained to hear any stirrings from within. Nothing. The second knock was stronger, but still no reply. I banged my fist until the screen door slapped loudly against the frame.Finally the door creaked open and a pair of cloudy brown eyes stared down at me. “What is it?” a voice barked.”Trick or treat,” I said, trying to get a good look at the old man while holding Shorty in a death grip.”What? What’s that you’re sayin’, girl?” He spoke loud and with an impatient edge.”You know,” I said, swallowing my fear, “it’s Halloween.”I saw the uncertainty in his eyes as we stared at each other. I began to explain. “All the kids dress up in scary costumes and go around to everyone’s houses and say, ‘Trick or treat. People give them apples and candy and stuff.””I have not candy,” he said. “Not apples.” He slammed the door. But before I could turn and leave the porch, the door cracked open again. “I do have juice, home-canned.”I accepted with an eager nod. “I’ll have to bring in my dog. He goes everywhere with me.”The door opened wider. What if the stories about him were true, if he were crazy? I said a little prayer and stepped inside.”Come on,” he growled, and motioned for me to sit. He had a wooden table and two spool-backed chairs, the only furniture I could see in the gloom.I told him how I’d read everything I could about Geronimo. He smiled and poured me a glass of juice. For a long time we sat in silence. Then, finally, he spoke: “Checkers?”That night when I curled up in bed, I didn’t cry. I wasn’t thinking about the farm and all the animals and the friends I’d had to leave behind. My mind was on an old Indian man who wore moccasins and had gray braided hair. The only thing mean about him was the game of checkers he played. He said four words to me when I left his house.”We will be friends.”A few days later, Mr. Tyree appeared on our front porch, banging his cane against the door.Dad was home. “What can I do for you, Mr. Tyree?””Where’s that girl?” Mr. Tyree demanded. “Said she’d come again and play checkers.” His voice boomed through the house.Dad shifted his weight, turned around and frowned at me. He knew Anna had forbidden us to go near the rent house. “Well, Mr. Tyree, I suppose that would be okay, as long as you two sit outside on the porch.””When were you over there, young lady?” demanded Anna later at dinner.”Halloween night,” I said. “I knocked on his door. He invited me in for some home-canned fruit juice, and we played checkers.”Anna shrieked and dropped her fork. “It’s a wonder she didn’t die of botulism.”Dad laughed, and a discussion followed about the impropriety of my befriending the old Indian. Dad, knowing I hadn’t made a single friend in Purcell, knowing how homesick I was for the farm, finally persuaded Anna to agree to the front-porch-only rule.My friendship with Mr. Tyree blossomed during the warm autumn afternoons, sitting at a rickety card table on his front porch playing checkers while Shorty napped at my feet. I told him all about the farm and how I felt I had the spirit of Indians in the deepest part of my own self.Mr. Tyree grinned, his gold tooth gleaming in the sunlight. “You have the gift of story,” he said, and he encouraged me to tell him more about the farm. Gradually living in Purcell became less painful, as if my time of mourning the farm was over. More and more, Mr. Tyree told me tales of his own, and I could tell he was enjoying himself too.On Thanksgiving, Anna fixed a huge platter of food and allowed me to take it to my new friend. Shorty and I helped him eat it, sitting on his porch and rocking together in the golden rays of late-autumn sun.Mr. Tyree died peacefully in his sleep many years ago. I think of him often and have come to believe that my knocking on his door that Halloween night was no accident. God knew how lonely and afraid I was, and that I needed a friend in the worst way.This year on Thanksgiving I’ll be sitting out on my porch with my dog, being grateful for the time God sent an eccentric old man to comfort me. I’ll remember how I’d considered closing myself off and becoming a hermit-and instead learned the value of opening myself up to friendship. And I’ll smile and whisper those four magic words that I too try to tell people who I sense may be lonely and scared:”We will be friends.”

MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN James Colasanti, Jr.

I can still remember my 80-year old mother working at the Kitchen table the day after my father passed away. That fragile, diminutive lady sat in her chair crocheting a Scarf. Time and devotion had made this her domain. She had lived in This very same house for most of her adult life. Because she was Hearing-impaired, she didn’t look up from her work when I entered the Room. However, I could tell that it was here that she had found Peace with the world. In retrospect, it wasn’t our old rooster that woke me early Sunday mornings, even though he contributed loudly to the harmonics Of the dawn. It was the pungent aroma of the garlic and oregano from The smorgasbord unfolding in my aging mother’s kitchen. The smells wafted up the steep staircase to my bedroom. Their Essences then crawled under the door space and permeated the room. I immediately threw off the bedclothes, the cold tempered with The warmth of the culinary sensations. Next, I heard my mother yelling (sometimes in Italian, sometimes In English), “James, get up and get ready.” Neither needed Translation. Being Italian and Catholic, 8 o’clock Sunday Mass was a Weekly necessity — attendance required. Down the stairs I flew. On the kitchen table — a red and white Formica topped 1950’s piece — my cup and spoon would be waiting. I Had been allowed to drink coffee from a very young age. Although Meticulously clean, the white-painted plaster kitchen walls had a Shiny, almost greasy, patina from the years of perpetual cooking. Jars of spices and home-grown herbs circled the kitchen counter tops. On the wall facing the table was a 5-foot ceramic rosary with “beads” an inch in diameter — a Mother’s Day gift from me. It was Her prize possession. In her kitchen she could cook, and if she felt the urge, she Could pray. She knew her thoughts had to be heard by any available Saint on a rosary that big. My mother, already 39 at my birth, had Her graying black hair pulled back severely into a bun. She always Dressed in her housecoat while working in the kitchen and a flowered Red apron covered the housecoat for added protection. At dinnertime, my father, my mother, my Aunt Tina (my mother’s Sister), and I gathered together, but my mother always made enough Sunday dinner for an army. The dining room table was set with the Good China and the good silverware, and the extra place settings were Always stacked on the sideboard — just in case. Amazingly, friends and relatives knew to drop in (uninvited) at This particular time of the week. Flavoring the extra sauce was a Conglomeration of meats — big beef bones (one for the dog), hot pork Sausages, and a variety of chicken parts bubbled slowly in the big Dutch oven on top of the gas stove. Below, several loaves of bread and the main course, the lasagna, Baked happily away. Each layer of the lasagna was infused with a Variety of Italian spices (garlic, basil, and oregano), ground meat (both veal and pork), ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, home-made Tomato sauce, and a top layer of parmesan cheese. Although my mother was not the animal lover in the family Because she had been scared as a young child in Sicily by a pack of Stray dogs, she was in charge of making sure everyone was fed, Including the animals. On the day I was born, my parents received a small black and tan Puppy from a perceptive family friend who knew every boy needed a dog. Mother always spoiled Butchy and there were many days when I Thought Butchy was actually the favored child. As a baby, I would Lay in my cradle and Butchy, still a puppy, would curl up next to me. If I cried, she would lick away the tears, and if there was a Problem, she would “yap” for my parents. Because she knew the dog was my guardian and my protector, Mother treated her accordingly. And on Sundays, mother always fixed A plate of lasagna and an extra large beef bone especially for Butchy. Butchy was my first dog, and she was also my first best friend. Butchy was the very first in a long line of canines to teach me what I have experienced so many times. We don’t get over losing the dogs Who have been a part of our lives. We just get used to living Without them. In everyone’s life there are moments when a family shares a joy And everything seems to have a purpose. Those memories of Sunday dinners forged from love remain with me — lots of great food, good times with my family, and the animals With whom I grew up. And most of all, my mother.

James Colasanti, Jr.

~Brief Encounter~

Several Saturdays ago I was cleaning my car at a do-it-yourself car wash. As I vacuumed, I noticed a few wisps of yellow dog fur.I stopped my cleaning. I picked up the fur, placed it in an envelope and put the envelope in the glove compartment. The fur belonged to Buddy. As I went about the rest of the day, I couldn’t help but think of the brief encounter with Buddy and his “family” just a couple of days before.It was a Wednesday afternoon. I had just gotten off work. As I passed a truck stop, I noticed a man with a large backpack. There beside him was a dog on a leash sitting in the grass strip that separates the entrance and exit to the interstate. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon and quite hot. I stopped a few feet away and walked up to the man. “You and the dog okay?” I asked. I guess he was a little startled. “I’m not breakin’ no law sittin’ here, am I?” he asked.”No,” I replied, “I just wanted to make sure you and the dog were okay.””We’re okay, just a little hot.”I noticed a handwritten cardboard sign beside him saying something about working for food. My guess was that he hadn’t had a good meal in some time.”Look,” I said, “here’s a twenty – make sure you and the dog get a good meal tonight.””God bless you, sir,” he said as he accepted the money. I walked back to my car. As I turned around, the pair were headed under an overpass to the westbound side of the I-78 ramp. Somehow I felt I should have done a little more. I went into the truck stop, bought a large hoagie and soda for the man and a couple of hot dogs and water for the dog.As I approached the ramp, they were gone. I figured someone had picked them up. I got back on the freeway intending to get off at the next exit. There were my two “friends.” I pulled over. As we spoke, I gave pieces of the hot dogs to the dog along with a few sips of cool water. The stranger wolfed down the sandwich in two minutes.I asked the dogs name, it was Buddy.I don’t usually give strangers a ride, but I just couldn’t let them walk down the busy freeway at night. I offered to give them a ride, and they accepted. He instructed Buddy to get in the back seat, but I told him it was okay if Buddy rode in the front. Buddy put his head on my lap as though we had been friends for years. I knew he enjoyed the cooling breeze of the air conditioner. He very quickly fell asleep, as I occasionally petted him on his head.Buddy was a beautiful, noble dog, some kind of mixed breed although the man said he was a sheltie. His fur was soft and surprisingly well kept. The man was a drifter.He told me bits and pieces about his life. He said he didn’t have any sort of identification. He told me he had lost his wallet a few weeks back. My guess was he was about forty. He was tall and lean, with a beard. His piercing blue eyes seemed to hold pain, but he was a gentle person. He was born in Oregon and traveled around always looking for work, he said.I asked him about Buddy. He told me he found him in Alabama as a puppy about a year and a half before. From that day to this, they had always been together.There was a pause in the conversation and I asked him whether the dog was ever a burden to him, with all the traveling around. I would have gladly offered a great home to Buddy. There was a long silence. From the corner of my eye I could see tears rolling down the man’s cheeks.”Sir,” he said to me, barely above a whisper, “old Buddy is the only family I got. Some days, when food is scarce, I’d gladly go without, so long as Buddy has somethin’.”There was no doubt he spoke the truth. I felt embarrassed that I would even think of offering to take the man’s only worthwhile possession.The ride was all too short. I pulled over and the man got his backpack out of the back seat. Then Buddy hopped out. The man began to slowly close the door. Buddy turned, looked up at me and wagged his tail a couple of times. I’m certain it was his way of saying “thanks.”I turned around and headed east. I had one last look at Buddy and his “family.” As I drove off I was disappointed in myself; I didn’t even ask the man his name.That night I was out late watering the flowers. I looked up at the heavens. I wondered why it is that sometimes these brief encounters make such profound impressions on my life. I said a little prayer asking God to please watch over them in their travels, and to say thanks for just the few brief moments I was able to share with them.Without their knowledge, the two “world travelers” had enriched my life, touched my soul and heart. The wisps of fur will always be a reminder to me of the summer afternoon that I encountered Buddy and his companion.

Beautiful Flower In A Broken Pot

Our house was directly across the street fromThe clinic entrance of Johns Hopkins Hospital inBaltimore. We lived downstairs and rented theUpstairs rooms to out patients at the clinic.One summer evening as I was fixing supper,There was a knock at the door. I opened it toSee a truly awful looking man. “Why, he’s hardlyTaller than my eight-year-old,” I thought as IStared at the stooped, shriveled body. But theAppalling thing was his face, lopsided fromSwelling, red and raw.Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, “GoodEvening. I’ve come to see if you’ve a room forJust one night. I came for a treatment this morningFrom the eastern shore, and there’s no bus ’til morning.”He told me he’d been hunting for a room sinceNoon but with no success, no one seemed toHave a room. “I guess it’s my face… I know it looksTerrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments…”For a moment I hesitated, but his next wordsConvinced me: “I could sleep in this rocking chairOn the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning.”I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest onThe porch. I went inside and finished getting supper.When we were ready, I asked the old man if heWould join us. “No thank you. I have plenty.”And he held up a brown paper bag.When I had finished the dishes, I went out onThe porch to talk with him a few minutes. It didn’tTake a long time to see that this old man had anOversized heart crowded into that tiny body.He told me he fished for a living to support hisDaughter, her five children, and her husband,Who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury.He didn’t tell it by way of complaint; in fact, everyOther sentence was preface with a thanks to GodFor a blessing. He was grateful that no painAccompanied his disease, which was apparentlyA form of skin cancer. He thanked God for givingHim the strength to keep going.At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children’s roomFor him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linensWere neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch.He refused breakfast, but just before he left for hisBus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said,”Could I please come back and stay the next time IHave a treatment? I won’t put you out a bit. I canSleep fine in a chair.” He paused a moment and thenAdded, “Your children made me feel at home.Grownups are bothered by my face, but childrenDon’t seem to mind.”I told him he was welcome to come again.And on his next trip he arrived a little after seven inThe morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and aQuart of the largest oysters I had ever seen. HeSaid he had shucked them that morning before heLeft so that they’d be nice and fresh. I knew his busLeft at 4:00 a.m. And I wondered what time he hadTo get up in order to do this for us.In the years he came to stay overnight with us thereWas never a time that he did not bring us fish orOysters or vegetables from his garden.Other times we received packages in the mail,Always by special delivery; fish and oysters packedIn a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leafCarefully washed. Knowing that he must walk threeMiles to mail these, and knowing how little moneyHe had made the gifts doubly precious.When I received these little remembrances, I oftenThought of a comment our next-door neighbor madeAfter he left that first morning.”Did you keep that awful looking man last night? ITurned him away! You can lose roomers by puttingUp such people!”Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But oh!If only they could have known him, perhaps theirIllnesses would have been easier to bear.I know our family always will be grateful to have knownHim; from him we learned what it was to accept theBad without complaint and the good with gratitude to God.Recently I was visiting a friend, who has a green-House, as she showed me her flowers, we came toThe most beautiful one of all, a golden chrysanthemum,Bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise,It was growing in an old dented, rusty bucket.I thought to myself, “If this were my plant, I’d put itin the loveliest container I had!”My friend changed my mind. “I ran short of pots,” sheExplained, “and knowing how beautiful this one would be,I thought it wouldn’t mind starting out in this old pail.It’s just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden.”She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly,But I was imagining just such a scene in heaven.”Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might haveSaid when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman.”He won’t mind starting in this small body.”All this happened long ago — and now, in God’s garden,How tall this lovely soul must stand.

A Perfectly Timed Hymn

A Perfectly Timed Hymn Helped This Postman
by Jeffery Taylor

Overworked and stressed, he worried about his future until he heard a beloved song coming from a house on his route.

Finish this shift, get to the next job, study for midterms, practice the sheet music for church, tuck Matt into bed….

I walked from house to house, delivering mail and tallying the long list of things I needed to get done that day. There was no way I could do it all.

I was an undergrad at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, working two jobs to support myself; my wife, Angie; and our young son. One in the evening, doing retail inventory. The other, working part-time as a substitute postman. With midterms looming, things were piling up. I felt stretched thin. Even my church commitment was complicated these days. Our worship team was pushing the congregation to embrace some contemporary hymns I’d learned on the piano, but folks were reluctant.

I slipped a stack of letters into a mailbox and continued on my route. I had hoped my shift would give me time to sort things out as I walked, but all I could do was worry.

As I walked up the path to the next house, I heard something familiar. Music spilled from the house’s open windows and screen door. As I got closer, I realized it was the same new hymn we had been teaching at my church. I lifted the lid on the mailbox and peeked in through the screen door. A group of young people sat together, singing in harmony. An older man and woman led them, the man playing along with a guitar. It must have been a mission house for the local college.

I lingered on the porch for a second. The music washed over me. Their voices lifted my spirit higher and higher until I was singing along with them. I figured they were too engrossed in their praise to notice. As I sang, the stress I had been carrying subsided. for the first time in months. I felt calm and reassured. It was so perfectly timed, as if this moment had been set up just for me. The song ended in a final, resounding chord.

I quietly left the porch and continued on my route, still humming. My worries would return soon enough, I knew, but in that moment I was free.

The years passed, and with hard work and study, I completed college. After graduation, I continued working for the post office and eventually moved into management. A transfer relocated my family and me to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. But with that came a whole new set of worries.

The cost of living in Pennsylvania was higher than what we’d been used to. We were in temporary housing until we found something permanent, but our searches had proved fruitless so far. And we still needed to find a suitable high school for Matt. He’d taken after me with his love of music and become an accomplished saxophonist. Unfortunately, the school system where our temporary housing was located had a terrible music program. Matt was getting discouraged and thinking about quitting.

Once again, I felt weighed down by worries. Had we made the right decision moving to Pennsylvania? Would this place ever feel like home? I hoped that finding a new church would offer some stability. But that was proving difficult too. After visiting nearly a dozen, we still hadn’t found one that felt right.

“Let’s just try one more,” Angie said, looking at our list.

“Okay,” I said, feeling discouraged.

The pastor and his wife showed us around after we attended a few services. The church was nice enough, but I still wasn’t certain.

“How about lunch?” the pastor offered. “We can get to know each other better”..

As we ate, the pastor got on the subject of moments when God shows up in our lives. It felt like ages since I’d experienced something like that. Then I remembered that day on the porch in Birmingham, all those years before.

“I had one of those moments once,” I told the pastor. “A long time ago.” I told him about working as a mailman in Birmingham and how I’d stood on the front porch of a mission house. How the worshippers had sung a favorite hymn of mine, and how singing with them helped me during that difficult time.

“It was just a small thing, but it was a perfectly timed blessing,” I said. Actually, I could use another one of those now, I thought.

I stopped, confused by the look on the pastor’s face.

“Well, I used to work at a mission house in Southside Birmingham,” he said, “and I still remember the day, 11 years ago, when I heard the postman sing with us from the porch.”

GOD’S MOUNTAIN GARDENBy Bertha M. Sutliff

The best place to seek God is in a garden. ~George Bernard Shaw

I grew up on a farm in the mountains of northwest Arkansas. As children, my brother and I roamed every inch of the little mountain facing my parents’ house. We knew where every giant boulder and animal burrow was on that little piece of mountain bordering my dad’s farm.One day, my grandpa came to visit from his home several miles away. We sat on the front porch swing looking at the mountain, and he began to tell me a story. It was a delightful tale about him and me living in a little cabin on the mountain.”Can you see it?” he asked. “It’s right there by that big acorn tree. See it?”Of course I saw it. What eight-year-old child wouldn’t see what her imagination wanted her to see?”We’re gonna live in that cabin. We’ll catch a wild cow for our milk and pick wild strawberries for our supper,” GrandpaContinued. “I bet the squirrels will bring us nuts to eat. We’ll search the bushes for wild chickens and turkeys. The chickens will give us eggs, and we’ll cook us a turkey over the big ol’ fireplace. Yep, we’ll do that some day.”From that day on, every time I saw my grandpa, I asked when we would go to live in that little log cabin on the mountain. Then he’d once more spin the story of how the two of us would live in the cabin with the wildflowers and wild animals around us.Time raced on; I grew into my teens and gradually forgot Grandpa’s story. After graduating high school, I still saw Grandpa and loved him dearly, but not like that little girl did. I grew out of the fantasy of the log cabin and wild cows.Before long, I married and set up my own house. One day, the phone rang. When I heard my daddy’s sorrowful voice, I knew my grandpa had left us. He had been in his garden behind his house and died there, his heart forever stopped.I grieved alongside my mother for my dear grandpa, remembering his promises of the cabin in the woods with all its animals and flowers. It seemed I could once again hear his voice telling me the fantasy we shared. I felt my childhood memories being buried with him.Less than a year later, I went to visit my parents’ farm. Mama and I sat on the front porch admiring the green foliage of the mountain. It had been ten months since Grandpa had passed away, but the longing to hear his voice one more time was still fresh in my soul.I told Mama about the story Grandpa had always told me, of the cabin in the woods, the wild cow, the chickens and turkey. “Mama,” I said after I had finished my story, “would you mind if I went for a walk by myself?””Of course not,” was her reply.I changed into old jeans and put on my walking shoes. Mama cautioned me to be careful and went on with her chores.The walk was invigorating. Spring had come to the country, and everything was getting green. Little Johnny-jump-ups were springing up all over the pastures. New calves were following their mamas begging for milk. At the foot of the mountain, I stopped. Where did Grandpa say that acorn tree was?”Straight up from the house,” I thought I heard him say.I began my journey up the little mountain. It was steeper than I remembered, and I was out of shape. I trudged on, determined to find that tree.Suddenly the ground leveled out. I was amazed to see what was before me. Soft green moss covered a small, flat clearing. Dogwood trees, smothered in pastel blooms, surrounded it. Off to the side stood a tall oak tree ? Grandpa’s acorn tree! Scattered among the tufts of moss were vibrant colors of wild wood violets. Green rock ferns and pearly snowdrops were scattered about as well. I could hardly catch my breath.I don’t know how long I stood there ? several minutes, I suppose. Finally I came to my senses and sat down on the moss. In all my childhood wanderings on the mountain, I had never seen this magically beautiful place. Was this what Grandpa meant when he pointed out our special spot on the mountainside all those years ago? Did he know this was here?A squirrel darted in front of me. He had a nut in his mouth. I watched as he scampered up the oak tree. No, I didn’t see a wild cow or chickens. But in my heart, I knew they were there somewhere.I decided to go tell Mama what I had found. She would want to see it, too. Before I left I took one more look. It was the most beautiful place I could have ever imagined.It didn’t take me as long to get back to the house. I burst into the kitchen babbling about the clearing on the side of the mountain. Mama calmed me down enough so she could understand what I was talking about. Daddy heard the conversation and tried to convince me there was no such place up there. He knew the mountain and had never seen anything like that.On my insistence, he and Mama decided to go see the amazing place I was raving about. Once again I climbed the mountain straight up from the house. Before I knew it, we were at the top.”We must have missed it,” I told my dad.He just nodded and we retraced our steps. We searched for over an hour for that little place on the mountain. We never found it. I was devastated.On the way back home, Mama put her arms around my shoulders.”Sissy,” she said, “you know what you saw, don’t you?””Yeah, I know what I saw, and I know it’s there somewhere. We just missed it.””No, sweetie, it’s not there anymore. You saw God’s garden. Only special people can see that. Your grandpa loved you so much, and he knew you were grieving inside. Hold that memory in your heart.”I’m fifty-two years old now. Every time I go back to Mama’s house and sit on the porch, I remember the secret garden Grandpa told me about. But I no longer go out and look for it. No, I know just where it is.

License to Smile

A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition.~William Arthur Ward

Anyone who knows me well would almost certainly label me an optimist. I believe in embracing hope and finding something positive even in the most difficult circumstances. My own optimism stems from a strong, personal faith in a loving God who I believe is very interested in the personal details of our lives, not just the “big stuff.” I also believe that things happen for a reason and that if we keep our minds and spirits open, our invisible God often becomes visible, sometimes in ways that are quite humorous!With that being said, even optimists can temporarily lose hope. This was the case for me on a particularly cold and gloomy January day. I felt overwhelmed by the painful challenges I was dealing with in my personal life. Marital, health, and financial struggles had joined forces to create a tornado of emotion that threatened to crush my spirit. I felt angry, frustrated, burdened, and distanced from the presence of God. The weather seemed to reflect my mood—the gray sky blocked even a single ray of sunlight. As I drudged through my workday, I just couldn’t shake a sense of hopelessness and despair.About midway through the day, I left work to get some lunch. Still feeling pessimistic and negative, I noticed that the sun had come out for a brief moment. I began to think about my negative attitude and reminded myself that I was responsible for choosing my state of mind. While I could not ignore the pain I was going through, I could choose to dwell on the negative or I could choose to shift my thinking to a more positive focus. Even as I consciously reminded myself of this truth, I felt incapable of making the shift. So I gripped the steering wheel and prayed an honest, heartfelt prayer. “God,” I cried, my tears ready to spill out, “where are you? I don’t want to feel this way but I am miserable and hopeless today. Please lift me out of this dark, gloomy place!”As I stopped at a red light, I looked at the car directly in front of mine. The personalized license plate caught my eye—it read “SUNZOUT.” This brought an immediate smile to my face. It felt like a reminder from God that the sun was shining after all, and in the midst of the longest, darkest, coldest winter in years, this in itself was a blessing. But then my eyes moved to the car that was perfectly parallel to the SUNZOUT vehicle. The license plate on that car read “GROUCH.” So as I read these two license plates side by side, I said out loud “SUNZOUT, GROUCH.” This brought more than a smile to my face as I laughed out loud! Seeing the two very opposite license plates right next to each other at that exact moment in time also strengthened my previous recognition of my ability to choose my outlook despite my circumstances. I felt my spirits and mood lift as I made the conscious decision to choose a positive attitude.I returned to work and shared my story with several co-workers who responded with warm laughter at what I referred to as my “message from beyond.” I learned that day that when we are feeling too discouraged to bring ourselves out of a state of negativity, relief is only a prayer away!~Julie A. Havener

Stairway to Heaven-By Sylvia Gardner

When I was growing up back in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, Mother prided herself on preparing us kids for anything life might send our way. Her own mother had suffered a massive stroke when she was only five years old. As the oldest of four children, my mother professed that it was hard work and a strong faith in God that got her through those rough years. She was a shining example of Yankee faith and fortitude, and she passed along those values to each of us.

Still, nothing could have prepared me for the void that Mother’s death on October 14 would cause. She’d lived 96 healthy years and passed quietly in her sleep after enjoying a wonderful visit with the four of us. I was grateful for that. But now the person who’d helped me get through everything was gone.

Never again would I dial her telephone number after a difficult day on the job as a nurse practitioner at the VA Medical Center. Never again would I hear the dearly familiar pearls of wisdom that had shaped my life.

Sometimes when a patient was going through a trying time, one of Mother’s little sayings would come to mind and I’d share it with them. I remember the first time I met Mr. Sampson, a World War II veteran with emphysema and arthritis.

I’d just moved to Appalachia from upstate New York, and my accent quickly branded me as a northerner and the new kid on the block. Mr. Sampson wasn’t at all happy I’d been assigned to his care. “I’m short-winded and can’t get around good anymore,” he practically barked at me. “It takes me twice as long to cut the grass as it used to. And then they give me some foreigner like you.

After an introduction like that, I said a quick prayer, and all of a sudden a memory of Mother and me on our dairy farm back home came surging back. The minister had stopped by for a visit; our big black and white Berkshire pig that thought he was a watchdog had gotten loose from his pen and wouldn’t let the minister out of his car. Mother and I leaped over the barbed-wire fence to catch it. I didn’t quite make it.

I had a six-inch gash in my left knee after my attempt. Mother rubbed some of the same Bag Balm we used on our cows on my cut, taped it up just so, and pronounced me as good as new.

“Can’t someone else milk the cows, just for today?” I pleaded.

“You can do it, Sylvia,” Mother replied in her no-nonsense voice. “It may take you a little longer, but you can still do it. The angels will help you.”

The message was simple, and it had gotten me through more than a few hard times in nursing school.

That memory of Mother and the Berkshires was all I needed. I shared the story with Mr. Sampson and even showed him the scar I still have on my knee.

Turned out, he, too, had been raised on a farm and had a mother whose practical faith was a lot like my mother’s. When he left my office, he was still laughing about that pig and was reciting Mother’s words and promising to put in a garden.

Next time I saw him, he was loaded down with tomatoes and green peppers for our entire department. The only thing he requested in return was another installment of Mother’s faith-filled counsel.

But with Mother gone, her words of wisdom seemed empty. The evening of her funeral, my husband and I drove through a misty rain just as the sun was setting below the trees somewhere between Chambersburg and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I felt completely overwhelmed. “God, where are You?” I prayed.

“Please let me know that Mother is with You.”

All at once, the rain stopped and the most spectacular neon light show arced across the sky. Vibrant red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple—the colors were every bit as brilliant as the highlighter pens I used to mark points I needed to remember in my nurse practitioner journals.

The display reminded me of a time when I was nine years old. Mother was driving us kids to the Eastern States Exposition to show our Holsteins when this huge, beautiful rainbow lit up the sky. She pulled our 1936 Buick off the road, and exclaimed: “Kids, whenever you see a rainbow, that’s God’s angels dropping down His stairway to heaven for someone who has died.”

As I recalled that unforgettable day, tears fell down my cheeks, blurring my vision. I did a double take, stunned by the sight, for there was not one, but two, rainbows spread across the sky. It was so spectacular that cars began parking along the side of the road to take pictures. My husband and I kept on driving, seemingly forever, toward Mother’s double neon staircase and God’s unmistakable sign for her doubting daughter.

When I returned to work after Mother’s funeral, one of the nurses tapped on my office door. “There’s a man out in the waiting room,” she said. “He keeps telling everyone he’s got to talk to Sylvia.” She pointed to a gray-haired man in khaki slacks. I recognized him right away, Mr. Sampson. I hadn’t seen him since he moved several years earlier and he looked terrible. He must have gotten some really bad news, I thought.

When I called his name, he looked at me and began to sob. I wrapped my arm around him and led him to a chair in my office. “My mama died October fourteenth,” he told me. “I came back home for her funeral and to get the farm ready to sell. She was my best friend in all the world, Sylvia. I know how you loved your mother, so I knew you’d understand.” Tears glistened in his eyes as he fixed his glance on an educational poster hanging on my wall. “I’ve got to have one of your stories, Sylvia . . . one of your mother’s sayings about God’s angels.”

My words came out barely above a whisper. “My mother died the very same day as yours did, Mr. Sampson. But there’s something she used to say that I believe might help you.”

When I told him what had happened and Mother’s angelic philosophy on rainbows, Mr. Sampson’s face lit up. “You’re not going to believe this, but I was driving to my mama’s funeral that same day. And there were two rainbows in the sky for me too. I didn’t know rainbows meant anything. I just thought they were pretty. I guess God must have thought He’d better send us a pair of them, as hardheaded as we can be. Huh, Sylvia?” He paused, his eyes filled with peace.

“Can you imagine what a great time our mamas are having in heaven right now?

While we’re down here worrying how God’s going to take care of us. We’ve got to start living what our mamas taught us. We’ve lived off their faith long enough.”

And that’s what I’ve done ever since. For I know firsthand that no matter how far away we are from our loved ones, God and His angels are always near. And whether by a spectacular show in the sky or a whisper to my heart, He will find the perfect way to send me a mother’s comfort and guidance when I need it most.

Until my time on earth ends, and His angels drop down His stairway for me.

More Whipped Cream

One day I had a date for lunch with friends. Maea little old “blue hair lady” about 80 years old came along with them — all in all a pleasant bunch. When the menus were presented we ordered salads sandwiches and soups except for Mae who said”Ice cream please. Two scoops chocolate.” I wasn’t sure my ears heard right and the others were aghast. “Along with heated apple pie” Mae added completely unabashed. We tried to act quite nonchalant as if people did this all the time… but when our orders were brought out I didn’t enjoy mine. I couldn’t take my eyes off Mae as her pie a-la-mode went down. The other ladies showed dismay. They ate their lunches silently and frowned. The next time I went out to eat I called and invited Mae. I lunched on white meat tuna. She ordered a parfait. I smiled.. She asked if she amused me and I answered”Yes you do but also you confuse me. How come you order rich desserts while I feel I must be sensible?” She laughed and said with wanton mirth”I’m tasting all that is possible. I try to eat the food I need and do the things I should…but life’s so short my friend I hate missing out on something good. This year I realized how old I was. (She grinned) I haven’t been this old before. So before I die I’ve got to try those things that for years I had ignored. I haven’t smelled all the flowers yet. There are too many books I haven’t read. There’s more fudge sundaes to wolf down and kites to be flown overhead. There are many malls I haven’t shopped. I’ve not laughed at all the jokes. I’ve missed a lot of Broadway hits and potato chips and cokes. I want to wade again in water and feel ocean spray on my face. I want to sit in a country church once more and thank God for His grace. I want peanut butter every day spread on my morning toast. I want un-timed long distance calls to the folks I love the most. I haven’t cried at all the movies yet or walked in the morning rain. I need to feel wind in my hair. I want to fall in love again. Soif I choose to have dessert instead of having dinner then should I die before nightfall I’d say I died a winner because I missed out on nothing. I filled my heart’s desire. I had that final chocolate mousse before my life expired.” With thatI called the waitress over…. “I’ve changed my mind” I said. “I want what she is having only add some more whipped cream!”

A Glimpse of an Angel-Author unknown

She loved the idea of angels. But did she really believe in them? I’ve always loved the idea of angels: messengers of God who guide and protect every human life; offer forgiveness, comfort, grace and aid; and love us as God does, unconditionally. So I was thrilled when I got hired at Angels on Earth almost 10 years ago.From my first day on the job, I felt like God intended for me to work at this magazine. But one evening on my subway ride home from the office, I wondered silently: Do I really believe in angels?I enjoyed that readers got so much reassurance and peace from our stories about angels, and I felt honored to be a part of bringing them those stories. And I related to what readers shared: feeling God’s presence in times of crisis, hearing words of comfort and courage, having help appear out of the blue.I knew these were all signs of God at work in our lives. But when a reader would write in about actually seeing an angel, a figure in a white robe with large feather wings, I’d often set aside their hand-written note and furrow my brow.I believed our readers had seen something?I knew they weren’t just daydreaming or imagining these visions. But invisible creatures with wings? Was that really what God’s messengers were like?Then one day I was in my bedroom at home working on a project, so engrossed that I hadn’t looked away from the computer screen for some time. Suddenly I sensed a presence behind me, and I glanced up to see if someone, maybe my husband, had entered the room.Over my writing desk, which faced a wall, hung a large mirror. When I looked up at the mirror I could always see who was walking in the bedroom door behind me. But when I looked into the mirror that day I gasped.Standing just behind my desk chair was an angel: tall and graceful. She was wearing a long white robe and had hair that fell in ringlets around her shoulders.A golden rope was at her waist, and she possessed two enormous wings. The sheer size of them struck me. Her wings looked so strong, so powerful. And they were covered in hundreds of white feathers.I didn’t move a muscle. I sat there still as a deer surprised in the woods, watching this otherworldly being in the mirror as she slowly floated out of view.The whole experience lasted about 30 seconds. Once I felt able I turned around in my chair. The room was empty, but I now knew that I was never really alone.That experience ignited my passion for all things angels. Suddenly I wanted to read every book I could about angels. I began collecting angel figurines and jewelry.I started assuring friends and family that angels were watching over them. And the stories I worked on at Angels on Earth had a deeper meaning for me.They say that angels appear in our lives at pivotal moments: when we need encouragement or healing or transformation.The day I saw my angel I was playing around with an idea that, years later, would become my new guided journal, Heaven on Earth.The chapter about angels is a wonderful place to record your own interactions with angels: both divine angels and human earth angels like friends, family and even strangers.Angels surround each one of us every day protecting, nurturing and inspiring us, whether we see them or not. Take my word for it: Angels are magical, but they are also very real.

A Heaven-Sent Message in His Recurring Dreams by Douglas Scott Clark

Blueprints for my next construction job were spread out on the kitchen table before me, but I couldn’t focus on them. My mind was on a different kitchen table, one I hadn’t seen in decades. “What are you thinking about?” my wife, Arbutis, asked me. She could always tell when my mind was somewhere else.

“I had that same dream again last night,” I said. “Night after night, the same dream.”

“The one about your grandmother?”

“That’s the one.” In the dream, I was sitting at Mamaw’s kitchen table. I recognized it right away. Growing up, I spent summers with Mamaw. In the dream I was alone at the table—or at least I seemed to be. I could hear Mamaw’s voice speaking to me, but she wasn’t there. It was troubling.

“Didn’t you and Mamaw used to sit together at that kitchen table at night?” Arbutis asked.

“We did,” I said. I remembered just how it started. I was seven years old, spending my first night by myself with my grandparents. Sometime after going to bed I woke up. I looked around the bedroom, lit by the soft glow of an old kerosene lamp outside the door. I heard a sound. Someone was in the kitchen.

I sat up and looked out the window at the star-filled sky. There wasn’t a hint of daylight. It must be the middle of the night, I thought.

From the kitchen, I heard someone speaking. It was Mamaw’s voice, but I couldn’t understand what she was saying. So I slipped out of bed and tiptoed to the kitchen door.

Mamaw was alone at the kitchen table, her hands folded as if in prayer. She was speaking, but when I poked my head into the kitchen, I couldn’t see anyone else there.

“Come in, child, and sit with me for a while,” Mamaw said.

I pulled up a chair and climbed into it. “Who are you talking to?”

“God,” Mamaw said, as if the answer was obvious.

“Does he listen?” I asked.

“Of course he listens. The creator will listen to all who call upon him in Jesus’ name.”

“Does he ever talk back?” I asked. I tried to imagine what Gods voice would sound like. It would probably be big and gruff, like a bear’s growl.

Mamaw gently touched the side of my face. “God doesn’t always speak in words,” she explained.

“If he doesn’t use words, how does he talk to you?” I asked.

“Sometimes his message may come in a dream or a feeling deep in your heart. That’s how he talks to me here in the kitchen.”

I looked around doubtfully. The kitchen seemed very big and dark so late at night. As if anything could be hiding, waiting to jump out and get me. Mamaw must have seen I was afraid, because she turned up the kerosene lamp to show me there was nothing there.

“Now I’m going to dim the lamp,” she said. “This can be our quiet time together.”

Mamaw lowered the flame to a soft glow, then blew it out completely. It was so dark I couldn’t see Mamaw. She might have disappeared completely. Then, out of the dark, I heard her voice. I didn’t speak Cherokee like my grandmother did, so I couldn’t make out what she was saying. But God understood all languages. The slow rhythm of her chant was like a lullaby, and I lay my head on my arms and fell asleep.

When the rooster woke me up the next morning, I was back in my room with sunlight streaming across my bed. Mamaw’s voice in the dark kitchen seemed like a dream, a wonderful dream. Had it really happened at all?

“It wasn’t a dream,” Mamaw assured me when I asked her about it. “You were with me last night during my quiet time with our creator, and then I walked you sleepily to bed.”

“If I promise that I can be still and not talk, could I share the quiet time with you again?”

“Nothing would make me happier,” she said.

For the rest of the summer, every morning before daylight Mamaw and I would sit at the kitchen table. She talked to God and I listened. Those times always filled me with peace.

But Mamaw was gone now. Gone from her prayer time at that kitchen table, gone from this world, gone from me. Maybe that’s why the dream I’d been having all week left me feeling so unsettled.

“If you really want to understand your dream,” Arbutis said as I rolled up my blueprints, “you should do what Mamaw would do. Get up before dawn and listen to God.”

Getting up before dawn wasn’t as easy these days as it was when I was a young boy. “You know what? I think I should get my rest instead of trying to talk to God,” I said.

Arbutis raised an eyebrow. “No one said you had to talk,” she said. “Just listen.”

So there I was the next morning, alone on the sun porch, darkness surrounding me like a black shroud, Venus shining brightly in the eastern sky.

“God, you know these dreams I have been having. The ones I just can’t understand. Just me alone in Mamaw’s kitchen. I hear her voice, but I’m still alone…”

I could almost see that kitchen, just the way it used to be. Mamaw should be there with me, I thought, closing my eyes. Listening.

A feeling of well-being passed through me, as gentle as a baby’s sigh. And I dreamed again, a daydream with Mamaw right there with me, dressed in white. She touched my face, just like she had all those years ago. I reached out for her, and though she faded from my vision she in no way faded “away.”

I blinked my eyes open to a bright morning sun. And deep in my heart I knew the message of my dream.

Mamaw was as close to me now as she was when we sat together praying at her kitchen table. She was still talking to God. And she wanted me to keep listening.

Field of Joys

Sometimes along life’s pathways – There will come along a Friend,Who gets to know you inside-out right to the very end,And depth and height and width, of all that makes you ‘You’And they continue liking you no matter what you do.They get to see inside of you, where others dare not go.And soon they are a part of you and, oh, you love them so.They let you laugh. They share your joy.They help you through the day.And no matter what you’ve said or done.They will not turn away.Sometimes, when things are getting rough,And when the crying’s done,They’ll join with you in games and play -Just like when you were young -And had a special playmate who would run the Field of Joys,That children find around the bend with girls or with boys.They’re honest. They are faithful. They try never to betray -The precious trust between you – as you live from day to day.It’s so hard to describe them. And though it might sound odd.My best way to describe them is – They are a gift from God.And so, my Friend, I’m writing with a thankful heart to say -I’m so glad I’ve a friend like you – You’ve helped me on my way.So, thank you for just being there. And thank you for the toys.But mostly -Thanks for running with me through the Field of Joys.

A MIND FULL OF CLUTTER

By Saralee Perel

Last week, instead of heading home on the highway, my husband, Bob, and I took an extra 10 minutes and drove along the scenic route. We passed gorgeous cranberry bogs, yards filled with roses, and farm stands overflowing with corn. All through the drive, I cried. 

Sweet Bob wanted to hear my thoughts. “I’m worried about your doctor’s appointment,” I said through tears. “I’m so sorry I spoiled our drive.”

“But I want you to talk to me.”

“Bob, the only purpose my worried thoughts served was to lose every precious moment of a beautiful drive with you.”

At that instant, I learned that one word could change life for the better. The word? Clutter. In a single day I said to myself, “clutter,” each time I noticed a pointless negative thought. I stopped counting after about a hundred. 

Recently Bob called from his cell. “I’m at the store. I’ll be home in 20 minutes.”

I thought, “What if he has an accident?”

Clutter.

By identifying the useless thought, I could stop it. 

This de-cluttering business goes way beyond the “what if?” container. The life of my cat, Eddie, was wonderful. But the second I think of him, I visualize his ending.

Clutter.

So I asked Bob, “What do you think of when you think of Eddie?”

He laughed. “I think about Eddie-proofing the house, like keeping the toilet paper in a coffee tin.” Then he laughed harder and said, “I think about when he’d jump in my shower and every time I’d pull him out and then close the bathroom door behind him, he’d decide it was a challenge. He’d turn the door knob, race back to the shower and use his paw to quickly slide the shower door open and jump right back in!” 

Last week we went to the movies. We couldn’t bring our dog, Becky, in the car because of the heat. I said, “Bob, I can’t stop thinking about how unhappy Becky is right now.”

The truth is, I can stop thinking about … anything. We all can. Do you see any purpose in me taking time away from enjoying the movies by focusing on leaving my pooch at home?

Today, Bob and I stopped at a farm stand and bought corn. Now, I could have done what I did last time, which was to complain about the heat (clutter) and stay in the car while Bob bought the corn. Instead I spent a wondrous 5 minutes with my husband picking out corn and counting all the colors of the geraniums. 

That beat sitting in a car thinking about the 7 calls I had to return. It was a simple uncluttered moment in time, when all I had was the feel of the corn silk, the aroma of the sweet basil, and the sight of a hummingbird on a petunia.

And all that I had … was plenty.

Under God’s Watchful Care- Roberta Messner

While shopping at the estate sale of a woman who was moving to a retirement community, I happened upon the prettiest gold pin nestled inside yellowed tissue paper in an old, red and gold gift box. The pin was in the shape of a Christmas tree, and on its branches were small pearl ornaments. A stately rhinestone star crowned the tree.As I waited for my sister who was still shopping, I noticed a tiny golden angel on one of the branches. “Why, there’s an angel on this pin,” I said to the white-haired lady who was hosting the sale. “Wait a minute, there are two angels. No, there are three of them!”“Let me see,” the woman answered. She shook her head in amazement. “Why, I’’ve worn that pin going on twenty years now and I’’ve never noticed any angels on it.”As I drove away, above the hushed crunch of gravel, the woman’s comment gave me pause. You see, I never noticed the presence of angels in my own life until a passel of them showed up when I failed to engage the emergency brake on my car some years back. My automobile rolled down a hill and was headed for thirty or so shoppers at a neighborhood yard sale…until those angels intervened.Back then, I thought angels were something that graced other people’s lives, certainly not mine. Now, every time I get into my car, I ask God for His angels to protect me as I drive.I’ll put my new angel pin on the collar of my coat. When someone admires it, I’ll point out the three hidden angels I’ve grown to adore. I’ll also share with them the promise that God will give His angels charge over them.Thank You, thank You, thank You, dear God, for the promise of Your watchful angels.

Take The Time

This was written by an 83 year old women to her friend.I’m reading more and dusting less. I’m sitting in the yard and Admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I’m spending more time with my family and friends and less time Working. Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of Experiences to savor, not to endure. I’m trying to recognize These moments now and cherish them.I’m not “saving” anything; we use our good China and crystal For every special event such as losing a pound, getting the Sink unstopped, or the first Amaryllis blossom. I wear my good Blazer to the market. My theory is if I look prosperous, I can Shell out $28.49 for one small bag of groceries. I’m not Saving my good perfume for special parties, but wearing it For clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank. “Someday” and “one of these days” are losing their grip on my Vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want To see and hear and do it now.I’m not sure what others would’ve done had they known that They wouldn’t be here for the tomorrow that we all take for Granted. I think they would have called family members and a Few close friends. They might have called a few former friends To apologize and mend fences for past squabbles. I like to think They would have gone out for a Chinese dinner, or for whatever Their favorite food was. I’m guessing; I’ll never know.It’s those little things left undone that would make me angry If I knew my hours were limited. Angry because I hadn’t written Certain letters that I intended to write one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn’t tell my husband and parents often Enough how much I truly love them. I’m trying very hard not to Put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and Luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, Tell myself that it is special.If you received this it is because someone cares for you. If You’re too busy to take the few minutes that it takes right now Forward this, would it be the first time you didn’t do the little Thing that would make a difference in your relationships? I can Tell you it certainly won’t be the last. Take a few minutes to Send this to a few people you care about, just to let them know That you’re thinking of them. “People say true friends must Always hold hands, but true friends don’t need to hold hands Because they know the other hand will always be there.”

Twinkies and Root Beer

A little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of Root Beer and he started his journey. When he had gone about three blocks, he met an elderly man. The man was sitting in the park just feeding some pigeons. The boy sat down next to him and opened his suitcase. He was about to Take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the man looked Hungry, so he offered him a Twinkie. The man gratefully accepted it and smiled at boy. His smile was so pleasant that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root Beer. Again, the man smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to Leave, but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, Ran back to the man, and gave him a hug. The man gave him his biggest smile ever. When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his Mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you so happy? “He replied, “I had lunch with God.” But before his mother could Respond, he added, “You know what? God’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”Meanwhile, the elderly man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and he asked,” Dad, what did you do today that made you so happy?”He replied, “I ate Twinkies in the park with God.” However, before his Son responded, he added,” You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”

Clay Balls

A man was exploring caves by the seashore. In one of the caves he found A canvas bag with a bunch of hardened clay balls. It was like someone Had rolled clay balls and left them out in the sun to bake. They didn’t look like much, but they intrigued the man, so he took the Bag out of the cave with him. As he strolled along the beach, he would Throw The clay balls one at a time out into the ocean as far as he could. He thought little about it, until he dropped one of the clay balls and It cracked open on a rock. Inside was a beautiful, precious stone! Excited, the man started breaking open the remaining clay balls. Each Contained a similar treasure. He found thousands of dollars worth of Jewels in the 20 or so clay balls he had left. Then it struck him. He had been on the beach a long time. He had thrown maybe 50 or 60 of The clay balls with their hidden treasure into the ocean waves. Instead Of Thousands of dollars in treasure, he could have taken home tens of Thousands, but he had just thrown it away! It’s like that with people. We look at someone, maybe even ourselves, And we see the external clay vessel It doesn’t look like much from the Outside. It isn’t always beautiful or sparkling, so we discount it. We see that person as less important than someone more beautiful or Stylish or well known or wealthy But we have not taken the time to find The treasure hidden inside that person. There is a treasure in each one of us. If we take the time to get to Know that person, and if we ask God to show us that person the way He Sees them, then the clay begins to peel away and the brilliant gem Begins to shine forth. May we not come to the end of our lives and find out that we have thrown Away a fortune in friendships because the gems were hidden in bits of Clay. May we see the people in our world as God sees them. I am so blessed by the gems of friendship I have with each of you. Thank You for looking beyond My clay vessel.