Sunday, August 28, 2016

"TURN ON THE RADIO!" : An Unforgettable Moment

I'm ashamed to admit it, especially having been raised in a minister's home, but many years ago, back when I took care of writing checks for bills, I decided we just couldn't afford to pay tithes anymore. Bills were multiplying and the 10% of our income that we’d always paid to the church would give us a little breathing room, a little spending money, if you will. 

Mind you, it wasn't God's fault that we had let our credit-card debt get away from us, and even with our bad spending choices, God was still honoring our obedience by not letting us go hungry. But the thought of having this extra 10% kept gnawing at me and so, without consulting anyone else, I made an executive decision and quit paying tithes.

At first, things were wonderful. Having breathing room felt amazing. But not too long after, everything went south. The refrigerator broke, the car stopped running, the washing machine went berserk. I'm not kidding. Soon, we were back to where we started.

One night I was home alone—my husband was working—and I remember lying in bed feeling utterly miserable. I felt as if there was no way out of our dilemma. I began to cry; nothing loud or hysterical, just a quiet trickling of tears down the sides of my face, onto the pillow.

"Help us dear Lord," I whispered, and, all of a sudden, out of the blue, I felt in my spirit the Lord say to me, "Turn on the radio."

Now, that may sound strange to you, but it sounded even stranger to me. I had no desire to turn on the radio. I wasn't a radio person. So, I didn't. But I kept hearing the words in my heart: "Turn on the radio! Turn on the radio!" Finally I reached over and hit the button, and what I heard changed my life.

A female DJ was hosting a late Sunday night show on a gospel radio station and this is what she said the very instant I turned on the radio: "God sees your tears," she said. "He understands what you're going through." Needless to say, she had my full attention. "I want to read you some scriptures," she said. "And I believe this is what the Lord would say to you tonight."

She began reading from the King James Version, Hebrews 12:5: "Despise not the chastening of the Lord, for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." 

And then, to my astonishment, without pausing, she began reading Malachi 3:10: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

It felt as if I'd been struck by lightning. What was happening here? I got out of bed and fell to my knees. I asked God to forgive me for making the decision to stop paying tithes, and I thanked him for loving me enough to chastise me. I vowed, from that day forward that, as long as I was in charge of bill-paying, I would always pay tithes first, even if they turned off our electricity. It took us awhile to get out of debt, but I'm happy to say that I kept my promise, and God kept His.

I have not been responsible for seeing that the bills get paid on time in many years, but I will never forget the night that the Lord prompted me to turn on the radio, and I’m so glad I obeyed that prompting.

***

This post is part of the series, Spiritual Sundays.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday's Photos : Scenes from a Blessed Life

Dear friends, the week has been painted with shades of gray. As I write, The Man is trying to finish mowing the front lawn, amidst great claps of thunder. I do hope he makes it in before the downpour.

Since my writing slate seems to be blank these days, I decided that, instead of trying to force words to come, I would share some random photos with whomever may be out and about in blogland today. There may be more than a few photos of my darling granddaughter, Arabella, my precious cupcake. Consider yourself warned.



But first, if you’ve followed me here for very long, you know I have a grand-niece that I call sugar plum, and I love her dearly. Can you believe she is entering first grade in a few days? Last week, her Nanna (my big sister) posted this picture on Facebook and I loved the story behind it. After sugar plum finished playing and singing a little tune, my sister said, “Ainsley, you are a great songwriter,” to which sugar plum replied, “Nanna, I just write them as they come.” I got a big laugh out of that. Perhaps she will take after her Aunt Gayle when it comes to songwriting. 


Our darling Arabella will soon be 18-months old. She is a lover of books.


Most of her books belonged to her mother, but she has a few new ones, as well. Did I mention there's another whole tub of books in the attic? There is.


We have read to cupcake almost since she was born. I remember one evening, when she was just a wee little thing, not even walking yet, I started quoting the beginning lines from Goodnight Moon, a book I'd read to her many times: "In the great green room there was a telephone and a red balloon and a picture of ... a cow jumping over the moon." Immediately, she stopped what she was doing, crawled over to her stash of books, and pulled out Goodnight Moon. Have you ever?


It seems that every time she gets quiet I find her with something to read in her hands. As a lover of books myself, and a writer, nothing could thrill me more.


Her vocabulary is growing almost daily, but, so far, she still calls every letter in the alphabet A. Anytime she sees letters anywhere, on menus, on billboards, on the side of a bus, she points and says, "A." I love it! I told her A is for "Adorable Arabella."


Another of her favorite activities is watching children's music videos with her Aunt Gayle. Seeing these two together warms my heart.



Before The Man and I left on our anniversary getaway a few weeks ago, we had the RV in the driveway. The last time Arabella was  in the motor-home, she was four-months old, too young to know what was going on, but this time, oh boy ... she was completely entranced. It was hot as hoot in there but I thought I was not going to get her out of it! And she only went kicking and screaming, believe me.


I clearly remembered both of the grand-nieces being just as captivated by the idea of playing in the motor-home and couldn't resist making this collage of their adorableness.



In other news, on Tuesday, The Man and I went over to spend the day with my parents. In the afternoon, I drove Mother to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. Before we reached the counter, the pharmacist saw us and called out, “Hello, Mrs. Allen. How are you today?” Mother returned her greeting warmly and said, “I have my daughter with me today.” That’s when the pharmacist said, “I’m sure you know it, but you have the sweetest mother.” I couldn’t agree more. I love my mama no end.


And I love these two beyond words. Our precious Julian is now in middle-school. Unbelievable!


Last but not least on the "love" list, twin sister and I stopped and ate supper at Cracker Barrel on the way to church Wednesday evening. The Man and I have a tradition that we never leave a Cracker Barrel without sitting a spell in a rocking chair, so Gayle and I carried out the tradition in his absence.

Until next time, sweet friends, I'm afraid I overdid the photos. Please forgive. Here's wishing you all a terrific Friday and a peaceful weekend.


*** 





Monday, August 22, 2016

Life Changes Us

Dear friends, it is Monday again. I had planned to blog during the week but the week wore me out. It seems my body has been dictating my activities lately, and in my spare time I find myself resting more than usual. Perhaps that comes with aging, and we're all doing enough of that around here. 


Last week, The Man had a birthday, so, in ordinary fashion, we celebrated him, the middle brother, awesome husband, amazing father, outstanding grandfather. 


I'm an avid collector of old photos and probably have hundreds in my family collections. They remind me of simpler times.


Whenever someone in the family has a birthday, I decorate the dining room table with photos and memorabilia, with fresh flowers, a “Happy Birthday” banner, and an occasional balloon bouquet. I fell in love with this image of Arabella staring at an old photo of her Papaw, probably wondering just who it was we were celebrating. I remember that man in the photo, but she has no idea.

Time has a way of changing things, from how we look to what we think. Life's experiences influence us, shape us. In a single day we can experience great joy and deep sorrow. Our lives are always subject to change. 

That brings me to this: My heart has been so heavy this week for the good people in south Louisiana whose lives have been devastated by flood waters, including personal friends of ours. One day they were in the comforts of their homes, the next day, the waters rose so quickly not much could be saved. 

Pets, precious children, newborn babies, senior citizens, handicapped people. Tens of thousands had to be evacuated and placed in shelters across the area. Businesses, churches, schools, many unable to open because of flood waters. 

Here's a snippet taken from Facebook, written by someone we know, and a photo of their home. Floods are heartbreaking. Here, we have experienced our share of flooding, as recent as April, but our home has never flooded, and I can't imagine how it feels.


My FRIENDS...🙏🏽💔 I live on the edge of East Baton Rouge Parish...in the outskirts of Livingston Parish. Central, LA is 2 miles minimum from the Comite River💙. And about 5-6 miles from the Amite River💙 In Flood Zone X. I never flooded. And when my home was built 8 years ago was told I was second highest elevation in the CityPeople would always say to me, you're built high, if you ever flood, the entire city will be drowned! Well. It happened. And it did💔 We lost everything😳 Our home had 5.5 feet of the Comite River in it for 90+ hours💙 imagine this... 💔You take everything you own, one item or shovel load or backhoe load💔 Every piece of furniture, every keepsake, everything, every memory People are putting all of their belongings by the road & looks like a war zone. 💜Just like the footage I've seen in Serbia... Iraq...📣💜Blackhawk helicopters plucking people off of rooftops. 💚Fishermen or sportsmen in their private boats, with their own gas, rescuing person after person💛People being turned away at overfilled shelters💙It is heartbreaking. It's gut wrenching😢 and the majority...have the wrong type of insurance to cover this type devastationSo technically, No insurance. It's heartbreaking at best💔 It is truly a disaster💙 Prayers are more than welcome. Nothing was spared. So goods and drugs stores, and groceries are in very short supply😳 one station owner got his gas delivery (10,000 gallons) in the morning and hours later, completely out of gas💔 It is like living in a NIGHTMARE  Words cannot express the destruction💙 Thank you for your prayers for our state... Cajun Paradise prayers appreciated



I gathered the following photos from various sites online. I don't know who to give credit to. I only know I cannot look at them without tears springing to my eyes.









Such events change our lives, but one thing cannot be changed and that is the sovereignty and faithfulness of God. In sickness, in health, in heartbreak, in joy, in loss, in abundance, in grief, in human weakness, in wealth, in financial ruin, in both the desolate and prosperous seasons of life, God remains Godfaithful and sovereign. As a believer, that is what keeps me steady, what keeps me joyful, even in troubling times.

It is Sunday evening as I write. The weekend did not go as I had hoped but my blessings are abundant; I can't complain. I have been wishing for sunshine on my skin, and, with any luck at all, we may get a sunny day or two this week. Fingers crossed.

Until next time, dear friends, please pray for Louisiana, and for all of those who are donating their time and energy to help the flood victims, and please ask your friends and churches to pray also. Thank you!


***





Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Musings ~ Notes from the Weekend

Saturday, the rains came. For weeks, I had yearned for a rainy day, or a rainy night, and when it came, I exhaled. In the evening, I opened a window, picked up a book from the nightstand, and sat in my bed reading for the longest time. There’s something magical about the sound of rain falling, the scent of it in the air. It captivates me every time.

I feel pained to speak of rain in a positive light, as those to the east are dealing with historic rising flood waters; personal friends have escaped with their lives but maybe not much more. My neck of the woods knows what it’s like to deal with major flooding and my prayers are with those in harm’s way.

Please pray for the flood victims in Louisiana and surrounding areas. If you watch this video, you may need a Kleenex. Such devastation brings heartbreak and months and months of trying to restore and clean up the aftermath. Lives are never the same. The governor's latest estimate is that 10,000 people are in shelters and 20,000 have been rescued. The worst may not be over yet.

***

On Sunday, I received unsettling news, the kind of news that sends you to your knees in prayer. If I’ve learned anything at all in life, it’s that there is power in prayer. We don’t always get the answers we seek, but sometimes we do. Prayers are never wasted. We grow from them and find strength for the journey. One thing is sure: We can trust the One who leads the way.

As I wrote that sentence, I remembered so well one winter morning when my daughter was just a little girl. It was my day to driver her to school and, as usual, I cranked up the car and reached for her hand. "Let's pray, while the car warms up, Anna," I told her.

Closing her eyes, my daughter joined me in a simple prayer that went something like this: "Thank you Lord for all of your blessings, for waking us up this morning and for warm clothes to wear. I ask you to keep your hand on Anna today at school. Give her wisdom in her work and help her to be kind to others, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen."

I backed down the driveway, and rolled to the stop sign at the corner.

"Mama," Anna said. "I could see Jesus while you were praying."

"You could?" 

"I could," she said. "I could see Him putting His hand on me, and I could see Him walking in front of me."

My heart skipped a beat. For here was this little child who fully realized that Jesus must lead the way. She didn't see Him behind her or beside her, but walking in front of her, and therein lies a great lesson for us all: If Jesus is not leading the way, we’re on our own, but if He is leading the way, we have nothing to fear.

On a lighter note, if you don’t think a year makes a difference, just consider the two images of our darling Arabella below:


The one on the left was taken August 2, 2015; the one on the right on August 2, 2016. Oh, these precious days, here and then gone so soon. I'm squeezing all of the sweetness out of every single day that I can, making memories to last a lifetime.

Well, dear friends, I had intended to write more, but it is late Sunday evening as I write and I seem to be on empty. Until next time, thanks for keeping me company. It means ever so much.

***


Friday, August 12, 2016

36 Years : Still Traveling On

Last weekend, under a blazing sun, The Man and I drove three hours north to the Dallas area to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. 

As we rolled along, leaving the city behind us, I thought of all the miles we’ve traveled together in the last three-plus decades. In sunshine and rain, in good times and pain, we kept on going. Some days there were potholes and flat tires to contend with, even a crash or two, but the sweet miles in between made it all worthwhile. 

Every couple writes their own love story, unaware of what the next chapter holds, not knowing how, or even when, the story will end. I’m glad The Man and I are still writing our story. The only way to have longevity in a marriage is to keep on keeping on. And at the end of the day, it is our commitment to each other that moves us along.


We tried to get a decent picture of ourselves one morning. After a dozen attempts, and a lot of laughs, this is the best we got.

Until next time, happy weekend!



Friday, August 5, 2016

TEXAS : Almost twice the size of Germany and other fun facts


TEXAS is a mighty big state. The Man and I have driven across it and up and down it more than once. At some point, you begin to wonder if you'll ever get out of the state. It's so big that most people, even those who live in Texas, as I do, have no idea how big it is, or how it stacks up to other U.S. states, and other parts of the world. 

I recently ran across a fun article by Dan Solomon in a 2015 issue of Texas Monthly magazine and came away more informed than when I started. For example, Texas is almost twice the size of Germany and roughly the same size as France, with Switzerland thrown in. The article is a fascinating and interesting read. If you've never been to Texas, or if you live here, you're sure to learn something about the Lone Star State that you didn't know before.

With a state as big as Texas, it's no wonder that there are some unique and downright strange names for the cities that make up its many miles. I think it's safe to say that whatever mood you’re in, or whatever you’re in the mood for, chances are there’s a city in Texas to meet your needs.


Need cheering up? 
Comfort, Texas
Friendship, Texas
Friendswood, Texas
Happy, Texas
Mt. Pleasant, Texas
Paradise, Texas
Point Comfort, Texas
Rainbow, Texas
Sweet Home, Texas
Smiley, Texas 


Love it when things are sunny?
Sun City, Texas
Sundown, Texas
Sunray, Texas
Sunrise, Texas
Sunset, Texas
Sunnyside, Texas
Sunnyvale, Texas

Getting hungry?
Bacon, Texas
Bean Station, Texas
Berryville, Texas
Grape Creek, Texas
Grapeland, Texas
Grapevine, Texas
Noodle, Texas
Oatmeal, Texas
Orange, Texas
Pearland, Texas
Plum Grove, Texas
Rice, Texas
Sugar Land, Texas
Salty, Texas
Turkey, Texas
Trout, Texas

If you're craving a little caffeine, head to:
Chocolate Bayou, Texas
Coffee City, Texas
Coke, Texas

Why travel to cities in other states when Texas has:
Albany, Texas
Atlanta, Texas
Boston, Texas
Buffalo, Texas
Detroit, Texas
Canton, Texas
Colorado City, Texas
Columbus, Texas
Denver City, Texas
Jacksonville, Texas
Memphis, Texas
Miami, Texas
Omaha, Texas
Pittsburg, Texas
Reno, Texas
Santa Fe, Texas
Shreveport, Texas
Tennessee Colony, Texas




Feel like leaving the country? Come visit these Texas cities:
Athens, Texas
Canadian, Texas
China, Texas
Egypt, Texas
Jamaica Beach, Texas
Turkey, Texas
London, Texas
New London, Texas
Palestine, Texas
Paris, Texas

No need to travel to Washington D.C. when we have:
Whitehouse, Texas

There's even a city named after our own state:

Texas City, Texas

Are you needing a little boost?
Energy, Texas
Pep, Texas

Feeling a bit chilly?
Blanket, Texas

Not happy with the current season?
Winters, Texas
Spring, Texas


Need to cool off?
Beach City, Texas
Big Lake, Texas
Big Spring, Texas
Cistern, Texas
Clear Lake, Texas
Coldspring, Texas
Cool, Texas
Dripping Springs, Texas
Poolville, Texas
Seabrook, Texas
Shallowater, Texas

Enjoy reading about history?
Alamo, Texas
Ben Franklin, Texas
Ben Hur, Texas
Comanche, Texas
Crockett, Texas
Goliad, Texas
Gun Barrel City, Texas
Pecos, Texas
Santa Anna, Texas

If you’re feeling lucky, you might stop by:
Ace, Texas
Domino, Texas
Black Jack, Texas
Shamrock, Texas


We’ve even got cities for those unsure and temperamental folks:Uncertain, Texas
Moody, Texas
Ponder, Texas


Need Office Supplies? Check out:
Staples, Texas

If your man is from Mars, bring him to:
Venus, Texas

For the kids, we have ...
Kermit, Texas
Elmo, Texas
Nemo, Texas
Tarzan, Texas
Winnie, Texas
Sylvester, Texas

I’ll let you figure out the reasons for these quirky names:
Bangs, Texas
Bee Cave, Texas
Best, Texas
Bigfoot, Texas
Blue, Texas
Bootleg, Texas
Cactus, Texas
Dime Box, Texas
Frognot, Texas
Hogeye, Texas
Kickapoo, Texas
Notrees, Texas
Telephone, Texas
Telegraph, Texas
Twitty, Texas
Utopia, Texas
Veribest, Texas
Whiteface, Texas

Whoops! Don't forget about:
Cut and Shoot, Texas
Ding Dong, Texas
Hoop And Holler, Texas
Muleshoe, Texas
Sour Lake, Texas

And there’s a place in Texas that’s not Texas. It's called:
Knott, Texas

When y’all get ready for bed, stop on by:
Goodnight, Texas

And just in case we left anybody out, there's:
Earth, Texas




Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Gifts of July

July mostly found me hiding from the sun. With the temperatures and humidity soaring, going outdoors felt a lot like walking into a sauna, but despite that, it's been a month filled with joy and gifts galore. 

One afternoon, I drove my darling granddaughter to the same library where I used to take her mother so many years ago. It's a place not far from home, a place that sits adjacent to a magnificent botanical garden, one you've seen captured here in pictures.


As we approached the front door, a wave of nostalgia swept over me, almost overtaking me, but I held strong and smiled as the memories rushed in, so sweet, so poignant, so unforgettable. 



Libraries, in general, are not as popular a place as they were 30 years ago, with so many resources now available from the comforts of our own homes, but I was pleased to see people milling about, children here and there, and the place looking familiar enough. 


I discovered they still have story time for little ones on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which makes it perfect for us. My hope is that I will make sweet memories here with my granddaughter, in the years to come.


Fresh produce from a local farmer's market is always part of July's many gifts.


Taking a toddler to church can be challenging, but with Vacation Bible School activities wrapping up on a Sunday in July, I thought it was the perfect weekend to take cupcake to church and let her enjoy herself. 

It was an overflow crowd, so there were folks standing in the back of the church, which is where I captured the darling video below. The children were singing, "If You're Happy and You Know It." It takes cupcake awhile to get the hang of things, but, as you will see, if you take a look, she is certainly having herself a good time.


video



There were other gifts in July, of course. 


One of them was sharing the backseat with twin sister, which may not sound all that special, but it was a very special occasion.

I've blogged about other July gifts in earlier posts this month, and hinted of others. I don't suppose one can ever name all of the blessings that 31 days holds, but August is now here and I look forward to what awaits.

Until next time, dear friends, I don't know how it is August already, but my wish is that the final days of summer are kind to you.


***



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