Monthly Archives: April 2020

Story of a Table


We’re accustomed to having children and grandchildren around our large dining table often. But these pandemic days we are just the two of us so we eat every meal at our breakfast table. Now this table hasn’t always been a breakfast table. If it could talk it might tell us even more than we know. But we do know some of its background.

When Daddy Graham began downsizing his workshop he offered this sturdy old table to us. He disposed of the clutter that was on it in various ways. He seldom threw anything away so every item in his possession had to find  either another use or be given to someone who would give it a second life. Buckets of paint remainder, rolls of hay twine, coffee cans of used nails, even an old pair of boots, all were carefully passed on. When he had unearthed the 4’X3′ pine table he helped load it onto Charles’s truck. A man of few words, he simply mumbled something about that this table was his and Mama Graham’s first table.

We used the table sometimes out in the yard when we had big family cookouts. But gradually it became a fixture in our storage shed, a place for various tools, work gloves, cans of used nails, a broken lamp that was too good to throw away.

We renovated our grandson’s upstairs room and with the changes came a need for a computer desk. We looked around and decided we could use that old table for his desk. A few years later we moved across town. Charles D, though he had acquired a desk, really wanted that table in his room but there was no space for it. He tried to make it work because he had become attached to that old table. When it just wouldn’t fit, suddenly I had to direct movers where else to place it. This new house had a breakfast room as well as a dining room but we had no breakfast table. So–temporarily, we said–we put that old table in the vacant spot.

It wasn’t long before we all realized that table was just right for our breakfast nook. The knotty pine boards gave us a sense of contentment, the rustic nature fitted our taste. We wondered why we hadn’t thought of using it there sooner. We used odd chairs and stools until we could start looking for the most appropriate ones for this table.

I was being dismissed from the hospital following a painful surgery when my friend Sally called in great excitement. She’d found the perfect chairs for our table, four of them, at Goodwill for $5 apiece. I groaned at the very thought of walking into Goodwill that day but my nephew, Rick Eastham, had come to take me home and I asked him and my sister Jackie to go in and look at the chairs. The chairs were in good shape, they said, except for the seats which needed re-rushing. Rick was just beginning to weave chair bottoms and took on the job of doing these for us. I know nothing of the former life of these chairs but they are happily settled in with us now.

So there we were eating every day at Mama and Daddy Graham’s first table sitting in nicely resurrected rush-bottomed chairs. Daddy G was not a furniture maker but a very resourceful farmer. He made this table from whatever he could find in 1943. The edges were rough. The four corners he sawed off so there wouldn’t be any sharp edges. Charles imagines his mother may have instructed Daddy to do that for the safety of the children. One corner has a “boo-boo” cut as if Daddy had begun to cut more of a corner and Mama had said, “No, no, JB, not that much!” The legs are the same length but one is slimmer than the others. In addition to these characteristics, there were the scars and marks from all those years as a thrown away table.

A skilled acquaintance took on the job of sanding our table and coating it with many layers of see-through protection. Now the beautiful grains and knots in the wide boards are clearly visible but the surface is smooth and cleanable.

Charles doesn’t remember much about the table as he was growing up. Probably by the time he would have really noticed it his parents had acquired a new table for their growing family and moved this one to the back porch where people could set buckets of freshly picked beans and squash. But we imagine Mama making her biscuits on its surface when it was in her kitchen, maybe cutting vegetables and tallying farm records in a meticulously kept ledger. I can picture her sitting there as she read her Bible.

As is true of most treasures, someone else might not see the beauty of our old table and chairs but to us they are very special. Their value is not just in their history but also in the new story they are writing.

Our breakfast nook is a favorite place for grandchildren to draw pictures and play games. When we have a crowd too big for the dining table several children can happily settle around that table. It’s a friendly place for a cup of tea with drop-in friends or for spreading out a map as we plan a trip. And it’s a wonderful place for two to four to enjoy a meal while watching birds at feeders and bird bath just outside.

Charles’s thanks to the Lord as he “says grace” often begins with, “Thank You, Lord, for bringing us to this table again.”

Psalm 103:5 comes to mind. The psalmist lists some wonderful benefits God blesses us with. It says: “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” He gives us what we need–and extras too!

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Sewing Masks


As I feed another mask under the sewing machine needle, I pray for the one whose face it will protect. Lord, heal this person if they’re sick, protect them if they’re not sick, give them a heart for seeking You.

When Sally asked me if I’d like to join her in sewing masks for Archbold Memorial Hospital, I was delighted. Yes! Some way to help in this awful time. I’m not a seamstress but I have a sewing machine. I could do this!

The masks those on my team are making are strictly utilitarian, designed to be passed out in hospitals and doctors’ offices when someone shows up with no protection. They are very simple, though I took all day figuring out how to make the first one, using advice of Mary Alice who, early on, said beware of the rubber bands. My machine didn’t like the rubber bands used to go around ears. In fact, after nineteen masks, that machine made a very horrible sound and, like an old mule in the middle of a corn row, it said “Not a stitch farther.”

I learned “Jimmy’s Sew and Vac” was open in the afternoons, curbside service. So Charles loaded the sewing machine into the car and we took off to Thomasville. There, Glenn kindly said that since I was sewing masks, he would quickly look at my machine and, hopefully have it ready in an hour. When we went back he came out with a sad look and informed me my machine was hopelessly broken. Seeing my disappointment, he suggested that he had a used machine in his shop I might like for a reasonable price.

Back home, with a new old machine, I began again. That machine, a Kenmore, worked sweet as pumpkin pie–until the bobbin gave out. Faced with a different machine, directions like a Chinese puzzle, I struggled. I longed for my “sewing machine whisperer” friends who would have wound that bobbin and rethreaded the machine quicker than the snap of Mary Poppins’ finger. Problem was, my friends were all social distancing.

I took a deep breath, several deep breaths. I prayed. Charles, my veterinarian husband whose sewing is of a different nature, tried to help. Miraculously, the bobbin did finally spin neatly and we rethreaded the machine almost correctly. The machine sewed like a dream then and I knew I was blessed to have one that made prettier stitches than my old one ever had.

I think I’m starting on my 140th mask. I’ve lost track. This I know. It is wonderful to be part of this tiny force of help for our hospital whose brave and faithful doctors, nurses, custodians and all are working long hard hours to fight this war.

Though we are blocks and miles apart, there is a feeling of happy togetherness amongst those of us sewing. On my team are Sally Whitfield, Mary Alice Teichnell, Jane Poole and Pat Orr whose daughter Julie Padget in Valdosta gave us a good clear video showing how to sew these masks more efficiently. There are many, many other mask makers as well. When I called Jimmy’s with a question I was told he had 25 sewing machines waiting for repairs, all belonging to mask makers. Seems some other machines didn’t like those rubber bands!

Some people are sewing using their own materials. I’ve done a few of those, but I can’t make the pretty tailored masks like the ones our friend Myra Easom made for us. On a rare trip to Wal Mart I saw patriotic masks, camouflage masks, bandanas, some kind of sock get-up, all kinds. I’ve even heard one might turn a bra insert into a good breathable mask!

As I sew I think also of sewing machines humming around the world as we all try to make folks a little safer. I even feel a kinship with those who have so willingly served in multiple ways on the home front during many wars. I think of my mother who knitted sweaters for soldiers of two world wars. During WWI she was only a slip of a girl. During WWII she had nine children and would have one more.

I just heard the good news that many states, including Georgia, are “opening” back up. But we’ll still be practicing social distancing for quite some time. That includes wearing masks wherever we go. So I don’t think Archbold Memorial Hospital is about to tell us “No more.”

A wise person said if you see the light at the end of the tunnel you’re still in the tunnel. So keep wearing those masks–tailored, camouflaged, or just plain utilitarian.

Enough talk about masks. I better start my sewing machine humming.



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What Are You Doing?


Sassy says, “Stop and smell the roses.”

I love to hear what folks are doing with their time during these Covid-19 days. The question “What are you doing?” brings some interesting answers revealing inventiveness, resilience, courage, obedience, imagination, perseverance, and a host of other qualities. For instance, I heard that residents in a neighborhood near us formed a parade of children waving palm branches on Palm Sunday. The children and their parents walked around the block, keeping their six feet of distance, a quiet joyful remembrance of that day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. I’m told eager observers waved from patios and windows.

Let me share some other isolation activities as gleaned from phone, text, e-mail, and snail mail. I didn’t start out doing a survey to see what everyone was up to. These are simply off-the-cuff reports from folks I know as we experience “togetherness from afar.”

From Birmingham came the news that Will and Christi, her dad, and their three children held a very special Maundy Thursday service last week. They used their breakfast table as an altar and each member participated in some way, reading scripture, praying or singing. Christi printed out a program for them to go by. They had communion and even a foot washing ceremony. Then Friday found them painting a wooden cross to place on their front lawn and coloring eggs to hide.

Suzanne and Bill in Clarkesville, Georgia went to our old home place to have their sunrise service for two on Tulip Hill. She sent pictures of purple myrtle completely mounding over the stump of our dear old maple, a picture of resurrection.

Joan in Plantation, Florida wrote of her family’s way of handling social distancing. She said her daughter Lindsay and her family come over every day to visit. They sit in chairs in their driveway six feet from Joan and Donald and talk for ten or fifteen minutes. Joan and Donald love this interaction but long, I know, for the day when they can start hugging again.

I talked to Beth Knight-Pinneo in Colorado. It was beautiful that day, she said, with birds singing, a blue sky, sunshine. She is working at home and finding many good things about this time. She has extra time with her family, takes nice long walks during her breaks, and her husband prepares lunch for them all. She said she prays Psalm 91 for her family and loved ones every day.

My country singer nephew, Neil Dover, in Fairhope, Alabama, was so cheerful when I talked to him. What was he doing? Same as other musicians everywhere, he said, at a standstill because of cancelling all gigs and concerts. He is still doing his Facebook live shows from time to time. He said he and Katie decided they would plant some flowers so went to Lowe’s to find some. The lines of people six feet apart were very long, he said. Everyone was planting flowers!

When communicating with Charles’s sister Revonda in Thomasville, Georgia, she talks about walking their family dogs, Buck and Piper. Buck is somewhat stricken in age so doesn’t go very far, Piper walks a mile. Thinking of them reminds me of a comic strip Charles shared the other day. Two dogs on leash were walking and looking very tired. One said to the other, “I’ll be so glad when we get back to just two or three walks a day.”

Lorna, in San Diego, working at home, took time to describe her pretty view from spacious windows, of nearby grass and flowers and tall buildings in the distance. But her days right now, aside from answering tons of tough research questions all day, are filled with expectation. Any day the phone will buzz and she’ll hear that her daughter has birthed Lorna’s second grandson.

As our friends Ron and Carol Collins remind us, this waiting time is a good opportunity to talk to–and listen to–God. Their wonderful organization in Columbus, Georgia, called International Friendship Ministries, has adapted to the crisis. Instead of art classes for the children, they’re inviting children to send work in online. Instead of Bible classes in person, they’re making lessons available electronically. They really miss, though, the social interaction with military and college groups. This organization has made an impact for Jesus in the last year to folks from 102 countries without ever leaving Columbus.

We got word the other day that Charles’s Uncle Ellis had died, not from coronavirus, just because his body was worn out and it was time to go to heaven. There were thirteen children in that family and now only one is left. Normally, Uncle Ellis would have had a funeral attended by a crowd of nieces and nephews. As it was, only ten people could be there for his graveside service.

The big little word is wait. We wait. Our hair grows long and our patience grows thin. But let’s keep sewing, cleaning, pruning (azaleas are getting short “hair” cuts!), cooking (minimal jaunts to the store make for some interesting substitutions in the culinary department!), watching birds, discovering rare blossoms and sharing stories with each other. In the words of Henry W. Longfellow, “Let us, then, be up and doing With a heart for any fate, Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.”

And we must keep laughing. One day when I called a dear friend and sked her what wonderful things she’d been doing, she chuckled and said, “I just had a really nice nap.” Now that is a great idea!

BREAKING NEWS!!! Lorna’s grandson was born April 14, weighing nine pounds, a healthy little boy. Grace was only allowed to have her husband, David, with her for about an hour after the baby’s arrival because of the coronavirus danger. A new baby! A sign of hope in a broken world.


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The Sun Will Always Rise


On a vacation at the coast a few weeks back my granddaughter Mattie eagerly asked me to get up our first morning to watch the sun rise with her. She faithfully woke me for the event and we padded out on the deck to watch the beautiful show that God puts on every day whether or not anyone is paying attention.

These days coronavirus has us in its ugly grip. We can’t gather for church, we can’t shop except for necessities, we can’t even visit our families in our usual lighthearted way. Many are working from home. The internet is overloaded. The streets are empty. When I see new clips showing Wall Street and Bourbon Street I shudder at the lack of traffic by foot or auto. We seek curbside service even for a watch repair. At Cairo Animal Hospital clients call from the parking lot, a tech comes out to receive the patient and brings it back when treatment/shots/exams are complete. Everywhere we go, which is only by necessity, folks are wearing masks. It makes me feel as if we got dumped into a science fiction movie.

BUT–the sun rises and sets every day right on time. Birds are singing and nesting. The wind stirs leaves of magnolia and maple. The grass is green, rosemary lends its calming scent, and children play their games. The mulberry tree has an abundant crop of berries developing and the birds are discovering the tasty morsels, shaking the boughs with their foraging. No squirrels as yet. Bluebird scouts splash happily in the bird bath.

While sewing masks for Archbold Hospital, I pray for those who will wear them. I worry about my friends in nursing homes and then realize the mail is still running so we can all send cards and letters. The phones work too. We can call family members in California, Florida, Alabama as well as friends down the street. We are so blessed!

We’re told by authorities that this will be “a very hard week.” Families all over the globe will face illness and death. My friend Lisa just reminded me that this was “a very hard week” for Jesus too. Yes, it’s Easter week, the holiest week of the year, when we remember Christ’s sacrifice and celebrate His resurrection.

It will be a very different Easter. Revonda says her church will be participating in virtual communion Thursday night. Members will gather at their computers with whatever elements they can use, whether wine, grape juice, unsalted crackers or bread, and share the “Last Supper.” We have already experienced several weeks of “virtual church” on Sunday mornings. We had hoped to be back in our pews for a literal time of rejoicing on Easter. But we will just have to sing “Hallelujah” in our homes. We realize more than ever before that the church is God’s people, not a building.

We have always enjoyed big family dinners on Easter Sunday as I’m sure you have too. After dinner some would hide the eggs for excited children to hunt. Well, we may have virtual baby showers and virtual doctor appointments but I haven’t thought of any way to have a virtual egg hunt. I’m planning to boil some eggs nonetheless. Maybe I’ll even color a couple of them with a cross on one side and “He is risen” on the other.

Charles has just finished planting wildflowers in and around an old wheelbarrow. We saw our neighbors unloading a huge pile of branches they’d cut and we went over to chat a minute, standing at least six feet apart. Our days are full but not hectic, definitely slowed from the fast pace of a few weeks ago. We get excited about small things like lunch, a new bird at the bird bath, a flower we hadn’t noticed before.

I know “this too shall pass.” I know that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

And I know the sun will rise until Jesus comes.

I remember that beautiful sunrise Mattie and I enjoyed so much. One other morning Charles and I watched a sunrise while sitting in a swing looking out over the bay. The colors are different every day. Sometimes the colors are soft and muted, others so vivid and rich. Sometimes the mist shrouds the brightness or the sun doesn’t appear at the horizon but in full force above a cloud. Sometimes the sun comes up like a huge egg yolk and sometimes it reminds me of a child throwing back the covers in passionate eagerness to see what the day may bring.

No matter what, the sun does rise, even if we can’t see it. It is a daily reminder that God is at work. He hasn’t forgotten us. As an old song says, “He has the whole world in His hands.”


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Stand Up and Be Counted


Poster by Charli, third grade

In the midst of staying close to home during this coronavirus pandemic, we should have plenty of time to fill out our 2020 census form. To me, filling out this simple form feels like one tiny way of showing loyalty to my country.  My mind tracks back to 1970 when I was a U.S. census taker.

I just filled out our census form online. Easy! The forms a census taker will need to collect this year are from those who don’t respond. In 1970 it was different.

My son was not two years old yet. I left him each morning with my friend Barbara Smith who had a little boy almost the same age. After training, each one on our team was given an assignment. Mine was the northeast section of Cairo, Georgia. Later, one of the other team members had to leave us and I was gifted part of her southeast quadrant.

The day began at 9:00. I’d park our good old Buick at a southwest corner of a block, then walk door to door clockwise as stipulated. I picked up short forms at every house, helping those who had not yet filled them out. Then at every fifth house I was required to give the occupant a long form to fill out. Fortunately, for me, the first few long form houses went pretty well. But I soon learned that there were folks who highly objected to giving the government any information.

My mother had worked as a census taker in 1940 and I’d heard some of her stories of her experiences. She couldn’t drive so my oldest brother drove her in the family’s Packard. This was in Habersham County where some country roads rose steeply upward. Once, she and Orman were approaching a house far up a hillside. It was hot weather, the car windows were down, so they could hear voices as they drew near. As Mamma climbed out of the car she heard someone yell, “There come some of them lowlanders. Better watch out!”

I wasn’t ever called a lowlander but I was greeted with far less than enthusiasm a number of times. This was especially true at the fifth houses. I began to dread them. Not only were some folks grumpy about answering questions, but it was a time-consuming process. There were numerous questions on the long form, such as number of rooms in the house, number of square feet, and even the annual salary of those in that household. That last was the question that angered some citizens.

One person in particular gave me  a very hard time, in fact refusing to give me the information, resorting to yelling at me that I had no right to ask how much they made per year. Both occupants of the house were angry and abusive in their response. My superviser went back with me the next day and, with her more authoritative voice, persuaded the householder’s compliance. If they’d only realized how many forms I had to deal with and what a poor memory I had they would have known I couldn’t remember any of their figures.

It was hot walking from house to house. The dogs sometimes threatened to eat me up. Sprinklers were a challenge to dodge. In some homes smells of frying chicken or pork chops assailed my nose making me long for something more than my peanut butter sandwich. I ran out of gas one day and had to call Charles to come get me going again.

In spite of snags, though, I remember the whole experience fondly for two reasons: I was happy knowing I was doing something for my country and I met some really sweet interesting people I never would have met any other way.

One of those whom I remember with pleasure was a little old lady (probably about the age I am now!) who was making a quilt in her tiny living room. The quilting frame filled the room so that, it seems to me, I had to sit opposite her and question her across her colorful quilt. She lived alone and was lonely. By the time I left, after about an hour, I felt like hugging her. Taking note of where she lived, I went back near Thanksgiving to take her a meal and had a really good visit. Soon after that, I saw her obituary in the paper.

One lady and her husband were belligerent about filling out a long form. They finally did so very begrudgingly. I left there hoping I’d never see them again. But God works in mysterious ways! A few months after that when Charles and I moved across town I discovered that my neighbor across the street was that same couple. Turns out, they loved watching our little blond boy playing and I learned they enjoyed growing exotic flowers in their house.

There were many more friendly people than grumpy ones. There was a minister just getting ready to go on hospital visits who cheerfully stopped to answer my questions. There were those who expected me and quickly handed me their forms all filled out. There were those who had forgotten all about the form and had to dig it out from under stacks of mail and magazines. Some even offered sympathy realizing how tired and hot I was by 4:00 in the afternoon.

By the way, the pay I received as a census taker was 50 cents per short form and $1.00 per long form. I didn’t strike it rich.

I don’t know how the additional data collected on long forms will be acquired this year. Should a census taker come to my door and ask to interrogate me for “long form” information, I plan to fall into the category of a cheerful citizen rather than a grumpy one.

Lee Greenwood sings about his pride in being an American. Let’s sing with him. “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died to give that right to me, and I’ll gladly stand up next to you (six feet apart!!!) and defend her still today ’cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land. God bless the USA.”


Poster by Kaison, first grade




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