Monthly Archives: May 2021

Little Woman Reading Little Women

We are blessed with special moments that become bright umbrellas on rainy days. Such was the moment when I caught the above photo of my granddaughter Mattie several months ago reading in the Japanese maple tree.

Not only was she reading, an activity I delight in, Mattie was reading my old tattered copy of “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. When Mattie and I were scanning the titles of my childhood books, she pulled out “Little Women.” She had become familiar with Alcott’s name as we played Author cards and now she eagerly hugged the book to herself. “I’m going to read this while I’m here,” she said. Realizing she really wanted to read it, I told her the book was hers to take home and keep. I don’t think I’ve ever given a gift that was more enthusiastically received.

That book is worn and scuffed. In the front is an inscription from my mother who gave it to me for Christmas in 1953 when I was eleven as Mattie was at the time of this picture. The book got me into trouble more than once because I was such a bookworm that I neglected my duties while absorbed in the story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March.

Mattie and I had already shared some humorous moments over Louisa May Alcott. When she and her older brothers were visiting from Birmingham one of our favorite games was Authors, a “Go Fish” kind of game for which the object is to collect four cards of works by each of eleven authors. The first summer we played it Mattie was very young and couldn’t quite keep up with the concentration and strategy of the game so she and I were partners. Every time we came into possession of a Louisa May Alcott card Mattie would burst out laughing. I’m not sure whether it was because Alcott was the only woman in the pack that included Scott, Dickens, Cooper, Poe with all their solemn faces, or that she just liked Alcott’s looks. As she became a very shrewd Authors card player, Mattie tried to learn to keep a poker face when she landed an Alcott card but if I really watched her I could catch that look of delight and the bare twinkle of a smile on her lips.

Not long before the visit mentioned above, Mattie’s dad had sent me a picture of Mattie sitting in a nice generous-limbed cherry tree at her house reading a book I had written, “Her Name Was Rebekah.” Mattie’s description of that occasion was something like this: “I knew how you liked to climb trees, Nana, so I thought that was a good place to read your book.”

Now here was Mattie in one of our trees, one enjoyed also by her cousins Charli and Kaison, ready for a session of reading between gymnastic exhibitions on the lawn.

After she went home Mattie texted me several times to report on her progress reading “Little Women.” She had read where Amy got into trouble taking limes to school and where Jo, while paying attention to the wrong things, burned a whole hank of hair off Meg with a curling iron. She was so gleeful one day when she found a pressed leaf in between the pages. I assured her that, yes, I was sure I had put it there some time when I was perched in a tree reading or maybe sitting on the ferny bank of a brook.

I’m so glad I could capture that moment of Mattie in the tree to keep for days to come. Children grow up very fast. Grandchildren grow up even faster! The gifts they give us as they grow–gifts of joy, laughter, pure innocence, and compassion and uninhibited pleasure–are immeasurable. Yes, umbrellas for rainy days!

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.” Psalms 103:17

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Quick Answers to Prayer

God answers all prayers of believers one way or another. It may be years before an answer comes, even a lifetime. The answer can be yes, no, or wait. But sometimes an answer is revealed in only minutes, or even instantly. Following are a few of those “yes” answers that came so quickly. Some are my own and some from friends of mine. I hope you will be encouraged to remember some of your own quick answers.

I was driving home years ago from Macon with two grandchildren. We had been to a doctor’s appointment and had splurged with a shopping spree afterwards. Now it was late afternoon. As we drove up the ramp onto interstate 75 I noticed the forbidding clouds and hoped it wouldn’t rain much. I very much dislike driving in heavy rain. Only minutes later a deluge hit us. With windshield wipers at fastest speed I still couldn’t see anything, tail lights ahead of us, the side of the road, nothing. Panic rose into my throat. I gripped the steering wheel and heard myself telling the kids to pray. Instantly the rain stopped, just as if Someone had turned off a faucet. We didn’t have a wreck but were safe for a ride home in sunshine!

Another time our crisis was in Julie’s kitchen. My daughter, Julie, had a very bad condition which kept her at home much of the time. I had delivered her two children home from school and had barely parked at my house, just up the street, when Amanda, a young teenager at the time, called urging me to come down in a hurry. “Mama fell in the kitchen and her legs are both locked up,” she told me. Amanda and I tried our best to unlock Julie’s legs which often locked up in painful pretzel shapes several times a day. This time we couldn’t relieve her. We piled on hot rice bags to no avail. We needed a man’s strength, but neither Julie’s husband, Doug, nor her father would be back in town for hours. Praying, with our own tears mingling with Julie’s, Amanda and I tried one more time to straighten first one leg and then the other but they wouldn’t budge. Just then we heard the front door open and in walked Doug. He masterfully straightened Julie’s legs, picked her up, and put her back in bed. When I asked why he came home so early from his electrician job in Tallahassee, he shrugged, as I remember, and grinned his charming grin. “Just got off early, don’t really know why.” But I knew why. God had answered that prayer before I even prayed!

My friend Anne Parks tells of a time when she was very lonely and weary as she worked in her garden. There, between rows of beans (or was it squash?) she voiced out loud her need. Her prayer was something like this: “Lord, I’d so like to have a dog, someone to keep me company. But you know I can’t really afford one right now.” She continued picking beans, filling a bucket. Suddenly she heard a hassling sound and there came a black dog his tongue hanging out as if he were smiling. He lay down close by in the dirt. He looked at her in what she described as a tender way, as if he’d known her since puppyhood. It turns out that Rufus belonged to a neighbor down the country road who worked in town all day. Rufus became Anne’s dog in the daytime and went home to his other family at night. He has never since that day failed to come to Anne’s house until recently when his aged arthritic body has kept him on his own porch. Anne, as always when she tells me about answers to prayers, laughs in spontaneous joy and says, “Isn’t God so good!”

Sally Whitfield wrote this: “It was the holidays and my birthday. I was ready to get out of the hospital in a town where I did not live. Would the doctor finally come and release me? But then I would have to call my husband (miles away) to come back and pick me up. I was weary from all the procedures. My husband was weary going back and forth between our home and the hospital. I prayed, ‘God, I want what you want but you know I really want to go home today.’ Immediately a couple of friends appeared in my hospital room, followed quickly by my doctor saying ‘Let’s get you home.’ This couple offered to take me home. The answers were already on the way when I prayed. He is faithful in all his ways.”

Harry Hughes answered my request for a quick prayer testimony with this: “My most recent big (for me) answer was on May 7th. It was Daniel’s (my son’s) hooding ceremony for his M.D. It was a big milestone event and the culmination of much sweat and prayers. Heavy traffic in Columbia was making my time of arrival uncertain, down to the minute. As I was leaving the car to enter the conference center, I reached for my mask and discovered it was gone. I think I would be better off shoeless in a room filled with doctors than to be without a mask. Not having time to go buy a mask, my prayer for one was answered when I timidly stuck my head in the door and found out they had souvenir masks with the USC Medical School logo. Problem solved and I was not late.”

Barbara Payne wrote: “Recently, I found out I have breast cancer. My first thought was I don’t want chemo but for my children I will consider it. When test results came back and I met with my surgeon, he explained that the kind of cancer I have doesn’t respond to chemo. Therefore, procedure will be surgery and radiation treatments. How good is God! I didn’t have to make that decision!”

Whether we’re at the end of our rope, in a quandary, facing health issues, or simply needing encouragement, God is faithful with imaginative surprises which, though possibly insignificant to someone else, almost take our breath away. Remember, He is closer than the air you breathe!

Psalm 46:1–God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

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A Deer Cat

Somehow the idea of a cat making friends with a deer is almost as amusing and ludicrous as the old fable of the lion and the mouse who removed a thorn from his paw. But, as you can see, these deer are not alive and the cat knows that quite well. However, the cat is very much alive! I didn’t pose this picture but it sure looks as if Bertha expected that photo op. My therapist and I were walking around our circle when she noticed Bertha on the deer and took a picture for me.

Bertha is a talented cat full of personality. She regularly walks with me, weaving herself and her long tail in and out of the my legs and those of the walker. Charles picks her up and carries her sometimes and she sniffs his beard and cuddles down until she’s suddenly ready to hit the ground again. She talks to us too. If I say something she responds with a “meow” and hugs my leg with her tail. She is a rather loud cat, in fact, seeking attention with varied mews and meows.

But she does know how to be very quiet. She’s a hunter.

One of her favorite places is amongst some flower pots at the base of a bird bath. Whenever a bird lights on the rim of the bird bath, Bertha goes into a crouching stance, her tail very silently twitches, her head is slightly down with ears flattened. I have told her before that if she starts killing our birds she’s “out of here,” but she’s never taken me seriously. She’s probably talked to the other cats and learned that Sassy, when she was younger, caught birds sometimes and didn’t get ousted. The other day we saw Bertha investigating the bird bath very closely and, on his own investigation, Charles discovered many feathers floating in the water. Bertha came very close that time to catching a mockingbird. Another time I saw her sneak up on an unsuspecting mourning dove grazing under a feeder. That dove came within one tail feather of being caught before she took wing. We’ve seen Bertha stalk a squirrel too. She ran one squirrel up a tree in such hot pursuit I doubt that squirrel ever sets foot on the ground again. He better stay high in the pines and the mulberry tree.

As to the deer, they are always there to greet us from the very same spot between camellias. As with us, their appearance has changed some over the years. They were a smooth pretty deer-tan when our family gave them to us at our joint fiftieth birthday party. Now they are covered with lichen. I set grandchildren to helping scrub and scrape the lichen off one day but it was a lost cause. Even bleach didn’t help. I decided their coats of lichen were a very nice camouflage. I guess you can’t make even a deer statue young again!

From the time they were babies the grandchildren have enjoyed being set on and later climbing up for a deer “ride.” The buck and doe have always been most amenable for whatever the children’s imaginations led them to do, as the above photo shows. They have submitted to being horses galloping across the range or props for gymnastic stunts or roaring lions in the jungle.

Seeing the very lively cat Bertha who chases after every moving creature, even beetles, sitting so dramatically on a solid never-moving deer has to produce a smile. I can’t help thinking homophonically of a dear deer cat!

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Grandma Minnie

Mother’s Day is a time for honoring our living mothers. As girls, my sisters and I always clipped red roses from a vine near our house to wear to church on Mother’s Day. Those roses smelled so sweet! In blessed years that followed, until my mother died at 93, I proudly wore a red rose every Mother’s Day. But Mother’s Day isn’t just for honoring the living. It’s also a time we can remember and be thankful for mothers and grandmothers who are long gone. I’d like, this week, to feature my Grandma Minnie, my mother’s mother.

I only remember Grandma in a hospital bed at Aunt Emma’s. She had a warm smile for me when my mother held me up so she could kiss me on the cheek. It is such a short memory, yet I’ve always had a good feeling of being loved as I jumped down to run out and play with cousins under the privet bushes.

When Grandma died in 1947, I was four years old. I couldn’t understand why my sisters and especially my mother were so sad. But I was sad because they were sad.

I’ve learned so much about Grandma from my own mother. She used to say that she knew there must be some dirt in heaven because Grandma wouldn’t be happy if she couldn’t wash little children’s faces. She’d come to stay with Mamma and help her as she had eleven babies and, I guess, as Aunt Emma had her seven. Grandma had raised six of her own. Washing children’s faces was a delight to her.

She was also a wonderful cook, Mamma said. Aside from sewing for the family, gardening, knitting and crocheting, she made lace. Her tatting was fine and wonderful, gracefully decorating pillow cases, blouse collars, and curtains. But Grandma wasn’t just a good homemaker. She was a very good neighbor. She regularly helped others deliver their babies, nursed them when they were sick and even, during the 1918 flu epidemic, prepared those who perished for burial. My mother was her helper at the age of fourteen.

When Mamma told me how Grandma and Papa Gibbs met I was totally intrigued.

Grandma lived in Commerce with her father, three siblings and her stepmother Janie. For several years she had mothered her younger siblings after their mother died. It wasn’t all bad when her father married again. Janie gave her some relief from household responsibilities. Still, at twenty years old, she hadn’t married, though she did have a few admirers.

In those days, the 1880’s, a highlight of the social life was a church picnic. Mamma said that her mother always looked forward to those picnics splashed between two long church services. It was at one of those when Leonard Gibbs rode up. Papa Burns introduced him to the family and Mama Janie invited him to eat with them. Leonard had come all the way from Cornelia on horseback, a trip of twenty-five or thirty miles. He must have had some relatives in Commerce. Minnie and Leonard were immediately attracted to each other. Though Leonard only conversed with Minnie’s father, he spent a lot of time looking at Minnie. When he rode away Minnie heard her father tell Mama Janie, “That young man is looking for a bride.”

Minnie dreamed that Leonard would come see her but weeks went by and even months. One Saturday Minnie was sweeping the yard (it was customary then to have swept yards, not lawns). It was cold and she sent her siblings all inside to warm up. To her surprise and horror she saw a man on horseback far down the red clay road. Could it be, yes, it was, Leonard Gibbs. He absolutely must not see her dressed in her oldest calico with a rag around her hair instead of a pretty bonnet. She scuttled into the stable and peered out through a crack, then realized that Leonard would certainly come to the stable to put his horse up. She scurried into the harness room and hid there until she thought that, of course, he’d take the saddle off his horse and put it in the harness room. Quickly she climbed a ladder into the hayloft and hid herself amongst the hay.

Of course, Leonard had ridden a long way and would certainly take care of all the needs of his horse and that included hay. Next thing Minnie knew he was coming up the ladder. She prayed she was hidden enough, that none of her skirt was peering out. She was sure he could hear her heart beating. But he took some hay, paused only a moment, and climbed back down the ladder.

When she thought it was safe she clambered down the ladder herself, probably went by to pat the nose of the visiting horse, and then took a circuitous path around to the back door of the square two-story house, hoping not to be observed from the parlor window. She didn’t think about that it was Saturday and Papa never lit the fire in the parlor on Saturday. So when she opened the kitchen door to sneak in and change clothes, there was Leonard Gibbs grinning at her. He is said to have commented, when he told the story, that Minnie was charmingly beautiful with curls haphazardly falling about her flushed face, one hand clutching the rag she’d jerked from her head. But at the time, the story goes, he took her free hand, exclaimed at how how cold it was and, with a twinkle in his blue eyes, suggested she warm by the stove.

Leonard and Minnie were married September 6, 1888, lived in Commerce, Georgia for a while, then in Cornelia, Mt. Airy, and finally on a farm named Clover Hill near Cornelia where Papa Gibbs, a very progressive farmer, became known for growing winter pasture grass. He died in October, 1918, of a very difficult intestinal problem, not from the flu. Grandma, brave woman that she was, continued raising the youngest ones of her six and became a loving resourceful grandmother.

Her bravery in the face of illness and death was also evident one dusky evening when she was returning home alone in a buggy. She was suddenly, the story goes, surrounded by white-hooded men on horseback. Instead of fainting away in fear, she simply sat erect in her seat and, in a very stern voice, told the KKK’s something like, “You men just go on home where you belong.”

Grandma passed on her sense of compassion, her bravery, her resourcefulness to my mother. But what I’m most grateful for is Grandma’s shining faith in God which caused her to make sure, along with Papa, that all their children memorized long portions of scripture, knew right from wrong, were honest in all their dealings, and were well aware of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Her oldest son, my Uncle Charles, became a Presbyterian minister as well as her youngest son, Burns. Uncle Hugh stayed with the farm and was well respected in Habersham County for his honesty and productivity. Uncle Robert was a very successful business man in Atlanta. Aunt Emma was a school teacher before she had her family. And my mother–well, she had eleven children! One sister died as a four-year-old, but ten of us grew up under Mamma’s and Dad’s homeschooling. And, yes, they taught us early about Jesus.

What a rich heritage we have! Thank you, Lord, for our mothers and grandmothers. May we, too, leave footprints of faith in the lives of those who follow us.


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Suppertime–that’s an inviting word, isn’t it?

The word supper, to me, brings up all kinds of warm and wonderful memories. Maybe having good memories of suppers helps me absorb so poignantly the account of the Lord’s Supper as written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

In a recent Bible study lesson we revisited the very special and amazing account of Jesus and His disciples at the last supper. Michael Best, our Bible study leader, painted word pictures for us of Jesus at that Passover meal–the low tables, the disciples reclining on left elbows. We even know the placement at the table of Jesus and some of His disciples. Judas, who would betray Him, was invited by Jesus to recline on His left, a place of great honor. John, the beloved disciple, reclined at His right. This supper, according to Luke 22, is described as the last Passover. But it was also the first Lord’s Supper which Christians for two thousand years have commemorated in different ways. Instead of celebrating the rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus who saves those who believe, not just temporarily, but for eternity. The disciples didn’t understand the significance of the wine and the bread that night. But after the resurrection they would grasp the symbolism of the wine representing His blood and the bread His body.

What they did understand that night was that this was a very special supper, that Jesus had desired fervently to eat it with them, that things were happening they couldn’t explain, but right now Jesus was with them. They had followed Jesus’s detailed instructions for the preparation and now they were gathered in an upper room to “break bread” with Him. Though such a wonderful time for them, as I read it I always am shrouded with sadness too. Because I know what was about to happen. But–there would be another feast in His new kingdom, He told them! He told these very dear friends to remember Him each time they partook of the wine and bread, to celebrate, and to anticipate that time when, again, they would share supper with Him.

When Mamma called us to supper we responded quickly. Whether we came from chores, from play, from reading or milking the cows, the supper call was reason for celebration. We wouldn’t have a great feast. That would be reserved for Sunday dinner. At noontime dinner every day we had hearty staples like mashed potatoes, dried lima beans, mackerel patties or beef stew and, in the summertime, a table loaded with wonderful fresh vegetables–squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, snap beans and, always, Mamma’s fresh bread. Supper, then, was leftovers sometimes but often our large family would have eaten everything at dinner so supper was milk and bread. In the wintertime Mamma sometimes cooked a huge skillet of fried homemade hominy for supper. In case you don’t know, hominy is dried kernel corn soaked for hours, cooked for hours until tender, an all day operation. But the bread and milk was often our fare and it was so very good.

I can picture us now, a whole long bench full of youngsters, hungrily waiting for Mamma’s pan bread to brown and for older sisters to pour our mugs of milk. That bread was whole wheat flat bread cooked on an iron pan on top of the wood burning stove. When we started singing “Here we sit like birds in the wilderness waiting for something to eat,” Mamma slid the bread pan over, removed the griddle, then replaced the bread pan next to the flame so the bread would cook faster. There couldn’t be any bread more delicious–hot, slathered with butter, or crumbled in that mug of milk.

Supper for Charles and me and our family was different. Charles didn’t like a lot to eat in the middle of the day because he would be “bending over it” all afternoon working with cows, pigs, and horses. He preferred sandwiches at noon and a big supper at night. So supper consisted of things like fried pork chops, baked potatoes, and plenty of south Georgia vegetables. I liked to make bread too–cornbread, fresh loaves of wheat bread, but never those delicious flat griddle breads like Mamma’s.

To me it was very important to have all of us sit down to eat together. This meant long waits sometimes since Charles would often be working late finishing a herd or delivering a calf or something. I guess I tortured my children making them wait until Daddy got home. When they were little and the waiting got long, I’d tell them to go outside and call Daddy real loud, maybe he would hear. Miraculously, at that point, we often heard his pickup turning in off South Broad. It was so good when we were all around the table sharing what the day had brought, both bad and good.

Suppers at church have always been so joyful whether at midweek or some special occasion. Then there were the community fundraiser suppers, the south Georgia fish fry suppers, the spontaneous “ya’ll come over” suppers, the cook-outs and the spaghetti suppers.

The best thing about all of them was the people gathered around the tables.

A few weeks ago my siblings and I and our spouses (only seven of us this time!) spent a weekend in a mountain cottage. During that weekend Suzanne played an old cassette which included my brother Charlie singing the Jim Reeves song “Come Home, Come Home, It’s Suppertime.” Charlie, accompanied by his guitar, used to sing that song whenever he and my brother Stan “jammed” on Saturday night. Now, on the mountain, we all, including Charlie, listened and hummed along, remembering Mamma’s call to supper as well as the fun jamming sessions.

The first part of the song is spoken to the gentle strumming of the guitar. Charlie’s words were clear, filled with pathos, as he told how, when a child, he’d play till shadows came, then he’d hear his mother’s call to supper. The refrain goes like this:

Come home, come home, it’s suppertime,

The shadows lengthen fast.

Come home, come home, it’s suppertime.

We’re going home at last.

The last stanza of the song takes us back to my opening concerning the Lord’s Supper. In spoken words Jim Reeves, or our Charlie, talks about when all Christians will gather for the greatest supper of all, in Glory with Jesus at the head of the table.

We’ve had to say goodby to so many dear ones the last year. We’re saddened at their leaving and there are huge holes that will not be filled. But it’s so good to remember that they’re enjoying supper with Jesus. And whatever the food is, it’s even better than Mamma’s hot griddle bread!

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