Monthly Archives: January 2022

January Jack-O-Lantern

An out-of-season smile for you! Pumpkins are for Halloween and Thanksgiving. But this pumpkin carving was deep in the month of January.

Our tradition is to buy two or three pumpkins as soon as they’re available in October to set out on our front steps as decorations for the autumn season. Rather than bring in the pumpkins to carve for Thanksgiving pies we use pumpkin frozen in measured amounts the year before. Then, after Thanksgiving, we carve the pumpkins, cook, and freeze them for the next year. This year the pumpkin process was delayed by various circumstances. So last week, past the middle of January, Charles cup up a pumpkin–with lots of help!

I heard squeals of laughter and commotion in the kitchen. Leaving my desk, I found Charles, our two great grands, and a pumpkin having a hilarious time.

Charles had carved a jack-o-lantern with a smooth smile. The kids insisted he (the Jack) should have teeth. So Grandaddy accommodated. By the time I came on the scene, the assistants were replacing teeth they’d knocked out in their enthusiasm and sticking them back in place. They declared themselves dentists right then and there. But that wasn’t all. As the activity developed, Charli, first to start digging out the insides, discovered she could shoot seeds out of old Jack’s mouth. Then, of course, Kaison made it even more fun by shooting seeds as far as they would go. Both kids’ hands were covered with seeds and pumpkin innards. They even pretended to eat the slime! All in all, the pumpkin carving was more fun than a trip to Chuck E Cheese. Grandaddy and I sat down to enjoy the show. We had to dodge flying seeds and, finally, call for a washing up and sweeping.

Charles finished the job of cutting up the pumpkin for stewing. Now it’s mashed to a nice puree and packed in ziplocks for next Thanksgiving. Or, who knows? We might have an out-of-season pumpkin pie just any old time.

I’m thankful for beautiful orange pumpkins with perfect seams down their fat sides, pumpkins who waited patiently in a dark corner until carving time. I’m thankful for a Grandaddy who will apply his strength to carving and turning a chore into a frolic. I’m thankful for grandchildren who find such joy in simple things. Yes, way past the “official” time to be thankful, I’m so glad.

God never tires of hearing our praises!

Oh Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. Psalm 104:24

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The Wind and the Waves

My brother Charlie particularly enjoys hearing the wind rush around the corners of his house, bluster through the trees, send leaves scattering. He has heard some mighty boisterous wind the last couple of days and seen snow too, a nice thick fall in north Georgia. Several of my siblings and I very much like to hear the wind whistling around the corners. I think we inherited a love of the wind from my Dad. The only thing better to him than the sound of the wind was the sound of the surf crashing on the shore. He often commented that the wind blowing around our house reminded him of the ocean waves. (He had spent several years as a single young man homesteading on Cape Canaveral.)

Wind can be brutal, waves too. Recent tornadoes in midwest US destroyed lives, homes, whole communities. Constant wind on the seashore stunts the growth of palms, oaks and pines turning them into strange, yet beautiful silhouettes on the dunes. Every year we hear of folks killed when caught in a riptide. Hurricanes are a fierce and frightening force.

On a lighter side, wind can bring havoc to a picnic or a camping adventure. My husband and I often remember the strong wind on a Saskatchewan prairie that blew our tent right down on our faces. Walking along high cliffs of the Oregon shore we felt we would be blown down to the sea lions on rocks below. A sign in a gift shop read, “Yes, the wind always blows here.”

I say I love to hear the wind. But that doesn’t mean that I enjoy driving in a storm. I enjoy seeing the moods of the ocean. But I would not want to be in a ship battling to stay afloat in a cyclone or typhoon. Reading about them is as close as I want to get.

One of the very best storm stories is the account in the Gospels where Jesus went to sleep in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and a violent storm came up suddenly. The disciples were terrified and shook Jesus awake. “Don’t you even care that we’re about to die?” they asked. Jesus stood up and calmly spoke to the sea as if talking to an over wrought child. “Peace, be still,” He said. The storm quieted instantly. Then He chided the disciples for having so little faith. They should have known their Master would take care of them. The disciples were suddenly fearful in a different way. “Who is this who even tells the wind and the waves what to do?” (paraphrased)

No, I don’t want to be in a storm, I just want to listen to them while staying safe inside. I don’t want to be in a storm but if I am, I know that now, as that day on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus can calm the tempest whether it’s an actual tornado or a figurative storm in my life, although in His infinite wisdom He may not choose to. He has purposes I know not of. Just as the wind and the waves change the trees on the shore, God may have designs to resculpt me too. But do I really trust Him to hold my hand through the wind and the waves? Or am I, like the disciples, filled with fear?

I do love to hear the wind rustling in the trees. I greatly enjoy watching and listening to the waves constantly chase each other to shore. One thing I love so much about them both is that they remind me of the strength of God. If He can speak to the wind and the waves and instantly calm them, then He is strong enough to see us through any kind of storm.

And he arose and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39

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Look to the Skies

My sister often speaks of her love for and fascination with the Florida sky when she lived in Orlando and then Sebring. There the sky was so big because there were fewer tall trees than here where we live in Georgia. But here, too, the sky is fascinating and a daily reminder, I think, that God is still in control.

We’ve just celebrated the birth of Jesus. We were reminded of all the wonderful accounts including the amazing visit of the wise men when Jesus was a child, no longer a baby. Surely those wise men had traveled for months since they first saw the star and knew the Messiah had been born. There’s so much mystery surrounding the wise men. Where exactly in the east did they come from? How did they know about the Messiah? How many wise men were there really, not just assuming by the presentation of three gifts that there were three. Lots of mystery. But this we know. They saw the star and started out. They studied the skies and got a message. They stopped briefly in Jerusalem to inquire and were elated when, again, they saw that unusual star stop above the house where, as they learned, the Messiah, the child Jesus lived. They entered and worshiped Him. God used that star in the sky to lead the wise men to Jesus.

What does He say to us as we look up at the sky, whether a night sky of a million stars, or a wide open blue sky swirled with filmy clouds?

In the craziness of the world around us, there’s the steady consistency of a sky above that only God controls. When I look up, I feel hope, freedom, inspiration. I love to see a blue sky framed by pine and magnolia. I enjoy gray skies, too, a sign that rain will come, that we will have everything we need. Looking up encourages me that, no matter what, God who loves me will always be by my side and that I can be sure better times will come.

I feel very sad for those who cannot see the sky. I think it is a healing therapy just to look up. For those in hospitals and nursing homes, in prisons, and indoor office jobs, I pray that somehow they will be able to see the sky. Even if only a scrap of sky can be seen (as in my picture taken during a hospital stay), it is an encouragement. Corrie ten Boom wrote in The Hiding Place of how comforting it was to her to see the sky, even the smallest patch of blue between buildings. When all around her was ugliness and fear and cruelty, if she could look up at the sky she took courage.

In contemplating the vastness and beauty of the sky, different every season, every day, every hour, I found some intriguing quotations.

Leonardo da Vinci wrote “Once you have tasted the taste of the sky, you will forever look up.”

Some anonymous quotations:

“The sky is an infinite movie to me.”

“Staring at the sky restores your hope and makes you connected to nature.”

“Look up at the sky. There is a light, a beauty up there, that no shadow can touch.”

The sky may be solid blue like the proverbial robin’s egg or decorated with fluffy soft clouds. It may be pierced by streaks of vapor from silver jets. It may be filled with spires and towers of cities or framed by brittle bare boughs. It may look like a seascape above us or simply a backdrop for the beautiful hawks, high flying eagles, and evening swallows. Whatever sky it is, a dark night sky displaying moon and stars, sunny or stormy skies, rainbow skies, be reminded of the greatness of God. Take a deep breath and worship Him. Find the peace and security He can give to every believer.


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The Still Woods

With a title like the above, you would think of a calm stand of pine and oak, maybe some poplars, an understory of dogwoods, laurels and wild azalea. But there was a different meaning for the section of woods my father acquired.

Already our place called Pinedale had a six foot woven wire fence around most of the perimeter. Dad’s intention was to keep a wildlife sanctuary where no hunting was allowed. From time to time over the years he added to the place when more acres became available

I was next to youngest of Mom and Dad’s ten children and knew little about why we could now go through a gate to previously prohibited woods. Dad called the added acreage simply The New Woods. My brothers called it The Still Woods.

One day while performing a task Dad had set us to (“Pile brush into heaps,” he said, “and nip sprouts from stumps”) the boys let my sister and me in on why they called this place The Still Woods. They showed us the remains of an old still. Whisky had been made there, they explained in ominous tones. There was a wide pit, some twists of copper tubing, broken shards of glass. The boys said the sheriff had caught the men operating the still and they were probably rotting in jail.

Suddenly those woods became a place of evil and danger to me. What if the criminals came back and started up their still again? My Dad would be furious if this were to happen. I knew he hated whisky with a passion. I could picture bearded, rough talking men sneaking in at night to do their dastardly deed. My imagination was working overtime!

From then on, when we walked through that gate into The Still Woods, a certain dread filled my heart. Even though my brothers, I knew, would defend us valiantly, what if they couldn’t overcome the sneering outlaws determined to make their wicked liquor? Trees seemed to hide something sinister. And why were there no squirrels in those trees? They knew it was haunted land!

When we went back through the gate and closed it behind us, I felt safe. The evil was on the other side of the fence. Here, in our beloved woods near the Indian Spring and our little schoolhouse cabin, the rocky brook and the beech tree scarred with initials of our brothers’ girl friends–here we were safe. The ghosts of The Still Woods would not haunt me here!

Thinking about The Still Woods and the childish horror I endured as my brothers told their tall tales, I’m reminded of how the world’s wickedness surrounds us. But always we can go through the Gate, our Lord Jesus Christ, and be safe.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; in him will I trust. Psalms 91:2

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