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I remember a columnist from years ago named Gladys Tabor. She wrote about her garden, seasonal flowers, about feeding the birds and digging pesky vine roots, pruning roses or picking berries. I’m not the gardener or the writer that she was but I’d like to take you around our corner and just shout out a few hallelujahs for the blessings God displays for us.

Our tubs of herbs along the outside of the back porch are green and luscious with rosemary, parsley, basil, lavender and mint. I hung a bunch of everything in the kitchen to smell good and to dehydrate. We bought two red geraniums for the porch which I can see from the den window. There’s something about red geraniums that makes me feel good all over. And Charles transplanted a patch of a dozen or so small purple iris around the maple tree south of the porch. The white ones in the same bed have done their thing and bowed out. The purple flags, as my mother called them, are smiling center stage.

The mulberry tree is at the height of its season, berries thick on the branches, the whole tree in motion with squirrels and birds feasting. The squirrels have had to find a new way to the mulberry since we cut down the two large oak trees which they had used as connectors in their super highway. We meant no offense in particular to the squirrels, just became concerned that at least one of the big oaks might land some windy night across our bedroom. They were both rotten and hollow. But Charles, in preparation for the tree felling, also took out a massive bank of old shrubbery–azaleas, wisteria, etc. So now, not only are the squirrels missing their highway, but they hardly have any cover on that side of the yard. They sneak across a wide open stretch either in one headlong dash, or, often, a few feet at a time, stopping to sit up erect like meerkats on the prairie before tackling another stretch. Once they scale one certain large pine they have it made–a leap to the cherry tree and then protection all the way to the arms of the generous mulberry. That pine is a giant stairway to freedom for hundreds of tiny squirrels’ feet.


Mulberries are sweet even before they are ripe!


Charles’ sister Revonda came and sat on our porch with us Sunday afternoon. We talked about old friends they knew when growing up in Thomas County schools. Our cat, Sassy, brought a skink to the screen door and meowed for attention. We talked about her and didn’t rescue her victim which was all but dead. Birds flew in and out of the feeder area. Squirrels scaled the pine and leaped to the cherry tree limbs, then to the mulberry. We caught up on ours and Revonda’s grandchildren, then called the third sibling of the JB Graham family, Ronnie, up in Michigan. The temperature was forty degrees there to our very pleasant seventy. We’d forgotten about Sassy and the skink when suddenly we spied her lugging a baby rabbit up the driveway. She tried to settle in by the screen door to give us another show. But our sympathy was warm for that little bunny. Charles stepped out and made Sassy release it. We laughed with glee as the small “Peter Rabbit” took to his feet and made a very quick and bouncy exit. I knew for sure at that moment I was not married to a “Mr. McGregor.”

Along the front porch are knockout roses. When five-year-old Kaison spends the day with me, we include in our activities, “dead heading” the roses. He is surprisingly adept with the clippers and gets almost too much pleasure snapping the dead blooms off with an “off with your head” to each one. He and I fill the bird baths too. I chuckle remembering my father-in-law who used to call out to Mama Graham, “Elizabeth, here’s those pesky birds flopping around in the bird bath. They’re going to splash all the water out!”

When Charles and I walk around the yard in the evening, we always stop to see how our new blueberry bushes are doing. Charles has worked so hard testing the soil and preparing it then to blueberry specifications. There are berries now on each little tree and we’re hoping to have some soon enhancing our cereal. In a couple of years we’re expecting to make muffins, cobblers, and stick some berries in the freezer.

Brown thrashers are here. We saw a beautiful one at the feeder outside the breakfast room today eating voraciously. They only grace us with their presence during their nesting time but I greatly enjoy seeing them for those few weeks–flying in and out of their chosen bushes. The feeders are busy, too, with cute little black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, bright cardinals and purple finches. We woke this morning to the sound of birds singing from low bushes and high in the pines. A mockingbird trilled his thirty-minute repertoire from the cherry tree as if he would burst if he couldn’t sing. A few minutes ago we spotted our first hummingbird of the season.

I heard about a shrub called a “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” plant. We found one at Nesmith Nursery in Thomas County and just finished settling it into the soil near the butterfly garden. We’re told it blooms sporadically all summer and that on any given day there will be yesterday blossoms of pale lavender, today blossoms of almost purple, and tomorrow blossoms of white. We’re giving it to each other for Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, a fun new acquisition!

Thanks for wandering with me. (And thanks, Gladys Tabor of long ago, for your inspiration.)

So many blessings close by! With the psalmist, let’s say Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. (Psalm 103:1)

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Mizpah to you in 2016!

We had black eyed peas (seasoned with chicken broth) on New Year’s Day, along with cabbage, smoked pork chops, rice, and cornbread. To make the cabbage more interesting, we adhered to our tradition of slipping a dime into the pot for some lucky person to find. Adults in my family know I’m going to put that dime in the cabbage. What they didn’t know was that this time, Charles placed a gold dollar in the cabbage. The gold dollar was welcomed by my granddaughter Amanda who, by the way, really loves steamed cabbage so it was no chore to eat a lot of it and feel the clink of that coin on her plate! Traditionally, these foods bring you peace from the peas, riches from the rice, joy from the “jowl” (this time chops), and just plain fun eating it all as a family.

Of course all that luck stuff is a game. We rely on the power of our living Lord, which is sure and immeasurable, and, year by year, constant. Jacob, in Genesis 31:49 gave us a word I like to pass along.”And Mizpah, for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” Far better than luck–a contract between relatives and blessed by the Lord!

Jacob had every reason to believe that his conniving uncle Laban might indeed wish him harm when he, Jacob, decided after twenty years to leave his wealthy uncle’s “ranch.” Laban had already tricked him into working seven years only to receive the wrong daughter as his bride, seven more to receive his beloved Rachel, then six more to receive his own herd. Of course Jacob had done his own trickery in animal husbandry, not to mention his trickery as a very young man when he stole his own brother’s birthright. To read more of these fascinating stories, open your Bible to the book of Genesis and soak in the mystery and intrigue, and to taste the wonder of God’s power revealed through faulty man.

So Jacob and Laban stood over a heap of rocks which served as witness to their promise to each other. “Mizpah” was the word sealing their mutual understanding that “The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.”

My Dad used to sign his letters to his “away” children with that Hebrew word “Miszpah,” meaning “God watch over you while we’re absent one from another.” Dad died when I was sixteen several years before I was an “away” child and I’ve known for years that I never received one of those letters, though I was there when he dictated them to Mamma, and that word did sink in.

Recently, while going through a box of correspondence, I came across a letter to me from my Dad. What a treasure! At the time of my Dad’s writing the letter, I was on a lengthy visit with my sister Jackie in Maryland. Now, so many years later, sitting in my attic, tears came to my eyes as I read this short but tender letter from my father signed by his shaky hand after his trademark “Mizpah.” “God watch over you while we are absent one from another.” I was more thrilled at the second receipt of the letter than I had been at the first. My Dad had actually sent me a “Mizpah.”

It’s such a good word, Mizpah. Wouldn’t it be a good one to apply when seeing your kids off to school (Aw, Mom!), saying goodby to an old friend (What’s that again?), or even kissing your spouse goodby in the mornings (Should I check you for a fever?)??? Maybe, seriously, you could Mizpah your family this very day. Past the surprise and curiosity might be a new appre-citation of your word skills–and your devotion.

To you, my friend, Mizpah, in 2016! Regardless of how well the black-eyed peas bring peace or the rice brings riches–Mizpah!

My Prayer:
God, I pray You will watch over our families who are separated one from another, that You will bless each member, and make them into blessings for Your name’s sake. Amen.

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