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Our Snowy South

A Two-Day Diary

Tuesday, January 28

8:30 a.m.–Cairo, GA–heavy cloud cover, not much mention of our receiving precipitation here near the Florida line. They think maybe Albany, sixty miles north may get a touch of snow, and we might get a little sleet. For a 71-year-old who still has a kid’s excitement over snow I have to be content with a day that looks like snow. I grew up in Clarkesville in north Georgia where we did usually have two or three snows each winter, a few really nice big ones, thick enough to slide downhill on an opened box, make snow ice cream, and wage snowball wars. The last snow we had here in Cairo was about three years ago, beautiful falling through our tall pines, dusting every holly leaf and making the cats look very mystified. Our grandson, fifteen then, got his first real look at the cold stuff and he loved it!

10:00 a.m.–I received a voicemail from my son in Alabama where he’s on his day’s trek serving veterinarians. “Hey, Mom, just checking in with you on the weather. It’s snowing where I am, but they don’t think it’s going to be much more than a dusting. I hear you’re going to get lots more. I know you’d love that so I’m hoping for it.” I said, “Oh-h-h-h….”

2:15 p.m.–I talked to Will this time. He said he’s in a mess of traffic trying to get back into Birmingham and make it to Mattie’s day care. “The way it’s looking I won’t be able to make it home. I’ll be staying with Mattie at the church. Several other families will be staying also. There are thousands of people out here on the interstate just sitting in their cars like me.”

3:00–I called Christi to see how she’s doing, got no answer.

4:30–Christi called back. She’s been on Highway 280 since just after 10:00 this morning trying to make the usual 30-minute trip to their house. She realized it wasn’t going to be just the dusting as predicted and did stop and gas up. “If I can get close enough, I’ll just walk the rest of the way.” “Oh, my,” I said, “I hope you’re warmly dressed. Do you have on good shoes?” In her quiet reassuring voice she said, “I bought some fuzzy socks at the gas station and some better gloves and I have the warm cozy wrap you made me for Christmas. And, yes, I wore boots today instead of heels.” “What about the boys?” I ask. “Our next-door neighbor, Mr. Sorrells has gone to the school to walk them home. They’ll stay with him until I get there.”

5:30–I called Will. He’s on the last steep hill approaching Highlands United Methodist’s street. But he’s one of thousands and they’re at a standstill. “I would walk on up there. It’s only about a mile. But I can’t park. I’ve talked to Christi. She’s still struggling to get to a decent turn-off from 280 where she can get close to home.”

My prayers increase. I walk from window to window watching dark come and knowing that it gets dark much earlier where my kids are out on those treacherous snowy roads. I add tomatoes and cabbage to a nice beef stir-fry, then set some rice to simmering. I wish strongly that I could feed my poor cold kids when they arrive at home, and then I pray again: Lord, please bring them home!

7:00–Will calls to say he’s made it to the church. As Charles, Charles D and I eat stir-fry and rice we talk about the weather there and here. Still no sign of snow for us. We may get rain mixed with sleet about midnight. We say a prayer of thanksgiving that Will at least is safe and sound, he and Mattie.

8:30–Christi’s now abandoned her car on the side of the road, has found a ride in a pickup truck closer to home, still not there. Has arrived at a friend’s house where she may spend the night. I picture the winding dark streets, so very, very steep, on the way from 280 to her house,  and I shudder.

We go to bed, praying for our Alabama kids especially much, hoping they’re all safe and sound, though separated in three different locations. And, yes, we do pray for the thousands of people displaced on this snowy night in the south.

 Wednesday,January 29–

5:00 a.m.–I waken to the sound of a soft rattle against window panes. Out the bathroom window I see the barn roof is white in the street lamp.

6:30–It’s light enough to see the white stuff clinging to holly leaves, icicles hanging from each leaf, white ice on deck and deck chairs, the bird bath frozen solid. Charles D is very disappointed there was no snow but thrilled that, because of the ice, the schools are closed today. We discuss the white stuff. I tell him it’s what we always called hominy snow in north Georgia. Here, it’s simply considered ice even if it is white and comes down in granules. Either way, it’s beautiful!

And treacherous.

9:00 a.m. I learn that Christi didn’t stay in that friend’s house. Her mother’s heart drove her to get out and walk toward home. She arrived within a mile when she called Mr. Sorrells. He loaded William, 10, and Thomas, 6, into his four-wheel jeep and went to rescue their mother from the “side of the mountain.”

2:00, p.m.–I call and get William who very happily launches into his own description of their last 24 hours. He and Thomas had a really fun walk through the snow getting home Tuesday, only slid on their bottoms a few times. They had a little bit of a scary time going with Mr. Sorrells to rescue their mom. “The jeep started sliding and Mr. Sorrels had to stop and back up and try again. When we slid to the edge of the road I was a little scared. But then we found Mama and brought her home. And, Nana, this is the best part. When we got near our house, guess what we saw?” (Big pause. I couldn’t guess.) “We saw a buck standing in the road, a big, big buck with huge antlers. I’ve never seen one like that,” he said in awe.

I asked William about his dad and Mattie. “Well, they’re probably going to have to stay another night at the church,” he said solemnly. “The roads are pretty bad. Oh, and Nana, did you know this part? My mom lost her phone in the snow. We went back to where she thought she dropped it this morning but we couldn’t find it. Then Pop called from Gadsden and said someone had called him and said they found my mom’s phone and they’d put it in their mailbox for her to pick up. We just got back from hunting for that mailbox. But we did find it and it was a miracle! Her phone really was in that mailbox!” I could tell he was winded from telling me this long tale. But he had one more note. “Nana, we’re all tired so we’re going to rest. About thirty minutes maybe. Then I’m going out to play in the snow!”

A boy after my own heart!

5:30–Will called. He and Mattie made it home. He says the day care cook was stranded with them at the church so they ate very well. Sleeping wasn’t so good on the floor! But they were thankful for the warm, safe place. So very thankful now to be all home, all together again!



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Briar Patch Rewards

“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:27 (NIV)

The book of Ezekiel reminds me of our largest, thickest briar patch at my Pinedale home in north Georgia. The briars were mean and cutting to our skin, yet there were beautiful big juicy blackberries hanging amongst the bristles. How to get to them? We wore thick clothing and heavy shoes and formed trails or “tunnels” into the briar patch, meandering this way and that so that we could reach the beautiful fruit. Some of the best berries glistened on thorny branches in the middle of the sunny hillside berry patch sparsely shaded by an occasional pine tree. The scratches we sustained burned and itched. But, in the end, rounded buckets of berries were worth the pain, especially when Mamma made a huge blackberry cobbler.

I read lines and lines of ominous passages in Ezekiel, many of which I do not understand. Then, suddenly, a verse stands out as if in bold print and I hear God’s voice speaking to me from the pages. I have tunneled through the briars and the fruit is wonderful!

The verse today is one of those treasures. God will put His Spirit in you, in me, and move, or urge, or prod me to follow His ways and to keep His commandments. Really? He will take such careful notice of me? Of course I’m putting my name, as you can do yours, in the place of Israel, His Chosen People, because, according to Paul’s writing, we have been adopted into His family when we come to Him and ask to become His sheep. Through the blood of His Son Jesus we become, too, His Chosen Ones. And He puts His Spirit within us!

What exactly does that mean? It means that, in addition to being created in the “image of God,” we become actual children of God and He breathes His own self into our spirits. He becomes one with us. He puts in us the “mind of Christ,” (Philippians 2:5); He gives us spiritual gifts of love, longsuffering, kindness, etc. (Galatians 5:22); and He makes us able to do “all things through Him Who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

He has put His Spirit within you! What a shining piece of “fruit” in the middle of Ezekiel! I will treasure this realization, this revelation of truth. It is yours, too, for the picking! But it means so much more if you read all of Ezekiel and hear the rumble of God’s authority and might all the way through. When you feel the deep scratches of those briars, the fruit is so sweet a reward!


My Prayer: Lord, I know that every word in the Bible is very important, but in my weakness and ignorance I find a lot of trouble understanding many passages. But I am so happy to hear your voice today and I want to have your Spirit within me and to obey your decrees and commands.

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Alabama Snow

Alabama Snow

This photo was taken by my son another time, another place. It seems appropriate right now as C-O-L-D is gripping much of our nation. Even the sunny south is shivering in single digit temps part of the time, though most of us have yet to see snow! My son travels over central Alabama selling pharmaceutical supplies to veterinarians. He took this in a park one day, I believe, where he’s stopped for some exercise. He sends me both digital pictures and gives me vocal descriptions of the places he sees. A “cool” way to keep in touch!

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January 22, 2014 · 9:08 pm

Doing the Next Thing

The house is suddenly quiet. I can hear the refrigerator, the washer, the dryer, the ashes settling in the fire, the hum of the computer. All weekend we were surrounded with dear, wonderful family members coming in, going out, eating together, singing together, crying together and laughing a lot. Now they’re all gone back to their homes, their jobs, and their schools.

My mother-in-law died Friday morning and her funeral was yesterday afternoon. Her daughter’s house, where she had been living, was the gathering place for a host of Mama’s family–children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, close friends, everyone. Cousins became much better acquainted with each other as they played ball, hide and seek, etc. Hidden talents were on display at the jam sessions on Friday and Saturday nights when people who are usually quiet and don’t say much were suddenly center stage with guitars in hand. We learned more and more about the dear lady we were celebrating as more and more yarns spun out.

We laughed and shed tears almost at the same time as we prepared for that funeral, a funeral which Elizabeth Morris Graham herself had planned so well that we had nothing to do but celebrate her wonderful life. My husband, her oldest son, did ask to be on the program as he wanted to eulogize his mother. “My speaking was not part of her plan,” he said in his opening, “but I want you to know a little bit about my mother that she wouldn’t tell you.”

He told us about how she grew up in depression years moving frequently from one share cropping farm to another, seldom able to finish one school year at the same place she started. She got involved in a church called New Shiloh as a young person and at the age of sixteen became a Christian. She married JB when she was nineteen and they had three children. She worked hard in the field, in the home, and in the community. But come
Saturday she’d be getting her family ready for church, even JB who early on was not a believer. My husband said she’d iron and cook and cream bushels of corn but she’d also read her Bible and make sure each child got ready for his/her Sunday school lesson. She taught them to tithe and help pay for their own clothes with money they earned from picking cotton.

She was a member of a little country church called Merrillville Baptist for 63 years before, as a widow, she moved in with Charles’ sister Revonda and joined First Baptist Thomasville. There she became a familiar figure rolling her walker in to Sunday school, no matter how much her humped-over back hurt, going to church, greeting every person she met with that eager smile of hers.

Her birthday was December 29 and on December 28 we gave her a big birthday party out at her old church in Merrillville. She had a lovely big cake and was greeted by 145 family members and friends from her two churches. Just recovering from a bad back fracture, she reigned like a queen that day in her favorite chair as we all buzzed around her.

Two weeks later she had a massive stroke and now she’s gone to heaven.

Mama was a detailed planner, had never been able to go to bed until her house was in perfect order. So it should have been no surprise to us that as she approached ninety she planned and replanned her funeral. She’d think of one more song she wanted at her service or one more detail for her obituary and Revonda would run it up to the funeral home. I told her she was going to plan it all so well, we’d have nothing to do. She’d just smile and shake her head–and keep on planning.

But we did have something to do. We celebrated her and had such a wonderful time looking at the pictures she’d given to the funeral home for her dvd showing (in her order, of course, with instructions not to change that order at all!) and enjoying her tons of friends of all ages. The music she’d selected was comforting and sweet and so very appropriate and performed with such passion and poise by her granddaughter-in-law Leigh Barwick and two friends.

And now today, as I adjust to a quiet house with no grandchildren running, tossing balls, hiding behind curtains, dashing out to feed the goats, I’m thinking of Mama Graham. I’m missing her already, missing that call she’d usually make to find out when our children got on the road. And I’m wondering what she’d do on a day like this when all the hoopla is over and there’s nothing left but the cleanup. We need to start this new chapter, a chapter without her, but just how do we do that? Well, of course, she’d tell me quickly what to do. Just do the next thing. Get busy and keep on going.


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