A Dozen For You

I’m at a loss for words tonight. We are in the midst of some things that are critical and time sensitive. But I don’t want to miss a post in this challenge. So…

I’ve decided to share my second hobby after writing—photography. My husband bought me a Nikon 3500 for my birthday a couple of years ago and I have fallen in love with capturing moments through my eyes.

So today I’ll share a dozen of my favorite photos. Enjoy…

This is post #10 in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

The Benefit of Doubt

My title is a play on a familiar cliche’ when you choose to think the best of someone–you give them the “benefit of the doubt”. However, that is not what this post is about. It came as a question in yesterday’s post by a reader/blogger I’ve met through my current UBC group. She asked the following…

“What made you doubt for so long your ability to write your grandmother’s story?” She added, “I’m sure you had what it takes in 2000.”

She is nice to make such an assumption, but looking back I can see how much I changed over those 12 years. My Dad passed away in 2004 (the first death of someone close to me since my grandmother died 25 years before him!) My two oldest children got married. We were blessed with 5 grandchildren in that time. Our daughter moved away with her husband and two of our precious grand kiddos (also the first in our family, which nearly killed me).

I have taken all the personality tests and they all come to the same conclusion–I feel things 100%. If you are hurting I’m going to put myself in your place and hurt with you. When my grand babies would FaceTime me crying because they wanted to come to Nana’s house, it ripped my heart out because they no longer lived minutes from us! I didn’t like the changes and the emotions were too raw for me to even think about writing.

I was discouraged. I felt like I didn’t have it in me to finish what I had started. I doubted. But what I didn’t realize was God was still at work finishing His promise to me that I would write my grandmother’s story.

Every heartache. Every delay. Every sad goodbye was teaching me things my grandmother experienced in her lifetime.

  • Her uncle had made an arrangement with her father that if he was able to stake two claims in the Indian Territory Land Rush of 1893, he would give her parents one of the claims.
  • Her uncle was successful, so she left her grandparents in Kansas when she was only 4 years old to move to what would soon become Oklahoma.
  • She experienced losses, disappointments and tragedy.

Once I realized how much I was learning about her by feeling her pain, I became better at documenting her story. I realized that God was intentionally delaying my progress to make me a better story teller.

Then, God had our friend’s fiancé move in with us not knowing how she would be a crucial piece of my writing puzzle. If she hadn’t come along I don’t think I would have finished in time. And I hate getting to the end of a big puzzle and realizing the last piece is missing. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Doubt has many benefits. Even when I lose all hope, God promises to complete the work He’s begun in me. That included helping me fulfill my life-long dream of writing, Through The Eyes Of Grace.

In what ways has a delay in your story or your goals helped you in the long run?

This is my 9th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to write everyday in November.

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

10 Years

My Beautiful Mom

Our prompt was to look back ten years to see where we were and write about it. In 2011 I was only a year away from publishing my first book. My goal had always been to finish it before my Mom died. When I started in 2000 she was 78. Time was on my side, at least I didn’t let myself think otherwise.

As the years passed, my confidence was shaken, i.g. who am I to think I can write a book? I went years without any progress. I was discouraged.

My prayer was often, “God, please don’t let my Mom die before I finish.” She had helped me with all the research, and it was her idea for me to do this. I couldn’t let her down, or that would be one.more.regret!

In 2011 I had finished my manuscript. It was in need of the hard edit that to be honest is very difficult. You have to let go of some of your favorite parts because you realize it isn’t necessary to the over all story arc. I did what I could, but I needed help.

A few years prior we had invited a young fiancé of a friend to live with us until their wedding day. We didn’t know each other, but God had this planned all along. She was an editor. I had even helped her find a job at a local publisher’s office. It was her job to polish books with the final edit to make them ready to go to print.

When she discovered my need she offered to do the hard edit for me. I couldn’t believe it! She said it was the least she could do since we had done so much for her.

I gave her my manuscript in January of 2012. It took her five months to finish, but once she did it was ready to publish. I didn’t have time to pursue traditional publishing because my Mom had just turned 90. Time no longer felt on my side.

My husband was willing to pay the money necessary to use a vanity press publishing company. This is where you keep all creative rights to your work. They help you design the cover (which I loved), and then you pay a large fee to have it printed. Our first print bought us 250 copies.

In September of 2012, my book was published. When I held that first copy in my hand, I knew what I had to do. I wrote inside, “We did it, Mom. I love you”, and gave her the first printed copy.

It was a moment I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. My Mom died three months later after a short illness. Before she died she wrote inside my book’s cover, “I love you, Mom” and gave the first copy back to me.

I was filled with gratefulness to God for making sure I didn’t have regrets in this regard. My Mom loved my book, and I loved her for all she did to help me.

In my next post I’ll share about what I see looking forward 10 years.

This is my 8th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Savor

Savor every hour of every day. And no day makes this more obvious or easier than the first Sunday of standard daylight time.

In case you missed it, you gained an extra hour of sleep last night. Maybe you showed up to work or church an hour earlier and realized your mistake. It’s better to be early than late, my husband reminds me, and today it’s easy being early.

Savoring means to fully enjoy something, usually food. But today I want to focus on savoring Sunday. This has always been a special day in our family.

  • We go to our church’s service where we have gone since this church began in 1985. Our closest friends are there, and we celebrate the life we have because of Christ. Worship songs help us savor the time together, and hearing from God’s Word gives us fresh perspective for all the other days of the week.
  • Sunday meals were always a home-cooked tradition growing up. My mom would put a roast in the oven before we left for church, and then cook the sides of mashed potatoes with gravy, glazed carrots and hot buttered rolls when we got home.
  • When our kids were young we would sometimes meet my parents out for Sunday dinner, but more often we would come home. We didn’t have the budget for a roast dinner at home or dining out. But we had something else to look forward to…
  • Sunday afternoon naps. Need I say more?

Whether you remembered today began with an extra hour or not, make plans to enjoy your Sunday in a special way. It is a gift to be savored.

This is post seven in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in November

Stumble

Our prompt was to share a time when we stumbled in our lives.

Goodness, this is a hard one to share, but I’ve learned the purpose of stumbling is to help us grow. When shared, it helps others learn from our mistakes. So here goes…

I was 19 and newly married. I had moved from the only home I had ever known to a town I had only visited a few times during my short, five month engagement to Tom Walter.

My grandmother had lived with us for a while before Tom and I got married. She had prayed for my future husband for years. When she met Tom, she loved him and expressed it with food. She made him her chili when she learned how much he loved spicy food.

On one of my trips to Bradenton, I carried a mason jar full of Big Mama’s chili. It was love for him in a jar and it worked. Tom loved her as much as he loved her chili. This recipe still holds a special place in our story. (You can find her recipe under the From My Kitchen tab above).

Just a few months after our wedding, we visited my family only to discover my grandmother was sick. At 90 years old, she was unable to get out of bed. We were home for the weekend but I never went in to see her. I couldn’t bear seeing her frail, so I avoided her. I had no idea this would be my last chance to see her alive.

Just a couple of months later, she died.

I can’t express the regret I felt. I remembered many times as a teen trying to comfort her in her old age. She loved me, her youngest granddaughter, of this I am certain. But I stumbled with the emotion of letting her go. I thought if I ignored it I would get another chance, but I was wrong. So very wrong!

This regret is what fueled my passion to discover and write her story. I have found stumbling happens for a reason; it’s the platform that launches us to a place we would never get to had we not stumbled in the first place.

It’s easy to stand here today in my 60’s and judge my 19 year old response to death and dying, but that’s not fair. I did as much as I was emotionally able to do at the time, and it was for a purpose.

God takes our broken pieces and makes them into something special to be treasured—like a stained glass window. Today I’m holding up my broken pieces for you to see. God made something beautiful in spite of my mistakes.

How have you seen your mistakes made into something beautiful?

This is Day 6 of The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Unexpected

I was hosting a Ladies Retreat at our cabin in NC. The ladies were all due to arrive in time for dinner, and it was my job (as well as two friends who came along to help) to have dinner ready for them when they walked in the door. One said she had a new recipe she wanted to make for the meal.

One by one the ladies arrived excited to finally begin our week together. The kitchen was emitting all the inviting smells of a home-cooked meal. This welcomes in a way nothing else can. The menu consisted of ham, new potatoes with fresh snapped green beans cooked with onions and bacon, glazed carrots and this extra dish I was eager to try. Have I stirred your appetite yet?

It happened to be Mother’s Day too? My Mom had only been gone a few years, so this day was still quite tender. I missed her then and still do today. One rarely gets over losing their Mom, and I was no exception.

When we all sat down at the table my friend described her featured side dish. As she did I couldn’t believe what I was hearing as the tears welled up in my eyes. The dish she made was the exact same side dish my Mom used to serve at our Pharmacy soda fountain when I was young. She called it Scalloped Pineapple, i.g. pineapple bread pudding. I had the recipe at home and hadn’t made it in years. So to have my friend think to make this same dish on Mother’s Day as a surprise for all of us, ended up being a blessing from God for me she could have never planned.

But God.

He knows how to bless in unexpected ways. And when He does it leaves me breathless.

Below is the recipe. Maybe you can use it to bless another the way my friend unknowingly blessed me.

Bon Appetite!

Scalloped Pineapple

This is my fifth post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Unsplash

Fall In Florida Favorites

Photo by Shaine Tsou on Unsplash

I was born and raised in Central Florida. My dad was a pharmacist back when this profession garnered great respect in the local community. It was no different for our family. He was lovingly referred to as “Doc” due to the fact that he was always willing to give health advice to his customers anytime of day or night. He used his knowledge for the good of all who knew him with patience and kindness.

My maternal grandparents wanted my dad to succeed, so they purchased two lots in an up and coming community to the west of Orlando called Pine Hills. It was a “bedroom town” for the newly built, Martin Marietta plant.

“Martin Marietta began Orlando operations on Dec. 4, 1957, with 2,700 workers on about $200 million in orders for missiles and antiaircraft guidance systems for the Marines, Air Force, Army and Navy.”

Source: Washington Post

My Dad’s store, Silver Star Pharmacy, opened in 1960 to serve the many families moving to the area. It would become a hub of the community, it even had a soda fountain for friends to gather for the blue plate lunch special. I can still hear the sizzle of hand-pressed burgers on the grill.

The road in front of the store was a two-lane dirt road called Silver Star Road, and it was located at the intersection of Pine Hills Road. This was the main intersection in Pine Hills; A perfect place for a budding business to have the best shot at success.

Grand-opening day arrived. My parents hired a horse-drawn carriage to draw families to the celebration with their children. Free rides were given to the eager kids, and a tree was given to the first 100 potential customers. A great gift to a brand-new community.

These trees are the focus of my Fall in Florida favorites. Golden Rain Trees provide the only Fall colors in our state during the months of September through November. We get Fall colors, but not usually until January. A sad fact for me, since Fall is my absolute favorite time of year.

These trees are the kind that propagate so it’s no surprise that the 100 trees planted in 1960 have become hundreds, if not thousands of trees in Central Florida.

This is one just around the corner from our home

Quick Fact: I didn’t see Fall happen until 2012 when my husband took me away for the month of October just so I could experience it for myself.

My Mom and Dad are gone now. But their legacy remains. Not the pharmacy–it closed in the 1990’s due to the change in medical care–that’s another story. What remains are these beautiful trees that put on a display of bright yellow first, then turn to a rust red. Our Florida trees of Fall color bring me joy each and every year. And I always whisper a prayer of thanks for my parents who made it happen.

This is the 4th post in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Story

This blog was born in 2012 when my first novel was about to be published.

I had carried this dream in my heart since my grandmother died in 1979. I wanted to capture her story in a way that our family would get to know her as a person, not just an old lady we loved and adored. I had no idea how this journey would evolve in the years to come. My first post titled, Officially Yours brings you into the purpose of this blog.

My grandmother’s name was Grace–and my book is titled, Through The Eyes Of Grace. I wrote it as if she were telling me her story. I guess I was pretty convincing because I actually had a cousin mad at me because our grandmother gave me her journals. I told her that this part of the story wasn’t true; thus the fiction part of my historical fiction. There were no journals from which to discover her story–how I wish there were. This is why I’ve been keeping my own journals since 1989. I don’t expect anyone to write my story, but I do hope they will learn from my life and the challenges through which I’ve had to walk.

117 posts and 9 years later this blog has become a compilation of my thoughts about family, faith, food, history and asking good questions. It feels somewhat of a new beginning doing the Ultimate Blog Challenge with this blog. It’s like putting myself out there for you to get to know me.

We all have a story, but most of what we learn in life is lost with our last breath.

Today, I’m looking forward and inviting you to join me these next few weeks as I share with you life through my eyes.

This is Day Three in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Surrender

Surrender is normally considered a form of weakness. You realize you aren’t going to win, so you decide to surrender before you lose. This happens in Poker, board games or on a more serious note–war.

Surrender is not usually something encouraged. But when it comes to my relationship with God, surrender is not only encouraged, but necessary for me to grow. This is why Christianity is often called the Upside-Down Kingdom. Things aren’t done as we would naturally do them. It takes a lifetime to learn this well.

I love to sing, and hymns are some of my all-time favorites. There are so many ways these hymns speak to my every day needs. Take this familiar hymn titled, I Surrender All. It was written by J.W. Van deVenter (1855-1939). He was a high school art teacher, but when God started stirring his heart to step out in faith into the ministry, he hesitated. Finally, during a revival at his church he surrendered all and became an evangelist.

His greatest influence from the pulpit was a young Billy Graham. They met while Billy was still in seminary. Mr. Graham recounts that he modeled much of his ministry and preaching style after this former art teacher turned evangelist. We make our plans, but the Lord directs our steps. Following is one of Mr. DeVenter’s most popular songs written shortly after he surrendered all with my personal thoughts on each phrase.

All to Jesus

All life is born from our Creator God. Life was His idea and He has faithfully cared for it since the beginning of time. His Son Jesus invites us in to relationship with Him and at age 10 I accepted the call. Grateful doesn’t begin to express how this one decision set my life on a trajectory of goodness and mercy. As I grew in my relationship with Him I realized what was next…

I surrender

There comes a time in every believer’s life when complete surrender is required. It isn’t a one time fits all kind of surrender. It is a regularly occurring choice to surrender completely my hopes, my dreams, my desires to His plan for me. Sometimes the two are the same, but more times than not, it’s completely unexpected and different from what I would have chosen. Always it is good–whether I see it or not. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Once I’m postured in this way, then…

All to Him I freely give

The key word here is freely–“freely have you received, freely give” as Matthew wrote in chapter 5:8b of his gospel. Jesus never demands what He asks of us. He is patient and understands what we are made of. He knows that our grip on this life is firm. We love what we can see. Loving what we don’t see requires something outside of ourselves; it requires Faith. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11. Faith is a gift available to all. If you want faith, but lack faith, ask Jesus to help you in your unbelief. He loves us to ask. And only then can we say…

I will ever love and trust Him

This is my daily prayer–to love Him and trust Him more. He is my hope and help on good days and difficult ones too. Our family has endured some very difficult times the last couple of years. I have learned what it means to truly trust Him. I used to say I did, but when life is going as expected it’s hard to tell if one is trusting God or simply resting in the good of life. But when 2019 hit, I was challenged in a way I’ve never experienced. I realized my trust was weak at best. Add to that another challenge with the pandemic, then a grandson born at 24 weeks, 5 days, and my healthy brother dying in only 5 weeks due to complications with Covid. I found that trusting in God was the only safe place where I could collapse. Everything around me was changing drastically; things I had no control over. Yet God reminded me that He is unchanging–always good, always trustworthy. Which allowed me to…

In His presence daily live

I wake up each morning not knowing what the day will bring. I can take that first step in fear or in faith. It’s a choice to love and trust Him. He alone knows what lies ahead of me, and is the One who makes all the difference in how I handle what will happen. Even this blog challenge is a stretch for me in this difficult season of my life, but I had to follow God’s stirring. He wanted me to do this, so I will trust Him.

I surrender all.

This is Day Two in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Photo by Fa Barboza on Unsplash

Beginning

I love the start of things. There is always much anticipation with common questions–Can I do this? Am I ready? Have I considered the cost? Am I prepared for the unexpected? Will I complete what I’ve begun?

My rose-colored glasses are in place and I’m ready to take on this challenge, The Ultimate Blog Challenge for November.

I know I can do it, I’ve done these before and loved it. Thank you, Paul! I think I’m ready, I have all the tools needed to write, edit and publish. The cost to me personally will be honestly facing my time limits and using them wisely. The unexpected is hard to prepare for, but that’s why the challenge is so good; I’ll be writing alongside of others taking the same challenge; We will become friends as we write together for 30 days straight.

Ah! But it’s that last question that haunts me–Will I complete what I’ve begun?

I am good at beginning something (e.g. the start of a project, reading a book, being organized), but it is the finish line that often eludes me. Or I elude it. In either case I tend not to get there.

This morning our community hosted its first 5K Spooktacular Run. It was fun to be up before dawn welcoming the participants to the challenge. Some were obviously used to the drill. They were stretching, warming up, had their number pinned to their clothes and were ready when the start signal was sounded to GO. Others came dressed in costume (e.g. a pirate, Batman, a wolf, and believe it or not–a magical unicorn), and it was clear they had no intention of timing themselves. They wanted to have fun, and they succeeded from the start. The most notable to me? They all finished!

I came home having enjoyed this so much, not thinking of how appropriate it is to my own 5K Blogging Spooktacular. But the similarities are there. I’m stretching my creativity by showing up to the start line. I’m warming up my fingers on the keyboard allowing them to type as I think. I have no idea what number I am in the line-up, but I do know others will show up too.

My blogs will post at 6a. each day. If you’d like to see my progress and cheer me on from the sidelines, add your email address and follow along. I could use the encouragement.

Which brings me to my part of the 5K run this morning. My husband and I set up chairs along the route to cheer each runner, walker or partier (i.g. those in costume), as they passed by. Being a former cheerleader, my voice carried to each and every one. Their smiles indicated their need for the encouragement to keep going.

“You can do it!”…

“You’re over halfway to the finish line!”…

“You’ve got this!”…

A 5K consists of many steps, each one taking their turn being next. The key to finishing is to not stop. It’s that simple!

So as I conclude this first of 30 posts, I’m donning my rose-colored glasses with confidence. And I hear the crowds shout, “You’re one step closer to the finish line. You can do this!”

This is my first post in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.