Waves

I was born and raised in Florida. In fact, I’ve lived here my entire life–all 62 years. It’s needless to say I love it here, heat and all!

As a child to get a break from the heat, we would go to the beach and play in the surf. When I was really small my Dad would take me by the hand to protect me from the big waves. As I grew body surfing became my favorite, even though the waves would always invariably knock me down. I would emerge from the salt bath ready to take on the next mountain of water. Laughter, waves of laughter to match the swells of the sea kept me coming back for more.

When our children were born. I taught each of them how to wave to their grandparents, whether saying hello or goodbye it didn’t matter. A wave was a connection between generations that our little ones could communicate in their own way bringing joy and laughter to all of us. These precious children were part of our growing family that caused waves of pride in our heart for them.

Once our children grew up and got married they began moving away to find their own path. With them they took our 9 grandchildren. This caused waves of sadness in my heart realizing that we wouldn’t share our day to day lives together anymore. The distance would create a void in my heart that was hard to explain, even to my husband and close friends. I was heartbroken over these unforeseen changes in my life. I cried out to God asking Him to heal my sadness, and over time He did. He caused a wave of gratefulness to flood my broken heart sealing it with His love. As each of my grandchildren would wave goodbye, I turned it into a game–the Disney Princess wave that says, “Elbow to wrist, elbow to wrist. Touch your pearls. Blow a kiss.” Waves of giggles and laughter would fight away my tears.

In the last two years our family has faced waves of grief; Grief over tragic illnesses even the medical community didn’t recognize; waves of grief over our daughter and son-in-love’s micro-preemie boy and the challenges they would face for years to come. The unknown future felt like I was little all over again facing a giant wave ready to knock me down. But this time my Heavenly Father held me tightly as I served our daughter with all I had. We learned to laugh in the face of adversity together knowing God had Elias safely in His arms. No wave was a match for His steady hand.

Finally, I’m once again dealing with waves of fresh grief.

This time it’s from my brother’s sudden passing from this life to the next. I miss him and when it hits I feel the crushing blow of it as it knocks me to my knees. I let the wave of tears flow knowing that like the tide they will roll in and roll out. No wave lasts forever and my own history teaches me that.

I’ve also come to expect laughter through the tears. I hear my brother’s voice mocking me, teasing me and joking with me always with a twinkle in his eyes. He had a way of breaking through my emotions whether it was sadness or anger, making me laugh whether I wanted to or not.

Billy, who was five years older, loved the beach as much as I did as a kid. He taught me how to body surf and not be afraid of the next wave no matter how big it appeared to me. He showed me how to dive into it allowing the wave to roll over me without effect. It worked! Laughter followed as I found a new way to face my fears with success.

I hear him now telling me to duck. These waves of grief are evidence that I loved him and the time we had together for all of my 62 years. Laughter will follow the sadness in waves too, until the Lord returns or I am called home. But for now I wipe my tears with gratefulness to God and repeat, “Elbow to wrist, elbow to wrist. Touch your pearls. Blow a kiss.”

Photo by Natalya Zaritskaya on Unsplash

Warms You Body and Soul

I first fell in love with it on my first trip out of the country. I was 18 and was invited to fly to England for a 3 week’s holiday including a week on a barge touring the British canals. The family was an acquaintance my brother had made on his recent backpacking tour of Europe. I was excitedly afraid. But up, up and away I went.

Caroline met me with her Dad at the Heathrow airport. From there it was a two hour drive to their humble home in Ashford, Kent.

Caroline was a year or so older and had her own flat. She worked at the local Fish and Chips restaurant, served in the traditional way with newspaper wrappings and malt vinegar. Arthur Treacher has nothing on this authentic culinary goodness.

But this isn’t what I fell in love with on this trip.

Her Mum had us over for tea. An afternoon tradition perfect for a country that rarely sees the sun shine.

Hot tea did the trick! It warmed me, body and soul!

The tea was served strong with cream, and I promise I’ve not tasted it nearly as good as it was for me on this trip.

I even asked Caroline years later what was her Mum’s secret. She couldn’t answer because her tea was lacking something too.

We suffice it to say it was her love for us and for sharing something from her kitchen which made her tea so amazing.

I shared with them our family’s banana bread recipe. They had never heard of it and were as impressed with it as I was their tea. Maybe it goes both ways; Each of us sharing a piece of our family’s heritage through food with lots of love.

As an aside, I’ve discovered a black tea that comes as close to what I remember as I can find to Caroline’s Mum’s tea. It’s PG Tips served with half and half. Let it steep for 5 minutes, and it will warm you body and soul.

It’s amazing that their family heritage has become mine. All my kids and grandkids love a good cup of hot tea.

What recipes have become part of your heritage? My banana bread recipe can be found under the recipes tab above.

Bon Appetit!

This Is Just A Test

I had just hung up my mobile phone letting Tom know I was on my way home. I put my phone down as the radio took over when my Bluetooth disconnected.

My phone rang again, but I didn’t recognize the number. I am so glad I answered.

Apparently when I set my phone down I accidentally pushed the emergency sos button. It was the 911 call center calling me to make sure I was ok. I was shocked at what happened and assured him I was fine. He asked my name and confirmed where I was on the road. He seemed ready to rush to my aid. I was a bit embarrassed.

I had no idea iPhone offered this. As I was hanging up the phone, Tom called, but I missed him before he hung up.

He had received the same emergency sos call from my phone with my location. It said, “Debra Walter called her emergency sos from this location.” He was about to dart out the door when I called him back.

He was shaken up thinking I had been in a bad accident, since I didn’t answer him when he called.

I share all this to let you know how this service works. I had no idea! I’m relieved to know it’s so efficient. I felt horrible that I caused my husband such distress, even if it was only a few minutes.

This was only a test of our emergency sos system.

Take away? 1. Don’t take any moment for granted; life is precious. 2. Our iPhone emergency contacts work well! 3. Be sure your phone screen is off before setting your phone down. You never know who you’ll call next!

Clouds

In high school I was in the Advanced Chorus and Jazz Ensemble. I loved everything about it. Our teacher, Mr. Knepper, was not only an excellent teacher, but he was a prolific composer.

In my junior year he wrote a medley of tunes from each decade from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. It was a 30-40 minute production complete with choreography and matching outfits. It was not only fun, but our audiences loved it too.

We also participated each year in district and state competition. Our ensemble consistently won superior awards which built our confidence. Which lead us to enter solo competition too, including yours truly.

I’ll never forget my song of choice, Joni Mitchell’s, Both Sides Now.

I remember Mr. K telling me so many times, “Sing it like you mean it!” I hadn’t a clue what the song meant; I was only 16 and hadn’t lived enough life to see it all as an illusion.

But today as I cooled off in our pool from pulling weeds, I noticed the clouds.

“Rows and flows of angel hair, and ice cream castles in the air.”

I thought of my grandmother and how when I was a child, she would always encourage my imagination by spotting animals in the sky. I loved the game and I loved her attention.

Today, as an aging adult, I see that clouds are so much more than a tool to spawn the imagination of a child.

“But now they only block the sun. They rain and snow on everyone. So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way.”

This is one way to look at clouds.

But I see them more as tools to display God’s glory. Some days the clouds are so beautiful I take photos trying to catch the view. I call these “fair weather clouds”

Other times, when a tropical storm or hurricane is nearby, I love watching the clouds race across the darkened sky. And it’s even better when lightning occurs. It’s like watching a symphony take place with a timpani of thunder following the conductor’s lead.

Clouds. They can be peaceful or powerful. Happy or sad.

I’ll never forget seeing the cloud that hung in the air like a memorial over our Central Florida skies when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after takeoff.

Or the beautiful skies on the day the Lord called my brother home to be with him. He loves the song “I’ll Fly Away”, and I marveled at how God filled the sky that day with such glorious fair-weather clouds.

Clouds are beautiful. Joni Mitchell surmised that they were an illusion. She came to this conclusion because they can’t be touched or moved by human hands.

But God! He forms the clouds and has them go and do His bidding. They reflect His character.

Today, He is reminding me He is near even if I’ve yet to touch Him. It’s enough that He has touched my heart bringing faith alive.

Clouds aren’t an illusion, they’re a reflection of who God is. And one glorious day He will return on the same clouds that took Him to Heaven.

“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Even so come, Lord Jesus!

An Ovid to Covid


You appeared in 2020 March,
On a crisp spring day
Bringing cancellations and reservations
Of life’s normal work and play

We got used to the drill
Mask on or mask off?
Are any vaccines safe?
Which ones are? And which ones are not?

Then came the new variant
Delta was her name
She hit the world harder and swifter
Spreading the germ of fear once again

For some this all seemed unreal
Knowing no one who had succumbed
We were them, until we were not;
My brother once healthy and retired Now sadly gone.

We got the vaccine in the midst of our grief
Hoping to prevent more heartache
In our family, at least.

A vacation was scheduled
and timely it was
We needed to process what had happened
and humbly seek God

The lakefront cottage was perfect
With no TV or WiFi
We had lots of time to explore
All the small towns nearby

We went to the market
And were surprised to find
A horse and carriage parked by our car
We discovered the Amish live nearby

They came from Pennsylvania in the 80’s, we were told
The town is called Romulus
Where the soil is as rich as gold

We fished on the lake
And hiked a trail one morning
We cooked favorites and took walks
And visited a museum in Corning

But the one thing that happened
That calmed all my fears
When God painted a reminder
We watched it slowly appear

A rainbow so bright,
It was impossible to miss
God was saying “I’m faithful
To my promises—even in this!”


Our time at the cottage was
Ironic for Tom and me.
For the small town where it is located
Is named Ovid, you see.

Ovid and Covid—two parts of this ode
The one caused much grief,
Such misery and sorrow
While the other brought peace

How can the two be so alike yet so different?
Maybe it’s like people in general;
We are human and fragile,
Yet resilient and pliable

My Ovid to Covid
Puts my heart on the page.
It’s filled with comfort and peace,
Without a trace of rage

How is this possible
To be free of rage and fear?
By God’s grace that’s available to all who draw near.



A Conscience Cracked

Photo from qz.com

The year was 1968. I was 9 and loved my new obsession. They were the hot new gadget that every kid collected. They came in every color imaginable and they were addicting like the finger widgets of today.

Clackers, for those too young to know, were clear, marble-type balls made of tempered glass, they hung one on each end of a string with a loop in the middle. The idea was to clack them together up and down over and over to see how long you could continue without the balls clacking your wrists.

As Forest Gump would say, “Stupid is as stupid does.” I was stupid and had the bruises to prove it. I was trying a new trick—throwing them up in the air and trying to catch them.

My parents had just purchased a brand-new Pontiac. It was parked in our driveway; a trophy my parents’ hard work had earned. It was shiny and new like my clackers, only the glass on its windshield wasn’t shatterproof.

My dad came home for his dinner break from the store and was obviously upset. He told my Mom about a huge crack in the windshield of their beautiful trophy. He suggested to my Mom that a rock must have shattered it from the road.

I had a hard time finishing my dinner. My conscience was cracked.

“A guilty conscience needs no accuser.”

English Proverb

The Games People Play

Games. What comes to mind when you hear this word? The English language provides many different meanings to this familiar word. Whatever your current situation or focus is will determine which definition you think of first. Games can be played together at a table; they can be practical jokes played on someone not in on the game; they can be negative too, if someone you know is playing you in an immature or mean way.

I’m reminiscing a lot these days. Losing someone you love will do that to you. Since my brother passed away last month our family has been on a roller coaster of memories–all good–but each one has a sting to it since there will be no more new memories made. What was, is what is.

Growing up in the 60’s we played lots of games: swimming pool games, outdoor games, indoor games (if it was too hot or raining) and practical joke games. The latter was my brother’s favorite, by far!

As kids we rode our bikes all over Pine Hills. Our parents had no idea where we were and only required we come home before the streetlights came on. We spent lots of time in the nearby woods exploring, building, making up various versions of hide and seek. One of our favorites was, There’s No Ghosts In The Graveyard, and had to be played after dark.

My brother’s favorite hobby was to scare me, and he excelled at it!

The way the game was played was to pick one person to be the ghost. You hid somewhere while all the others counted to 10. Then the whole group would start walking around chanting, “there’s no ghosts in the graveyard” over and over until we got close to where the ghost was hiding. The ghost would jump out and yell, “Yes there is!” and everyone would scream and run to home base as fast as our legs would carry us. If the ghost tagged you before you got home, you were the ghost. Being afraid of the dark, I never wanted to be the ghost. Hiding alone waiting for the group to get close was scary to say the least.

Which leads to why I was afraid of the dark in the first place.

Once again my brother took it on himself to help me overcome my fear by making me face it–over and over again! One way he did this was to hide either in my closet or under my bed at night. He would patiently wait for me to crawl in bed and turn the lights off before he’d jump and scream like a banshee. This would always be followed with howls of laughter (his) and uncontrollable tears (mine). One would think I would get used to it, but I never did.

Fast forward to 1975 when the movie Jaws hit the big screen. My brother was being extra nice and asked if I wanted to go see it with him and his good friend. I should have been suspicious at that point, but I was also very gullible. Another trait of mine he loved to hone in on.

Unbeknownst to me Billy and his friend had already seen Jaws. We got to the theater and they had me sit in the middle. I was enjoying their attention and had no clue, until it happened. When Jaws appeared for the first time, my brother and his friend knew it was coming. They both in stereo screamed and grabbed my arms. I was terrified. And they were entertained, more by me than the movie.

Games. There are so many more we played as kids–rotton orange fights in our grandparents’ groves, hopscotch, splash (our own version of Marco Polo), and Horse-played around our basketball goal in our driveway.

When my brother and sister started driving the games elevated to the streets–Chinese Fire Drill was played often and with tons of laughter. I haven’t thought of this game in years and I’m wondering why the name? Here’s what I’ve learned…

The term goes back to the early 1900s, and is alleged to have originated when a ship run by British officers and a Chinese crew practiced a fire drill for a fire in the engine room. The bucket brigade were to draw water from the starboard side, pass it to the engine room, and pour it onto the ‘fire’.

source: Wikipedia

Who knew we were acting out a moment in history? We just were having fun.

Life is like that. You think you’re just having fun, but at some point you realize we were making history–our own family’s history. This means more to me now than ever.

What games did your family play as you were growing up?

My Brother, My Friend

My brother died on a Monday. It was unexpected. He was supposed to get better, but he didn’t. We were left reeling from this new reality and aware that we had to plan his Celebration of Life service. It would be small–immediate family only. But good friends made it possible for us to offer a Live Facebook of the service as well as a You Tube video available now at the bottom of this post.

Following is what I shared. I have much more to say about this experience and what God is showing me through the sadness, but not yet.

Bill Gray – 1954-2021

I want to thank all of you who are joining with us on-line how much your prayers and encouragements have meant to our family these last 5 weeks. It has been one of the hardest seasons we’ve faced and you have helped carry our burden. Words seem inadequate, but it is all we have to give. Thank you.

I am Debi Walter, Billy’s little sister, and Bettie is Billy’s older sister. I am sharing today on behalf of both of us what my brother means to us. Bettie was born in 1953, Billy in 1954 and I was born in 1959. My Dad was a pharmacist with his own store and soda fountain. It was a great time to grow up. 

Billy took great delight in teasing both of us as often as he could. But I still believe I got the brunt of most of his attention. He made up all kinds of games with the excuse of being able to tease us. Like “Flinch”. If he acted like he was going to hit you and you flinched, then you had to let him hit you. Being 5 years younger I usually let him and had the bruises to show for it. I’ve heard he was a lot like my grandfather. They both loved to fish and loved to tease those they loved—unmercifully.

Billy and his good friend invented the group hug. But it wasn’t a pleasant experience when it first began. If you were caught in the middle between the two of them it always hurt. But they laughed and I learned to laugh too. Now the group hug has become a tradition in our family whenever we are saying goodbye. No one ever knows who will end up in the middle, but the younger ones fight to be caught in the center of it all. Lots of love goes into those hugs. Like holding on tight because we don’t want to let go.

Another game was a take on the pool game Marco Polo. But instead of calling out “Marco” with your eyes closed, you called out “splash”. Wherever you were in the pool you had to splash. The idea was to tag someone making them “it”. I always managed to be “it” because I wasn’t fast enough to tag anyone, especially my brother or his friends. One time I remember being caught between two of them while they both splashed me. My brother accidentally splashed my ear and caused my ear drum to rupture. He felt bad and I felt worse because I wasn’t able to swim for the rest of the summer. I was often the casualty of his games.

It’s strange how stories from when you were young that used to cause heartache, become the very things you’re grateful for as adults. 

My brother loved me and my sister very much. But I didn’t realize this until we were adults. Being the baby of the family I know I was bratty. I most likely asked for much of the undesired attention he gave me. 

On family vacations I would always end up in the middle of Bettie and Billy in the backseat. Invariably, Billy would say, “Hey Bettie, want a fight between you and me?” And they would both start slapping me. I would cry. My Dad would yell for us to stop. And Billy would grin in my face, bragging that he got me.

Yeah, that’s what we did on road trips before iPhones, screens and DVD players were available in cars. We played games, sang songs and ate candy my Mom packed from my Dad’s candy counter at the pharmacy.

When Billy went away to The University of Florida (Go Gators!) My sister was already married to Dennis, so I was home alone. I missed him so much. And I think he missed me too. He sent me a card once that he had drawn of our toothbrushes side by side. His had racing stripes on it and He said he couldn’t wait to have tooth brushing races again. It sounds silly, but as a 15 year old this card meant so much to me. It was true the adage that says, “distance makes the heart grow fonder”. It certainly did for us.

He graduated from U of F the same year Bettie graduated from nursing school at Valencia, the same year I graduated from high school. Major events for all of us that prepared us for our life ahead.

Our family attended Powers Drive Baptist Church. This is where we made many lifelong friends. Many of whom are watching today. It was at this church where we each were saved, baptized, and married. We grew up realizing the power, love and support there is in being in a community of believers who love Jesus. We are so grateful for the impact this church and its members had on our lives.

In 1978 Billy found the love of his life, a cute blond named Sherry Newmons. He brought her home to our house for Sunday afternoon dinner. We could tell this was the one he had waited for and we fell in love with Sherry too. At this same time Tom and I began dating and got engaged too. Once again we were doing a major lifetime event together. In 1979 we got married only 5 weeks apart. My poor parents! They never complained about how difficult having two weddings so close together would be. But it was fun sharing this season of life together.

All three of us had our children at the same time, which was fun watching cousins become friends.

That’s our history. When my Dad died in 2004, my brother took on the role of caring for us in the ways my dad had—providing medical advice and help whenever it was needed. He helped us through some very frightening times, most recently with two of our grandchildren. I’m so grateful for the way he loved us, cared for us and was there for us.

My sister and her family are here today and I know if she were able she would also talk about their adventures. Bettie and Billy had a special bond. They were only 14 months apart so they did everything together. Just recently Bettie and Dennis and Billy and Sherry went on vacation to see the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. Tom and I were unable to go, but I am so glad they had this time together. The photos and memories they made are precious today.

I don’t know what the future will look like without Billy here to make us laugh, give the best hugs, share funny stories, offer support or to help us in our times of need. But I do know that Billy would tell us all—what really matters is this – make sure we know and love Jesus by living our lives for Him and his glory.

Billy is seeing his Savior face to face and I believe if he could he would say, “Whatever you do make sure you are ready when it’s your turn to enter eternity. Live for Christ! You never know when your days on earth will be over. Make every moment count!”

I’m Being Robbed

As a writer I have noticed something that concerns me. It is the affect social media is having on my limited, daily amount of creativity. All the interactions with others–their thoughts, their photos, their humorous GIFS, etc…are robbing me of my ability to write well and often.

So what do I do?

The answer is obvious, but it goes against the flow of our culture. To not be engaged on social media feels like I’m on a deserted island while everyone I know is across on another island having a party. I have never liked to miss the fun, and this is proving that to be true.

But I still have writing goals and desires.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. If social media is taking a toll on my worthwhile goals then I must rein in my freedom in this area.

I thought being home so much would have increased my writing. But I was wrong. The only thing it increased was time playing my favorite games (Words with Friends and Design Home). I know this because I have a screen time monitor that lets me know how much time I’ve spent each week on my screens.

It all comes down to discipline and making wise choices. I also need to set goals and limits on time wasted. We all need down time. But when down times begins to rob productive time, it’s time to make needed changes. This will benefit me and hopefully those who will read what I write.

My Smart Phone has a feature under screen time that allows me to limit the amount of time I use certain apps each day. I am going to start something I’ve never done before. Hold my screen time accountable.

How is screen time robbing you of creative energy?

“Take imagination breaks…Relaxed attention is one of the most important states of mind for creativity, and sometimes it has to be learned.” – Nita Leland

Total Eclipse of my Heart

Eclipse

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

It has been over a year since I’ve written a post. I’m sorry. 2019 was a difficult year in many ways. The first half of the year was hard, but the second half of the year was 100 times worse. I wasn’t sure if we would make it through without devastating losses in our family.

But God! He was my comforter, my sustainer, my guide and my hope. 

I was excited to begin a new year. 2020 seemed to start with bright prospects full of focus.  We began by cleaning out closets, drawers and our entire kitchen. Having lived in our home for 27 years it was time to tackle this as if we were moving. We loaded up a car full of items to donate which felt so good. We were on a roll…

But God! He had different plans.

He knew all along that this year would be interrupted with a world-wide pandemic. We have been sheltering-in-place for 6 weeks now. One would think we would have our home completely organized and clean by now. But one would be wrong to make such an assumption. It seems 2019 was a partial eclipse that lasted longer than a normal one. Then 2020 arrived with a total eclipse–an eclipse of my heart.

Last year our family was unable to gather together due to many health restraints. This year we are unable to gather together due to a worldwide lockdown. I am tempted to be sad for the times together we are missing.

But God! In our sadness He wants to draw our hearts closer to Him.

And He has. An eclipse makes you realize how much light is available even at night. If you take the moon’s reflection of the sun away, the night is so much darker. I am grateful for the moon, the stars and the glorious sunshine. Life has slowed, but my heart is no longer eclipsed. God’s kindness has dawned brighter and brighter to us, to our children and to our grandchildren. The two words that mean so much to me now are…

But God! He has slowed our schedules to enlarge our hearts towards Him.

He is the our bright and morning star bringing with each day new mercies from which to draw. And His mercies never fail.

How is God helping you each day? Let’s share and in so doing bring Him the glory He deserves.