Restoring Family Heirlooms From A Florida Basement

Ormond beach

There is something in my home I count as the most precious possession I own. I pick it up daily and cherish it. I love the way it feels when I take the time to appreciate it for what it is. What is this treasure? It’s my Bible.

I got this particular copy in 2003 and the pages began showing their wear and falling out a couple of years ago, especially the book of Psalms–I could completely remove it from the rest of book. It was time to do something, but I knew I didn’t want to buy a new one. This one has markings in it indicating the revelations God has given me while reading. I have favorite verses underlined. I have comments next to convicting passages.

Imagine how thrilled I was when Tom told me he found an English hand book binder in Daytona Beach who uses the old method in re-binding broken books. As a blessing to me–we drove there last month to have it rebound and recovered.

The book binder’s name is Paul Sawyer. He works in the basement of his old Florida home surrounded by lush landscapes of palms and bouiganvillea flowers. As we descended the steps to his quaint workspace, I felt as if we were entering a hobbit’s hole. When the door opened we were met with his bright smile and the musty smell of recorded history. It was an inviting, albeit crowded space where this gentle man spends much of his waking hours. He was delighted to share with us his workmanship from his recent purchase of a set of old atlases to a handwritten letter from Charles Dickens, it was obvious he loves what he does.

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An interesting discovery as we talked was that he came to America being commissioned to work with the Library of Congress. You can read more about his work and training here.

I also took my great-grandfather’s family Bible from the mid 1800’s and had it cleaned and recovered as well. We found it while going through my Mom’s boxes of books after she passed away. It was on the bottom of a box that had gotten wet in the garage. I was so sad to see the state it was in having endured a house fire at my grandparent’s home in the 60’s and now this damage from water.

Mr. Paul Sawyer, bookbinder

Mr. Paul Sawyer, bookbinder

What makes this Bible even more precious is that it contains my great-grandfather’s handwriting recording marriages and births of his parents and their children. What a treasure it is for me to have my current Bible sitting next to this family heirloom on my coffee table. Hopefully the generations to come will realize how important it is to read the Bible and to record family history as it happens.

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What old books do you own that are precious to you? Were they passed down in your family, or were they discovered on the dusty shelf of an antique book store? 

You might want to add a note inside in your own handwriting that tells the story of why it is precious to you. There may be a day when someone you love is wanting to know the answer to that question, and you’re no longer around to answer them.

Music Memories Never Fade

 

Music has always been a big part of my family.

I remember our vacations on the road being filled with folk songs like My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean, I’ve Been Working On The Railroad, and Found A Peanut to name a few. My Mom had a song for everything, and seemed she would pop a new one on us often and at unexpected times.

I think I’ve picked up her gift, as I find myself remembering songs for my grandchildren that I haven’t thought of in years. They’re fun songs that don’t have much meaning other than the memories they evoke in my heart.

Music is like that. It causes our hearts to remember a certain time in our past. But it’s not only our memory that is stirred, we remember the emotions we felt as well. This is why some of Sirius XM’s most popular stations are 60’s on 6, 70’s on 7 and 80’s on 8. We love to be reminded of what once was.

My dad loved music too.

He was the one who loved to gather our family around the piano to join him in singing songs like, The Holy City… as my sister played accompaniment. It was his father, my grandfather, who instilled this love of music in my dad’s heart. Andrew Gray was a soloist at his church and would often share his rich baritone voice on Sunday’s with his church family at the Cranston Street Roger Williams Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island. It was after one of his performances when he had a heart attack and died right there doing what he loved most.

When my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2003, we knew what would mean the most to him. We had the worship leader at our church come and play hymns on the piano while we all joined him singing. There were lots of tears, and many of us had a difficult time singing, but the look on my dad’s face as the music played was worth the pain.

I recently was shown the following video of an elderly man who had lived in a nursing home for over a decade.  Watch and see how technology is playing a part in bringing some of this man’s life back to him in a powerful way. Be sure to watch the entire piece–it will brighten your day.

What songs have had an impact on your life?

 

Celebrating Her 125th Birthday

Graphic Credit: www.sfu.ca

Graphic Credit: http://www.sfu.ca

It’s hard to believe that my grandmother, Grace Stella Kirwin Oswalt, would have been 125 if she were still alive today. That’s what happens when your mom is the youngest, and you’re the youngest. My grandmother was old enough to be my great-grandmother. But as God ordained it, I was her youngest grandchild.

I missed out on so much.

When I think of my own grandchildren, that I’m 54 years old and enjoying my soon-to-be seven grandchildren. It’s hard to believe how old my grandmother was when I was born. Actually she was 70. She live until 90, but I was not even 20 yet before she was buried and gone.

How I wish I had had more time to get to know her as an adult. But I didn’t.

This causes me to embrace the role of “Nana” even more seriously. Today my newest grandson, Vito Price Walter, was dedicated at our church. Tom and I were privileged to stand with him and our son and daughter-in-love. as our pastors prayed for him and for them, to be faithful and godly in their instruction, to commit to be the best they can be for God’s glory and Vito’s benefit.

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It was a day God chose to bless not only my grandson, but also to honor my grandmother’s prayers. Vito is her great-great-grandson. One whom she never met, but one for whom she prayed. He is her descendant, and he will continue her legacy. How amazing it was on her birthday that we dedicated him back to the God who created him.

I love connecting the dots of God’s faithfulness.

He never fails to answer prayers, even when we aren’t alive to see the answers come. The Bible is full of such examples. Today God answered Grace’s prayers–he gave her another descendent to carry on her legacy. This is why I wore her ring–the one my grandfather gave her on their 50th wedding anniversary. As I laid my hands on him in dedication, I could help but think how pleased Big Mama would have been with this token of my love for her.

Vito

Sorry it’s blurry, but I was a bit emotional while taking this photo. 🙂

Who are you praying for today? Do you pray for those who are yet to be born?

Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord. – Psalm 102:18

When I Leave The Room

Natalie Grant - Relentless Cover photo

Natalie Grant – Relentless Cover photo

I recently was shown the following video by Natalie Grant. It is specifically for mothers and how they love and care for their children. I have three children of my own, and this song depicts the heart of a mother as no other song I’ve ever heard. Listen, cry and share with all who need to be encouraged in their role as a mother or even for those who are daughters.

I miss my Mom, but I’m so grateful she placed my hands in Jesus’ hands when she was ready to go. What a hope I’ve been given and treasure.

The Value Of Handwritten Notes

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Do you have an old family Bible?

I do. I found it when we were cleaning out my Mom’s house a year ago. It’s a rich treasure holding keys to my family’s history. Most of the facts I already knew, but to see birth dates and death dates penned by my Great-Grandfather’s hand is quite the experience. It’s a treasure! To think that a man I never met was holding the same Bible at one time recording information in it for a generation yet to come (me!) is awe-inspiring. It matters, and I am grateful.

I love handwritten notes. When my husband, children and now grandchildren take the time to write out their heartfelt sentiments to me on paper I have a hard time ever parting with them; My closet is proof of it. I have a small handwritten note from my grandmother that she gave to me at my bridal shower 35 years ago. When I received it, it was expected. But when she passed away only four months later in June of 1979, it suddenly became priceless to me.

I’ve heard there is a huge debate taking place about the need for teaching our children how to write in cursive. Really? They say there is no need for it anymore, since everyone communicates through a keyboard or Smart phone. How sad. If cursive goes by the wayside, it will be a permanent disconnect from our past. So many important documents are written in cursive, like the Declaration of Independence and our own Constitution, to name a few. If children can no longer read it, maybe they will no longer care. It will become as indecipherable to them as a foreign language.

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Four Reasons Handwriting is Better Than Keyboards:

1. When someone takes the time to write their thoughts on paper you know they’ve purposed to slow down and think about what they want to say. It’s not the same as receiving a quick text or e-mail. I can type so much faster than I can write, so I don’t have to think as hard when I’m using a keyboard. Case in point–think of the many texts and e-mails you wish you could rescind. But a handwritten note is usually read through before it is sent on it’s way. And when it is received it is appreciated all the more.

2. One’s handwriting was also proof that it was they who said what was written. In the Bible, the Apostles often ended their letters by saying it is with my own hand that I write this to you. It was a validation. Computers are much  more impersonal. They validate nothing because anyone could have typed an e-mail.

3. It is believed that creativity is inspired when one writes in cursive. It provides an expressive outlet for what we want to say. It’s not just about the words chosen, but also about how the words are written. I remember when I was in sixth grade practicing how to spell my name over and over again. I wanted to have pretty handwriting, so I worked hard on how I wanted each letter to look. I paid attention to how others wrote their letters, and if I liked it, I practice until I could do it as well. Some of my letters I still write the same today–and I’m turning 55 this year.

4. Finally, handwriting is proof that we existed. Years from now when people see something we’ve written, they’ll pause to see what it is we took the time to write–like when I found my family Bible. Think of how special each signature is on the Declaration of Independence. You knew that each man was in the room when it was signed. It was a part of the story, seeing their “John Hancock” written so beautifully. It’s not only a rich document in content, but it’s rich in artistic beauty.

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I pray we won’t allow our children/grandchildren to lose the gift of handwriting. The only way they will appreciate it is if it is seen as valuable to us. Do you believe there is value in writing in cursive? Or have you stopped altogether and communicate only by way of keyboard? My 57 journals written by my own hand since 1989 are proof of my answer to this question. I pray each volume will matter to those who are growing up behind me, my three children and my seven grandchildren. It is my hope that they will read what mattered to me while I was living, and that in doing so it will have an effect on how they live.

(Photo Sources: Bible, letters, child writing)

 

 

 

 

 

Where Were You 10 Years Ago?

Lake Dora

It’s a question many of us never consider–looking back ten years to see how much has changed. For some it can be an encouraging endeavor, for others a sad one filled with regret.

Ten years ago my Dad died. But that isn’t the end of his story. It’s just the last part for me in this life. I miss him still, and I guess that’s the highest compliment I can give him. How sad it would be for no one to notice when you’re gone. My grandmother has been gone for nearly 35 years, and I miss her too. But it’s my Mom’s passing that has been the hardest. Maybe it’s because we were so close, and she depended on me for so much during her final years. Maybe it’s because it’s only been a year since we said goodbye. Maybe it’s because she was my Mom–no one cared for me for as long as she did, and I’m so grateful for her love, wisdom and friendship.

In just one year my Mom has missed the births of three more great-grandchildren bringing the total from 10 to 13. Her oldest greats miss her still and talk of her often. In fact, Bristol, my 6 1/2 year old granddaughter was in her first Christmas production this year. Right before it began I went backstage to hug her and tell her how proud I was of her when she said,

“Nana, guess what I’m wearing?”

I had no idea, so I said, “What?”

“The necklace that G.G. gave me.”

My eyes filled with tears as I quickly hugged her and walked away. I didn’t want her to think she had made me sad. It was quite the opposite. What a joy to see the effect my Mom’s life had made on her short life.

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We must never underestimate the influence we have on the coming generations. They are watching and listening and loving us despite our limitations.

Who are the little people growing up behind you? Do you take time to enter into their world? I encourage you to not waste such an opportunity. You never know when you’ll breathe your last and depart this life. Make what they remember about you something they’ll miss and recall fondly as the years pass.

Orange Groves, Stuffed Celery Sticks and Corn-Bread Stuffing–Thanksgiving Memories

Vintage Postcard from www.cardcow.com

Vintage Postcard from http://www.cardcow.com

Do you remember your Thanksgiving celebrations as a child? I do. Every year we would take the long drive through the country from Orlando to my grandmother’s home in Clermont. In the 60’s Highway 50 was only two-laned and was lined on both sides with orange groves as far as the eye could see. As a kid I thought it was the most boring ride ever taking a whole 30 minutes! Now I would give anything to see those orange groves laden with fall fruit lined up in perfect rows like toy soldiers again. To be the first one in the car to see the Citrus Tower rising above the trees and yell, “I see the tower, I see the tower!” 🙂 To walk into Big Mama’s house and breathe in the aromas. To see all my first cousins and aunt busy in the kitchen helping prepare the family dinner. To take a bite into the crisp celery stalks stuffed with pimento cheese, the only thing we were allowed to eat before dinner. To play hide and go seek with my first cousins, once removed (yes, my Mom finally helped me understand how this works), in her orange groves behind her house. And to finally sit down together, all 25 of us, at one long table to thank God for another year of His blessings and faithfulness in our lives.

But those days are over. Many who sat at that table then, are now feasting at the Table of the Lord in Heaven. In fact this is my Mom’s first Thanksgiving in Heaven where she is reunited with my Dad and her Mama. Ah! To hear the laughter and stories being told there! This is my hope, to one day see and experience the glory of Heaven for myself, but until then, it’s my turn to make Thanksgiving memories for my children and grandchildren. To help them appreciate the reason we give thanks to God on this day each year. To build an excitement in celebrating the blessing it is to be together. To not let this day become Black Friday Eve, as some are trying to call it, but to give it the time and attention it deserves.

It’s good to ask yourself what parts of your current Thanksgiving celebrations will your children and grandchildren remember most when they’re grown? Then, go about creating those memories for them. This is the privilege of growing older–to participate in creating the memories of future generations.

I want to share with you Big Mama’s cornbread stuffing recipe. It’s not her original one, but Mom told me a couple of years ago that my stuffing tasted just like Mama’s. Now that was a compliment I received with a warm heart. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

It Was My Grandmother’s Hope…

…and now it is mine!

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It wasn’t finding affordable healthcare; it wasn’t having financial security. Her hope was bigger and better than anything this world has to offer!

Thursday night there is an event taking place that reminds more of my grandmother than any other event ever has since or will ever in the future. The sad part is this is the last time it will happen.

Billy Graham, the great evangelist, was my grandmother’s favorite preacher. And Thursday is his 95th birthday. He has been working on this final broadcast for 7 years, and the time has finally come for us to hear what he has spent the winter of his life preparing to say.

I remember vividly as a squirmy kid hearing my grandmother call me to come sit by her on the couch to listen to his 30 minute appeal to the thousands attending to come to Jesus. Just As I Am would play while I watched in amazement how many people crowded the aisles in response to his simple invitation. Big Mama would tell me of God’s love for me and my need for a Savior. She was faithful to do that on a regular basis, and I’m so grateful. I owe my salvation in large part to her constant sharing of the Gospel message and even more for her prayers.

Do you have someone in your life that makes such appeals to you? Do you realize the gift they’re extending and how life-changing it is to those who accept such an invitation? I urge you to watch Hope For America this Thursday night and place your hope in the only One who is able to save, if you haven’t yet. Take a minute and watch the following trailer…

Did I Ever Tell You About The Time…

Think of the many stories you have bouncing around in your head that your family has told over and over. You know them so well, you most likely roll your eyes whenever it’s being told for umpteenth time. But do you realize these stories only last for two, maybe three generations? Then, they’re lost forever. Unless someone takes the time to write them down.

How could you preserve your family stories? Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Write them in a family Bible or journal made for this purpose.

2.  Video your family telling the story.

3.  Make a photo journal using Snapfish or the like including pictures of family gatherings where these stories were always told. Be sure to include the names of all present as well as the date.

It isn’t hard to do this, it just takes planning. What stories come to mind that are worth preserving in your family?

The Expanding Family Tree

Photo Credit: Fall All Year Long on Instagram

Photo Credit: Fall All Year Long on Instagram

We all have one we’re hung upon

the branches of this tree

We might know a few whose branches are new

but there are more who are strangers to me.

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Why do I go to such lengths to know

The stories behind each leaf?

Because what they’ve seen and what it all means

Will help me grow in belief

(that)

God is the author, my great Heavenly Father

of the stories He’s planned so well

Of my sister and brother, my grandfather and mother

And how we got faith, they tell

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God has been faithful and worth the wait for

Him to give meaning to life.

He’s chosen my portion for this I adore Him

His boundaries bring safety from strife.

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I’m waiting today for a call that will say

That my second grandson is born

This green leaf is new as God’s mercies are too

That Vito will be swaddled and warm

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I write to record and to worship the Lord

for His faithfulness which never fails

He was there long ago I’m privileged to know

Because my mom discovered such tales

(of)

Generations long past of which has out-lasted

the lives of those I’ve yet to meet

They have gone on before to rest in the Lord

And now walk on Heavenly streets

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Each year that passes God’s story surpasses

All we could imagine or think.

When life seems too hard or pleasures too far

It’s good to remember such things

(that)

God is faithful to tell “his story” so well

If we are only willing to ask

Good questions to those who are older and know

the ones that explain our past.

(So)

Purpose to know the branches that grow

In your own family tree

The hope that is hung for victories won

Is worth the effort to see.