I am a part of a writer’s group that provides a writing prompt once a week in order to help us keep the creative juices flowing. This past week’s prompt led me down an unexpected path. The following is the prompt and what I wrote in response.
Wednesday Writer’s Prompt:
What place, or kind of place, elicits fond memories of the past?
Opening the door was an entry to my childhood. A time capsule bursting open in celebration of what once was.
The soda fountain served guests a daily special prepared by our beloved cook, Flossie. She was like a grandmother to me, always making sure I had enough food in my belly to fuel my curiosity. The clattering of dishes passing through the triple sinks to wash, rinse and sanitize were the background music of life in my Dad’s Pharmacy.
The regular customers provided a cadence call of life in our small town, beckoning us to participate together in life’s difficult moments.
But the center of it all was my dad’s caring heart. Each customer knew they had a faithful friend who would sacrifice time with his family in order to provide for their needs in crisis. He listened to their laments and carried their concerns to God in prayer.
But that was then.
Sadness cloaks me with a familiar comfort. Gone are the customers, the needs, the community of friends who called my Dad “Doc”. Gone are the rich smells of comfort food served with a smile. Gone are the days of my childhood.
Yet the memories linger as I sign the paper ending an era. Soon this building will belong to someone new.
(Photo from 2017)
We will go our separate ways to live our dreams and provide for those to whom God has given us to care and provide.
Tomorrow’s memories are being written on the walls of today. Each day matters; make them count for eternity.
Yesterday I was given an unbelievable honor. I was asked to speak at the funeral of the pastor who led me to the Lord. It was a privilege I didn’t take lightly. I prayed that God would help me capture with words what this man meant to me, and that He would give me the strength to read it. He answered my prayer and following is what I shared.
Anyone who knew Dick Milham was impacted by his love for the Lord, for people and for life itself. He was a faithful friend and made himself available to our family on countless occasions.
Our family started going to Powers Drive Baptist Church in the early 60‘s when I was only 4 years old. I don’t remember when Pastor Milham started leading our church, but I’m grateful God sent him to us.
The year was 1969. I was ten years old and sitting in the pew between my mom and dad as I did each and every Sunday. But this time when the familiar hymn began to play–
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
My heart nudged me to go forward. I was afraid, so I asked my Dad to walk with me. When we got to the front, Pastor Milham met me and said he wanted to be sure I knew what I was doing and that there was no hurry. He asked if I could come to his office and discuss what this decision would mean for me? I said ok.
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one, dark blot;
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Over the next three weeks I went to his office while this dear man with a huge heart for young people explained the Gospel. He made it clear that this decision would change my life forever. And it did!
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind;
Yes, All I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Once he knew I understood the decision I was making and what Christ had done for me, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and was baptized on December 21, 1969.
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
I’ve know many friends over the years who, as adults, were re-baptized because they said they didn’t understand what they were doing when they were young. Because of Pastor Milham’s kindness and patience with me I have never had that experience. I knew exactly what I was doing and it has been the foundation of my life to this day.
My sister, Bettie, shared this memory she had with me and said how it has helped her countless times throughout her life when facing trouble.
During a Sunday message Pastor Milham must have been going through some tough times and shared this analogy with the church: He got in a boat and rowed out into this big lake to have time alone with the Lord and maybe he could get some answers. As he was out there a big storm blew up all the sudden. As he saw the far shore line he started to get worried about getting back to shore, but noticed a piece of paper in the lake a few yards from him. He heard the Lord tell him to row for that paper, then there was another and then another and before he knew it he was back on shore. He realized then the lesson the Lord was teaching him, there may be something really big and almost unreachable in front of you but if you take it step by step or paper by paper and keep your eyes on the task you will get there.
Just as I am, though, tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Pastor Milham was the real deal. He shared his life with all of us, and was there for all the moments when we needed him most. He came right away when my Dad was dying from brain cancer and sang by his bedside because my dad loved to hear him sing. There were no accolades, no audience’s applause, just my dad needing to be reminded of the truth of the Gospel.
Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Pastor Milham, you are now before the throne of God and your faith has been made sight. What a celebration must be taking place as all of those who were influenced by your life, faith and love, have welcomed you home.
I am forever grateful for the foundation of Truth you laid for me that I am still standing on today. I pray my life will influence others for God’s glory the way your’s has impacted mine.
Family vacations were often taken without him. He took his job and providing for his family seriously. As the neighborhood pharmacist he was always on call for his customers day or night it didn’t matter. Unfortunately, this left many times … Continue reading →
I have done it for years, and it has always been a happy habit that I enjoy. It has been easy for me to remember dates on the calendar and special things that happened on that day 1, 5, or even 10 years ago because I have journaled consistently for nearly 3 decades. My husband and I still celebrate our first date, the day he proposed and our wedding anniversary.
Thirteen years ago the dates on the calendar began taking a sad turn for me–my dad died on January 3, 2004; My daughter moved out-of-state with her husband and three children in May of 2011; My Mom passed away on December 15, 2012; My son moved to TN with his wife and three children on March 24, 2014; the list goes on and on.
This year we’ve faced more challenging dates on the calendar–my Mother-In-Law fell and broke her hip, our daughter needed surgery and it was scheduled right between Christmas and New Years Day. Not to mention the friends who have moved, friends who have endured incredible suffering and life-threatening illnesses.
What used to be a fun habit can now at times bring torment and despair. It’s all on how I choose to remember. A friend recently gave me a plaque with this quote on it by Dr. Seuss. It says,
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
I tend to look back and remember precious times that are no more and feel sad. God is helping me to change this habit, but old habits don’t die easy. I don’t know if I’ll ever celebrate Christmas without remembering my parents and what my siblings and I walked through with them on the road to eternity. It was the most precious hardship I’ve ever endured.
Isn’t that how it is with life? We long for the happy moments, but it is the intensely sad ones that often become the most precious to us. Most of life’s important lessons we learn come to us through tears.
What dates on your calendar bring you joy? Tears? Do you think it’s good to remember or better to forget? I’ve decided it’s good for me to remember, but to limit those things on which I allow myself to dwell. Remembering the hard parts may not be the best for me. I must choose instead to remember what I learned through it all and focus on that!
This year I pray I’ll be more aware of how quickly my heart attaches to dates and their meaning on the timeline of my life, and resist the downward spiral of emotions that comes so easily to me. I want to instead remember the good with smiles of gratefulness for what once was and let go of the weight of regret for how things have changed. Life is too short to look back unless it is to give thanks to God for it all.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading with my own eyes. There I was sitting at my computer reading a message addressed to me on Ancestry.com from a man with the same first name as my Dad’s, saying we were a 1st or 2nd generation match through our DNA. What?!
Although I was shocked, it wasn’t a complete surprise to me. My Mom had told us just weeks before she died in 2012 that my brother, sister and I had a half-brother somewhere out there. News which at the time I didn’t understand or appreciate, but now I’m grateful to God that she didn’t let this secret die with her. She said all she knew was he was a boy and he was named after my Dad.
Mom had purchased a DNA test kit through Ancestry.com to have a documented sample of our family’s DNA on the site where she had invested so much time recording our genealogy through the years. Unfortunately, due to her advanced illness, she was unable to do the test. I told her before she died that I would do the test and send it in so her investment didn’t go to waste. Low and behold, it was my DNA that matched this man’s DNA who was contacting me cautiously through the Ancestry website.
My first reaction was uncontrollable tears. Then I called my brother and sister to see what they wanted me to do with this information. We all agreed to contact him and see where it would take us.
I discovered the man contacting us wasn’t our brother, but his son. Of course, I wanted to be sure his dad knew he had contacted us and that he wanted to meet. After double-checking we were happy to hear he was as excited to meet us as we were to meet him. We connected on Facebook–an amazing tool God used in such a marvelous way. We shared stories, photos and joy–much joy.
Finally, this past Saturday night we planned for us all to meet for dinner. The anticipation was palpable on both sides. Thanks to social media I have this photo of my newly discovered brother waiting for us to arrive at the restaurant.
The first hug was surreal since Stan looks so much like my Dad. The conversation was non-stop as we told our stories of how we had come to this place at this moment in time. We all had an overwhelming sense of God’s kindness to bring us together. The server at the restaurant did a great job keeping the food and drinks coming, and when we told her our amazing story, she joined in our joy.
My Mom always said, and I’ve quoted this in my book, “When someone dies a library of information dies with them, unless someone takes the time to write it down.” How grateful I am that Mom didn’t let this secret die with her. Although it wasn’t understood at the time she told us, she was caring for us by letting us know that she knew of my Dad’s past and was okay with it. This allowed us to fully embrace our brother with gratitude as a gift from God.
There are so many more dots I could connect of God’s faithfulness to bring us to this point, but suffice it to say–
“The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.” – Psalm 126:3 ESV
Yesterday would have been my grandmother’s 127th birthday. She was born in 1889, and my how the world has changed from that time until now. 127 years seems like a long time, but on the timeline of history it is a mere inch. It can seem insignificant when you compare this span of time with all of time, but it isn’t. Every minute of every day we’ve been given is a gift from God. How we spend those minutes matters more than we know.
Francis Chan is a pastor and speaker whom I admire greatly. He has a way of bringing home a point to where you not only get it, but it changes how you see things. This too, is a gift from God. Listen to what he has to say about the timeline of eternity:
Yes, I want to “pass that line well”! How about you?
I know when I was working on Through The Eyes Of Grace, the research was my favorite part. Uncovering events in history that Grace lived through helped me bring her story to life. I may not have handwritten journals from Grace, but I have news events and the recorded histories of other’s lives that are sure to have impacted her story, and for this I’m grateful.
Writing historical fiction is a lot like working a jigsaw puzzle.
I’ve started with the framework, and the research provides the missing pieces. The Christmas Truce is one such piece for which I’m grateful.
Most of you have probably heard about the Christmas Truce of 1914 (if you haven’t take a moment and read about it), which is believed to have occurred over miles of the western front during World War I. What you may not realize is that this amazing event, which happened 100 years ago this Christmas Eve, took place during the time setting of my next book based on the life of my grandmother–Grace Stella Kirwin.
One can only imagine what happened in the hearts of the soldiers as they ascended from their trenches to embrace soldiers from the enemy line with wishes of good will. What a Christmas memory each of those men carried in their hearts for the rest of their lives.
Following is a video about the Christmas Truce. I pray it will stir your heart to pursue peace with your own enemies, and may it be a peace that will last–not just for 48 hours.
Merry Christmas from our home to yours, and may the peace of God bless you richly!
I’ve started to do research again for my second book. It happened yesterday when I really didn’t have the time to do it, but I just did. Sometimes that is when I get the most work done, when it’s spontaneous and not planned.
I’m setting up a timeline of events beginning in 1907. There are many moments I am very familiar with, but I know that when I start to write her story I will relive much of the emotions Grace must have walked through. It is a privilege to document her life, her struggles and her faith in God. I am part of the story–her legacy, but I must admit that there are events she walked through that I pray I never experience.
Marion W. Oswalt, b. 7/1/07, d. 7/20/08 Leonard E. Oswalt, b. 3/20/09, d. 1/21/10
Vincent b. 11/2/1912, d. 3/19/1920
These are the grave markers of three of Grace’s children, my Mom’s brothers. I know I’m giving away part of the story by writing this post, but as Halloween is tomorrow, I wanted to make a statement that death isn’t something to trivialize.
In our writer’s group this week, one member shared how he has been affected recently of the reality that we will all die soon. Most of us are in the second half of our lives–our children are grown, our time is more available to do the things for which we’ve dreamed, and realizing the brevity of life will help us push past the excuses of why we haven’t completed the writings God has laid on our hearts to write. We were sobered and convicted to make sure we do those things that are of most importance to us.
Time is short.
It took me 12 years to write Through The Eyes Of Grace. In 12 years I’ll be 67, if the Lord doesn’t take me home. I have no guarantees. I must DO, not talk about doing. I must write, not think about writing. It is what God has called me, as a writer, to do, so I’m starting with this post. I hope I haven’t rambled too much, but sometimes getting a rusty engine going again takes lots of puffs and sputterings. Soon my computer keyboard will run full speed into writing the rest of Grace’s story. Won’t you pray for me? Prayer is the fuel I need to keep pushing through until I discover what it is God wants me to know and the story that is of most importance for others to read. Our stories matter because they are his story–our history.
Once again I was rummaging through some of my Mom’s papers and came upon a real treasure. I want to share it with you in an effort to inspire you to dig for your own undiscovered stories, as well as to encourage you to continue writing hand-written letters to your extended family. It is an art I’m afraid we’re losing.
It all began when I found a letter to my Mom and Dad from his cousin. It’s dated December 13, 1987. She was talking about an enclosed picture of her mom and my dad’s parents.
Dear Stan & Lee,
I have always felt “guilty” about grabbing that picture of Aunt Amy and my mother that day Jewett offered it to us when he was visiting several years ago, so now I’m trying to “make-up” for it!! This is not a copy of that picture, which wasn’t in very good condition anyway, but is one of a picture I thought you’d rather have since it shows both your mother and father. My mother is in it too.
As young people in their early 20’s – they used to help entertain at the hospital since they were all pretty talented. Aunt Amy (my Dad’s mom) always played the piano, Uncle Andy (my Dad’s dad) and my mother sang…Anyway, this is a copy of a group which put on “The Man From Brandon,” on December 7, 1912 – 75 years ago. Uncle Andy, as you can see, is in the front row. You’ll notice everyone is so serious–a characteristic when pictures were taken back in those days, for picture taking was serious business!!
Aunt Amy is to the left in the second row, and my mother is to the right in the top row. It would be interesting to know what the play was about since it appears to include a poodle, but I haven’t been able to locate it!
We know you’ll have a happy, busy Christmas, and we hope 1988 will be a healthy and prosperous one for you both and all your family.
Betty & Ken Porter
In 1987 the internet wasn’t around, so it was impossible to locate the play mentioned. But imagine my delight when I did a quick Google search and found it! I downloaded a PDF of it and can’t wait to read it. And yes, it does include a poodle! (Click on the picture below to access the script).
Over a hundred years ago, and I’m uncovering a snippet of my paternal grandparents’ lives about which I knew nothing. It is priceless! And I’ve discovered one reason why I love plays and musicals; It’s in my genes! What’s even more amazing is that I only met my paternal grandparents twice before they died because we lived in Florida, and they lived in Rhode Island. I’ve always regretted missing this part of my family’s story, but this letter is proof that there is much more to be discovered.
You never know where or when another story will surface. But you might miss it if you’re not looking. I’m so glad I didn’t throw this old letter away thinking it was meaningless. I plan to treasure it forever!
What interesting facts have you discovered lately about your family? I’d love to hear!
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.
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
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.
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.