It’s Sunday

Of all the things my parents instilled in me, it’s the love of the local church and commitment to this community that stands apart.

I have so many memories of our little baptist church in the 60’s; the Sunday School class where I would embarrass myself at the young age of 12 by asking out loud, “What is circumcision?” The snickers from the guys in my class and the speechless response of my teacher let me know I shouldn’t have asked THAT question.

I was involved on Sunday nights too, with youth choir and the evening service. What my parents lacked in talking to me about my growth in God, they made sure I heard of it on a regular basis from these faithful stewards of God’s Word I. Our church.

I remember asking my Dad to walk with me down the aisle at the age of 10 (fifty two years ago this week). I felt God calling me and I was afraid. His presence gave me the confidence I needed to go forward, “Just As I Am”. Today would have been my dad’s 99th birthday. He’s been with Jesus now for 18 years and I miss still.

My grandmother (Grace) and my Mom were faithful to pray for me. I am reaping the benefits of those prayers even though they’ve both been gone from this life for a long time.

This gives me motivation to pray for my own children and grandchildren as often as it comes to mind. My prayers will outlive me for they circle the Throne of God as “incense before Him” as it says in Revelation 5:8.

The pandemic has caused many to abstain from going to their church’s service. Online capabilities has made it easier than ever to be a couch Christian. Oh, but what we miss when we neglect to gather.

Our pastor often says, “You never know what you’ll miss if you don’t come!” So true!

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Who knows what questions (even the embarrassing ones) are waiting to be asked and remembered for a lifetime. It’s all part of my story. We now have the privilege of being part of the story of others, unless we neglect this privilege.

May your Sunday find you seeking God and asking or answering good questions

A Letter To My Teenage Self

Today’s prompt is to answer this question: What would you say to your teenage self based on what you know today?

When I was a teen I thought I knew a lot about life and how it worked. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I would say to myself—take it easy and enjoy the process. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to be everything to everyone. You don’t even have to be in control. You never will be anyway!

I would say—God is leading every step you take, even when His footprints are unseen. What you can’t see you don’t know, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there.

I would say—take time and talk to your grandmother. When she gave you her ring when you were 16, pause and ask her the story behind why she was doing this. You won’t have much longer with her, and you will regret not knowing what you don’t know.

I would say—laugh more at yourself and stop taking what everyone thinks of you so seriously. What really matters is what God says about you. Focus on Him and all the other stuff will dim in comparison.

Relax.

Embrace every high and low of the road ahead. These are the lessons that will carry you to maturity.

Read your Bible everyday. Not because you have to but because you don’t know what you don’t know. This is the place to begin discovering those answers.

Be grateful, humble and kind. Everyone has a story. And friendship is the key to unlocking them. It begins with a smile and asking good questions. It takes being a good friend to have good friends. You never know what you don’t know until you ask.

This is my 29th post in The Ultimate Bog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Ave Marie (Broadmeyer)

I remember walking into her disheveled room not sure if she was any good at what she advertised. Her name was Marie Broadmeyer and she was to be my new vocal coach. Although in the 70’s the term was called “voice teacher”.

My Mom had signed both my sister and me up for lessons. We are six years apart; at the time she was 20 and an alto–I was 14 and a soprano. Together we had the sweet harmony that happens when sisters sing together.

Music comes naturally in our family; my Dad’s father had a beautiful baritone voice I’d only heard on a 45 rpm record made of one of his church solos at Roger Williams Baptist Church in Rhode Island. It was rich and soothing as he sang. He always said he loved singing so much he hoped he would die in the church choir. Prophetic, that’s exactly what happened. He gave his final solo performance, sat down in his seat and had a massive heart attack. I barely knew him, but I understood his love of music.

Back to Mrs Broadmeyer.

She was a large, old woman from Germany. Her strong facial features supported her rich contralto voice. We learned she was lauded all over Europe by reading the hundreds of newspaper clippings taped to the faded wallpaper surrounding her baby grand piano.

We had only 30 minutes with her per lesson, so there was no time to hear her story. She had us warm up with vocal stretches that always made me feel self-conscious, but what 14 year old isn’t self-conscious? After she was confident our vocal cords were ready, she would have us sing, O Danny Boy. Her baggy eyes watered as our voices filled the musty room. I used to believe our voices are what brought the emotion, but now I wonder if it wasn’t memories this song brought to mind.

I’ll never know.

Last night I went on-line to see if I could find any information about her life. Was she married? Did she have children? How did she end up in America? Was she born here or did she immigrate? How did this famous soloist end up in a dilapidated row house in downtown Orlando having to squeak out a living by giving voice lessons?

Once again, my immaturity didn’t lend me to ask such questions.

I did find out that she died in 1977 here in Orlando only four years after our time in her living room. She had 4 children, as far as I can tell, the last one dying in 2015. She was born in Germany in 1908 and died in 1977 at the age of only 69. I guess she wasn’t as old as I assumed.

Her husband who was 16 years older, proceeded her in death in 1969. She was widowed only 4 years when we started our weekly visits. I also found several arrival and departure dates of when she sailed to New York Harbor from Europe and vice versa. All in the 50’s confirming her frequent tours to Europe to perform.

This memory was vague as I started to write. But with a little research I was able to piece together quite a story.

Revisiting the lyrics of her beloved song, it seems appropriate to honor her memory with this final verse…

“But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!” – – O Danny Boy

I’m grateful to have known Mrs. Broadmeyer. This ave is for her. May she Rest In Peace.

This is post #12 in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

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

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

Happy Birthday, Grace

Grace

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?

Christmas Truce of 1914

Image Credit: kevinblogsherenow.blogspot.com

Image Credit: kevinblogsherenow.blogspot.com

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!

The Value Of Old Letters

photo-271

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.

Love,

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).

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 11.12.29 AM

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!