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!

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?

It’s The Little Things

Today I’m feeling a bit blue. Maybe it’s because I’m not feeling great. Maybe it’s because it’s the time of year when both my Mom and Dad were diagnosed with the disease that would take their life, 6 and 15 years ago respectively.

I have finally started to write the sequel to my historical fiction novel, Through The Eyes Of Grace. It is causing a fresh wave of grief to pour over my heart that usually sabotages any attempt to write.

But not today!

Instead, I’m lifting my head up and making me a cup of hot tea, Lavender Lemonade to be exact. Tea soothes away the hurt, both in my throat and in my heart.

And I will say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for giving me such wonderful parents, and for providing me with a story worth telling.

Today I’m choosing JOY.

Do You Remember?

Our oldest granddaughters building their first snowman. <3

Our oldest granddaughters building their first snowman. 

This week we’re celebrating Thanksgiving at our cabin in North Carolina. We’re having fun, but missing our daughter and her family. They’ve been battling lots of health issues and aren’t sure if they’ll make it here at all. Disappointing to say the least.

But the rest of us are having fun. We’re expecting a White Thanksgiving in Banner Elk, NC, which is a first for all of us Florida natives. 🙂

One thing I’ve purchased to have at our cabin is an acrylic box of cards with questions called, Table Topics, to use to get conversation going in a group setting. The company offers all sorts of themes, and the one I have is for Family Gatherings. Our oldest granddaughter can read now, and she has had a blast asking us questions on all sorts of topics. One in particular that got me thinking was  this question:

What did your grandparents do for you that you loved?

My grandparents owned 32 acres of orange groves when I was growing up, and I loved everything about life at their home. We would have rotten orange fights, eat ripened fruit from the trees, play hide and go seek after dark and the list goes on. It was  fun place to grow up.

That’s what holidays are made of, making memories that your children will remember fondly when they’re grown up.

What traditions have you established that will be remembered for a lifetime?

UPDATE: Our daughter and her family surprised us two days before Thanksgiving and arrived safe and sound. Shortly after it began snowing, and it hasn’t stopped yet. I have a feeling this is one Thanksgiving even the littlest among us will remember. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!

 

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!

Celebrating The Moments That Change Us Forever

There are a few things that happen in the span of your lifetime that changes it forever.

Today represents one of those times for me. It was 32 years ago that I became a mom. My son, Jason Thomas Walter, was born at 7:19a. after a short labor and delivery. I never knew such love. Looking at his tiny hands and feet, I was witnessing a miracle. Our love had become life weighing 7 lbs. 1.5 ozs and 21.5 inches long. I couldn’t contain the love I felt for this tiny person.

When Tom and I brought him home we were young and clueless as to how to best care for a newborn. But we learned, and our love for him and each other grew. I’ll never forget waking in the night just to be sure he was still breathing. Thankfully, he was.

Now our son stands 6′ 2″ tall and has looked down at me for nearly two decades. He has a wife whom we adore and three beautiful children. He has followed in my footsteps in loving words more than numbers. He is a copy-editor for Dave Ramsey’s organization, and it has made this home-schooling mama quite proud. All those years of dissecting sentence structures paid off. Not only is he good at it, he loves it.

On days like these I look back and remember highlights. I remember…

  • Taking him to work with me the first 10 months of his life.
  • When he got an upper-respiratory infection at 10 months and had to be hospitalized.
  • When we took him snow skiing, and he wanted to take something special to his 3-year-old sister because she wasn’t old enough to ski.
  • When he broke his leg that same day snow skiing. We bought him the special gift he wanted to get for Tracy.
  • His love for cars and playing crash on our kitchen floor.
  • His uncanny ability to rig his room with string, so he’d know when someone opened his door.
  • His insatiable love for reading.
  • His ability to remember whatever he read.
  • His love for history.
  • His love for his grandparents.
  • When he bought me my favorite candy bar when I worked in the office at his high school and was having a bad day.
  • When he graduated from high school and we thought my dad was having a heart attack the moment they called his name.
  • When he told us he had found the girl he wanted to marry and how she reminded him of me.
  • When he walked me down the aisle on his wedding day knowing he would never call our home, “home” again.
  • When he brought out his first baby for us to meet in the waiting room.
  • When after 9 years of going to college part-time, he graduated and looked back at us from the sea of graduates with that infectious smile of his.
  • When I get texts or phone calls just to say, “I love you.”

There is a saying that goes, “A son is your son ’til he takes a wife, a daughter is your daughter for the rest of your life.” But this isn’t true in our family. Our daughter-in-love, as we like to call her, has become family. So much so that it feels as if she has always been a part of us.

Four generations of Walter men. From l to r: Jason, Richard (Grandpa), Vito, Tom

Four generations of Walter men. From l to r: Jason, Richard (Grandpa), Vito, Tom

 

I am grateful to God for Jason, as I am for each of my three children. I am grateful for a husband who loves them as much as I do. And I am grateful our love continues to grow and strengthen as our boundaries expand.

Jason, I pray today you sense God’s amazing love for you and that you are confident of this very thing…He who began a good work in you will complete it until Christ comes again. I am blessed to have you call me MOM.

Happy Birthday!

 

 

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?

 

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!

My-Hope-America-with-Billy-Graham

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?