100

That’s a number we often associate with a perfect score on a test or a high speed on the Interstate. But rarely does someone make it to their 100th birthday.

My Mom would have been 100 today.

She was born in the small town of Jenks, OK, in 1922 following the tragic death of her brother in 1920. Her only living brother was 11 years old at the time and was angry she wasn’t a boy. I can only imagine the heartache he suffered losing his little brother and best friend at such a young age.

The family moved to Florida when she was just 9 months old. Citrus groves were a hot, new investment for farmers and my grandfather and great-grandfather took the bait.

They arrived with the whole family including two cows and a horse by train. Once here they planted 32 acres of trees that produced a healthy crop for decades.

We have been in Florida ever since, but the orange groves are long gone.

It was a sad time in our family when the 32 acres of citrus trees we had were killed in the double freezes of 1983 and 1984. Only one tree survived due to it’s location; it was next to the irrigation pump that kept the tree just warm enough to save the roots of the tree.

My grandfather had installed that pump and it felt like part of him saved the lone tree for us to have its fruit. He passed away when I was 4 and my only memories of him are his pipe, the way he teased me and his delicious creamed corn.

My Mom sold the 12 acres of dead trees in town for the city to build a public park complete with ball fields, picnic pavilions, a massive playground and boardwalk through the bald cypress trees to the lake.

The other 20 acres she replanted with tangerine and tangelo trees alongside the one lone original tree. It stood like the grandfather of the grove making sure the young trees grew healthy and strong.

They did grow well, and we loved harvesting the early fruit that ripened just in time for Thanksgiving each year. We would pick as many as we could and gave them as gifts to friends at Christmas.

Those days are gone. My Mom was unable to afford to keep it, since the cost to harvest the fruit was more than the price she’d make selling it.

I’m sad to say the grove is now a subdivision in the sprawling hills of Clermont. The only memory of our family is the name of the road—It still bears my grandfather’s last name, Oswalt Road.

My Mom and I vowed to never drive out there again. A promise I’ve kept even after she took her last breath in 2012.

Happy 100th birthday in Heaven, Mom. I miss you. 💯🥰

Long-Distance Family

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing

Today is 24 days of posts in November. I’m amazed I’ve made it this far!

Nikki asked a really good question about celebrating the holidays.

“I have been thinking about the differences in holiday celebrations now compared to when I was a kid. Our family isn’t quite as close-knit — everyone in my generation has moved away whereas my parents lived near their parents so we could all gather for the holidays. Have you noticed the same in your family?”

In my generation most of us stayed close to our parents, so holidays were always a big event.

Our children all moved away after they were married. Some it took years and our last one moved when she got married. All three living in different states from us.

I never considered this would happen.

When our daughter moved to GA with two of our grandchildren ages almost 4 and almost 2 in nearly killed me. I didn’t see this coming and my heart was broken.

I had well-meaning friends who said things like, “At least you are close enough to drive there and see them.” This was like pouring salt in my wounded heart.

But God! He had other plans.

My hope was that our family would share life together. We would be available to babysit so our kids could cultivate their relationship in the throes of raising a family. Holidays would be challenging in how we would seat everyone around the same table.

First our daughter, son-in-love and two grandchildren moved to GA. in 2011.

A year later my Mom died in 2012, leaving me feeling orphaned since my Dad died 9 years earlier.

Second, our son moved to Tennessee for his dream job in 2014. He took his sweet wife and three more of my precious grandchildren with him. While I was happy for the dreams they were pursuing, my heart was broken for what could have been. It haunted me daily.

Then Disney came out with a new movie and a hit song that was played everywhere. It had the three words I kept hearing God say to me. “Let it go!” I was afraid to let go of my desire for fear that my kids would never move back.

Finally, when our youngest daughter got married and moved to yet another state in 2018, I was undone. Finally I knew I had to let go of what I had imagined life would be to let my kids have the freedom to follow their dreams. I needed to be their biggest fan, not their strongest antagonist!

This made all the difference.

I was able to let go and trust that God was leading our kids exactly where he wanted them to be.

Our holidays change from year to year. We have enjoyed times where we are all together, but more times than not, we’ve had to adjust our expectations and enjoy the ones who were able to be with us.

Most times we are the ones who travel to see them because our kids and grandkids are a priority to us, even if it’s not convenient. I love them and anytime we are able to spend together.

FaceTime is an almost daily occurrence, and for this I am so very thankful. I think often of my grandmother, Grace, who moved away from her family at 16 years of age. There was no telephone, no internet, no cars even. Miles separated them and the only communication took weeks to receive.

As I write this we are with one third of our family for Thanksgiving. The other two-thirds are spending Thanksgiving with their in-laws. We are choosing to focus on being present and enjoying what is, rather than being sad over what could have been.

But God! He is the only reason I’m able to say this.

We almost lost two grandchildren in the last two years, and I lost my brother this year. The distance that separates us doesn’t seem as significant now.

As my youngest daughter recently wrote about raising an infant with special needs, “Every day is thanksgiving, and even though I can still struggle with a heart of complaint. I pray my perspective is always pointed to what God has blessed me with rather than what I think He has taken away.”

Yes, Perspective. it makes all the difference in how we move forward from grieving what could have been to what we’ve been given.

This is my 24th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Stumble

Our prompt was to share a time when we stumbled in our lives.

Goodness, this is a hard one to share, but I’ve learned the purpose of stumbling is to help us grow. When shared, it helps others learn from our mistakes. So here goes…

I was 19 and newly married. I had moved from the only home I had ever known to a town I had only visited a few times during my short, five month engagement to Tom Walter.

My grandmother had lived with us for a while before Tom and I got married. She had prayed for my future husband for years. When she met Tom, she loved him and expressed it with food. She made him her chili when she learned how much he loved spicy food.

On one of my trips to Bradenton, I carried a mason jar full of Big Mama’s chili. It was love for him in a jar and it worked. Tom loved her as much as he loved her chili. This recipe still holds a special place in our story. (You can find her recipe under the From My Kitchen tab above).

Just a few months after our wedding, we visited my family only to discover my grandmother was sick. At 90 years old, she was unable to get out of bed. We were home for the weekend but I never went in to see her. I couldn’t bear seeing her frail, so I avoided her. I had no idea this would be my last chance to see her alive.

Just a couple of months later, she died.

I can’t express the regret I felt. I remembered many times as a teen trying to comfort her in her old age. She loved me, her youngest granddaughter, of this I am certain. But I stumbled with the emotion of letting her go. I thought if I ignored it I would get another chance, but I was wrong. So very wrong!

This regret is what fueled my passion to discover and write her story. I have found stumbling happens for a reason; it’s the platform that launches us to a place we would never get to had we not stumbled in the first place.

It’s easy to stand here today in my 60’s and judge my 19 year old response to death and dying, but that’s not fair. I did as much as I was emotionally able to do at the time, and it was for a purpose.

God takes our broken pieces and makes them into something special to be treasured—like a stained glass window. Today I’m holding up my broken pieces for you to see. God made something beautiful in spite of my mistakes.

How have you seen your mistakes made into something beautiful?

This is Day 6 of The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Whole Latta Fun

latta plantation

We spent the day today touring an old southern plantation in Charlotte, N.C. — The Latta Plantation, to be specific. It wasn’t all that impressive by today’s standards, but in the early 1800’s it was quite the spread. We saw an old covered wagon, a chicken coop, a few horses, a mule and donkey, a couple of pigs, the kitchen and well-house and of course, the main house. I loved walking through imagining what life was like for them then. Probably the worst part for me would have been wearing those long skirts and long-sleeves with no air-conditioning. Yeah, I’m spoiled.

So much of what they did on a farm was to sustain life. They had to grow their own food or they would die. They had to care for their animals or they wouldn’t have milk, eggs or fresh meat. It was a hard life without the many conveniences we take for granted. You would think with all the extra time we have that our quality of life would be so much better. But it isn’t. Somehow I think we are more distracted which prevents us from focusing on the things of most importance.

Question #12 – Do you know what your grandparent’s did for a living? Did they farm their own land? Or did they live in the city?

My grandfather was a citrus farmer. He had 32 acres of groves here in Florida, and they were still a part of our family until the freezes of the early 80’s wiped them out. That was a sad time in our family. My parents replanted one grove, but even that one only lasted a couple of decades. The land became too valuable to keep as farm land. My Mom sold it to a developer in the family. 😦 Sadly, there aren’t any groves left for us to go tour like we did today. I can’t take my grandchildren to the family homestead in order for them to see what life was like for their great-great-grandparents. All they can have is the stories I share, which is why knowing it and telling it often is so important.

How are you doing with the questions each day? Are you making the time to ask someone in your family? What things have you discovered? I would love to hear…

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This is post #13 in the challenge to post everyday in April.

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Tell It To Your Children and Your Children’s Children

Photo Credit: Pam, The Nomad blog

Photo Credit: Pam, The Nomad blog

A hundred years ago, before radio or television was invented, families sat around after dinner telling stories from their experiences. My Mom knew much of her family history simply by listening to the stories over and over again as told by her parents and grandparents. What a great way to tell their children and grand-children about life and what they had learned along the way.

But families don’t do this so much anymore. Of course, there are those who are intentional and do this on a regular basis (click the picture above to hear about one family who is intentional). But to those who are more comfortable clicking the “on” button on the remote than you are waiting in the silence while someone thinks how to answer a question, please give this month’s challenge a try. You never know what treasures of history are waiting to be discovered and how it might affect you. And most likely you will laugh when you hear the stories told in a way that makes it unforgettable.

Why is it that when we look back to when we were younger the days seemed better and life seemed easier? But was it really? Or are we simply choosing to remember the parts we liked or the parts we can make sense of? One thing is certain, we can learn from our past as well as the past of those who have gone before us. Most are willing to talk about it because the time and distance has made the story easier to discuss. This brings us to our next question that I would like to hear how you would answer this question, as well as encourage you to ask someone in your family whom you don’t already know the answer they would give.

Question #5

What did you love most about where you grew up? 

 

“Generations pass like leaves fall from our family tree. Each season new life blossoms and grows benefiting from the strength and experience of those who went before.”

Author: Heidi Swapp

 

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I am taking part in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.
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We’ve Always Done It That Way

I was visiting my mom today. 🙂 We were talking about strange traditions, and I remembered a story I once heard. It went something like this:

One day a Mother was showing her daughter how to make roast beef. As she prepared the meat she cut it in half and placed it in the roasting pan. The daughter asked her why she cut the roast in half, to which she replied, “I don’t know. This is how my Mama did it.”

The next day the daughter asked her grandmother why she cut her roasts in half before cooking them, to which she replied, “I don’t know. This is how my Mama did it.”

The following day the daughter visited her great-grandmother who was living in a nursing home. She curiously asked why she used to cut her roasts in half before cooking it, to which her great-grandmother replied, “Oh, land sakes, it was because my wood stove was too small for the roast to fit whole. I had to cut it in half to have have enough to feed the family.”

My Mom laughed out loud when I told her this story. How many times are traditions created out of necessity? What starts out as a need quickly becomes a preference handed down from generation to generation.

Do you have any traditions that seem strange to you? Have you ever asked how they originated? You may be surprised to hear the story. You never know until you A.S.K.

From My Journal

From time to time, I’m going to share with you some of my personal journey as I record in my journal. My hope is that this will help you as God is helping me, and that it might encourage you to start journaling your own thoughts and prayers.

Journal entry from October 15th:

My Bible verse for today is Deuteronomy 7:7-8 ESV:

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers.”

Thank you, Father, for Your faithfulness to keep Your promises. You promise and You never forget. We benefit from the promise You made to Abraham thousands of years ago. I’m sure I’m benefitting from promises You  made to my grandmother–Grace Stella–and my great-grandfather–“Uncle Bud” Oswalt. Thank You.

Thank You for choosing to place Your love on me and on my children. I believe and pray my grandchildren will grow to love You as well. Set Your seal upon their heart, Lord. May they learn of Your grace at an early age. I love You and can’t imagine my life apart from Your love. Thank You that I will never know.

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Do you keep a journal? If so, what is God currently saying to you? If not, have you considered the blessing this would be for your family in the years to come?

All I Can Say Is…Wow!

Stella Grace at 4 months

This week I am more and more aware of God’s kindness to have brought me this far in the writing process. I have heard from dozens of people as they’ve read Through The Eyes Of Grace, and it brings tears to my eyes. Grace’s story is affecting others for good. I have heard moms tell me they are going to have their daughters read my book in hopes of inspiring them to know their own grandparent’s stories. I have had people stop me to tell me their story of regret towards their parents or grandparents who are no longer around to ask. I have even had some tell me of their dream to write a similar story to honor their family legacy.

All I can say is, Wow!

God is taking my little mite and using it for His purposes. If you’ve read my book and found it enjoyable, would you take time to write a review on Amazon about it for me? Your words will help others decide if they would enjoy it as well.

I must say that what I love most is hearing from you. Your words of encouragement are washing away years of disbelief that I could ever accomplish such a feat. Now that I have, the temptation is even greater to discount my work, which I’m sure saddens the Lord who is the One who enabled me to do it in the first place. I want to be quick to give Him the glory for the big picture story of His grace that He weaves into each of our lives.

How has your family impacted your appreciation of God’s grace at work in you?

Officially Yours

It has been mine for the past 25 years. Ten  years ago I began the process of making it yours, and in the Fall of 2012 it will be official – officially yours that is.

I have prayed, cried, and labored over this project. I have gone from being a novice writer to a full-time writer of a blog, our neighborhood newsletter, and my own journals. The project of which I speak is my first novel titled, Through The Eyes Of Grace, and is based on the life of my grandmother. The story takes place in Oklahoma just after the turn of the 20th century. Oklahoma was called Indian Territory then, and is still home to hundreds of Native Americans today. I didn’t know her story until after she died when I was 19. I was her youngest grandchild, and how I wished I could have heard these stories from her first-hand. What lessons I could have learned from her, but at 19 I was too young to appreciate the value of asking good questions.

My Mom was her youngest daughter. Of my grandmother’s six children she outlived all of them except for her. My hope is that her story will compel you to ask good questions of your own parents and/or grandparents. My Mom says that every time someone dies a library of information is buried with them. Sadly, this is true. Unless we ask and remember their stories will be gone in one or two generations. What a gift to know those stories and pass them onto your children and grandchildren.

I’ve provided at the back of the book a list of great questions to help you get started in discovering your own family history. We all have a story, but we may not know all the details. My prayer is that you will not only enjoy reading my book, but that you will find yourself drawn to talk to loved ones about it.

Through The Eyes Of Grace is my gift to you.

If you are interested in reserving a copy of my book, simply sign up to receive my blog posts by e-mail (see right column). This will guarantee you’ll be one of the firsts to hear of it’s release. 

Blessings to you and yours,

Debi