Sunday, January 31, 2010

When money was scarce

Cecil and Annette Carpenter
How people handle money hasn’t changed much since 1946 when my mother and father relocated to Starkville, MS, or has it? Their first day there, before they had even found a place to park the little travel trailer they had bought, my father went to register at Mississippi State College, the state’s land grant college that is now Mississippi State University. Lodging was in short supply and Miss Julia, the registrar, offered to let the couple park in her pecan grove. Eventually four World War II veterans and their wives were housed in the pecan grove.

The guys were going to State on the G.I. Bill, and all four couples were surviving on limited funds. Although all became friends and good neighbors, they fell into two groups as far as their money-management methods. My parents were in the “cash only” category. They were frugal and made their monthly allotment cover their expenditures till the next check came in. I grew up on stories about how Mother would split one little can of Vienna sausages to have meat for two meals. Daddy also tilled a little plot near their trailer and planted mustard greens, a prolific cold-weather veggie. Mother was pregnant with me, and the only other “cash only” couple escorted her on her walks: one of the many no-cost entertainment strategies the two couples shared.

Then there was the “live-high-when-the-check-comes-in” approach. At the extreme were Adam and Eve (not their real names!). Within a week they would spend their check on steak dinners, fresh oysters and other luxuries. For the other three weeks they charged milk and pound cake, and that is what they lived on. When the next check came, they started the cycle again. They paid what they owed the grocery store, spent the rest on pricier meals then charged for the rest of the month.

My parents never went hungry, and Mother was creative in achieving a fairly well-balanced diet. The challenges and laughter they shared with the other three couples in that pecan grove created treasured memories that my mother still enjoys sharing with me. At the end of the semester, my father was offered a position with the U.S Post Office, and the Carpenters moved to Hattiesburg, MS. The need to split that can of Vienna sausage diminished, but frugality, planning balanced meals, and creating fun that involved little or no cost continued through my growing up years. I am thankful my brother and I were exposed to our parents’ perspective on spending, saving, sharing and having fun.

Here is my question: Is there anyone out there today who would make a can of Vienna sausage last two meals rather than pull out a credit card? Believe it or not, I found someone who did just that -- the editor of Cheap Eats blog, although it was for the purpose of reviewing what he called “earthquake” food. For us here in coastal Mississippi it would be hurricane food.

Here’s another question: Would any college student today share a single bathroom on a back porch with eight other people like those WWII veterans and their wives did, traipsing through the pecan grove regardless of rain or cold?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fireplace magic

The rain has stopped, but the cold is back. The path to the compost pile is now mud, best negotiated with husband Walter’s rubber boots. Inside, my considerate spouse had started a fire in the fireplace. We celebrated with hot tea for me and cappuccino for him. Toasty and content by the fire, I cleaned several months worth of notes, receipts and change out of the small daypack that I use instead of a purse. Later we picnicked on panini in front of the fire. Now, sitting on the floor by the fireplace, I think I can even tackle my computer bag’s collection of papers, assorted notes to myself and other clutter. A fire on a cold day is a touch of magic.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Positive procrastination

Lingering cold-like symptoms and overcast skies gave me the perfect excuse to fall into my procrastinating ways early this morning. While savoring a cup of hot tea, I spent 12 minutes and 26 seconds – at least that is what Sitemeter reported – browsing through earlier posts on my own blog. It was time well spent, a reminder of so much in my life that I am thankful for. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What I’m reading lately

During the last few days I finished the book of 1 Kings in my read-through of the King James Version of the Bible. I found it interesting how a series of ungodly acts by King David did not characterize his life in God’s eyes. When David’s army was out fighting a war, David stayed behind and committed adultery with the wife of one of his soldiers. She became pregnant. When David’s initial efforts at a cover up failed, he issued an order for a military maneuver that guaranteed the husband would be killed in battle. Giving the order was, in effect, murder.

Yet in 1 Kings 9:4 and 1 Kings 15:5, David is held up as how a king should walk before God. The heart “perfect with” God or as translated in the New International Version (NIV), “fully devoted to” God surely can only happen with a personal relationship. When confronted with his crimes, David acknowledged his sin against God. God “put away” his sin, and he didn’t die (2 Samuel 12:13). His actions, however, opened the door to heartache and violence in his family. He had to deal with consequences, but he didn't deal with them alone. In David’s own words in Psalm 68:19-20 (NIV):

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death. Psalm 68:19-20

When we accept the gift of God’s grace we can trust that he is with us, even in the midst of “consequences.”

Earlier "What I'm Reading Lately" posts:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Almost-spring ramblings

Red maple, Acer rubrum
This morning I ran out to check a red maple that a week ago had buds about to pop. They had popped, bright red against a vivid blue sky. Today was springlike weather, the perfect in-the-garden day. Alas, it was not to be. Sinus gunk and an achy-all-over feeling sent me inside to alternately putter around then wrap in a blanket and crash on the sofa with my laptop.

As I moved photos from camera to computer, I wondered about the maple’s red blooms. I had seen the winged seeds in years past that helicopter around our yard and sprout multiple little trees in our flower beds. But I had never looked up-close at the blooms that precede the seeds. I Googled and learned that there can be red maples that are always male or always female, but most have both male and female flowers. Hmmm, I’ll be watching for where the winged seeds develop.

Good medicine for my miseries was a welcomed visit from youngest son Jeremy, in town on business. Not only did he stop by, he brought pulled-pork sandwiches from The Shed, an award-winning Ocean Springs barbeque and blues enterprise. Evidently my appetite has not been affected.

Husband Walter reminds me that spring has not sprung and won’t until the week after Easter. Weather Underground predicts weekend lows for our city at below freezing for Saturday and 34 degrees for Sunday. But today I relish the feeling that spring is on the way.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stadium ‘appletizers’

Grandson Nate

Husband Walter asked what I wanted for supper. That was easy – stadium food. We were watching football playoffs after all. At halftime Walter started the hot dogs I requested and some homemade hashbrowns. I went in to help, and there was a plate of slightly charred potatoes by the stove. “Have an appletizer,” he waved a hand at the plate.

“Appletizer” entered our vocabulary during a visit home by our eldest son, his wife and their four. Before one of the meals we shared, five-year-old Nate was trying to convince his mother to let him have something to eat before everyone came to the table. When she was adamant that he had to wait, he did not give up. “I just need an appletizer,” he urged.

Tonight’s appletizers weren’t bad. I liked the crunch. Then maybe it is because I will eat anything if I don’t have to cook. Walter rarely burns anything. It could have been all the medication he took earlier for a persistent cough and other cold miseries. Anyway, we enjoyed our stadium food while Peyton Manning and the Colts got into gear in the second half. There was no question of who we would cheer for. Peyton is, after all, from our neighboring city New Orleans; his daddy and brother graduated from Ole Miss; we had cheered his dad when he quarterbacked the Saints; and Peyton seems to be as genuinely nice as his dad.

The Vikings-Saints game is a little harder with Mississippi Gulf Coast favorite son Brett Favre leading the Vikings. But we will be cheering the Saints. The Colts’ win was just the appletizer. Hope this main course is good! If not, I’ll be happy for Brett.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Saturday morning treat

We left Ocean Springs this morning by 6:30, headed to Hattiesburg. Our objective was to pick up my mother and make it to Southbound Bagel and Coffee Shop in time for fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls.

Southbound owner Chris Hackbarth serves up cinnamon rolls.

Located at the outer edge of the historic Hattiesburg downtown area, the coffee shop was busy with regulars tucking into omelets, banana bread French toast, and, of course, bagels made on site. Husband Walter had a bagel and coffee. Mother and I each had one of the huge cinnamon rolls – my sugar quota for February in one treat!
Another treat -- Mother, left, encounters friend Bernice Linton and her husband Henry who were enjoying breakfast at the coffee shop.

Blog dipping

Before I started this blog, I was totally clueless about the blogging community and the variety of topics people blog about. Now I love dipping into blogs I have never visited before. What keeps me exploring are those unexpected gems of wisdom, inspiration, useful information, intriguing opinions, interesting photos, humor, and fun, fun fun. In Jan. 13 and Jan. 17 posts, Photowannabe featured “The Faces of Haiti,” and “More Faces of Haiti,” photos of the people of a pre-earthquake Haiti she had taken on a trip a year ago. Her photos offered a counterpoint that intensified, if possible, the sense of the horror that people in Haiti are experiencing.

A gem in the fun category is the Daily Nail. Each day of 2010 the blog owner is posting a new photo of fingernails funky, fabulous or freaky. Recent posts featured nails as Scrabble tiles, as teeth with braces, as a psychedelic leopard print and zippers in memory of Michael Jackson. She shares why she chose to create the day’s design and provides total technical detail about the products she used.

In a world full of suffering, challenges and uncertainties, I am thankful for courageous and generous people who help. I am also glad that there are individuals who create moments of beauty or whimsy and are generous enough to share their creations.

Friday, January 22, 2010

More on Haiti

If you are among those of us interested in regular updates about how Southern Baptists are responding to Haiti, you can subscribe to email alerts by visiting A Thursday, Jan. 21, article noted that the Southern Baptist relief effort will focus on the long-term emphasis of helping people rebuild their lives and communities, according to Mickey Caison, who directs disaster operations for the North American Mission Board.

A Baptist Press article said that an International Mission Board (IMB) team is receiving information from Southern Baptist medical personnel who are willing to help, and the IMB has also sent out an urgent prayer request. Details are in the excerpts below from the article:

Interested parties can e-mail to register their availability. Baptist state convention disaster relief offices also will be organizing teams of volunteers to help once the assessment teams have returned with strategic recommendations for the response. The IMB's prayer office released a Jan. 21 alert urging intercession for Southern Baptist relief workers already on the ground in Haiti, as well as the people of Haiti themselves.
"Pray ... for the IMB missionaries who have been in Haiti ministering in very difficult circumstances. Ask God to strengthen them and help them to deal with the extremely sad situations they are witnessing," the alert said. "Pray for the five IMB missionaries who had served in Haiti for many years and the grief they are experiencing from losing close friends. Continue to pray for the Haitian people as they come to grips with lost loved ones and a difficult future."

Donations designated for Haiti disaster relief through any of the Southern Baptist organizations go 100 percent to relief efforts. None is used for administrative costs.

Many stories are coming out of Haiti that highlight the best of the human spirit, among both those helping and those needing help. One such story is about how tech volunteers are making a difference in the chaos of destroyed infrastructure and human suffering. The Associated Press article was published Wednesday, but if you haven’t read it, I found it here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Breaking a habit

Do you call it breaking a habit if you want to stop NOT doing something? The habit I want to break is my tendency not to check our answering machine. Recently I reconnected via email with Molly, a childhood friend. She and I graduated from Hattiesburg High together. Now she lives in North Carolina on our route to the Smoky Mountains, and I looked forward to eventually seeing her face to face.

Well, that opportunity came sooner than I expected. Thursday when I was visiting my mother at Provisions Living retirement community in Hattiesburg, Pattye, Molly’s cousin and another childhood friend, knocked on Mother’s door and asked us to come to her parent’s apartment. Molly and her husband had just arrived to visit Pattye’s parents, Molly’s aunt and uncle. We all had a great but brief visit. Molly seemed to me to be just as I remembered her, a slim, trim bundle of energy with a smile that could make your day. When we were teenagers she impressed me as adventurous and fearless, which I was not.

I was chagrined to find out, though, that she had called my home several days earlier and left a message, hoping that we could get together. When she called she was just about seven miles from where I live. We could have had a longer visit. Here’s hoping for that kind of get-together in the future. In the meantime there is email.

Back to the habit issue. The answering machine can supply happy surprises, but only if I develop a new habit and check it! Oh, and does the fact that we even have an answering machine, instead of voicemail, relegate us to the category of technologically impaired -- or just totally behind the times?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Birthdays in bunches

The Skupiens have an abundance of birthdays in January, and we spent the weekend celebrating two. Saturday morning, husband Walter and I treated his mom Helen Skupien, also known as Grandma Sugar, to breakfast on her birthday. She doesn’t usually like breakfast, but she does like the occasional visit to IHOP.

Walter and Grandma Sugar at IHOP

Her choice was cheesecake pancakes. Walter ordered a full breakfast with the all-you-can-eat pancake option. I ordered less, but guess who finished up the cheesecake pancakes when Grandma Sugar could eat no more and one of Walter’s pancakes? Yes, me, and they were delicious.

Cheesecake pancakes. Yum.

Sunday we celebrated the upcoming one-year anniversary of great-nephew Miles Brown at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, a great children’s museum in Gulfport, MS. His mom, Sandi Skupien Brown, provided a barbeque lunch and other goodies that tempted children and adults alike.

Birthday boy Miles, right, samples his cake.

Sandi and her sister Stephanie Skupien Stanley are gifted with abundant imagination and the talent to turn what they imagine into reality. Stephanie trimmed and glued colored papers into this one-of-a-kind birthday invitation.

“The Miles” tugboat had the party’s who, what and where information on the back.

Even the kid-friendly and heart-healthy snacks contributed to the colorful birthday tableau.

There always seems to be something you forget to bring when holding an event away from home. This day it was a knife. January 22 birthday-boy Ryan Byrd saved the day with a filet knife he had in his vehicle. An avid fisherman and a Biloxi fireman, our nephew Ryan is always prepared. He also applied the knife to repairing the bubble machine.

Ryan resurrects the bubble machine . . .

. . . much to Miles’ delight.

The festivities moved to the main museum building packed with intriguing hands-on learning exhibits. Kids big and little tried them out.

Our great-niece Trinity, left, and Miles’ neighbor Anna Claire crew the shrimp boat.

The Stanleys, Nathan and Stephanie, take a turn.

Lila Skupien with grandson Miles at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center.

Today is the birthday of Lila Skupien, Miles’ grandmother and proud of it. Happy birthday, Lila!

Friday, January 15, 2010

More on donating for Haiti

Graphics from the Southern Baptist International Mission Board Web Site

This from Baptist Press as reported by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board's communications staff. Southern Baptists – and others -- can contribute to “Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief” through their local Southern Baptist church or directly to their state convention, the North American Mission Board or the International Mission Board. The North American Mission Board has set up a Haiti disaster relief fund that will direct money to state conventions and other Southern Baptists who are doing relief work in Haiti.

Donations may be made online,, by phone, (866) 407-6262, or by mail, North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Make checks payable to “Haiti Disaster Relief Fund/NAMB." Initial funding for the relief effort will come from the International Mission Board's disaster relief fund. Contributions can be made online,, or by mail, International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230. Regardless of the SBC channel, all funds received for this purpose will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.

Choices for helping Haiti

There are a multitude of legitimate relief agencies ready to help the people of Haiti once logistics allow them access. Their varied missions offer individuals who want to support the relief effort the opportunity to give where their hearts are. The track record of Southern Baptist disaster relief appeals to me personally.

The on-line donation link at the site of the Baptist Global Response, the Southern Baptist relief and development organization, was temporarily down earlier today, swamped by donations for Haiti relief, BGR Associate Director Megan Riel said. “We are hoping it will be back up shortly. One hundred percent of our donations goes to the relief effort. We don’t keep any for administrative costs.” Donations can also be sent to Baptist Global Response, 402 BNA Drive, Suite 411, Nashville, TN 37217. 

BGR also provides email updates about the relief efforts. To subscribe go to the BGR homepage and complete the form in the bottom right corner.

Riel said Global Response works principally to help those who aren’t being helped by the government or other relief organizations. “An assessment team is headed that way, but we are not sure when they will get in. We are hearing that people are lined up at the border waiting to get in to help. We know that immediate needs are food, water, shelter and medical needs.”

She said what the team finds will determine the mix of immediate and long-term needs that will be BGR’s focus. “We will stay for the long haul.”

The Southern Baptist International Mission Board is sending the five-member team that includes representatives from BGR and the North American Mission Board plus disaster relief specialists from Kentucky, Mississippi and South Carolina. Don Gann from the Men’s Ministry office of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board will be representing Mississippi, Carol Wright, Men’s Ministry assistant, said via email today.

For more about Mississippi Baptist Haiti efforts, go to the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board site. It is one of the simplest and easy-to-use sites for me with a great list of five ways to help, update link and a link to the FBI fraud warning.

The Baptist Press reported that Florida Baptists, who have had a 15-year partnership with Haitian Baptists, are also sending an assessment team, and the two teams will collaborate. The Baptist Press article also said that Florida Baptists employ a missions coordinator and six indigenous directors of missions in Haiti for the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d' Haiti, along with 15 workers at the convention's guest house, located about 17 miles from the epicenter of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Here are some lists – assembled by three news groups -- of other relief organizations:

CNN list -- includes the highest-rated charities by, which is an independent, nonprofit organization that evaluates charity groups based on effectiveness and financial stability. The sites that CNN lists are vetted by CNN journalists for credibility.

MSNBC list – lists organizations active in the country

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What I learned today

A multi-talented mom, wife, writer and singer, she lost her voice as a result of the radiation but is now singing again. She named her ministry “Healing Song.”

The kits are canvas tote bags stuffed with items that comforted her through the physical, emotional and spiritual journey of chemotherapy and radiation. My sister-in-law Lila and I had been assembling rice bags for the kits. Suitable for freezer or microwave, they can be used as cold or hot packs, and Brooke needed both at times. But she said what she is really short on right now are warm, fuzzy socks to help combat the cold that patients experience, and Queasy Pops for the nausea.

Queasy Pops? The last I knew she was tucking hard candy into the kits. She had said the candy helped when the medical folks flushed her port or when she had radiation and could taste the burning. Now she has found something better. Brooke knows firsthand about the challenges of cancer treatment, and she is meticulous about what she provides for others going through the trauma of chemo and radiation. I haven’t talked to anyone but Brooke who has tried these, but I trust her judgment. If someone you care about is going through chemo or radiation, you might give the Queasy Pop site, Three Lollies, a visit.

The Web site describes the lollipops as developed by healthcare professionals to provide relief from the queasy stomach associated with motion sickness and chemotherapy. The site says Queasy Pops also alleviate dry mouth, provide quick calories for an energy boost and are soothing and comforting. Three Lollies also offers Preggie Pops. Both come in several flavors.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Free-book fanatic

I have fallen off the wagon. Oh wait, not the wagon, maybe the bookmobile. My guilty secret is addiction to fiction that does little to enrich my mind, expand my horizons or contribute to my growth as a person.

The public library in Ocean Springs has a free paperback swap program that feeds my addiction. November, December and early January have been so full of celebrations, travel and other activities that there has been no visit to the library. About the only book I have read other than my Bible during that time was Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil prior to our November visit to Savannah, GA.

The return to devouring sometimes abominable prose began with good intentions. Working on some post-holiday cleanup yesterday, I gathered a bag full of paperbacks I had read and loaded them in our van. I had other errands downtown, so I planned to just run in, shelve the books and leave. When I arrived, however, the swap shelves were full, and books were calling to me to have a look.

As usual, the visit to the swap section began with the – gulp, blush – romance section. My system is to quickly look for regency romances. I like the ones with brave, quirky heroines pure as the driven snow. The steamier romances are not for me. Since there is rarely an abundance of regency romances, my next step is to just pick out the thickest of the romances with interesting titles and covers that don’t have hunks and hunkesses passionately entwined. Next I move over to the novels and mystery sections and pick out a few promising candidates. In my earlier years, I finished every book I started. No longer. If it doesn’t grab in the first few pages, or sometimes the first few paragraphs, down it goes.

I left with two skinny regency romances, several thicker paperbacks by Luann Rice, a John Grisham I hadn’t read and a few others. After husband Walter headed back to work after lunch, I decided to dip just a little into one of the romances. That is always the way it begins. By bedtime that “dip,” interspersed with minimum housekeeping tasks, had expanded to finishing the regency romances and getting well into a Luann Rice book. Hey, at least I’m a frugal addict.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Accidental salad greens

We added a little homegrown red sails lettuce and mesclun mix -- pictured above -- to our Romaine for a salad to accompany our traditional Sunday night pizza tonight. In a Nov. 3, 2009, post, “Lettuce be happy” I blogged about the fate of red sails lettuce seeds that I dropped on a kitchen rug and planted by shaking the rug over a section of our veggie garden. I had also scattered a few seeds from a mesclun mix packet into another section of our garden plot.

I had great hopes for both the mesclun mix and the little red sails plants that emerged all crowded together. But taking priority over even minimal gardening were the retirement blessings of travel, babysitting grandchildren, holidays, visits with family elders, and joining them in doctors’ appointments. Plus, I had not done my homework about the changing patterns of sun and shadow caused in our yard by the Earth’s journey around the sun. My salad greens are severely deprived of needed sunshine.

We did harvest enough of our accidental baby greens in the past three days, however, for salads for two at two meals and a colorful addition to our salad tonight. Last year, my red sails success was transplants in pots. This year, both transplants and direct seeds to pots have just disappeared. Neglect or something more dire? Guess I will just have to keep experimenting. I am hoping that the red sails will survive the temperatures in the teens we are having in coastal Mississippi.

The satisfaction this retirement gardening experience gives me is all out of proportion to the meager success my efforts have produced. I haven’t quite figured out why that is so. I am sure more experienced gardeners could clue me in. In the meantime I am itching to prep our tiny garden for spring planting, plant some more red sails and attack the alligator weed that is advancing across our backyard, closer and closer to the garden. Arghhhhh! The alligator weed is a post for another day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cold weather baffles technology?

Husband Walter threw a curve as he was departing for his afternoon school bus run yesterday in what is, for us, frigid weather. “Aren’t you leaving earlier than usual?” I queried.

He held up his index finger and wiggled it. “I have to have time to warm up my finger.” Huh? “The TAMIS machine (Time/Attendance and Management Information Solution) won’t work for a cold finger.” He explained that each employee enters a four-digit code then presses the index finger on a small screen.

“I get a cup of warm water and put my finger in it for about a minute then clock in.” Other co-workers have also had problems clocking in, but he hasn’t pursued confirming that cold is the culprit. We are still blaming the cold though.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thanks for cozy comforts

It is 30 degrees at midday here at our house just a few blocks from the beach in Ocean Springs, MS. That is too, too cold for this area. I am sending out a “thank you” for some cozy comforts of the last couple of frigid hours:

- To granddaughter Molly Kate, thank you for picking out such cuddly socks for Nana.
- To sister-in-law Lila, thank you for the earmuffs. They have kept my ears warm and have protected them from earache-producing winds on Sugar Mountain in North Carolina for a couple of trips in years past, and now I am digging them out for venturing out of doors at the home scene.
- To husband Walter for the delicious mug of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. Forbidden pleasure but oh so effective in warming up from the inside out.

Now excuse me while I bundle up in my favorite blanket and visit The Daily Skup by our daughter-in-law Katie.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What I’m reading lately

In Judges 6, the account of Gideon’s encounter with God struck me with three differences between God and human beings, including believers.

#1 God knows us
God knows us personally as individuals, created us to be in a personal relationship with Him and works to lead us into such a relationship. He recognizes our voice when we call on him.

We, on the other hand, don’t always seek to know God. As a result, like Gideon in verse 22, we don’t always recognize his voice immediately; or, as in verse 36-40, we aren’t familiar with his character and question his promises.

#2 God provides signposts
God lays out the path to a life of peace with Him. Like Gideon, we often ignore the spiritual signposts God has provided. When Israel cried to God about the oppression of hostile forces, he sent a prophet to remind them of what he had done for them and that they were experiencing the consequences of taking themselves out from under his care.

Gideon completely ignored that message, failed to see the big picture and questioned God, even though God was there to start the process for saving Israel. In verse 13 Gideon sounded a lot like we do today: Why are you letting all this rotten stuff happen to us?

#3 God sees what is really real
God sees us in the fullness of what he created us to be. In Judges 6:12 and 14 God greeted Gideon as a “mighty man of valour” and told him to “Go in this thy might.” God had already established all the external and internal resources Gideon needed for success in his God-given mission.

We humans perceive only what our physical senses and our emotions tell us. Gideon, like many of us, focused on what he could see: his limitations, not his possibilities. He asserted he was not up to the task because his clan was the weakest of the Manasseh tribe and he was the least in his family.

In trying circumstances, I have a tendency to forget to act on a truth I believe: that God has already established his highest and best good for me. I cannot see it. It doesn’t even seem logical or possible. But I can choose to accept that God has established it. It is hard for me sometimes to make that choice--to talk, walk and work with confidence that his highest and best good will eventually become apparent. But when I do, he is faithful to affirm that the choice was the right one.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Post-holiday high

Holidays are officially over for us, and I should feel wiped out, sort of like the Elmo doll above that was left behind by one of our little granddaughters. Perhaps it is all the sugar we are still eating, but instead I feel exhilarated, Christmasy even. Walter braved the cold this morning, riding his bicycle to work before 6 a.m. in 22-degree weather. Brrrrrr! When he returned home from delivering his first three busloads of children to their respective schools, we headed for Coffee Fusion, a coffee shop just a few blocks from where we live.

Walter and I enjoy our conversations there, undistracted by tasks undone. Since retiring, I relax and rarely watch the clock. Either one of us is likely to utter – with great enthusiasm -- what has become our mantra since I retired: “It’s like a vacation day!” After about 30 minutes to an hour of talk, laughter and taking (and usually failing) the Coffee News trivia test, we turn on our computers and away we go via the Internet.

I left behind a home that has sleeping bags and toys still to be tucked away and Christmas decorations still out in all their glory. Oh well, as long as I get them put away before the kids come again. After all – It’s like a vacation day!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The grand connection

Travel with my husband Walter was among the top three priorities on my post-employment to-do list when I was considering retirement. And travel we have: a month-long trip out west that included almost two weeks in San Francisco, a favorite city; trips to the Smoky Mountains, another favorite retreat and trips to regional destinations. But we have also found ourselves involved more and more in another kind of excursion – grand trips. I am not talking about the Grand Tour of English aristocracy in days gone by. I am talking about visits to grandkids.

There should be a special word for such special visits. Maybe there is. If anyone knows one, let me know. I thought about “granny trips,” but that seemed to leave out the male grandparent, in this case Baboo. Baboo does not want to be left out. Plus, even short visits really are grand. We just got home from such a trip--a quick turnaround jaunt to Columbus, GA, to transport bunk beds from Sarah’s family to Walt and Sarah’s house for eventual use by their two youngest.

We were there less than two hours, but at least we grabbed a needed grandkid fix that included Nerf gun activity, working with a Princess pop-together beading set with Charlie and snuggling with the boys in front of the television. We closed our visit as the youngest, 19-month-old Stella, awoke from her nap. She was attired in her new favorite article of clothing, a pink tulle tutu that Charlie had received as a birthday gift. Grand trips, like all travel, are filled with the new and interesting.

It took us just over 12 hours. It was a beautiful day. I confess that I slept much of the way, but I did see two hawks. Ate fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I could really be a fast food junkie. The only thing missing was a visit with our other granddaughter, Molly Kate. Day after tomorrow we return to reality, healthy eating and keeping in touch with our two sets of grands and their parents long-distance.

Friday, January 1, 2010

What I’m reading lately

Joshua -- I have just started the book of Joshua. The commandments and encouragement God gave Joshua, the leader of the Israelites after Moses death, have always helped me in times when I did not feel up to personal or professional challenges facing me – and they have been numerous. In Chapter 1 God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous. I think He was telling Joshua – and us today – to be strong and courageous enough to make a choice to trust Him. No matter what our innate strength or courage is, God wants us -- as an act of our will -- to take our eyes off the magnitude of the challenge and turn our eyes to Him and place our faith in Him, even if it is only for a moment. That is our part. God is faithful to equip us to meet the challenge. That is His part, and He is faithful. One of my favorite verses in Joshua is chapter 1, verse 9.

Joshua 1:9. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:9

Time Goes By -- I love to take a quick dip into Ronni Bennett’s Time Goes By blog. . “We are the Last Generation To...” is a recent post by Bennett that resonated with me. I also enjoy the robust discussions that follow posts. They are thought provoking and entertaining.

One of my favorite features is the list of “elderblogs.” Linked blogs are all by bloggers 50 or older. The blogs are not always about senior issues or interests, and there is a diversity of world views as well as in the quality of content and design. One that I enjoyed visiting was A Shelter from the Storm, dishing up a slice of daily life by a fellow grandmother.