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A Man’s Man

As I pored over photographs,

a particular one, my dad and I performing our Sunday afternoon ritual of reading the funny papers, caught my attention. Sprawled on the living room floor under the swamp cooler, I (four years old), in a summer dress, and he, clad only in his jeans, together, looking peaceful and relaxed. That was how our relationship developed, and blossomed through my childhood. KarenDadComics [38828]

 

A quiet man by nature, he didn’t talk much, but we did things together. I watched him, and I learned.

 

Sunday mornings, I, along with my sister, walked with  Dad the few blocks to attend Sunday School. Mom usually drove to church after she finished straightening the house. It never occurred to me to question attending Sunday morning and evening church. My dad established this priority early in our lives. He consistently led by example.KarenDadSherryDressedUp [38829]

 

When I was nine years old, his employer sent him to work in the devastated area hit by hurricane Carla. He had never been absent over night, so these two weeks seemed an eternity in the mind of a young girl. What an exciting day when he safely returned, bearing presents for my brother, sister, and me. They weren’t expensive gifts, but I thought the frog slinky he brought me was the coolest toy ever!

 

Following the birth of my youngest brother, as I was about to enter fifth grade, our family of six had outgrown our small two-bedroom home. A house in a neighboring town, a perfect fit for our family, came up for sale. An acre of land, complete with a barn and tool shed, provided ample space for a garden, a clothes line to hang diapers to dry, and plush carpet grass to play on.

 

After sealing the house deal, Daddy wasted no time plowing a portion of the land for a garden. I frequently observed his “go-to” book, pages worn from daily use, laying on the coffee table. The author, Adelle Davis, a pioneer in her time on recommending methods of healing the body naturally with vitamins and minerals, presented methods for growing food organically.

 

Many days, after supper, we made the ten-minute drive to our thirty-two-acre farm across town. Much more comfortable with my driving than my mom, Daddy would take his place in the passenger seat, which signaled that I was doing the driving. I much preferred the rustic outdoors to being indoors. A large pond, teeming with fish and frogs, and our small herd of cows added even more motivation for these weekly farm visits. The wide open space provided the perfect setting for us kids to explore without interruption.
Vivid in my mind’s eye was the night I held a light while Daddy assisted our oldest cow (Beauty) with the birth of her breech calf. Arms, deep inside her, he grabbed the stubborn little guy and turning him, assisted him through the birth canal and safely into his new world. Looking back, I am amazed that observing this birth didn’t seem the least bit gross or strange. We had watched, and even participated in all types of animal activities (cattle branding, administering immunizations, doctoring wounds) since we were very young children. Nothing seemed gross, just a natural part of life. We had also been taught the value of life, even that of a tiny calf.

 

I loved to go places with him. Fond remembrances of a weekly Greek class ranked as one of my favorite Dad and Daughter Activities. I, thirteen years of age, and the youngest member of the class, felt special and valued, believing that my dad thought I was smart enough to attend this class.

 

A few times a year my dad was asked to replace and adjust lights at a ballpark in a neighboring town. His occupation, an electrical lineman for CPS (City Public Service) in San Antonio, more than qualified him for this task. On these weekends he was allowed to take his pole-climbing equipment home from work. I felt proud, but also frightened for him, as he made the dangerous ascent up the tall creosote poles. Once at the top, he appeared as a tiny stick figure hanging in the clouds high up in the sky.

 

Although his occupational work required mostly physical labor, he exercised his mind by reading and seizing every opportunity to acquire knowledge. As a result, there was little he couldn’t figure out how to do. This “life-long learning” gene, most likely passed down from his dad, has continued to show up in various members of our family. I feel blessed to have inherited this love for learning.

 

On work days, rising early before anyone else, Daddy prepared his breakfast; usually eggs scrambled with peppers from our garden, bacon, toast, and coffee. The peppers, spicy hot, triggered beads of sweat that trickled down his forehead. As he ate, he read from the Bible and Reader’s Digest..

 

When it came to singing with his quartet, he easily overcame his natural shyness. When they practiced at our house, I, always an enthusiastic spectator, loved listening to their toe-tapping, acappella renditions of Stamps-Baxter songs, such as “Just a Little Talk with Jesus”.  Leading singing at church proved more challenging for him. He had perfect pitch and a beautiful voice, but his nervousness, evident when standing in front of a large group of people, kept him from volunteering too often.

 

My dad, a handsome man, with black curly hair and dark skin, looked younger than his age. Although, standing only 5’8” tall, he always seemed taller to me. A friend from High School, who used to sometimes come home after school with me, shared she had a crush on him. At the time, I thought this to be so peculiar, but it explained why she would always finagle a way for him to drive her home. Of course, I would always go, too.

 

A hard and conscientious worker, both on the job and at home, he would have never considered hiring anything done. Besides, there was no money in the budget for such extravagances.

 

He was highly respected by fellow employees, relatives, friends, and church people.  Ready and willing to help anyone in need, he did so with humility and selflessness. I never observed even an ounce of pride in his attitude.

 

My grandmother (called Mickey by her grandkids), a positive influence in my dad’s life, consistently modeled Godly character. Her unfailing demonstration of these values in our lives spoke volumes. I don’t remember her ever saying a negative word about anyone. She worked hard (even into her 70s), alongside my grandfather, in a hot and dirty plumbing shop, and never did I hear one complaint uttered from her mouth. I will be forever thankful for her example that contributed to the amazing dad he was.

 

Forced into early retirement, he fought a long and courageous battle with cancer. I remember, as a child, feeling blessed to have a dad who lived such a healthy lifestyle, and thought this most certainly guaranteed him a long and good life. I also felt blessed to have had a dad present all the years I was at home. For reasons we had difficulty understanding, God chose to take him much earlier than any of us were prepared for. I always wondered if the creosote (now known to be a cancer-causing agent) in those poles he climbed may have triggered his cancer. Due to the altered state of his brain following the cancer surgery in 1975, he wasn’t the same man I had known as “my daddy.” He lived twelve more years, seemingly at peace with the changed person he had become.

Rare is a man who possesses the integrity and honesty my dad practiced his entire life. A close friend paid quite a compliment by writing a poem for the memorial service entitled “A Man’s Man”:

You really never really know a man

Nor just how much he’s worth,

Until you’ve seen him tested

In the fires of this earth.

The measure of a man is not

The way he uses tools,

But a man is big or little

By how he suffers fools.

It’s not how hard that he can hit

Nor paint his opponent black,

But rather how hard a punch he can take

And still come bouncing back.

If he can laugh a belly laugh

And shiver when he fears,

Or love with all his openness

And not ashamed of tears.

A man will do what he must do

Sometimes that’s all that he can,

But when he does what he should do

Then he knows that he’s a man.

I know an awful lot of males

Acquaintances without end,

But I know a man who is a man

And count him as my friend.

Kenneth Young-As I saw him, by Ben Clement

 

We chuckle at a young grandson who contends that you are not a man until you have your very own pocket knife. I find myself wishing he could have known my dad. This grandson will someday realize what it really takes to be a man and I have no doubt that he, like his great-grandpa, will understand.

“But when he does what he should do

Then he knows that he’s a man.”

 

I feel sure all who knew my dad would agree he demonstrated the attributes of a Godly man in integrity, work ethic, strength of character, and selflessness.

 

He will be remembered as “A Man’s Man”!

 

Never Again!

The United Nations in Vienna, Austria recently commemorated 70 years since the end of the Holocaust. A friend of ours who attended the ceremony reported that this emotional and stirring observance touched him deeply.

Following is a quote from one of the speakers:

“Today, the world once again marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We remember the six million Jewish and five million Gentile victims of Nazi terror. We also stand with those being oppressed and murdered today. The world needs to remember so that the sins of yesteryear don’t turn into the reality of today. NEVER AGAIN!”

The Holocaust was an atrocity that should never have happened. Having visited Auschwitz, I was sickened to witness the physical remnants, indications of horrific and appalling methods in which humans were tortured. I would also concur that this should never happen again!

Regrettably, it is happening again, and has been for decades. Extermination of helpless babies is our present Holocaust.

Our society fails to acknowledge the barbaric murder of helpless, innocent victims of abortion. How can we simply shrug off the deaths of 42 million babies each year (1.37 million of these in the United States)?

All humans have value simply because they are created by God in His own image.

So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

Babies are precious miracles fashioned by a Creator who cares deeply and individually for them. You created the deepest parts of my being. You put me together inside my mother’s body. How you made me is amazing and wonderful. I praise you for that. What you have done is wonderful. I know that very well. None of my bones was hidden from you when you made me deep inside my mother’s body.That place was as dark as the deepest parts of the earth. When you were putting me together there, your eyes saw my body even before it was formed. You planned how many days I would live. You wrote down the number of them in your book before I had lived through even one of them.

Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)Baby-with-Tear

We have a strong desire to make a difference and take a bold stand for the babies, but often feel ill-equipped. It is easier to turn our heads the other way. It’s just too painful, too agonizing!

Although, to elicit a heart and mind change in another person is not our responsibility, we can influence others with our words, when well-chosen and seasoned with love, can make a difference. We need to educate ourselves with reliable information from credible sources. Then, at least, we are able to be a voice for the thousands of helpless babies. Lives are at stake! We must take a stand for these innocent victims.

You might ask what you can do. The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview has made available an amazing resource: 21 Days of Prayer for Life. http://www.colsoncenter.org/images/content/colson2011/21-days-of-prayer-for-life-v2.4.pdfy

These heart-rending stories, information, and prayer models may offer just the spark to join the fight for life.

BABIES’ LIVES MATTER!

We need to shout “Never Again!” to the inhumane slaughter of tiny human lives.

Jar Storage

jar picWe often have nine or more grandkids, along with their parents, visiting for one to two weeks at a time. In an attempt to cut down on my cooking time while they are here I hit upon a real timesaver using mason jars.

  • Jars are cheap, seal well, and easy to organize in the pantry.
  • I measure out all the non-perishable ingredients for a recipe (such as cornbread, chocolate cookies, etc.) and put in the jar. Sometimes a recipe necessitates separating ingredients into plastic ziploc bags.
  • On a sticky label that is attached to the jar I write simple directions that include perishable items (milk, eggs, oil, etc.) that need to be added. If using separate bags, I just write steps of recipe on the bags.
  • Kids much prefer helping Nana bake, rather than just pulling out a bag of cookies from the freezer.
  • And, the advance preparation eliminates error in measuring all those dry ingredients (before the troops arrive!) when things are a little less chaotic and one can actually think without all that sweet jabbering going on.

    Numbers One through Twelve (Thirteen born in April!)
    Numbers One through Twelve (Thirteen born in April!)

At the grocery store you can find cases of ten jars or watch for them at garage sales or second hand shops. Jars come in all sizes to meet the needs of storing small (nuts) to large (sugar/flour items.

Ok, let me know YOUR creative jar storage ideas.

 

Must go and get ready for the onslaught of these yahoos!

 

The Blessing of Relationships

Love is why we are here pictureLearning to build lasting relationships originates with God. How would we even know how to truly love without knowing Christ?

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:13, 15 (NIV)

The more we cultivate relationships, the better they become. It takes work to create enduring bonds. Friendship, as defined in Scripture, encompasses the companionship and closeness we are to experience with others.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.”                         Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)

A professor of psychiatry at Stanford University recently lectured on the mind-body connection–relationship between stress and disease. He believes that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman. For a woman, however, her most significant nurturing tends to stem from relationships with girlfriends. Women connect with each other when dealing with stress and difficult life experiences. We share from our souls with our sisters, mothers, and friends. Physically and emotionally, this quality “girlfriend time” has been shown to result in positive health benefits, including combating depression.

We often become immersed in our careers, home projects and hobbies, and as a result of this preoccupation with “stuff,” little time or energy remains for building relationships.

Recognizing the importance of teaching our own adopted children Christian principles, we created a wall plaque that included as one of the values, “People are more important than things.” For years, this simple statement was a great reminder for our family of the significance of making people feel special.

“In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves. Don’t be interested only in your own life, but care about the lives of others too.” Philippians 2:3, 4 (ERV)  

Relationship with Christ, family and others gives purpose to our lives. Existence void of these vital connections would be a dismal life, indeed.image

I am extremely thankful to a kind and merciful God for the blessing of relationships.

 

Happy Birthday, dear Forever Friend!  I thank God for bumping us in to each other all those years ago. It has truly been a Lasting Relationship! 

It’s Greek To Me!

Looking for an innovative idea for a girl’s night out? The brainstorm, (a special movie night) by two of the young women in our church, provided just the setting for a rip-roaring time!

greek weddingWith the impending release of My Big Greek Wedding 2, what better movie selection than My Big Fat Greek Wedding 1? To help set the mood for the evening, we (spanning ages 21 to 86) gathered in a home to feast on moussaka, greek salad, and pita bread/hummus. The movie, as entertaining as it was fourteen years ago when it made its debut, was just the ticket for a relaxing time out. At least one in our midst was only seven years old back in 2002, so she watched it tonight for the first time.

Packed with classic lines, this move made us both laugh and cry. Family struggles of acceptance, woven throughout the storyline amid the humor, stirred emotions.

The daughter, Toula, often embarrassed by her large, annoying family, eventually learned to appreciate them for who they were. “My family is big and loud but they’re my family. We fight and we laugh and yes, we roast lamb on a spit in the front yard. And where ever I go, what ever I do they will always be there.”

my_big_fat_greek_wedding

Another movie line: “Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you become” certainly gave us food for thought.

The father, Gus, extremely proud of his Greek heritage, could take any word and give it Greek roots: “Give me a word, any word, and I will show you that the root of that word is Greek.” “Kimono, kimono, kimono. Ha! Of course! Kimono is come from the Greek word himona, is mean winter. So, what do you wear in the wintertime to stay warm? a robe You see: robe, kimono. There you go!”

A recurring theme in the movie involved Windex: “My dad believed in two things: That Greeks should educate non Greeks about being Greek and every ailment from psoriasis to poison ivy can be cured with Windex.”

So, have yourself a little break from the stress of daily living and try a movie theme night. You will be glad you did. Oh, and don’t forget the Windex! 🙂

Hello, Monday Morning!

I awakened this morning feeling fresh and renewed following a night of uninterrupted sleep. What a welcome relief after several nights of wakefulness. Last night God nudged me to pray as soon as my head hit the pillow. Sweet time with Him produced deep, peaceful sleep.

Unfortunately, too often, once in bed, I give way to “thinking about things” before praying. When this happens my muscles tense and my heart beats faster and there I lie, captive to my thoughts. As stubborn eyes refuse to close, incessant mutterings in my head conjure up feelings of inadequacy, leading to dark and dangerous places.

Read More →

A Dream Come True

P1140582For years we have longed to share Hawaii with our extended family. Our love of the big island begged to be shared with loved ones. Our grandkids’ flight from the nest in a few short years would make fulfilling this notion more challenging. We just needed a little boost to begin turning our dream into a reality. Marking my in-laws’ sixty-five years of marriage provided just the kick to initiate plans to convert our Hawaiian dream into a family adventure.

Sixty-five years of marriage! First of all, how does one achieve over half a century of togetherness and continue to treat each other with love and respect? If you ask her, she will quickly respond, “Commitment and humor!” Yep, commitment and humor everyday to maintain a relationship that endures. He is quick to agree, adding commitment to God as number one.

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Commitment has most definitely been evident, not only within their marriage, but also in their involvement in the lives of others. I have watched them care for others faithfully and unselfishly for years at a time. I have witnessed how God blessed them for their efforts. They weren’t in it for the blessings, but that is part of the surprise of a God who loves to make us happy and see us smile. It happens when we least expect it. It comes in many forms and even blesses those connected to the ones who did all the hard work. If you asked them, they would say it was blessing enough to just provide companionship and care to two elderly gentlemen who had no other family. When those two passed away, they left everything to my in-laws. I was the fortunate recipient of the Champion Juicer (way too expensive to have purchased on our meager income at the time.) What a treasure! That appliance has juiced many a Fall apple, even providing sustenance from the peels and pulp form my mulch pile. The pure enjoyment experienced by our family year round from those mason jars of frozen juice gives me pleasure to think about. Oh, the simple joys!

Speaking of simple–these in-laws of mine tend to lead lives of simplicity. People of their generation, those who endured the Great Depression, continue in their frugal ways, even decades later. What to us would seem rather unappealing and cheap, to them is appetizing and adequate. They shudder at the cost of a single entrée at a “restaurant with a view” in Kona. Even when they aren’t paying, they have difficulty finding true enjoyment in such extravagance. They are more than happy with our three-day-old grilled hamburger patties, deemed inedible by most of us.

They are appreciative of the simple things and show that appreciation by telling you so. On the evening they left for the airport, my father-in-law, already weary from the late hour, came back because he forgot to personally thank me for all I did to make the week such a success.

Their great-grandkids surprised them with a card (complete with  signatures and drawings from little hands to big hands) everyday for six days. No gifts of stuff (they will tell you they have enough of that), just simple cards. Those Dollar Store cards containing such sweet sentiments brought immense joy and tears of gratitude flowed easily.

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The grueling trip to Hawaii and back home for these two, whose energy levels are far from what they used to be, was not easy. They are proud to say that they did it and feel extremely blessed to have done so. I’m sure our family would tell you that we are far more blessed for the opportunity to have honored this amazing couple known to all of us as Nonnie and Poppie.

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Welcome, Fall

What a glorious time of year! Here in the Texas Hill Country, it hardly qualifies as Fall, compared to the ones our family knew and loved for twenty four years in Northern New Mexico.

Ahhh….. How well I remember the sights, sounds, and feel of Fall in Los Alamos!

The tall, slender Aspen trees on the ski hill, golden leaves rustling in the wind, displaying their grandeur, invited those willing to take a break from daily routine.

Fall Aspens
Fall Aspens

The air at over 8000 feet was brisk, even in September. Calmness flooded my soul as I sat on the deck of the lodge with a thermos of hot chocolate and a good book. The icing on the cake was watching the kids run up the grassy hill and roll down, pausing occasionally to examine one of God’s wonders that piqued their interest. Too soon this hill would be bustling with people, decked out with snow gear; some daring, ready to tackle the most difficult hill, while others, content to ski the bunny hill. But before the snow completely blanketed the slopes, I took advantage of soaking fup all the quiet, peace, and beauty that Fall brings to this special place.

Already, this year, in early October there is snow on the mountain top and a dusting on the ground. The Aspens, peaking out between the Evergreens, put on quite a show.

Snow-capped mountains
Snow-capped mountains

The sweet aroma of roasting green chile (we call it the nectar of the gods!) at the Thursday farmer’s market wafted through the air as I strolled down each aisle, lingering at my favorite stands. I sampled green chili jelly, hot apple cider, mango salsa. Yum! Inevitably I encountered friends, so it was important to allow time for a chat. In a small town you can’t go anywhere that you don’t see a familiar face.

Oh, and I always had to buy a  chile ristra for my doorpost.

chile ristra

Even in August, evenings might find us sharing home-made ice cream around a fire pit with friends. Getting too far from the fire would nearly always guarantee the shivers.

And then there’s the apples! What’s Fall without apples?! Eating apples, sweet and crisp, and baking apples with just enough tartness to make a good pie, were ready for picking by the end of September. Apple trees, preferring cool weather, grew well there. Since we had no apple trees in our yard, the elderly woman across the street generously allowed us to pick from her three trees. I canned, dried, froze, and juiced. Peels and pulp from juicing provided nourishment for  worms in the outdoor compost pile.

A large box dehydrator made its home in the dining room during this season, providing both warmth and divine apple fragrance (to rival Bath and Body Works Fall air fresheners any day.) Using our hand crank apple peeler/corer, much faster than using a knife, allowed us to process through many more apples in a day. This handy device provided lots of family fun and is a tradition that continues with our grandkids.

Now, in mid-November, it finally feels like Fall in the Texas air, at least in the early mornings and late evenings, but not much evidence in the leaves or our 75 degree days. The Red Oak, one of the only local oak trees to lose its leaves, barely has a hint of yellow in its treetop.

As I sat around an evening fire pit this past weekend with friends…….

And as I take in the sweet smell of roasting chiles in front of HEB…….

And as I smell apples baking…….

 If I close my eyes real tight and use my imagination I can almost feel like I am transported back in time to Northern New Mexico, experiencing the sights, sounds, and feel of “real” Fall.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Stepping into a new season, be it seasons of weather or seasons of life, brings new changes. Not all are as glorious as those New Mexico Falls, but I am grateful for an unchanging God Who walks with me through it all.