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Sunday grace

This day.  It’s Sweet William’s birthday, and I think of the grace of God.

I’ve lived with this man longer than I lived without him. We’ve been through so much together. There have been hard roads and there have been joyful celebrations. It is the way of a life.

How is it that we have come to this place in time? We have been shaped and molded by our experiences. We have weathered storms, and though battered and bruised, we have come through victorious. By grace.

We have celebrated life together, cried at death together, and intend to walk together for as many days as the Lord gives us.

What to do for a birthday at this age when we have celebrated so many times? We have given the gifts and signed the Hallmark cards. God has blessed us beyond what we deserve.

And it is all grace.

If not for God’s grace, we would not be celebrating a birthday today. I am convinced of it.

So we will celebrate. Celebrate life. Celebrate goodness and mercy. Celebrate the boundless generosity of a Savior who gave us all so that we could join the family.

By grace alone, we were given life to live to the full. Thanks be to God for His amazing gift of life, Sweet William’s life.

Sunday grace.

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday to me

My birthday is tomorrow. I started celebrating yesterday.

My philosophy about birthdays is this: The older I get, the longer I get to celebrate. It works for me. So this year I started early.

Sweet William took me to get my birthday present, two pots of lovely yellow knock-out roses. They remind me of a primrose blossom. I have a spot picked out in the garden that will be just right for them.

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Next was the grocery where I had a birthday epiphany. Ice Cream. Let the celebration begin! I found peanut-butter-chocolate on sale and headed to the cookie isle for a generic Nutter Butter cookie. After lunch, Sweet William crushed the cookies and mixed the ice cream with them – I love that man – and we had our own version of a Blizzard.

This morning I baked biscuits, from my mother’s recipe, and topped them with jam made by a friend. I think of my mother in the days leading up to my birthday. I miss her especially when the day arrives. She taught me to cook and cook well. And for that Sweet William is very thankful.

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Today I made a Plum Cake, pulling the recipe from my stash of those tried and true. Everyone should have a birthday cake, even if she has to make it herself.

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Tomorrow, we will visit a church where a younger friend is a member. She is scheduled to sing in the service, and I love her and her voice. Then we plan to visit a young man in rehab who needs to know he is loved and that prayers are being lifted heavenward for him. No agenda. No message to give. We simply want to show we care.

I’m trying to figure out being this age. It’s taken a lot of years to get here. My experiences are showing on my face, fine lines deepening more than I like. My silver hair seems to be even lighter and a bit thinner. I have aches and pains regularly and especially after a day in the gardens.

I am changing eyeglass prescription more frequently, and the trifocals make me squint sometimes, just trying to find a place of clarity. My hearing is still good and my mind is clear, thank the Lord.

My figure is fuller than it used to be and in odd places. And that information about gravity pulling everything down? It’s a real thing.

I can’t put in the same hours of work I did a decade ago. That’s frustrating. I’m not as busy I as I used to be. I’m OK with that.

I wish I had kept a journal more consistently when I was younger. Those events I thought I would remember easily? I don’t. When I read old journals I am surprised at what I’ve forgotten.

Life is still sweet. I appreciate the simple and the small. Friendships are deep, us having been through years of trials and loss, blessing and triumphs together. New relationships are exciting now that I am more comfortable with who I am. I can be myself, and I don’t have to strive to impress.

I’ve learned to be a better listener without trying to fix the problem.

I’ve found God to be trustworthy through these years. I do not understand Him or His ways, and I’m coming to accept that more. He is beyond comprehension. I still wonder why He loves me like He does, and how His grace can be so inexhaustible.

I still treasure the Bible and believe it to be true. In an ever-changing world of science, technology,  medicine, philosophy, and the latest idea, the words of Scripture are reliable. They speak a steadfast truth in a world that constantly wants to change the meaning of truth.

I’ve never wanted to live my life over. Why would I want to go through all that again? We often wish we knew “back then” what we know now. Wouldn’t that be a lot simpler? But I think we only get the wisdom to understand as we live through this life. I’ve learned through the living.

If I had the chance, what would I say to my younger self, the one who was in her twenties, thought she knew most of the answers and didn’t have a clue?

  • Slow down and smell the roses. Pay attention to the little things.
  • Don’t worry about the dust on the furniture. It is not a life and death issue.
  • Invite people over more without cleaning the house first.
  • Play with children and welcome them into your life. They show us how to live in the moment.
  • Laugh a lot. Sing out loud. Move to the rhythm.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. It is healing to your body.
  • Put those photographs in good albums that won’t fade the memories.
  • Slow dance with your husband.
  • Listen well to your friends and family and neighbors and anyone who needs an ear.
  • Save some money and spend some money. Plan for the future because it is coming.
  • Buy quality not just what is on sale. It will last longer.
  • Memorize Scripture while the brain is young. Memorize poetry too.
  • Let go of hurts and don’t hold grudges. Forgive and get over it.
  • Don’t worry about what other people are thinking of you. They aren’t. They are thinking about themselves.
  • Take good care of your skin. It’s got to last a long time.
  • Disregard the size of your dress or jeans and what the scale reports. They’re only numbers and not the value of your life.
  • Respect yourself and respect others. Speak up for yourself when necessary.
  • Slow down when you eat and enjoy the flavors.
  • Pay no heed to your critics. Instead, hear the people who care about you.
  • Pay attention to your elders. They have been where you are.
  • Stay in church. There are people there who need you. You need them too.
  • Be patient with yourself and others. Pray for patience if you must. It does not bring more tribulation as you may have heard.
  • Don’t whine. It is not attractive.
  • Smile a lot. It brightens the face and makes it more beautiful.
  • Don’t let the rich and famous be your role models. Some of them are not doing so well themselves.
  • Love yourself, the unique gift you are to humanity. Explore your talents and enrich them however you can. Then use them to bless the world.
  • Love others well and freely without expectations. Expectations kill relationships.
  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are one of a kind, made in the image of your Creator who makes no mistakes.
  • Be thankful. Always. In all circumstances. Everything is working for your good.

Life is a precious gift. The years mount up and I wonder how many birthdays I’ll have to celebrate. But that is not my concern. My God is in control of that, and I rest in His divine plan.

Tomorrow I will be 68 years young. I feel every bit of it. I have lived it, laughed in it, cried through it. I have been loved greatly and have learned to love in return.  I have experienced the miracle of salvation and felt the ocean of grace all around me.

I don’t know what my future will look like. I trust my Father with that. He’s been looking after me all these years, and He will continue to keep His watchful eye on me.

I do believe the best is yet to be.

peggy little girl

 

THE RECIPES

Mother’s Drop Biscuits

  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening or oil
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup of milk – use buttermilk if you have it

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put about a tablespoon of vegetable shortening or oil in a skillet or griddle. (I prefer a cast iron griddle.) Put this in the oven as it heats up. You want the oil to be a little hot so the biscuits will cook crispy on the bottom.

Measure flour into a large bowl. Pour the oil into a measuring cup, then add the milk on top of it to equal 1 cup of liquid. Stir the liquid into the flour and mix.

Drop by large spoonfuls onto the hot oil.

Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes until the little peaks of the drop biscuits are browned.

Serve with butter and jam. Oh my goodness, they are good!

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Plum Cake

This is a simple cake with a spicy flavor. It is very moist and looks lovely baked in a bundt pan setting on a footed cake plate.

  • 1 cup of oil – or for richness use butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 small jars of plum baby food. (I’m having trouble finding plum baby food these days, so a dark fruit substitutes well.)

Combine oil and sugar. Add eggs one at a time.

Mix flour and spices together. Add to oil/egg mixture and combine well.

Add baby food and continue to mix.

Pour into a greased and floured bundt or tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour.

ICING

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine all and pour onto warm cake, poking a few holes in it to allow the flavor to infuse the cake.

ENJOY!

 

Sweet 16

Today is my granddaughter’s 16th birthday. I was blessed beyond measure to celebrate with her last weekend.

Sweet William and I traveled the long road to where our precious ones live, the one and only son and his family. The drive was worth the hours on the road to see smiling faces and be received with such warm welcomes.

I’ve missed some birthdays since they moved from the house next door. Thankfully, I did not miss this important milestone in my precious Grand Girl’s life.

She is the middle child. At times she is the quiet, introspective one. At other times she is the comedian, actress, goof-ball who makes us laugh.

the-3-grandsShe was born without me being at the hospital. Her older sister was brought to our house early one morning in November when time came for her parents to rush to the hospital. I supposed we had plenty of time to shower and dress since her sister took her time coming into the world.

I was wrong. Before many hours had passed, I listened to the message on my phone, “You have another granddaughter.” Elation and disappointment mingled, but I was thankful for her birth. We hurriedly made our way to the hospital where mother, dad, and new baby girl were contentedly waiting for us.

It was a day to remember.

Memories surface today as I think of my Grand Girl, us miles apart and in different states but joined at our hearts.061-2

She was the queen of dress-up. She loved the costumes and cast-offs kept in a box in the back room. She emerged as a character of some sort and took on the persona and accents with ease. One of my favorite personalities was Dr. Bendova, dressed in a white shirt, silly glasses and top hat. She made us laugh a lot.

Being the second child, she was often the companion and follower of her big sister. Once when she was allowed  to spend “alone time” with us, all by herself, she climbed up on the stool next to the kitchen counter where I spend a lot of time, and commenced to talk up a storm. I was surprised at all the words coming from this child who was usually so quiet. It was as if she finally had a captive audience to hear what she had to say.

She loved to cook with me, sitting on that same kitchen stool, us sharing tasks of making meals. Her consistent game began with, “Let’s pretend we’re on a cooking show.”

100_1062-2A few days ago we made pumpkin pie together in her kitchen. It was as special as it always was.

She was a girl of many faces, most of them silly. For years we could not seem to get a serious picture of her. With everyone posed for a snapshot, she invariably make a goofy face just at the moment of the shutter’s opening. While it was frustrating at the time, it has given us myriad photos of this girl’s special way of bringing comic relief to us all.

This past weekend, we celebrated that special girl.

She has grown tall and beautiful, graceful and distinctly herself, studious and artistic, bright and cheerful. She is thrifty with her money and has an entrepreneurial spirit.

She brings gladness to this Grammy’s heart. I love spending time with her.

As Sweet William and I drove home after our three-day weekend celebration, I thought of the trip, the memories we had made, the joy of being with our precious ones, the fun and laughter, the shared table of fellowship where hearts are content just to be together.

Time slowed for me those few days. I forgot what day of the week it was, living in the moment with each sweet soul.

Good-byes are never easy, no matter how often we practice them. But good-byes are as much a part of life as the welcome homes are. We must receive them both if we are to be loved and to love in return.

As we headed east to our old Kentucky home, the sunset glowed brilliantly. A song came to mind:

I think of my Grand Girl on her special day. My eyes mist and there’s a lump in my throat as I remember the child and watch her blossom into a young woman.

Her life is a gift to all of us who know and love her. Her gifts and talents are from the Father above who planned for her life. My prayers seem unceasing for her, that she will know the way the Father leads her, that she will follow Him with all her heart, that she will understand how great the Father’s love is for her.

I pray that her heart is open to receive all He has in store for her. It’s her birthday today. I’m so thankful she was born.

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Sweet William

Today is Sweet William’s birthday.

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It’s one of those milestone birthdays, the ones where someone throws a party and invites lots of guests to celebrate life.

He chose to spend it quietly with me. I determined to treat him special and with as much kindness as I could. Nothing was going to deter me from that goal.

I cooked homemade biscuits with breakfast, a rare treat these days when we try to watch our carbs. We ate on the deck in the cool morning and watched Maisie play in her fenced yard.

We relaxed with some pre-recorded TV shows. He got to choose. I didn’t even ask for a Hallmark movie. I brought him coffee more than once.

For lunch I fixed one of his favorites, broiled salmon with green beans and salad greens.

In the meantime, I changed sheets and did several loads of laundry, never once asking him to fold or put away. This was his day, and I tried to allow him to do what he wanted, relax at home.

The day is almost done. There is a coconut-pecan pie in the oven, our evening birthday treat. I’ll light a candle and sing to him as we finish another birthday.

Expensive gifts are unnecessary at this point in our lives. We have most everything we need. Time is our greatest gift, and I gave it to him this day, his birthday.

Tomorrow the calendar date will turn and the birthday will be over. But there will still be the opportunity to show kindness and love to this man, the one I’ve celebrated birthdays with for over 40 years.

Tomorrow is another day. And each and every one is a reason to celebrate life. This is our life, and we can choose joy as we live it.

So let the celebration continue. Happy Birthday Sweet William.

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Simple birthday

Today is Sweet William’s birthday and we celebrate simply.  I gave him a silly card, a snickers bar and a CD of The Isaacs‘ The Living Years album.

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There is a time for everything and a season for big elaborate parties, complete with festive decorations and a gift-laden table.  This is not one of those years.

Truth be told, we are both a little melancholy today though joyful to be sure.  Perhaps it’s because at this age there are so many memories to contend with.  We recently went to the place where Bill’s parents lived until their death.  It was an emotional trip, visiting the few remaining relatives living in the area, some aged, some confined to a nursing-home bed, some so forgetful I wonder if our visit will be remembered.

We both realize we are getting “up there” in years.  We are the older generation now.

Today we tried to recall what time of day he was born.  I remember this day was also my mother’s birthday and how we celebrated them together so many years past.

Bill’s older brother called to wish him greetings this morning.  They laughed and told jokes to each other.

The one and only son from too-far-away called in the afternoon, and I could hear the talking and the listening from the other room.  Father speaking to son with words familiar and tender.

Family is so important, whether we are young or old, near or far.

We ate a simple breakfast of sausage and pancakes, his special request.  The CD was playing “Grandpa, tell me ’bout the good old days,” and I could barely eat for the lump in my throat as I thought of the goodness of God in our “good old days” and the present where we now are.  That we are even sitting here together is no small miracle.  He and I have sailed rough waters in our years together.  God has been faithful.

I remember fondly the many birthday celebrations around our big table.  Favorite desserts for the celebrant were made with love, and there were stories and laughter and love in the atmosphere.  There was one year when each of us wore the birthday hat that started on my special day.  It was really a cardboard birthday cake handmade by the grandchildren but fit perfectly on my head.  It was our joke of the year.

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In the next couple of days Sweet William and I will gather with friends, family.  We will enjoy their company and eat good food.  I will bake his favorite pecan pie.

It’s the simple pleasures I treasure most.  Memories.  Communion around the table.  The smiles and laughter.  Friendships bonded.  Music in the air.  A kiss and a tear.

Birthdays are to be celebrated.  This year we celebrate simply.

Birthdays

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They come slowly when you’re a child.  They speed up like a fast-moving train as the years tick by.  The clock moves at the same pace, but life seems to go quicker while the years of my life increase.

Birthdays.  Celebrations of life.  Years experienced.  Lessons learned.

I would not want to live it over again, but I would not take anything for what life has taught me.

The number of birthdays I’ve had astonishes me.  They are more than my mother and my maternal grandmother got to enjoy.  And while I am not nearing death by any means, I recognize that well over half my life has been lived.  I don’t say my life is half over, I say it’s been lived.  For living is what I’ve done.

I’ve live much joy and much sorrow.  I’ve lived successes and failures.  I’ve lived in plenty and in need.  I’ve lived with loved ones near and long, hard separations.

I get to choose to live or not.  Some people seem to be dying years before they ever take their final breath, looking at their lives as if they are in a long dark tunnel headed for doom.  Am I going to choose to live the rest of my days or choose to start dying right now?

A friend reminded me recently of a quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption.  Andy, one of the main characters, was incarcerated 26 years for a crime he didn’t commit.  Even behind the walls and bars of prison, he said, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

I plan to get busy living the rest of my days.  Why not?  Each day is a gift.  I will open it in the morning and find grace enough for whatever comes.  I will look for joy.  I will offer love.  I will give thanks to God.  I will serve in ways I am able.  I will work and play and rest.  I will laugh and cry.  I will invite people into my heart, my life.

For as long as the Lord above gives me breath, I choose to live the rest of my life.

Sweet William

It’s Sweet William’s birthday.  We will celebrate as we can, in ways he is able.  Life presents its challenges to both of us.  We are in process, he and I, the process to become more like Christ.  It can be uncomfortable.  Sometimes it’s painful.

Some have asked about me calling him Sweet William.  There were years when Wild Bill fit him a little better.  His hard  hat at work bore that label.  The wild young man I took as my husband was fearless to tackle any project.

The years have mellowed him, tendered him.  It happened to both of us.  God has continually worked to change us into someone different, someone better, someone more like Jesus.  Grace flowed down on both of us, and we are living proof that beauty indeed can rise from the ashes.

sweet william

There’s a flower called Sweet William, a perennial I’ve grown in my garden.  The flowers are delicate.  My Sweet William doesn’t look delicate at all.  He is tall and broad-shouldered still in spite of too many health problems.  In those tender years of our courtship, he was strong and able to do back flips leaving quite an impression on this girl’s heart.  When he wrapped his big hand around mine, I felt protected and safe.

Time and illness have taken its toll on him, but he is still not delicate.  With the health challenges and pain he has endured, he is anything but delicate.  He is courageous and the bravest man I know.

I pray for a year of hope and healing for my Sweet William.  Though the thorns try to obscure, the flowers, the roses, the sweet williams are still there.  We will look for them.  We will enjoy them in the ways we are able.  And we will thank God for them.