Look for the Blessings

Ecclesiastes 7:10
” Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

http://olivetree.com/b1/Ecc.7.10.ESV

Well. I guess that’s truth! It is easy to look back at the “good old days” in a more favorable light than the present because we’ve edited out the hard times and bad things from our memories. With the present we haven’t had enough time to do that yet.

In the present, we have many good times, but hard times too. When the hard times come, do we fail to see the good times that walk alongside the hard times? I think it depends on our outlook on life. If we’re grateful for everything, bad along with good, then yes, I think we’ll see the good times and especially appreciate them. If we appreciate even the bad times, it is probably because we know that we will probably learn something valuable from them if we just look for the lessons. Or, perhaps we know that God can make all things good, if given the chance. Regardless, if we look at and notice only the negatives, our focus can become very narrow and dark, like tunnel vision.

All days are created equal. What happens in them can be tragic or joyful or both. Let us remember from whom all blessings flow and look to the hope of an eternal joy, life with God and Jesus forever. That hope will help us through the tragedies and will be revealed in many blessings. Always remember, God loves you. He’s not out to “get” you like a harsh schoolmaster. If He was only looking for faults and failures in us, would He have given us the ultimate “get out of jail free card,” Jesus, His son? No. If He wasn’t giving us every chance imaginable and more to be free, He never would have given us Jesus.

The Family Rings

Have you ever started to write a story or tell a story and somehow it seems to fall flat? Maybe I was trying too hard.  I wanted to write  about when Grandma Gill gave me her mother’s ring.

Long story short (since I failed at the long story),  Grandma decided on one of our weekly Sunday afternoon visits that she wanted to distribute some of her things. This was in the summer of 1976.  Grandma was about 80 at the time.  I was 15, but still felt like a little girl when I was around my grandma.  Grandma was failing in health and mind and I guess she decided it was time. The first thing she took out was her jewelry box and out of that she withdrew her mother’s ring. She asked which of her daughters would like it. All four of them, Mary, Inez (my mother), Evelyn, and Doris were there. All of them were appalled Grandma was trying to give away her jewelry, especially her mother’s ring and all refused to take it! This hurt Grandma’s feelings mightily. She turned to me and asked me if I would like it. Seeing how hurt she was and feeling honored that she offered it to me, I told her I would love to have it if no one else wanted it. Mother was appalled because she thought it made me look “grabby.” Nonetheless, Grandma was delighted and put the ring on my finger. It was much too large and still is, but I love it and cherish it because it was Grandma Gill’s. I loved her dearly.

I also have a ring that was my second cousin, Cassie Price’s, ring. She never married and was like an aunt to me. When she passed away in her 80’s, her brother and his wife told me Cassie wanted me to have some jewelry of hers. I was one of the few people in the family with fingers as small as Cassie’s were, so I was given this lovely ruby ring, which I wear often.  I treasure it because I remember seeing Cassie wear it frequently. She was a lovely person. I only wish I could be as elegant as Cassie. She was the true definition of a refined lady.  I’m the true definition of a Texas tomboy I think!  (Please forgive this awful picture.  Not my prettiest hand shot, but an honest one.  When you work your hands as hard as I do, they tend to age quickly.)  

Family Rings

And now you know the story of two of the family rings!  There are other rings with more history, but those stories will be told another day.  I think I’ve blabbed on long enough for anyone!  Hug someone tonight and have a great evening!  

 

 

Keeping Step

My daddy walked along
so fast and steady in his step,
while I skipped along
like a butterfly
just trying to keep step.

He went on walks for healing,
for you see, he nearly died.
I went on walks to be with him
and to see the clear, blue sky.

We walked along and talked along,
he tried to lead the way,
while I broke out with little dances
and delighted in the day.

Daddy’s feet were fifty five,
while mine were only seven,
but we both enjoyed the walk
each day,
it seemed a lot like heaven.

As our feet have carried us
through thirty years since then,
I have aged and so has he,
but I’m still trying
to keep in step with him.

D. Elaine Wood-Lane
7/30/99

My dad, L.D. Wood, about whom this poem was written, died on November 24, 2006. Although he is gone now, I still try to keep in step with him. He was a good man, a faithful man, and a wonderful father. He taught me about life, both the joys and hardships. He taught me how to maintain a car, do well on job interviews, get a boy to notice me, and how to approach emergencies and crises. He taught me how to stand courageously through tough times and how to laugh through tears. He even taught me how to farm cotton and how to treat animals, our earth and other people with respect and consideration. Most importantly, Dad taught me about Jesus and God, not only with the bible and the talks we had about them, but also by his quiet manner of serving others and his generosity of spirit. His footsteps through life followed Jesus’ steps I finally realized. When I was trying to keep step with Dad, I was also following Jesus’ steps. Even though Daddy isn’t here any longer for walks, he didn’t leave me alone. He left me with someone I can walk with forever…Jesus.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there today. I pray your influence on your children is as great and good as Daddy’s was on me.

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Memorial Day 2014

Memorial day…again. They seem to come so fast now. In the past, they seemed very far apart, but one thing I’ve learned through growing older is that a year, as a percentage of the whole of one’s life, gets shorter and shorter as time goes by. There have actually been scientific studies on this very subject of time and space. I can’t quote them or any such thing, but I do know that I believe it’s true.

In the “old” days some 30+ years ago when I was young and very young, we had developed a fun tradition of going to Joe and Evelyn’s house for summer holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. Joe loved to grill meats of all kinds, primarily beef, of course, because we are Texan, after all. These warm weather holidays were the perfect excuse for the Wood family in Texas to get together, cook, eat, visit and laugh together. I always enjoyed these gatherings because Joe would get into storytelling mode and, although he repeated some stories, usually there were new stories to hear and enjoy. I also enjoyed being around my nieces and nephews, my sister-in-law, sister, parents and whoever else happened to come by. This tradition abruptly died on a cold Christmas Eve in 1986, however, when my brother Joe was killed in a terrible car wreck. Four months earlier to the day, August 24, 1986, my older brother John had died of cancer. 1986 was a rough year to say the least, but that’s not my point. You know that song called, “The Day the Music Died?” That’s the way I felt in the summer of 1987. We had lost our tradition in one fell swoop when Joe was killed. We lost the cookouts, we lost the stories, and we lost our joy for a while.

Memorial Day, 1987 was the first year that the hundreds of tiny American flags on graves in the cemeteries really came to represent real people who had fought for our country so that we could have freedom, traditions, happy family times and…a way of life so rich and full. I went to the cemetery that year and saw the flag on Joe’s grave. Joe had been in the Army and had fought in Vietnam, you see, so he was one of those flags. I knew there was another little American flag flying in place on my brother John’s grave in California too. The pain was great that Memorial Day of 1987. So much had been lost, but through that pain, so much was gained. I gained a greater insight into what Memorial Day was really all about. It was about remembering and honoring those brave people who had served in the Armed Services of the United States, both in war and in peace. It was about not letting the lessons learned from the war and the peace slip away so that they won’t have to be repeated.

Fast forward to Saturday, May 24, 2014. Alan and I and our friends, Becky and Paul, had taken a drive in the mountains. We had seen the purple mountains’ majesty topped with new white snow. We had seen the fruited plain below. We had seen all manner of American citizens throughout the day. We had even taken a tour of the South Park History Tour that told about the miners, the farmers and the ranchers who had first come to Colorado. Then, on our way home, we came up Wilkerson Pass, which is a lovely drive. We stopped so our friends could see the Collegiate Mountains in the distant west, which are absolutely stunning. We got out of the car and realized there was a table set up in front of the Visitor’s Center. The sign in front of the table identified the people there as members of the VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars. A man and his wife were manning the table and were offering free coffee and homemade cookies to guests. Of course we stopped by (you never pass up free cookies, right?). As I was speaking with the man, I learned he was in the Vietnam War. I responded, “My brother Joe was in Vietnam too.” The man immediately reached behind him and grabbed a button and handed it to me.

Vietnam Vet button

As he handed the button to me, he said, “Give this to your brother the next time you see him and tell him thank you for serving.  It’s important that we remember all veterans, but especially those of Vietnam.  We didn’t get remembered for a long time you know.”  I choked up and couldn’t speak for a moment.  I couldn’t find the words to say my brother was no longer alive.  I finally managed a thank you and also thanked him for serving our nation.  We shook hands and, as I couldn’t say another word without weeping, I hurried inside to the Visitor’s Center.

This simple interaction reminded me, once again, what Memorial Day is really all about. It is about remembering and honoring those brave people who have served in the Armed Services of the United States, both in war and in peace. It is about not letting the lessons learned from the war and the peace slip away so that they won’t have to be repeated.

Our family has many people who have served in the military.  My uncle, Clyde Gill, served in the Marines during World War II.  My brother, Joe Wood, as previously mentioned, served in the Army during the Vietnam War.  My brother, John Wood, served in the Navy during the Cold War, but thankfully saw no conflict.  I have several nephews who have served in the military:  George Cummings, Curtis Wood, Ray Wood, and Jesse Wood.  Now it’s a new generation’s time of serving and I have great-nephews serving:  Jhett Wilcox and Jacob Wilcox.  I’m proud of all these men and am thankful for their service and for all the million others who serve or have served in our military.  The next time you see a United States flag flying, think of all those who served in winning our freedom and defended our freedom.  Think of all the men and women who are serving now.  Don’t just see this as a day to carry on a tradition of barbecuing.  See it as a day to remember.

 

Joe in Vietnam
Joe in Vietnam

John D. Wood, Seaman
John D. Wood, Seaman in the U.S. Navy

 

House Ghosts

Italo Calvino said: The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts. 
 Image credit: “love don’t live here anymore” – © 2009 Robb North – made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic

I came upon the old house in the field almost by surprise.  I was hiking through an empty cotton field, letting my bare feet sink into the soft rows of hot, dry soil to the dampness underneath just as I did as a child with my cousins.  We loved playing in the hot cotton fields before the little sprouts of cotton came up and cracked the soft rows of furrowed soil in a million different directions. I loved those times playing at my aunt’s farm in the fields.  There was so much to do and see and a million possibilities for make believe adventures.  I was just remembering the big wooden cotton trailers we used to climb around in and the old small shacks that housed large farming implements when I came within a foot of the red brick wall ahead of me before seeing it.

I felt a chill come out of the empty front door and realized the same chill was drifting down from the open windows on either side of the door.  In 102 degree heat, feeling any kind of chill was just plain spooky.  The fact that it was oozing out of this old abandoned red brick house struck a shiver down my spine.  I had been in dozens of these types of houses as a child, some abandoned, some not.  My cousins and I weren’t supposed to ever go near one of these abandoned houses, but we felt if we were careful and didn’t get hurt, what difference did it make?  Ok, I felt that way and since I was the only girl among a group of boys, if I went into spooky places, they followed along.  No girl was ever going to do more than they were!  It wouldn’t be fitting at all!  It’s funny, but as a wee girl growing up, I bounded into houses like this with no fear at all.  I was girl, I was invincible, I was…stupid sometimes, but we sure did have a lot of fun!  Now, standing in front of this old house in the heat with chilled air coming from inside it, I must admit my heart trembled.  What was this feeling of caution and trepidation?  Was it because I had lost my childish sense of adventure or was there another cause?

Taking a deep breath and saying a little prayer, I stepped over the threshold into the house.  The entire house creaked…not the floor but the whole house!  Dust and cobwebs floated down from the ceiling, or what passed as a ceiling.  There were huge gaping holes in the ceiling where the years had worn their way through.  Sunbeams shone through the holes and dust motes were clearly visible.  At least I thought  they were dust motes! As I stared at the floating motes I suddenly perceived a shape forming.  It was a woman in a long, old-fashioned dress, her hair in a prairie bun and a bitter slash of a mouth.  Where her eyes should be I only saw dark spots with pinpoints of light.  Lord!  Was I having a sunstroke or just losing my mind?  I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and slowly re-opened my eyes.  She was still there and had been joined by a little boy in old overalls full of patches.  He was grinning.  Good grief!  I really was losing my mind!  I’ve always been accused of having an overactive imagination, but this was right round the bend.

I’ve often wished, going through old houses and buildings that the walls could talk and tell their stories.  Had I conjured these shapes of people from that deep secret desire?  I was feeling a little lightheaded, but was afraid to close my eyes again.  Ok, I was terrified of closing my eyes and something awful happening to me.  I opened my eyes wider and pulled out my water bottle.  Maybe if I drank some water, my flights of insanity would abate.  As I took a deep swallow of water, the air became more chilled.  I slowly looked up and the shapes were staring at the water longingly, desperately and they were moving closer!  That’s when I noticed the frost on the walls and the floor forming.  I backed up.  The shapes came closer.  I started to scream, threw the water bottle at the shapes and tried to turn around and run back out the door…

“Honey, are you okay?  I’ve been looking all over for you!  You look awfully pale.”  My husband was kneeling beside me.  I was all tangled up in myself.  My legs looked like pretzels and felt like jelly.  I started to sit up, but Alan said to stay put while I drank some water.  “What in the world happened?  You look like you’ve seen a ghost!  I was looking everywhere for you when Buddy came running back, having a fit.  I’ve never seen him so agitated!  He led me over here to this old stack of wood and bricks.  Must have been a house at some point, but not much of it is left.”  I sank back on the hot, soft Texas dirt of a cotton field, staring at the house that once was.  I’ve always wondered, did I have a sunstroke or did I really see ghosts in the house that was no more?  I guess I’ll never know…

 

I was given the photo above as inspiration and decided to write a little short story with it.   I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

How Well We Know the Ones We Love

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About a week ago I bought a little app for jigsaw puzzles. The neat thing about it is that you can use your own photos to make any puzzle you want. You can make them as complicated (550 pieces) or as simple (42 pieces) as you want.

I started out with some of the puzzles the app offered and then started on some art work I had saved before moving on to family photos like this one. Of the five people in this photo, only two of us remain on this earth, my sister Judy on the far left and myself on the far right. The other three people, from the left, are Mother, Daddy, and my oldest sister Betty.

I have to admit, it felt a little odd putting this particular puzzle together. I thought, “piece of cake, right?” I know these people. I’ve looked at this picture many times.

I started with the edges as is my usual habit. Then I started the middle. I came to a point where I had a woman’s mouth. Was it Betty’s? Was it Mother’s…or even mine? I looked closer at the tiny piece on the screen and suddenly knew, without a doubt, it was Mother. Tears sprang to my eyes as I remembered the last time I heard her speak and breathe, moments before she passed away in my arms. Hers was the first voice I ever heard, the voice who could yell me home a block away, and the voice I remembered singing hymns in church. Those lips kissed away booboos and heartbreaks.

Next came a set of twinkly, mischievous blue eyes. Well! Those could belong to any of us, but that particular twinkle was all Betty when she laughed. We were all happy in this moment. It was Daddy and Mother’s 65th wedding anniversary and Daddy was joking and teasing as only he could. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but we all laughed just as the camera snapped our picture.

What’s my point? It is this. Even when those we love pass to heaven before us, we still love them, still know them well, and they are and always will be part of us. We may not be able to ring them up on the phone or feel their loving arms around us, but they are just as much with us as our beating hearts within us.

Close your eyes and picture your spouse’s eyes, your father’s hands, or hear your children’s screams of laughter. That’s how well we know the ones we love and it’s forever.