Showing posts from 2009

Friends are Forever

In this world of cliches and shortcuts, I'm reminded of my friend, June. I love June. She's a real friend. Always the same. Always smiling. She has this contagious laugh (which she blames on me, of course), but I say it's innate. I dare not attend a funeral with her, for we will end up laughing at something. Makes no difference where she is, she can start a raucous laugh. It's never my fault. I can tell you that.

June has this thing she says when we're going to be apart for a long time. It's simply NLG... Then she hugs me tight and says, I'm NLG. Never Letting Go. Now, that's a real friend. One you want to hang onto.
In 1970, we had some of those friends on Cambridge Avenue in old Southwest Roanoke, Virginia. Lifetime friends. Like June. Friends that give clear meaning to Proverbs 17:17: A friend loveth at all times. Here's my short list of reasons I loved the Cambridge Avenue experience. It's all about those NLG friends. Do you have any of those?

Precious Memories, How They Linger

Thankful for a loving mother and father...

Every morning in the dead of winter, Papa slogged to the woodpile, brought in two or three armloads of wood and made a blazing fire in the open-hearth fireplace. The old farmhouse had cracks that let the cold in, and you could scrape enough frost off the window sills for a snowball fight before the warmth of the fire melted it.

The house had two sides with a dogtrot running through the middle. The sleeping rooms were on one side; and in the winter at night the howling wind would sing you to sleep. My grandmother piled on quilts—quilts she had made, forbidding much movement during the night. If you had to go to the bathroom—well, the slopjar in the cold hallway between the bedrooms would have to suffice until morning.

The front room and kitchen were on the other side of the dogtrot. That's where Papa made the fire. One cold, wintry morning, my mother left the warmth of her bed and trekked across the dogtrot without my grandmother. She venture…

A Full Heart

Thoughts based on House Not Made With Hands

...the cupboard is empty, but the heart is full, written on a napkin and placed on a shelf in the empty refrigerator reminded me that day there is something extraordinary to a believing child of God as it concerns his daily provision.

Back in the early sixties, everything was not coming up roses for everyone. And for me to just pick up and move from the comfort of home and family to a place I'd never seen was a bit disconcerting. Yet, knowing from the start God would provide, we made our plans based on his promises.

There've been times in my life when I had no idea how God would meet a need. I've thought, this one is too big even for God. Then like the rain on a hot summer day kisses the parched earth beneath my feet and gives hope to the tiny lily bulbs stored below the surface of the soil, my Heavenly Father meets a specific need of mine in the same miraculous way.

I don't catch him off guard and unable to come through for me. …

Faithful Sons

Veterans Day, November 2009.
In honor of my great-great grandfather, T.G. Clark and his sons, Jonathan and Albert Henry, who died at Gettysburg. In this chapter, Jonathan has just buried his father and Henry in a shallow grave on the wheat field and two days later fights in Pickett's Charge.

To his dear friend and brother in combat, he gathers his wits and calmly asks, "Andrew, what do you dream about?"

"I dream about the river behind my house. About naked trees in the winter. About my Mama when she was young and I was a boy. And I dream about walking to meetinghouse on Sundays in the spring."

"You don't dream about blood or cannons or dead family members in the cut?"

Andrew looked away, tears filling his eyes.

Jonathan wiped the tears and sweat from his own face and continued. "I wish I could dream about riding to work with Pa and Henry, talking and laughing. About fishing down on Big Creek. Frogs croaking on a hollow log. An eagle in flight. And …

Honor Answering Honor

A Northern Officer Describes the Final Parade of
Lee's Army of Northern Virginia
Appomattox Courthouse

Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve, standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond...

Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier's salutation, from the "order arms" to the old "carry" —the marching salute. General John B. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one …

Through Eyes of Faith

Excerpts from Prologue, The Mississippi Boys, published 2008

... I spent fourteen years with my journals and memories from the old plantation to get House Not Made With Hands, and letting it go was like saying good-bye to an old friend. I dared believe this was my meaningful contribution and kindred spirits out there would take the journey with me. After all was said and done, I couldn't bid farewell to certain characters in my story, so I opened a new one from a chapter so deep-rooted in my history that I had to peer through a glass darkly to get images of those about whom I wanted to write. Their heroic story consumed me, and I wrote, realizing my page was not yet full.

And this is it. Though historical fiction, I hope its dynamic will touch you in a way you never thought possible, for we each have an investment here. Our forefathers—yours, mine, Blue and Gray—left DNA on battlefields all over the South. Their blood was sprinkled—yea, freely poured out—from Shiloh to Fredericksbur…

Sweetened With Time

The fig trees that shrouded the old chicken house were loaded with fruit, reminding me of my mother's fig preserves laced with lemon slices and served with her hot homemade biscuits, just another of the endless southern delicacies that might show up on our breakfast table when I was growing up.

(My mother in 1942, taken when we lived in Detroit. I was two years old.)

I wrote these words in House Not Made With Hands, reminded that when something is preserved, it gets sweeter and more delectable. If left long in the jar, fig preserves will turn to sugar. The sweetening process goes on and on. And so with life. We get to choose, though. Like a kiss to the earth by the summer sun or a gentle pat of rain, if we so desire the Lord can touch us, sweetening an otherwise bitter or unfruitful life.

Something as insignificant as a tiny fig, matured by time and nature's touch, has an amazing lesson for us. In order to ripen and sweeten, the fig must be attached to the tree. Otherwise, it is …

The Delta

People of the Delta who grew up when cotton was king and the days were long and lazy in the South well remember the phenomenon that took place. It changed. Dramatically. The old ways began to die. Ways that had remained the same for decades. The South had been evolving in the same direction since the birth of the Nation, but when the tide turned, not many of us could identify with the change.

My daddy didn't leave the Delta until he retired from farming. He saw the changes coming, but he never saw its demise. Watching it go down would have been devastating to one of its greatest fans. He had given his strength and energy to a place he loved—the Southland.

By the time the late fifties rolled around, my interest was not the surreptitious exodus out Fourth Street to Highway 61 North toward Memphis, for I knew nothing of it. Nor was it neighboring Tunica and the casinos, not yet a twinkle in Mississippi's eye. It was those oak-shaded streets—West Second, Catalpa, School, and Oakhurs…

The White Shirt

Someone has said that youth is wasted on the young. Over fifty years behind The White Shirt, I find that could not be farther from the truth. For all life's situations are remembered by sights, tastes, fragrances. To be carried over into our mature years—if we're clever enough to let it happen. I draw a deep breath to fill my proverbial lungs with the smell of leather on the white shirt I found hanging in my young husband's closet so many years ago. He was far and away serving our country and I was left behind. I clung to anything that drew me close to him. Anything that brought intimacy in his absence. That stirred my thoughts of him alone. Sights, sounds, fragrance on a white shirt. He is my joy, my wine of Lebanon. He brought me joy then. He brings me joy now.

But there is One greater still who is more fragrant than the wine of Lebanon. One who brings joy unspeakable and full of glory, about whom Hosea wrote, the scent thereof shall be as the wine (joy) of Lebanon. There…

"Too Hot, Too Cold, Too Late, I'm Sold"

My son, Peter Joseph, is much the better writer than I. He wrote the foreword to my first book, House Not Made With Hands. It's a page from his journal. I'll share it with you...

Sunday, Dec. 23, 2001.John Steinbeck died in New York on Dec. 20, 1968. He lived on 78th Street and wrote East of Eden in pencil here in this city. I was thinking of Little Orphan Annie when they sing, "Too hot, too cold, too late, I'm sold." New York is like learning to drive a stick shift. You can't know whether or not you love it 'til you get out there and do it alone.

Tonight I wandered the streets of Midtown without direction for three hours. My tired shoes and legs would not allow another moment longer. Everything here is done in the superlative. I fell in stride with a man and woman, both wearing full-length mink coats in the rain. My cheap suede jacket was surely more affected, but I allowed myself the luxury of nonchalance. They did not seek shelter but simply walked on, a…

Indian Summer

Goodbyes are not all they're cooked up to be, sometimes as painful as that first blast of winter cold that follows the colorful short-lived October of our lives. God's creation in living vibrant color all too soon fades into cold reality. Life has its disappointments and heartaches. Where do we go from here? How do we get back to the beautiful Indian Summer when all is said and done? How do we wait out that long anticipated call that will make everything right again?

I've been down that path often, but never with such intense significance as that first and only "goodbye" experience. I thought it was forever. I wanted him back in my youthful life. Some way, somehow. And then one day the call came in answer to the desires of my heart. It led to my marriage of over fifty years. But why the wait—the anticipation?
Sometimes it's not we who are waiting. It is the Lord who waits that he may be gracious unto us. We don't understand it. We don't have to. That…

White Walls of Memories

A house is just that—walls that surround our childhood memories—but a home filled with love, laughter, happiness and contentment is far more than our youthful minds can comprehend when we are growing up. For a little moment, we draw strength from tangible blessings, failing to realize that every good thing in life originated in the mind of God. Sad, we sometimes wait too late before we search our memories for pieces that have formed the warp and woof of our lives. We wait too late to realize that "life is a whisper, blowing softly through the years, leaving behind an emptiness that defies description." That is, if we do not harvest those memories.
That grand old white clapboard farmhouse had its store of treasured memories—voices of Mother and Daddy—the love that passionately drove them to nurture and raise nine children who would be their legacy, their offering to the Lord for his generosity to them.
God's anticipatory grace has supplanted all the memories of promises bro…

Intense Purpose

My life is laced with memories of a dusty road, of pink flowering mimosa trees and a long, green trail that led to an Indian Mound where true love had its beginnings. God's design has been with intense purpose, an extraordinary journey unfolding. Looking back, I see how all the pieces fit together in a beautiful poem, notwithstanding the painful moments, for there have been many. But "...we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

Yes, we are His poem, if we know Christ. A poem written by one who, with omniscient lips, spoke the worlds into existence. To allow His workmanship to reside on Planet Earth was the final touch of His six-day phenomenon. And to be one of His own is a privilege that comes with trusting, believing, and receiving, not only the fact that He is our Creator God, but that His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, came to earth—was virgin born, lived a sinless, perf…

Forever Grateful

My mother-in-law was the epitome of patience, endurance, and long suffering. She gave clear understanding to the cliche, silence is golden, able to keep to herself those poignant moments when life could have been more gracious to her. She married once—devoted her life in service and love to her family—worked hard until she was able to work no more and spent her dying days in an Alzheimer's wing.

I remember driving to Pearl, Mississippi, with my husband to spend Christmas Day with her not too long before she died. We had celebrated our anniversary the day before, and we drove in the falling snow to the extended care home where she resided.

Seeing is believing in most cases, and it was true, she was experiencing the winter of her life. Snow had begun to fall across the final pages of a book well written and a life well defined. The far-off look in her eyes was indication she was not there or that she longed to be someplace else. Oh, that we could intervene. Make it better. But that is…