Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Question is.....

I remember going to Watch Night services as a child. Some churches still observe this custom, but not nearly as many. We would take nap that day so that we could stay up til midnight. Around 8:00 we would head church where there would be preaching and singing from then on until midnight. We would take a break around 10:00 for pie and coffee and fellowship, then it was back to worship. Sometimes when the appointed hour came and went everyone would still be praying and praising the Lord, caught up in His goodness and blessings. Most of the time I could not hold out until then. I would fall asleep on the pew or in the floor beneath the pew--at least until the shouting and music got so loud it would wake me.

Most of the time the sermon revolved around The Second Coming and Will You Be Ready themes. I remember the line, "Jesus could very well come back before midnight. Would you be ready to meet Him?" Or, you could leave here tonight and before you make it home be hit by a drunk driver. None of us knows when our time will come. Would you be ready?"
There was always the prefacing remarks: "With every head bow and every eye closed." And I was always the one peeping to see who would make the walk.

New Years was the perfect time to make that argument. It was the perfect time for turning over new leaves, for becoming repentant, for making the change. I remember making that walk to the altar many times as a teenager. I was always certain that hell was one breath away. I imagine that kept me out of more trouble than I knew. And although I don't believe you should be frightened into serving God, I do think a little more reverence for Him is in order. We should have a wholesome fear of Him. He is the Judge and Ruler of all. Yet, we should serve Him out of love. Now that I'm grown, I fear disappointing Him more than His judgment. I want Him to be proud of His child. Yes, I know He can throw me into outer darkness. Yes, I know He can bring His wrath down upon me at any time. And I know I would be deserving of it. But I also know that He is a merciful God. And He is merciful because He loves me. And I am so humbled by this great love.

I'm not perfect. I still fall. I still fail. I still disappoint. I still have thoughts I should not entertain. I'm trying to conquer them. But I resolve to do better in the coming year. I'm sure that means He will ask me to stretch my boundaries. He might ask me to do something difficult. He might ask me to sacrifice something hard. But whatever He asks, I'm sure of this one thing: He is deserving of more than I can ever repay. And yes, He could very well come this very night before the stroke of midnight. Are you ready?

Friday, December 30, 2005

I Resolve To...

  1. Smile more.
  2. Speak more kind words.
  3. Criticize less.
  4. Spend more time with my son.
  5. Work on my physical health.
  6. Love more.
  7. Grieve less.
  8. Give more.
  9. Spend less.
  10. Be more myself and less of the person that I think others expect of me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Peas 'n' Greens

I was in the grocery store the other night and overheard a young woman chatting with an elderly lady. She was saying that so-and-so had never eaten black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, had never even heard of the tradition. At once my mind went to my grandmother. Every year she has the traditional meal of black-eyed peas and turnip greens. This is to herald in a new year of prosperity she says. I always took her word for it, but never tried it myself.

Today I began to research this seemingly Southern tradition. I found several responses in a forum: I found it interesting that so many people prepare this meal, and yet they have no idea why. Some said it was because the peas represented coins and the greens represented bills. Some said it was because Yankee soldiers raided the homes and took all the food except the peas in the field, which they presumed were weeds. Another theory is that peas were so plentiful that they would last the winter, even dried. It's amazing what you can learn from a simple search engine request.

If you follow the forum, you begin to find recipes for peas and greens and debates on who's recipe is best. Some went as far to say that bacon drippings masked the flavor of the greens. Now that would be an outright offense to my granny, I'm sure. To my knowledge, she never cooked a tasteless meal in her life!

Still another forum sheds this light: Peas are for health; greens are for wealth. "The belief that peas are for health and greens for wealth is a direct translation of many African proverbs regarding the tradition. Some West Africans still eat the dish to honor a certain god, while most of us in the U.S. associate the tradition with superstitions that have some sort of Southern basis." That quote is attributed to Jeff Elkins at this forum: It seems to me that this would make sense as many cooks in the South were slaves brought over from Africa. Perhaps they brought this tradition with them.

In any case, I think it is a great tradition. Some would frown on it as an old wive's tale or as superstition. You're entitled to your own opinion. As for me, I don't believe in superstitions. But I do believe peas and greens to be mighty tasty, and for the most part, excluding the bacon drippings, healthy. Maybe I'll just have to cook me up a batch this year and test the theories for myself. My best to you and your families. Happy New Year!!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas to All....And to All a Good Night

Just want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. May your days be merry and bright...even if your Christmas isn't white. Don't forget to invite Christ to all your holiday gatherings. Don't leave Him on the outside looking in.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mama's Christmas Fudge

Here's a recipe for you that we make every year. Make sure you have a heavy stewer to cook it in. I have many fond memories of making this with my mom every year for teachers and friends. She also has a chocolate recipe. But that's for another day. And I might have to charge you for it, it is so divine. My sisters and I decided to continue this tradition after Mom's death. The first year we were all tears and memories, but as the years go by, it has become a great day of fellowship. We save some for our Christmas Day get-together.

Mama's Christmas Fudge

1 cup milk
3 cups sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 tsp. salt

Cook this over medium heat until it begins to boil. Boil until it reaches the softball stage. For those of you who are newbies to cooking, this means to put a little bit in a bowl of cold water. Drain the water and see if the residue forms a soft ball between your fingers. This is the only tricky part of the recipe. It is very important that the candy has reached the proper stage. If you cook it too fast, it will become crumbly when set.

Remove from heat. Put in 3 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Use your electric mixer to beat this while still in the pan. As soon as it begins to thicken, pour into a buttered small rectangular pan. (I know that is vague, but I use a glass casserole dish that is one size smaller than a sheet cake pan.)

This recipe makes 3 lbs.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Dear Santa,

Here are a few things on my list that I just can't seem to get in Paris. Please, please try to bring them. I have been a very good girl this year.
A mall. City officials fuss because I don't spend my money here in town, but lack the stores and items I need.
A great bookstore. Sometimes I would like to sit and drink a cappuccino while reading the latest bestseller. And sometimes I would like to buy it and take it home to sip my cappuccino.
A dinnerboat cruise at Paris Landing for my anniversary. Branson and Nashville have them, why not Paris?
Please bring back Gary's. People came from other towns just to see what all he had.
And last, but certainly not least, a MORNING paper. By the time I get my PI, the internet, the television, and the local gossips have all filled me in.
I hope this isn't too much to ask. I believe. I believe. I believe.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Did it work?

It's not Ivy...but it's pretty. I'm just trying to learn to post pictures.

Mystery Solved

Some of you have inquired about the title of my blog, so I thought I would share with you how it came to be. It really is no mystery to some of you, if you think about it.

I have a home office/receiving room off my front foyer. It's where I write, receive company, and go when I want to curl up with a good book away from the television. It has a vaulted ceiling and a very big arched window. I like to think of it as my library, although I have books scattered in every room of the house.

On the wall high above me, above my husband's and my diplomas, I hung an 18" ivy wreath. I thought it looked classic and fit in with the theme of the room, and with the high ceilings, it took up alot of empty space. I can look up from where I am seated at my laptop and see it.

I suppose it is stretching the title a bit to give it a double meaning, but if you think about it, the Roman officials wore ivy garlands on their heads. So, if you picture me with an ivy wreath on my head, what is in my brain would naturally be what is beneath the wreath...and voila, there you have it. Mystery solved.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

To Write or Not to Write, That is the Question.

Today I contemplated restarting my novel, the one I lost 50 pages of to my last computer crash. I got exactly one page written while waiting on the school buses to depart this afternoon. And that one page is completely different from the original. Maybe there are two different novels going on. I don't know. Or maybe the first just wasn't meant to be written. As I finished my first page I discovered three things:

1. Characters are hard to name. You would think this would be the easy part.
2. Dialogue is even harder to create.
3. Writing something that has never been written is virtually impossible.

With that thought in mind, I must attempt to take something that has already been thought of and make it wholly mine. I believe they call it, "finding your voice."
The magazines I subscribe to say you must outline your novel. This strikes me as odd. If I had a full outline, I would have written the book already. Don't they understand that? I like to see where the characters will take me. If it has to be planned and forcefed, where's the fun in writing it?

Then, I have to wonder, am I still chasing a dream? I must be crazy to carry around all these notebooks and pens and ideas in my head. I must be crazier to think that by getting those ideas out and onto paper is somehow going to magically tranform my life. After all, what writer doesn't dream of seeing his words in print? And how many of them actually do? But hey...Rome wasn't built in a day. And I grit my teeth at the cliche' I just used. I keep forgetting all those writer rules. Can't a girl just do it the way she hears it in her head, for Pete's sake? Besides...I'm the one that has to live with the finished product ultimately. If it ever gets finished...

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I've Turned to Mush

Today we went with the Children's Church group from our church, The Church of God of Prophey, Paris, TN. to the nursing home to sing Christmas carols. There were about 12 children and several adults who roamed the halls singing "Joy To The World" and "Away in a Manger." I made it fine out in the commons area, but when we went to the first room, I could not help it. I am such a softie. I broke down in tears.

You should have seen the look of joy on that elderly lady's face as those little ones sang their heart out for her. It was such a simple thing--a few children, a few songs, a few smiles. But I'm sure that made that lady, someone's grandma, very happy. It was probably the highlight of her year.

As I was out in the hall sobbing on my husband's shoulder, a nurse asked me if I was related to the lady. I shook my head no. She said, "Do you know her?" Again, I shook my head no. She said, "Honey, don't cry. She is nearly 100 years old. That is where we are all headed. She is fine." All I could manage to croak back was, "I know."

You see, the nurse did not know about my 86-year-old grandfather who is in the nursing home in Humboldt, Tennessee. This is his first year there. He's been there since September, what time he was not in the hospital next door. This has changed all of my family's lives, not just his. For all my 40 years we have celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas at his house with Granny. This year, he was in the Emergency Room with pneumonia. We will visit them at the nursing home for Christmas this year and for as many years as he has left. Time has changed the way we do Christmas.

This will be the first year in 40 years that I will not go back to my home church, Gregory's Chapel Assembly of God, for their Christmas program. It's not that some of my extended family won't be there. It's just that we are trying to lay roots for my son here in his hometown. I have to learn to let go sometime. My son needs his own traditions, memories of spending Christmas in his home church. I can't help but wish that he could relive my past Christmases, but I know that some things you just can't bring back.

Still, visiting the nursing home today brought back memories of me as a child visiting the Humboldt Manor nursing home. We used to go sing for them at least once a month. We took fruit baskets at Christmas. Now I put myself in those patients' shoes and realize what it must mean for them for someone to care. I put myself in my Grandpa's shoes. I hope that my home church is planning to visit and sing--even if they are a bit uncomfortable. Even if they, like me, can't help but cry. It is a ministry, and as much a blessing to me as it was to them. I'm sure they have seen it all in their lifetimes, but it is the soft song of a child that still makes them smile. That much will never change.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

December 8, 2005

School was closed today due to threat of bad weather. Now that's a funny thing to me. When we went to school, back in the good old days, we did not get out of school unless there was at least 3-5 inches of the white stuff on the ground. But having the technology we do today, we jump the gun at the slightest blip on the radar screens.

It didn't snow. It rained all morning. Last time I checked the temperature was 38 degrees. It is supposed to get colder tonight. At least I got to spend the day with my little boy, who was overjoyed that he did not have school. He was even more thrilled to find that on the Sci-Fi channel was The Incredible Hulk marathon, the old series. He was in kid heaven all morning.

I don't advocate hours and hours of television. I like to see kids play outside and use their imagination and muscles. But it was raining. He got his blocks and army men out and played for a couple of hours this morning. I figured The Incredible Hulk was harmless. That is, until he got to scuffling with me on the bed and kicked me right in the eye. I guess violence does have a greater impact than we think. Even if he was just play-acting, it still had a negative impact. I'll live. LOL.

I guess it wore him out; he's napping. That's what is great about being a kid. You can still nap whenever you like. Even if you fall asleep at a restaurant or movie, the grownups generally let you stay asleep because they enjoy the peace and quiet. Sigh. Peace and quiet. I remember those days.

Well, I hope everyone is getting all their shopping and entertaining done. Me, I'm just sitting around in my wool socks drinking coffee. And trying to stay out of the line of his feet. Be sweet y'all.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Live Nativity

New Harmony Baptist Church has a live nativity every year. They do it early, so people can enjoy it before the rush begins. Last night was their first night, so my husband and son and I decided to go drive through it.

We topped the hill right before you get to the church, which is on a winding two-lane road in the county, and traffic was already backed up a 1/2 mile. It was just 6:05, and the Nativity was from 6-9 p.m. Evidently alot of us were in need of some Christmas Spirit to get us in the groove of things.

It was a beautiful, clear, cold night in Henry County. I bet those participants had long johns on under their costumes. The drive was lined with plastic milk jug luminaries. Scripture was painted on big signs by each scene. We were met at the beginning by a group handing out programs with the Christmas story imprinted on one side and the plan of Salvation on the other.

The first scene was John the Baptist standing at the entrance. Every few cars, he would raise his staff and shout, "Prepare Ye the way of the Lord." You could hear him down at the road. The next scene was the angel visiting Mary, complete with a little bedroom scene. After that it was Ceasar upon his throne with his guards giving out the decree.

Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem really caught my son's eye. By this time I was crying and trying to read all at the same time. I would read between his excited commentary. "Look at those sheep, Mama." "Look at those shepherds."

The angel choir was awesome. There were about 20 angels robed in white up on a high platform with a black light shining on them to illuminate them praising God in the Highest. Angel music was piped in as you drove by.

The actual Nativity scene always softens me to mush. I am transported to Bethlehem. I am in awe of the Holy Birth. What a privilege to serve this awesome king that came to earth in a stable.

The next scene was the marketplace of Bethlehem. There were all sorts of costumed families milling about, selling fruits, vegetables, and meats. They had freshly butchered meat laid out. They had freshly killed duck hanging from the doorways. They had fish laid out to buy. The children would walk around chasing geese through the marketplace. Livestock was everywhere. There was a beggar begging alms. It was all so beautifully done.

I heard my son yell from the backseat. "Camels!. They got camels!." He had looked ahead to the next scene which was the wise men. And there munching straw, kneeling in front of the wise men, were two huge camels. I turned to my husband. "Where do you suppose they got live camels in Henry County?" My son thinks they borrowed them from a circus. Maybe so. It was impressive for a rural town in Tennessee.

The next to the last scene was "Wise Men Still Seek Him." There was a big platform with risers. There was a newlywed couple dressed in their wedding finery. There was a cheerleader, a man on a Harley Davidson, military personnel, a nurse, a man in a wheelchair, teenagers, and some others in a group. The message was obvious. Jesus is for all of us today. He loves us all. We should all seek Him.

The final scene was at the exit. A cross lit with the scripture, John 3:16. They gave out peppermint sticks as we exited. I was still crying as well pulled out the drive. No matter how many times I hear the story, or read it, or see it done theatrically, it will always get to me.

"Son, this is the real meaning of Christmas. It is not Santa Claus. It is not presents or trees or parties. This is it. Jesus came to save us from our sins--all those bad things we do. He died so we don't have to. Do you understand that son?"

"Yes, Mama. Today's his birthday, isn't it?"

"Well, we don't know for sure what day it is, but we will celebrate it all month, and especially on the 25th, in a few weeks."

And really we should celebrate it every day in our hearts. Because of his birth, we have new birth. We have reason to celebrate every day of our lives. Lord help me when I start to feel sorry for myself. I am the richest woman on earth.

Happy Birthday Jesus!