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December 16, 1983

December 16, 1983 is a date, for my family, that will never be forgotten. My first memory of that day was at 5th grade recess.  Our school principal came outside to give me a message that my brothers and I would need to get on the bus to go to our papa and granny’s after school.  It seemed strange to me that he, The principal himself, came out onto the playground in the cold to give me the message personally, instead of just sending a message through my teacher.  In his demeanor there seemed to be something more that he wasn’t telling me.  But as a 10-year-old, I shrugged it off and went back to playing with my friends. We were digging tunnels in the snow which had drifted against a hill.

So after school, my two younger brothers and I boarded the bus to Granny’s, still unaware of the life-changing news that we would soon hear.  We arrived at Granny’s and were instructed to begin our homework. Mom wasn’t home yet from her doctor visit. (She was pregnant with the youngest of us 5 brothers.) I think Granny sensed our worry, or at least our curiosity as to the reason why we weren’t taken home after school.  If Mom wasn’t home yet, then Dad would have been there on the farm to greet us. I did wonder why, but I couldn’t have imagined this. She assured us that Mom was just fine after her doctor visit and that she would be coming soon to let us know what was going on.  I think Granny knew that we needed to hear about such a tragedy from our own mother.  I guess after that, we did some homework, played and caused the usual trouble.

When Mom arrived, I wasn’t ready for the news. How could I be? Mom sat us down and said, “Boys, I have some bad news.”  My first thought was about Dad.  Was he okay?  The she said the words that I would never forget.  “Our house has burned to the ground. Everything’s gone.”  We began crying as the weight of these words sank in. I still recall the pain and hurt that I felt then.  We all hugged Mom tightly and cried with her. My youngest brother cried with us, but I wondered if he really understood or if it just upset him to see all of us so emotional.  My first thought for him was about his beloved pink blanket.  In my 10-year-old mind I couldn’t imagine how my 4-year-old brother could survive one night without his pink blanky.When faced with this kind of loss, so many thoughts swirl around in your mind.  And it’s interesting how kids think of these things so differently. I thought of the money I had been saving in a Hershey’s cocoa tin in my closet.  I think I had saved about $20 from birthday money and money I had gotten from Dad for picking up walnuts.  I was saving for some Star Wars action figures to add to my collection. A collection which was now destroyed by the fire. And my $20 had burned up in the fire.  But Mom and Dad had money – no, their money burned up, too. How much had Mom and Dad lost?  I was too young to understand their loss, but I knew that it was bigger than my $20.

Later in the evening, Dad arrived covered in soot and ash.  I had never seen my dad cry until that day.  He hugged us and Mom and assured us that God was going to take care of us.  When I smelled the smoke on him, I pictured our house in flames.  I knew that he had fought the fire for his family.

The memories get further apart after that but I know we stayed the first couple of days with Granny and Papa.  The very next day Granny and Mom went to town for some shopping.  We’d lost everything.  Now, in my mind we needed everything. What store do you go to to get everything?  I remember my papa had given Mom some money to make sure each of us had nice clothes to wear to church.  We were still singing “What Child Is This?” for the service on Sunday, and he knew we that would need something nice to wear.  A few days later we moved in with my other grandparents.  They had more room and the extra bathrooms necessary for our big family.  We celebrated Christmas there, and I got the Star Wars toy that I wanted – the toy version of the hoverbike from Return of the Jedi. (By design, it broke into 3 pieces on impact, just like in the movie.)  I appreciated that toy so much and the giving hearts of my parents.  It was strange to celebrate Christmas in a home that wasn’t our own.  Our home was gone now.  Or was it really?  Words like “home,” and “family” now took on a bigger meaning than ever before.

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Another Garden/Life Illustration

My brother found this on a gardening website and we both liked it. I hope you do too.
Garden.First, you “Come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses”….FOR THE GARDEN OF YOUR DAILY LIVING,

PLANT THREE ROWS OF PEAS:
1. Peace of mind
2. Peace of heart
3. Peace of soul
PLANT FOUR ROWS OF SQUASH:
1. Squash gossip
2. Squash indifference
3. Squash grumbling
4. Squash selfishness
PLANT FOUR ROWS OF LETTUCE:
1. Lettuce be faithful
2. Lettuce be kind
3. Lettuce be patient
4. Lettuce really love one another
NO GARDEN IS WITHOUT TURNIPS:
1. Turnip for meetings
2. Turnip for service
3. Turnip to help one another
TO CONCLUDE OUR GARDEN WE MUST HAVE THYME:
1. Thyme for each other
2. Thyme for family
3. Thyme for friends
WATER FREELY WITH PATIENCE AND CULTIVATE WITH LOVE. THERE IS MUCH FRUIT IN YOUR GARDEN BECAUSE YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW.
Author unknown. Thanks whoever you are for such a thoughtful piece.

Ketchup? Yuck!

Maybe the closest thing to a phobia that I have is this; I don’t like ketchup. I didn’t always feel this way. It just is something that has developed in my adult life. Not that I don’t like ketchup on delicious food such as hot dogs and hamburgers, but given the choice I’d rather have BBQ sauce or spicy mustard. What can I say? I’m complicated.
But here is what I can’t stand:

The smell of ketchup!
Ketchup, gooey and sticky around the lid of the ketchup bottle!
Ketchup dripped on the floor, now on my shoe!
Ketchup drops on the counter, on the table, on the island!
Ketchup now on my sleeve!
Ketchup on the wash rag that wasn’t rinsed after cleaning up spilled ketchup!
Ketchup now on my hands!
Wash my hands with soap and water, but they still smell like KETCHUP!

To me ketchup is like a real life miniature version of the old sci-ficharacter THE BLOB! Touch it and it sticks to you and will not come off. Pretty soon it’s everywhere, all over your fingers and elbows, clothes. Of course the smell never goes away! It reminds me of a painful grade school memory when someone stomped a ketchup packet and it sprayed all over my shoes and pant legs. The smell reminded me of the humiliation all…day…long…

Tomatoes are a wonderful vegetable, er, um, fruit (whatever). The best tomatoes come fresh from the garden and usually you have to wait until July. So sad that they have to ship them green so that they don’t rot before they reach the grocer. The Problem is they never taste any good from the store because of this. So I only eat tomatoes from July – September. Not Good Enough! I suppose that is why someone came up with the solution of pureeing fresh tomatoes and adding them to the recipe for glue!That just irreverent!

Beyond the gross qualities of it, getting ketchup as a topping is like watching black and white TV in an age of advanced 3D television technology. When I use ketchup as a topping it is more for the sentimental value it adds remembering childhood bonfire and hot dog roasts. If you dislike plain off-white wall color spanning the walls throughout the inside of your home, that’s how I feel about ketchup. BuhLah! (that’s blah emphasizing both syllables)

The final reason I dislike ketchup so much is the word association of it all. It reminds me how many of my goals I’m behind on; books to read, songs to learn, people to know better, prayers to pray, scripture to memorize, new worship artists to listen to, send that email, make this contact…. it’s overwhelming! I Have To Ketchup! I mean Catch Up!

Take it one day at a time sounds so cliche, but it’s something to keep in mind. God never said we were to “get it all” and “get it all done” in 24 hours. I believe each lesson, every growth experience is to be savored, because it is an encounter with the almighty. There is no such thing as microwave discipleship. And even if there was, I’m not sure I’d like it very much. Like the juicy tomato ripened on the vine after months of feeding and watering, sunshine and rain, savor every bite. Take it in and be reminded of the rewards of the slow and laborious process. I might be behind on my goals and on lessons I wish I had already learned, but the answer isn’t to get all caught up in a single day or even a single week. Rather, the slower, more intentional route is the way to go. One day at a time, one lesson at a time. Steady growth that lasts. That’s something I can appreciate.

(No ketchup was ingested during the writing of this blog)