Monday, February 24, 2014

The Misses Head, Whom I Have Forgiven

The Misses Head, Ada Belle and Alpha Retta (not kidding) were my sitters when I was in elementary school.  The Misses Head were not among my favorite people.  Ergo, this story.

First, let me just say this before anyone gets the idea that I'm complaining about my parents.  I am not.  I had a loving mother and daddy whom I loved very much. Make no mistake about it. And they did the best they could by us kids.  No matter who your parents are, though, life just has a way of being a little rough sometimes.  At the same time, let me also recognize that the frailties of my childhood pale in the face of others.

My mother worked a large portion of my childhood.  I don't think it was so much because she wanted to but that she thought it necessary.  Some mornings, with my older sister inside getting ready to go to work herself, I would tell my mother goodbye then sit on the front porch swing and watch her climb in with her carpool buddy.  Off they would go, out the driveway and down the hill.  Then, when my mother couldn't see me, I would unleash the tears.  I didn't want her to see me crying.  I'm not sure why.  My greatest wish in the world was that my mother didn't work and would be home with me in the summers and waiting for me when I got off the bus during the school year. Never mind the milk and cookies.  I just wanted my mother there, so it was bittersweet when she became disabled with a couple of different kinds of heart conditions when I was about thirteen years old.

Until that time I had been left with different sitters in the summer and after school.  My paternal grandmother, who lived with us for a short time, tended me until she died six days before my fifth birthday.  I was taken aside and told that the anticipated birthday party was canceled.  It sort of wouldn't look nice if we were partying six days after my grandmother passed away.  I agreed.  I don't think I even missed the party.  It wasn't like I had one every year.  That practice wasn't as rampant as it is now.  (Heck, these days it can even be true for adults.  "We're having a party for Joe Doe!  He's turning 42 next Wednesday!")

When I was around nine or so, my parents decided to rent out the tiny house next door that they owned and had lived in for a short time many years before I was born, probably not 500 square feet to the place.  They married in 1935, and I was born in 1954, after two somewhat older siblings.  (No, I wasn't an accident...I asked Mother and was promptly put in my place.  "No, ma'am!  I'll have you know I had to beg your daddy for all THREE of y'all!")  Yikes!  I was silent on the subject thereafter.

So...they rented the house to The Misses Head, two elderly (well, at the time I thought 64 and 68 were elderly) spinster sisters who wore their yellow-gray hair in buns, cardigans and head scarves inside the house, and snuggies (a really ugly but warm thigh-length precursor to Under Armour) and what appeared to be orthopedic shoes.  You know, those black lace-up things with the chunky heel.  The little house had no air conditioning, which was okay...ours didn't either.  Not many houses did in the 60s.  It had never had paint on the wood plank walls, and they wouldn't let my daddy paint it for them.  The house had a small kitchen and a tiny area where the wringer-type washing machine sat, through which you walked to enter the living room, through which you walked to enter the lone bedroom where the feather bed beckoned me to sink into its fluffiness.  That was the best part about being there.  That, and the yellow and white cat with the unlikely name "Pinky."

Well, there was one more good thing.  On occasion Retta would make tea cakes for me.  I have not had a cookie since then that compared.  They were marvelous cake-type cookies that retained their soft yellow dough color even after baking and seemed as big around as a cat-head biscuit.  Probably if I saw one today I would think they were tiny, but back then they looked huge.  And they were delicious.

The Misses Head had a radio tuned not to our local station but to a station in the next county, familiar to them before they moved into Daddy's little house.  They had no TV or bathroom.  They had no running water but walked to my house next door and got water either from the well or from a spigot.  They had a wood pile outside for their only source of heat, the little wood stove that sat in the middle of the tiny living room, but I'm not sure where they got the wood.  I think they lived on Social Security, so maybe there was a Benevolent Giver of Wood.  Doesn't matter now.  They are long gone.

Now that I ponder the situation, they probably agreed to babysit me in the summers and after school as a part of the rental deal.  Why do I think this?  Attitude is everything.  They were not particularly fond of my presence, not that I was mistreated (hey, they made me tea cakes and let me make peanut butter and syrup sandwiches) but one particular day I remember backtalking Ada (for some stupid reason I can't remember) and she started "having a spell."  I was promptly told that I had caused it.  (Somehow, though, she seemed to get over it pretty quickly.)

So you can imagine, and I hope forgive me, if I was just a little overjoyed when I found out my mother, in the hospital at Christmastime having had a radical mastectomy, was told she had heart troubles that would keep her from working.  I tried not to do Snoopy dances.  Yes, we had Snoopy back then.

That was a miserable Christmas, by the way.  My mother was in the hospital an hour away from home so my sister, father, and I arose early and I pretended, for the movie camera, to happily inspect the Christmas gifts that Santa had brought, an Oscar-worthy performance which my mother would watch and enjoy later.  But all I really wanted was to get to that hospital to see my mother.  The house wasn't "right" when she wasn't there, especially on Christmas morning.

That was in the day of the telephone party line.  The explanation, for those of you who have never heard of this antiquated phone system, is that several houses shared one line.  Each had their own phone number but shared the same line.  It's complicated, but the bottom line is, if you picked up the receiver to make a call and heard someone talking, you immediately replaced the receiver and tried later.  (Well, you were supposed to.)  One day during the middle of mother's breast cancer situation, I picked up the phone to make a call and immediately heard two familiar female voices talking about my mother.  When I heard them say, "You know it's malignant," I quietly replaced the receiver in a state of shock.  Even at the age of thirteen I knew what that normally meant.  However, the radical mastectomy took care of it and she never had any treatment, or cancer, again.

There were other painful situations in my childhood.  Maybe I'll tell you about them later.  Or not.  The point I'd like to make is this:  Even though life sometimes stunk back then, there were many, many happy times and I wouldn't change any of it.  See, your life, however it is that you have to live it, helps shape who you turn out to be.  This means you can turn out to be a stinker because you whine that life has treated you badly, or you can use the past to strengthen the future.

And if you are as fortunate as I am to have had a loving and caring person (Thank you, Joyce!) come along in your life and introduce you to the Jesus Christ that you claimed to know but really didn't, you are infinitely empowered to view your future as a bright one (if not in this life, then in the unending life hereafter) one for others to observe and emulate.  And when they ask you about the light that radiates from you, tell them about this Jesus Christ, the One Who alone is the Light of the World.  The One Who alone makes THE difference in your life.

Sometimes you don't even suspect that someone had a difficult childhood, and sometimes it is painfully obvious.

I think the Misses Head had difficult childhoods.  I hope they found peace.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Have Mercy!

Kids can be downright brats.  I've known many such kids over the years.  There have been times when I wondered how in the world a parent could let a child "act like that" in public.  (Wal-Mart, my other home, comes to mind first.)

You may think this blog post is about bratty kids.  It's not.  It's about mercy.  I have received more than my share of mercy in my life.  Much more.  Here are two accounts of times when I most assuredly should have been punished but was shown mercy.  Both times said mercy was extended by my precious mother, now in Heaven for 27 years.

Once when I was about six or so, Daddy decided it was time to add the bathroom to his old home place to which we had moved upon leaving our home near Atlanta.  Yes, THE bathroom.  The only bathroom it ever had.  Decision made, Mother and Daddy asked someone they knew that was qualified to install the new loo, and he came over one day to discuss the particulars.  He brought his little boy with him.  His little boy was my age.  His little boy was in my class at school.  I was the only kid on Briscoe Hill.  Do you know what it does to a kid who is the only kid in the area when a kid...a kid from school...comes over for the first (and only) time?  A kid like me has to show out a little because she doesn't know anything else to do.  So when I was to put the glass milk bottle out (yes, we had a milkman who actually brought milk to our house in glass bottles!) my mother said, "Don't throw it.  It'll break."  Of course, I knew more than she did and gave it a toss into the grass.

Upon hearing the tinkling of breaking glass, I knew all too well what had occurred, was mortified, and ran into the house.  I think I was even crying.  The boy from my class was sitting on the porch watching as I totally disobeyed my mother AND made myself look foolish.  My mother followed me into the house and found me sobbing.  Instead of the thrashing that I probably expected, she came near and put her arm around me.  She probably hugged me to herself and told me it was okay until I quit crying.  I don't remember what happened after that.  I guess I was too much in awe of her kindness to remember or even care.

The second time was several years later when my cousin and her parents were coming to visit.  She is about my age and we played together well, so I was excited.  We only had the opportunity to get together a few times a year and when we did, it was always fun.  But wouldn't you know it, something came up and they couldn't come.  I found out just about time we were sitting down to supper with my brother and his family.  I was pouting and acting up (again) and my brother, who was sitting across the table from me, thought it necessary to mock me.  (Don't ever mock a kid who has been sorely disappointed.  I've already said I was the only kid on Briscoe Hill, so pulling the rug out from under a promised visit from another kid was serious.)  I simply HAD to get back at him, so I scooped up some mashed potatoes from my plate, pulled back the spoon, and catapulted the thick, sticky goop across the table and planted it firmly upon his bare forehead.  What was that voice?  My conscience.  "June, you are dead where you sit."  Again, when I expected my mother to launch herself across the table at me, she just dished out the mercy.  Looking back (and being a mother of two myself) she probably was thinking to herself, "Good for you.  He deserved it."  After all, he's seventeen years older than I am.  He should have known better.

My mother taught me a lot about parenting, just by her excellent example.  I don't mean to mislead you...I got plenty of punishment for plenty of misbehaviors.  However, my mother was a very loving and discerning person and balanced life very well.  I suppose there are three kinds of mothers in the world:  those who beat their children for the least infraction of the rules; those who have no rules and therefore never punish a kid for breaking them because they don't exist; and those like my mother who weigh the circumstances at hand before acting.  I wish all the brats in the world had mothers with as much love and mercy as the one I had.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Life Ain't Fair

If you stand in my kitchen and the door into the dining room is open, you can look through and see a huge portrait of my husband, the only child of his parents.  And you will see it.  You can't miss it.  Although a bit large, it's a lovely thing, painted by Leon Loard when hubby was finishing up high school around 1970 and secured in a lovely golden frame worthy of a delicacy you might bid on at a Sotheby's auction.  Remember, I told you he was an only child.  His parents definitely doted on him.  He was their world.  Somehow, though, he escaped that "only-child-is-a-hellion" reputation.  Thankfully.

As I said, standing in the kitchen and peering through you will see the portrait.  Immediately.  And over the years, many have done exactly that, invariably commenting, "That's a lovely picture of your son," to which I gleefully reply, "That's not my son.  That's my husband."  I guess I might expect that assumption of adults who have seen both men.  What I didn't expect was the innocence of a child.

Yesterday being a Friday, we had both grandchildren at our house and at one point in the day, the granddaughter says, "Yay."  I turned to see what she was talking about  (she's two...we turn to see what she's talking about a LOT) and saw that she was pointing into the dining room.  "Yay," she repeated.  I looked up to see the portrait of my husband.

"No, honey, that's not Uncle Jay.  That's Pop," I smiled.  She gave it another look and asked, "Where's JuJu?"  I was incredibly touched by her thoughtfulness but answered honestly, "Oh, honey.  My parents didn't have that kind of money," knowing that she wouldn't understand that at all.  She gave it another look then turned back to her playthings.

You could almost hear her little inner voice saying, "The other kids are right.  Life ain't fair."

Older Isn't Necessarily Bigger

Hubby and I have the gigantic privilege of having our two grandchildren over to our house every Friday for a play day, and it warms our hearts to have all that preciousness in our home.  They are sweet little things.  Little things that I'll refer to as Thing One and Thing Two.  You know, sort of change the names to protect the innocent.  Thing One, our grandson, is five years old and his little sister, Thing Two, is...well...two.  You can imagine the joy, tears, power struggles, pandemonium, laughter, funny conversations and weariness that ensue.  Yesterday was no different.  Especially at nap time.

Thing One and I nap in the guest room with Thing Two in the portable baby bed beside us.  (What's that?  Of course I take a nap with them!)  Yesterday as we were settling in for our afternoon siesta, Thing One and I were talking, as we usually do, when the conversation turned to bones.  Thing One asked if cats have bones.  Yes, cats have bones.  Do I have a bone in my leg?  Yes, you do.  See?  Then I proceeded to show him how to feel the bones in one's body.  Do Angry Birds have bones?  No.  Angry Birds are not real.  Are teeth bones?  Yes, teeth are sorta like bones.  (By now Thing Two is blissfully sucking her pacifier and dreaming of Disney princesses.)  Deciding to seize the moment, I began to wax educational and told him that milk and cheese are good for building strong, healthy bones.  Thing One is no lover of such dairy products.  I know this.  With slightly wrinkled nose he said, "I don't drink too much milk," to which I replied, "Maybe you should."  He thought for just a second and promised, "When I'm twenty I will."  Picturing him at twenty years of age made me think of myself and I said, "I'll be 74 when you're twenty."  He wondered, "Will you be too big for the house then?"  Not being really sure if "big" meant "tall" or "round," I simply replied honestly, "I hope not!"

Little things.  They'll grab your heart.  One way or another.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

NOT TRYIN' TO GLORIFY THE PIRATE'S LIFE, BUT WHAT?! WHY DIDN'T I KNOW IT'S TLAPD?!

Shiver me timbers!  How is it that it's halfway through the day and I have to find out from Fox News that it's "Talk Like a Pirate Day?!"  Well, blow me down!

My blog posts usually pertain to some serious topic like truth, appearances, genealogy, or my Southern ways (that may not be serious to you, but it is to me, matey!) but today I am so surprised that I had not been alerted by Facebook or some lame-yet-well-intentioned forwarded email or even a 24-hour warning from my beloved Fox News that I just had to share my concern.  Argh!  But, alas, I will have to give Fox a reprieve...the announcers only discovered it themselves while I was watching the early afternoon show.

Lest ye think I be attempting to glorify the pirate life, leave me put you at ease.  I think it is bilge.  However, over the past few years much jest has been made of pirates and their evil ways.  Harkens me back to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies which feature the most playful and almost innocent of pirates ever to hit the silver screen, Captain Jack Sparrow, portrayed by the very talented Johnny Depp.

Landlubber, yet beach lover, that I am, I make no pretense as to being informed as to pirate ways and the like.  I do enjoy the movies, though, if I can just get past all the weirdness, the undead, the slimy sea creatures, and the constant drink.  (As some of my readers may know, I am no partaker of the grog.  I prefer orange juice...it prevents scurvy.)

Well, mates, I must shove off from my office now and go to the galley for a beverage, but I will leave you with this picture.  They are, as the old saw goes, "worth a thousand words."  One of which is "avast."  Means to stop or halt.  Which this picture may force you to do.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

WHAT IS "JESUS PORN?????"

The following is an article that I have taken from my Facebook page posted by one of my friends in show business in California.  It breaks my heart.  (She didn't write it.)  The friend that posted it does not appear to have the kingdom of God at heart but whether or not the people at Sherwood (who produced the Christian films "Flywheel," "Facing the Giants," Fireproof," and "Courageous") can write well enough to suit "real" show-business people.  Please pray for these people who just don't understand that Sherwood isn't out for an Oscar but for the salvation of souls.  People have spoken loudly that what they want are more films like the Kendrick brothers and Sherwood produce.  I guess it's not how you write but what you write.

http://www.bren.us/courageous-yeah-kinda

Friday, July 22, 2011

DO I REALLY LOOK LIKE THAT?

As some of you know, I have a real heart for the lost in the media, entertainment, and celebrity world.  One of my connections to people who are ministering to those dear folks that God loves is Dr. Larry Poland with Mastermedia International.  I receive his quarterly newsletter, The Mediator, and am never disappointed in its contents...there is always an encouraging story about Jesus Christ's presence in those realms of society.  With Dr. Poland's permission, I am using an article he wrote in the Spring, 2011, issue as this blog.  I'd appreciate your comments.  As usual, my request is that you be nice!

Modesty:  The Naked Truth

Editor's note:  In this issue of The Mediator Dr. Poland sets aside his regular series on "Wisdom for the Trenches" to deal with a subject he considers critical to the witness of Christians living in a media-saturated culture.  "Wisdom for the Trenches" will return in the next issue.

INTRODUCTION
     Modesty is a virtue that is all but lost in American society and that has become increasingly rare even in the Christian community.  The pervasive influence of immodesty in society impacts Christian men and women through images in film, TV, videos, Internet, and in secular social settings.
     Regardless of the above, the Bible condemns immodesty.  Immodesty has a number of destructive effects on the immodest person, on those who view the immodest person, and on the Christian community.
     Speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jeremiah the prophet condemns Israel's immodesty by saying, "...you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush in shame."  (Jer. 3:3 NIV).  Again, he declared, "Are they not ashamed of their loathsome conduct?  No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush."  (Jer. 6:15 NIV).  Peter exhorts women to modesty in the following words, "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety...." (1 Peter 2:9 NIV).
     The Apostle Paul exhorts believers to "shine like stars" on the dark backdrop of the degenerate culture around them.  Surely this includes the believer's image as well as his behavior--modesty is about both.
     A simple definition of modesty is:  Making sure that my external appearance accurately reflects my internal commitment to Christ and to biblical holiness--regardless of worldly fashions.

DESTRUCTIVE EFFECTS OF IMMODESTY
     While immodesty can be a problem for both sexes, it is a greater and more common problem when expressed by women.  Following are some destructive elements of immodesty among believers:
  1. It blurs the distinction between those who know and love Christ and those who reject God and His law.  Question:  "Why wouldn't I want to appear to others like one who knows and loves Christ, rather than one from 'the world?'"
  2. It blurs the distinction between those who are immoral by behavior from those who are moral by behavior.  Question:  "If I am not an immoral person, why would I want to dress like one?"
  3. It detracts from the believer's true beauty, the countenance.  Question:  "If the light of Christ is in countenance, and He is the source of my attractiveness, why would I want to draw attention away from His countenance and true beauty by immodest dress?"
  4. It tempts others to sin.  Question:  "If immodesty in dress tempts others to lust after or to covet me sexually, am I willing to be responsible for their struggle?"
  5. It feeds the fleshly--not the spiritual--side of the immodest believer.  Question:  "If I dress or act immodestly in public, will it not stir within me inappropriate fleshly or sexually seductive passions?"
  6. It sends messages about the immodest person that reveal their true heart attitude toward purity.  Question:  "If, as Jesus said, 'from the overflow of the heart a person speaks, 'why would I want my apparel to 'speak' that my heart is impure or immoral, if it isn't?"
  7. It contributes to temptations that lead to porn addiction, fornication, adultery, pregnancy out of marriage, sexually transmitted diseases, and the impairment of sexual intimacy in the God-ordained bond of marriage.  Question:  "If I am not soliciting sexual advances, why would I want to dress as if I were, and, thus, risk having to deal with the potentially horrific consequences of such advances--possibly even rape?"

CONCLUSION
     In their best-selling book, Every Man's Battle:  Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time, Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker, and Mike Yorkey describe the plague of addiction to sexual temptation and impure images (a.k.a. pornography) in the Body of Christ.  Not just a man's problem anymore, "lust addiction" is a growing issue with believing women.
     Is it not time to make a renewed commitment to help each other conquer these temptations?  Step one surely must be to do nothing which feeds sexual lust and moral sin in others.

Reprinted by permission, Dr. Larry Poland, Mastermedia International, www.mastermediaintl.org