"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sometimes With Humor

“God has a sense of humor,” our guest laughingly proclaimed as he finished telling us his story.  We had company for dinner last night, and when we were done eating, we sat around the table enjoying the conversation for just a bit longer.

“Mom, tell them the story about the blizzard you were in,” my son encouraged with a twinkle in his eyes.

At the blank look on my face, he explained further, “You know; the one with your friend when you were traveling to Seattle…”

Now I knew why he wanted me to tell this story; it was a lesson I taught him when he was young, that yes, we do, indeed, serve a God that has a sense of humor, but it is really all about trust.

This story took place many years ago when I was a young woman in my twenties or so.  A girlfriend and I were making a trip to the Seattle area. She and I both lived there for a time, and we could have been making our way back to that area after we had made a visit “home”. I don’t really recall.  But I do remember this friend.  She and I could spend hours in conversation over coffee and cheesecake talking about the Bible, philosophies and politics; and also simply sharing our lives with one another. She was, and still is one of my very best friends.

It was the middle of winter and it had gotten very dark outside long before we arrived at our destination.  A little over half-way there - well, probably a lot more than half-way there – it began snowing.  The roads were getting more and more slippery and visibility was becoming much worse.  I was driving, and back then when I was young, I was a much more confident driver in snowy conditions than I am now.  But as it continued, it even became too much for me.

“Oh, man, Coco!  We have to pray!  Pray that God will relieve this storm for us at least until we get over the pass!”  If the storm was this bad before the high mountain pass that was coming up, I hated to think what it would be like on that pass.

She began a fervent prayer, as I kept my eyes on the road. The very second we finished our prayer, the snow stopped. And I mean stopped completely…no gradual decrease in the amount of flakes or wind, just a flat-out, extremely abrubt end of it all.  The dramatic change literally took our breath away. I could sense her shock, and feel her jump in surprise; I understood, probably because I did the same thing.  Just as quickly, however, we both burst out laughing when we realized we had just entered a train tunnel that was over the highway. No snow or wind in there!!  Though we laughed heartily, I still secretly hoped that on the other side of the tunnel, the storm would have subsided.  It had not.

That’s as much as I remember.  I don’t remember the drive over the pass or anything else that took place the rest of that trip.  This little comical experience is the only thing that stuck in my mind.  I’m sure at the time I didn’t understand why the Lord didn’t stop that storm for us, but I always did look at it like it was God’s sense of humor when our prayer ended the very second we entered the tunnel.  One thing I know; that moment of laughter calmed us and relaxed us enough to make the rest of the trip a lot more comfortably.

Now that I’m older, I understand that God didn’t have to stop that storm for us.  In fact, I firmly believe, instead:  Why would He?  He doesn’t promise to get us out of the tough stuff, only to get us through it.  Can you imagine a God that was really nothing more than a genie in a bottle; granting us this wish because we think we need it; or granting another wish, not because we need it, but just because we wanted it?  And this, for every individual that prayed every moment. Things, of course, would be chaos.  I’ll bet there were a lot of people at the nearby ski lodge that were conversely praying that they might encounter such a snow storm on this night! And no, I don’t think God granted them their prayer over mine.  We simply serve a God of order, Whom has set “laws of nature” in place for a purpose.  Sometimes He changes those laws for a reason and that is a miracle.  But always He knows what is best for us and continues to guide us through times of trouble; times of joy, and times of sorrow; times of learning; and times of grace. And every once in a while, I believe He shows us His grace through humor, as He did in this case.

For me, the bigger part of this whole story is not simply the lesson in trust that my friend and I had received that night. Rather, the greater part for me is all these years later I am able to see my son share something with others that I had shared in laughter with him. Best of all, he shared it with a twinkle in his eye and a confident understanding in his heart…therein lies the real miracle.

O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.  Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation and thy power to everyone that is to come. 
   ~Psalm 71: 17 -18

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Traditions; Additions; and Interruptions

Mom and Dad were the first to arrive.  I knew they would be.  I always tell them to come a little earlier than the rest of the family, and that way we have a chance to visit before everyone else arrives.  We were expecting 25 people and I knew once every one else came, any visiting for me would be minimal at best.

Mom also likes to arrive early to help peel potatoes or do anything else she can to help.  One thing I know about my mom, she simply isn’t comfortable at someone else’s house unless she is working.  Anyway, if they arrive early, Mom gets right to work and Dad gets settled to watch a little football if he can, before the house gets so crowded it is impossible.

I love our Thanksgiving holiday.  Of course it is one of my favorites, along with Christmas and Resurrection Day. Oh, and Fourth of July; and even Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day!  I just love holidays, and everything they symbolize. I love the celebration that each holiday brings; and I am a strong believer in tradition and acknowledging the importance and meaning each one represents.

We have a lot to be thankful for this year and I will probably write more about that later. But I love that I have a family that still gets together every holiday, to eat, play games and spend time.  All the preparation is worth it, when everything falls into place to help simplify the dinner hour.   Our house isn’t the biggest, nor does it have the best kitchen layout for a large gathering, but we manage. I do like to make sure everyone has a place to sit at a nicely set table, rather than having to use their laps.  So we bring in extra tables and make use of a bit more of the living room.

I try to make sure everyone is greeted and offered something to drink, at least initially - especially the kids. I want them, above all, to be comfortable and have fun. Eventually, as things get busier, they will be on there own for getting whatever it is they need. There are always lots of appetizers for everyone to snack on while we are waiting for the turkey to finish cooking; and for the time when eventually everything peaks and comes together in the last moments. 

As I am in the kitchen, I don’t get to hear many of the conversations; but our kitchen, dining room and living room are all open, so I try.  I will hear a snippet of a conversation here or there, as individuals make their way toward the appetizers and as everyone mingles. In the beginning, I probably drive everyone nuts by saying “Oh, what was that?”  “Where did that take place?”  “Now who was there?” You know; those kinds of questions that can be really irritating as one finishes their story and all of a sudden they have to repeat it.  But I can’t help it.  “Inquiring minds want to know!”  But as time goes on, I have to focus on “taking up dinner” as my grandma used to call it and I miss most of the socializing. I am happy to make dinner, but still, I always feel a little torn that I miss so much of the conversing.

It can be a bit stressful, making sure everything is ready at the same time, and that people are comfortable finding a place to sit.  I usually feel like a nag as I beg everyone to find a place at a table, so we can pray and get started before the food gets cold.

Our family has beome bigger over the years, as our kids grow and eventually marry and bring in additions to the family with their spouses and a new generation of little ones. Of course we love these “in-laws” as much as we love our blood relatives and we don’t even really think of them as “in-laws”.  But every once in a while, I am again reminded and amazed at how much I love our “new additions” and even those that aren’t so new.  So it was this year, when I asked my nephew (in-law) to pray before we ate this year. What a beautiful offering of thanks he gave before our meal, making so apparent what Thanksgiving is all about.  So too, was this one of those moments that remind me what a beautiful family we have with all of its extensions. What a wonderful husband and father this man has been to my niece and their kids. I am so proud of him and so thankful for him.

While we missed some of the family that no longer live close….and I mean reaallly miss, we also had guests that came to our Thanksgiving dinner for the first time.  What a joy it was to have them with us.  Steph brought some things that were a “tradition” in their own family.  She brought sweet potatoes made the way her family likes them, a beautiful cranberry Jello mold and a delicious green been salad, all dishes that made them feel a little more comfortable and were reminders of their own traditions.  I love that.

Though we tried to tell Mom she didn’t have to bake pies or rolls this year, she insisted. “Well, I am at least going to bring a lemon pie for my grandson!” It reminded me of my own grandma, (her mom) that without fail made a dish for a certain grandchild just because he or she loved it and would expect it.  Mom also made some salads that were long time family favorites.

After dinner this year, several began cleaning up while others finished eating. We then eventually settled into crazy games for those that like to play, and deep conversations, reading or television for others. I was at the game table, laughing and enjoying every minute. It was especially fun this year, with our new friends in attendance bringing their additional antics and excitement to the game table. But through my laughter, I also found myself secretly wishing that I could call out to those loved ones that I could hear in deep conversation. “Now, what was that you said?”

(Edgar Albert Guest, 1881-1959)

Gettin' together to smile an' rejoice,
An' eatin' an' laughin' with folks of your choice;
An' kissin' the girls an' declarin' that they
Are growin more beautiful day after day;
Chattin' an' braggin' a bit with the men,
Buildin' the old family circle again;
Livin' the wholesome an' old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother's a little bit grayer, that's all.
Father's a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an' to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin' our stories as women an men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we're grateful an' glad to be there.
Home from the east land an' home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an' best.
Out of the sham of the cities afar
We've come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an' be frank,
Forgettin' position an' station an' rank.

Give me the end of the year an' its fun
When most of the plannin' an' toilin' is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin' with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An I'll put soul in my Thanksgivin' prayers.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Winter Joy

We had the first snow of the season last week.  It covered the ground in a white layer somewhere between one or two inches…at least it was that much out where we live.  Then a few days ago, the next storm hit us and gave us about 7 or 8 inches.  Big long sigh!!  I love it and I hate it.  It is absolutely so beautiful and that part of it I very much love.  There is also something about the first snow that, for me, is so peaceful and calming.  I love that! 

I woke Matthew early that morning, saying, “C’mon, get up!  We have lots of work to do.” He had an activity later in the day, and I wanted to be sure everything was done before he left. 

“I will tend to the horses, if you will go out and start the snow-blower”, I bargained.  The horses are almost always in my bargaining strategy; the horses being my preference over almost anything.   

“Ok”, he agreed knowing he really didn’t have a choice, as it was unlikely I was going to be able to start the snow-blower for its first time this season.  I wanted to get an early start on this job, before the snow had a chance to get hard by freezing.  It makes it much more difficult to blow after it has been on the ground a while.  I also wanted him to snow blow a nice path from the house to the barn and from the barn to the water trough, so the horses could get to it easily.

So off I went to love on the horses, while he went out to do the snow-white dirty work.
It wasn’t long though, before he came to report.  “The snow-blower is a no go.  It won’t start and there is gas spurting out from somewhere. I’m going to go start up the tractor and plow the drive way with that instead.”

Ok, I sighed, knowing that would require a little more from me.  “I will go shovel the path to the barn and the water trough." Knowing it would take awhile to get the tractor started and the blade attached, I knew timing of our workload meant I would also have to shovel the sidewalk to the gate.  Too bad, I thought, the blower does it so much better and makes it look a whole lot prettier.

So out I went, starting with the side walk.  My faithful lab was beside me the whole time frolicking in the fluffy powder, not so secretly demanding my attention with hopes that I would give her new toy a good toss for her.  I relented once again.  How do you say no to her?  Her joy at finally having winter arrive and me being outside with her was more than she could possibly contain.  She was almost delirious in her mirth. Oh!  How I love that dog!

I finished the sidewalk and stepped out the gate to check on Matthew, I could hear the whir of an engine; he had already gotten the old tractor running. What a guy! He knew the right tricks.

I made my way back to begin shoveling at the porch where we would begin our trek to the barn each morning and evening.  The snow was powdery and light making it easy to shovel.  I was glad I had Matt get up early to get a jump-start on our winter project.  It made the task so much easier, with less time spent. 

It was also going well for Matthew.  He already had the blade attached to the tractor and was well into plowing the drive.  A distinct feeling of pride came over me that my son knew how to do these kinds of things. Pride; and gratefulness, that he was blessed enough to have a dad, as well as a grandpa, that had taken the time to teach him.

When I got to the gate of the pasture, Julie, our new Arab/Quarter Horse, came to greet me.  I’m sure she was hoping for more hay or a treat of some kind.  As I shoveled extra carefully around the gate so snow would not build up and make it more difficult to open as time passed, Julie was right there, with her nose in my way making my job a bit more difficult.  But her presence for me was a welcome nuisance.  I continued the path to the barn and to Skeeter’s (our stubborn Appaloosa) corral.  He wanted to join in the fun as well, and started pacing the fence line.  Julie followed me every step I took and wasn’t about to leave me.  Earlier this fall I could tell she had finally bonded with me and that was a happy moment for me, when I had understood the change in her.  But this wasn’t about the bonding, I’m quite sure.  This was about white stuff all over the ground that kept her from being able to nibble her grass. 

I relented one more time.  While I loved that Julie wanted to be next to me, she was getting in my way adding a difficulty to the snow shoveling that I no longer wanted to endure.  And I didn’t like seeing Skeeter in such grief at the fence line.  I knew for sure I didn’t want him in my way, so I went to the barn and got them each a little more hay so they would be distracted with eating and stay out of my way.

When I finished the path to the trough, I realized I had left the gate to the pasture open and my lab was out exploring new areas that she rarely was able to explore.  “Bella, Come!” I called.  It only took one call and she was by my side. My faithful, obedient companion, who loves me more than any other being on this earth I am convinced.

Together we headed back to the gate, and there to greet us was my overly rotund, roly-poly, southern boy.  My beagle had also ventured out to greet me, and seemed to display a joy all his own, at this new winter adventure.  It was so comical, as he clumsily ran back down the newly shoveled path to the house. Watching him, I breathed a small sigh as I remembered the fit, agile dog he had been in his younger days. Though he had come from prime hunting stock, a life of unhealthy living had eventually caught up to him; too many meals, too little exercise. This bad-boy hates snow, and can’t stand to be cold.  “He hales from the south”, I always tell people, and “he hates winter!”  But when there is something new going on, and people (or animals) that one loves are involved, it simply makes everything more fun, and a time one can’t afford to miss – for beagles or humans!
So, now I hope the reader understands my love/hate relationship with winter.  For at least the first month or two, it is definitely mostly love.

We received the second storm of the season, today.  Heading out for Round 2; adding up the times that will eventually lead me to the…well, shall we say the time that will be “less than love”.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Cafe of My Heart

“He got his commercial pilot’s license at this airport”, she told the waitress. He’s an old crop duster.”  We had been looking at all the photos and airplane memorabilia as we waited for our food at this decorated café which had become a favorite of mine. 

My sisters and I had been planning a family outing here all summer long, but timing just never worked out for all of us until this late-fall afternoon.  The group consisted of my Dad and Mom; my older sister and two of her grandkids; my younger sister and her youngest son; and my son and me. 

We used to come as a family to this small airport from time to time when we were kids.  We came on a Sunday afternoon just to watch the planes, or there would be times we came to visit an air show that had been scheduled on the tarmac. 

Much later in my life, when my husband was driving truck, he would bring my son and I here to have lunch at the little airport café when he had truck business to tend to in this part of town.  I guess it was then that it became one of my favorite stops; a place that could turn in to a short, but fun day trip, that my son and I would also venture off to from time to time.

So, because of that and my childhood memories, I guess, somehow we decided we needed to make a little family outing with my folks and sisters to see if we could refresh any dormant memories from our past; and also just because we knew our dad would enjoy once again being at this airport where he had indeed received his commercial pilot’s license all those years ago.

“Where do you find all the photos and memorabilia?” my older sister asked the friendly waitress. 

“Well, we buy it and sometimes people just bring it in to us,” she replied. “Bring in a photo of your dad flying; we would love to add it to the collection!”

My dad hadn’t heard the conversation between the waitress and my oldest sis; but when we told him what she had said, he beamed, holding back tears that seemed to be demanding a showing in his expressive eyes.

We are simply a family of airplane buffs, probably with Dad’s crop dusting days as the catalyst for the interest.  My nephew has loved planes since he was just a little tyke, and he has a huge amount of knowledge on airplanes of all generations and all wars.  My son joined Civil Air Patrol with a desire to learn to fly.  And Dad was a tail gunner in a B-24 during World War II, but his desire to fly came at a very early age.  His mom had taken him for a ride when he was only about 6 years old with a Barnstormer whom had come to their home town.
So, not that we needed it, but with all that interest in airplanes in our family, it kind of made us feel like we had a reason to be here at this airport cafe, and that we somehow belonged.

It’s a darling little restaurant; simply an old fashioned café, that makes one feel like one has traveled back in time to a better day.  That’s what it makes me feel like anyway.  One can watch the planes as they taxi in and out of the runway, and the customers are fun to watch and visit with here, too.

I'm sure there is a lot of history that comes with this air field as well as the restaurant, and I intended to include it here. But time is short for me and that will have to be for another post. 

One thing is certain, the food is excellent and the service is great; but for me, the nostalgia of it all and the place it holds in my heart is what I love the best.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Time In-Between and Learning to Tie Ones Shoes – Spending Time I

“If you don’t believe the dead come back to life, you should be around here at quitting time.” 

This quote was on a poster that had been pinned to a cork board in the factory where I worked.  One of the supervisors, I am sure, must have seen the humor in it and was trying to give his employees an indirect message.  I saw the humor in it too, because sure enough, as soon as that final buzzer sounded, the employees would run from the building as if it had burst into flames and they were fleeing for their lives.  Yeah, I laughed at the quote, too; but I was also one of those whom had run.  We all wanted to get out of that parking lot as quickly as we could to avoid the daily traffic jam that was sure to develop on the highway in front of the factory in this busy, metropolitan area.

So the quote on the poster was meant to imply, that the employees lackadaisically worked throughout the day until it was time to go home.  It was only then that they came to life with any sort of energy.  Now, I know I was not one of those employees.  I had a love/hate relationship with this job, but I also know I was a hard worker and I tried diligently to set a pace that would be above what was expected.  I had a reputation with the quality control inspectors, as one who would never have a “pick-up”.  I learned this fact one day, when early on in my career, one of the inspectors said to me, “OH!  So you’re the one that never has a pick-up!” 

Huh!  What is that supposed to mean?  I worriedly wondered.  I quickly learned that “pick-ups” were mistakes the inspectors found before sending the finished product to shipping.  The inspector would label it as a mistake, so the mechanic could come back and correct the error.  The mechanic?  That would be me.  We were called aerospace mechanics and though it wasn’t really an assembly line, we were assemblers building the interiors of airplanes, i.e. over head storage compartments; seats; etc.  Sooo, not having any “pick-ups” was a good thing, I had learned on this particular day. Anyway, all of that to say, no, I was not one of the “dead” that only came to life at quitting time.  My whole day was spent in 5th gear, it seemed.

And the fast pace began the moment I arrived each morning. In the same way, I ran out of that building to avoid the traffic jam, I also ran into the building to punch the time clock before the 7:00 buzzer sounded.  They were strict, at this place of business and I do mean STRICT.  If one wanted to keep their job, one had better not be late, and the employees were not allowed very many tardies on their records. 

I have never been a morning person…well at least if it means leaving the house.  I like to rise early, but I like to spend the first hour or two in solitude, quietness, and comfort.  I just didn’t get to do that when I worked these 8 years in the aerospace industry.  I always had to be there by 7:00 am and often times I had to be there at 5:00 am because much of the time, mandatory overtime was required.  Though, I only lived 10 or 15 minutes from work (in the mornings anyway; it was much longer when stuck in traffic jams trying to get home) I almost always pushed the limit of tardiness.  Without fail I ran into that building each day, punching that clock exactly at 7:00 am.  I often times came in with my shoes untied, or my jacket with an arm in only one sleeve, because if I had taken the time to tie the shoes, or put on the jacket, the seconds would have added up and I would have been late - if only by seconds, it was still classified as a tardy.

Well, this is my youth, ok….young and foolish…just a little, I guess.  But I will never forget the time my boss saw me run in with my shoe laces untied.  He watched me punch the clock in the nick of time.  “Jannie”, he said with a twinkle in his eye, “if you ever trip over those laces, it will finally be the day you punch in late!”

I laughed.  As long as he was calling me "Jannie", I knew I was still in favor.

So anyway, I guess this post is about time clocks and the nick of time, and not so much about the dead coming back to life.  But it’s also about the fact that I ran in to start my day, in the same way I ran out: full speed; while seeking inspector approved quality for the time smooshed in-between the two.

Shouldn't we not only spend our career time striving for quality; but shouldn't our lives be lived this same way. Charging in to handle the tasks set before us; seeking to do the best job we can for the One who has appointed us to those tasks, but just as excited to finish the race so that we might hear those important words: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."  I think so.

I have lots of funny stories about my days at the airplane factory.  I don’t know why, but I decided to write down a few of these memories.  Not all of them will be funny, some will be written with a certain amount of fondness, some a lesson, hopefully none with bitterness or regret.  Hmmm, well, most likely a few will be with regret. I think life without regrets would be arrogance, wouldn’t it? We are all bound to trip over a shoe lace once in a while.  Hopefully, somewhere along the line, I have at least learned to tie my shoes.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3: 13-14