Friday, January 29, 2010

Folklife Fridays: Decoration Day

Decoration Day

Some call it Homecoming, but it was always called Decoration Day at the small church in our community.

Decoration Day at the church was the highlight of summer in my world. The church house was just pews and pulpit, white boards with a wasp-infected high ceiling. From the time school closed in the spring until it resumed in the fall, the church was the core of our social life. We endured the fire-and-brimstone preacher until the last Amen; then the fun began. The congregation met only once a week, and each time was an event.

In the last week of scorching and simmering July, a week-long revival service began, not necessarily because we needed reviving but because that was the week revival meetings were held. Decoration Day was the fourth Sunday in July, a glorious day that kicked off the revival events.

Early in the day, the adjoining cemetery exploded in red, yellow, and blue crepe paper flowers. Everyone came, even folks from the Church of Christ congregation who did not usually associate with the Baptists. The primary purpose of Decoration Day (all teenagers knew this) was to show off new dresses and shoes. Church leaders had long since accepted that young girls in their finery could not be contained in the stifling church house; a formal worship service wasn't even attempted.

During my thirteenth summer, I got my first high-heeled shoes for Decoration Day. I was all legs, stumbling and unsure as a newborn calf. I can see me now; scratched and sunburned from farm work, strolling from cemetery to church house in my fine dress and high heels with the other girls. The guys hung out on the hoods of their cars, cigarettes dangling, too cool in their new jeans and white tee-shirts with rolled-up sleeves. They were strategically positioned to admire the girls as they promenaded past. Some dared to whistle. Prime time for strolling was from ten to twelve.

Just before all hope was lost, noon arrived and someone announced that it was dinner time. The women had risen with the Sun and prepared fried chicken and veggies from their garden. In baskets and boxes they arranged their food; banana pudding and tea cakes that were made the day before, tomatoes and cucumbers to be sliced just before eating, and sweating gallon jugs of lemonade and sweet tea. It was acceptable for men to transfer the food from their car to the picnic tables; they were not actually preparing food, thus it was no threat to their manhood. Starched tablecloths covered the tables, and then the feast was spread.

When the sawmill board tables were groaning with food, the crowd would become silent. Someone, usually a visitor known for his lengthy prayers, would be asked to bless the food before we could partake. We stood there, with blistered feet and sweat streaming between our budding breasts, while prayer was offered for the food, Aunt Louise, children in Africa, corn and cotton crops, and a great variety of other needs. A collective sigh of relief arose with the final Amen. Paper plates were stacked high with food, and we sought a place in the shade to eat. There was no place to sit; one stood up or sat on the ground among the ticks, chiggers, and unknown creepy creatures.

Decoration Day was scheduled to continue with singing throughout the afternoon, but things wound down rapidly after dinner was over. Stuffed and hot, we just wanted to be somewhere cooler where we could lie down and rest. Fatigued families climbed into cars and went home. Later, rested, we would begin talking, segmenting the day into sections to be savored for weeks to come. After eating a brief meal of the leftovers from dinner, we would find the energy to climb back into the car and head for the first revival meeting.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I know you have heard them.

They are widespread in Alabama and the rest of the southern states. They sing from treetops, power lines, and rooftops.

The mockingbird's scientific name is Mimus ployglottos, which means 'many-tongued mimic'. The naturalist John Borroughs called it "the lark and the nightingale in one".

The mockingbird can imitate other birds' song so accurately that only electronic analysis can detect the difference. They can have hundreds of songs or noises that they imitate, in addition to songs of their own. They have been heard imitating gate hinges, dogs barking, whistles, calls of frogs and insects in addition to various bird songs.

It is rather plain-looking, this mockingbird, this most remarkable songbird. Perhaps he mimics the songs of other to make up for the fact that he is plain, gray and white with no splashes of blue, yellow, or deep red to brighten the landscape. Maybe he just doesn't like his own song, thinking it inadequate when compared to the songs of other birds. Could it be that he feels more comfortable when he is just a part of the crowd and doesn't have to risk his own creations? Is he worried that others may find his own song unacceptable, causing embarrassment and humiliation? He may be a bluegrass bird stuck in a rock world. I wonder if he struggles.

We can choose to be imitators, or walk out in faith with our own song.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:3

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Everything is a choice.

If we say, "I'll decide later", we have made a choice.
If we say, "I'm not responsible for the hungry", we have made a choice.
If we say, "I don't care about sin if it doesn't touch me", we have made a choice.

Choices are not something we can control; they are as much of our life as breathing in and out.

What if we could choose to be anyone we wanted to be?

It could be Miss America, with outward beauty, crowns, boardwalks, people cheering as you pass, children begging for your name for their autograph collection.

It could be sports star, with strength, money, fame, people clustering near the front of the crowd to get a glimpse of you, children clamoring for something you have touched, wearing your face on their bodies, your name on their shoes.

Another choice would be a media star, with salaries in nine digits, thinking you are your own god with your own rules, with subjects who worship you.

It might be a pastor, who follows God's call to a growing church with little financial means, staying faithful when it looks hopeless to the world.

It could be your grandmother who stayed home and raised her children in godliness, okay with last year's fashions and clipping coupons.

What if it were Mother Teresa? Would you choose to walk in dirty alleys, tending decaying flesh and giving last drinks of water? Could you fight rats for morsels of food?

What we think are very small choices can change a life, can cause another to grow or stumble. Sometimes, just one word spoken in kindness can change a person's outlook for the day, for the year, for eternity.

We get to decide if what we desire most is instant gratification, or seeking God's pleasure for rewards unseen.

'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has CHOSEN what is better, and it will not be taken from her.' Luke 10:41

Monday, January 25, 2010

Multitude Monday

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
Melody Beattie

More reasons to be grateful:
301. Another birthday
302. Celebrating with family in my favorite restaurant
303. Gifts to cherish
304. Getting to spend time with my little sister
305. Giggling at bedtime

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

306. A warm front that melts the icicles
307. Sharing our blessings
308. Teaching tradition
309. Stories around an antique quilting frame
310. Collards in my garden

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

311. Huge mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows
312. Finishing a quilt that's been long in the making
313. Sounds of children from the school yard near my home
314. Red birds that brighten up a gray landscape
315. Seeing a new widow back at church

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

316. Bonds with my spiritual sisters
317. New life growing
318. My old bulky robe that is tattered but so comfy
319. Lights in darkness

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

320. Routine
321. Sharing books with a friend
322. Finishing a painting project
323. Making "Linus" blankets
324. Promises that never fail
325. People who love me, even though ....

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

holy experience

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ode to the Atkins Diet

Obviously, some habits that saw us through the millennia are proving hazardous in a modern context: for example, the yen to consume carbohydrates and fat whenever they cross our paths, or the proclivity for unchecked reproduction. Barbara Kingsolver

In my opinion, the Atkins diet is possibly the most dire thing that has happened to our weight-obsessed nation in my lifetime. To be successful with the Atkins diet, one must consume copious amounts of meats and fats, and very little of anything else, especially carbohydrates. Nutritionists long ago established minimum requirements of food groups needed for a healthy lifestyle, including at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. According to the Atkins diet, that would be lettuce, carrots, lettuce, lettuce, and lettuce. I fear that soon we may see massive casualties due to carb-deprived diets.

Our ancestors clawed and gouged their way to the top of the food chain, giving me the right to eat anything I want. I have no problem eating meat; I just don't care for it three times a day with a meat snack in the morning and a bedtime serving of pork rinds.

There has to be something inherently evil about any diet that forbids eating bread. Bread--the staff of life, the savior of starving nations, the foundation of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The apostle John referred to Jesus Christ as the bread of life, and we are taught to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."

I recall a long afternoon on a Cape Cod beach with waves breaking and seagulls flying. My husband and I shared a gallon of spring water and a loaf of fresh baked garlic bread--on of my favorite memories.

I am knowledgeable about the Atkins diet because I once tried it for six days. It began as a foolish matter: wanting to wear a particular garment for a particular occasion. Every day, it was scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast, meat and salad for lunch, and meat and salad for supper. The first two days went quite well. The third day, I removed all the ceramic chickens from my kitchen. The fourth day, a metallic taste, reminiscent of the aftermath of root-canals, lingered in my mouth. No amount of Listerine or brushing could make it go away. Because I am a proper Southern lady, I can't clearly describe what the diet did to to my poor digestive system, but I can tell you it wasn't pretty. The sixth day, I decided that some people love big women, and had a decadent bowl of Raisin Bran.

In a perfect world, the only thing green would be trees and money. Breakfast would be Krispy Kremes (preferably apple-cinnamon, but anything would do), lunch would be brioche with lemon butter and cheesecake, and supper would be ravioli and ice cream.

Personally, I would like to see a statute erected for the lovely carbohydrate. I would plop my well-endowed backside at its base and watch thin people cry as they walk by.

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. John 6:35

Monday, January 18, 2010

Multitude Monday

People, young and old, rich and poor, are suffering today.
The earth quakes and buildings crumble.
Some lives are gone, the rest are changed forever.

We are covered with blessings that become commonplace, and we forget.
Bombarded with pictures of destruction, I remember.

276. I wake up in a clean, warm bed.
277. I have shoes to slip on when I arise.
278. I walk a few steps to a sanitary bathroom.
279. I have soap.
280. I have clean water to wash my hands.
281. I have clean towels to dry them off.
283. I have privacy as I dress for the day.
284. I have clean clothes to dress in.
285. I have a kitchen to walk to.
286. I draw clean water from the kitchen sink.
287. I fill the coffee pot with ground beans.
288. The coffee pot is turned on, and wonderful electricity makes it work.
289. A mug, one that makes me smile, is filled with dark coffee.
290. Except for the hum of electrical appliances at work, it is quiet.
291. I have no fear for my safety in this house.
292. I walk to my office with its comfortable chair.
293. I open the Word with no fear of persecution.
294. I consume the living Word.
295. I turn on the computer, and am linked to the whole world instantly.
296. I read letters from friends.
297. I am encouraged by several friends who share their blogs.
298. I have clean, nutritious food for breakfast.
299. I have a job to go to.
300. I have a car to get me there.

I pray that I will never again forget that all good gifts come from the Father. I'm ashamed it took the suffering of others to remind me.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world...Jesus. John 16:33

holy experience

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Review: Where is God?

The book Where is God? Finding His Presence, Purpose, and Power in Difficult Times by Dr. John Townsend tackles our doubt and unbelief when we suffer through hard times, and expect God to answer our prayers and make everything right again. For those suffering with a terminal disease, dealing with the break-up of a marriage, or other life altering situations, it sometimes seems God is far away and doesn't hear or answer our prayers for deliverance.

The organizing principles of this book are: God is for you, your experience matters, and the Bible is our source for understanding God's ways in hard times.
The book is full of examples where Dr. Townsend successfully applied his principles in his private practice.

Some chapters were rather long and I had difficultly staying focused on what he was saying. Other chapters, especially Chapter 12 (Hard Times are the Access Code) and Chapter 13 (Expect the Good) are so full of wisdom that they are worth buying the book.

As I read the book, I thought about many people who I think would benefit from it--a wonderful lady who was left alone when her husband decided he wanted to be single again, a dear friend suffering from ovarian cancer, and a couple who are estranged from their only daughter.

The favorite impression of this book is definitely that we're all human, and there is not something wrong with us spiritually if and when we ask where God is, and why He seemed to abandon us when we need him most.

As a Book Review Blogger for Thomas Nelson, I received a complimentary copy of this book. Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers has recently acquired a new name: BookSneeze.

Litter Lee

In loving memory of Mary Lynn Stricklin Horton
January 12, 1937-December 2, 1990

She was the same kind of different as me.

My half-sister, Mary Lynn, was my oldest sibling. Her mom died from complications of measles/pneumonia when Mary was about four, and her brother was two.

Before too long, my dad and mom were married, my mom a new bride with an instant family.

My parents lives, like those of everyone we knew, consisted of growing cotton and corn and children.
The world was very small, immobile, static for generations.

An aunt and uncle had moved to Michigan searching for a better life, and had found it there. When the aunt became pregnant, Mary traveled there to help during the pregnancy. She saw how big the world was. She returned home when she was no longer needed, but was never content there again.

There was not a lot of opportunity for social interaction with anyone who was not a relative. People visiting from outside the area always seemed different and exciting. When Mary was sixteen, a neighboring family had visitors from far away Arizona. The visitors had a son, just the right age, and when they returned to Arizona a few days later, Mary went with them as a new bride.

Any marriage based not on love but as a ticket out of town doesn't have much chance for survival.
Mary was soon home again. My parents were angry when she eloped, and the anger lingered after she came home in defeat. She was soon looking for a way out, a new beginning.

We had relatives in northern Indiana, and Mary went there looking for work. I was very young at the time, and was thrilled when she wrote and said she had found a job as a waitress. In my frame of reference, any job that didn't consist of dirt and heat and aching backs was definitely glamorous and highly desirable.

One year she was there, we received a huge box in the mail with presents for everyone. Mine was a black wallet, and inside, she had placed a one dollar bill, and it was all mine! I don't think any other gift I have received in my life was as exciting as that one.

Mary spent her life searching. She moved from job to job, from husbands and lovers, never staying anywhere for long, never finding her peace.

I had a child when I was a child of nineteen. Mary came to stay with Hub and me, helping, teaching me to cook and take care of the house. She never had children of her own, and sort of adopted our first born son as her grandchild. He would follow her every step, and loved her immensely. When he started to talk, he couldn't quite manage her name, so he called her "Aunt Litter Lee".

She became more settled after that, and soon found her soul mate, the first real love of her life.
Soon after they married, she found her greatest love, finally listening when Jesus knocked on her heart, inviting her into the greatest family of all. Her restless spirit was made new and replaced with a gentleness that it rarely seen.

Happiness and contentment came to her life, but her struggle wasn't over.
It all came so fast; the phone call, tears, a lump in her breast, a willingness to fight. The surgery, the chemicals, the waning of a strong body. The enemy consumed the bones, took the energy, but not the spirit.

On a cold December day, first born son, barely a man, so young to learn hard lessons, stood and eulogized his beloved Aunt Litter Lee. She was 53 years old when the battle ended. There is no way to measure the impact of her brief time on this earth.

The Word lets us glimpse into heaven, the perfect place, where we will never hear words like cancer. I think when its my time to cross, that Mary will be there, in front of the crowd to welcome me. We'll hug and giggle, and I'll tell her how hard it was with her gone, and we'll make up the lost time.

We always had a joint birthday celebration; hers is today and mine is tomorrow. I have already had more birthdays than she did, but I never forget hers, these twenty years that we have lived in different places. Happy Birthday, Dear Sis!

For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Revelation 7:17

Friday, January 8, 2010

White World

We have snow.

No more than half an inch at my house, but the rare powder has graced us with a hint of what could be.

Schools are closed, grocery shelves are empty, and heavy coats have been dug from the back of the closet. There's a extra blanket for the daffodils, the hyacinths, the herb seeds that are near the end of their sleep and will soon be bravely sticking their heads up in the cool air.

Dear friends in Canada and Delaware and Michigan are shaking their heads at our excitement. After all, snow is a constant there for months. Most of the snow we see is gone within a day or so.

Its amazing how a little bit of frozen moisture can transform a world.

Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to out God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him
. Psalm 147.1

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Baby, Its Cold Outside

Talking about cold! Right now its 16 degrees outside, feels like 4.

I tried to let the dog out, and he looked at me with "I don't think so!" written all over his face.

Perhaps my blood has been thinned by 100 degree days with 100% humidity. Maybe I was born this way. Whatever it is, I DO NOT function well if the temperature hovers around or drops below sixty.

Hello, Weather Systems! Listen up, Arctic Cold Front. This is ALABAMA, the Heart of Dixie, and it is not supposed to be this cold here.

Probably, those of you above 35 degrees North latitude think we're spoiled, pampered, intolerant of chill. Right on every count, thank you very much. It may be a weakness, but that's just the way we are, and we love it.

I'm trying to travel to August in my mind, where stepping out on the deck is akin to being in a sauna with a wet, wool coat on. Where the birds have to fly in shade, and anything left in the car melts.

Yeah. Sounds good.

The men were amazed and aked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him! Matthew 8:27

Monday, January 4, 2010

Multitude Monday

holy experience

It is cold outside.

Bitterly cold, not what we are accustomed to in the sunny South.

This unwelcome chill reminds me of the first home we bought. We were young, poor, and tired of paying rent. We bought an old farmhouse that was about to fall down, but we loved it because it was ours!

Built from rough lumber, it had no insulation, and was not much warmer than the outside. The wood heater, our only source of heat, warmed the living area, but did little for the rest of the house. Anytime the temperature dropped below twenty degrees, the pipes would freeze.

Frozen pipes meant no water in the kitchen (I learned to fill jugs before the cold front arrived!) or the washer, with a baby in cloth diapers and a four-year old. Almost always, the ice in the pipes would expand and cause a leak. As the warmth and liquid water returned, we had gushers in unexpected places, appearing after Hub had left for work. To fix it,I would turn the water off until he was home and could make the necessary repairs. We survived.

Those years made me grateful for things that others might not think about...the fact that we have been blessed with a house where the pipes never freeze, even when we see the rare single digits in Alabama!

I'm also reminded that my mother didn't have to worry about the pipes freezing in her farmhouse when I was a very small child; there were no pipes. Our source of water was a natural spring that bubbled up a few steps from the kitchen door. After my mother arose from her warm bed, she fully dressed (no time for frilly robes), built a fire in the cookstove, then went to the spring for fresh water. She was so thankful for that spring with its good water. Father, forgive me, but sometimes I get irritated when it takes more than ten seconds for the water in my bathroom sink to warm up.

Its all relative.

In this brand new year, I am grateful for all His blessings, those I have today and those He has waiting for me this year.

251. A good house
252. Christmas
253. Extraordinary blessings
254. Seeing friends reach their goals
255. Warm gloves
256. Friends who remember
257. Sharing surprises
258. Christmas cards, especially those that are homemade
259. Fire in the fireplace
260. Watching Sherlock watch the fire
261. Spending New Year's day with friends
262. Old Twilight Zone reruns
263. Christmas wrappings piled on the floor
264. Continuing traditions
265. Seeing cousins that we only see at Christmas
266. Finishing projects to make way for new ones
267. Preparing for a new quilting class
268. Huge mugs of hot cocoa, and friends to share it with
269. Unexpected phone calls from friends
270. Black-eyed peas and turnip greens
271. Winners that remember to thank God
272. Sunshine breaking the clouds
273. Seed catalogs in the mail
274. Heated seats
275. The light in young eyes on Christmas Day

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:1

Friday, January 1, 2010

Welcome, 2010

2009 is gone.
It was old, weary, worn-out, ready to go.
Good or bad, such as it was, it's over, dead, spent forever.
It won't be back.

It was a good year for us: more joy than sadness, new opportunites we welcomed, a bountiful garden, a facelift for our home.

Some things we will remember and smile; other things, we will try our best to forget.

We welcome 2010, a new start, a fresh beginning.
The calendar is filled with blank spaces, ready to be filled in.
It is our choice how we will fill those spaces.

Some of my resolutions:
1. Be more thankful to God for his blessings.
2. Never take things for granted.
3. Have the strength to give up things that are not good for me.
4. Make a difference every day.
5. Enjoy the present, instead of waiting for the future.
6. Read more.
7. Listen more.
8. Say yes more than no.
9. Love more.
10. Don't be 'average'.

2010 may be the best year ever!! 

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all you might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.  Ecclesiastes 9:10