Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye, 2015

Today is the last day of 2015.  Every year at this time, we  reflect back on what has happened during the year.  Everyone says, "Where did the year go?" as time seemingly keeps accelerating. Here are a few of the things we experienced in 2015.

We had some good times, 

and some not so good.

Some things have changed,

and things have stayed the same.

We have had some happy times 

and times of great sorrow.

Christopher A. Haeger

We've done some traveling

and a lot of staying home and working.

All and all, it has been a glorious year, an ordinary year, a blessed year of living and laughing and loving on Planet Earth. We are truly thankful for this year, this breath.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Books I Read in 2014

Here is the list of the books I read in 2014. You will notice that a couple are listed twice; this is not a typo.  I loved the books so much that I reread them.
  1. Blink of An Eye.....Ted Dekker
  2. The Good Guy.....Dean Koontz
  3. The Athena Project....Brad Thor
  4. The Devil's Dream......Lee Smith
  5. The Shoemaker's Wife...Adriana Trigiani
  6. White Fire...Preston and Child
  7. Target....Catherine Coulter
  8. Never Go Back...Lee Child
  9. Icy Sparks..Gwyn Hyman Rubio
  10. Oolong Dead...Laura Childs
  11. Sycamore Road...John Grisham
  12. Caught....Harlan Coben
  13. Envy...Sandra Brown
  14. The Walker Sisters of Little Greenbrier..Rose Houk
  15. The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc..Loraine Despres
  16. Fly Away...Kristin Hannah
  17. Live Wire...Harlan Coben
  18. The White Devil..Justin Evans
  19. The Tea Olive Bird Watching Society..Augusta Trobaugh
  20. Big Hair and Flying Cows...Delores J. Wilson
  21. The Scarecrow...Michael Connelly
  22. High Country Fall...Margaret Maron
  23. Malice...Lisa Jackson
  24. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories...Flannery O'Conner
  25. The Almost Moon....Alice Sebold
  26. The First Eagle...Tony Hillerman
  27. A Single Thread...Marie Boswick
  28. Booty Bones...Carolyn Haines
  29. Dance Hall of the Dead...Tony Hillerman
  30. Promise Me...Harlan Coben
  31. The Long Way Home...Mariah Stewart
  32. Tropical Freeze...James W. Hall
  33. A Marriage Between Friends...Melina Curtis
  34. Born Country...Randy Owen
  35. The Art Forger...B.A. Shapiro
  36. The Long Man...Amy Greene
  37. Captured by Love...Jean Hager
  38. The Kept..James Scott
  39. Something Wicked...Lisa Jackson/Nancy Bush
  40. The Curing Season...Leslie Wells
  41. Foreign Body...Robin Cook
  42. Carved in Bone...Jefferson Bass
  43. Night of the Blackbird..Heather Graham
  44. White Fire....Preston and Child
  45. The All Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion...Fannie Flagg
  46. How to Be a Good Wife...Emma Chapman
  47. The Darkest Evening of the Year..Dean Koontz
  48. Long Lost...Harlon Coben
  49. Beans & Cornbread for Breakfast..James Milton Hanna
  50. Hank Hung the Moon...Rheta Grimsley Johnson
  51. Stay Close..Harlan Coben
  52. Showdown...Ted Dekker
  53. Self-Incrimination...Randy Singer
  54. The secret Garden...Frances Hodgson Burnett
  55. Innocence..Dean Koontz
  56. Wayfaring Stranger...James Lee Burke
  57. Missing You...Harlon Coben
  58. The Myrtles
  59. The Pink Suit..Nicole Mary Kelby
  60. The Skeleton Man...Tony Hillerman
  61. Gatlinburg and the Great Smokies...Ernie Pyle
  62. The Old Man and the Sea...Ernest Hemingway
  63. One Door Away from Heaven...Dean Koontz
  64. Your Heart Belongs to Me...Dean Koontz
  65. The Christmas Pearl...Dorothea Benton Frank
  66. Don't Make Me Smile...Barbara Park
  67. The Twelve Deaths of Christmas..Marian Babson
  68. A Redbird Christmas...Fannie Flagg
  69. The Rosie Project...Graeme Simsion
  70. Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story...Rick Bragg
  71. Rescuing the Raggedy Man...Perry Pitney with Jim Killam
  72. The Walker Sisters...Rose Hauk
  73. Caleb's Crossing...Geraldine Brooks
  74. An American Childhood...Annie Dillard
  75. The Teacher's Funeral..Richard Peck
  76. The Lost Years....Mary Higgins Clark
  77. Just One Look....Harlan Coben
  78. Porch Lights..Dorothea Benton Frank
  79. The Hounds of the Baskervilles...Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  80. Once in Every Life..Kristin Hannah
  81. Caught...Harlan Coben
  82. Breathless...Dean Koontz
  83. Two for Texas...James Lee Burke
  84. A Man Called Blessed...Ted Dekker/Bill Bright
  85. Love, Cajun Style..Diane Les Becquets
  86. Life Expectancy...Dean Koontz
  87. 24 Hours...Greg Iles
  88. Help! I'm Laughing and I Can't Get Up...Liz Curtis Higgs
The bold titles are the ones that I really enjoyed. In addition to these books, I've read the Bible, science, travel, and history magazines, the newspaper, and Facebook.  A lot of reading, but I have a huge stack of books on my to-be-read stack, just waiting.
I have a journal on my desk where I keep up with the books I read. This ability to read is one of our most beautiful gifts.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Farewell to Tomatoes

We always have green tomatoes on the vines when frost threatens in the fall.  I use them for green tomato pickles and always fry up a few.  I have tried various methods of storing them, from wrapping them in newspapers to storing in cardboard boxes.  They always rotted before they got ripe.

This year, I took the best ones and lined them up on the kitchen window sill.  They stayed hard and green for several weeks, then they started to ripen.  We have been eating tomatoes all through December.

Yesterday, we had the last ones with our bacon/biscuits and scrambled eggs.  They were so good, and I'm sad to see them go.  On this cold rainy day, it seems like an eternity until July when we will start the tomato-fest again.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday Scripture: Close

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; He 

rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

~Psalm 34:18

Friday, December 26, 2014

Mooresville, Alabama

On a recent trip to Huntsville, Alabama, Hub and I stopped at Mooresville, the first town incorporated by the Alabama Territorial legislature on November 16, 1818.  Referred to as Alabama's Williamsburg, the entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

President James Garfield once preached here.

Mooresville Post Office is the oldest continuing operating post office in the state and one of the oldest in the country.  It was built from sawmill lumber.

The day we were there, the friendly little town was all dressed up for Christmas.  
Mooresville is located just off Exit 2 on Interstate 565.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Christmas Prayer

Loving Father,

Help us remember the birth of Jesus,

that we may share in the song of the angels,

the gladness of the shepherds

and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate

and open the door of love all over the world.

Let kindness come with every gift

and good desires with every greeting..

Deliver us from evil by the blessing

which Christ brings,

And teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May Christmas morning

make us happy to be thy children,

and Christmas evening bring us to our beds

with grateful thoughts,

forgiving and forgiven,

for Jesus’ sake.


~Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On the Road to Bethlehem

Did Mary know? Did she wonder?

Surely her back was aching as she rode the donkey; maybe caused by travel weariness, maybe the first contractions, faint at the beginning.

For months she had known she was the chosen one. She had felt and watched the baby grow inside her.

Surely her young skin was riddled with stretch marks, her feet swollen.

As she continued mile after mile, Joseph by her side, leading, did she wonder if there would be a resting place for them tonight, if there would be a place of welcome, a warm place?

Did she know that this was the last day, the last day the Savior, our blessed Jesus, would reside in her womb?

Did she know that by tomorrow, she would be different, the world would be different, all time and eternity would be different because of the baby she carried?

Could her heart and mind comprehend anything so glorious?

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


It is an ancient profession, this job of being a shepherd.

Someone has to tend the sheep.
Someone has to keep the flock together; to chase away the predators.
They have to keep the little lambs from wandering off and getting lost.
They have to keep moving sheep to different pastures, searching for fresh grass.

Fresco by Taddeo Gaddi, Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, Italy, 1332-1338

In the days when believers read Isaiah and waited for the promise, there were many shepherds. The job sometimes fell to single men who had no family responsibilities, who could stay with the sheep day and night. They moved about with the sheep, living in tents or wagons.

Being a shepherd was a cold, lonely job with little to eat and none of the comforts of home.

Throughout time, God has used shepherds for his purpose.
Before he became the Father of Nations, Abraham tended sheep.
Jacob and Isaac were shepherds.
Moses spent his time in exile tending sheep.
David, who had God's heart, was with his flock when he was called to service.

Then the day came.
The day God had known about since the beginning, the day that would change us forever.
Heaven trembled with excitement.

The angels might have gone to the east, where wise men studied the skies and knew.
The angels might have gone to Herod's castle, or to priests, teachers, or leaders.
The angels went to the shepherds.

The birth announcement that the prophets had yearned for was made to lowly, coarse shepherds....
doing their jobs on a cold night, not expecting this night to be any different,

not expecting to be surrounded by a multitude of angels and the glory of God.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men to whom his favor rests." Luke 2:8-14

Monday, December 22, 2014


We wait in lines, at work, at school, in traffic.

Always waiting, our vaporous time on
this earth dictated by clocks, buzzers, lights, ringing.

Life around us constantly flowing, everyone about
their business, everyone running and waiting, hurry up and wait.

Isaiah waited for a Savior while preaching of His majesty, His healing.
David waited as he sang psalms and adored the one he had not seen with fleshly eyes.
They knew the promise.  The Messiah was coming.

We celebrate the Advent, this season of anticipation, and we imagine as we are tending sheep in cold silence, wondering about the star in the east, wondering when this promise will walk among us.

The Word, which always was, took on flesh, flesh that laughed and cried, flesh that needed food and water, flesh that felt cold and heat.
Flesh that awoke, worked, rested, slept.
Flesh that walked among us.
Divine flesh that died for our redemption.

                                               "Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

More than two thousand years later, we wait.  We know the promise.
The Messiah is coming.  Not as a baby with human flesh, but as the King of Glory.
The King who will destroy death and darkness, and will reign forever and ever.

Still, longing, we wait.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory. ~Gary Zukav

Saturday, December 20, 2014


by Wanda Stricklin Robertson

No loud, lighted shopping malls,
No shimmering street lights in a row,
No service stations with dazzling fluorescents,
No string of cars with headlights beaming.

No burning bush in the wilderness,
No lanterns to light the crooked paths.
No brilliance to point the way home.
All was darkness, gloom, murkiness.

Then, over a barn in Bethlehem,
a star appeared, lighting the sky,
illuminating the Baby, the shepherds,
the angels, and the hearts of mankind.

The ones who witnessed the flaming star 
wondered what it would mean to them,
not knowing why or how, but knowing
that nothing would be the same again.

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. ~Isaiah 9:2

Friday, December 19, 2014

Apple Annie's

We have been going to Gatlinburg's Arts and Crafts Community for several years.  Sadly, not all the shops are genuine; some leave their "Made in China" boxes sitting in plain sight.  Some of them are the real thing, however, and they are a pleasure to visit.

My favorite shop is Apple Annie's.  It is a combination of antiques and home-made crafts.  The shop sells braided rugs, soaps, Christmas ornaments, and potpourri among other things.

These soaps are so fragrant that one bar of it makes the whole bathroom smell good.

Apple Annie's always smells like Christmas when you go in.  I highly recommend you stopping there the next time you are in the area.  

Apple Annie's is located at 337 Glades Road, Gatlinburg.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sacred Harp Singing

Sacred Harp singing became popular after the publication of The Sacred Harp in 1844 by Benjamin Franklin White and Elisha J. King.  This book started the shape note tradition.  Mr. White organized singing schools, where participants were taught to sing using the shapes of the notes.

Most chutch congregations during this time had o piano or other type of music.  Learning to sing by the notes enabled people to sing in harmony.  There was an instrument called a harp that was used for pitch, and some think this is where the name Sacred Harp originated.

Singers of Sacred Harp music sit in a square, each side facing each other and representing the four musical parts: treble, alto, tenor, and bass.  All singing is done a cappella.

There is not just one leader; all members are free to lead a song of their choosing.  Leaders stand in the middle of the square. At one time, women were not allowed to be leaders, but most groups today allow the women to participate as leaders.

Last Saturday, as part of the Festival of Christmas Past, we were treated to some Sacred Harp singing.  They always sing the notes first, and then the poetry.
After they finished, the crowd was given hymn books, and we were led in singing some of the traditional hymns by Mr. Jim Whaley.

The audience was made up of people from all over the country, and everyone was singing together.  Some of us were not professional singers, but we all made a joyful noise to the Lord.
Herb Clabo was there.  He no longer sings, but his son, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter are all part of the choir.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Stories From the Past/Herbert Clabo

One part of the Christmas From the Past celebration was an hour-long presentation called Stories From the Past.  This part was sponsored by the Smoky Mountain Historical Society, and several members talked about their memories.  This year, one of the panel members was Herbert Clabo.  Y'all remember Herb from last year.

Herb Clabo was born on April  3, 1911, and is looking forward to his 104th birthday.  He has two pieces of advice for living a long life: watch what goes down the red lane (what you eat) and stay away from doctors. He said he doesn't smoke, cuss, or chew, and accepted the Lord when he was fifteen, and all that helps, too.

His memory was amazing, although he got a little confused with some of the questions (who doesn't?).  He told about killing a bear that had killed a calf they were raising for their winter beef.  He said they had to have something to eat, and he shot that bear right below the eye with a shotgun.

He was asked about going to school.  He instantly quoted the alphabet backwards, then told us he probably learned some things he shouldn't have.  His education ended at the eighth grade, because it was too far to walk to the high school.

Mr. Clabo talked about the importance of growing corn.  Having a good crop meant that you could have corn bread all winter. They didn't raise hogs because the hogs ate too much corn.  They did hunt and eat wild hogs from the mountains.

He has lived in the same place all his life.  He joked that he used to live in the country, but now he lived in town.  He didn't move; the town moved to him.

It was obvious that he loved to talk to people.  I told him that I would see him again next year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Festival of Christmas Past

Hub and I spent last week in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  We love going to the mountains in December, where we see old friends, all the festive lights, and sometimes snow.  It was a good week.

One of the highlights of the week was attending the Festival of Christmas Past at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.  We have attended this event several times, and we are never disappointed.

The Visitor's Center was beautifully decorated with natural wreaths. With the exception of the red bow, everything in the wreaths came out of the woods.

They had a workshop with raw materials where visitors could make their own wreaths using cedar, pine, holly, ivy, sumac, mistletoe, ferns, and other things.  

Outside, rangers and volunteers talked about how toys were made and the rituals that were common to the area in the 1800s.  Inside, there was singing, storytelling, and music all day long.

Boogertown Gap Band plays and sings Pre-Civil War music.

Sparky and Rhonda Rucker combines storytelling and music.  They were at the very first storytelling festival at the University of North Alabama.

Bill Proffitt and the South of the River Boys entertained us with lively music and some of the old Christmas songs.

More tomorrow.