Archive for June, 2010

Memory Lane

My husband and I just returned from a 10-day trip to the glorious Midwest–the places where we grew up.  We have a lifetime of friends and family there.  It’s been good, but intensely busy and actually physically and emotionally exhausting.

What wonderful heritages we have!  What dear and precious friends.  Such beautiful countryside where the corn is already taller than any normal human and green and lush, where the rows fan out to the horizon that seems to be a hundred miles away.  The land is flat and amazingly green and the sky is low and God seems to hover near.

We’ve had so much fun and been hugged enough to make a person feel truly loved.  We’ve had good chats with dear ones that we haven’t seen for a good while and belly laughs with those who have seen us at our worst and don’t mind talking about it!  I’ve cuddled and smooched on babies I love, and showed pictures and told stories of our own precious grandchildren to people who care and laugh and exclaim at just the right places.

It’s been refreshing and exhausting and rich and sweet.  And this morning as our little car pointed its nose toward home my dear husband took one more little detour into the little town of my home place and what a journey that was for me today!

My tears started almost as soon as he turned onto the little ‘Main Street’ leading into town.  I haven’t lived there for well over 40 years, and yet I could still name the names of many who had lived in this house and that.  I asked him to drive the whole length of each of the three streets that ran the length of the town, one on either side of Main Street, and I sighed over each house that had been replaced by a ‘modular home’ (or what we used to call double wides), but many of the old homes still stood regal and proud with well-kept gardens and beautifully manicured lawns, lovely siding and with tidy shutters and ancient trees standing guard in front lawns.  I saw the homes of my elementary teachers and my best friends and the renovated old ‘drug store’—a monument to life in a small town in the mid/early twentieth century.

Before leaving the little village we turned our car into the driveway of the cemetery at the edge of town.  Immediately inside, he parked and we got out and walked a few steps over to my daddy’s grave.  My eyes caressed his name chiseled tidily into the granite stone and I sighed contentedly to see that the grass was rich and green and mowed and trimmed beautifully.  I was overjoyed to see that his grave was not desecrated with plastic or gaudy fabric imitations of flowers, but was clean and tidy and plain—just the way he would have wanted it.  I couldn’t help the tears that flowed, and as I walked away I felt a certain peace that I have indeed lived a blessed life.

I’ve heard it said that all the riches I can accumulate on this earth will be left behind when I leave this world, but as I spent this week relishing the riches of a lifetime in my friends and family and memories I realized in a new way that my riches are actually the people and places that have made me who I am.  And that, my friend, by the grace of God is my wealth, and much of it will be in heaven with me someday.  I am indeed blessed.


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The Tree

That tree is such an ugly tree

All black and dried and dead.

‘What good could come from such a one?’

The thought goes through my head.

And life goes on; the snows are gone;

The sun comes shining through.

God sends some rain, and sun again;

The days are warmer too.

And then one day I chance to look

Up at that ugly tree.

And notice little sprouts of leaves

Are peeping out at me.

The sun shines on, the days grow long,

And soon I look again.

That ugly tree is full of leaves

And blossoms from the rain!

I stand and look and praise the Lord

With tears upon my face,

“Oh, Lord how lovely it’s become–

The blossoms look like lace!”

And God says “I’m not finished yet.”

And so I wait in prayer.

And as I wait I am amazed

At cherries growing there!

Oh Lord, I’m uglier than that tree,

My trials are the rain.

Your mercy is my sunshine;

Your patience stills my pain.

Is there still hope that I can be

A living tree for You?

And blossom forth with love and peace

And joy and patience too?

Lord, take my life and let it be

Your own to tend and care

Until Your love warms all of me

And I begin to bear.

(written by Judi Ann Ehresman – 1978 – first published by Scripture Press 12/1978)

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Porch Memories

When I was a little girl my daddy bought an old house for $4000!!!  This would have been about 1955 (give or take a year).  This old house was on three town lots, so we had the whole block to ourselves.  The house sat on the north lot, the center lot was our baseball field and the south lot was our vegetable garden.  Yes, the WHOLE lot!  It was huge, but then we had a bunch of mouths to feed in our family!

Now, the old house had no bathroom inside, but it did have a little cement sidewalk that went from the back door to a little building that stood all alone by the back alley.  There was a pump by the back door and we heated the water on the stove!  The floors sagged so badly that everything tended to slide toward the center of the house.  But the roof didn’t leak and it did have windows!

Daddy was the pastor of a little country church and took on odd jobs to keep food on the table.  He was paid $25 a week from the little church, and at the time he bought this old house our family consisted of Daddy and Mother, three girls and my baby brother, and another was expected at any moment (but I didn’t know it).  I puzzled for a long time about Mother wanting to go to the hospital to buy another baby right after moving into the house.  It just seemed to me she should have waited a little while, but at any rate, off she went.  I always figured it must have taken a while to select just the right baby for our family, because every time she went to the hospital to get a new baby, she didn’t come home for several days.  But somehow she always chose just the right one and we got some of the cutest ones God made!

While Mother was resting up from her trip to the hospital, (choosing a baby must have been hard work because she was always in bed for a good while after coming home) Daddy worked really, really hard on that house.  He built a wall away from the center wall and then took out that center wall completely.  It made just the right size for a little bathroom!  It had a flush toilet, a sink on one wall and a bathtub fit perfectly in a little knock-out space behind the kitchen stove.  After he got that bathroom made, he got rid of the little building at the end of the sidewalk, but I always thought of that little building every time I walked on that sidewalk that stopped at nothing but very green grass!

Daddy soon built a beautiful big kitchen that had a kitchen sink under a lovely double window and lots of beautiful cabinets.  Then he tore out all the floors and fixed it so they were level and solid, and then he put beautiful, shiny wood floors down.  It was lots of fun to scoot each other on upside down throw rugs all over those slick floors!

One of the nicest things about this wonderful old house was the front porch!  It went all the way across the front of the house.  It didn’t have rails or anything, but the roof of the porch was held up by tall, carved pillars.  We used to put our feet next to the pillar and then lean out, holding ourselves at an angle with one arm, and then spin around and around those pillars until we were dizzy.  It was so much fun!

After I had been gone from home for a bunch of years and had my own little family, one time we went to visit and Daddy had taken the pillars out and enclosed the front porch to make another front room.  It never did look like home after he did that, and it made me sad.

After my daddy passed away, Mother decided to move to a smaller house and she sold that old house that us kids grew up in.  We all went there to help sort and pack and get things ready for the auction.  Before the auction, when we were sorting things, someone discovered those porch pillars in the garage.  Daddy had saved them!  (Along with nearly everything else he ever owned!)  We all started telling stories about that porch and we asked if anyone wanted the pillars and no one wanted them and so they ended up on the pile of trash at the end of that little sidewalk out back.  Several times that day I found myself out there looking and looking at those pillars and turning them and wondering how I could convince my husband to take them home for me.  But I couldn’t think of any reason to take them, so I never did say anything.

We did divide up some of the stuff and we all ended up taking truckloads of stuff home.  When we got home and were unloading our stuff from the truck, you can imagine my surprise when I saw those four porch pillars there!  My dear, sweet husband had seen me pining over them and had put them on the truck for me.  Now this was no small thing.  I don’t know what those pillars are made of, but each one weighs almost as much as I do!

Since I didn’t know what to do with them yet, we stored them in the loft of our barn.  From time to time through the years I would see them there and think that I really should do something with them, but I didn’t.  Then a couple of years ago we suddenly moved from Indiana to Virginia and in spite of having two HUGE moving semis, we had to leave a lot of our things in Indiana.  We did not have room to take the things from the barn, and I never had time to even think of those pillars.  That is, I didn’t think of them until we were unloading the moving trucks and there they were!  He had tucked them in again!

So…I decided I really MUST do something with them.  And I did!  They now decorate one corner of our bedroom and we both love our little arbor!  And I still look at them and remember that old house that has since burnt to the ground.  But I still have a piece of it, and I smile as I tell myself that I still have little chunk of Daddy’s $4000 house!

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Rhubarb Pie

A favorite treat of the season for both Rick and I is rhubarb custard pie.  Oh, I do love that sweet/tart creamy texture and taste!  When I can get it, I put some cleaned and cut-up rhubarb in the freezer for treats throughout the winter, but that does not compare to a rhubarb pie made with fresh-from-the-garden rhubarb.  Yum!  While I’m writing this today I am enjoying a piece of our first rhubarb pie of this summer with a good cup of coffee.  I am truly a blessed woman!

My uncle gave us some starts from his rhubarb last summer and told me it would do best if I didn’t take from it all summer.  It was hard to walk by those luring stalks last summer and not pull them and make pie, but he’s much older and even though I have started rhubarb before and always took the stalks as fast as they were produced  I decided this time to bow to the wisdom of age.  And what did I learn?  Sometimes experience is better than advice!  The rhubarb is scrawny and hardly producing at all this year.  I should have continued with what I knew worked before.  I’m convinced that to produce well, rhubarb needs to be kept pulled, the same as any other plant needs pruning.  So I am transplanting it and fertilizing it and will pull those stalks this summer as soon as they are ready!  But thankfully, he gave us some of his rhubarb this spring so I have my pie.

In case you’re interested, I make my pie this way:   (If you know me you know that I seldom use recipes, so measurements are always ‘abouts’!)

I take about a pie plate full of rhubarb and put it in a dish and cover it with sugar, tossing it lightly to be certain all the rhubarb is coated well.  (I use a large pie plate—either 8 or 9 inch.)  I probably use about a cup of sugar here—maybe not quite but it really doesn’t matter.  After tossing the rhubarb and sugar together I set it aside while I make my pie crust and custard this way:

Pie crust:  Start with making a glass of ice water and set it aside.  Take a pile of flour—probably roughly a heaping cup and a little more, some salt (no less than ½ t. and probably a little more than that), and I like to add some sugar (hmmm…how much?  A good scoop that would be probably 1/3-1/2 cup.  Yeah, 1/3 cup would probably be more realistic here.  The sugar will make your pie crust more like a cookie than a pie crust.  YUM!)  Ok, toss those dry ingredients together and then start cutting in butter or shortening to make large ‘crumbles’.  I use a serving spoon from my flatware and heap it up at least double the size a couple of times and sometimes throw in a bit more for good measure.  Cut this into the flower mixture.  When all your flour is crumbly make a little well in the center and take your glass of ice water and drizzle some quickly into the hole you created.  Now take a fork and cut it into the flour mixture until it can be formed into a ball about the consistency of play dough.  Sprinkle flour on the counter top and put your dough ball in the center, sprinkling more flour on top.  Roll out flat and then lift it carefully into a pie plate, crimping the edges, and set it aside.

Custard:  Now take the mixing bowl you used for the pie crust (no need to wash it first—just scrape most of the crumbs out—I’m all about saving dish washing time!) and put a good bit of sugar in it (probably a cup or a little more—this is NOT a low-calorie treat!), some flour for thickening (about a scant quarter cup—I usually put two heaping tablespoons of flour in) and again a generous sprinkle of salt.  After tossing this together well, cut in a nice chunk of butter (hmmm…at least two tablespoons, three is good) to make fine chunks.  Add three eggs (or four if they are small) and whip it good with a fork.

By now your original bowl of rhubarb should be well soaked and turning a little juicy.  Scrape it into your egg mixture and stir together gently and then pour it all into your prepared pie crust.  (If you used sugar in your crust you will need to cover it with foil for the first half of the baking time to prevent the edges turning black.)  Bake at 375 degrees for one hour or so until the center is no longer runny.

Cool for a few hours before eating and enjoy!  Share it with others and make some new friends!

If you try this recipe, please write and let us know how you liked it.  If you don’t have rhubarb available, it is plenteous right now on vegetable stands and even in the grocery stores.

Rhubarb is a great antioxidant and is packed with vitamins, but be careful to NOT eat any of the leaves!  (Rhubarb leaves are actually poisonous.  Go figure…)

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