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Archive for July, 2013

Home Sweet Virginia

We all have a story.  Some are more interesting than others and some are never thought to be interesting at all.  My story isn’t so very unusual, but it’s mine and some days I still wake up surprised to be where I am!

I was born in Virginia, not so many miles away from where we live currently.  What is a little unusual is that for more than 50 years I lived halfway across the country.  Yes, when I was only about 4 years old my parents moved to the Midwest from Virginia in search of work and ended up staying there.

I grew up there and never gave much thought to the fact that I was born in Virginia.  During my growing-up years I thought of Virginia as a place where grandparents resided as well as some aunts and uncles and cousins—a place our family visited faithfully every summer.  I liked my relatives fine, but I never really knew them and they didn’t really know me—other than my name and my parentage, and so the LONG trek to Virginia became something to be looked forward to a little, dreaded a little, and endured a lot.

When our sons grew up and married, to my consternation they married girls from the east and settled miles and miles away from home—one in PA and one in NC.  One day Rick said to me that we should move to Virginia.  I must have looked at him like he had grown an extra head.  Why in the world would we want to live in Virginia?  Then he showed me on the map how we could live halfway between the boys and their families and be within easy driving distance from either.  I shrugged it off at the time thinking that would never really happen.  But before long, it really did!

I admit that I struggled leaving our home place behind.  All that I knew and loved—except our children—was in Indiana.  I knew how to behave in Indiana.  I knew how to talk in Indiana.  I knew what people meant in Indiana.  I had lots and lots and lots of friends and family in Indiana.  I truly loved that place and didn’t really want to have to get to know a whole new lifestyle and new friends and find my way around new territory.  But I wanted to be near our kids, so off we went.

It was October when we drove across the country.  The cornfields were mostly harvested as we drove through miles and miles of Ohio farmland.  The leaves were just beginning to turn as we crossed the hills on the eastern edge of Ohio, and then we crossed into WV and it nearly took my breath away!  The autumn foliage in the mountains that year was nothing short of spectacular!

I hadn’t learned all the eastern trees and foliage yet, but I didn’t have to know the names to enjoy the view!  The oranges and yellows and deep reds paraded their colors and carpeted our paths.  The weather was crisp and fresh and beckoned us on.  Sometimes we’d sit atop a mountain and look at the color splayed across a valley below and it would nearly bring tears.  On and on we drove until we finally reached our destination.  As we pulled into the hotel, our realtor greeted us warmly and welcomed us with the news that she had a whole crew from her church to help us unload and unpack the next day!  I hardly knew what to say.

After closing the next day, we went to see the house we had bought.  True to her word, a huge group of friendly folk were there waiting to help us.  Women brought food and came on in and began scrubbing and unpacking while the men kept asking me where I wanted things.  We were totally overwhelmed.

In the midst of all of that commotion someone called out to me that someone was here to see me.  Me?  Nobody knows me here!  Who could it possibly be?  I soon discovered it was our neighbor from across the street with a whole basket of goodies to welcome us.  She introduced herself and told me to come over if I needed anything at all.  (And she meant it!)  I think I must have simply stood there with my mouth open.

As we settled in during the next few months and years, we quickly learned that this is Virginia!  I’d heard all my life of people that ‘didn’t know a stranger’, but I didn’t really think it was for real.  But here it is!  And the nice part is that I’ve never felt like an outsider!

We’ve been here for almost six years now, and I’m beginning to understand some of the differences now.  I’m no longer surprised when a total stranger begins a conversation with me somewhere.  And I’m SO in love with the flowering trees out here that I’ve created a large ‘Tree Garden’ in our front yard filled with flowering trees and bushes.  Virginia has the most breathtaking dogwoods I’ve ever seen in my life!  And the crepe myrtles and the flowering cherries and pears are everywhere you look.

Yes, I love the Midwest.  I spent more than half a century there and I know a lot of dear folks there.  But it’s now a place I visit.  I don’t belong there anymore, but this is home.  I get excited when I drive toward the west on a trip to see my family and friends, but now, when the car turns east and starts toward those mountains, my heart sings and I find myself having to use the cruise to prevent speeding.  I’m headed toward Virginia.  I’m headed toward home!

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Growing up in Indiana, spearmint was plentiful and it’s such a delicious summer treat!  (Little known fact:  Did you know that Indiana grows all the spearmint for Wrigley’s Spearmint gum?)  We grew a lot of it at my home, and enjoyed it completely—both as a refreshing treat and as a medicinal remedy.  My mother hadn’t tried drying it, so if there was a tummy ache in the winter we had to dig around in the snow for some roots, but in the summer it was plentiful enough to enjoy any time we wanted.

Rick and I still enjoy it tremendously.  There’s just nothing quite as refreshing as a tall, iced glass of spearmint P1010773tea on a hot summer afternoon.  Also, if you get overheated to the point of nausea, it is the fastest way to cool down and get your tummy settled at the same time.  It’s one of God’s very special gifts!

When we moved to Virginia from Indiana, it was mid-October, but just before pulling out of the driveway I ran to the back of the house to the spearmint bed and dug a small root, wrapped it in some paper and tucked it into the corner of the car.  Several days later, when we got possession of our house in VA, one of the first things I did was dig a hole in a corner of the yard and stick that root in the ground.  We went on and moved in and settled well over the winter.  When spring came and I began to plan out the gardens and bring order to the tangled yard, I checked on the spearmint root and sure enough, a small green leaf was just beginning to grow from the side of one of the dead-looking sticks.  By early summer it was growing well enough to move to a regular bed.

Since the soil is so very different here than in the Midwest, I wasn’t sure if or how it would grow, but I’m finding it’s not very particular about soil.  It’s going crazy—just like before!  We have plenty to enjoy all summer as well as plenty to share and lots to dry for winter also.

P1010772It’s so easy to make!  I just snip several whole stalks and bring them in and wash them under cold water.  Then I put them in a sauce pan and cover them completely (in fact, fill the pan) with filtered water and bring to a good rolling boil.  As soon as it boils, set it aside and let it steep until it is cooled, then lift the tea leaves out and pour into a pitcher and chill.  Rick likes it sweet, so I keep a small pitcher of sugar-syrup* in the fridge and he can pour the amount of sweet into his tea that he wants and it’s already dissolved.  So refreshing!

I have also found another good thing about the spearmint here.  The deer don’t care for it and so it is great to plant in corners of all my flower beds!  Not only do I get plenty of spearmint, I get more flowers because the deer will stay away from it, but the butterflies and bees love it!  There is a stinky spray that I use some to keep the deer away from my  , but the down side to that stinky stuff is that it keeps the gorgeous butterflies away too.  But not the spearmint!

When I discovered that I just had to say to God, “Wow!  You really are smart!”  He just rolls His wonderful eyes, smiles, and says “Judi, Judi, Judi!  If you’d only asked I’d have told you this years ago!”  I just sip my tea and wonder why oh why do I have to be such a slow learner?

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My One Weakness…

Recently a sweet friend told me of a movie series she thought I’d enjoy and she was SO right!  I love “Lark Rise to Candleford”!  Yes, I’m a hopeless “Anne of Green Gables” fan as well as “Cranford” and all such sweet, imaginative stories.  Oh, if real life could be so sweet and forgiving!

There is a phrase that is well used in “Lark Rise to Candleford” that I’ve found myself using more and more.  The phrase?  “It’s my one weakness.”  Dorcas Lane, the post mistress uses the phrase in regard to everything she thoroughly enjoys—which is many more than one, and it adds so much spice to the sweetness of her character.  She uses the phrase each time she indulges herself, and since watching that show I find myself using it more and more as I smile to myself and think of her sweet smile.

Today, as I sipped a cup of my favorite afternoon treat after a crazy, intense and exhausting day, I thought to myself, “It’s my one weakness.”  Then I walked past the dish of dark chocolates and snatched one on my way to the computer to play a few games of ‘FreeCell’ while indulging in the yummy, cinnamon-y coffee and dark chocolate.  As the chocolate melted in my mouth I thought, “It’s my one weakness” until I looked at my favorite game on the computer.  Suddenly I realized how very many “One weaknesses” I have!  Immediately I stopped and said, “Thank You, Lord, for all the delightful gifts You give to me!”

In another sweet old movie called “White Christmas” there is a song that has a phrase I love.  “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep.”  If I am honest with myself, I have a LOT more than one weakness!  I enjoy so many lovely things, and I’ve lately been noticing how very much my Loving Lord blesses me with His special treats!  If I begin to list them, I’d truly go to sleep smiling from ear to ear, which is a very good thing to do!  God truly loves to indulge us in so many ways, but our problem is usually (at least mine is) that we always want more.  Instead of being thankful for what we have, and expressing our gratitude, we ask and we whine and we plead and we beg—always wanting more and never being content.

As I think of all the good things with which God has blessed me, I want to stop wanting more.  I want to learn contentment with sincere gratitude.  I want to make note of how many ‘weaknesses’ I have and how He loves to indulge me.  And I want to always say THANKS!  From the bottom of my heart!  God is SO good!

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Recently someone asked me how I would ever be able to forgive someone for a nasty thing they’d done to me recently, and went about acting totally justified in their hateful attitude toward me.  My response was and still is, how can I not forgive them?  No they didn’t ask to be forgiven.  No, they probably never will.  The selfish truth is, if I don’t forgive them, I’m hurting myself FAR more than I’m hurting them!

For a long time I thought that forgiveness needed to be decided upon at the point of someone’s request for forgiveness.  Until that time, I had every right to harbor bitterness and hatred toward that wicked person.  And then came the day of the mirror!  Looking into the mirror one day I saw a hateful, wicked sinner looking back at me.  I suddenly looked at that woman with the bile rising and wanted nothing more to do with her.  I couldn’t help thinking of all the hateful, mean, wicked sins I’d committed in my lifetime and realized it was my sin that nailed my Savior to that cross!  He died for ME!  If I’d been the only sinner in the whole world—in fact, in the universe, He would have still died for me.  HE took my punishment!  And then He forgave all my transgressions and do you know what else?  He let them go!  He didn’t make me pay for them at all!

And so…why would I not be willing to forgive those who have sinned against me?  Besides the good example in Christ, I quickly learned that unforgiveness actually hurts me much more than it hurts the perpetrator of the evil deed.  They go merrily on their way, perhaps smug in their knowledge that they hurt me in some way, while I seethe and dislike them and wallow in my misery of what they’ve done to me, totally letting that wicked person be victorious!  Not me!  I’d much sooner just forget it and let it go.  If that person were to ask forgiveness, I could easily assure them the deed was forgotten, but if they never did, I’m still not going to let their wickedness hurt me.  That’s the back side of forgiveness.  I refuse to let them change who I am in Christ.

A wonderful example of this is a close friend of mine whose husband left her to raise their two children alone and ran off with another woman.  Then he turned around and moved in across the street from her with the new flame!  Why?  He wanted to be near his kids!  I asked her, how do you cope with living across the street from them?  Her response was simply, “I had to choose.  I could hate and be bitter and maybe cause our kids to resent me, or I could shrug and let it go and get on with my own life.  It’s his choice and he has to live with it.  I’d rather know our children still have two parents that love them and get on with my own life.”  She’s one of the happiest women I know and I adore her and love being with her—for obvious reasons!  And what a wonderful impact she has had on my life in the lessons of forgiveness.

As I thought it through, forgiveness is not so much for the advantage of the one forgiven as it is for the forgiver.  In a way, forgiving someone an offense freely often causes them to feel guiltier and more ashamed than ever.  (I think in Romans 12 that is called heaping coals on their head.)  But that’s their problem.  The good news is that it lifts a huge burden from the shoulders of the hurt person.  Me?  I weigh more than enough as it is!  I don’t need that extra burden!  I’m lettin’ it go!

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