One Tiny Shell

 

This one tiny shell is less than 2 inches tip to tip, half the size of its photo. Although I have a basket of shells that are larger, I keep this one on top of the gratitude journal in which I write every morning. I pick it up before I open the book.  It is almost weightless in the palm of my hand, yet it is heavy with stories.The shell is one of a number of True Tulip shells  collected when Joe and I went with  our sons out to the mud flats off Sanibel Island, Florida. We spent most of the time on the beach near our rental apartment, searching for shells, building sand castles and a tracking a hurricane! Our sons still talk about it.

We added this to our last few days on the island because of a disappointed 9-year-old son. Jeremy used his trip money at the local Wal-Mart to buy a throw net, a net with weights that can be cast out to bring in small fish and other treasures. After only a single use, the net was stolen from the area where he had carefully spread it to dry. We planned the trip out into the flats to gather shells to soften the loss, an adventure all of us would enjoy.

I had no way of knowing in 1980 that many years later, one of the smallest of the shells collected during that family fun would be held in my hand during my morning prayer time.  It is one tiny shell, holding the sounds of the ocean and the laughter of my sons.

Saying Grace

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Most days begin with prayer and thanksgiving – for years now I have kept a gratitude journal.  This reminds me to focus on all the everyday ordinary blessings I receive as grace.  When we gather for a meal as a family, we hold hands and give thanks for our food. Nora calls this our “Maymen.”  The table is the same one I mention below in an excerpt from my blog post in 2014.

I am remembering childhood meals around my Terrell grandparent’s table in Smith County, Texas. There were hearty breakfasts with farm fresh eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy,  dinners (at lunchtime) that often included  peas and tomatoes from their garden and an iron skillet of cornbread cut into wedges.There were suppers, often the same food reheated or a bowl of soup, and Sunday dinners after church. There were holiday meals at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas where the table and kitchen were both filled with chicken and dressing or a ham, plus those garden fresh vegetables which had been put up into canning jars. To follow, there would be an assortment of sweets – cookies, sweet potato, pecan, and mince pies, and often a pound cake. The food and occasion might vary, but there was always the same beginning: This, too, was something I could count on.  Papa Terrell would say grace. Today we may say a blessing or give thanks, but he always said grace.  The words were always the same, and rattled off so quickly I could never understand them.  But his posture spoke to my heart with no need for words.  Over 70 years later, now I see him clearly in my mind:  gray head bent forward and bowed in humility.

“We offer grace at table as a form of waiting with confidence…reciting such a prayer is sometimes referred to as a way of preparing to receive all that has been granted to us. We offer grace in amazement that even the good things we have rejected are being offered again. And then we eat, and the food meets an earthly need of our souls, and we are made whole.” – Cynthia Rigby, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary*

For me, the calendar days designated to Thanksgiving are a wonderful approach to  beginning of Advent exactly because of this waiting with confidence…preparing to receive all that has been granted to us. Our family will gather once again around the old oak table, the very same one that Grandma loaded with food and where Papa said grace.

Autumn’s Gift

jenleavesLast fall my niece Jen sent me these 2 lovely autumn leaves.  She lives in New Jersey, so autumn puts on a more colorful show there than we get on the South Texas Gulf Coast. They arrived in perfect condition and I pressed them between the pages of my gratitude journal. This week I smiled with pleasure when the leaves fell again –  out into my lap. I texted her a thank you. It was as if they waited until the calendar said go for their repeat performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the Rain

AprilGarden If the saying “April showers bring May flowers” were born out  next month, we would be covered in blooms.  On Monday this week, rains came and camped out over many parts of Texas, creating historic event flooding in Houston and several surrounding counties.  There have been tragic deaths, and thousands of people are displaced.  Although the rain has stopped, flooding continues as rivers and bayous rage out of their banks flooding homes and pastureland.

Our garden welcomes us once more with cool breeze, shade, birdsong, and flowers blooming. Joe brought in a gardenia that I could smell when he opened the door. I am grateful for this peace and beauty  but sad for loss for so many.

Prayer for Those Affected by the Floods

God of compassion,
You created a world for us
To know your love and peace
Yet amidst the beauty of creation
We encounter pain and hurt
And forces beyond our control.
At times like this our hearts are shaken and ache with sorrow
At the destruction of our lives, homes and livelihoods.
Hear our prayers for those affected by the floods
And for all those working
To bring relief and fresh hope.

Amen

from the Toowoomba Diocese in Queenslnd following a devastating flood in 2011

 

Transplanting

 

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Cool, rainy days coaxed our roses to bloom- full, fragrant garden gifts. But the two rose bushes that produced this exquisite flowering are not growing strong and healthy.  We have a large white crepe myrtle tree and a lovely purple flowering Vitex near our back porch that have grown so tall and full  the past 10 years that they provide shade for that part of our garden and porch. Wonderful respite from the heat of summer sun for us when we sit on our porch, but now a threat to the rose bushes.  Roses require at least 6 hours of sunlight a day so the spot where they are planted has become too shady for them to remain healthy. We need to move them if they are to survive.  I understand I must do certain things to help them make the move: Reduce the plant size, dig a new hole, remove the plant and roots and transfer,  nourish the plant by providing the right soil, watering, and not forcing growth by fertilizing too soon.

As I thought about this, wondering if we might do best to remove them and take them to plant in our new house when we move, I was surprised to realize that the same advice applies to us as we get ready to relocate. We have already reduced the quantity of things we need to take with us by clearing clutter, passing on family treasures, selling, and donating. We have found the place where we will be transplanted, along with our son and his family.  But we will need to remember the need to stay nourished and avoid forcing too much change too fast.

I am thankful for the plans we have made to be attentive to those things.  And maybe we will take two rose bushes along with us to remind us.

Looking forward to blooming in a new spot.

Wake

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Lichen growing on the gravestone of Opal and Howard Teal, Bullard, Texas

“…their wake reaches us, rocks us.”   ~ Denise Levertov

When I visit the graves of my parents, I am not visiting them, I am remembering them, along with many other family members.  In the Bullard, Texas cemetery are graves belonging to a number of aunts, uncles, maternal and paternal grandparents and even great grand parents. Lichen spreads and clings to the stones and reminds  me of the spreading and clinging of their stories in  my life.  As the poet quoted above suggests, their “wake” reaches and rocks” me.   I have  been cradled in their love and faith. I remember.  Without opening a single page of written family history, I thank God for lives lived, names that roll easily off my tongue.

Opal and HOward Teal

Veda and Woodrow Teal

Clyde and Ky Terrell

Ida and Tom Teal

Edna and Leo Warnick

Lela and Dewey Kirkpatrick

Wayne Kirkpatirick

Earnestine Matilde Curley

John Wesley and Elen Terrell

Vinnon Grady Terrell

Alice Stripling

plus many others whose names and stories I know even though I may not bring them to my mind at this moment, some who lived and died before I was born!

Alleluia!

For All the Saints (1864)

For all the saints who from their labor rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine.
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia! Alleluia.

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

William How

Renewal

IMG_3072Last Easter we planted a Chinese Fringe tree in our front yard. It already had white blooms and as more opened, the tree was covered with clusters of small white blooms. It is a deciduous tree and the blooms appear after the leaves each Spring.  As temperatures soared in July, we noticed a few brown leaves and then more.  We made sure the little tree was watered deeply every day; for awhile it seemed that we would lose it. But over a period of weeks, new green leaves outnumbered the brown ones.  Gradually, the tree announced its survival

IMG_3069One day we noticed new white blooms!  The tree evidently thought it had survived fall and winter and that Spring had returned!

Withering drought has caused loss of many trees in our area, particularly recently planted ones. I am glad our little tree is a survivor!.  In the springtime we often talk about new beginnings and renewal.  I am glad for the fringe tree’s lesson – when I am experiencing a season of drought in my soul, there can be another Spring.

Gift

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My neighbor recently brought me a gift:  a bunch of fragrant French Tarragon. tied with yellow ribbon.  Tarragon can be very frail, difficult to grow, but also quickly losing its sweet licorice like flavor. Unlike most herbs, drying the leaves weakens the flavor so this lovely gift needed to be used right away. As I later stood in my kitchen chopping the sweet smelling, silvery leaves to put into sauce for Tarragon Chicken, I smiled, picturing my neighbor as she cut and tied up my herb bouquet. I  packed up a serving of the dish to take over to her. Gifts are appreciated best by using them. Our gratitude is best expressed in making use of what we are given!.