Of Ron, A Cup, and Roses

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Back from walking Winston this morning, Jerry carried in his hand, then set down on the deck as he dealt with the leash, a cup I recognized. The cup is from a long-ago trip when several friends traveled with us as we trekked all the way from the west coast to the east, where in Maine we ate lobster and drank coffee at the Maine Roaster Coffee place. Five couples, all in very long motorhomes towing vehicles, had the trip of a lifetime, and that fine mug you see here came to be part of our kitchen things in that way. “Motor homing” is in our past and some of the souvenir cups that once bounced around in frisky cupboards now reside in sedate, non-moving shelves in our kitchen.

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But here it was in Jerry’s hand on this foggy, chilly morning in Crestline. And in the cup were two perky roses.

It was Ron’s doing. He lives five or six houses down, and last week when he popped in for a word he accepted Jerry’s offer of a cup of coffee. I recall him walking out the door, holding the cup in the air. “I’ll get your cup back to you.”

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Neighbors. Sweet neighbors. Thoughtful neighbors. With few exceptions those are the caliber of persons who live here in our “neck of the woods.”

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Ron brought me great joy today by placing a couple of stems with roses and buds into the mug he had drunk from last week.

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I wasn’t satisfied by merely looking at these treasures, for surely something as exquisite as these deserved a snap or two by my fine Nikon.

And just so, I posed them. I thought of Ron and his wife, of neighborliness, of roses, of their beauty. Of God who made them.

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And I thought of you, and wanted to share.

Friends, A Cool Invention

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Within each lifetime are portions of challenge. Alongside spiraling days of sunshine made glorious by glowing health and abundant prosperity are chunks of heaviness made dismal by days of inky sorrow and of gloomy prospects. True of everyone. None sidestep the issue. Friends are a cool invention, for wisping along with them, as pleasant as any summer breeze, are bubbly snippets of joy. When they come around, invariably along with them come those magical ingredients that whip up some of the happy, unforgettable days of a well-lived life.

Such a joyful encounter was Jerry’s and mine when our friends Pastor Kris Keyes and his charming wife Lisa of Safford, Az. came a couple of days ago to visit in our home.

Jerry and I planned a fine menu. He cooked ribs and a chicken on his beloved smoker that sets on the back deck and I prepared the rest of the meal. I took pleasure in setting a nice table. 20150515-untitled (1 of 1)I chose red plates, used our finest silverware, and stuck floral napkins through the handle of napkin rings made in the shape of watering pots. Winston hung around our feet

20150512-untitled (4 of 19)Winston shocked us by his immediate, almost hero-worship-style of attraction to both of our friends when they arrived. (They had circled around a bit too long on our mountain roads, so finally Jerry went down to our 7-11 and led them to our driveway.) That little Shih Tzu adored them. On Thursday morning he lay at the door of the guest room where they were sleeping, and made sweet, whiny noises, occasionally poking his nose into the space where the door meets the floor. Quite unusual behavior for Winston, as in the past he has generally been hesitant to meet new people, and has not been overly friendly to them.

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20150514-untitled (7 of 19)Stormy weather moved in with plunging temperatures, high winds, and pelting rain that snapped against our windows and doors. It was perfect weather for a long and cozy visit with our friends. We ate the high-calorie food Jerry and I had prepared, lingered at the table, and drank barrels of coffee (well, not quite barrels, but big jugs full.) Jerry kept the fireplace roaring. We talked. And talked.

Kris Keyes is the pastor of an Apostolic church in Safford, AZ. and much of our conversation centered around mutual friends and church activities. Politics, grill types, smoking methods, scriptures and their meanings, recipes, books we’ve read, hiking, and snippets of internet gleanings were among the subjects that filled in the spaces. On their computer, they showed us the pictures of their daughter Sarah’s recent wedding.

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We moved to the study where Jerry riffled through his grill book so that he could print off a copy of his brining recipe. . . and we began saying our good-byes.

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Our society has changed drastically since I was a child; many of the changes are positive ones, making for longer, healthier, more prosperous lives. Some changes , though, fall into the negative heap. One of these is our busyness; bolting through day after seething day, racing to another meeting, grabbing our phones for another can’t-be-missed conversation. Flip open our laptops, for surely people await to read every word that skids through our hot brains, read the news, despair, and occasionally rejoice. Make more money. Buy a newer car, a bigger house, a prettier dress. . .

And seldom do we sit. Sit for long periods. With a friend. With our family. No agenda. No rush. Sit. Talk. Share hearts. (Takes a while to share a heart.) Be quiet. Commune.

Guilty . . .I confess.

During the recent elegant hours Jerry and I spent with these friends I was so touched at one point as we discussed some great spiritual happenings during our  lifetimes, Kris looked toward his wife and said, “I want that. I want that for our church.” Such conversations do not evolve quickly, nor through casual talk, nor through hurried, breakneck-speed words.

I have few answers to the dilemma of our frazzled, rushed society, but I do suggest that much peace and restfulness will likely come about when we ask friends into our homes. When we appeal to our families for time. Just time. Days perhaps. When they come and stay awhile, when we talk and listen. We hear. Our hearts pulse together.

Reflections on Mother’s Day 2015

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The days leading up to Mother’s Day had found me the recipient of flower deliveries, cards, phone calls, and gifts. On Saturday Jerry said he needed to go somewhere, and when he returned he had in his hands a small azalea plant of the most pleasant pink hue, along with a very touching card. No doubt one of the reasons my children are so good to honor me is because their dad set the bar high throughout their growing-up years. Thoughtful. Never misses an anniversary, and sometimes for no reason, he may pop out into the yard and bring in a rose he has snipped from one of our plants.

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None of the children were able to actually visit in our home for the special day, but we had made plans with Rebecca. Sunday morning we drove by her house, dropped off Winston, then drove on to Inland Lighthouse Center in Rialto where with her we worshipped. Before we entered the sanctuary, though, Jerry snapped a few pictures of the two mommies!

20150510-untitled (7 of 43)The greeting of many friends always makes it such a pleasure to visit the church that Jerry formerly pastored. Multitudes of glorious memories. A great church.

After the service as we continued to visit, Rebecca hurried home to finish preparing our meal.

20150510-untitled (20 of 43)She had set a beautiful table with her fine platinum rimmed china. A pasta/sausage dish was the entree, the salad was fresh and delicious, and. . .and. . .these scrumptious cheese biscuits. I watched her scoop out the dough and stick them in the oven. I probably shouldn’t confess, but I ate two of them, and they weren’t small!

20150510-untitled (24 of 43)More gifts, sweet talk, lingering.

20150510-untitled (38 of 43)Rebecca let us read the hilarious card Nathaniel had given her. We watched on his phone a video of his preaching a few nights before at Bakersfield. So very exciting.

20150510-untitled (14 of 43)Treats drawn from his pockets sent the dogs running to Master.

20150511-untitled (4 of 4)Back home. Early evening. I gathered my gifts and cards, pulled out a dining chair, sat down, looked at them, and reread them. I thought of each of my three sons, and of my one daughter. I recalled their births, their childhoods, their escapades, their accomplishments, their disappointments, their strengths, their challenges. I wept for love.

A Snowy Day in May

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During the night I saw that our electric bedroom clock had a black face, and having heard the forecast, I knew–at least I suspected. The unusual May storm had moved down the coast and was now pounding our dry, hungry area, and when I peered through the bathroom window I saw that our gardens were covered with snow. The great winds and heavy snow had somewhere caused a tree to fall into electrical lines, and “the power won’t be back on until 11:00 this morning,” said Bill when Jerry called to check on him after we first got up. Bill is our astonishing 94-year-old next door neighbor.

Looking out our dining room window, and across Lake Gregory, we saw this incredible scene, one my eyes never tire of seeing..

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The coffee situation was of prime concern, and soon found me with both knees flat on the floor, my head stuck into a bottom-most cupboard. I hauled out pots and pans, then finally from the very back, I drew  the prize. The ancient dented drip style coffee pot had rumbled around in all our motor homes, where on small burners it would gurgle and fuss, as among the steaminess it wafted out scents of brewing coffee. In addition to serving within the motor homes, it had treated us and our friends well at many a camp fire across the country. On the upper counter in my kitchen were two fine coffeepot specimens, a Keurig, and a Cuisinart, but although clothed in fine stainless steel attire, and wearing fancy knobs and boasting of superior settings, they both were helpless. Battered pot to the rescue!

20150508-untitled (56 of 69)As it was 30 degrees outside, warmth was a consideration, for our furnace, though gas, requires electricity to operate. Throughout the day–for the electricity actually was not restored until a few minutes after 7:00 in the evening–Jerry carried up loads of wood and kept a fire roaring.

20150508-untitled (34 of 69). . .and Winston loved it when I wrapped a soft blanket around him.

20150508-untitled (33 of 69)20150508-untitled (51 of 69)20150508-untitled (40 of 69)20150508-untitled (44 of 69)20150508-untitled (29 of 69)20150508-untitled (27 of 69)I pulled on boots and Winston and I nosed around in the back where I saw that our plum tree was so weighted with snow that its top branch had bent until it touched the ground, as did our  largest lilac bush. Two plum branches had broken off completely. But the snowy scene was stunningly beautiful. I admired frozen water drops on green stems, flower blossoms that were encased in ice, and other snowy forms and images.

I missed the light, though, and throughout the day I thought of distressed people in Nepal and of those who have never known electric lights, and of tribes who would stare with wonder at a microwave oven, or at a washing machine, or at the screen of a computer.

I remembered that Jesus is the light of the world, and reflected on the dominance and far-reaching considerations of that thought.

A Visit on the Bank of Greer’s Ferry Lake

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Lots of life questions hound me, so that I am unsure of many things. Of this one subject, however, I am positive; my life has been unusually blessed by an outstanding, talented family, and by many friends who possess sterling qualities. Two such are the Rev. Jesse Emerson and his charming wife, LaDoyne. A couple of weeks ago, we were privileged to spend part of two days with them at their lovely home whose acreage leads down to the waters of Greer’s Ferry Lake in Clinton, Arkansas.

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Although Brother Emerson does preach from time to time, they no longer are in active ministry and feel blessed to have found this home where they can spend their retirement years.This giant cup holding a magnificent plant speaks to the theme of their lives–I could tell.

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20150321-untitled (46 of 67)Beautiful voices yet, with perfect harmony. At the end of the meal they sang a sweet song–something about where has our youth gone? We grinned and clapped.

20150320-untitled (17 of 67)She was pulling these from the oven when we arrived.

20150321-untitled (55 of 67)Under this magnificent tree, two white lounge chairs await the languid summer days when the Emersons sit and bask in the cool breeze off the lake. Their family often come to visit and to play in the water.

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20150320-untitled (34 of 67)We talked of sun rooms, and storms that ripped out windows, and looked at treasured old books. We spoke of our enduring friendship and recalled the long ago days of their preaching at our church when we pastored. We spoke of motor homes and recalled they lived in one for years as they crisscrossed the United States doing the work of an evangelist. We spoke of health issues and families and friends; of aging and of progress and of regression. Upstairs they have fitted out three rooms they refer to as the Prophet’s Chambers. Consisting of a tiny living room that looks to the lake, a minuscule kitchen, and a comfy bedroom, they open this area from time to time to missionaries and other ministers who need a place to stay for awhile, to catch their breath, to regain their equilibrium.

And then it was time to go, and we left with hugs, and smiles, and promises . . .to keep.

I cherish those days, and guard carefully my friendship with such dear and precious people. How truly blessed I am.

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And what of you? I would love to hear of your friendships–whether we have mutual ones, or you have others to tell us about.

Leash

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20150219-untitled (35 of 45)Usually I walk Winston along our street, sometimes going into the woods that is a part of Thousand Pines Christian Conference Center here in Crestline. Yesterday, though, I put him in the car and drove the mile or so down to Lake Gregory, where, in an area near the San Moritz Lodge, we accomplished our morning walk.While he nudged small stones, and snuffled around fallen leaves, trying to sniff out at least one of the myriad animals who prowl about the area, I reveled in the day. Getting on toward the end of February, the weather should be described as storms of snow and rain; instead we’re having Spring, and although I’m wanting the cold weather, I’ve decided (since I can do nothing about the amount of heat or cold that stacks up about me) to enjoy these gorgeous days, and to avoid too much whine about the other stuff.

Winston walks on a leash. A leash that I control. I snap it on him, and take it off him. I’m in charge of Winston, and I tell him where we’re headed, when to go, and when to stop. Sometimes he obeys me. Others times not. Sometimes he doesn’t want to come for the leash and he’ll dance around, and tease, but before we head out for the walk, he is securely tethered by his leash–the leash that is in my hand.

20150218-untitled (2 of 45)I  wear a leash too. Despite, though, how closely you look about my neck or how thoroughly you peer about my shoulders, you will not see my harness. It is invisible, rests easily about me, yet is highly effective. I’ve worn my leash a long time now, and should it slip away, should it be lost, I would suffer. My leash is of The Spirit. My leash is the Holy Ghost. I cherish this restraint, for it guides me through this very treacherous life, along roadways littered with stumbling stones, through neighborhoods of evil report.

With David, I cry:

Prepare my goings in your paths and do not let  evil rule over me. Psalm 119:133 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

And to my Savior, I lift my hands, and extend my body for the leash for He has said:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go. Psalm 32:8

20150218-untitled (3 of 45)We care deeply for Winston, we provide for him, we pamper him. Despite being the smart little rascal he is, without us he would lose his way. One day he would frolic away to the camp or to the lake, not remembering the coyotes that prowl our woods and our streets, nor the occasional huge cat who might very well rest in the limb above his furry little head.

20150219-untitled (40 of 45)Sometimes he’s in danger and has no sense of it at all.

And so Winston wears a leash, as do I. For sometimes I’m in danger, sometimes I head toward the wrong path, sometimes ungodly creatures lie in wait for me, but I’m safe, for I yield to the leash.

My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. Psalm 17:5

Nah.

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“Like your shirt,” Andrew said to the gentleman who had entered the restaurant after we had been seated. It was Sunday after a great morning worship service. We were down in San Diego with Andrew and his clan.

20150215-untitled (23 of 28)We all liked it; at least the adults did, and for the youngsters who20150215-untitled (24 of 28) didn’t know the story it was a perfect teaching moment.

“We have the advantage of history, know how the story ended, but Rosa did not that day.” I added to the conversation as the gentleman sat down near us.

A friendly gentleman,after we had discussed the Rosa Parks story for a bit, our conversation turned to church things, and he told us where he had attended that morning, and we related that we had been to a chur20150215-untitled (25 of 28)ch just across the way. Andrew rose from his seat to point through the window where the church was visible. We invited him to visit, told him he would like it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he visits The Anchor one day.

After he left us, we continued to discuss the Rosa Parks story, and someone said: “Make a good sermon.”

And so it would . . . or just a simple little piece of writing.

One day Rosa Parks had endured enough, and when that bus driver told her to get up and give her seat to a white person, she refused. Yes, she refused. She was arrested. Still she did not retract her stance.

Nah. Rosa Parks 1955

There comes a time for each of us to speak directly to satan.

Nah, don’t think so. Not today.

He has bound us long enough, lied to us, refused to let us have the freedom that should be ours. He is despicable. Evil. No good thing comes from him. He is a foul, grubbing master who lies, deceives, defrauds and tricks. The very air about him is putrid. His breath is rancid, his intent of hell itself.

We often hear the scripture quoted “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The reference is James 4:7 and it actually reads, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Resist. My research tells me the word resist here is from the Greek word anthistemi, which means to “take a complete stand against”or a “contrary position”and “refusing to be moved.”

I’m determined to take a contrary position to satan, to look him square in the eye when he approaches me and adamantly refuse to follow him. James, though, emphasizes that the only effective way to do this is to submit myself to God. I must learn of Him, understand His ways, and walk carefully and diligently with Him.

Madly, our world careens out of control. The scent of destruction fills our nostrils as the sound of battle plugs our ears. The sight of chaos shadows our eyes as surely as does a blind drawn against a cold midnight. We are in desperate need of God. Help us to have the courage and the spiritual insight to resist satan as he leers our way. Help us to say No.

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And to you, the very nice man in San Diego who wore the Rosa Parks shirt, whom I may never see again, thank you. Thank you for the reminder.

Celebration With The Anchor

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The phone call had come from Mary Williams of Apostolic College in Tulsa, where Jerry and I had met. “Would you be interested in going to California to teach in a church school in Pasadena?” So began a major move for us; in California all our children would be born, Jerry would pastor two churches here, and our lives for the most part would be lived out in this beautiful state . . .where we yet live. 20150215-untitled (1 of 28) Jerry’s sister Sophia lived in San Diego at the time, so one of the first churches we visited, and where we attended for a short while just before Michael was born, was Revival Tabernacle, pastored then by the inimitable David F. Gray. This past weekend the church, now called The Anchor, commerated both their 70th year since the founding by Brother Gray, and their 50 years at their current location. Jerry and I drove down and thoroughly enjoyed the Sunday morning celebration with this fine group of people. Revival Tabernacle/The Anchor is one of the more influential Apostolic Churches on the West Coast, with a long history of sending out ministers to found additional churches in the area, and in other parts of the United States, even to other parts of the world. 20150215-untitled (10 of 28)A tribute both to the congregation and to the leaders is that in this long history only two pastors have served these people. James Larson, who served under Brother Gray before assuming the pastorate is a talented, precious minister of the Gospel. His humble and chariasmatic way befits this high office. He is a man of prayer and of The Word. 20150215-untitled (5 of 28)Chris Higginbottom is the vibrant music director who enhances The Anchor by his talent, his passion for his job, and his faithfulness. 20150215-untitled (9 of 28)   Iris Bisbal is 79 years old, and is among the group of faithful “old-timers” who have attended Revival Tabernacle/The Anchor since its early days. On Sunday morning, with a strong, still magnificent voice, she sang the glory down. Amazing woman of God. 20150215-untitled (3 of 28)Among the several guest ministers who attended the Sunday morning service were Carl McKellar and Bernard Elms, who each delivered timely messages. Both these men attended Revival Tabernacle as youngsters.20150215-untitled (20 of 28) Of particular interest to me is this shot of my son Andrew, who along with other ministers was called on to speak a few words during the morning service. His father sits on the platform, an elder minister now, Brother Larson stands in the pulpit, and behind all is a projected image of Brother and Sister Gray, along with Brother and Sister Larson taken at the time the mantle was passed from Brother Gray to Brother Larson. 20150215-untitled (19 of 28) The future? What does it hold for those younger ones coming behind? 20150215-untitled (17 of 28)I’m convinced that the solid foundation on which Revival Tabernacle/The Anchor is built, along with the calibre of its leaders, elders and younger ministers, insures that this church will continue to move upward. God’s Church is not pallid, crippled, or lifeless; rather His Church is vigorous. His Church thrives. Congratulation to Pastor Larson and the entire congregation of The Anchor on such a stellar history. My prayers and support are with you.

Words From Winston

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Occasionally Winston and I discuss his part in my blog writing, and with sad brown eyes he emphasizes that a great period of time has passed since he has been allowed access to my computer, and he feels quite sure that many of you are wishing to hear from him. Sometimes as I sit on the couch in my living room and type on my computer, he sits beside me, and when he lifts a fuzzy white paw toward the keyboard, I know he is feeling creative, and is wishing I would let him have a turn.

Because of his very black face into which his dark eyes are plunged, Winston is hard to photograph. Yesterday, though, I snapped a few good shots of him, and when I loaded them today I decided this would be a fine moment to let Winston tell you about them.

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Winston here! Sir Winston of Crestline, I’m sure you recall.

My people have a thing about the trash. Well, I suppose I have a thing about it too, but they have quite a difference in opinion about the trash from mine: They even go to the extent of placing the trash baskets on top of the toilet fixtures in the bathrooms, so I can’t share them. The kitchen one is a compactor which I haven’t learned to manipulate, but the study! Oh, the trash can in the study is wonderful, and even though Mistress pushes it under the desk I easily get under there and knock it over. It’s a glorious place, mostly filled with paper, envelopes, used up pens, and cellophane pieces, along with an occasional Kleenex or paper towel. 

Early yesterday I visited the study, and when I left I looked behind me, and there scattered about was quite a trail of wonder; papers gathered all about the black plastic wastebasket I had tipped over. I knew Mistress would not like it, but I just couldn’t help myself, and maybe if I could figure out how I could scoop all the litter back into the can, but I just don’t know how to do that. Later, as I sat atop the stretched-out legs of Master who was reclining in his favorite chair, I had some moments of reflection. Mistress had taken me to the vet on Monday for boosters, and I was thinking about beautiful Dr.Nicole Stanclift, and all those stunning nurses . . . just remembering how sweet they all are, and how I didn’t bark, or yelp too loud when I got the shots . . .when I noticed Mistress heading toward the study.

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Now Mistress is not mean to me, never has been, but sometimes she gets really upset when I do a couple of things I shouldn’t, and she makes a loud voice. Same mouth as her regular one, but the sound that comes out scares me a little bit, and I know then I have done something wrong. Same thing with the trash can as when I nip at her to play: She says, “No Winston. You don’t bite.” and I try to tell her I’m not really biting, but I’m just wanting to play. I think she understands that for I hear her explaining to people about my nipping. The thing is I love Mistress and I don’t want her to be mad at me, and about the trash . . .I just don’t know what comes over me . . .

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One thing I’ve thought about is that I am so beautiful, and my people love me so much that sometimes when I’ve been a little naughty, I remind them of how lovely I am . . .like wagging my gorgeous fluff of a tail really fast, and looking at them in a very sweet way with my deep doggy eyes.

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The Beauty of Authentic Friendship

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The magnificent view from the living room of Berl and Lavelta Stevenson, where on Thursday and Friday we three couples had dinner and breakfast. We Stevensons, Hodges, and Buxtons are uniquely blessed, for now in our 70s and 80s, we have been friends for decades, and three times a year we rotate, entertaining the others in our homes.

20150129-untitled (17 of 43)20150129-untitled (22 of 43)20150129-untitled (20 of 43)On his neat infrared cooker, Berl grilled thick, boneless pork chops, which had first been marinated by Lavelta, and which were nothing short of delicious.

20150129-untitled (26 of 43)20150129-untitled (11 of 43)We ladies admired Lavelta’s new dishes she had bought from a neighbor who was moving. The lady’s mom had hand-painted these, but her children did not want them, and she could not keep them. Each cup and dessert dish had a different fruit depicted, and on the underside of the cups were written appropriate lines. Mine read, “You’re the berries;” Jerry’s read “You’re the apple of my eye.”

20150129-untitled (30 of 43)We were seated for breakfast on Friday morning, when Berl said, “This may cause us to eat cold food, but I want to say a few things.” He proceeded to tell how much he loved all of us, how he respected us, and how through the years, we had been nothing but Christians in his eyes. His words were quite touching. Then he asked us three ladies to say a few words, and before we were finished, we were all crying.

20150129-untitled (39 of 43)20150129-untitled (42 of 43)We are not youthful any more, and some of us are struggling with serious health issues, but our love and affection for each other has not waned, and our dedication to God and to His work continues to be what centers us. How blessed we are.

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