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Precious Family History

My mother is full of many amazing stories from years ago. She is a wealth of knowledge, a lover of history and a great example of godliness and wisdom.

As a child, she shared many stories, that I am ashamed to admit, were boring or did not seem of interest to me at the time. I want to write down many of those stories now while I still have her and she can share them with me.

Here is one such gem.

My mother told me that we have a connection to Ruth Bell Graham. She was a great lady of faith from my generation as she was married to world renowned Christian evangelist, Billy Graham. I had a great aunt that I never met named Miriam Calhoun. She was my mother’s aunt. She died in 1940 at a very young at age 39 from cancer. She was a trained singer. My mother comments every time I sing in church, that one day in heaven I will get to meet her. Perhaps I inherited some talent from her. In this we share a wonderful bond.

The interesting part of the story is that Miriam was engaged but never married. Her fiancee was David Bell. He was related to Ruth Bell. The family connection was through a descendant in Tinkling Springs. I have not been able to determine the actual lineage connection but am currently doing research. A Reverend John McCue established a Presbyterian church there around 1783. He died one Sunday on his way to church when he was thrown from his horse in 1818. He would have been Ruth Bell’s great-great-great grandfather. Here is another interesting side note. The house in which my grandfather was born has always been referred to as “Old Stone Fort” in our family. It was on a dairy farm when his parents owned it. It was purchased from a member of the McCue family. Sadly, my grandfather’s parents lost the farm because they either were forced to sell or foreclosed after losing a number of cattle, their source of income, during a terrible storm.

The story about Miriam continues. She decided not to marry David since she began caring for her ailing parents. She did not want to burden David with further responsibility. Neither ever married after the broken engagement. Miriam died. I am sure David was broken-hearted by her death. She was buried in the Tinkling Spring cemetery outside Fishersville. I remember visiting the gravesite as a child. It is in a family plot with her parents, my great-grandparents. The cemetery rests in a beautiful spot nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains with bubbling sounds of a brook and trills of wild birds in the distance.

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Creating A Bird Sanctuary

I want to build a bird sanctuary in my yard. Last year I enjoyed watching a cute family of wrens nesting on my backporch. The mother and dad were a flurry of activity from sun up to sun down for a couple weeks. Soon mother sat on her eggs waiting for the blessed event. She stayed quiet so she wouldn’t attract attention from predators. She was safe because my porch sits up about 20 feet from the ground. I could watch the whole scenario easily from my back window as the plant that cradled the nest was just outside against the ledge.

It wasn’t long before the babies emerged from the eggs. I watched them every day. They grew rapidly. At first they were scrawny and featherless. Soon their feathers appeared. They ate constantly. I felt exhausted watching mother and dad close by swooping in bringing morsels of food to their ravenous babies. The babies’ mouths gaped open and their chirping grew louder as soon as their parents appeared. They grew bigger and their nest became crowded in no time.

I waited patiently, expecting them to pop out of the nest onto the floor of the porch. I ran from my bedroom each morning to take a peak. “Not yet, but soon”, I thought each morning when I checked on them. One morning I started looking for them. The babies were not in the nest. They were not on the porch. Where was momma? She was no where to be found. I was disappointed to find them all gone. I never got to see their flight preparations or take off from the porch. They must have popped out and flown all at once.

I want to experience this again this year but am experimenting with some new nesting options to interest some other types of birds to build nests.

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Getting It Down On Paper

There is so much swirling around in my brain right now. I don’t think I will fully process my thoughts until I finally get it down on paper.

Death has touched a few friends lately. It was COVID-related in only one case. It was tragic and senseless, just the same. Those who passed were too young and gone too soon. With all the drama and trauma that is going on in the world’s stage, it is hard to understand how anyone can process death on a personal level now too. My heart goes out to the families that are left behind to grapple with their loss. My prayers are with them that they will cling to their faith and not lose hope in their savior but instead find comfort and refuge in Him.

Depression is a very real threat in the current world in which we live. The enemy is lurking everywhere to prey upon us. He seeks to attack our thoughts so that we become negative, downhearted and increasingly discouraged. We must stay vigilante to build up our faith by the washing of the word of God.

Here are a few scriptures that I have found lately that have offered me comfort against the war raging inside my mind and spirit.

Isaiah 33:2 Lord, be gracious to us, we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Revelation 12:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow or crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

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Garden Befores and Afters in Two Years

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Melancholy Christmas Music

I am busy today cooking for Christmas Eve festivities with my family. I am chopping up veggies to go with dip. I am cooking chicken to make a chicken cilantro bisque soup. While at the counter chopping away, I have the Youtube channel on a medley of old Christmas songs from the 60’s. All of a sudden my emotions well up within me as I remember songs from that era during my childhood. My father was a classical cellist. He was always busy during Christmas playing in churches and symphonies. His love for music ran deep. He especially loved songs by Perry Como, Nat King Cole and Andy Williams at Christmas.

I was stirred when I heard one of my father’s favorites. It was entitled “Hark Now Here The Angels Sing.” The words expound on the true reason why we celebrate Christmas. We need to reflect on the peace and hope that Jesus offers. There are many divided throughout our country due to the pandemic and political debates. Many have gotten way off-track and want to squelch any joy found through Christ and Christmas.

Up until now, I have done well holding it together. I guess I have tried staying busy to avoid thoughts of the sad state of our country and world. Music has a way of cutting through the barriers. If we allow it, it can bring healing by allowing our emotions to surface. We need to cry sometimes, for the health of our mental state as it is unhealthy to bury our feelings.

Musicians throughout history poured our their hearts through music. Listen to the songs of the 40s during World War II or the 60s during the Vietnam. Many were inspired to offer us hope for the future. Christmas especially is a time when we look for hope. We reflect upon the past year and are ready to embrace the new year with a fresh perspective and determination to right wrongs from the past and make a better future. Something about human nature has this will-power and resilience. Yet, as soldiers of the cross, we must reflect on Christ coming down to earth to bring salvation to the world. The great commission has charged us while we are here to offer His gift to as many as will receive it.

If you are reading this and don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He wants to offer you hope in the future because of His great love for you. He has a plan and purpose for your life. His gift is free if you will only accept it. Ask Him today to be your Lord, and to forgive you for your sins. He alone can offer you a hope that can not be found in this world.

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A Handcrafted Woodsy Christmas

I have been challenging myself to make and repurpose Christmas decorations this year. I don’t need to add to my ever-growing stash of store-bought ornaments from many years.

I enjoy tweaking the theme or colors from year to year. I have been favoring decorations of a more rustic vibe the past couple years since we moved into a cottage styled home. I have started by creating decorations inspired by nature or the woodlands.

This year I decided to bring down my white flocked Christmas tree in the living room. I wanted to add touches of blue to go with my living room furniture so I decided to see what I could make on my own, using what I already had. I found some deep blue velvet and scraps of material in variations of blue and white. These were some pieces I found in a box I have saved all these years from my grandmother’s things. They are a part of the sentimental keepsakes that I have kept because they remind me of her and her love for sewing. First, I made a bunting garland out of the fabric scraps. Then I made some signs, using a stencil for the lettering. I already had the striped stars from a project in the past. I made the cardboard stars from toilet paper rolls another year. I cut out the velvet in circles, glued them to cereal box cardboard and embellished them with stenciled snowflakes and silver tinsel pipe cleaners. I found some decorative wooden furniture circles in my craft supplies. I painted them blue and aged them with white paint which I dry-brushed on them. They turned out looking like denim which I liked a lot.

In my kitchen, I always have a rustic tree. I use red, green, black and white decorations in there. I added woodland creatures to decorate that tree last year. One year I made some elves with pinecones, red felt and pillow stuffing. Another year I made some ornaments with miniature figures on top of old spice tins. This year I added the mushroom decorations that were from my stash of gardening items in the garage.

I found a porcelain village collection in my attic. I painted it white with silver accents for a winter wonderland display on my mantel. I added fairy lights to give it a little sparkle and magical feel.

Here is what it all looks like. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus!

Blue and white striped star.

Fabric bunting garland and wooden medallion.

Spice tin ornament with Christmas elf.
Mushroom ornament

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Dusting Off The Old Sewing Machine Out of Necessity

I am wondering how many of you are like me and have begun trying to find outfits online during the COVID pandemic.

To say challenging is an understatement. I once was able to go to a store and try on an outfit before purchasing. This is how I truly knew if I liked the way it would fit and look on me not just the cuteness factor on the hanger. Through the last 18 months, the stores haven’t allowed you to try things on. We have to take them home and bring them back if they don’t suit or fit. That inevitably means another trip to the store which was a hassle the first time. I confess to buying some items online to avoid making multiple trips to stores and to give me a pick me up with a new purchase.

I like to know what the feel of the fabric is like. I like cotton in particular because it is cool and looks classy. I have been disappointed to say the least with my online purchases. Most things that are sold are rayon, polyester or blends. I didn’t like it in the 70’s and I don’t like it now. However, it seems that it packs well with few wrinkles and cheaply can be shipped because it is lightweight. Yet, it is not appealing when I try it on.

I try to look modern with some updated patterns and designs. The models always look amazing online. I am careful to pick more conservative styles yet I still am unimpressed when I receive items in the mail. This makes two dresses now that I have received that look like a tent is missing from the circus even though I tried to pick a form-slimming design.

Returning items by mail is also a hassle I hope to avoid plus I don’t like to admit to defeat. So what can I do? I am trying to refashion my purchases in a way that I can wear them with some sense of overall satisfaction. This means having to sew. I haven’t tried to sew much clothing in years. I remember making a peasant top in junior high school for my home economics class. It turned out pretty well as it was very basic. We were not taught much in the way of how to make alterations to make things fit better. This is a whole new experience for me. It doesn’t seem hard to cut a shape as we used to for patterns. I could use clothing I already own for the basic template then sewing a basic line is easy enough. I have decided I might as well give it a try.

The first shift I received was too wide with pockets and too long. I have cut down the sides and the bottom to a more rectangular shape and less of an a shape. The second shift-tent will be turned into a tunic top as it was way too wide and a-framed again as a dress.

I am not as petite as I used to be but am definitely not ready to look like I am wearing a housecoat from Mama’s Family.

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