Thoughts About Thanksgiving

In a couple of days we will celebrate one of my favorite holidays — Thanksgiving. I love the smell of turkey cooking in the oven; Macy’s Day Parade on TV; and family and friends coming through the door to celebrate this wonderful time together.

Usually I do most of the cooking for Thanksgiving Dinner, spending hours getting things ready so we all can sit down to give thanks for our blessings and being together. This year our house is not in shape for a family gathering; so we are heading to Coppell to have Thanksgiving dinner with Karen and her future husband and family.

I want to take a special privilege here if you all (or y’all) don’t mind. Karen and Steve Rutherford became engaged last Valentine’s Day. Steve is a wonderful young man (Well late 30’s. To me that is young!). He is a police officer with the Farmer’s Branch Police Department and investigates crime scenes. Steve is a believer in Jesus Christ. He has a calm nature, and is very sure of himself. He has three children (2 girls and 1 boy); so two small families coming together to make one large family. But before we could all be happy about Karen and Steve dating, Steve had to learn how to deal with the Freeto Family!

Now I am not saying that we are difficult to get along with, but I am saying that Karen is “ours.” She has been a member of this family since she and Dwayne got married, and since Dwayne’s death in 12/2006 Karen has become more of a daughter than a daughter-in-law. We have been through a lot as we supported each other in our grief and sadness. We learned together how to live again in a new and different way. We had to find our “new normal.” So for me, it was very important that Steve understood that we come with Karen — baggage and all.

For the past year, Steve has seen us work together, play together, have serious discussions, have fun together, cry together and laugh together until we were silly–That’s family! That’s what we do! It’s called “LOVE.” There is no other way to explain it. Karen and the girls (Jordin and Jenna), as well as, our son Chuck, Anna, and Nathan are the most important people in our lives. And that is not going to change. We love to be with our children and grandchildren, and that won’t change either.

We have found that Steve has a great sense of humor. He has respect for Karen’s extended family, and more than that he has respect for our son Dwayne. How can you not love a guy like that??!! Of course, things will change. Change has to happen, and we are ready for it.

This Thanksgiving we will celebrate love of family as we gather together for dinner. This is still one of my favorite holidays — we celebrate the love of our Lord; we celebrate the new family that is too come.

I pray that all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. May God bless you and your families.

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda

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Something Happened on the Way to the Wedding

Since we retired, Carl has continued to do weddings for former church members and their families. It is always such a blessing to get to see “old” friends again and catch up on all the family news. Many of these folks I communicate with by Facebook, and then there are contacts that are “blasts from the past.” But it is always fun to reconnect.

Last night was a wedding of a family from Midlothian. It is so much fun to be with the Nutt family. They have wonderful sense of humors, lots of stories, and “do you remember” moments. Their beautiful daughter, Emily, was getting married, and she wanted Carl to marry her and Brent.

Of course, Carl was going to wear his usual navy blue suit and a black robe, but I don’t like getting dressed up. My motto is: be comfortable. I found after months of searching my white turtleneck top along with my navy denim skirt. And surprise, surprise, I found another pair of shoes that I had totally forgotten about and a jacket that I could remove if it got to be too warm.

I had been in a lot of pain for the past several days, and as I went out the door I thought, “you better get some Ibuprofen and something to drink.” Now did I think about water to drink? No, I grabbed a diet coke, and out to the car I went. I bet you can see where this is going!!!

The wedding was about an hour and three-quarters away. The day had been threatening rain, and although it was warm (70), it was very humid. As Carl backed out of the driveway, the front of the car scrapped on the pavement. Now, this is not unusual, it happens every time we back out. And once again, I roll my eyes and tell Carl he has to get that fixed. Backing out is ruining the underside of my car.

Down the road we go! A light mist is beginning to fall on the windshield. Well, this is interesting! The wedding is outside. But I always tell myself that if I am not happy with the weather, just wait a few minutes and it will change. Which it did a few miles out-of-town.

We were on our way! I pop the diet coke top and reach for my Ibuprofen. I popped a pill, put the coke can up to my lips and BUMP!! You got it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The can missed my lips, and coke ran down the front of me big time!!!!!! I just sat there looking at my white turtleneck now with a HUGE coke stain down the front. From the driver’s seat I hear, “Do you want to go back to the house?” Pause.  “No!” I said slowly through my teeth. We drove on.

As we got ready to get on the highway, I took my jacket off thinking that I am going to be totally embarrassed  at the wedding. There were not a few drops of coke that I might try to hide; the whole front of my turtleneck was covered. And then it came too me what I could do!!!

“Stay in the right hand lane. DO NOT pass anyone!!!,” I said to the driver. And I begin to pull my right arm out of the turtleneck sleeve. “What are you doing?” asked the surprised driver. “Just keep driving and don’t pass anyone!!” I said firmly.

“Oh, my God, you are doing a “monkey-face,” comes from the driver’s seat. “What?” I say. “You are doing a monkey-face!” Arm half out of my sleeve, I asked “What is a monkey-face?” By this time I am beginning to laugh, because what has a monkey’s face have to do with turning my turtleneck around, in a car going down the highway at 65 mph. The driver starts to laugh.

“A monkey-face is when you cannot use one side, you turn it around to the other side,”  the driver says. “What are you taking about?” I asked as I have one arm out and working on the other arm. The driver says, “Went you have a pair of work gloves made of cloth and one side wears out, you turn them around and use the other side.” By this time I am fighting with the body of the turtleneck trying to get the back to the front. Years ago I had cut out the tag on the inside of the neck, because it always tickled. So there was no tag for everyone to see. So who would have guessed I was so clever!

By this time Carl and I were both laughing so hard that I could not get my arm in the second sleeve. I are going down the road at 65 mph doing a monkey-face and laughing until my stomach hurt.

After a couple of minutes with turtleneck intact, laughter under control, with two Ibuprofen in my hand, I say “You can pull into the passing lane now.” Carl, the driver, says, “Why did I have to stay in the right hand lane?” “So no one can see me, of course,” I say. “What about the people passing us?” he asks. “They can’t see me while I am half-dressed. But passing someone, they can see into the car!” It made perfect sense to me.

We arrived at the wedding with no more incidents. I sit outside with a cool breeze coming off the little pond where the wedding is about to take place. I look down at my pure white front, and reply “Oh, how clever you are! No one even notices that I have my turtleneck on backwards.” “What?” asked the woman next to me. “Oh, nothing!” The end of another great day!!

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda

A Texas Golden Sunset

The other day I was thinking about our family’s adventurous move to Texas. Both Carl and I were born and raised in New Hampshire, and never in a million years did we think that one day we would be living in Texas. How that happened will have to be a future story. One of my writing lessons asks me to describe something that I was in awe of. At first, I had a hard time coming up with something; then I remembered our trip to Texas. My awe-inspiring moment: the beauty of the open Texas sky at dusk.

Both Carl and I were driving two cars with two trailers, children, pets, luggage, and household items to a new home in Brock, Texas. It had been another long day of following this little caravan down the highway to a place we had never heard of.

After twenty-eight years I can still remember the tension of driving and driving and driving with no idea where we were going. There were no signs along the highway telling us how many miles to Brock. We were not sure we were headed in the right direction — the paper map said “go west, oh fool hardy adventurers, and see what is in stored for you!” Really the map didn’t say anything, but it sure sounded like it was talking, because no one else was.

We crossed the Dallas county line. There was traffic everywhere. Lots and lots of traffic, and hot, hot, hot. As we drove west the sun was beginning to settle, but at the time I was thinking it better hurry up because it was blinding me. The full, hot sun was in my eyes.

We continued to drive. About 6:00 PM we decided to stop and have some dinner. A little 50ish restaurant was off to our right; the smell of hamburgers cooking settled over the parking lot as we drove in to find a big enough place to park. I was not going to back up with a trailer behind me.

The break came at a  good time. All of us were tired and hungry. Hamburgers and fries not only smelled good but tasted good. We talked about how we were feeling, and what were some things we saw we did not expect. Our son Dwayne commented on how “big the Texas sky was.” The three of us sat there looking at Dwayne, “What?” He said, “Did you see how big the sky is? There are no mountains around us.” He looked back at us in unbelief that we all missed it!!

When we stood by our cars ready for another long drive, we stopped and looked up at the beautiful “big” Texas sky. The sun was slowly going down and would continue to hit us in the face as we drove west, but the magnitude of the sky was amazing.

As we crossed Lake Ray Hubbard, the sky began to turn brilliant colors. Golds and blues swept across the sky; the sun reflecting off the clouds. It seemed that you could see forever; no end to the sky or the colors and shapes that danced before us. The lake was very calm like glass and reflected the sun rays as a duck landed gracefully on the water. Little ripples spread out from the duck, and the trees reflection looked like they were moving with the ripples of the water.

The sky grew darker turning the green and brown cluster of small trees into the shape of a serpent moving across the water’s edge settling in for a peaceful evening’s rest. For a moment or two, as the sun dripped below the horizon, a splash of bright colors — red, orange, blue — slid across the sky. It seemed like you could see into heaven. And then the sun slowly slipped out of sight leaving the black of night to creep in over the city of Dallas. This was an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Today I am grateful to see many Texas golden sunsets. I am still in awe!

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda

What Else is Important?

Is the world getting louder and louder – politics especially – where you feel your voice is drowned out? I wanted to write something that would help and realized I already had written something. It goes back to reading God’s word. The following is a blog I posted in November 2014. The message is the same today as it was in the past and will be in the future.  Don’t let the noise keep you from moving ahead in the life that is meant for you.

What Else is Important?

I was looking at my previous blogs, and it seems like all I do is read. Although I do read a lot, I will never reach the point of reading 80 to 90 books a year like Steven King. How is that even possible? I bet he does not do the dishes, cook a meal, or do the laundry!!

I do read a lot and get a great amount of enjoyment out of it; however, I also do many other things that are more important to me. Like reading (there’s that word again) the Bible everyday.

Actually, reading the Bible and other religious books reminds me that I get up in the morning for a purpose. That purpose is to serve the Lord in every aspect of my life wherever I am and whatever I am doing. Easily said, hard to do!

Even though the Bible is the number 1 book for sales in the United States, it is also pretty much ignored once it reaches its destination — the bookshelf, the coffee table, the bedside table. What is it about that book that makes people buy it, and then not read it when they get home?

Buying a Bible is no big deal. It’s just another book whose message is not revealed until it is opened up to the pages between the covers. The Bible is not a “lucky charm” that keeps evil spirits away. It does not change people’s lives sitting on the bookshelf. It collects dust like any other book, and it does not magically jump up and down on the coffee table to get our attention. Like God, it waits for us to take action — pick it up!

The message inside the Bible is like no other book. The message tells the truth … “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that EVERYONE who believes in Him, won’t perish but will have eternal life” John 3:16. “God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all” 1 John 1:5. “Jesus replied, ‘Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe'” John 20:29. And “Every house is built by someone but God is the builder of everything” Hebrews 3:4.

The Bible’s message not only tells us the truth, but it also tells us how to live a life in Christ … “Throw all your anxiety onto Him, because He cares about you” 1 Peter 5:7. ” … Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry (This one I have to work on everyday … many times a day!!!) This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness” James 1: 19 & 20. “God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled” 2 Timothy 1:7. And “Brothers and sisters, don’t get discouraged in doing what is right” 2 Thessalonians 2:17.

Of course, there is a lot more (a lot more) to Scripture: more truth about Jesus, more wisdom about how to live a grace-filled and loving life. Scripture is not hard to read or understand. I have heard so many times, “it’s not the Scriptures that I cannot understand that concerns me; it’s the Scriptures I do understand that concerns me.”

Don’t let Scripture intimidate you. Just read it and enjoy the parts you understand. With continuous reading you will begin to understand more and more.

Once a month I am planning to write/blog a “religious” piece, hopefully with more substance than this blog. The Lord has way too much grace and mercy for us to let it rest on the pages of a closed Bible.

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda

A Life Goal … Read the Classics

Last July I wrote on Facebook that I was taking on a new, big challenge. I was going to read ALL  the Classics before I died. Of course, I did not state whether the Classics would be American or European or both. I thought at the time it was a strange goal, but what the heck, it was an honorable goal.

I remember in  high school our English classes taught grammar, spelling, and sentence structure; we also read a couple of Classics. As you may remember in my October 14, 2014 blog, “In the Blink of an Eye!” I wrote about not being able to read when I graduated from high school. So you can imagine the “joy” I felt when the English teacher said, “This week we are going to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.” (In my Classic reading, Jane Eyre was the first book I picked up.)

I was fine as long as I kept my mouth shut, but there was always that one teacher who wanted the class to take turns reading OUT LOUD!! That was a nightmare, and the only class I was ever kicked out of. Let’s just leave it for now that I did not read out loud, but I did entertain the class.

I don’t know what I was thinking setting the goal of read the Classics. Maybe to prove the point that I can read them. Maybe it’s a sense of pride to accomplish something I could not do earlier in my life. Maybe it’s the feeling that I can read the Classics without someone critiquing me. Maybe it’s all three; I really don’t know. But I am enjoying the time spent on something most folks do not do or want to do.

When I began making a list of books, I asked my Facebook friends to tell what some of their Classics were. I got the usual list: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (my classroom failure), Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. The list was slow coming in, but then a friend told me about two online websites: Everyman’slibrary.com and Goodreads.com. I just hit the Mother Load.

Oh, my gosh!! No way is there THAT MANY CLASSICS!! Books I have never heard of — Right of Man (1790) by Thomas Paine, Augustus Does His Bit (1917) by George Bernard Shaw, Pale Fire (1962) by Vladimir Nabokov, and One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel G. Marquez.

I started to protest when I saw some Classics were written in the 1960’s. But that was 50 years ago. Can it be possible that a Classic was written after I was born? On the other hand, if a car can be considered a Classic at 25 years, why can’t a book be a Classic at 50 years? Just saying!!!

The difficulties I find in reading a Classic is the language. We do not use today some words that was used 75 or 100 years ago. Language has changed and developed over the years. For example, the word “gay” once meant happy, colorful, lighthearted, and joyful. Today the word means “homosexual.” How about the word “queer.” It once meant crazy, eccentric, bizarre, and puzzling. Today it also means homosexual.

When was the last time you read or heard “… nursing a dormouse…;” ” …she had no taste for a garden …;” or “Mrs. Allen was so long in dressing …;” “Nay, do not distress me …;” or “How could you say, you saw them driving out of phaeton?” And who uses “deep mortification” and “excite genuine merriment?” (Words and phases from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.)

There are challenges to reading the Classics, but I think that is the fun of it. You are moved out of your comfort zone. You are moved into a different realm of expression and word use, and your vocabulary is strengthened. Not bad rewards for changing up a reading list. Give it a try. You just might enjoy finding some new (old) treasurers between the pages of an old Classic.

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda

What Next For Them …

Since Carl and I got back from the Kairos weekend at the Boyd Men’s Prison Unit, I have thought a lot about the Men In White whom I met. Like I said in Friday’s blog, “What in the World is that Noise?” I am not a “Pollyanna.” I do not believe that everyone who said a kind word or “God bless you” were being sincere with me and the other visitors. They manipulate every situation. That’s how it was in their life, and how it is in prison!

These men did not end up in the Boyd Men’s Prison because they were sweet, loving, law-abiding citizens. Some are in for buying and selling drugs; some are there because they killed someone. Some are there because of assaults and robbery; and some are there for reasons I cannot imagine.

The men at the Boyd Unit live in a very strict, closed environment. It is believed that every day free citizens make over 235 decisions a day. The Men In White make about 25 decisions a day. They are told when to go to bed and when to get up. They are told what job they will do, and how they are going to do it. They can’t even go to the bathroom without permission.

Some men are in cells by themselves; while others have cellmates. At anytime, for any reason the prison can go into “Lock Down.” Everything stops! All the Men In White return to their cells and remain there until the “Lock Down” is over. A “Lock Down” can last for hours or days, and most of the time the men do not know why they are in “Lock Down.”

They cannot touch each other, because a fight might breakout. Even as Christians, when they attend a Bible Study they cannot hug each other or shake hands.

As a professing Christian these men face beatings, ridicule, and mocking. Many are beaten so badly that they end up in the prison hospital, or have to be confined in solitary confinement for their protection. The Men In White do not take their commitment in Christ lightly which could lead to life or death in prison.

Will they all make it? Probably not. The stakes of following Christ in a prison environment are too high. I have been wondering if I had to face the same situation could I remain a faithful follower of Christ. I believe today I could, but if I was a new Christian, like these men, it would be extremely difficult.

Some will make it; some will not. Of those who do remain Christians will make it on the outside even though they face difficulties from the choices they made earlier. Maybe because of their faith, they do not get discouraged as easily or they are willing to take a job that is not as lucrative as dealing and selling drugs.

My concern is for those who get out and want to make it on the outside. As a felon most places will not give the men work. Lack of job opportunities and no family support are the top two reasons why many of these men return to prison. They cannot pay their bills — rent, electricity, water, etc. — without a job. In prison they do not have to think about where they are going to live, or what they are going to eat.

I believe the Men In White need a support system on the outside that will help them find work and get them back on their feet. This will require a lot of work, planning, and help from inside and outside the prison system itself and the Christian community. I don’t know what the next step will be. I guess for now there is more research to be done. If anyone knows of a working support system for men out of prison, please contact me on this website.