Tuesday, May 23, 2017

*Decoration Day Memories #MemorialDay


"Always Lilacs and Fruit Jars

condensed from GOING HOME AGAIN
An Award-Winning Author's Best-Loved Stories

At home in Darrington


The spring had been unusually cold. Most of the flowers were long delayed in blooming. Very little color brightened our large, old-fashioned yard. Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) lay just ahead. How could we decorate the graves of our loved ones who had gone on ahead?

      “There are always lilacs,” Mom told us.
"What can we put them in?” my brothers and I asked.

Mom smiled. “Fruit jars, of course.” She showed us how to carefully break long branches from our abundance of lilac bushes and wrap them in wet newspaper for the long journey to the cemeteries, where we would fill the fruit jars with water.

Year after year, always lilacs, always fruit jars. Sometimes we had snowballs or a few early roses hardy enough to survive our often-harsh western Washington winters, but we could depend on the lilacs, great purple sprays of bursting buds. 

Many of my earliest childhood memories center around those Decoration Days, a time to honor fallen military heroes but also a day of respect and appreciation for those who had lived their lives courageously, fought the good fight, and triumphantly marched on. There was nothing morbid; it was a time of joy for family and friends. The small, mountain-ringed cemetery bordered with towering trees in our home town of Darrington was ablaze with flags on veterans’ graves. So was the larger cemetery a couple of hours drive away where we met other relatives.

After the graves were decorated and we “visited” with all the former family members, friends, and those who died for our country, we went home with relatives and enjoyed a potluck dinner and an afternoon of fun. Then we climbed back into our old car for the long trip home over wash-board roads that had never known paving’s touch. Decoration Day. A day of giving. A day of joy and remembering.

More than seventy years later I see mostly artificial flowers adorning graves on Memorial Day. It saddens me not to find lilacs grown in old-fashioned yards. And fruit jars, glorified by the humble bouquets that once perfumed our lives with family and faith. Thank God for memories that not only tie me to childhood, but to those who came before me

“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12,  KJV).

Going Home Again

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Because of Mom #Mother's Day Tribute

Mom (in red) Christmas 1990, age 94

   Because of Mom                                                       
 I hope to someday become the person my mother (Pearl Towne Reece) thought I already was. Strong, principled, funny; a life lived in the assurance that God loves and cares for His own. In short, like her. When Mom passed on at almost 96, my brother said, "No one can live forever,  but she almost did!" Mom went from the horse and buggy era to the space age. Yet as a minister at her memorial service said, "Pearl talked about the past, but she didn’t live in it." 

  She and Dad role-modeled important survival skills.

  •  Face life courageously. No matter what the circumstances, God is still in control. 
  • Don't whine or ask "Why me?" when life brings thorns instead of roses.
  • Follow Paul's advice to the Philippines (3:13)  “ . . .  forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before . . .”  In other words, “Get off the past and on to the future by asking, ‘All right, Lord, where do we go from here?’”
 This advice has served me well for over eighty years, especially when diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 after decades of wonderful health. At the first consultation with my surgeon, oncologist, and radiation oncologist, Dr. K. looked at my on-screen test results and shook his head. "This is not going to be a walk in the park."
The teachings instilled in me, and the irrepressible sense of humor Mom  and Dad also handed down, made me stick both thumbs in the air and say, "I am a woman of faith, a logger's daughter, and I am a survivor!"  Startled silence, then laughter exploded. I sensed relief at my underlying promise that working together with God, we would beat the cancer. We have.

 Mom's life wasn't always  easy. A cougar followed her and her siblings through the woods on Thanksgiving Day.  They prayed and sang hymns to scare him away. She and Dad lost most of their wedding gifts and could have lost their lives while crossing a river on a one-car, cable-operated ferry. The car plunged into the river. Dad yanked off the side curtains and hauled Mom out and onto the top. Fortunately, the river was at its lowest level. They were able to stand on the roof—although Mom giggled so hard when she saw hats floating downstream that Dad could  barely keep her upright until the Indian ferry operator rescued them with his canoe.

My sister-in-law once commented, “Not many persons live twenty-four happy years after the death of a spouse." Mom did. Always cheerful, she retained her faith, bounced back from adversity, and instilled in me the desire to do the same, plus the faith to believe it is possible. Mom also left a legacy of laughter. Once when I visited her in the hospital where they had kept her overnight, she grinned and said, "What a place to spend my ninetieth birthday.” Her doctor had wanted her closely monitored so he'd moved her closer to the nurse's station in Obstetrics.

When I began freelance writing, Mom became my greatest helper and cheerleader. She proofed my work, using skills acquired from years of teaching—some in a one-room schoolhouse. Her belief that God had called me to write for Him kept me submitting manuscripts long after I would have given up. She lived to see me become a self-supporting author, always reminding me that we can do "all things through Christ who strengthens us."   

Mom's deeply ingrained perseverance and refusal to quit lives on in my life. I went through chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation with far less side effects than expected. My doctors and nurses call me their miracle patient. When they say, “You are awesome,” I smile and shake my head. “No. God is awesome. I am grateful.” They agree.

Because of Mom, I face life's challenges by asking, "All right, Lord, where do we go from here?" Then I smile and step forward, knowing He both walks with me and goes before me. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Using your imagination

Thinking Outside the Box

I am not an envious person, but fairly content with who I am and what I have. However, now and then I lay a much-read book aside (or turn off the TV after a compelling program) and wistfully say, "I wish I had thought of that idea."

"Thinking outside the box" is good advice for writers. Here are three of my favorite examples.



After I read The Unexpected Mrs. Polliifax Book 1 of Dorothy Gilman's delightful mystery series, I rushed out and bought the entire set. I have read the books many times, and advised suspense-loving friends to do the same--because the author began with an "out-of-the-box" situation.

Mrs. Pollifax is retired, busy with church and raising flowers, but bored. Her doctor advises her to do the one thing she has always longed to do. This poses a problem. Her secret, life-long dream is to be a spy for the CIA. That dream is the basis for books that take readers all over  the world and into a multitude of exciting situations.  



Fantasy has to be outstanding for me to like. Early Edition, a TV program that ran in the late 1990s did that. Last weekend the Decades channel aired continuous episodes, which I recorded and enjoyed 

Gary Hobson gets tomorrow's newspaper, complete with screaming headlines, today--when a cat perched on the edition meows at his door. Gary doesn't know why. All he knows is that when the early edition hits his doorstep, he has twenty-four hours to set things right and prevent disasters. This unusual idea was enough to hook and hold me. 

A  fresh perspective 

My favorite example of thinking outside the box is Bruce Barton's, The Man Nobody Knows. The preface, "How it Came to be Written," tells of a child in Sunday School who stares at a picture of a pallid-faced Jesus with red whiskers and wonders how anyone can love Him. 
The boy grows up and becomes a businessman. He says, "Only strong, magnetic men inspire great enthusiasm and build great organizations." The man searches what those who knew Jesus personally had to say--and is amazed. He waits for someone to write a book about the real Jesus." No one does. 

Finally, he writes such a book, focusing on seven aspects of "the founder of modern business." When published in 1925, The Man Nobody Knows topped the nonfiction bestseller list. It was one of the best-selling non-fiction books of the 20th century. It focuses on seven things. Here are excerpts.

The Executive. A failure? Jesus picked twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world.

The Outdoor Man. A weakling? A successful carpenter who slept outdoors, Jesus was strong enough to drive the money-changers from the Temple. 

The Sociable Man. A kill-joy? Jesus was the most popular dinner guest in Jerusalem. 

His MethodJesus invited frail, bewildered humanity to stand upright and look at God face to face; to throw away fear, disregard the limitations of their mortality, and claim the Lord of Creation as Father.  

His Advertisements.  Imagine headlines from a possible Capernaum News. PALSIED MAN HEALED. JESUS OF NAZARETH CLAIMS RIGHT TO FORGIVE SINS. PROMINENT SCRIBES OBJECT. "BLASPHEMOUS," SAYS LEADING CITIZEN. "BUT ANYWAY I CAN WALK," HEALED MAN REPORTS. Front page story number one and the day is still young.

Founder of Modern Business. Jesus stated, "There is a success greater than wealth or titles. It comes through making your work an instrument of greater service . . . this is my Father's business. and He needs your help."

The Master. In the foreign cities of Tyre and Sidon, people cared not that Jesus refused to be crowned a king. They came to hear Him because His words thrilled them, because they felt their better selves touched and made vibrant by the wonder of His life.

Closing scene

"Jesus." The voice of one of the robbers on the cross beside Him. "Remember me, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom."

There have been leaders who could call forth enthusiasm when their fortunes ran high. But when His enemies had done their worst, Jesus so bore Himself that a crucified felon looked into His dying eyes and saluted Him as king.

 Unexpected Mrs. Polliifax

The Man Nobody Knows.