|Me and my mom, 1960|
|Me and my mom, 1960|
Summertime is quickly approaching, and with it books waiting to be read. Every day is my favorite for reading, but the summer months seem to scream for a good book. There are several great bookish podcasts, and Instagram accounts for finding your next good read, but I wanted to share a few of mine.
I’ve been trying to read classics on a regular basis for the last couple of years. I don’t know why I missed these great books when I was in school, but unfortunately, I have no recollection of most of the ones I’ve enjoyed recently.
If you’re like me, and want to know the answer to that Jeopardy question, don’t be intimidated by the vernacular of the classics. I’ve found audio books to be helpful in understanding the language and time period.
Listed in order of my favorites:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Loved this book so much)
Emma by Jane Austen
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Made me sad)
I’m listening to Middlemarch by George Eliot at the present time. It’s a ginormous book, and I’m about half way through 35 hours of listening time. I’m enjoying it so far, but there are lots of characters to keep up with. I started Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, but am having difficulty staying focused. It probably wasn’t a good idea to tackle two heavy books at the same time.
I'm also reading The Women of the Bible Speak by Shannon Bream. The myth existing in our culture that Jesus doesn't care about women simply isn't true. God placed many women in places of extraordinary circumstances, and worked through them to unfold His plan for redemption.
Authors I Recommend:
Wendell Berry – I haven’t read a book of his I didn’t like, and he’s written many books. His poetry is also wonderful.
Rick Bragg – An Alabama native, Rick is a great writer of the southern way of living. If you grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line, you will relate.
Sean Dietrich – A writer in the same vein as Bragg, you will enjoy his keen sense of humor, and honest way of sharing the hard stuff.
Rosamunde Pilcher – A wonderful English lady who knows how to weave a multi-generational story that you never want to end. Her books transport you to the shores of England and leave you wanting to live there.
Books I Would Read Again:
Remember by Lisa Genova - Excellent book about memory
The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris – A thin book about the importance of the ordinary things of life.
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter – WWII story of a Jewish family who survive, despite unusual odds.
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry – I listened to this on audio, and then ordered the book. I wanted it in my hands and in my library.
Doing Life With Your Adult Children by Jim Burns – The title says it all.
Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon – The true story of an extraordinary woman during WWII.
Searching for Certainty by Shelly Miller – So, so good. Sadly, Shelly died in 2020. Her presence is gone, but she left her words behind, every sentence a gift.
The Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan – A small book packed with biblical truth.
The Joy of Poetry by Megan Willome – I can’t say enough good things about this book. If you love poetry, read this book.
That’s it for now. Happy reading during these hot, summer months. Please comment on books you can’t put down. I’d love to hear your recommendations.
There are many things I love about the south, but one of my favorites revolves around the tradition of weekly family meals. The most common is Sunday lunch after attending worship services together. Until Covid-19 crashed into our world, my family visited various local eateries. The question wasn’t if we were going to eat together, it was where are we going to eat? Sunday lunches were a time to reconnect after the busyness of life; a time to share the important moments, and not so important moments. After lunch we went our separate ways, with our goal of a nap and a long walk.
And then everything changed in March 2020. Countless words have been written, and will continue to be written, until we define what the last year meant to us as a culture. Our lives suddenly shrank into the walls of our homes, and the safety of our vehicles. Going to the grocery store, the gym, worship services, and even our jobs became dangerous for our health. Fear settled over us like a wet blanket, and dictated how we communicate to our neighbors, families, and co-workers. Panic screamed through social media that we’ve all become accustomed to, and the national media fed our fears and starved common sense.
Back on the home front, children still needed schooled, fed, loved and nurtured. The need for income didn’t lesson because of a worldwide pandemic. Each family had to decide what worked for them; how they would navigate the new constraints issued by local and state governments.
Food was common ground for all of us. It became nourishment, comfort, and for some, an outlet to educate and entertain. I spent untold hours watching Brenda Gantt of Andalusia, Alabama, teach how to make perfect biscuits, and on Sunday mornings she cooked lunch from her kitchen for her family before logging into her worship service. What a delight she was with encouragement in the spiritual life as well as our physical need for food.
My family continued to gather on Sundays, but instead of meeting at a restaurant after church, they came to our home. The menu varied from baked salmon, grilled chicken, smoked pork loin, steak, spaghetti, and lasagna, with many different sides and salads. This time together became sacred. No one was in a hurry to leave after we finished eating. We spent time on the porch, swimming in the lake, and coloring at the dining room table when it was too hot to be outside. My son, Andy, brought Morgan to lunch at the end of March, and now she is my daughter-in-law. Our Sundays became a sweet time of bonding as we got to know her and shared family traditions that each of us grew up with.
Food is as individual as the person eating. Many of our conversations revolved around our favorite foods including childhood likes and dislikes. The problems and stresses of living through a pandemic seemed far away on Sundays. Laughter and family stories replaced the sound of television and dreary newscasts. After the kids left each week we sat in the glow of treasured time.
This past year has been trying at times, desperate at other times, but I can’t say I would change anything. The end result was worth every mask, and every panic buy at Sam’s. As for cooking on the internet, there are wonderful cooks out there teaching us how to feed our families home cooked meals, served around the table with real dishes. Traditions are being passed down that remind us of the importance of the family and the many values taught while sitting around the dinner table.
P.S. After I wrote this post, Diane Leary, a much-loved woman I go to church with is sharing her cooking skills on Facebook. You can find her at MeMe’s Recipes. Like and follow her for delicious recipes and helpful cooking tips.
A New Year message with its sentimental clichés didn’t seem appropriate. With all the confusion and unrest, it seemed a better idea to celebrate all the good of the past year. I recognize that 2020 was financially, emotionally, and mentally difficult for many of us. Families lost loved ones due to the pandemic, so I certainly don’t want to minimize the devastating effects on anyone reading my words.
I’m choosing to look for the silver lining, the rainbow, and the hidden treasure in this historic year.
2020 ushered herself in with the normal declarations of a new year, a new decade, and new beginnings. Life settled into the predicted rhythms of January and February–family dinners, ministry opportunities, lunch and dinner with friends, Mexican food before bells and choir on Wednesdays–all the things. My life was as planned and consistent as the changing of the seasons.
The first chink in the armor of normalcy occurred when the writing conference I’ve attended in February since 2013, was moved from the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove, to Ridgecrest, a few miles up the road due to fire. No worries, it’ll be fine, I thought. The food wasn’t as good, but the speakers were still top rate.
Our family continued to see one another on a regular basis. Sundays began with online worship, and progressed to home-cooked lunches. Andy, Bailey, and Cameron arrived and we enjoyed fellowship around the table. Morgan and B entered our lives and Sunday family time stretched into the early evening with swimming and boat rides, and lots of coloring with B. No one had anywhere to be and that provided golden opportunities for quality time.
I spent a great deal of time planning and preparing meals. Scoping out the grocery store became a daily obsession with food supplies in demand. I was present when hamburger was stocked, and bought the maximum allowed to share with my children. My love of cooking was renewed as we tried new recipes for Sunday lunch, and mastered the Big Green Egg. I read books and wrote poetry to still my anxious thoughts. Zoom entered our lives and became the gateway for human interaction, encouragement, and meetings. Who would’ve thought our social lives would mirror the opening of the 70’s show, The Brady Bunch?
We watched our son fall in love with Morgan and B, get engaged, plan a wedding, sell a house and buy a house, and it all culminated with a beautiful ceremony surrounded by family.
We spent countless hours working around our farm, making needed improvements, and enjoyed time together. Long walks and serious conversation about the future were common. We were blessed that my husband continued to work and stay productive. This was one of his busiest years in thirty-plus years of business. Covid-19 visited our home in mid June, but my husband was the only one to get sick in our family. He still has recurring effects of having the disease. And yet, we have much to be thankful for.
As I look back on 2020 and plan for 2021, there’s still so much uncertainty. As I write these words, the vaccine is becoming available to health care workers and the elderly. One of the most important things I’ve learned this year is that very few things are certain, nothing is set in stone. I must hold my calendar with an open hand, and the ones I love with a firm grip. I must love unconditionally, and filter everything through the lens of kindness and forgiveness.
The one thing I do know for certain is my worth in the heart of my Savior. Nothing in my life happens before it’s filtered through His omniscient, omnipresent hands. The world may look dark, yet His light never dims. I trust Him with my days, my life, and my schedule. As we roll the months of the calendar over and 2021 makes her mark in history, may we seek to be people that participate in the solution to the darkness. May our actions prove our loyalty and devotion to the One who holds us dear.
Other milestones in my life include leaving West Virginia and moving to South Carolina, adopting my children, moving from the coast of South Carolina to the upstate, and the different homes we lived in along the way. The year my dad lived with us, and his subsequent death, were defining moments. I changed in ways I never thought possible during that time.
The most recent marker in my life has its first anniversary on September 30,, 2020. My dear cousin and friend, Ruth, went to heaven after a very short illness. Our family was shocked and grief stricken at her passing. She was the connection to my maternal family. Ruth was loved deeply by everyone who knew her, as witnessed by the standing room only crowd at her home church who wept at the realization she was gone. The story of her sickness and death on our lips as if to say, “How did this happen?”
She was young and young at heart in the very best of ways. Her husband, children, grandchildren and extended family and friends loved her beyond words. She earned respect and honor as the Proverbs 31 woman exemplified. Her friendships spanned sixty plus years, an amazing quality in this day and time of throwing people away when they no longer meet our expectations.
The quality I loved about her most was her ability to love unconditionally. She was my go-to person. She listened to the details of my deepest wounds and fears when my world was falling apart, not just once, but twice. When my mom died, I gravitated to her kindness and loving arms. When my marriage was in deep trouble and I was going through a breakdown, she’s the one I ran to. She comforted me and shared godly wisdom with no condemnation. We laughed together and cried together and reminisced about our family until the late hours of the night. She made my visits an occasion with the best food, surrounded by her girls, and then later her granddaughters. Her husband, Emil, ventured into the dining room every little bit, smiling and shaking his head at our laughter and conversation. I will never forget those visits and the love that filled every nook and cranny of her home.
My heart aches for her family. Our loss was palpable at the recent wedding of one of her granddaughters. Her picture adorned a memory table, her presence felt among us. Her husband, children, grandchildren, and great-granddaughter are in my thoughts and prayers as they mark the date of their before and after. We have the blessed hope of seeing her again one day, along with the rest of our family who have already entered glory.
Ruth, you were loved as well as you loved. The light dimmed in our world when you left, but the life you lived will never dim in our memories. Until we meet again…