A Prayer for Help

Dear Heavenly Father,

We need Your help!

Help us to keep walking through these dark days, finding joy in even the smallest things.

Help us to focus on the good and share grace and mercy with one another.

Help us to forgive, the way we would like to be forgiven when we do or say something thoughtless.

Help us to find the truth amidst all the lies.

Help us to remember that not one of us is You. None of us are perfect. We are all flawed and broken in some way, and in need of love and compassion.

Help us to be peace and light in a dark and tumultuous world.

And help us, Father, to never lose hope!

In the hope-full name of Jesus I pray! Amen!

Stories For My Children

Grandma Dixie, a.k.a. My Mom

I’ve talked a lot about my dad in the last couple of posts. Today I’d like to share some memories of my mom. None of you had the chance to meet your Grandma Dixie. She passed away when she was 40 and I was pregnant with Michelle. She knew I was pregnant, but we never really had the chance to even talk about it. She died in the hospital of cancer, quicker than we thought possible.

5-year old Mom at their farm in Arkansas.
5-year old Mom at their farm in Arkansas

Dixie Lee Carr was born April 30, 1940 in Little Rock, Arkansas (her last name would later become Schultz when Grandma Ida’s second husband adopted her). My mom was a vivacious woman; very creative, outgoing, and even charismatic. Unfortunately, she was a bit oppressed by my dad – a very dominant personality. She really came alive when he wasn’t around, which is very sad, but true. I think they were happy in the beginning. I’ve seen pictures of them in the early days, both wearing big smiles. When I knew them, though, there was a lot of fighting. Mom seemed happiest when Dad wasn’t home. In fact, she tried to leave him several times with Grandma Ida’s help. I remember being whisked away in the middle of the day while Dad was at work, by Grandma. Usually we went to my great grandma’s house out in Palmdale – the desert. Dad always found us though. He promised mom that things would be different, and they were for a week or two, then the fighting would start again. She finally succeeded in leaving him when I was in my senior year of high school. Dad finally agreed to a divorce, but he kept all six of us kids.

Happier days with Aunt Lois & Uncle Lelon

In all honesty, I kind of understood Dad taking custody of us. Mom was also somewhat emotionally delicate. Six kids was way too much for her. I remember her having several emotional breakdowns as I was growing up, and Grandma Ida would swoop in and rescue her. Grandma was a rescuer. I’ll explain more about that later. I remember we would go to Grandma’s house for a few days and she would basically take care of all of us. Well, this was all before Diana and David were born, so there was only four of us. I guess by the time my parents divorced, mom desperately needed a break. Six kids and an oppressive husband would wear anybody down.

Mom & Dad with the first four kids (standing L to R; Thom, me, and Mike. Dad is holding Pam).
Mom & baby Diana (baby #5)


So, Mom moved from Norco, Ca. (where we lived when they split up) to Huntington Beach, Ca. and Dad hauled us kids to Texas. He was raised in Texas and tried to live there a couple of times, but Mom hated it and we always ended up back in California. Which was also my preference, most of the time. I finished my senior year of high school in Needville, Tx. at Needville Sr. High while living with Aunt Lois and Uncle Lelon. I never quite understood this part: Dad sent me to Texas first, in the middle of my senior year of high school, to live with Aunt Lois and Uncle Lelon. He and the rest of my siblings remained in Norco until right around the time I graduated. Why I couldn’t have just stayed with them and graduated from Norco remains a mystery to me. I wouldn’t trade my time in Needville for anything though, in spite of the fact that I originally didn’t want to go.

Mom at our house in Norco. She may have been watching T.V. When this was taken.

Back to Mom. I think she came to Texas to visit once, after I graduated and was once again living with Dad. I was working as a grocery checker at Kroger in Rosenberg and we were living in a trailer somewhere between Needville and Rosenberg, I believe. We weren’t there long before we moved into a dilapidated farm house off Highway 36 in Rosenberg. It was on a beautiful piece of land, but the house was in terrible shape; slanted floors and no running water. We didn’t even have mattresses on our beds. We slept in sleeping bags on the metal frames. NOT comfortable! Anyway, before too long Dad and I got into it over someone I was friends with and he kicked me out. I high-tailed it back to California as quick as I could and moved in with Mom.

At the time, she was in an apartment in Huntington Beach, working at an electronics company in Irvine as the receptionist. I don’t remember working at all while we were in that apartment. In fact, I think we moved to our condo closer to the beach pretty quick after I moved back because most of my memories are in that condo. It was about a mile from the beach (maybe a little further), and several of my siblings rotated in and out of there while we were there. Thom was there the longest I think. He and I used to ride the bus to the beach every day then come home and hang out drinking Schlitz malt liquor and smoking a little weed (I was a wild child for awhile). I worked the night shift at a Carl’s Jr. down Beach Blvd. a little way from our place. Beach bum by day, fast food worker by night. My mom’s boyfriend also lived with us. His name was Richard Carrville, but everyone called him “Hap”. He was a goofy guy and I never figured out exactly what Mom saw in him, but he was good to her and they even ran a trucking company together for awhile – D&H Trucking.

This was taken at Uncle Rick’s house, I believe while we were living in Huntington Beach. L-R sitting is Pam, me, and Mike. Mom is in the chair behind us.


Eventually, Mom got me a job at the electronics company she worked at – Delta Electronics – as their Document Control Clerk. It was actually a really interesting job. I worked a lot with the engineers, made blueprints, and kept track of all the schematics and blueprints that the engineers used. I enjoyed it. I met two of my best friends in the world there; Bob Scott and Tanja Devitt. Bob was an engineer and Tanja was a secretary. They were important parts of my life for many years. I’ve lost touch with both of them now. The last time I talked to Bob was when Josh and Matt were just little guys. Tanja I last spoke to shortly after we moved into the John Thomas house – some 30-years after we first met. She was my maid of honor at my first wedding to Jim VanKeirsbulck – another story for later.

Anyway, this is the beginning of the end of Mom’s story. She got very sick while we were both working at Delta Electronics. I remember having to drive home from work because she was too tired to do it. She ended up being diagnosed with lung cancer (she was a smoker and so was Hap). At first, it was Hap who took her to all of her doctor appointments and treatments, but eventually it interfered too much with his work (he was a trucker) and Grandma Ida came to help. I continued working at Delta, going to the beach as much as possible, and basically living in denial of the fact that my mother was dying. Strangely enough (or maybe not so strange) I feel like I got to know my mom better than I ever had growing up. There was a short period of time when the cancer went into remission and I’ll never forget it because some of my favorite memories with her were made in that short little window of time.

At the time, I was dating an adorable guy named Pete Capello. Pete was very outgoing and my mom loved him! He was Italian and a dancer (and that’s all I’m going to say about that). He and I used to go clubbing and one night Mom went with us. We had so much fun! I think Mom was kinda in her element; socializing and flirting. She looked very happy that night. We didn’t stay out too long for her sake, but it was plenty long enough to create a great memory. Another night, it was storming and we heard that the waves were really high down on the Huntington Beach Pier. Mom and I hopped in the car and drove down to check it out. We ended up taking a walk on the pier, in the rain, with the waves crashing over the side of the pier. It was awesome!! I will never forget it as long as I live! In hindsight, it probably wasn’t a real smart thing to do as storms have wiped the end of that pier out a few times. I don’t think we walked all the way to the end though, so we were fine.

Shortly thereafter, Mom went into the hospital for the last time. The last time I laid eyes on her; Grandma Ida, Uncle Sandy, Uncle Rick, and myself were standing around her hospital bed. She was completely incoherent under the effects of morphine. It was very sad. I went home and later that night, Grandma woke me up to tell me she was gone. Twenty days before my twentieth birthday, I lost my mom and Grandma lost her daughter. To this day, some 40-years later the memory still makes me cry. I wish I had known her better and I am thankful that I got to know her as well as I did.

My mom was creative and crafty. She sewed most of my clothes for me when I was younger. She could draw like nobody’s business. Thom inherited that talent from her. She had a green thumb and could grow anything. She was a wiz in the kitchen. She could make the most amazing meals out of seemingly nothing. She adored our brother, Mike, even though she used to throw her hairbrush at him when he was trying to talk to her while she was on the phone. I’m pretty sure Mike was her favorite. She called him “Mickey Mouse”. Her nickname for me was “Brandy”. No one else has ever called me that. She and my grandma spent countless hours at our kitchen table in Santa Ana, surrounded by a cloud of cigarette smoke and coffee steam. My mom always had poodles! From the time I was little and we lived in Garden Grove, I remember her having a poodle. I hate poodles, but she loved them. Her favorite flower was the red carnation. I had one in my bridal bouquet in her honor when Jim and I got married. The yellow rose was her and Dad’s flower, according to Dad. I remember thinking she was so beautiful when she would dress up for a (rare) night out with Dad. She loved to laugh, and she was a fighter. Her ancestors were Irish and she had that same spirit; feisty lovers of life. She gave cancer a run for its money, but it just wasn’t enough. Her grave stone in Westminster Memorial Park on Beach Blvd., says “Thy will be done”. I don’t know why it was His will to take Dixie Lee Miller from this world at the young age of 40, and leave six kids motherless, but it was.

I can still see her smile and I know she would be crazy about all of you! I so wish you could have met her! I can only hope that through these stories and the few pictures that I have, I can somehow keep her memory alive enough that you can feel like you know her just a little.

Until next time!
I love you bunches!
Mom 😊💕

November, 2018

Grandpa Miller a.k.a. My Dad – Part 2

When last we left off, dad was in his heyday at The Sundown; shooting pool and playing poker. Well, as I mentioned, he had a day job. At this point in time I think I was in second grade at H.B. Anderson Elementary in Garden Grove, California.

Dad drove a truck for the old White Front stores that don’t exist anymore.

I don’t know what kind of truck it was, but it wasn’t an eighteen wheeler. It was more like a delivery truck and he stayed local. Quite often, he would take me with him on his deliveries. I loved doing that with him, and he always took me somewhere cool for lunch; a burger joint in Newport Beach, a hot dog stand in Anaheim. It was an adventure to a 7-year old. My dad was a foodie before it was a thing. He loved to eat out. I’ll never forget one particular time, he and mom took me to a nice restaurant called “The Dream Machine”. It’s not around anymore. I’ll never forget what we ordered! It was called the “Viking Feast” and it came out on a huge wooden plank; all kinds of meat and vegetables. You attacked it with your fingers and it was so fun! I felt really special and grown up that night.

Another favorite restaurant was the Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse. It is very famous and still around. They have a strict “no ties” rule and if you wear one inside they cut it off and hang it from the ceiling. It’s a very rustic place with trees growing inside it and amazing food! I can still taste their steak fries!

We went there just as often as we could. The whole family loved it! Then there were the cheapy nights when we went to Pup n’ Taco, a privately owned chain of fast food restaurants in Southern California. They haven’t been around since the 80’s, but the fact that they lasted something like 30-years is amazing to me! The cheapest food I’ve ever had. Possibly the reason I have never liked hot dogs. 😂
Well, enough about food. You probably get now, why I like to eat out so much. I think it’s genetic. 😉

Oh! I just flashed on a memory from the apartments we lived in across from The Sundown and Stater Brothers. Across the parking lot from us there lived a family with several kids, all redheads. One day my brother got in a fight with one of their boys. My Uncle Mavis was visiting at the time (my dad’s uncle. I’ll share more about him in a minute) and he and dad were watching from our apartment door. Keep in mind, these guys are old school country boys. Kids fighting is entertainment to them. Well, the neighbor seemed to be getting the upper hand on my brother so who does Dad send in to help? Me! Fortunately, I was a bit of a tomboy and had no problem with dad’s request. Once I joined in the sisters of the other boy did the same. It was pretty much a free-for-all and I couldn’t say for sure who won, but my memory tells me we did. 😉. Keep in mind too, we were all under 10-years old. Not a lot of injury was inflicted on either side, but Dad and Uncle Mavis had a good laugh.

Uncle Mavis! What a character he was. He was my dad’s uncle so really my great uncle, but we just called him “Uncle”. I loved that man to death! He was loud and boisterous and did magic tricks like the old “watch me pull a quarter out of your ear” trick. He also used to make us these old-fashioned wooden airplane things that he whittled himself. They’re actually called Hui Sticks or Magic Propellor. You rub the stick up and down the notches and it makes the propellor spin.

We were enthralled with them – especially the fact that Uncle Mavis made them. We thought he was magical! He taught me how to play chess and how to float on my back in the pool. He and dad would argue all the taboo subjects; politics, religion, whatever – and they would get LOUD! Uncle Mavis had one of those voices that just naturally projected anyway, so when he actually yelled. Wow! I adored him. Sadly, I lost track of him as I got older and didn’t even know when he passed away. Your Aunt Diana found out what happened to him while doing some of her genealogy research. Apparently, a nephew or somebody lived with him toward the end and wouldn’t let anyone have contact with him. Diana can tell you more of THAT story.

Oh man! I feel like like I could sit here and tell stories all day. Remembering this stuff just brings an avalanche of memories. I should probably write them down while I can still remember them. Like the time I went to a Brownie meeting with a friend from school (still living in the apartments and in second grade). In case you don’t know, the Brownies are a part of the Girl Scouts. Anyway, at that time I rode the bus to and from school. This particular day I took my friend’s bus home with her, unbeknownst to my parents. I don’t remember all the details or how they found out where I was (probably my friend’s mom), but they did and I was in a heap of trouble. The funny thing is, it didn’t even register with me that I might get in trouble for doing this. I was just going home with my friend. Kids! It was a different world back then. We were taught not to take candy from a stranger and that was about the extent of our “stranger danger” training. This wasn’t a stranger though, and my parents never told me I had to come straight home from school – until that day. 😂

Which reminds me of another story, many years later with another little girl. This one wasn’t her fault, but it was a huge scare nonetheless. I was at work one day and my then husband, Art, calls me to tell me that my then 7 or 8-year old daughter never showed up to school. I rush home to find cops at my house wanting a picture of my daughter. I am FREAKING out! Worse case scenarios are running through my head. Almost every police officer in LaPalma was out looking for her. One of those beautiful police officers decides to double-check at school and guess what? Michelle is sitting in her classroom, right where she’s supposed to be. Turns out, she was a few minutes late and the teacher didn’t mark her present! I was fit to be tied and that teacher and principal got an earful! Parenting is such fun! 😂

Okay. I’m done for today. I’m sure there will be more Grandpa Miller stories, as well as stories of many other favorite characters. Until next time!

I love you bunches!
Mom

December, 1989ish

Stories For My Children

Grandpa Miller a.k.a. My Dad

Me & Dad at the Fallingleaf house in Garden Grove

My dad is on my mind a lot right now. This past Tuesday would have been his 81st birthday. And just days before that, I started seeing a commercial on T.V. Featuring the song “Hey Good Lookin'” by Hank Williams, Jr. Dad used to sing that all the time, and would often greet me with an Elvisesque “Hey good lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?” Especially if I was in the kitchen.

Your grandpa was quite the showman. He loved to dance and sing, and could do a mean Elvis impression. I know why Grandma fell for him. Despite all the stories of what a terrible father he was (and he certainly never won Father of the Year), he had his moments and definite good qualities. He was also an awesome grandpa!

Our house in Santa Ana (where we lived from the time I was in 4th grade until my sophomore year of high school) had a built-in pool. I even remember the address; 2321 W. Monte Vista. Every now and then dad would play in the pool with us. He would let us stand on his shoulders then dunk himself under water and spring back up, catapulting us into the water. We loved it! He taught me how to dive in that pool.

I’ll never forget it. I was terrified, standing on the edge of the shallow end staring at the two glass dolphins on the bottom, listening to dad’s instructions. I couldn’t do it for the longest time. It was one of the rare occasions that dad actually displayed patience. He promised me everything from a new doll to a new wardrobe if I would just dive in. I don’t remember what finally did it (I was 9-years old), but I mustered the courage and finally dove in just like he told me. The bribe window had already closed, but I felt pretty proud of myself and have basically been a fish ever since. We spent many fun-filled hours in that pool!

Dad with Shelly, Lissy, Josh, and Matt at our Fitzpatrick house in Concord.

Dad liked to entertain too. Pool parties were common occurrences in our Santa Ana house. Grilled hot dogs for the kids and steaks for the grownups. I remember that because I always wanted the steak. Dad had regular Friday night poker parties too. He let us watch as long as we fetched beers for them. The mornings after were our favorite. The poker table was still set up and us four older kids would sit and play with the cards and chips (poker chips). Eventually, dad taught me how to play a few poker games; 5 & 7 card draw and stud, Mexican sweat, 21. He taught me how to shuffle the cards and ante up. I haven’t played in decades and don’t remember a lot of it, but I can still shuffle a deck of cards pretty well.

Dad was actually a pretty talented guy. He was an amazing pool player and won lots of trophies. We even had a pool table for awhile and he seemed to really enjoy teaching us kids how to play. When I was seven or so, we lived in an apartment in Fountain Valley, Ca. Across the street was a Stater Brothers shopping center (apparently they’re still around. ) complete with a bar called The Sundown (also still around!) where my dad spent quite a bit of time hustling for beer money.

Stater Bro’s. back in the day.

He had a day job, but most nights he could be found at The Sundown. Sometimes on the weekends I was allowed to go with him during the day, when it was quiet. He participated in his share of bar fights back then too. I remember him coming home one night, his face a little bloodied and his shirt inside out. He was the sweetest drunk, very loving and affectionate. Quite the opposite of his sober self. He could be and more often was, a bit of a tyrant. I grew up with welts and bruises from his belt, mostly out of anger or frustration. He was not a level-headed disciplinarian.

In spite of the fact that I grew up terrified of him most of the time, I loved my dad and grew to appreciate him and his perspective as we both got older. I have a lot more stories to share about him, but this is getting lengthy. I’ll do a part two next week, so stay tuned! Until next time!

I love you bunches!
Mom

August, 2009

Stories For my Children

Starting At the Start

On the day that I was born, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States and Richard Nixon was Vice President. The top 5 songs in the U.S. were; Elvis Presley – It’s Now or Never, Brian Hyland – Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, The Ventures – Walk, Don’t Run, Chubby Checker – The Twist, and Brenda Lee (my namesake) – I’m Sorry. The popular show on T.V. was this one. It ran for years because I remember watching it.

Gas was $0.31/gallon. A gallon of milk was $0.49, and the average house price was $16,500.00.

Saturday, August 27, 1960 in Santa Ana, California at this hospital, Dixie Lee Miller gave birth to her first child – me!

She and my dad, Bobby Lee Miller, lived in this house. Lee is a popular name in the south. My mom was from Arkansas and my dad was from Texas – born in Oklahoma, but raised in Texas. I know very little of this time as my parents weren’t big storytellers or sharers.

I believe Dad worked for Thrifty Drug Stores at the time. They’re not around anymore
I remember Dad taking us to their ice cream counter when I was older and had a couple more siblings. It was always a treat!

Dad used to bring me home these dolls called Nancy Ann storybook dolls. I believe Thrifty sold them.
I had them all and LOVED them! I don’t know where they went, but I really wish I still had them!

The first house I really have any memory of is this one:
12413 Fallingleaf St., Garden Grove, Ca. It looks very different now. When I lived there that white fence wasn’t there and the front yard was all grass except for a driveway going straight up to the garage. There was also a big shade tree of some kind in the front, not a palm tree. The fence that went along the side of the house was all wood, no concrete. We used to watch the Disneyland fireworks from this front yard in the summer time. The first time I ever ran away was here. I went to my friend’s house across the street. I remember my mom helped me pack a paper sack. I couldn’t have been more than five. I wasn’t in school yet. I’m sure she got a good laugh out of that.

I actually have a lot of great memories from this neighborhood. My friend, Tammy Bywater, who lived across the street. We played Barbies together all the time and my younger brothers played with her brother, Curtis. John Fitzpatrick was a teenager who lived down the street in a house with a pool. The pool had a big bamboo fence around it and he used to babysit us. He drove a car with an “Aoogah” horn and I remember him telling me that the “Aoogah” meant “I love you”. Something I always looked forward to was the ice cream truck with it’s magical music coming from it and this truck: the Helms bakery truck bringing us donuts! I think I liked this one even better than the ice cream truck!

I also have a couple of traumatic memories from this house. Like the time Dad accidentally ran over my baby brother, Mike, as he was backing out of the driveway. Praise God he survived and was just fine, but it was scary. Or the time one of my dad’s friends accidentally dropped hot cigarette ash on my hand. I still have a tiny remnant of the scar. Or when we were about to move from that house to Texas and leave my beloved Grandma Ida. I remember crying in her lap because I didn’t want to leave her. We were very close my entire childhood, but there will be stories about her later.

I think that’s enough reminiscing for one day. We got a new treadmill today and your dad needs help setting it up. We had no such thing when we were kids. We did all of our running around outside. It’s a different world! Until next time.

I love you bunches!
Mom 😊💕

May, 2019

Stories For My Children

It was recently pointed out to me that the stories of our lives need to be shared. They are not just for us and I agree. My parents and grandparents are gone, as are most of my aunts and uncles. When I think of the stories that went with them, stories I will never hear, I feel sad. Their stories could have shed so much light on where I came from, who they really were, and family history in general.

In a lot of ways, my parents and grandparents were enigmas to me. The world they grew up in was so different from mine. They didn’t share their feelings like we do now. Appearances were everything and dirty laundry was not to be aired in public. You chose a practical career that could make you a good living. “Follow your bliss” was not a thing. Even when they did share stories, they were only the amusing or positive ones.

I don’t want my children and grandchildren wondering who I was when I’m gone. There are many stories that they’ve never heard. So, I’m starting a new segment here for posterity. For my descendants who want to know the stories. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I have a ton of journals that they can read and I even have a couple of mom and grandma “fill in the blank” story of my life books that I’m working on.

Family history is so important, I think. To know who and where we come from is a huge part of our identity. Obviously, I can’t share every nuance of every day of my life. Heck, I don’t even remember every day, but I’m hoping that through these stories, my children will feel confident that they knew me (and if he’s willing to share, their dad/stepdad too) long after we’re gone. Stay tuned!

😊💕

The Key to Carefree

I had a thought today about responsibility and worry. Mainly because I read this this morning: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” -1 Peter‬ ‭5:6-7‬ ‭NASB‬‬. And: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” -Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

Some of us are natural worriers, I daresay moms especially. Our jobs are so huge and we put so much pressure on ourselves to get it right. There is so much to be concerned about! But, WHY do we worry? For me, it’s felt like a kind of obligation. If I don’t worry I may come across as unconcerned. People may think I don’t care. Sometimes. Other times I fear failure, or I’m afraid of the pain that would come with something bad happening – either physical or emotional pain. The bottom line it seems, is fear.

What if I totally trusted God and His sovereignty over my life? What if I did exactly what His Word says and cast my cares on Him? What if I truly was anxious for nothing and rejoiced in every day that He made for me? Even if my worst fears came true.

So what if people think I don’t care? If they think that, they don’t really know me and their opinion matters not! Bad things happen in this life; terrible, tragic things. My hope, however, is not in this life. My hope is in Jesus Christ and spending eternity with Him. This life is but a breath. Why waste it worrying when God has much better plans? Even when He allows the world to have its way in my life, He’s there controlling it and working it for good.

Being carefree does not equal irresponsibility. It equals trust and faith that I can do my best and give God the rest, and He will handle things in the best way possible for all concerned. I have to trust that even the heart-wrenching situations are for some divine purpose that I may or may not be privy to. I am His child, He is my Heavenly Father who knows best. Trust is key to being carefree.

😊💕

Undaunted

I’m reading a YouVersion devotion right now entitled Undaunted by Christine Caine, and man is it speaking to me! Living with Cervical Dystonia leaves me feeling a bit daunted. I love the Lord and know that He is good. I also know that He is sovereign over my life and I often wonder why He allowed this to happen to me.

I could shake my fist at heaven and be angry with my Heavenly Father for letting me suffer this wretched illness. I could even turn my back on Him and some would think that understandable. However, that’s not how I feel. Yes, I am confused at times because I can’t see the big picture that He sees. I don’t see the purpose that He does, but I do believe there’s a purpose.

God doesn’t do things willy-nilly, just for the heck of it. He is a good, kind, and gracious Father who has blessed me far, far beyond what I deserve. He sent His only Son to pay the penalty for my sin. Jesus cleared all charges against me and believe me, there were many!

Because of what Jesus did for me, these things are true: “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” -2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬. I may feel confused at times, mourn the loss of health and full function at times, but it is well with my soul.

My soul is protected in Christ. “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” -2 Thessalonians 3:3.  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10.

God has a plan and my job is to trust that plan. I can trust Him because He has proven Himself trustworthy to me even though He had no obligation to do so. The bottom line is that regardless of how I feel, in Christ I am undaunted!

😊💕

Finding a Voice

I was fairly oppressed as a child – the oldest of six. We weren’t allowed to voice our opinion in our dad’s house unless it was the same as his. Once in a great while, however, (and never around dad) if the situation seemed important enough I would speak up – rather bluntly. It was rare, but it happened. My mom used to tell me that I was tactless. Most of the time, I communicated with my eyes. My dad called it “fire eyes” and it usually got me in trouble. Funny little aside that reminded me of that: my sister recently said to someone about me, “She won’t confront you, but she can give you a look!”

Then somewhere in my twenties I experienced an awakening, if you will. I discovered that I had definite opinions and I enjoyed expressing them. I became a little more outspoken. The tact was still missing though. I called it like I saw it and your response was up to you. I was very confident in the fact that I was not responsible for other people’s feelings. This continued into my thirties until I got some very negative responses to my “straightforwardness”. I clammed up again.

I’ve gone back and forth like that most of my life. Only those closest to me have always known what was on my mind. Those with whom I felt safe and not judged. Finding the balance between truthful and tactless has always been a challenge for me. I love and admire people who speak their minds without fear. They speak with confidence. These people call it like they see it in a truthful way. That’s all. It’s just the truth and you either respect it or you don’t. I think it’s an art that I never mastered.

The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” -Ephesians 4:15. I’ve come to learn over the years that God’s love is gentle, yet firm. There is no fear involved. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, -1 John 4:18a And the fear of man . . . The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” -Proverbs 29:25.

So, for me, I see this as the balance: Speak TRUTH, make sure it’s coming from love and not pride or the need to be right (which is kinda the same thing), and be concerned with what God thinks of your words. Also, check to be sure that what I want to say needs to be said. “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” -Ephesians 4:29. This doesn’t mean that we’re just supposed to blow sunshine.

Sometimes the truth can be hard to hear. It doesn’t feel good or helpful at that moment. That doesn’t mean its not. And even Jesus didn’t shy away from some name-calling and finger pointing when He was calling out evil. He called a spade a spade. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” -Matthew 23:27-28. So, we’re not talking about walking on eggshells or treating people with kid gloves. I’m saying that if I call someone out for being a hypocrite, I’d better be sure that what I’m saying is true and for someone’s benefit.

Even now, at almost 60-years of age, I still struggle with fear in the search for my voice. I think it’s time I got over that. I think it’s time I coupled the voice of that young woman who called it like she saw it with the maturity and wisdom I’ve gained in over 25-years of walking with Jesus. There has been SOME! I’m afraid I haven’t gained enough wisdom to be perfect, and never speak out of turn again, but there’s no perfection this side of eternity anyway. Was that just a run-on sentence? Anyway, I’m done being afraid to speak my mind. From this day forth I shall be true to me and to my God. Fear be damned!

🤨😊💕

Adventures in the Dirt

Spring 2020 As I mentioned in my last “Adventures in the Dirt” post, I’m giving the gardening thing another go. I’m all in this year, planting as much as possible and trying several new things. I’d love to share how my garden is growing with you! Pictured above is a Marigold. I’ve never grown them before, so when it started coming up I wondered if it was a weed (we have some pretty weeds in central Texas). As it grew bigger I decided it wasn’t like any weed I’d ever seen, so I took my plant identifying app to it, and sure enough – it was a Marigold! Yay! A couple of other new flowers I’m attempting to grow are Sunflowers and Nasturtium. Flowers are a little more of a challenge for me. The Nasturtium is struggling a little as you can see in this picture. I’m attempting to resolve it’s issues.
The sunflowers are doing fairly well. I think it’s about time to stake them. I planted two seeds in each space and they all sprouted. I attempted to transplant one and so far, it’s not doing great. I’m waiting to see if it bounces back before I move any of the others.

I’m also attempting tomatoes in pots with Basil as a companion. The Basil is looking beautiful!
The netting over the top is part of a squirrel guard my sweetie made for me. Squirrels are a huge problem in my yard. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to replant because of those little buggers! So, my ever creative husband built these “squirrel guards” out of PVC pipe, deer netting, and zip ties. The smaller one in the background is wood. He originally made two like that for the smaller containers a couple of years ago. The big one below was just made a few days ago. I love them! They’re all super light and easy to move around. Best of all, they keep the squirrels out of my plants!

There’s another tomato and Basil pot at the other end. The black containers are; beans and peas, carrots and onion, Beefsteak tomato, and Spinach and strawberries. Strawberries are very difficult to grow from seed, so I’ve ordered some plants just in case. Spinach is a cool weather plant. Since things are starting to heat up around here already, the spinach may not get very far. The raised bed in the background is a cinder block one that hasn’t been used in a couple of years. At the time of the above picture, it just had weeds in it. Yesterday, however, we turned it into this:
I had Arugula, lettuce, and Swiss Chard growing in pots and decided to give them a little more room and see how they do. The pot on the ledge is a pepper plant and I’m hoping to put him in the ground pretty soon too.

I have another raised bed where the Nasturtium and Marigold live with some lettuce, a failed attempt at turnips, and some newly planted cucumber. My hubby is just starting to build a combination squirrel guard/cucumber trellis. The netting on this one will have a Velcro closure that I can open and close when I need to work in there instead of having to lift it off. That wouldn’t work so well for the cucumbers.
The little guard sitting in the bed right now is protecting my cucumbers which have just started to pop!
I’ve had great success with cucumbers in the past. I’m hoping this year will be successful as well. Cucumbers are one of my sweetie’s favorites.

I have several other things growing in pots; Chrysanthemums in bloom,

some Sweet Basil and Peppermint (2 peppermint plants),

more Italian Basil (we love Basil),

some English Thyme,

a little Calendula just starting,

and this surprise planter. I put several flowers and herbs in here. Then, a cute little squirrel came and dug a bunch of it up. I have no idea what was left and now that Rich put another of his guards on it, I’ll have a chance to find out!

One of my most exciting additions to the garden (two actually) is a Lilac bush and a Gardenia! Gardenias are my absolute favorite flower and Lilacs are a close second! I’ve wanted to grow them for years, but was always too intimidated. This year I decided to go for it. They have both rewarded me with one little bloom.


It will be a few years before they bloom seriously, but this was very exciting for me. I’m planning to ask Rich to make guards for them too.

A couple more pics before you go:
A little visitor to our backyard, and the new raised bed that we’re hoping to finish once we can get dirt to fill it.
The original plan was to have a co-op garden with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids. This stage of construction on the raised bed is as far as we got before the world went crazy and “stay-at-home” orders were issued. I’m hoping maybe we can make this a fall garden bed.

Phew! That was a lot! I guess I’m feeling a little ambitious this year! Not to mention having plenty of time on my hands. I hope you are all staying safe and find plenty of things to fill your life with joy despite current events. May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts!

😊💕