HOLY SMOKES AND HOT WATER 6/29/14

“Extra! Extra! Read All About It!” This was the cry I heard many times when I was a young girl. When a news story broke before the evening edition the publishers would hire young boys to hit the downtown streets selling what they called ‘extra’ editions,
Back then newspapers were hailed as THE place to find real journalism. We had the likes of Ernie Pyle writing reports from the front lines of the war, giving them to runners who made sure they were on the next plane to the states.
Newspapers were central to everyone’s life. Those days were filled with honest journalism which is nothing like the entertainment news we read in many of today’s papers.
Our newspapers were used for many different things. School lessons were often based on clips from various newspaper columns. We even bundled our papers and tied them with string for salvage (recycle) to support the war effort.
After graduating from high school where I was first introduced to journalism, I made an appointment with the editor of my hometown newspaper. I just knew I was ready to make headlines. He advised me to continue my studies in college, then come back to see him. I did go to college, but never made the return visit. Life just took me down a different path.
I still enjoy reading old newspapers. Some say newspapers are short lived because of the electronic age. I’m not sure about that. Electronic newspapers aren’t for me. I still enjoy sipping my morning cup of joe while reading the newspaper and contemplating whether it is news or entertainment.
Although I’m guilty of doing some mischievous (even dumb) things as I was growing up, I never made headlines in the newspaper. But I did have to explain myself a few times. How many times did you tell your parents, “Just let me explain”? For me that would be more times than I can count on my fingers and toes. It seemed to me that every time I did anything I was in hot water.
Let me explain. I am terrified of fire. I was taught at a very early age not to play with fire. One incident I clearly remember was the winter day my mother was sewing. I was in the kitchen where she had the burner lit on the gas stove. My curious nature kicked in and I wondered what would happen if I took a piece of newspaper and poked it in that fire.
What happened next was nothing short of amazing. I was suddenly standing in the kitchen with a torch in my hand. I quickly put it in the sink then threw it in the trash. Big mistake! I now had a huge bonfire in the kitchen.
Not wanting to scare or excite my mother I quietly sauntered into the sewing room and said, “That sure is a pretty fire.” She turned to look out the window and I said, “Oh, it’s not outside, it’s in the kitchen.”
Talk about holy smoke! My mother was more than a little excited and scared. She was hopping mad with smoke coming out her ears. She quickly put out the fire in the trash can and then set my behind on fire.
This coming Friday is July 4; a big day of celebration of our nation’s birthday. Be careful when shooting off fireworks. Better yet, just take the family to one of the firework displays near where you live.
Smoky the Bear states that, “Only you can prevent forest fire.” I agree and add that it takes all of us to prevent any kind of fire. Please don’t use your newspaper to start any fires anytime, anywhere. If you do, you just might find yourself like me….in hot water.

NO MORE WASH DAY BLUES 6/22/14

There was a song back when we had wash day at our house. The words to the upbeat music were: “Rubbin’ and scrubbin’– wash ’em out, ring ’em out, hang ’em on the line– washday blues”. Do I ever remember those washday blues.
The electric washing machine was invented in August of 1911. Heck, it was almost the newest invention on the market when I was a girl. I said, almost! When I was 8 years old we had the updated 1939 Maytag model #108 that came complete with attached wringer and two rinse tubs. It sat in the corner of our enclosed back porch and was quite a beauty with its green splattered enamel finish.
Wash day was a major project in those days. My mother would have my brother roll it out to the middle of the floor and fill the tubs with water while she and I separated the clothes; whites here; lights there; darks over yonder. We would roll up our pant legs and go barefoot during the process because so much water was sloshed around. Besides, we had a few water fights during the rinsing.
The wringer was often contrary, but it was usually because my ornery brother tried to put too many clothes through it at once. He was always in a hurry to get the wash done wishing he could be somewhere else. After each load was washed he would carry the basket out to the clothes line and it was my job to hang them out to dry.
There was certain unwritten etiquette for hanging clothes. Items were hung together in order. Wash cloths in one group, clothing in another; sheets and towels were always hung on the outside lines, personal clothing on the inside lines. Nothing was hung out helter-skelter.
One of my friends confided in me that her mother wasn’t allowed to hang “unmentionables” to dry on the clothesline. Her dad was pastor of the Methodist church in town and the congregation frowned on such things. To pacify them her mother her hung their undies inside pillowcases to dry.
Of course, the very first washing machine was known as a scrub board which meant back breaking work. The revolutionary hand powered washers were introduced in 1851. The first electric powered washing machine was invented by Alva J. Fisher and patented on August 8, 1910. Not many households could afford this new invention though the manufacturers claimed it would reduce cost of washing to 2 cents, the time to 1 hour and would do away with all the “usual health destroying work” of wash day.
My next door neighbor had a Bendix automatic washer that stood near her back door. Since I often baby sat her two boys she taught me how to use it. It was both fun and funny to wash clothes in it. It was a front loading machine and the reason it sat close to her back door was that it would lose balance and the water would run over and soap suds spilled out the front. I figured it wasn’t much easier than using a wringer machine. But I like watching it dance across the floor spewing suds everywhere.
My wash day blues have diminished over the years. When my youngsters were growing up my laundry room was humming every day. I don’t know how my mother managed to just wash once a week when my brother and I were growing up.
I certainly don’t hang anything out on a clothesline these days. The pollution would probably destroy the fibers in a very short time. Besides, I wouldn’t want the neighbors wondering what I had hanging inside the pillowcases.

 

THE OLD SHAVING MUG 6/22/14

As he sat on the tailgate of my pick-up truck I carefully removed his shoes and socks and rolled up his pant legs. Then I hooked my arm through his as we walked from the truck across the sandy beach into the vast waters that stretched before us. He stood there for a minute as he surveyed his surroundings and watched as ships passed in the distance headed for the ship channel. I saw tears tumble down his face as he softly said, “I never thought I would ever experience anything like this in my lifetime.” I took his hand and together we waded out into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, Texas. The year was 1980 and my Dad was 76 years old.
Dad had a favorite shaving mug and I always enjoyed standing next to the sink when he lathered his face. I could count on him to bend over and swipe some across my nose with his shaving brush. That shaving mug somehow disappeared when electric razors came on the scene. Of course, by then I was a teenager and no longer interested in his shaving mug anyway.
My Dad and I were sharecroppers together. He would till the half of our back yard that backed up to the fence; then we would plant, hoe, water and wait for the veggies to grow. After harvesting the first batch of veggies I would alert our neighbors to see if any of them wanted some fresh homegrown veggies to feed their families. Whatever monies I brought home my Dad would deduct the cost of the seeds and water then split the remainder right down the middle. I thought I was the luckiest and the richest kid in the world.
I love prowling through antique and resale shops. About three years ago I found an old shaving mug that had the words, “The Mister” written on it. In fact, it reminded me so much of the one my dad used when I was a kid, that I just couldn’t resist buying it. I just knew it would be a perfect perched up on the shelf in the master bathroom. It stayed there unattended for quite some time until the day I decided the bathroom needed a face-lift. I removed it from the shelf and sent it with a bunch of small items to a local auction.
Several weeks ago The Mr. came home with a package one of our friends gave to him. She told him she was shopping, saw this and immediately bought it for him. When he unwrapped it we both had mile-wide smiles. It was the shaving mug I had sent to the auction. I identified it by “The Mister” being a bit askew on it. We love it.
We believe we are supposed to have this shaving mug for many reasons:
It has come to us twice now so there’s no denying that it belongs to ‘The Mister.’
It also reminds me of my Daddy’s shaving mug when he was The Mr. of the house. This wonderful man who taught me how to respect everyone regardless of race or religion; how to bait a hook and wait for fish to bite, how to plant and grow a garden, how to live life– not merely exist, wasn’t just my Dad, he was also my best friend and mentor. My Dad passed away four years after we waded out into the Gulf of Mexico. This Father’s Day his words still resonate in my heart and I still miss him.

A STORY TO TELL 3/12/12

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!
Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me.
I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Please, Lord, save me!” How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
So merciful, this God of ours! The Lord protects those of childlike faith;
I was facing death, and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again,
for the Lord has been good to me.” (Psalms 116:1-7) NLT

It is a story that needs telling. However reluctant I am to tell it, it still needs an audience. Sometimes things occur in our lives that cause us to re-examine the roles of humanity and religion in today’s society. For many years I made religion an important part of my life while ignoring the spiritual aspect. I placed God in a neat little package thinking that I had all the right answers to everything in my life.

It wasn’t until after I realized there is a difference between religion and spirituality that I began to discover God in some of the most unlikely places and circumstances.

One such unlikely place was in a waiting room at our local hospital. I drove my friend over for her pre-op lab work and registration. We spent approximately two hours shuffling from pillar to post before ending up back where we began.

The waiting area was empty and I became engrossed in reading a book. After a short time passed I looked up from my book to see a woman with her arm in a sling sitting directly across from me, staring intently at me. She flashed a smile at me and said, “You know, these screws in my arm really do make it hurt.” I told her I understood because my husband has 4 metal plates and 24 screws in his right arm. She gasped and said, “I have a story to tell you.” “Good grief,” I muttered to myself, “I should have never looked up from my book.”

She said, “I was told I had 3 months to live.” I replied, “I’m so sorry.” She smiled and said, “I have a story.” At this point I put my book down and listened intently as she continued. “My doctor told me that my heart and other organs were surrounded with cancerous tumors and barring any miracles I had 3 months to live, so I decided to take a holy trip.”

She shared that her travels took her to many places including holy sites and cathedrals across Europe. While visiting these places she spoke with the clergy and worshiped with fellow Christians. She told me while on her journey she experienced a sense of calmness and inner peace that wasn’t present prior to her trip. She said, “When I returned to the doctor there was no trace of the tumors anywhere and my doctor dismissed me. That was 17 years ago.”

She went on to explain how her spirit as well as her body had been healed and how close to God she felt. I told her she needed to write her story so it could be told repeatedly.

As she got up out of her chair she stopped in front of me, extended her hand and with a smile said, “I’ve been looking for someone to tell my story.” “I have told my story to you, now you can write it.” As she turned and walked toward the lab area I said, “But, I don’t even know your name.” She replied, “That’s not important. Just write my story.”

I really wanted to know who she was and hear more of her story. When the nurse came by I asked her how long she would be in the lab area. She said the only person back there was my friend. There was no one around the area that matched the woman’s description.

This encounter might seem strange and even considered by some to be without merit,  but I believe on this day God showed himself in one of those unlikely places and circumstances  so her story could be told.

 

 

STOP MESSIN’ WITH MY MIND! 03/23/12

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3)

All of us lose things from time to time. Or at least we think we’ve lost whatever it is we can’t find. Regardless, the frantic search begins to locate whatever it is we’ve misplaced. The other day I couldn’t find my car keys and while searching for them I found the mail sitting on my desk and proceeded to look through it. Then the phone rang; afterwards I stopped by the refrigerator to grab a quick bite before heading out the door to get in my car. I had forgotten I was looking for my car keys. By this time it really didn’t matter because I couldn’t remember where I was going anyway.
I had just experienced what has become known as a “senior moment.” This term originated in the United States during the mid-nineties and is now applied to any situation when someone has a momentary lapse of memory no matter how young or old they may be.
Someone (I really don’t remember who) recently told me that as we “have more birthdays” (that’s the politically correct term for as we get older) we tend to shrink in stature and our minds begin the ‘melt-down’ process. So, I want to know which comes first, the shrinking or the absent-mindedness? I haven’t noticed any shrinkage anywhere on my body lately. But, I have noticed that I’ve already experienced a lifetime of senior moments. I’m a time sensitive package of humanness. Just when I think I’m getting it all together, everything begins to fall apart. There are times I think I’m not just losing my mind, but my sanity as well. Just stop messin’ with my mind, already!
I often wonder how Ruth, Naomi, Dorcas or other women in the Bible coped with their senior moments as they aged. According to the Bible these women all had balance in their lives. They were busy, each in their own way ministering to others, but they also had something else in common; they were good listeners. Their minds were focused on God and they listened to what he had to say.
Maintaining balanced lives in today’s society is no harder than it was in biblical times. No matter what our age or status in life God still speaks to us. All we need to do is stop and listen; then pray and open our minds to his will. He will give us the peace of mind necessary for balance in our busy lives.
Action Items:  Write yourself a sticky note reminding yourself to remember two important things: (1) Listen to what God is saying to you; (2) Remember where you put your car keys.

REMEMBERING JERRY 4/20/2014

He was eight years old when I was born. My parents named me Elizabeth Louise which was a mouth full, especially for an eight year old so they decided to call me Betty. I was told he was proud as a peacock when they brought me home from the hospital.
By the time I was eight years old I had become a thorn in his flesh! Mom worked outside the home so it was his job to take care of me after school until she got home. One day she told him to wash my hair. He took me outside, hooked up the hose to the faucet and poured shampoo on my hair and in my eyes. I ran around the yard screaming like a Banshee. The neighbors thought he was trying to kill me and called the police. He was mad; Mother was mortified.
I took his prized Daisy Red Ryder Bee-Bee Gun, ran outside with it, hoisted it up and shot it some 75 feet across the alley. I honestly didn’t see the neighbor in his backyard, but he swore he heard the bee-bee whizz past his head. He claimed I was trying to shoot his dog. My brother was mad; Mother was mortified.
Once I decided to take the trash out and dump it in the alley trash can. I should have stopped there, but instead I decided to burn it. My brother called the fire department when the fire spread to our fence and headed down the alley. He was mad; Mother was mortified.
He was born with natural curly hair. I was born with straight hair, a double crown and a cowlick. By the time he was eighteen he had a streak of gray hair that gave him a rather distinguished look. The girls thought he was the ‘cat’s meow’. I have a photo of him squatting down and me beside him with my arm around his neck. He captioned it, “Why brothers get gray”. It still makes me smile.
One Fourth of July mom sent us to Ward’s Ice Cream for a quart. On the way home a drunk driver broadsided us on the passenger side. I couldn’t open my door and was screaming bloody murder. My brother tried to calm me down. All I wanted was to get out of the car, so I climbed over him and in doing so I peed all over him. When he got out, it looked like he had peed in his pants. He was mortified! I was horrified!
When he was seventeen he had a girlfriend named Sue. One evening I overhead him ask dad if he could use the car to take Sue on a date. As dad handed him the keys, I slipped out the back door and hunched down behind the driver’s seat. When he drove up at Sue’s house, I jumped up and yelled, “Surprise!” The surprise was on me. He was furious and told me he’d kill me if I tried to get out of the car. After apologizing to Sue, he drove me home without saying a word.
He thought he wanted to be a pharmacist so during his senior year he worked as a soda jerk at Tuttle’s Drug Store. He liked making sodas for me because it kept me quiet. We had paper straws in those days. One day he tied a knot in the end then watched me struggle to drink my soda. I threw the straw at him and hit him in the eye. Good thing he knew a pharmacist who could take care of a sore eye.
While in high school he organized a quartet with some of his buddies. They called themselves, ‘Three Flats and a Slow Leak’. I never understood it nor did I ever find out if he was one of the flats or the slow leak. But they enjoyed trying their luck at singing southern gospel  music.                     At the age of seventeen he told the family he was sensing that God was calling him to preach the Gospel. The year was 1947 when our parents put him on a train headed for college in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. After his first year he transferred to John Brown University which was closer to home. There he met and married the love of his life. He pastored churches in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma and for a time was Campus Pastor at JBU; then he became an evangelist with the Billy Graham Association.
I recall one Sunday morning at the First Baptist Church in Rogers, Arkansas when one of the choir members stepped up to the podium and told us she was going to fly away. “I’ll Fly Away” is a Gospel song usually sung by a group in an upbeat tempo. But, when she began singing it on this day it was as though I was hearing it in slow motion. The lyrics came out in the most soft, slow melodic tones I’ve ever heard and settled deep in my soul…. “Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll Fly Away; to that land on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away. I’ll fly away oh glory, I’ll fly away. When I die hallelujah by and by, I’ll just fly away”.
On March 19, 2014 Dr. Jerry Wayne Hopkins; son, brother, husband, soul-mate; father, grandfather; great-grandfather, cousin, uncle, friend, pastor, evangelist—flew away to heaven on the wings of angels. While on earth he helped so many in so many different ways. What a glorious Easter this must have been for my brother, Jerry to be in the presence of God and celebrate Resurrection Sunday at the table our Lord had prepared for him. Thanks for the memories, Jerry. You will always have a special place in my heart. May you rest in peace.

Stumbling Blocks and Milestones– 3/03/12

Coming to terms with the events in one’s life can often be not only unsettling but downright frustrating. Stumbling blocks often confound and confuse us as we travel down the road of life. This is especially true for those of us who are undeniably of the older generation. Back in our younger days stumbling blocks may have seemed easier to navigate because of the adventure they offered. But, it’s not easy when children experience their aging parents or spouses experience their loved one becoming children again. I’ve been there and I know how hard that road is to navigate.
A few weeks ago I received an email from one of my long-time friends of 49 years. The husband had been diagnosed with dementia about 2 years ago. She stated that he had left the house to put some gas in their car and upon completing the chore he became lost on his way home. Thankfully, he had his cell phone with him and called her for directions.
She took him to the doctor the following day for a check-up. The tests showed he had suffered a mild stroke and the doctor advised him not to drive anymore without having someone else in the car with him. It is natural to assume that, because he’s a man this news did not set well with him. At 86 years of age, he is still busy doing what he’s been doing as a pastor for the past 66 years; visiting the sick in their homes and in the hospital, holding prayer meetings, preaching the gospel, marrying and burying. He just assumed he could continue to drive because it’s necessary in order to do what he still feels he is called and ordained by God to do.
He has reached a stumbling block in his life called a milestone. For him to sit at home when there are so many in need around him is unthinkable. So, now the helper needs some help. An enabler so he can continue his ministry. His wife quipped, “He doesn’t like backseat drivers, never has, never will and I don’t like having him tell me how to drive!” But today he has reached that milestone and neither has any other choice. He still does his yard work though it takes him a bit longer. But, knowing both of them as I do, it would drive them both to the brink of insanity if he was forced to sit at home and do nothing.
I remember when my mother had her first stroke. She was a warrior, determined to fight and regain her independence, which she did. She lived alone in her home for 4 years after it happened. Then the second one occurred. This time she didn’t try to fight. She was worn out and tired. The day she was released from the hospital I walked in her room and she handed me her purse and said, “I don’t need this anymore.” My mother’s entire life was in that purse. I remember as a young child she always carried her purse with her everywhere she went. So, when she handed her purse to me it was as though she was telling me she had reached a stumbling block–that milestone in her life and it was time for me to take charge. At that moment she became the child and I became the parent. It’s a hard transition for a child or spouse to assume responsibility for their loved one.
This morning I called my friends just to check on them. He answered the phone and didn’t know who I was. He told me his wife was taking a shower and I should just call her back in awhile. When I called back I reminded her we’ve been on this journey of life together for 49 years and despite these stumbling blocks we call milestones, we should remember how good the journey has been and will continue to be. There will be good days and bad days on this final leg, but we are in it together for the long haul. And, my friend will continue to be the pastor and shepherd God called him to be, even if he doesn’t remember those who are members of his flock.