Got an early Christmas gift in the mail last week!
This was a fun project to work on with a fantastic group of people! Forty-five authors contributed stories. Some are fictional and others non-fiction. As a reader, you are challenged to see if you can determine which stories are real and which are not.
When I first discovered the story had to be written with only one-syllable words, I thought that would be impossible. Given a few exceptions like proper nouns, numbers, contractions and family words to that rule, I was able to complete a chilling story.
I hope you enjoy the book if you get the chance to check it out.
Wishing everyone a happy and safe 4th of July. Celebrations will be taking place from the east coast to the west coast. From the north to the south. Big towns, small towns, the corn fields of IL, the great mountain tops and at river, lake and ocean beaches everywhere. Enjoy time with your friends or family. Finding time to walk alone amidst your local festivities, or those in an unfamiliar area, can be freeing and uplift the soul. Let's all enjoy the birthday of the great country of the United States of America.
Some places you visit in life never seem to leave you. For me it was the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. I first went there as a young child. It was then part of my heart and soul stayed in the area. Recently, I was able to go back. It had been over thirty years since I laid eyes on the beauty of this area. I tried to hide, from my husband, the tears that welled up in my eyes as our drive lead us into the mountains.
We are back home in Texas now, but I have made a promise to myself not to stay away that long again.
All images Copyright 2014-2018 A Mattingly. All rights reserved.
Keeping my seat, I watched Raya as she “worked” the crowd. True, there was an awkwardness and unrefinement about her. One could pick up on the private agenda she was working. She needed help working with the young kids on a garden project she was trying to incorporate into the children’s program. She flitted around the room darting quickly in and out of conversations, flowing through the room like a fish swimming upstream. I had to chuckle a little inside as I watched.
Then I noticed something peculiar. True, she was on a mission, but I saw there was more to her than meeting a so-called ‘greedy little agenda’. Between short chats to handle business, she made it a point to walk across the room when she noticed someone who was alone. Sometimes she knew them, other times not. Either way, each person was approached with the same loving smile and greeted with some short phrase. Just a little something letting them know someone in the room did notice and was glad to see them.
Still sitting alone after Stella’s departure, Raya approached me with a friendly handshake followed by, “Hey, Cora Beth, how are you today? I just love the blue colors on your shirt!”
After thanking her for the complement, I asked if she had found anyone to help with the kids. I told her I would love to help if she was still looking.
“Why not?”, I thought to myself. After all, I do enjoy gardening. However, it was more than gardening. After my covert observations, I wanted to know more about Raya.
In the weeks that followed, I could be found every Wednesday at the church helping Raya corral the little ones as they worked in the worm bin and planted seeds and young plants in the small garden of containers she had created out back. I looked forward each week to working with the kids and talking to Raya. She had an overflowing passion and dedication to teaching others about nutrition and simple ways to grow food in hopes of teaching others how to reduce any food insecurities in their home, or that of a friend. The kids tried, and liked, the vegetables they grew. The extra produce was donated to the church food pantry.
I began to think about our church programs and mission. Our church is known in the community for our food pantry and all the people it serves. When I looked around at those who attend our midweek children’s program, I noticed most of those attending were not from our congregation. In fact, many were known to be from low income households. Homes where food insecurities might be a real issue.
Stella was wrong. Her agenda was not greedy in nature. Raya knew she was loved by the Lord and was obeying His call to love others, even those we may see as unlovable. Sometimes we quickly judge people as weeds that don’t fit in. With closer observations, or a little nurturing and pruning, those weeds are recognized as a life of beauty and faith before God.
Thanks to Raya, I now know the nutritional and health benefits in the beautiful dandelion weeds. In fact, many plants we judge as weeds are nutrient-packed foods given to us by God. They grow during the season when we need the nutrients they offer the most. So before pulling up and tossing out a weed as worthless, take a moment to understand its beauty and discover its value. For that “weed” was created by God for a purpose.
Taking a few bills out of my pocket, I pay the kind man, motioning for him to keep the change. Holding the cash in one hand, he smiled and bid me farewell with the other, saying, “Thanks! Have a blessed day.”
There was a quiet place around the corner where I could sit and enjoy my purchase. It had been years since I had eaten a candy apple. I tried to take my first bite. My teeth just slid across the candy surface without breaking through the ruby-red. It was time to hold firm, the stick with one hand and the bottom of the apple with the other, and just go for it! Taking a firm bite out of the center, the candy shell broke and delicious apple juice ran down both sides of my mouth. Aah, the sweetness of the crisp apple mixed with the crunchy cinnamon candy was to die for! I took another bite.
Sitting in my little happy place, I had to chuckle. Once again, I found myself eating dessert before the main meal. Friends and family are always razzing me about this peculiar habit. I always jest back with the old saying about life being uncertain and one must eat dessert first. My chuckle turned to a smile as I took another bite with eyes closed so I could totally enjoy the moment.
The words, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”, filled my thoughts. “…blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” These seventeen words from Psalm 34:8 have always been one of my favorite verses. Rightly so, as food is one of my favorite things.
My thoughts drifted to times in my life when I had experienced another type hunger. There would be a strong internal longing or desire for something more. Sometimes the desire was known, other times not. My desire was for the peace and love that only comes from the God. Looking through the pages of my Bible, I would search for His truths just like I walked through the fair searching for something desirable to eat. Flipping through pages, there it would be in an unexpected passage. Words that filled me with joy. The more I tasted His Word, the more I learned of His satisfying truths. Feeding my intimate relationship with God through reading and prayer fills my heart with the hope and joy that only He can give.
So just go for it, eat your dessert first. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Let those delicious juices of His love run down your cheeks. After dessert, you can go for the meat!
This, this is what I want to capture in the sterile white piece missing from the painting. The piece waiting to be filled with paint! A depiction of burning passion running from the soul, to the heart and all the way to the toe. Blood red must be the color! Passionate blood shed by Jesus for our sins. Red flames of peace and joy that can only come from the Holy Spirit himself.
I love the assurance Jesus gave when he told the disciples in John 14:24-26 that they, as well as ourselves, would not be left alone after He leaves. Jesus said He would ask the Father to send a Counselor to be with them forever while He’s gone. Jesus said this Advocate, the Holy Spirit, would teach us everything and would remind us of all the things He has taught us. Yes, red is the perfect color for the passion that fills our soul in those unexpected moments.
Blue should surround the passion running through the puzzle piece, representing the blue moods brought about by the battles we are all fighting. Battles with loneliness, fear, sorrow or rejection. There is no fathomable reason why we should be filled with such joy at a time when gale winds are holding us down as we defend ourselves from the sharpness of a cold pounding that could destroy us in seconds if our tenderness was exposed. But not on this day. Blue Mood will be chased away by the blueness of contentment and peace as passion and joy are emanating from the vein running through. For today we are filled with a glee. We realize we are in the presence of God! Earthly problems become small when compared to the love He has for us. All is well with our soul.
Paints spread out, canvas before me, I pick up the brush and streak an acrylic line of bold red passion flowing from the head, to the heart, to the toes. Mixed hues of blue and aqua cheerfully develop around the vein as joy warms the body and soothes our spirit. Blues of inner peace and tranquility splash around inside as excitement fills our entire being.
Every day, even during the challenging times, we need to practice making the choice to be filled with joy. We can ask the Holy Spirit to come into our heart and chase away the blue mood we are incapable of stamping out on our own. This is possible in every storm, or season of life, when following God’s truths and trusting him with our future. When we trust him, our worries go away. Our face will radiate peace during our struggles. An unmistakable peace, noticed by others, which will become our witness to God’s love and trustworthiness.
When we tired of singing that anonymous folk song, we would push play on our battery operated portable-cassette-player. Laid back in our seats, feet on the windows, we listened to Floyd Cramer’s fingers slide up and down the ebony and ivory keys playing “Last Date”, “San Antonio Rose”, and “Crazy”. A definite precursor to my love of piano music.
Between the songs, I Spy, and Slug Bug games came the shenanigans. Our stir-crazy silliness usually led to fussing and arguments that were followed by phrases like, “Don’t make me pull this car over!”, or “It’s time to play the quiet game now.” from our parents. Sometimes we took the hint quickly and settled down, other times not so much.
Tummies full and energy renewed, we headed back to the conference center to join other attendees and their families for fellowship and worship. I will never forget the surprise on my face, and the size of my eyes, when I had my first communion with real wine! That was my first taste of alcohol. After vespers, it was off to the rec center for laughs. Here we learned card tricks and a little about polka and square dancing. A card trick I still remember. Dance steps, not at all. After all, how often does one have an opportunity to show off their latest polka moves?
simultaneously emptied our hands before bolting back out in the rain and sprinting across the field to tackle the wide-open tent headed for the goal line. It managed a sixty-yard gain before being taken down. If only I could be that light and agile on my feet! And just like that…our fresh-out-of-the-box, premier canopy was a total loss after only an hour’s use. Before the loss could totally sink in, my head turned to the booth, dry and protected only minutes ago, now standing exposed in the rain.
With the lightning storm still approaching we were forced to abandon our spot of destruction and take cover under the awning of the boys’ locker room door. We stood there with other vendors until the rain stopped. Our clothes were soaked and dripping puddles on the concrete where we stood. What just happened?
The dollar loss being tallied in my head wasn’t looking good. Standing there in the rain, I had asked myself, “Is God trying to tell me this isn’t where He wants me?” After all, I did pray asking Him to bless this adventure before leaving the house. Okay, it was a hurried prayer, but I still asked for His blessings and for my works to glorify Him. I would remain stunned and in disbelief for several hours as to all the wasted effort and materials put into this event.
That evening, and the next morning, we sorted through the rain soaked mess. Turns out we could salvage a lot more inventory than originally thought. Neither the images or printed words of the cards were smeared. When dried, they still looked good despite slight warps in the paper. Salable? No. Good enough to be passed on to friends or as notes left in public places where their words could still be a blessing? Yes. The drenched email addresses, containing notes from conversations with booth visitors, dried without smear or ink run. Completely readable.
Then there is the blessing I didn’t mentioned earlier. As we stood at the locker room door during the storm surveying the booth damage, our circling eyes landed on the observation beehive we had sitting on a folding table once protected by the canopy. It was still standing just as we had left it before evacuating. Now a couple thousand angry bees flying around among the other destroyed vendor tents and attendees… that would have been a disaster! What we experienced was only an expensive lesson in booth displays and tie-down strategies.
Many times, after a storm we discover the damage is not always as bad as we think. Sure, it may take time for things to dry out. Some will be lost forever, and with others we must use a gentle, careful touch to restore them as best we can. But God is right there standing beside us as we go through the process. Not only us, but others going through similar and even more devastating storms in life. We are thrown many flea flickers going up and down the field between goals, dreams reached and those missed. Some goals are easily reached after a small setback or two. But others… you just have to punt and carry on. When life doesn’t go as expected, and the path we are to follow goes directly through the storm without an alternate route around, rest assured God will be walking with you as you trudge through the muck and mud. If you look for the blessings God will provide during your journey, you might even find yourself dancing as you exit the storm!
Here's a little teaser from the Purple Manna Pass It On devotion...
...Have you ever looked back to notice the lessons learned, information gained or connections made during a trying time in your life? I believe these were no accident. In fact, they were exactly what you needed in preparation for God's plan for your life. No matter how lost we become, or how many detours we take in life, we will always be given something from the experience that will help us to grow and give us the courage we need to keep moving forward---even if we slip and roll down the hill again. Who knows, it might be on THAT hill, .....
A Mattingly -