Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A House Becomes Home

 I love the movie, The Magic of Ordinary Days. The reasons I love this movie are many and varied. The time period, the love story, the simplicity, the work ethic, the community and the raw emotions of the characters are a few reasons. The most relevant reason though, it's about life.

Ordinary sounds so...well, ordinary. But don't we consider most of our days ordinary? Yet when we look back, we tend to see and remember the special times, and suddenly realize that many of those times happened on ordinary days.

This is a picture of an ordinary house in Sherwood Hills, Colonial Heights, Virginia. A rent house for many years, it was worn and weary from neglect when we bought it in September of 1992. It needed a new roof, had termites on the front shutters, was outdated with shag carpet the color of bad celery, and the downstairs was as dark as a dungeon.  Saying it was an ordinary house is being quite generous. Not only did I not love this house, I didn't even like it. But it was what we could afford and had what we needed.

So began a twenty-seven year saga. And since the definition of magic implies wizardry or supernatural forces, I'm changing it to blessing. Because only God could bless us with so many ordinary days in that humble house that were so good, that leaving was so very, very hard.

  We were in our early forties and our youngest child was a junior in high school. Our oldest son had married that summer and our family was on the cusp of exploding with in-laws and grandchildren. Howard was still on active duty at Ft. Lee and we were still very much a military family.

 Our children began to marry and soon the grandchildren started to arrive. Since we had five children there were times we had three grandchildren arrive in the same year. So began the celebrations of weddings and births.

We celebrated promotions, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations. And we also mourned several deaths in our family. Over the years the house was renovated time and time again. An inground swimming pool was added in 1997 and I remember thinking that we would enjoy it for many long years. And we did. We spent wonderful lazy summer days with family near and far. Friends came, food was grilled, kids swam and everyone went home happy and tired. The summers around that pool couldn't be rivaled.  

Over time I grew to love this house. It had slowly become our home where we opened our door to not only our family, but friends as well. Every room in our home had memories deeply embedded, and I seemed to see each one when I knew our time in this place was coming to an end. I could see card games played around the table or food covering every counter in my kitchen as we shared meals. We opened our home to a young couple with two children who were moving to Virginia, and had no place to stay over a weekend before their rental would be available on Monday. I felt blessed that I had the room to accommodate them on a very short notice. I have many sweet memories from that weekend. As a mentor to Mops Moms, I welcomed them into my home for many meetings or pot-luck meals where the fellowship with those young mothers has a sweet place in my heart.

Those memories are very special and precious, but the ones I treasure most are the ordinary days. The days it was warm enough to have my windows open and hear the birds sing and see neighbors walking by, or the many Saturday mornings when we were lazy and drank coffee and talked until mid morning. Or the many hours I spent in my swing on my screened back porch, my go-to- place when I was a little down, because I always came away happy. And some of the best are the memories of the late summer evenings by the pool listening to the frogs croaking in the creek behind the house. Just turning the key, opening the door, and walking into our sanctuary where we lived, loved, cried, laughed, learned and grew for 27 years made my heart happy. My prayer is that we honored God through the ordinary days living in the house He blessed us with that I not only didn't love, but I didn't even like. And only He knows how hard it was to leave.

Saying Goodbye


Saturday, December 15, 2018

Todd and Brittany, Wedding Day, December 15, 2018

Dear Todd, 
When you were born on March 23, 1989 we had no idea that our first grandchild would bring a love to our family that we'd never known before. There is a reason we use the word grand...everything was grand as we stared at you while you slept, took pictures and videos of your every move, and became convinced that you were the prettiest, smartest baby ever.  As your parents' first child, they were blessed that you were an easy baby, fun toddler, quiet little boy, and polite and obedient teenager. But you are blessed as well. They've provided a warm, loving, secure home for you where you were encouraged in your walk with God. They've prayed for you, and your mom has been faithful to send scripture to you and your siblings every morning. They've cheered for you in all your endeavors, given advice when needed and your mom was the very best nurse to you during two painful illnesses.They not only took loving care of you, but also taught you about the greatest love of all, God's love, as they lived out their personal faith before you. Buddy and Kerri live a Biblical marriage of faith, fidelity and family that will serve you well in the future.

And then you became a big brother to Trey.
And a sister, Ashley.
They adore you! They've watched you through the years as you focused on earning your bachelors' degrees, and then working full-time and successfully completing your master's degree. You have been and still are their role model, and you live that title well.

And then a puppy... Andy.
God blessed you with a quiet, reserved personality, but  those who know you best also know that He gave you a perfectly awesome sense of humor, too. Your best man Bryan, has been your best friend since first grade, and the two of you have shared crazy times, serious times and everything in between. You played soccer, loved skate boarding, video games and snowboarding. You became a licensed real estate appraiser at the young age of eighteen, bought and paid for a new car, finished college and bought your first house. We have always been so proud of you. You are a hard worker, with integrity, honesty and commitment. I love you more than you will ever know and I'm so excited to see your future unfold.

This is your wedding day. You are marrying the first girl you kissed, way back in middle school. On Valentines day,when you were in seventh grade and she was in eight grade, Brittany gave you this teddy bear. Though you both went your own way after that brief middle-school romance, you met up again in 2011 and have been together since. Before this day is done you will be husband and wife. God is good and His will for us is perfect. 

Dear Brittany, I still remember the day I met you and the first meal you had at my house on Easter Sunday. I remember hearing about your childhood and feeling a definite connection because we share the loss of parents at a young age. We had many long conversations over the past eight years. Though today you will become Brittany Hamm, it seems as though you already are. I love you so much and I am so very happy for you.

Sweet memories of your mother, Kim. Her sister, your Aunt Angie described her as a firecracker with a zest for life. She could take five dollars and turn it into an amazing adventure with you and your brothers. Her love for you was a powerful thing and she loved dressing you in the finest things and brushing your hair. I understand when you would cry about it she would tell you that beauty is pain. She made beautiful dresses for you and she definitely would have been in the middle of all the wedding plans. She would be so very, very proud of you. I know her love for you will be felt today as you become Todd's wife.

And your dad, Dean, was your best friend. He was described to me as one of a kind. He was very smart and very funny, though he always told the worst jokes! He loved his music albums, Star Trek and he adored you! He cared deeply for you and took his role as your daddy very seriously. I love the pictures of the two of you having fun. I know he would love to be here today and I know that he would still be spoiling you and would be so very, very proud of everything you've accomplished. His love for you will be felt today too as you walk toward your future.

I know you  have been a wonderful and loving big sister to your two brothers and that they love you and have relied on you at times. I know they are proud of you too.

Memories are precious and pictures tell the story so perfectly. And your stories continue beyond the families that you were born into. This is your story, the beginning of your family...your love story. 

Then Iceland happened. Todd was prepared. He'd had the ring for a while, and when the opportunity to travel to Iceland for a photo shoot presented itself, he knew that would be the perfect place for a proposal.

Wedding plans began immediately. Longtime friends and family members were asked to be a part of your special day. Kumiko, the matron of honor, and childhood friend  took her role seriously and a beautiful wedding shower was planned.

Todd and Brittany, today, December 15, will be a date to celebrate each year as you remember the vows you will say to one another before your family and friends. Marriage is God's gift to us on earth. Be thankful for each other, nurture each other and grow together and not apart. God in the center of your marriage will give you many happy years.

Colossians 3:12-15  Therefore, God's chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love, the perfect bond of unity.And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.

Our hearts are full with love for you both. May God richly bless your marriage and your home.

                            Nana and Papaw

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Old Country Church- Bethabara Baptist, Cane Island

Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them"

Bethabara Baptist Church is situated on Cane Island in Northeast Arkansas, and was established in the 1880's. During the early years, hitching posts dotted the church yard for the many wagons and horses that were the modes of transportation in that era. In later years, a tractor or a bob-truck could be seen parked among the pickups with a few cars here and there. I don't know what the original building looked like or when the one in the above picture was built, but I know this building has served the community well for many years.

Progress in farming machinery has allowed farmers to plant and harvest crops on hundreds of acres scattered across the county. The small family farm of forty acres no longer exists in this world of more is better. The descendants of those farmers who inherited the land now rent it out as they have no interest in farming it themselves.

Times change, and with those changes the landscape changes too. At one time, the community of Cane Island had so many houses and so many school-children that the bus had standing room only at the end of the route.

 The fields were separated with fence rows of honeysuckle vines intertwined with scrub brush amid small trees.  The roads were dirt or gravel, at best, and the dust kicked up by the truck tires would cover front porches that were close to the road.

Now as you drive on the levee road, the church and the few houses still there are in clear view. The land is wide open, planted with crops of cotton, soybeans, corn and peanuts as far as the eye can see.

That old country church is coming down. The faithful members of this congregation have built a family life center behind the old church, and I was privileged to be there in September when they hosted a luncheon for the area farmers. What a proud and happy day. The family life center will serve as a place of worship until a new sanctuary building is completed. Praise and worship will continue just as it has since the 1880's. 

The building will be new but the "church" is the same. Some of the members have never worshiped anywhere else. They were saved and baptized in that little white church over fifty years ago. 

The Old Country Church 

Oh, I'd like to go back
To that old country church
To hear the songs of praise
How the people would sing
It would make the rafters ring
At that old, at that old country church.

Hundreds of devoted, hard-working Christian people brought their families and served as teachers, choir members, deacons, ushers, and even janitors if the church needed to be cleaned. Children learned about Jesus in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.

Oh, I'll never forget
At the old country church
How the glory of the Lord came down
And the children would smile
As they shouted down the aisle
Of that old, of that old country church

Several generations have passed through those doors and their descendants are many of the members today. They are a small congregation, but they are huge warriors for Christ!

Then on Sunday I'd see
All my friends dear to me
At that old, at that old
Country church, country church
When we'd kneel down to prayer
Everybody would be there
At that old, at that old
Country church

Now the years have gone by
And so many have died
At the old country church
But they're on the other shore
Where they'll sing forever more
As they did at that old country church

 Many loved ones have been residents of Heaven for many, many
 years.We will join them one by one, and just maybe somewhere along those streets of gold we will come upon an 
Old Country Church.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Legacy of John and Julia Townsley

       For many, many years on the second Saturday of August, the descendants of John and Julia Townsley gather in Knox County in the Appalachians of eastern Kentucky for a family reunion.
    The second Saturday of 2017 was the 13th of August. John and Julia left a wonderful legacy for their children. Through the years some have scattered far and wide across this great country, raising families of their own. Others chose to remain in Kentucky, and a few who left returned in later life. Many descendants make this trip annually to reconnect with the roots of their ancestors. Nine states were represented this year.
    On Sunday of the reunion weekend a tradition has been to visit the cemetery  where John and Julia were laid to rest, along with three children who did not survive. The cemetery is on top of a mountain and a few fearless and brave souls still make the trek up that treacherous and winding road to pay their respects.
    My husband Howard is one of their many grandsons––they are his maternal grandparents. I am saddened that I never had the pleasure of knowing them. As I participated in the family festivities of hugs, laughter, and home-grown foods from gardens scattered around the local hills and valleys, I marveled that this gathering has not failed to meet since the early 80’s when it began.
      I wondered what John and Julia would think to witness the family members in attendance out of the one hundred and forty-seven who had or have life because of their sweet union that began over one hundred years ago.
    John Anderson Townsley was born in 1888 at Turkey Creek, Kentucky. He married Julia Belle Smith of Hinkle, Kentucky on March 17, 1916. They gave birth to fifteen children, twelve who lived to adulthood. Those twelve children gave their parents thirty-three grandchildren, seventy-one great-grandchildren and forty-three great-great-grandchildren.
    Of the twelve children, four have passed on from this world and joined their parents in eternity. Seven of the eight living children are women. One of the sisters has been in a local nursing home for several months, and at the end of the festivities on Saturday, the sisters and a few nieces went to visit. Later, my mother-in-law Eva, told me they gathered around her bed and sang Amazing Grace, and Aunt Bib, as she is called, sung every word. They are devoted to her, and it was a small way to include her in the reunion that she had always attended in the past.
    John studied medicine under his father’s supervision, and under the authority of the Health Departments of Knox, Laurel, Bell, Whitley and Clay Counties of Kentucky he delivered eight hundred and seventy-three babies. In the rural area where he lived he was called upon to treat everything from hiccups to skin cancer. He served in the US Army during the First World War and was the Deputy County Clerk of Knox County for thirty-four years. He also cultivated the family farm, growing tobacco and sugar cane, while being Pop to his twelve children. John was a busy man!
    Julia was a loving mother to her children and a loving wife to her husband.  The home-place was her nest where she grew a large garden, harvesting vegetables to can in half gallon jars stowed in the root cellar under the house. It was enough to feed their large family of fourteen, as well as sharing with hungry neighbors. The cow provided milk, the chickens provided eggs and hogs provided the bacon, all these things were the mainstay of feeding the family.
    My mother-in-law Eva reminisces about climbing the hill behind the house to get the cow and bring her down for the night. And I’m sure she, along with her siblings, did a lot of milking that cow as well as working in the garden and gathering eggs.
    I know many families in my home state of Arkansas who grew up in large families and had a similar life. God is the master designer of the family and knowing and appreciating your lineage is a beautiful thing to be celebrated. The Townsley family know that, and celebrate every year on the second Saturday of August!  

Back Row: Agnes Townsley Stacey, Cleda Townsley Stoller, Colonel Townsley, Mae Townsley Broughton Flynn, Vivian Townsley Ledford.
Middle Row: Eva Townsley Hulen, John Anderson Townsley, Julia Bell Smith Townsley, Ida Townsley Gambrel
Front Row: Jean Townsley Warring, Kelly Townsley, Clarence Ray Townsley, Beulah Townsley Pittman Genslak, and Fern Townsley Leford

Monday, January 30, 2017

Happy Heavenly Birthday Amy

    Today is Amy's birthday. Her dad and I talked about it a few times in the past couple of weeks. Things like, "Amy's birthday is only a few days away," and the answer, "yes I know," and then nothing more. Why are birthdays, holidays and special days so hard?  We miss them every day, but more so on special days. January 30th will always be her day! We would have mailed a card, called her and wish her Happy Birthday on facebook with funny pics through the years and tag her so she would see.
    Working on a project for another high school graduation in our family has kept me busy looking through old pictures. And up until two years ago she was in so many of our family photos, as you would expect, and her face has appeared over and over today...tears.
    I went for a walk and as usual I talk to God. I asked Him to tell me something He wanted me to know. I was trying to clear my mind of the memories  when I heard wind chimes... always a sweet sound. Amy gave me wind chimes several years ago and they hang outside by my porch every year in warm weather. When they make beautiful sounds in the wind I hear her say,"Hey I'm okay, I'm happy and I'll see you again." Sometimes I smile and sometimes the ache to see her and hear her sweet soft voice is overwhelming. But today the sound sent a message from God that I needed to acknowledge her special day.
   I began to think about all the things she loved here. And all the things I want everyone to know about her. These are only a few.
    She was passionate about Jesus and she wasn't afraid to die. She didn't want to leave her family, but she knew where she was going. She loved deeply. If you are related to her you were a recipient of her love and you were blessed by her. If she was your friend, you knew she would always be your friend, because she was fiercely loyal.
   Amy Elizabeth Hulen Kelley was competitive! She was a fierce competitor in basketball and soccer and any other game. She wanted to win and she wanted to be the best!  Laughing hysterically and making those around her laugh too was a huge part of her personality. Colorado became her home and she loved the mountains. She loved the color purple and she loved senior citizens.
    Her fair skin was a blessing and a curse. A blessing because coupled with her auburn hair, beautiful eyes and the few freckles sprinkled across her nose she was a natural beauty, though she never believed that about herself. A curse because the sun was not her friend.  
    Trying new things and going new places was another love, and she wanted her children to experience those things too. She always knew what was going on in the community, where she could introduce them to fishing, or the circus, or a parade or whatever might be happening that she wanted to be a part of.
     She was known for gift giving. Her gifts were always perfect, just right for the recipient, and after her gift was opened and oohed over then we always felt ours were inadequate. Always. But that was something else to love about her.
    Intelligence was one of her attributes. She was very, very smart. And she passed that to her boys. She always made sure their homework was done and they had better have good grades.
    When Amy became sick she was an ICU nurse in Colorado Springs. She was an excellent nurse and cared passionately for her patients. The picture at the beginning was in the lobby of the hospital. One of her patients nominated her as one of the Hero's of the medical community there.  She reluctantly showed it to us and of course tried to say it wasn't a big deal. But it was a big deal to that patient.
    There are so many more things I could say about her, but the main thing I want to do is to acknowledge that a sweet baby girl was born on this day in 1976 and she brought so much joy to the lives of her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. She was a wonderful wife and a loving and protective Mom to her boys and Mimi to her grandchildren and we all miss her terribly.
    All these things I've described were good things. Not all things in Amy's life were good. Like all of us, we go through good times and bad times. But the day she closed her eyes here and opened them in Heaven God made everything good. Every. Thing. Good.
     We love and miss her and on her birthday today we remember her and the life she shared with all of us.
(If you are related or a friend please share any memories that you have. We would love to know)


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

From Contracts to Books, Blog Posts and all things wordy...Bittersweet!

    There are no diplomas gracing the walls of my office proving to others that I've been educated in an ivey league school, or any college or university for that matter.  But, somehow God has allowed me to have two successful careers. First, in the field of insurance as a licensed agent where I worked for five different agencies over the span of sixteen years,1975-1991.
    My first position was with Lake City Insurance Agency. I wasn't qualified, but Junior Malone took a chance and gave me a job. I taught myself to type because we didn't grow up with technology like kids do today. I worked for Junior from 1975 until 1981 and during those years became a licensed agent. Junior Malone passed from this life way too young and hopefully I expressed my gratitude for the self esteem I gained from the confidence he placed in my ability to do the job.
    Those years gave me a license and experience that enabled me to quickly find a position at Twin City Agency in North Little Rock when we relocated there from my hometown. I worked there until I was offered a position with a better salary at Mark Williamson Agency in Little Rock. Then came an office manager position for Frank Schulte in his Nationwide Agency in Sherwood until we moved to Oklahoma in 1989.
    Pryor, Oklahoma is a small town with an honest to goodness Main street. It is a comfortable place to live and only a forty-five minute drive to Tulsa. God blessed me with a part-time job with an agency owned by a wonderful couple, Jerry and Linda Russell. We only lived there two years, but the friendship with them has remained. I have wonderful memories of that time spent in that windy little town.
    The Army sent us to Ft. Lee Virginia in 1991. After settling in, I began to search for a position with several local insurance agencies. Either there were no positions open or what they offered in salary paled in comparison to what I had previously been compensated. I changed course and started looking in the newspaper for employment.
    The Progress Index, a local paper, ran an ad for a property manager for Whittle and Roper Real Estate. I had no idea what a property manager was, but I needed a job, so I applied. I was hired with the agreement that I would become a licensed real estate agent, and my second career was launched. After a year of managing rental property and watching a crew set tenants meager belongings out on the street due to eviction, I knew this job wasn't for me. So I transitioned to sales.
    After coming into the office at 8:30 every morning for two weeks and sitting at my desk wondering what I was supposed to do, the receptionist asked me why I was there so early every day. I explained that I'd always worked an eight to five job and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. I finally learned that since I was self-employed I could set my own hours, sort of. Until I began actually listing and selling property, then the hours revolved around the time of day the clients were available.
    I  remember my first sale as if it was yesterday. Completing the offer was terrifying! But I managed and the offer became a contract and the contract became a closed sale. The commission check was mailed to me and I remember it was $1,500 and some change. Now, I have a last closed sale that happened about three months ago. It is the final transaction I will ever do as a Realtor.
    Very few of my clients were unknown to me, and if I didn't know them at the beginning of our business relationship, I certainly knew them at the end. I do have some favorites, like the young couple in church who bought their first home from me. She and her sister had been raised by their single mom and had never lived in a house they owned. After she and her husband had signed all the documents  making them the owners of their modest home, she cried and so did I. I've never forgotten that.
    There are also clients that have trusted me with the sale of their home and the purchase of another one several times. If you are reading this, you know who you are. Many, many have relocated to other areas of the country and unless we became facebook friends we have lost touch, but I remember them.
    So many of my co-workers are dear to me and there is no way I can name them all. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention Lois Spencer. We sat side by side almost since the beginning. She was my go to person when I was unsure about what I was doing and she always accepted my calls. She covered for me while I was on vacation and I returned the favor for her when she needed to be away. She is my friend.
    And John Powell, my broker for 21 of the 23 years I've been in this business. He has the patience of a saint and though a wonderful broker replaced him in our office when he left, I still miss him. Thank you John for your help and advice when a situation became somewhat chaotic.
    When I spoke with my current broker and told her I was retiring, she asked if I was sure about doing that. I told her, when you get more joy out of selling a book than closing a real estate transaction, it's time. At the end of November, Long and Foster returned my license to the state of Virginia, and I have applied to Metro Referral. My license will be with that company for referrals only. I will not be listing or selling.
    The photo at the beginning of this post was taken as I was about to walk away after cleaning out my desk. I started to pick up the box and decided to take a picture. If one only looked at what was in the box, it would seem there wasn't much to show for twenty-three years. But the results of those years are my past clients residing in homes all throughout the Tri-cities and many states in America. Hopefully they think of me fondly as I do all of them.
    Books, blogs, new career.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Heavenly Hot Rolls

Heavenly Hot Rolls

    For the past twenty years I have been in Arkansas for Thanksgiving except for the year Ashley Hamm was born on December 1, 1999 and Isaac Kelley was born on November 27, 2003, which happened to be on a Thanksgiving day. We are in Virginia this year and celebrating with the Hamms and the Dunlaps (no relation) and I am happy to be here, but I will miss seeing everyone this year. I wrote the below story several years ago and thought it appropriate for this Thanksgiving. To all my Arkansas Family:  

    Every Thanksgiving Day our family gathered at my sister Sarah’s house for a time of reconnecting around a bountiful table laden with foods prepared with loving hands.  Since this tradition started, about twenty years ago, our two older brothers have passed on and their absence is still deeply felt. 

     During these years our children have all grown up and started families of their own.  Realizing how important family is they continue to make the trek to join us no matter the distance they must travel.  We may have as few as forty or as many as sixty in attendance depending on individual circumstances.  In the past few years we’ve begun taking a group photo.  When I look at this photo I think about Mother and Daddy and wonder how they would feel to see the results of their sweet union.  Mother died without seeing her children grown and Daddy only lived long enough to see his first few grandchildren come into this world.

     The first year we celebrated Thanksgiving together was such a success it evolved into a yearly reunion.  As with all families we never know who will be there.  From one year to the next a new baby can be added to the family causing much joy and a lot of oohing and aahing.  But from time to time we come together with sadness at the passing of someone that was with us last year but has passed from this world and gone on to Heaven.  This year will be the latter.  My sister’s husband John went to his eternal home on May 4th of this year and I know his absence will leave another gaping hole in our celebration. 

     Thanksgiving Day will come regardless of our circumstances and it is up to us to get through the day with as much grace as possible.  It will honor John’s memory because he loved this time together as much as any of us.

     Those of us that make the journey come from Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas.  Other family members, though they live in Arkansas, still have a three hour drive as they crisscross the state to partake in the feast of food, laughter and great conversation.  It is typical family fare as we exclaim to each other how much the children have grown since the year before while watching them reconnect with each other on the way to the barn to check out the animals. 

     My sister’s daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband Chris, have been gracious enough to host this event for the last few years, indicating another generation is taking the lead.  They live at the end of a lane in a comfortable one level home with a spacious covered back porch overlooking a grassy knoll where games of football take place or good old fashioned chase.  Sometimes when geese land on the pond at the back of the yard it becomes a day that seems to have been ordered from a storybook.   Across the road is the barn which inhabits a large pig or maybe two and much to the kids delight, a few chickens and rabbits. It’s an idyllic setting and they lovingly open their home where their generosity gives us all a feeling of one big happy family.

     The menu is southern comfort food and always includes turkey, chicken and dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and the list goes on and on.  But the one item on the menu that MUST be there is my sister’s yeast rolls.  Whether or not we will have them is not up for debate, it is a given and very much expected.  She is famous in the family and around her community for those yeast rolls.
     Last Thanksgiving I made a grave mistake.  I suggested that instead of making them from scratch we purchase Sister Shubert’s rolls from Sam’s Club.  It would save my sister a lot of work.  The phone conversation with my oldest son went something like this.

     “Mom, when will you be here?”  Darin asked.
     “The weekend before Thanksgiving,” I reply.
     “Talked to Sarah Sue a couple of days ago, she was wondering when you were coming.”
     “I need to call her, I’ve been thinking about how hard they all work to make dinner for so many people.  Even though some of us try to bring a dish they ultimately prepare most of the food.”  I tell him.
     “Aw Mom you know she loves doing this,” Darin said.
     “I know she does, but I don’t know how she makes so many hot rolls.  I think we should go to Sam’s Club and buy the frozen rolls,” I suggest sweetly.
     An awkward silence as I wondered if we’d been disconnected.  But then…
     “Mom, are you crazy?  What are you talking about?  Frozen rolls!  Have you lost your mind?”  He’s yelling at this point.
     “They really are good.  I buy them all the time,” I say, unconvincingly.
     “Mom, did you know you could be excommunicated from the family for saying stuff like this?”  He said with emphasis on each word and very, very seriously.

     I am not making this story up.  That is how important my sister’s hot rolls are on Thanksgiving Day.  He would toss out his own mother for such a suggestion! Now I know deep down he really wouldn’t do that…I hope.

     There are many places in this world where we can be excommunicated, cut off, tossed out, thrown out or simply shunned.  Sometimes this does happen in families and sometimes it is for reasons as frivolous as the type of rolls we have for dinner.  But I belong to a family that will never do that to me.  I belong to the family of God.

     God sent his one and only son to be nailed to the cross for my sins.  Your sins were covered too, and you and you and you.  All of us can have that wonderful gift of forgiveness if we receive it.  When we receive that forgiveness we become members in God’s great family of believers and we can never be excommunicated, cut off, tossed out, thrown out or shunned.  He promises in his word that we are forever his.  In John chapter 10 this passage confirms that you are being held firmly in the hand of the Savior.

     John 10:22-30 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem.  It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.  The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.  The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one. (NIV)

     How glorious!  He will give us eternal life, we will never perish and no one can take us from him.  We will live in a heavenly family that knows no bickering or disagreements. We will only know harmony and peace.  If you haven’t accepted the gift that Jesus offers to you, don’t wait another minute, take it, not only will it change your life, but hopefully your earthly family as well.