Monday, December 18, 2017

There is Hope

An event in 1974 led to a major decision twenty-one years later. It wasn't Watergate or the disbanding of the Beatles.  It was a television event, and I fell in love with a name, Hope. 

I grew up in a world where teenagers watched soap operas, so a few hours before The Brady Bunch, I watched Days of Our Lives.  Here's a little Days, that's what we called the show, history.

Addie Horton discovered that she was pregnant but also ill with Leukemia. Instead of harming the baby with treatments, she let the cancer take its course.  Addie and Doug named their first and only child Hope. Soon afterwards, as Addie was walking with Hope, a car spun out towards them, and Addie (realizing she wouldn't live long) pushed Hope's stroller to safety and let the car hit her instead, killing her instantly.

This was an emotional event for a Days loving adolescent girl, and I remember thinking, "what a beautiful name, so positive," and because I dreamed of prince charming, a house, and perfect children, Hope was placed in the back of my head for a future baby name.

Each time I read a verse with the word hope, especially Hebrews 11:1  "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see," I feel in love with the name again, for I was a daydreamer with many hopes.

My Grandmother King, a gracious, sociable lady, suffered with an immune deficiency for many years.  Seeing her ill so often, I once said to her, "I know you're tired of always being sick."  She replied, "Honey, where there is life, there is hope."  I remembered those words when I was pregnant, and although I often heard, "That's an old name, isn't it?" and "There are so many popular names to choose from, what about....,” I didn't waver. On December 18, 1995, one week before Christmas, baby Susannah Hope was born.

Hope cried night and day for two months and went through the terrible twos at the age of one, but other than that, she was, and still is, a delight. Teachers described her as “the sweetest.” Friends and family describe her as sweet, funny, beautiful, and caring.  

Hope wasn't the most popular name for a baby then nor is it now, but I look at her with a mother's heart and believe she genuinely lives up to her name.  Even though Hope shares my love of sarcasm, she lights up every room she enters. 

The name stayed with me because it was positive, and so is my daughter. She offers so much to her world: patience, kindness, laughter, and compassion. I cannot imagine a world without my Hope.  As a sister, daughter, granddaughter, niece, and cousin, Hope brings life to our gatherings.  She shows us the Holy Spirit.  

"And his name will be the hope of all the world." Matthew 12:21

I also cannot imagine life without the hope of all the world, Jesus.  


....what we hope for.  Of course, I hope for material and selfish things. I hope for good health for myself, my family, and my friends.  I hope for the best in life even though I often don't know what that looks like, which is where faith enters the picture.  I hope for peace and salvation for family, friends, and people I meet.

There are many reasons to feel hopeless: poor health, poverty, relationship problems, depression, loss, and uncertainties. But there is hope.

In Taylor Caldwell's short story, "My Christmas Miracle," packages from a stranger arrive unexpectedly on Christmas Eve to a single mother with a hungry daughter and no job.  And she writes, "and a sweet peace flooded me like a benediction. I had some hope again."  Even in the darkest times, there is hope.

It's the season to offer hope to all the world through Angel Trees with names of strangers, gifts to co-workers and neighbors in need, encouragement to friends with life-changing uncertainties, visits to families who feel forgotten.  With every dollar given, present unwrapped, meal cooked, hospital corridor walked, or encouragement offered, we give a promise.  There is hope. 

Happy 22nd Birthday to my Hope, who has makes our world more positive, our home more joyful, and our hearts more grateful.

We Love You,

Dad, Mom, Luke, and James

I hope each of you experience Christ, the Hope of the World,


Anderson Area Charity in Need: New Foundations Children and Youth Services in Anderson, South Carolina.

A story of hope and good Christmas read, written by a dear friend and author, Laura Hodges Poole: "A Christmas Chance."

Two short stories about the hope we can bring to others during this season:

My Christmas Miracle by Taylor Caldwell

A Gift of the Heart by Norman Vincent Peale

During my "research," on Wikipedia, I found an interesting fact about the actress who played Addie Horton on Days of Our Lives. Patricia Barry played Addie from April 19, 1971 to June 28, 1974. Barry reprised her role as Addie for one episode on December 18, 1974.

Friday, December 15, 2017


Nostalgia -a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.
My sentimental longing began this year when I delivered a Poinsettia from my church to Mrs. Evelyn Wilson.  She cannot hear, but I knocked on the window of her door until she looked up and saw me.  On her notebook, I wrote my name, my husband’s name, and the name of our church.  She nodded and talked to me.  When I wrote my parents’ names, Mrs. Wilson smiled brightly and said, “I remember you when you were a little girl.” 

    My childhood was more than a few decades ago, and I’ve seen her many times as an adult, but the sweetness of her memory filled me with joy and made me laugh.  We talked for about ten minutes. I had a prior commitment and regretted leaving, but I drove away grateful for sweet personal associations like Mrs. Wilson who filled my past with kind words and wisdom.

I promised myself and my daughter that I’d carefully sort through my Christmas decorations and purge, and I’m proud to report that I’ve been successful. However, some treasures cannot be discarded. Three hours after visiting Mrs. Wilson, I found something I had forgotten about, a small, red, wooden musical jewelry box given to me by my childhood best friend, Allyson.  There’s a Hummel angel on the box along with the year 1975.

The hinges are broken, so for the past ten years or more, I’ve returned it to the storage box. That night, I placed it next to a musical figurine on a table in my living room, grateful for dear personal associations like Allyson who filled my past with delight and generosity.

    The following day, my mom and I relived past Christmas Eves with my dad’s family, the Browns.  We shared these memories with my son Luke, laughing as we recalled our varied Christmas dinners. No matter what the menu, Mom cooked her famous meatballs, there was always some kind of sandwich, and Dad brought boiled shrimp because it was Luke’s favorite.  One year, instead of a ham or roast, Aunt Glenda (Dad’s sister) made lasagna.  Another year, our Christmas Eve dinner was breakfast. We enjoyed our smorgasbord at the table, the hearth, the sofa, or an ottoman.  

As a child, I drew names with my cousins and remember how excited I was buying one of them a gift.  The adults drew names as well, and Mom and I shook our heads at the chaos of everyone loudly opening gifts at the same time. 

When we grew up, the cousins began exchanging names with our parents and aunts and uncles.  After boxes, ribbons, wrapping paper and tissues were ripped and tossed, we took the volume to a low roar and semi-listened as each family member, beginning with the oldest, gave a lengthy show and tell of gifts, each requiring a story or a joke from another family member. 

     When the cousins became parents, we passed our babies around, tied ribbons on their heads, then when they were older, let them play dress up and fight over toys. 

     A few years ago, we abandoned the gift exchange for the Dirty Santa game. As if the Brown family needed another reason to argue, this Dirty Santa involved both useful and gag gifts, so our chances of taking home a gag gift increased with each steal. 
Dad and his siblings are no longer with us, and several of my cousins live too far to stop by for Christmas Eve.  But, we have the in-laws (or out-laws as Uncle Sam calls them), and we try to be together.  The menu might be soup and sandwiches or a Christmas Eve feast, but I promised Mom there'd be meatballs. 

 We may not bring gifts. We may only meet for an hour or two.  But, we will laugh. We’ll create memories, grateful for decades of love and laughter provided by the most personal of our associations, the Brown Family.

Monday, October 30, 2017


“Where’s them candy sticks? Timmy, you better not of got you some of my candy sticks without me approvin' cause them Halloween beggars will be here tomorrow night wantin' a treat."

      Last year, they turned over my favorite flower pot and took three jars of pickles from my back porch cause I didn't have no treat to give.  Three Halloweens ago, them tricksters painted all sorts of red and black stripes on Lucy, my best friend Molly's pig. Them tricksters is serious about this silliness. And I know for a fact from preacher Massey's cousin's wife, who lives next door to that Scottish Grant clan covered with the devil's spots, that them heathen Scottish people brung this nonsense to this Christian nation. They called it guising on account of them being disguised, and it's just a pretty darn shame they couldn't leave that blessed beggin' custom over there with their own heathen kinfolk.

"Timmy, walk down to Molly's farm and fetch mama six eggs, will ya?"

     I'll bake a cake for them beggars even though I'm mighty tired from this here sicknes the good Lord is takin' his sweet time in healin' me from. 

     I could tell you a few things about beggar’s night you wouldn't believe like two years ago what commenced at Doc Robinson's place. When he was out deliverin' Helen's twins on Halloween night, some tricksters set fire to his office.  Lord help us for your people have done gone mad and headed straight to the devil.  Smashing pumpkins, turning over wagons, and rearranging the scarecrows is right annoyin', yes, and not real Christian-like, but settin' fire to the good doctor's business is taking things a bit too far. 
      It ain't right to gossip, but I'm goin' to tell you all about Molly and then of course what I done for her, bless her heart, when them beggars painted Lucy. This was back when I was kinda healthy and could walk two miles, so me and Timmy walked all the way to her farm with the good book, cause Lord knows Molly and Chester don't got one.  While Timmy was washing Lucy, I give Molly a lesson on doin' proper things for the good Lord if she wanted a bundle of easier life.  And by a bundle of easier, I mean Chester comin' home sober every night.  The verses I used come straight from the book the good Lord used, the King James, the English King James, naturally.

     It tickles me to death to tell y'all that due to my good deed, Molly comes to church every Sunday, although I wished she'd dress a little more godly. And Chester has quit his drinkin' and carousin' all but Saturday night.  I told Molly to make sure that sorry ole Chester picks up some sweets for them silly tricksters every year cause Lord knows these tired legs can't walk no two miles no more on of account of Franklin, my husband who isn't the president even though our house is white but pitiful small and he ain't nearly as smart, done gone and sold our car and won't tell me why.
       He had to ride a train home after he drove up to Chicago and sold it. I didn't kick him out on account of me being a Christian woman.

Back to my special sickess which is more important than Molly and her no-count husband.  I don't know what I done to deserve this.  The only thing I can consider is that I ain't always real sweet to Franklin.  But, he ain't always real lovin' and sweet to me neither.  "An eye for an eye," and if he expects a treat of a sweet, lovin' wife, he best be a bit nicer husband. I'm guessin' that's why the good Lord give me this here sickness.  I been remindin' him of all my good deeds and been doin' more and more of them good deeds, too.

     I bet my house, don't tell Franklin, that the good Lord will heal me real soon on account of how I been gettin' His attention with my prayin'. If the good Lord wants me to keep on servin' him and doin' all those good deeds like takin' soup to Mr. Owen after he went and catched a cold from fishin' and giving the widow Lewis grocery money cause her no count son won't, he'll heal me from my sickness. 

    I'll be a prayin' that til he hurries up and heals me.  If he don't heal his good servant Mae, let's see who he gets to cook Sunday dinner for preacher Massey and those eight misbehaving youngins and his sickly wife. What a treat my healin' will be for all the good folks in town I help. I know the good Lord wants treats from me, and he sure knows what kindly tricks I'm pretty darn capable of doin’.

I've Trick or Treated with God and prayed like Mae, with better grammar, of course. If he'll answer with a "yes," I'll serve and pray more.  If he doesn't give me my desires, I may decide to disobey or threaten to stop serving or believing.  I've asked God to prove his love by making something good happen. I like treats and admit I've expected a few from God.

"And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him." Hebrews 11:6

God rewards us when we sincerely seek him, then mysteriously, treats are no longer a concern. Our prayers are no longer "if you don't give me...." or "if you give me....." No more bargaining.  Even when we feel more tricked than treated with rewards by the world, we have peace. We don't need to Trick or Treat with God.  God’s reward, an abundant life, is a treat the world cannot give. Of course, an occasional Snicker's bar doesn’t hurt.

Hope & Luke, Grace Pratt and 
Daddy Luke

Friday, October 27, 2017

Nothing Gold or Baby Blue Can Stay

As summer gradually ends in September, we dream of relief from oppressive heat and antagonizing mosquitoes then welcome a pumpkin flavored and scented October as fall slowly tip-toes in with a landscape so brilliantly painted, people drive, walk, and climb for hours and sometimes days, delighting in its splendor.   

    For me, October brings more than pumpkin lattes and hours of leaf raking.  My favorite month delivers joy and sorrow. This year, my oldest son, Luke, turns twenty-five, and my youngest son, James, turns eighteen, while their mom adds another year, an age known only to her closet friends.

Luke & Mommy
Although often ridiculed, I was a mom who kept her little boys in baby blue and overalls until they were unavailable in their sizes.  I didn't consider Luke and James little men when they couldn’t talk, walk, or feed themselves. They were my babies, and I decided to dress them as such. I knew as soon as they wore khaki pants and knit shirts for the first time, they would resemble men in their attire from that day forward. Being warned of the brevity of baby days, I wasn’t ready to trade baby blue for navy or footed pajamas for big boy sleepwear.

    My love for Luke and James strengthens and my joy being their mom grows with each October birthday, but I don't know too many moms who don't miss holding their baby boys, watching their wonder at simple things, or showering them with public affection without embarrassment.

Each October is one year removed from rocking them to sleep, holding their hands, helping them set up train tracks, reading bedtime stories, baking special birthday cakes, and tucking them to bed with a stuffed animal or blanket. 


    Robert Frost offers an honest reminder of the transience of life in his poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

    Gold, as a hue, doesn't hold in nature. In spring, gold buds on the willow tree quickly become leaves. Golden sunsets last less than an hour.  
     Life in Eden, with its river Pishon, where gold was found, quickly sank to grief with the loss of Adam and Eve’s innocence and their knowledge of good and evil.


I miss baby boys in baby blue being blameless, free from deceit and worldly experiences. As boys in baby blue, their worlds consisted of people who loved and protected them.  They hadn't been left out of a crowd or bullied, failed a test, or experienced a broken heart.  Nor had they mistreated anyone intentionally.

Luke's graduation
Univ. SC
James & Katy
Cades Cove, Tenn.
    Today is special, too, though. Luke and I talk about work and football, and he lets me call him Sunshine when friends aren't around.  James and I watch storms and work jigsaw puzzles together, and he lets me call him Jaybird or JayJay.
     Through experiences, they now possess knowledge of the world and make choices while the people who love them most make fewer decisions for them and pray about the scary concept of free will.
       To grow up is to become acquainted with evil, to sin and experience guilt, to become too smart for our own good, become our own gods and rely on our own knowledge.   

 In October, I watch maple leaves turn a rich red or bright orange, then bright gold, but as quickly as I had packed up baby blue blankets and pajamas, the gold disappears.
    The trees are still there, though, and those two sons are still mine.  They've experienced life, sin and guilt for twenty-five and eighteen years, and now their innocence, and ours, is found in God's wisdom and grace, which steps in and declares us blameless when innocence is gone. 

You wore baby blue and read in my lap.
You found your blanket and took an afternoon nap.

Luke & Ralph
We colored our skies baby blue, sang silly songs and made pumpkin treats.
We played with our golden dog and held hands crossing the street.

I folded and stored your baby blue and let you swing by yourself.
I drove you to school and put trophies on your shelf.

You picked out a wall color darker than baby blue and did your homework at night.
You played games with your friends, grew taller and stopped believing I was right.

When the sky is baby blue, we sit on the porch and talk about being old.
We laugh. We cry. Then October fades as quickly as gold.

A happy mom and her sons
Isaqueena Falls, SC
Happy Birthday Luke and James,