Through the lace curtains at my kitchen window, I watch the first snowflakes—as big as goose feathers—fall from the gray November sky. Scents of cinnamon and pumpkin waft through the room when I open the oven, and when my eyes catch sight of the oil lamp on the cherry farmhouse table, my thoughts follow the curving lane to the old farmhouse where Alice and Ed, my maternal grandparents, raised their children during the Great Depression.
Although my parents moved hundreds of miles away after their marriage, my mother’s thoughts frequently traveled to her childhood home. She loved nothing better than to gather my siblings and me next to her as she told us about her childhood on the farm near Muncy, Pennsylvania—stories I treasured and passed on to my own little ones.
Mother spoke of a life filled with an abundance of indoor and outdoor chores and of nearby relatives who frequently stopped by on Sunday afternoons to visit.
When harsh winds rattled the shuttered windows and blew swirling snow across the barren fields, it was the kitchen that was the center of Mother’s family’s life, mostly because it was the only room in the house that was heated. Family and guests gathered there, the old single-pane windows covered with condensation as much from conversation as from the heat of the wood burning cook stove where a chicken roasted in the oven.
The old farmhouse, which originally belonged to Ed’s parents, had no electricity, indoor plumbing, or central heat. Bathtubs, toilets, and even a kitchen sink were non-existent. Things weren’t any better outside. Three Belgian work horses—Fred, Maude, and Prince—pulled the plow and heavy wagons. Faith and a person’s own strength and determination kept the farm going when the economy and adverse weather interfered. Although parents and children worked hard from early morning to evening, my mother’s stories were never ones of complaining.
The day before Thanksgiving, Grandma Alice, bundled up against the raw wind, killed and dressed well-fed turkeys for customers from town who gave their orders weeks in advance. Once all of the poultry orders were filled, Alice killed the turkey she would cook for her own family. After Grandpa Ed finished the outdoor chores, he opened the old dovetailed chest in the guest bedroom and pulled out his hunting clothes. After dinner, he sharpened his knife on a stone and cleaned his gun. The days immediately after Thanksgiving were hunting days and Ed needed to hunt game to help supplement his family’s food supply.
The Great Depression was in full force and money was scarce for my mother’s family. Mother often said that while she and her siblings were growing up, they never realized how primitively they lived on the farm. A person can’t miss what they don’t know, she explained.
Something inside my heart was soothed when Mother spoke of the contentment that was felt at the end of each day when the family gathered at the dinner table and her father thanked the Lord for His generous provisions. Grandpa Ed and Grandma Alice made it clear to their children that, but for the Lord’s benevolence, their harvests would be small and their needs large.
My grandparents have long since gone to be with the Lord, and their farm has changed hands several times since they sold it. But my mother’s stories taught me that when a family realizes that they’re dependent upon the Lord to provide for all of their needs—as well as their blessings—every day is thanksgiving day.
May your Thanksgiving Day be joyous, may you be surrounded by your loved ones, and may you give thanks and praise to the One who provides for your every need.
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. Deuteronomy 8:10 (NIV)
To God be the Glory
Cynthia Howerter © 2011, 2012, 2013Read More
There are times in a person’s life that are difficult to describe with words. Even if you are a writer.
Can the setting of a wedding capture the essence of two people’s joie de vivre?
Can the perfectly played notes of Bach’s Wachet Auf stir the passion in a person’s heart?
Who can read the thoughts of a father whose only and beloved daughter is about to embark on a new life with another man?
How does one describe love?
Is there a look, an expression that conveys one heart’s desire to commit to another for a lifetime?
What makes the ecstasy of joy so contagious?
How can someone’s happiness touch so many hearts?
Will you remember the description of a setting or the picture forever engraved on your heart?
This is a way to say that all of the prayers you’ve ever prayed for the spouse that God ordained for you have been perfectly answered.
Congratulations, my precious daughter Megan Kelly and wonderful new son Tyler!
All photographs by John Nettles, Jr., of City Light Studio, Charleston, South Carolina. ©John Nettles, Jr. http://citylightcharleston.com
A special thank you to Karen Hewitt Hagan and Sandra Ericksen of www.CharlestonGardenWedding.com, 27 1/2 State Street, French Quarter Gallery District, Charleston, South Carolina, for providing their beautiful art gallery (Hagan Fine Art Gallery – http://haganfineart.com ) for Megan and Tyler’s wedding.
We also thank our incredible wedding officiant, Christy Loftin, who guided Megan and Tyler through the spiritual and legal details of their Charleston wedding, and who, unflustered and with great poise, conducted the wedding ceremony in candlelight due to a spur-of-the-moment electrical outage. http://christyloftin.com, and on Facebook: Details Charleston.
To God be the Glory!
© Cynthia Howerter 2013
“Mom, Benni’s going to be put down tomorrow.” The grief I heard in my daughter’s voice stabbed my heart.
“The cancer’s spread, and there’s no hope.”
My heart sank, recognizing that the decision no dog lover wants to make had to be made.
Benni was an incredible dog, and she will always have a special place in my heart. A rescue animal, Benni was friendly, and had a tail that was quick to wag in the presence of those she loved. I’m certain I saw her smile, too.
But, make no mistake, Benni knew how to protect the ones who cared for her.
When Benni’s “parents” needed someone to keep her for several months, my daughter stepped to the plate and took Benni in.
Within several days of coming to stay with Megan, Benni woke during the night and rushed to the front door where she snarled and barked as she frantically paced. The sounds wakened Megan who coaxed Benni back to her bedroom after she’d quieted. A short time later, Benni once again ran to the front door where she let whoever was on the other side know that they weren’t entering the apartment without some serious hurting.
Upon learning of Benni’s protection of my daughter, my husband and I thanked the Lord. We shuddered to think what might have happened that night had Benni not been in the apartment. A mother’s earnest prayers for the protection of her child were heard and answered. When I’d asked God to surround Megan with angel guards, I didn’t realize that He used four-legged ones.
There were no more middle-of-the-night scares after that. Several months later, Benni’s parents moved into their new home and Benni went to live with them.
God found a new angel guard for my daughter—a full-grown German shepherd who loved to romp with Benni whenever their “parents” visited each other.
Evil discovered, in the middle of one night, that God had been expecting his visit. A mother learned that some angels have fur and four legs. And several families cried at the passing of a faithful friend.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 (NIV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORYRead More
Shortly before my husband lost his job in 2008, I asked the Lord to tell me His will for my life. Because I gave up my teaching career 24 years earlier to be a stay-at-home mom, my teaching skills were as obsolete as dinosaurs. With my children at college, I yearned for a career—but one ordained by the Lord. When God told me to “Write. You have a story to tell,” I could never have imagined that the story He wanted me to write was one that had yet to unfold.
My husband’s job loss actually set my writing career in motion. After obeying God and selling our house, we moved halfway across Pennsylvania to stay with my aunt while my husband searched for a job. Knowing no one except Auntie and my husband, I had plenty of time on my hands—time to write.
A story came to me soon after we moved into Auntie’s house, and I wrote almost daily for the 18 months we lived with her. The story was about searching for faith when all appeared lost, and as I wrote, the characters encountered unimaginable twists and turns filled with fear and trials. My own days of seeking God’s presence in the midst of hopelessness drove the story. As my faith deepened, so did the faith of my characters.
The story turned into a novel. Although it will never be published or win an award, it served several purposes during our months of adversity. Through the pages, I sought God and eventually found Him. As the plot unfolded, I learned that God never wastes our pain; what I was learning through the refining fires of unemployment was reflected in the characters’ lives and allowed them to become believable people. As my characters learned to trust in the Lord no matter what frightening events stood in their paths, I learned that I could trust God to get me through—not out of—the absolute worst times of my life. Writing this novel taught me how to weave my faith and experiences into stories that could touch the hearts of readers.
In retrospect, God used this first novel to help prepare me to be a professional writer. Just when I thought I had no employable skills, God provided a new career using the trials of my life and my deepening faith as the foundation for stories He wants me to tell.
What unexpected twists and turns have taken place in your life? Can you see how the Lord orchestrated all of the events of your life—both good and bad—to place you where you currently are?
So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Deuteronomy 5:32 (NIV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Photograph by Cynthia Howerter ©2013
There are times when we all need to reflect, if only for a few minutes. It’s not that difficult to manage, even in the midst of a great whirlpool of busyness. I like to settle into our comfy sofa with a mug of coffee while I gaze through the windows into our woods and let my mind wander.
I’ve found that as I sip my coffee and take in God’s creation, my mind usually lights on things that need contemplation.
When God moved us to Virginia, we purchased a home in a neighborhood that was just being built. Only one other house was occupied on our street when we moved in.
I yearned for a neighbor who could be my friend. Ideally, I wanted a woman about my age who shared at least some of my interests. And so, I waited patiently for this unknown woman and her family to buy a house on my street.
After 15 months, the sound of a chain saw roused me one morning. I was thrilled to see that the lot next to ours was finally being prepared for a new house because I just knew the friend I longed for was going to buy that house and my happily ever after would soon come to fruition.
So when the realtor told me that a young couple with two little ones and a newborn purchased the house that I thought my unknown woman friend should buy, I was not happy. Not at all.
You see, I am a writer and writers need quiet so they can concentrate and create stories. Visions of loud plastic wheels scraping on the pavement outside my office window made me close my eyes and shudder. Noisy children have the potential to interrupt a creative streak. I did the math and I was not happy.
I should know by now that God’s plans are not our plans.
So I turned to prayer. I asked God to give me a loving heart toward my new neighbors (who I knew would be yelling at their very loud children!).
But God could see a much bigger picture and He did so much more than what I asked.
It turns out that the three little children are beautifully behaved. And quiet. Their parents are a delight. The family of five are the smiling-est people I’ve ever encountered, and they never fail to say hello.
Whenever the older children see my husband and me, they run straight to us and jump into our arms. The baby looks at us and smiles. Memories of our own children when they were little ones ignite and glow in our hearts each time we see the three little treasures next door.
The parents nearly always take a minute or more to chat with hubby and me when we’re outside. I often wonder if they realize how much joy they and their beauties bring into our lives.
Isn’t that just like God? He took my prayer request and answered it better than I could have imagined. But I might have not been aware of His blessing had I not taken time to be still and ponder.
My empty mug signals the end of my reflection time and I walk back to my computer to create. You see, I am a writer and I need to be surrounded by joy.
Take a few minutes to reflect on your life, especially if you feel frustrated or trapped. What hidden blessings are revealed to you as you relax and let your mind contemplate?
You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (ESV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORYRead More
Recently, my daughter Megan and I traveled together to Pennsylvania. Light-hearted and serious conversations peppered our three-day trip. We laughed, we reminisced, we sang along to our favorite songs. We caught up on each other’s life.
When the trip finally came to a reluctant end, Megan made me promise that we will take a trip together—just the two of us—every year. Of course, it’s a promise I wanted to make, and one that I intend to keep.
I know my daughter very well and we immensely enjoy each other’s company. Why? Because we’ve spent a lot time together. Time talking. Time listening. Time focusing on each other. That’s how good relationships are built.
It’s the same with our relationship with God. When we spend time reading the Bible, we come to really know God. We learn what pleases Him and what He desires for us. When we spend time praying, God listens as we tell Him about ourselves, our heart’s desires, and our situations.
Do you know what your most priceless possession is? It’s your time. Spend it well. After all, once your time is spent, you can never get it back.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22: 6 (KJV)
P. S. Don’t forget to enter the Book Giveaway Contest for God’s Provision in Tough Times! 5 people will each win a copy of the book! The contest will end Friday, August 9, and the 5 winners will be announced. All you have to do is: 1) Be a SWE’s subscriber, and 2) Leave a comment. Be sure to state whether you’d prefer a paperback or Kindle version of God’s Provision in Tough Times.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY