Sunday, November 20, 2011
Artist at Work
Along about that same time, a columnist for one of our local newspapers interspersed one of his columns with various quotes about Fall. I especially agreed with this one by Nathaniel Hawthorne: "I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air." Because I feel as he did, I've been out and about a lot these last few weeks.
Whether walking in my yard or in other scenic spots, I've had experiences similar to the one Eric Sloane described: "A few days ago [as] I walked along...[I] was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made."
Fall...a glorious season indeed! One of God's gifts to us! Let's slow down to look at His work and to take the time to go outside to feel the crispness in the air and to hear crunch of the leaves beneath our feet.
(c) 2011 by Johnnie Ann Gaskill. Note: The photos in this post are just a sample of the beauty I've seen. I hope you enjoy them!
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Gestures of Gratitude
The Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2011, issue of American Profile contained a wonderful story entitled: “Saluting Fallen Soldiers.” The article began: “A thousand American flags flutter in the breeze along State Route 157 as a white hearse carrying the remains of Army Spc. Randall Dalton enters Glen Carbon, Ill. (pop. 12,934), escorted by a mile-long procession of rumbling motorcycles and shiny police vehicles.” T
Larry Eckhardt, age 55, stood with his hand over his heart as the hearse pulled into the cemetery. He had driven 225 miles in order to place the thousand flags along the route. He has been performing this kind of service for over five years, assisted by individuals as well as by members of various organizations, such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Boy Scouts of America.
He doesn’t charge for his service, of course, but he does gratefully accept all donations to help defray the expenses incurred during his travels throughout his home state of Illinois. He is also appreciative of the volunteers who help him plant the flags along the routes the funeral processions follow.
He plans to continue using this means to salute the fallen soldiers. “This,” he says, “is my feeble attempt to say thank you to every soldier who has ever served and fought to protect the freedoms that I have.”
May we, too, find a way to express our gratitude to those who have served. Even if we can’t do something on a grand scale, we can all do something! Even the smallest gesture of gratitude is meaningful.
© 2011 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill. The photos were taken in Minnesota and Georgia, and are NOT the ones that accompanied the American Profile article mentioned in this post.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Lessening the Lump
Every September when the big yellow school buses rumble up and down the road, I get a lump in my throat. I remember seeing Jennifer, our firstborn, climb the big steps of the mini bus that picked her up for kindergarten. She seemed so small, so young, to be going off alone into her new world.
As I waved goodbye to Jennifer, I felt alone and incredibly sad because the child with whom I had spent nearly every waking moment for the past six years had just boarded the bus that would take her to a school where she would encounter more new faces and experiences than familiar ones. No longer would I have the privilege of meeting the majority of her needs. Instead, I was relinquishing her to others. I knew full well that even the kindest and best teachers and friends would never love her as much as I did.
Letting children go into a world that may not love them or treat them kindly is one of the most difficult tasks a parent must do. As I write these words, I’ve had years of parenting experience, but waving goodbye hasn’t gotten much easier even though the children have matured. I still get that very familiar lump in my throat as Jennifer and Jena—“my babies”—venture into the unknown.
The uncertainty of what’s ahead for them in the new world causes tightness in my stomach. The sadness of being separated from them and being unable to care for them produces tears.
My feelings are not uncommon. Mothers throughout the world ask questions such as these: Will my child be safe? Will my child make friends? Will my child resist temptation to do the wrong things and to run with the wrong crowd? Will my child be happy and successful in the new situation? Will my child find someone who will genuinely care for him or her?
Releasing the child is easier if the answer to all the above is “Yes.” However, if the answer is “No,” letting go becomes extremely difficult.
As the child goes into a world filled with crime, drugs, prejudice, perversion, injustice, misunderstanding, and the like, the words Jesus spoke to His disciples take on a new meaning. “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as wary as snakes and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16, New Living Translation).
Several times in the Gospels, Jesus assured those who trusted Him that He would never leave them, that He would always be with them. His promise still holds true today. Therefore, our children do not go out into the world alone, neither are we left home alone. That lessens the lump a bit, doesn’t it?
Excerpted from Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill’s book, Reflections, published in 2002. For permission to use, please contact the author at johnniegaskillATgmailDOTcom.
Friday, June 3, 2011
My daddy used to say, “Honey, as you get older, time flies.”
Being much younger then than I am now, I didn’t see how he could be right about that. Back then, Christmases and birthdays seemed years apart. Now, they seem to come every few months!
When I was a child, some days felt interminably long, for often I had more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. So, as the hours dragged by, I’d complain of boredom. But now I can’t do all the things I want to do, even though I get up early and go to bed late. Sure enough, time is flying by, just like Daddy said.
As I reflect on how time is swiftly passing and things are changing at a dizzying (and often alarming) rate, the words to an old song come to mind: “Time is filled with swift transition / Naught of earth unmoved can stand / Build you hopes on things eternal / Hold to God's unchanging hand.”
Although Daddy never spoke those exact words to me, I knew he was holding to God’s hand. Even as a child, I realized times were hard for us and for our neighbors. Hard, unending work. Little rest. Little money. Things constantly tearing up. Sickness. Tragedies. And the older I got, the more I understood Daddy was holding on to God’s hand, trusting God to get us through the difficulties.
I saw Daddy reading from his Bible a lot. And I heard him singing old hymns like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” as he worked or drove his old truck.
I noticed how he smiled as he sang “Heavenly Sunlight,” one of his favorite songs. “Shadows around me, shadows above me, / Never conceal my Savior and Guide; / He is the light, in Him is no darkness; / Ever I’m walking close to His side.”
And I couldn’t help but see how Daddy loved to go to church. In fact, he could hardly wait to get there. Consequently, our family went every time the doors were open—at our church or neighboring churches.
The older Daddy got and the more he had to say goodbye to lifelong friends as they passed away, the more I observed him doing exactly what the old song said to do: “Trust in Him who will not leave you / Whatsoever years may bring. / If by earthly friends forsaken, / Still more closely to Him cling.”
As I think back on those years I spent with Daddy, I realize his life spoke to me with words I didn’t hear with my physical ears. For example, his life “said” to me, “Honey, family and friends are important. Cherish them. Do all you can to help them.” And his life also “said,” “Even when times are hard, hang in there.”
Another powerful principle his life “told” me, though I didn’t hear it at the time, was: “Enjoy your life, even when it’s not ideal. Savor the simple pleasures. Hope for better things; work for better things—but be thankful for the good things you currently have.”
If Daddy were still alive, I’d tell him how right he was about a lot of things, including how time flies as you get older. And I’d also mention how I’m asking my heavenly Father to teach me to make the most of my time (Psalm 90:12), since, as David said, “An entire lifetime is just a moment…[just] a breath” (Psalm 39:5, New Living Translation).
© 2005 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill, who welcomes comments.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
A World Apart
(My brother's coffin and flowers.)
Each time I’ve visited national cemeteries, I’ve sensed a reverential silence hovering over them. Visitors, even very young ones, speak softly. Some kneel beside a grave or stoop to arrange a bouquet of flowers. Others sit in contemplative silence underneath shade-giving trees. The atmosphere there seems a world apart from the hustle and bustle taking place outside.
©2010 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill, who welcomes comments.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
The Tender Voice
Knowing Jennifer needed to go, I said, “Peyton, give the phone to Nana, please.”
She obeyed, though I sensed she wanted to keep talking. She lay in my arms and listened to me assure her mom that all was well.
As soon as I told Jennifer good-bye and started to put the cordless phone on the sofa cushion beside me, Peyton began to whimper and to reach for the phone.
“Mama’s at school,” I explained. “She had to say bye-bye.”
Peyton’s eyes filled with tears.
“Do you want to hold the phone?”
She drifted off to sleep, holding the phone close to her ear, hoping (expecting?) to hear her mother’s voice once again. Although I knew Peyton was very happy staying with me everyday while her mother taught school, I also understood that there was no voice as sweet or as dear to her as her mother’s. And that’s as it should be! I want her mother to hold first place in her heart.
That experience reminded me of a truth expressed by Henry and Richard Blackaby in their book, When God Speaks. It struck me the moment I read it. It still re-plays often in my mind, for it’s such wonderful advice for those of us who are seeking to hear the voice of the Lord and to obey Him. If there is no clear instruction, Blackaby says, wait until God does speak again.
Just keep doing whatever He told you last. (And don’t feel compelled to always be doing something.) But when God does speak, then do everything He tells you to do. (See p. 72.)
Like Peyton, we can rest peacefully, fully assured that soon we will hear the tender voice of the One who loves us even more than we love Him.
(c) 2011 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill
Monday, April 18, 2011
Children as Kites
Monday, February 7, 2011
© May 4. 2010 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill. For permission to use, please send e-mail to johnniegaskillATgmailDOTcom.