Covering my angst with the soothing wisdom from my mother's prayer journals


Thoughts on Thanksgiving and Parenting

Thanksgiving is behind us and the Christmas decorating is in full force, but I am still enjoying some sweet Thanksgiving memories.

  1. Preplanning via texts with my daughters about who’s bringing what. I love that they are funny, capable women who can multitask with the best.
  2. Fixing the dressing for the forty-sixth time with the love of my life who is also a great cook.
  3. Playing card games with the grandkids and visiting as we play a heated game of Hand and Foot.
  4. Sitting around the table with people who mean the most in the world to me.
  5. Watching Matt take the hand of the nearest family member and walk them to the kitchen for some tea or chocolate cake anytime he feels like it. With profound disabilities, he still knows he can count on them for the good stuff.
  6. Sitting with family in front of the TV after dinner to cheer for our favorite team.
  7. Kissing them goodbye as they happily go back to their busy lives and Don and I prop our feet up and have a quiet cup of coffee.

We enjoy our daughters and their husbands. They are people we would choose for friends even if they weren’t family. When they were growing up, we weren’t their friends. We were their parents and sometimes they didn’t like us.

Now I watch them parent their own kids. They laugh, they scold, they tease, they counsel, but they don’t let go of the authority role parents have to maintain. They expect respect and they get it.

They take their parenting roles seriously. It isn’t fun to enforce curfews and bedtimes or to check on homework and grades, but they do it anyway because it helps their children succeed.

Walter E. Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University, writes a weekly editorial that appears in our local newspaper. Today he wrote, “Whether a student is black, white, orange or polka-dot and whether he’s poor or rich, there are some minimum requirements that must be met in order for a child to do well in school.

Someone must make the student do his homework. Someone must see to it that he gets eight to nine hours of sleep. Someone has to fix him a wholesome breakfast and ensure that he gets to school on time and respects and obeys teachers. . . . .If those basic requirements aren’t met, whatever else is done in the name of education is for naught.”


In her journal mother wrote, “We need the help of those who can enlarge our vision and broaden our prospective; people who help us learn from their experiences.”

It is a fortunate child whose parents will do just that.








The Skunk in the Organ

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On a recent Sunday morning my life-long friend, Ann Cocktale, decided to warm up the rarely used church organ in her small country church hoping her talented pastor would take the hint and bless the faithful congregation with a prelude before the morning sermon.

Ann began a lively rendition of “I’ll Fly Away” when a scratching noise erupted from the base of the organ.

“A mouse,” she thought as she began the second verse, but by the time she arrived at the chorus the scratching was easily heard in the first pew. “Possibly a whole mouse family,” Ann mused and hurriedly dismounted the bench.

By the time her feet hit the floor, the scratching was so frantic that the whole congregation looked uneasy because back in the spring the elder charged with opening the doors each Sunday smelled a skunk when he entered the building.

Proceeding to the restroom, he reached for the room spray and returned to the sanctuary where he vigorously attempted to replace the skunks’ smell with Scent of Lilac.

Monday morning he called a local exterminator who put out traps and, after catching the same cat three different times, managed to dispose of the skunks and fumigate the church.

That recent experience was on the minds of the whole congregation who as one body decided the skunk, now obviously dwelling in their organ, was determined to get out.

The scratching intensified to sonic proportions as Ann galloped to the back of the church and the “menfolk” armed themselves in preparation for an impending Armageddon. The clamor was unnerving.

The holy warriors settled on a strategy that included mop and broom handles and they were about to launch an attack when the wisest among them had a revelation and yelled, “Wait a minute!”

Cautiously approaching the organ, he climbed up on the bench, reached out his hand and flipped off the organ switch.

There was an instant silence. Apparently the noise was coming from the worn out speakers of the old unused instrument.

Mother wrote in her journal, “Today as in Bible times, spiritual victories come through a continually renewed relationship with Him. Keep that relationship new and fresh with a daily practice regime of Bible study and prayer.”   

Ann’s fellow worshippers got a big laugh out of the skunk in the organ, but Ann said, “It reminded me that unless I do stay close to Him, I could very well become a noisy mess – just like that old organ.”

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Louise Penny’s Book The Long Way Home and a Lesson on Helping




Louise Penny, a Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec and centered on the work of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québe, is my current favorite author.

I was introduced to her work by a friend who recommended How the Light Gets In where I met the inspector, and  citizens of the quaint town of Three Pines.

Penny’s characters are complex and Inspector Gamache is always looking for the fly in the honey pot. Methodically collecting clues, he adds them to his innate knowledge of human nature eventually solving the murder mystery at hand.

One of her characters is Ruth, a well know poet who dances on the edge of insanity. Ruth’s bosom companion, a duck named Rosa, came to Ruth as one of two eggs found on the edge of the nearby pond.

The mother duck had been killed and Ruth took the eggs home to help them hatch. When the two started to peck out of their shells, Rosa broke out on her own, but Ruth helped the other duckling emerge and in essence handicapped the newborn for life.

Watching how her good intentions actually led to the ducks early death, Ruth decided that helping others was vastly overrated and vowed she would not do so again.

Before the story ends Ruth does lend a hand to her friend and neighbor, but I was left thinking that good deeds don’t always bring the hoped for results.

Recently I met a young woman in her early thirties who is recovering from a stroke she suffered when she was twenty-nine. This beautiful mother of three is determined to regain the losses she suffered as a result of this significant trauma to her brain.

Because of her fierce determination, she is making the desired comeback, and last week I had the opportunity to work with her on a writing assignment that required her to set three short termed goals for herself and then write a paragraph about each.

She could verbalize her ideas, but writing them down was frustrating. Trying to be helpful I suggested she use her iPhone to pronounce the word she needed and see if Siri could spell it for her.

She replied, “Well, I tried that and it was easier, but it didn’t help me get any better. I have to think for myself. It takes longer but I remember more.”

Mother wrote in her journal, “In living our faith, we may find that rejection, disappointment or hard work has brought us to the point of despondency. But we are still needed. God has important work for us to do which will require the strength attained through the very trial we are working through.”

Often a difficult situation doesn’t require a helping hand but rather an encouraging word that will help us build our own strength and faith.

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Mark Twain, The Apostle Paul and My Friend, Martha Britt

Mark Twain Image

When I was little, all the really great events required me to wait. Dessert came after a meal. Movies were watched on Saturdays. Christmas came in December.

The arrival of my teen years required more waiting for the five minutes in the halls between classes to socialize, Friday night ballgames and senior year.

When I got older, I didn’t wait for anything if I could help it. I was a young bride and a young mother who grew up with her husband and her kids. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Life eventually trained me to more gladly embrace these interludes of anticipation, but I still hate to wait. “Aging up” hasn’t given me any more patience.

Mark Twain stated the same feeling when he wrote, “Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.”

Actually that sentiment is Biblical, I think. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul says almost the same thing to new Christians who were breaking most of the rules of their society which made “life is short” their reality.

Eight years ago a dear friend and boss was taken suddenly as she shared a morning walk with the love of her life. In minutes her sweet spirit was gone, but she left such precious memories because she lived as if she realized life is short.

In her journal Mother wrote, “When we put God first, the wisdom He gives will enable us to have richly rewarding lives.”

My friend, Martha,joyfully lead a richly rewarding life. I’m thinking that’s the only way to do it.

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Quoting From Designing Women and Reading The Western Way by R. F. Stewart


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One of my favorite quotes from the TV series, Designing Women, is spoken by Julia Sugarbaker in an episode in which her brother (who has some issues) comes to visit. She says,

“I’m saying this is the South. And we’re proud of our crazy people. We don’t hide them up in the attic. We bring ‘em right down to the living room and show ‘em off. See, no one in the South ever asks if you have crazy people in your family. They just ask what side they’re on.”

Julia was played by the epitome of Southern grace and grit, Dixie Carter.

Though I didn’t know Dixie personally, we both grew up in the same area of the South and during the same era so I wouldn’t be surprised if her character spoke truth from the actress’ own personal experience.

Growing up, I visited an older relative of my dad’s in a Memphis “rest home” where she lived for a few months while receiving treatments for mental illness, and after her treatments she came to live with us for a while.

She was a lovely woman and the only disconcerting memory I have of this time was getting ready for school one morning and not being able to locate an essential piece of clothing.

I asked Mother if she knew what happened to said garment and upon investigating found that our guest was wearing it.

Her decision to share my clothes made no sense, and actually that’s one definition of insane “utterly senseless” behavior.

Fortunately, her treatments and a caring family enabled her to return home and live out the rest of her life in safety.

Many of you reading this blog could share your own family stories that relate to loving your folks no matter the state of their mental soundness.

As a sophomore in high school I was a member of a service club whose sponsor was the English and French teacher. Young and kind, he arranged for one of our community projects to benefit the nearby mental institution.

One Saturday we met at the high school where we boarded buses for the forty minute ride to the front doors of the enormous gothic building that housed the recipients of our good intentions.

We followed our leader through creaking doors and down dimly lit hallways until we reached a community room with large windows and shiny hardwood flooring. A stately upright piano stood on one side of the room while residents sat in chairs on the opposite wall eager to visit.

It turned out to be a pleasant afternoon that was repeated several more Saturdays.

This memory surfaced when my book club selected The Western Way by R. F. Stewart to read in September. It is basically a love story set in the facility our high school group visited.

While there is a is a story of strange behavior for every brick in that imposing building, Stewart spins one with a surprising twist.. Many of the characters are people who have been dealt a bad hand in life, but the author presents their strengths as well as their often senseless and harmful behaviors.

As we discussed The Western Way Monday night, many remembered when Western State Mental Hospital in Bolivar, Tennessee teemed with patients and staff, and a common response to a friend’s silly behavior was, “Stop or you’ll have to go to Bolivar!”

Stewart’s book took us back to a time and place full of broken minds and spirits, and developed a story with acts of touching kindness.

Mother wrote in her journal, “ I have learned to love the darkness of sorrow, for it is there I see the brightness of God’s face.”

The thing is, we are all broken and sometimes that’s the only way The Light gets in.









My Beth Moore Season


The scripture says, “For everything there is a season”, and this seems to be a Beth Moore season for me.

It started a few months ago when my friend, Phyllis, called and said, “Mary, if you are home I want to bring you something. “

A few hours later she rang the doorbell holding the book, Whispers of Hope 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer by Beth Moore.

In her usual, no-nonsense, way Phyllis told me that it was her intention to read the book herself, and she was halfway through it when she felt a nudging in her spirit to give the book to me – today.

Her reaction to the nudge was, “But Lord, I’m not finished yet!” Still she felt sure I was supposed to have the book and because of Phyllis’ intentional obedience, it became mine. The next morning I started my ten week journey of prayer with Beth.

On the thirteenth day of our trip, we camped in Daniel 6:10 where scripture tells us that Daniel prayed three times a day and had done so all his life. Prayer was not new to him and when in mortal danger he did what came naturally he prayed. God’s answer came during Daniel’s greatest peril not before it. God didn’t prevent his crisis, He protected him during it.

Our modern world seems headed for catastrophe and Beth Moore’s observation  is  timely. She wrote, “We are living in a lion’s den and God, through prayer, will shut the lion’s mouth and deliver us.”

I rejoiced in what God revealed – the awesome power of prayer.

Well while I continue to enjoy my morning coffee with Beth and Our Father, I also get to join a group of ladies on Monday mornings to study Children of the Day (Beth Moore) a study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

The study is, again, a timely reminder that believers do not belong to the darkness we are children of light and of the day. What God’s people are experiencing in the world now is nothing new and Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica express the exact encouragement we need today.

I look forward to spending time with this group of ladies and learning what God has revealed to Beth in her study during the coming weeks.

BUT . . . the highlight of my Beth Moore season occurred on August 22 and 23 in Memphis when our choir sang at Beth’s Living Proof Conference. This blessing occurred because of Travis Cottrell the multi-talented worship leader at our church who for many years has also been the worship leader for Beth’s Living Proof Ministry.

One of the precious people sharing the experience was Phyllis who started this Beth Moore season for me. We shared a ride, a room and, with thousands of others, a taste of heaven at FedEx Arena.

Mother wrote in her journal, “Who of us in certain moments of meditation and prayer has not caught a glimpse of the heavenly gates? Who has not in the secret places of holy communion felt a taste of the blessed joy yet to come?”

My daily walk with God has been enriched by many wonderful teachers and preachers of The Word who gave me a taste of the blessed joy yet to come. This season Beth Moore provided and I’m so thankful for the blessing.



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A Thought for Today

Ecclesiastes 5:2-3

Do not be quick with your mouth.  Do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God for God is in heaven, and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.

I read in the newspaper today that a fifteen year old shot another teen over an argument they had earlier in the day. Apparently rash words were spoken and caused disaster.

The scripture tells us to turn the other cheek, and with guns being accessible to so many, it is healthier to take a punch on both cheeks than risk being shot.

Maybe if young people realized God hears every word uttered, they would be more careful in their conversations.

In her journal Mother wrote, “Let us learn from the examples in God’s word not to make rash vows.”

Dear Lord, Protect those you have given me to love.  Make them cautious with their words and strong enough to turn the other cheek rather than speak hasty words they will regret. Amen


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