It’s great helping Ammon with an entrepreneurial endeavor. Ammon and I will close Valentines & Mardi Gras crafts production on Sunday February 7. Postal Service permitting, this should make sure your Valentines goods are out & delivered to you by Saturday February 13. As I said before, we are truly enjoying this entrepreneurial ed-venture…. oh, St. Patrick’s Day and spring crafts are already underway.
Mary Visits Elizabeth – Luke 1:39-45
39In those days Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah, 40where she entered the home of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord’s word to her will be fulfilled.”
Until I was about 30 years old, I kept the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary, and the Baby Jesus on a pedestal of perfection with those images of the perfect nativity scene. Who remembers the plastic, bulb-lit nativities of the 1960s and 1970s? I was mesmerized by them! And, my goodness, the Christmas carols of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Away in a Manger”. I’m taking intermittent singing breaks (“Away in a manger no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head…)” as I type this. I am also visualizing Mary, Joseph, and Jesus with those golden halos as the shepherds and Magi Kings kneel in reverence. Wowzers!
A literary work, Two from Galilee (Marjorie Holmes, 1982), and what I think is the BEST nativity movie EVER , The Nativity Story (2006) changed my vision of the Holy Family forever.
Y’all imagine a 14 years-old girl who was told she was no longer a care-free child. She is betrothed to a man whom she had never had a sexual relationship with having to wait a year (Jewish tradition before and during the Roman reign of Augustus Caesar) to live with him without that conjugal fulfillment, and is a virgin who has never had sexual relations with any man, being told by an angel named Gabriel that she will have a baby that is a gift from God. What the heck, God? In a few months after Gabriel’s visit, she KNOWS she is pregnant. Gabriel had told Mary earlier in Luke Chapter one that Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was going to be a mother. Elizabeth had been the “talk of the hill country of Judah” as a barren woman. Can you imagine the gossip of those days, “What has Elizabeth done in her life that God has cursed her this way!”, “Poor thing! Look at Hannah, Elizabeth’s neighbor. She has 8 children. Hannah is so blessed. Who will take care of Elizabeth and Zechariah in their old age? Poor Elizabeth and Zechariah!”
When Mary knew she was carrying a child, she hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah to visit her elderly cousin who was passed her child-bearing years. The weeks and months had been emotionally and spiritually excruciating for Mary. “I’m pregnant! Joseph might divorce me quietly or he could encourage the town to help stone me! Dear Father in heaven, will Elizabeth have any answers for me or words of fortification?”
We are not told how far away ( Google is showing like 99 miles… over three walking/cart days!!) but I can only imagine Mary’s anxiousness. As I watched the spectacular The Nativity Story this Christmas season, I had already squalled when Joseph re-purchased Mary’s parents’ donkey (the same donkey that carries Mary to Bethlehem….tears and sniffs…LOL… that the government officials had taken to help pay for taxes), but when Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house and Mary’s voice made John jump in Elizabeth’s womb along with the scriptural words from Elizabeth’s mouth, my chest began to heave and I sobbed with tears…tears of joy.
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
It was so spiritually moving. God gave Mary the confirmation and affirmation that she needed all those weeks before. God had given Mary her cousin, Elizabeth, to be her “cheerleader”, her confidante, her “hand to hold” for spiritual guidance.
Can you name your spiritual cheerleaders? Sometimes it’s not even someone cheering for you. It’s someone who responds to your spirit. My two spiritual cheerleaders who are now in Paradise are Naomi Alexander Caylor (my Nanny) and my adopted grandmother, Remell Hall. When Nanny died August of 1985, Remell picked up the mantle (2 Kings 2:13 when Elisa picked up Elijah’s mantle / cloak/ coat ). I’ve always thought it ironically special that Remell died on November 6, 2003 (Ammon’s birthday!) then God blessed me with my soul-mate, Sean Brown, in January of 2004. God did not leave me desolate for long.
Now, December 2020; 54, God keeping me out of any physical teaching environment, homeschooling Carter and Ammon, watching the world reel from the Corona virus, I have several spiritual friends I go to. It’s sometimes just a text to say, “God is Great!” or “Praying for you.” . Sometimes I have something serious to share; Carter and Ammon pre-teen drama, doubts on why God doesn’t want me working right now, or a spiritual matter that is troubling me.
My buds who do not fail me are Debbie Baker, Patsy Holland, Kathleen Lanford, Tami McClain, Claire Randle, and Evangeline Starks. There is an “odd man out” literally, so I’m putting him by himself; 21 years-old singer/songwriter, Hunter Lott has become a spiritual cheerleader God placed in my path as well. However, he lives in south Mississippi, and we have only been spiritual friends via social media and snail mail. Those ladies I mentioned are the toughest, Christ-like women I know, and they are physically near me. When I see them face to face and hug them, I get a spiritual, electrical charge, and sometimes we’ve had conversations where the tears flow (mostly mine) because we share from the heart and soul. My sincerest thanks to you 7 people (holy smokes… God’s number!!!). You all have NO IDEA what you mean to me. And Patsy Holland, I’ll never forget your Christian (sister and brother in Jesus the Christ) words of encouragement to me, “God doesn’t make mistakes” during our first serious, spiritual talk together over 3 years ago.
Returning to Mary and Elizabeth. The holy scriptures do not allow us to enjoy another conversation between the two ladies. The Nativity Story shows Mary being in attendance for John’s birth, watching Zechariah speak, and watching and listening to Elizabeth and Zechariah speak words of the Old Testament to their newborn with biblical “bedtime stories”. At this point, Mary tells the jubilant, elderly couple with their “miracle baby”, John, that she is returning to Nazareth. Those weeks with Elizabeth and Zechariah gave Mary, now physically showing she was pregnant, the spiritual strength to return to her betrothed, Joseph, to face the next months; vicious gossip from the townspeople, tears and perhaps rage from her parents and Joseph, and perhaps even death if she is stoned for adultery. The Lord’s servant, Mary, was returning to fulfill what Gabriel had shared and Elizabeth was Mary’s human confidante / human- contact spiritual support to face the following months.
I truly hope and pray that you all have spiritual cheerleaders. They are priceless. As soon as the Spirit touched my spirit with Mary and Elizabeth’s meeting as I watched the actresses speak the scriptures from Luke 1, I knew I had to write. It’s also set up a second blog I hope to finish before December 23: Jesus’ Awesome, Earthly Father, Joseph.
“Business Launch” 2020 with Christmas Earrings
Faux leather (“golden” litchi pattern/silhouette/frame ) over chunky glitter faux leather teardrop sheets.
Santa Hat Red
Santa Hat Green
Golden leather cutouts on chunky glitter teardrops
Reindeer on Red
Santa Hat on red
Santa hat on Green
Reindeer on Green
I would advise all of us to find a Keys Dan (Daniel) in our lives. Daniel has the gift of relating to people with interpersonal questions that search into your soul and open you to share without any inhibitions. You find yourself sharing some of the best things about yourself; the things God has gifted YOU with. The interview is over an hour long so just fast forward what you find boring.
The most intriguing thing is that Keys Dan will interview us regular folks who have something to offer humanity. Each one of us has a story, and each one of us is just as important as another. Notice his number 501-470-6386. I actually forgot that I had scheduled this interview LAST JUNE, so be prepared to wait a while; however, it’s worth it.
Joy to the Earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and FLOODS, ROCKS, HILLS and plains
Repeat the sounding joy…
Once a day, we try to walk together as a family. We often discuss the topics of the day, but sometimes we all walk in silence for a few minutes before one of us, usually Sean or I, start a new conversation. Carter and Ammon had their yearly physical, well-exams yesterday. They both concurred this morning that they felt flat: They had two vaccinations. Sean and I researched their TDP vaccination, and it confirmed that it could cause the “flatness”. We decided that Ammon and Carter did not have to walk today because our walks are fast-paced for cardio endurance and heart health. In August, we four started a new route in the Enterprise South park, and I have been very anxious to jog it. It has two good-sized hills and one is quite the incline for at least a half mile. We looked at the radar (rain all afternoon), and we decided that we adults needed to exercise outside ASAP. It was an opportunity to jog my new route. I dressed and “made a bee-line” to the park.
It was barely sprinkling, and I began my jog. I went up the Hidden Lake Road, turned on Boulder Point Road (I’m doing this for my Chattanooga folks who can , perhaps, visualize what I was doing), and I was winding down to Dogwood Ridge road. A few heavier drops of rain began to hit the oak trees that form the branch-awnings over Boulder, and acorns began pelting the ground. I took my shirt off (thank you, Jesus it was a warm rain), rolled it up and used it as a shield to fight any falling acorns. I kept jogging and smiling. By the time I was turning right on to Harrison Branch Road, it was a steady rain, and by the time I turned right on to Poe Run Road, it was pouring.
As you can imagine, there was NO ONE in sight. A blessed cedar tree awning gave me a 2-second umbrella of dryness. I thought, “There is a bunker up here on the right. If it is, by chance, open, I am stopping for a few minutes until this lets up!” The next thing that happened thoroughly surprised me. The Holy Spirit touched my spirit and shared, “Sing Joy to the World!” I did. Suddenly, the lyrics, “… while fields and FLOODS, ROCKS, HILLS, and plains repeat the sounding joy.” The rain drops, rocks, and hills enveloping me, were repeating the sounding joy (Joy to the world, the Lord, Jesus the Christ, is come). I kept jogging, and I sang to the top of my lungs while concentrating on less lung fatigue as well as using my diaphragm, “Joy to the world, the savior reigns….”. I was VERY SURPRISED that the bunker was, indeed, open. It was still pouring. I stepped into the entrance of the dark bunker and the Spirit said, “Repeat the sounding joy!” I sang the verse again in the round bunker while the words echoed and repeated the “sounding joy”. Before I left, the Spirit reminded me of “Shower of Blessings”.
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need;
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.
The sound of “Shower of Blessings” echoed as well. I smiled and began to praise God for the rain, the jog, Jesus Christ, and my family. By the end of my prayer, the constant rain had stopped with only a few, scattered droplets here and there.
Friends and family, you deserve or really NEED some alone time with God, Jesus, and the Spirit. I know your families, your jobs, your daily activities, so I understand how busy your lives are. Your moments do not have to be like I had today. Sometimes the moments happen during a quiet moment of cooking, cleaning, or doing some yard work, and, yes, I’ve even had them at work before. Look for the moment. Be in the Spirit. Thanks be to our risen Savior, Jesus the Christ, we have intimacy with the Holy Spirit in prayer or song. Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and don’t forget…God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:24).
Isn’t intimacy with the Spirit something awesome? Do you choose to experience it? Do you want to experience it? For Haven, my spirit communicating with the Holy Spirit is so uplifting and joyful especially in this crazy 2020. Are you tired, worried, fatigued with what is going on around you? Are you “thirsty” in your spiritual life? The Spirit is like a water tap, the more you turn open the flow, the more volume of water you get. Heck, God will even allow you to never open the water tap. Whatever your “Spirit feelings” may be, I challenge you to find your intimacy with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit and I sang several songs together today….
Joy to the Earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and FLOODS, ROCKS, HILLS and plains
Repeat the sounding joy…
My love of deciduous trees started with the onset of 10th Grade (1981-1982). Daddy had bought me Copper and Chief, my two beloved Black and Tan coonhounds in August, and we four were spending hours in the autumn-laden ridges of Varnell. As we would either walk up and down the ridges, talk, or listen to Chief and Copper begin their innate, melodious bawling, we would discuss the trees of our woods. We mostly spoke of the noble oaks, but, of course, the maples were embedded in the woods as well. As I write this entry which is dedicated to maples, our oak trees behind our house have burst forth with color. Seriously, on Friday November 6, 2020, the oaks were green as green can be. By Sunday the 8th, they had turned reds, yellows, & oranges!
My father, Copper, Chief, and I spent the whole winter tromping through the woods that later went bare, of course. Then, the spring of 1982 came with all the new green and rebirth of plants, trees, and flowers. My 10th grade biology teacher had assigned to us a final project where we were to complete a spring flower and leaf album of 25 plants and flowers we could find in our environment. I asked Daddy to help me. One evening, he and I walked the woods behind our house with Copper and Chief. Several days later, Daddy and I walked Nanny’s yard collecting leaves. It was May 15, 1982 (Nanny’s birthday and my dad had made her a birthday cake while I mowed Nanny’s yard.. it was Saturday.. we had a family celebration after I mowed). Thirteen days later, Friday May 28, Daddy was dead. I had to finish the album without him to turn in after Memorial Day, and Nanny came to the house with some old-timey botanical magazines (We had to have those Latin, botanical names written by those leaves, ya know!) that she had collected through the years to help me fumble through the finishing touches of the album. Well, I finished it, and, sadly, I did not make a 100…. I made a 97. I think my teacher doubted some of the Latin names just between us readers; however, that love of studying and labeling flora has stuck with me.
As I wrote this past July, this COVID season has made me see things through my nature loving – Cherokee ( Yes, Pap Edwards…. Edwards Park Varnell , GA at Plainview…. Cleveland Road was my Cherokee ancestor to the Caylors… great-great-great grandfather) eyes. Walking with my family or jogging by myself on this land has tuned me in better to my surroundings, and I am very grateful that God’s spirit touches my spirit with the love and desire to research and share about my environment.
I hope you enjoy our mesmerizing maples. I’ve placed a photo of the entire maple tree with a side-by-side photo of its autumn colored leaf/leaves. Also, Thanksgiving 2020 may be another 17 days away, but I do want to say an early “Happy Thanksgiving!” to you all. God is great. Peace / Shalom.
Autumn 1985: My Nanny (Mary Naomi Alexander Caylor) had been dead for a few months. I worked at Wilson’s Superette in Varnell, Georgia. The community still had dozens of people who were teenagers or youngsters with my Nanny and Nanny’s sisters, Madeline and Florence. As I have explained before, Nanny had been my friend and confidante even before my father’s untimely death in 1982. Three years later Nanny was gone as well. Work, church, and Dalton Junior College kept me busy, but every person over the age of 60 in Varnell reminded me of the family friend I was missing so terribly.
The late summer of 1985 into the autumn found me asking the Varnell “old-timers” if they could share anything about my Nanny, Madeline, Florence, or my Nanny Alexander. I did every job (bag groceries, carry groceries to vehicles, stock shelves, slice SOME meats, sweep, mop, pump gas, run the cash registers plus more) in the store except balance the money till and the books. From the time I had started working there in the summer of 1983, I had thoroughly enjoyed carrying groceries out to people’s cars especially the cars of my fellow Varnellians. There was an awesome lady named Annie Clayton Dyer. I knew she was from Varnell, but I wasn’t too sure if she had been a contemporary or shared a history with my family. She was such a kind and giving soul, and I always enjoyed chatting with her while helping her with her groceries. One day in the autumn of 1985 as I carried Annie’s groceries to her car we began a conversation.
Haven: Mrs. Dyer, did you spend any time with the Alexander sisters when you were growing up? You know my grandmother, Naomi died recently.
Annie: I sure am sorry about that. I was closest to Florence’s age, but Lord yes! ( I had known Annie for over 2 years, and she wasn’t a somber person, but her face absolutely LIT UP, and a huge grin went across her face. It was the happiest, most child-like smile I had seen on a 60 year-old in ages! Alexander Sisters’ memories were making Annie glow)
Annie, continues: Florence and Madeline had a Halloween Party one year.
Haven: Oh, my word! I’ve never heard of such. I didn’t think my Nanny Alexander would approve of such a thing.
I had to remind myself that by the time of this party Nanny was almost 20 years old and that especially Florence received a totally different childhood rearing than Nanny. I recalled how Nanny Alexander bent to the whims of her youngest daughter.
Annie: Oh, yeah, and let me tell you this real quick… The first time I saw Florence, she came into our classroom with those,.. how do I explain it? It was an aviator’s cap. Those with the goggles.
I stood dumbfounded. Nanny Alexander allowed Florence to go to school dressed like that? Oh, me!
Continuing with the Halloween story.
Annie: Oh, yeah, the Halloween party! (We both chuckle!) . The girls had punch, cookies, and candy, and I think they had some candied apples.
Haven: How fun!
Annie: The best part was how they had a created a dead corpse.
Haven: Do what?
Annie: Oh, yeah. It was like lying on a day bed. It was kind of like dressed scare-crow style, but lying down. They kept the room dark, and part of the spookiness, the whole effect was to not look at the body, but feel it. The face was the creepiest (Annie was still smiling with wide eyes).. they had like some wrinkled mask, and the eyes were grapes! – Annie laughed, I laughed- Oh, me , that was fun. Yeah, we had fun with the Alexander girls.
Haven: -tears welling up in my eyes- Mrs. Dyer, thank you for sharing. That is great! My Nanny had never shared such.
I am imagining that this Halloween party could have been 1936, 1937, or 1938. Nanny Alexander had added my granddaddy and my daddy to the household by Halloween of 1939, and I know how much time Nanny Alexander devoted to my father who had become her world. I doubt she hosted a Halloween party with a newborn in the house.
Why is it we think the here and now is the best of a holiday? Right down the road we have the elaborate “Haunted Barn” for Halloween with it’s 21st Century light shows, pop/ rock music blaring, people paying like $20/head to see and have the poo scared out of them, but…. In the late 1930s (over 80 years ago), two young sisters from Atlanta, Georgia who had settled in the little town of Varnell, Georgia rocked Varnell with an innovative and spooky Halloween party!
I thought I would share this family tale here in this topsy-turvy 2020 Halloween season. Thank you, Randa Murray, a childhood friend since 1972, from Varnell, GA who asked her sweet mama Annie’s maiden name.
Our Fall Break excursion was a nostalgic “re-creation” of our Fall Break in 2012: Ellijay, Georgia and Burt’s Pumpkin Farm.
Hillcrest Orchards (click for link) is perfect for families with children under 8 who want to pick their own apples then have some fun. Picking apples could be fun for children of all ages, but the playgrounds and activities are designed for younger family members. Carter and Ammon, as well as Sean and I, still had fun, but they could not “get our money’s worth” out of the playgrounds. The petting zoo was great, and the tractor ride was great. They have a mechanical, gargantuan catfish named Jaws who spits water from a pond. Jaws caught me off guard, and I forgot to snap his pic.
Ellijay Scarecrow Invasion: Harrison Park-2020 instead of Downtown like 2012
Burt’s Pumpkin Farm : October 2012
Burt’s Pumpkin Farm: October 2020
If we return to Burt’s next year, I plan to go in September to buy pumpkins for decorations. Just photos, some pumpkin bread, and an enjoyable hay ride this year.
For me, this home quarantine experience has given me a new perspective and appreciation of God’s beauty around our house. Being the introverted-extrovert that I am, I haven ‘t minded being at home with my family and enjoying the nature that surrounds us. I want to share our fruit-bearing season of the beautiful yet humid Southeast Tennessee, especially here at our home.
We began walking up and down our 800 ft. driveway as a family late in March for family exercise. Until April, the majority of the trees were bare. The Bradford pear trees had bloomed and had some leaves, but that was about it. As the days went by, that “first green”, vibrant, light green donned our mountain. In a week, the whole mountain was “first green”. By my birthday on May 7, it was all “spring-summer” green with that rich, green, chlorophyll shroud. All the different grasses (Bermuda, fescue, crab grass, weeds, clover… LOL) blended together by June to make our summer carpet to match the green drapery of our trees that surrounded us. I also have to mention that our black walnut trees budded and unfurled their leaves the latest we had seen since our first spring here in 2005. The spring of 2020 our two black walnut trees had not budded by May 1, yet they had small leaves adorning their branches by my birthday six days later.
God isn’t finished with me yet when it comes to carpentry, gardening, or being a mechanic. He may bless me with the opportunities to learn those things quite soon. Who knows? Maybe never. However, I love watching vegetables and fruits grow. Last week, I was doing my weekly mowing on the tractor ( Oh, once again, our Brother in Christ, Lloyd Thieman, has been our tractor savior this year!!! ) , and I drove under some of the infamous privet hedges that are 10 feet tall. Dangling from the hedges were muscadine vines with muscadines! Some were even turning purple! While dodging privet branches I yelled only to God , “Muscadines already?” , and I could hear God (Not God’s literal voice , of course… I’m not Pentecostal yet) saying, “Yes, Haven. ALREADY.” This thought gave me the theme of this entry. After I parked the tractor in the barn that evening, I took my phone and snapped photos of our muscadines, pears, and black walnuts.
As long as the earth will stand, God will give us our seasons. He shared that promise with Noah thousands of years ago. This isn’t an entry about the spiritual seasons of us Christians, but, of course it’s a parallel. Friends and family, stop and enjoy God’s seasonal surroundings. You won’t regret it.
Blackberry picking is a summer ritual for me just as catching lightening bugs, catching June bugs and sometimes trying to fly them on a string, listening to the katydids, and sitting somewhere under shelter while listening to a summer thunderstorm. I was mowing several weeks ago, and I hopped off the tractor to move a garden hose. Near our swimming pool fence where the hose lay were some blackberry bushes. I picked a blackberry, ate it, and with its taste came 50 years of beautiful blackberry memories: Evenings when the whole family picked blackberries together, homemade blackberry cobblers, and my bud, Judy.
I love dogs, and I cannot remember life without them. My pet dogs are a part of my essence, and all of them hold a special place in my heart. I am not done with living yet, so I cannot say that Judy was .. THE ONE… that ONE CANINE SOUL MATE…. But she comes pretty close. Judy had many talents and gifts. Lord willing, I will expand on some of them in future blog entries, but this entry is dedicated to Judy the German Shepherd and her blackberry picking abilities.
Have you ever had a dog that could/would pick any berry: strawberry, blackberry, blueberry (kinda high off the ground I reckon), a muscadine, or a grape? Well, my Judy would blackberry pick with me. I have no idea when she started nor do I have any recollection of her watching me. However, my Judy surprised me one summer evening while I was strolling through our yard. On the edge our yard near a pine grove, there were some blackberry brambles (bushes). In case you are reading from another area of the United States or the world, the OVERWHELMING majority of our blackberry bushes grow on thorny stalks/brambles. As a blackberry grows on its bramble, it begins as green, then turns red, then turns “black” (deep purple). When it is black it is ready to pick and eat. Well, Judy had been walking by my side, and she stopped to watch me inspect and eat some blackberries. When I finished, she took her turn at finding a blackberry to eat. She sniffed, inspected the remaining, unripe, red blackberries, sniffed again, then ever so delicately (remember there are thorns everywhere) nibbled off a ripe blackberry. After she swallowed, she nipped another berry. I laughed, knelt down, and gave my girl a big ‘ol hug. “You stinker! You sure are smart!” , I said… and yes, she was very intelligent. That was all she wanted that evening. She would eat blackberries with me in later years, and it always amazed me.
Friends and family, I love it when you post your comments in response to my blog entries both here and on other social media. Please share the summer antics of a special member of your fur family: Either past or present. We need some heart-warming stories to make us smile this summer of 2020 and post some pics if you can.