Sand Bucket Memories

Sand Bucket Blog photo

Over the past few months, I have had some wonderful conversations with a dear friend’s Grandma.  Laughing and sharing stories about farm life, listening to her no-nonsense approach to life, and farming tips like how to grow an apple tree simply from the seeds of an old apple core have warmed my heart.  It has brought back sweet memories of my own Granny.  Here’s a piece, originally written as a poem many years ago, about one particular childhood memory.

SAND BUCKET MEMORIES

These days, audiences of all ages are entertained by various electronic devices. Video games, movies, music and even books are played, viewed, listened to and read via laptops, cell phones, digital players, and e-book readers.

Childhood play did not always involve such high-tech gadgets. Once upon a time, youthful joy came from fresh air, inexpensive tools, and simple outdoor fun.

As a young girl, I visited my grandparents’ farm in Virginia on many occasions. Cattle grazed in the pastures and chickens roamed freely just outside the hen house. Granny clucked at the chicks as she doled out feed corn from her apron pockets.

With thirteen children and numerous grandchildren, family members visited often. She always insisted on feeding her guests; hungry or not. No one could make homemade bread and fried eggs like my Granny.

Relatives often stopped at the farm entrance to pick up mail from the family mail boxes. On one particular visit, we grandchildren walked with Grandpa to go get the mail. Each of us took turns carrying an empty five-gallon bucket which constantly banged against our legs. We skipped, ran, jumped, and walked beside Grandpa as we followed their country lane through the pine trees, past the clearing, and around the corner by the big oak tree. Opening and shutting creaky, metal gates and maneuvering our way over uneven river rocks was quite an adventure. We enjoyed our walk, asking a thousand questions. Grandpa’s answers matched his slow sauntering pace. When we dawdled, he’d remind us of the reward that would soon fill our bucket. Huge grasshoppers jumped across our path, frightening us city girls with their speed and power. Butterflies fluttered from one place to the next while bumble bees buzzed all around. We stopped occasionally to pick roses, black-eyed Susans, daisies, and wild strawberries found growing alongside the road. The cows stared at us, chewing methodically; their tails swatting at flies. Grandpa assured us that we were safe from the bull as long as we stayed close beside him.

After retrieving the mail, we headed back to the house. Along the way, we stopped where the road rocks gave way to sparkling white sand. It was powdery and slipped right through our fingers. Grandpa shoveled the sand into our bucket and carried it back to the yard for us. He went quietly into the house to take a hard-earned nap; having satisfied both grandchildren and adults.

Our parents primed the hand water pump just outside the front door. The smallest grandchild caught a short ride, hanging onto the metal handle as it went up and down. Ice cold water gushed out; full of red iron flakes. It was perfect for homemade mud pies. Acorns were gathered from the base of the oak tree (our hidden stash from previous visits to help the squirrels’ through their next hard winter). Using Granny’s old metal forks and spoons, we dug up the rich dirt; mixing in the hot sand, water, and acorns. We poured our concoction into discarded pie tins and rusty baking pans; mimicking Granny’s bread making. Fancy swirls were made on top with our magical sand frosting. Once our pies and cakes baked in the sun, we begged our parents to come see our creations. Before long, the creamy mud and tiny jewels lost their charm. The sand no longer glittered and gone was the desire to feel the cold soil move through our fingers and toes.

We battled huge flying insects, endured the sun’s heat, and journeyed that long distance with an old plastic farm bucket in tow … all for pure, white sand and a few precious moments with Grandpa.

Things have changed since those days of innocence. Grandpa and Granny are gone now as well as the original farm house and buildings. The farm has been divided between family generations and it makes me sad to see the farm split up by so many property boundaries. But I am grateful that when we visit, my children and I can still take long walks. I think of a time when childhood play required imagination, sand buckets, and mud pies; not high-tech equipment.

The Refining Fires of Busyness

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I am so sorry for the unplanned hiatus these past couple of months.  Sometimes the seesaw of life (relationships, roles, unplanned events, and tasks) tips unevenly to one side or the other and seems to stay there awhile.  During busy seasons and faced with a decision on where to focus my energies, I often set creative endeavors aside.

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No, don’t adjust your monitor.  These photos are indeed out of focus and a little distracting.  A couple of years ago, the pace of daily life shifted to warp speed.  There’s barely time to live in each moment; much less process it.  As I click away, my mind continually processing scenes faster than the camera, my husband often shakes his head.  (I have even requested that no blurry photos be deleted.  Someday, I just might use those!)  Sometimes I snap a shot as some writing idea races through my mind.  More often than not, I am simply trying to capture the scenes of life flying past.

The busier the schedule gets, the quieter I become. But that quietness on the outside doesn’t always mean stillness on the inside.  Internally, there is often a flurry of activity as changes come fast and furious and I find myself in a continual balancing act.  There are times that I am quite certain the flexibility joint has bent as far as it possibly can.  But God always shows me that, yes, it can bend some more … if I am willing. He uses these hectic seasons to help me prioritize between the essential and non-essential.

Today, He may use me to bring comfort through a smile or a hug; to listen and cry with a grieving friend over a devastating loss.  Tomorrow, my role may be that of a secretary, chauffeur, dishwasher, or grocery shopper.  Next week, it could be as homework checker, teacher, or all around errand runner; to name only a few.  And on most days, the roles collide and blend together.  Regardless of the task, I am called to be available; even in the words of my posts.

Yes, there is joy at warp speed … again, if I am willing.  Instead of focusing on what isn’t getting done or what’s up ahead, God reminds me of the importance of the tasks He sets before me.  He would have me live fully in His moment; not mine.   It’s not the speed of life that’s the issue; the problem surfaces when I take my eyes off of God, even for a second.

I pray that one day, even in the busiest of seasons, a peaceful spirit will reign inside as well as out.

Romans 15:32-33 that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.  Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Painful Anniversaries

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As the summer season and its suffocating heat fade, my soul seems to come alive.  Fall has always been my favorite time of year.  What’s not to love?  The mountains burst forth with color; reds, oranges, and yellows mixed with the evergreens.  Leaves begin to fall and there is something exhilarating about the sound of crunching leaves underfoot.  The temperatures begin to drop; resulting in glorious crisp air in the mornings and evenings.  The morning mist lingers near the ground before disappearing with the sun’s warmth.  Deer venture out, sticking close to the edge of the forest.  In the country, the scents from wood burning stoves and fireplaces hang in the air.  In late fall, camouflage becomes the fashionable clothing of choice along with orange hats and vests as hunting season begins.

After one last curtain call of color, the leaves shrivel up and turn that ugly brown.  Leaves on the ground are soggy; providing a covering for the soil underneath.  The trees’ branches are bare, exposed but the trees are not dead. They are simply conserving nutrients; resting until spring when they will once again show new life. Crops are gathered and harvested.  Animals grow heavier coats.  All of these events signal the end of one season and beginning of another.

This is also the time of year that I, along with others, must face many painful anniversaries.

Most of us have them.  You know the ones; those heart-rending dates that loom ahead on the calendar.  We strive to remember, to never forget a loved one. We may try to blot out (but can’t) that heartbreak or event that forever changed our lives or someone else’s.

What do we do with those kinds of anniversaries?  How do we get beyond the deep sorrow and move toward the joy of spring and new life?

There are documented scientific reasons to explain seasonal changes.  But when it comes to losing a loved one, there is no earthly explanation that can soothe my hurting soul.  I have no textbook answer as to why one person lives a long life and another is taken away in their youth. Nor do I understand why disease claims the life of one yet leaves another untouched.  But I do know that these losses and other tragedies are a part of this life.  I trust that God has a purpose and a reason, even if I am never able to see good come of it.

Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah Psalm 62:8

Each year when these painful anniversary dates come and go, there is always a time of reflection, of soul searching, and a letting go of emotions … yet again.

But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD…   Psalm 73:28

Revive me, O LORD, for Your name’s sake! For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.  Psalm 143:11

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.  Psalm 23:3

Then I prayerfully and purposefully dwell on joyful memories of laughter and family gatherings.  I breathe in deeply of the crisp air and enjoy the sights and smells of fall.  I rejoice because somehow, even after deep sorrow, God once again reminds me how to smile.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD…  Psalm 27:13