The Best Thirty-Six Hours

Our day began by taking Amy to Southern Manners for breakfast. Terry can’t handle the pressure and decides to order a large, fresh cinnamon roll.

After breakfast, we came home and packed our bags. Helped Amy get her car.loaded and took off in different directions. Amy heading back to school for her final hooray. Terry and I headed to Charlotte.

About four months or so ago Terry announced, ”America is playing in Charlotte and we are going. I’ve already bought tickets. Spared no expense and got us great seats.”

After checking in to the Hilton Garden Inn, we ventured out for a little snack. About two blocks up from the hotel we.saw.this French bakery and cafe, Amelias.

It certainly did not disappoint in ambiance and flavor. Food was excellent and reasonably priced for the quality.

After a little rest, we trekked back to Epicenter to check out Blackfinn. Our waitress, Jessie, took our drink order. While waiting, the manager, who we saw upon arrival came by our table. Terry started talking to him about his hat. And he asked,

”So, do I have to grow a beard like yours to wear a hat like that.”

He laughed and said, ”Yes but you want to try it on?”

Next thing I knew Terry had the hat on his head and Zach is introducing himself to us.

We decided on a couple of appetizers, fried deviled eggs and shrimp and crab dip. Both get a thumbs up. Tasty and delicious.

Jessie suggested we ride the Lynx to NoDa and go to Haberdish. Then take a Lyft from there to the concert.

I am a huge fan of public transportation in big cities. It’s the best and most efficient way to travel, in my humble opinion.

When we arrived at Haberdish, we looked over the menu but weren’t able to commit to any food, except another appetizer. This time we chose, Biscuits and Bacon Jelly.

Again, we were not disappointed in the least. Well, maybe a little disappointed that we couldn’t find room for their food. The atmosphere proved to be stellar as well and rest assured, we will make a return visit there.

Our Lyft delivered us safely to the Ovens Auditorium. We had about thirty minutes before the opening act. Terry went off to the bathroom and I sat down beside this couple.

As you know, I’m not usually lacking for words so I struck up a conversation with them. By the time Terry returned and we all were conversing we learned that he was Dale Earnhardts personal barber, Steve Ellsworth (look him up)!

Finally, it was showtime!

The opening act, Michael Tracy, out of Charlotte! To be honest, he is definitely worth a listen. I was uncertain at first but after his thirty-minute opening act, I was sold.

Then after a.thirty minute intermission,

America brought the house down. Their opening song, ”Tin Man.” Can I just interject, from start to finish, they entertained and rocked the crowd? By all appearances, it was a sold-out performance. To he honest, we had such good seats,

I couldn’t see the whole balcony.

When Terry said the seats were primo; he was being truthful. We were literally five rows from the stage and our seats were in the center!

After playing for a solid hour and a half the concert ended with ”A Horse With No Name” Absolutely the best song to end on.

Our Lyft driver came promptly and transported us back to our hotel.

This morning we decided to venture out to the Epicenter for breakfast. We chose the Red Eye Diner. A classic breakfast. Good and reasonably priced,

We left the hotel and ventured.to the Billy Graham Library

A place I’ve itched to go for years!

Again, it did not disappoint. Truthfully, it was the cream of the crop.

From the time we entered until the time of our departure, there was a quiet calming peace, indescribable.

If I gleaned nothing else, the simplicity of. the message Billy Graham always preached spoke to the heart of millions. He never took away from or added to the Gospel.message. Jesus, born of a Virgin, came.to save! We are all sinners. Today is the day of your salvation. You are not promised tomorrow. Today is the day of salvation. What a magnificent proclamation of the Gospel!

If I could sum up those thirty-six hours of our lives, I would say ”Amazing and some of the best of our married lives.”

A perfect city view from our hotel window

Taste and See: A lesson from The Tom and Debbie Portion

As a young child, I had (still have) these incredibly awesome people in my life, Uncle Tom and Aunt Debbie.

I was the flower girl in their wedding. Funny story for another time, I threw the flower petals after the ceremony not as the bride was coming down the aisle.

After they were married, they lived in Tennessee, while the rest of the family lived in the Brevard/Rosman area. So, they always made an effort to ensure they bonded with all of us. They did this by taking us home with them for a week every summer. In fact, for most of us (cousins) spending time with Uncle Tom and Aunt Debbie, was a highlight of our summer.

Anyway, I clearly remember the first time Kristi and I went for a week. We sat down to the table to eat. Food was plentiful. However, Kristi and I didn’t like everything set before us and turned our noses at a few items. That’s when it happened. Aunt Debbie announced the following, “When you are visiting us, our rule is that you take a small portion of any food placed before you and try it. It’s called the Tom and Debbie portion.”

Guess what happened? I learned to like some food I’d never tasted or tried before. (Maybe that’s why I like food so much now). I also learned there were foods I just couldn’t stomach. Sometimes I could tell after the first bite if I liked it or not and sometimes it took the whole portion before I decided. In fact, there were times I may have to try it again and again before I could make a call.

As I’ve pondered this experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that God issues the same invitation to us. He invites us to try him. In fact the scripture says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” Psalm 34:8

Isn’t it interesting that David issues this invitation to us? Just like the Tom and Debbie portion invited us to taste a little of everything. You may not like what you taste and the great thing about God is that He will never force his way in. He will wait patiently and you may have to taste more than one bite to determine if it’s good. In fact, you may have to try Him again and again and again before you see how sweet and pleasing and good He is.

Salt, Pressure Cooker, Time……

Funny how our lives go through seasons, just like the weather. When Terry and I first met, even many years before, I loved cooking. It always brought great sense of satisfaction. The idea that I could take different items, put them together and the finished product tasted good, excited me,

My first cooking experience was an absolute disaster and surprisingly I tried again. This was not really a normal pattern of behavior for me because I liked perfection. I didn’t like to do anything wrong. Most often if I failed miserably the first time, there was no repeat failure. I just refused to try again.

Let me tell you about my first cooking experience.

Mom knew I loved helping in the kitchen and she was always more than willing to let me help. So she purchased me Charlie Brown cookbook. As soon as it arrived, I was eager beaver to try out a recipe. I scanned through the book and found. Recipe for egg salad. As most of the recipes in a children’s cookbook, it was easy. We all liked egg salad and I liked the idea of everyone trying something I made for them.

I carefully and meticulously followed the directions. I boiled the eggs. Let them cool. Cracked, peeled and mashed them. Measured and stirred in the mayonnaise. Then measured and dumped in the salt. Stirred it up good and tasted my first creation. The first taste was salty and got saltier as it slid down my throat. Yuk! Why was this so salty?

I had Mom taste it. She said, “Honey, how much salt did you use?”

“A cup. That’s what the recipe said. Look!”

She glanced at the recipe and said, “No honey! The recipe doesn’t call for a cup of salt. Just a pinch! ”

“Mama, it doesn’t say pinch. It says salt right under the cup of mayonnaise. I just thought it meant the same amount.”

Needless to say, my first attempt at cooking by myself didn’t end well. We tossed out that egg salad. Mom insisted that I try again. Fortunately, the next go around proved more successful.

That was when I was 10.

Not only did Mom help fuel my love of cooking but my Grandma Reese added fuel to the fire. I loved watching her in the kitchen. She was one of those who looked everything and measured nothing. She had it down pat. She could whip up a fine spread. Everything she made was good. She always had food and always enough for anyone who stopped by to eat.

My love for cooking grew exponentially when I was teenager. I loved cooking for family and friends. I also enjoyed baking and baking with friends.

I had another small faux pas with cooking when I was 16. Sunday was roast day at our house. A meal that consisted of roast, carrots, green beans, mashed taters, gravy and Ned’s biscuits. One particular Sunday I offered to fix the mashed taters because I was attending a different church and knew I would be hone before the rest of the fam.

I washed, peeled and quartered the potatoes and threw them along with a little water into the famous Presto pressure cooker. It’s just how we did potatoes because of ease and convenience. I turned they eye on high and listened as the pressure built. The only problem I began to notice was that the agitator, or jiggler, as we commonly labeled it, wasn’t jiggling. But I could hear the pressure boiling. Suddenly without warning or notice the top exploded, sending mounds of potatoes streaming though the air and on everything. Wish I had a picture. Potatoes were everywhere, on cabinets, countertops, floors and even hanging on the popcorn ceiling. Mom said she kept finding remnants of potatoes for years. Lesson learned: Properly secure the lid, making sure the handles align properly and make sure as the pressure builds the “jiggler” jiggles,

Fortunately, the potato blow up didn’t diminish my love of cooking.

The first time I had Terry over to meet the parents, I cooked. (This was the time Ned blew up and got his nickname “Nitro”) I’ve always said that’s why he married me in the first place. I enjoyed cooking and he loved to eat. He’s was a bottomless pit and still is sometimes.

Having four children and Terry I learned to cook big. A lot of times, we generally had more than six around the table between family and kids friends, I just tailored my cooking for a crowd. As the kids grew so did appetites but it was no problem. I had a system and it worked. It worked well until one day we found ourselves minus two, Alex playing golf and Amy doing the everything else. Cooking became less and less. It was harder to maintain a system or schedule. It seemed we were gone all the time. When I did cook, everyone was exited and I made sure it was worthwhile. In fact, I always laughed and said my children were spoiled ton good food because about the only fast food they would eat was Chick-fil-A and occasionally Wendy’s.

We got more in the habit of eating out than eating in. Truthfully, with grocery store prices and the food I like to cook, we weren’t spending any more money. We were still eating together when we could.

I really thought after Alex graduated I would find more time to cook. Honestly, I think Amy’s schedule expanded ten-fold. Cooking didn’t happen and when it did, I didn’t really enjoy it. Mostly because I knew so much would go to waste or be given away, I struggled to find balance to cook or four.

Last year, I told a good friend that I was praying that God would restore my joy of cooking. I did better. I found myself fixing more meals at home. Simpler meals, not the complex ones. I found they were tasty and satisfying as the ones I spent hours to prepare. However, during much of the later part of the summer and into fall, I didn’t cook much again. This time, not from a standpoint of disdain, it was a time factor. I simply didn’t have time, especially when Ned got so sick.

Recently, my passion has been restored and I am finding myself in the kitchen more and more. I’m not always a good one to give a recipe. Like Grandma, a lot I do by look and taste. It’s just how I prefer to cook. I’m also one of those will take a few recipes and combine them into one.  So, if I ever get to the point I write and measure everything, I might publish some really good recipes.  Until then, I can tell you approximations and that’s about it.

Baking, however, requires more precision and fine tuning with the measuring.  Although I do tend to get a little vanilla happy in most recipes.  I do find myself, even in baking, adding a few recipes together.  It’s fun to see the end result.

From the time my passion and joy waned, until it was restored took about 5 years.  You read right.  5 whole years!  Of course my crew didn’t starve, we just know a lot of local restaurant owners and servers.

Folks, life is like this.  We go through periods of dry spells.  Periods of time when trials come and they don’t just go away.  I don’t know what you’re going through or how long you’ve been there.  What I can encourage you with today is to hang in there!  God is working while you’re waiting.  He will restore your passion and joy.  I don’t know when.  I don’t know how long.  I just know He will.

How do I know He will?  He has done it for me a time or fifty.  That’s how I know.  My entire life has felt like season upon season of change.  I just know that as I write the following statement from Charles Swindoll’s Book Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit, I have come to understand that sometimes these times of trials are allowed by God to make us more into His likeness.

“It is not always God’s will that you be healed.  It is not always the Father’s plan to relieve the pressure.  Our happiness is not God’s chief aim.  He doesn’t have a wonderful (meaning ‘comfortable’) plan for everybody’s lifenot from a human perspective.  Often His plan is nowhere near wonderful.  As with Saul, His answer is not what he prayed and hoped for. ”

What God simply tells Saul is, “My grace is sufficient.”  Can you hear Him?  He whispers that you too.  Repeat that phrase over and over and over and over until you believe it with all of you heart.

When you do come out of the trial, remember that his strength has been perfected in your weakness and as  Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us, New Living Translation
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end”  Remember its all about what He’s doing in you.

Think of it like this.  If we didn’t have the cold, damp, dry, bareness of winter, we could never fully enjoy the bounty of spring.  Know and believe that He is doing a very good thing in you!

It’s more than enough

Ever been to one of those fabulous Japanese Steakhouses?

For two consecutive years that’s where Alex has wanted to go for his birthday. Both years I found myself thinking while the food was being so skillfully prepared, “It’s not going to be enough for everyone at the table”. Both years, I’ve been terribly wrong in my thinking. It’s always been more than enough.

Truthfully, I’ve been to Japanese steakhouses far more than just twice and I know from prior experience that there is always enough. Always.

Funny how I treat my relationship with God the same way. I’ve lived long enough and had many experiences both good and bad that have taught me that He is more than enough. But just let the weight of an unanswered prayer, a strained relationship, an expected loss, an unexpected illness creeps in!  Bam!!! I’m all up in arms and overwhelmed looking at my circumstances rather than to Him

You see most times, I’m only seeing a portion of the much larger picture. God sees the whole. Just like the chefs know the exact amount of food to prepare, and the best way to serve the food; God knows what we need and when we need it the most and He gives us far more than we need or deserve.

The hardest part for me is the wait. It’s in that period of time that I continually forget what I’ve already have learned.