campfire days

Sometimes friends teach you big things. Sometimes they teach you small things that turn out to be big things after all.

Growing up we didn’t do cookouts much. Not that we wouldn’t have liked to sit around the fire it just wasn’t something we thought to do. We sat around the fire when we went camping every other year or so. 

Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart ~ Winnie the Pooh

   And then we met Mennos. They moved to our church about 5 years ago and they’ve blessed us in many big and small ways, but the big small way was campfires. When you go to Mennos house, they’ll take you out to a backyard spilling with flowers to a ring of rocks. They builf a fire in the circle and then bring out chairs and marshmallows and we sit together and eat s’mores and talk about the important things in our lives. Fires have a way of bringing us back to what’s really important. That makes fires important. 

   Today if you come visit us, you might have a similar experience. We love campfires, we’d love to introduce you to their simplicity and complexity. 

People change you. Often in ways they may not even realize. Tonight I’m thankful for campfires and I’m thankful for friends who add dimension to my life. 


What are some small big things you’ve learned lately?

10 things I’ve learned

Try new things.

Take risks.

You have time to do the things that are important to you.

People are important.

Life is good.

Life is also hard.

Be alone.

Be happy.

Walk in someone else’s shoes.

Stand in the moonlight.

This is far from an all inclusive list. (I would hope so anyhow) someday I might expound further, but for now, that’s enough.

The Eyes of the World: the book

I generally loan out books freely. I feel much more justified for the amount of money I spend on them if 10 other people read them, than if it’s just for me. BUT there is this one book.
I like books by Harold Bell Wright. I first read ‘Shepherd of the Hills’ and was totally hooked. I buy every one I see, even if I already own a copy simply because I can’t resist.
The first time I read “The Eyes of the World” I read slowly. Going back to reread certain parts. That is a very rare thing for me to do, but I didn’t mind with this book, I wanted to reread it and I very much didn’t want to get through it.
I think maybe I like it because it puts into words the things I want to say but cannot. We’ll, it doesn’t exactly say them either, but somehow you feel and experience the things you can normally only feel and experience when you really are alone in the mountains.
Maybe I simply like it because I love the mountains and I love blackberries.
But more likely, it’s the spiritual aspect of the book that I love. The portrayal of human nature and the startling contrast between the ways of the World and all that is good and right.
Part of the reason I don’t let people borrow this book is because it’s old and fragile and I’d rather not have it torn but it’s not really that I’m worried about. I’m afraid they wouldn’t understand it, afraid they wouldn’t like it, and I simply couldn’t handle that. I don’t like to see the things I love picked apart and criticized. I want to simply love them.
I took the risk once. She was a kindred spirit, I’d known her for several years and I felt she would understand. She did. She read it carefully and returned it promptly. We discuss it sometimes. Almost reverently, in low tones. We don’t say a lot, “I’m reading that book again”
And we stand and look towards the mountains together.

The Blackberry Insult

From now on I’m calling all people with mixed up priorities, “the kind of people who doesn’t spend enough time picking blackberries”. It’s perfect. People who do spend enough time picking blackberries will know exactly what you mean. People who don’t will pass it off as nonsense. It will also help you identify kindred spirits. They are the ones who grin slyly at you when you say this.

Too Many Onions

27 JUNE 2017, 12:21 PM
Now I like onions, on a sandwich, in a salad, onion rings, and French onion soup. I LOVE French onion soup. I also like onion relish. I am not, however, quite as fond of making onion relish.
Our family operates a small cannery, The Relish Barn. We make all sorts of pickles and relishes.For the most part we make things as they’re ordered, except onion relish.
Every summer dad takes a trip to Georgia with a big truck loaded with empty bins, and comes back with the bins full of onions. 8,000 lbs of onions, and yes, we peel every one of those onions by hand.
It takes about a week usually, to turn those onions into jars of relish. The whole family gets involved. Dad pays the kids so much per 5 gallon bucket of onions peeled and they always start in eagerly, glad for some extra spending money. It fades some of course, but they’re pretty determined kids. It turns into something of a fun event. We turn on some music or Adventures in Odyssey or play guessing games while we work. We order sandwiches or pizza and it’s fun. We’ll, as fun as peeling onions can be.
And no, we don’t cry, not much anyhow. I guess maybe because we grew up doing it, or because Vidalia onions are mild and sweet, I don’t really know why but we do very little crying.
So yeah, I’m a little tired of onions right now but I have to admit, I kinda like onion week, and when this week is over, I’ll look forward to next year

The Mountains are calling and I must go

19 JUNE 2017, 08:06 PM
In my mountains the sky is brilliant blue, the clouds puffy and white and the forests verdant green. Wildflowers grow in abundance along the roadside and the fields are alive with daisies and black-eyed susans. The hills are covered with wild blackberries, so fat and sweet they melt in your mouth and holly bushes dot the mountainside.
In my mountains the summer air is fresh and sweet and in the winter it is crisp,clean and cold. Spring storms are swift and sudden and Autumn comes slowly, softly.
You can still ride on the back of a pickup truck in my mountains, the roads are narrow and curving, through some of the most scenic places America has to offer. You can take a hike through forests covered mountains without worrying about whose land it is because they all know who you are and who your daddy is.
In my mountains you might not have cell phone service but it doesn’t really matter because if you’re in trouble someone will help you and they probably can take you home without asking directions.
In my mountains life slows down, we’re thirty years behind everyone else, they say. I think it’s a privilege. An almost-lost culture we get to experience.
We eat cornbread and beans in my mountains, served hot and fresh with homemade chow-chow, with apple stack cake for dessert, and sweet tea is more common then water.
In my mountains, we believe in Jesus. We go to church and to prayer meeting. We say “God bless you” and mean it. We still sing the old hymns and spirituals. We still believe the bible.
I love my mountains. I think there’s something spiritual about mountains. Jesus would go apart into lonely places to be closer to His Father. It’s easier to do that in the mountains. We believe in God because we see Him. Because He is here, with us

The Winter of my Heart

24 JUNE 2017, 11:28 PM
The winter of my heart has caught me unawares. I did not see the days March steadily onwards, nor feel the summer breeze cool into a chilly wind. I did not see the autumn leaves turn golden. Each day was filled with beauty, and surely there were many more to come. Could I have known that winter’s wind would ravishing all I had? Could I have seen the beauty turn to bleakness? What heart is it, who could prepare for that? And so, the winter of my heart has caught me unawares.

It came upon me swift and sudden, creeping in as silent as the footsteps of a cat. I did not see it coming. Its approach was not given me to see, and for that I am truly thankful. Who would want to know that summer’s splendor could twist into bleakness, and barrenness, and chill?
But there is beauty even in the bleakness, and there are lessons only learned in winter. Though the days stretched out, long and cold, and though at times it seemed never to end, slowly slowly, comes the healing of the spring.
At times, I think the winter’s harshness will give way to spring, and then again come frozen days of wind and snow. Spring seems a fading dream. But in the end, I know the gentle spring will triumph over winter’s grip. And though the soul cannot forget the winter’s harshness, it will treasure so much more the sunshine of the spring. For there are lessons only learned in winter.
So now I lift my eyes, long dimmed by winter’s cold, up to the sunshine. And my long -frozen heart must melt beneath it’s warmth. A song of praise rises to him who sent my winter. For in the winter of my heart, He gave me grace; and at the winter’s end, He sent the spring. Somehow this bleak and cold has broken, has melted, and winter played a part in making me whole.

Stepping heavenward: the book

23 JUNE 2017, 11:19 PM
I don’t remember the first time I read it, nor do I have any idea how many times I’ve read it. I do that with books I like. The really great books. The good ones I read all the way through, the ok ones I skim, and the bad ones, I read the back cover. Maybe. There aren’t very many that I read over and over, there are so many other ones to read but sometimes you meet a book that you can’t absorb in just one reading, so you read it again. And sometimes again.
Stepping Heavenward is like that. I become Katy. She becomes me. I learn life with her, and life is good and hard and funny and terrible all mixed up together. That speaks to me. It’s real. Life is never easily explained or smooth and perfect. Not my life anyhow. That’s why I like Katy, that’s why you would like her, because she’s real. Not real as in “it actually happened” it didn’t. But then it did, because her story is, I believe, at it’s heart, the story of every girl.
My copy is old and tattered. Well-loved. It was well-loved even before I got it. I’ve given probably at least a dozen copies of this book to other girls but I haven’t gotten a new one for me. Old friends are always better.

There’s something about blackberries

22 JUNE 2017, 02:17 PM
Abundance is a handful of blackberries. That’s my prevailing feeling about blackberries. I like any kind of berries but blackberries are special. Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries grow in the orchard. Blackberries grow wild and free all over my mountains. They’ve grown there for centuries. Back when the Native Americans roamed the hills and valleys, when wagon trains of pioneers traveled through, stopping to rest at Martin’s Fort, during the world wars and the civil war, all through the great depression, the blackberries were the one thing that never changed. They grew and flourished in good times and bad. They are timeless. When I’m picking blackberries I’m no longer Anna Joy Graber in the 21st century, I’m a young Indian maiden gathering a pouch of berries to dry in the sun or a levelheaded pioneer woman preparing for the journey west. I can be part of a struggling family during the great depression struggling to make ends meet, or anyone really. Blackberries connect us. We become part of the same story, only appearing in different chapters.
      I wonder sometimes why God does it that way. Why do we work hard and fertilize and water and weed for the others but the blackberries just grow. No help from us at all. I was on the farm Sunday afternoon. The pasture is full of blackberry bushes, red with unripened berries, drooping from the weight. Why? Why blackberries, why are they for us? We don’t own them, we didn’t plant them. It’s like a gift, given freely every year with nothing asked in return. They’re a lot like grace, really. I’m learning a lot from blackberries.

Soggy bread

19 JUNE 2017, 10:24 PM
Bread upon the waters cast
Will be returned to you at last,
This is a proverb strange – but true
You’ll find it works in all you do.

Soggy bread seems good for nought,
And too, it seems at times you’ve sought
For just a bit of good to come
From all the things you’ve said and done.

The work seems wasted, thrown away
Like bread that’s lost in ocean spray.
Drift on! and find your way to sea
The Master knows just where it be.

For when your faith is turned to sight,
Your hope is emptied in delight,
You’ll find the little deeds of yore
Have been returned as something more.