diggingupbonesbratkin

This blog is just me, talking about whatever is flipping my switch on any given day. Sometimes that will mean I’ll be exhuming things better left alone.

Christmas is coming, the quilts are getting made . . . — October 1, 2017

Christmas is coming, the quilts are getting made . . .

When someone contacted me about a quilt I had made with a flamingo on it, I was pretty happy. She wanted one like it only bigger. The one I had made was crib size and she needed one big enough to snuggle under while watching television, taking a nap, or reading a good book.  Yes, I can make this snuggle size and yes, I can make two of them but you must realize they won’t be exactly alike because my quilts are made from scraps and while the colors may be the same the fabrics will not necessarily be the same.  She was pleased with that and I was pleased with how they finished. You might consider this a hit.

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That same lady also asked if I could make a pineapple quilt and I said that I surely could. And I did. If the flamingo quilts were a home run, the pineapple quilt was an error. But I fixed the error. The first picture shows the error and the second picture shows it fixed.

And to finish off the Christmas quilts for this same lady she wanted to know if I could make a mermaid and, heck, why not, so I said yes to that project too.

To continue the baseball theme of a homerun and an error, I’ll have to say the mermaid quilt was a hit!

And what was I thinking while making these four quilts? I was thinking of the next quilts I would also make for someone for Christmas.  Three twin size quilts, but that’s for another blog.

Something tells me there will be some really happy young folks this Christmas when they get their very own quilt to snuggle under while dreaming of the future.

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A Divine Appointment — September 15, 2017

A Divine Appointment

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One sunny Sunday in May of 1965, Bob and I both stopped by Walker’s Dairy Bar in Trumann, Arkansas at the same time for a cool afternoon drink. Some would say we got there at the same time by accident, some would say by coincidence, some would say we were put together at the right moment in time for both of us. We call that meeting a divine appointment.

As of today, we have been married for 52 years. This marriage has been a ride that was much like a roller coaster. Many highs, some lows, a few squeals, a little coasting through even spots, and a whole lot of fun.

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Bob and I have tried to provide what the other needs—comfort in times of sorrow, a glad heart to rejoice with each other on occasions of happiness, a clear vision for each other when one of us is going through darkness, and strength to uphold each other in moments of weakness. There were a few times the boat seemed to rock a bit but neither of us ever thought of jumping out.  We know that it is important that a couple be a mighty sword and unbreakable shield against the other’s enemies and we’ve surely done this.  I have to say that grace and peace have filled our home always. We each pray to be a warm sun for the other so that if one of us falls into a cold situation the other will always be full of warmth. We’ve striven to be a full moon giving light when the other is traveling in darkness, and a faithful star like Polaris for the other. (See my North Star blog here: https://diggingupbonesbratkin.wordpress.com/2017/09/03/are-you-a-north-star-person/) And, after our love of the Almighty, our shared love is the foremost part of all our days.

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One definition of divine appointment is a meeting with another person that has been specifically and unmistakably ordered by God. It is now clear to me what wasn’t so clear on the second Sunday of May fifty-two years ago. Bob and I had a divine appointment, we just didn’t know it at the time.  But we are ever grateful to our merciful Lord for his myriad blessings, not the least of which was putting the two of us at the dairy bar at the same time.

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Conversation with a stranger — September 10, 2017

Conversation with a stranger

Hinshaw House editedAs the sun set on the west side of our house, the lavender shadows crept over the east side of the front porch where the swing was hanging. That made it the perfect place to sit and sip iced lemonade, watch the hummingbirds attack the four o’clocks, and have a conversation with a stranger.

It wasn’t unusual for a stranger to stop on the highway that ran in front of our home and take a picture of our old Queen Anne house. It happened regularly. But for one to actually come up to the house and ask permission to snap a picture was definitely unusual. This man had done just that and I scampered into the house to get Mom.

When mom came to the porch so did all the other people in the house. My brother Louis laid aside the book he was reading and slouched out to the porch. John came barreling down the front steps and slid to a stop on the porch. Donald and Milton left the Chinese Checkers game and hustled out to find out what was going on.

The man politely asked mom about taking pictures of the house and told us his story and why his interest was so great.

He often passed by this house and had always been fascinated by it. He thought it was because of its location on top of a small hill, but at any rate, he felt a pull toward it each time he passed. It was at this time Mom noticed a woman still in the vehicle parked at the side of the highway and asked the man who he had with him.  He replied, “That’s my wife.”

Mom told him to bring his wife up to the porch for some lemonade and then we would hear the rest of his story. The man waved to his wife to come on up and she joined us on the porch.

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When everyone was settled, the man looked mom right in the eye and said, “You are going to think I’m crazy when I tell you this, but I want you to know why I want to buy your house.”

He looked at his wife and got a tiny nod from her and then began his very short story.

“You see,” he said, “my wife and I have been married for 20 years and have no children. But for the last five years, I have had a recurring dream of a house on a hill and my wife and I live there and we have two small sons.”

The man then proceeded to tell us the exact floor plan of the house in his dreams and the exact location of the upstairs bedroom where his two sons slept. He could have had no idea that as he was telling this dream to us there were two little boys, exactly as described, lying asleep in the very room he dreamed of in this house. They were my sons, Kevin and Kent.

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Mom hated to tell him, but the house wasn’t for sale and wouldn’t be in the near future.  Then the man drew a handkerchief from a pocket, wiped his eyes and looked at his wife and quietly passed the hanky to her. He looked back at mom and said, “We are on vacation and just happened to see this house and my wife thought I was crazy when I stomped on the brakes and yelled, that’s it!  This is the house of my dreams. It seems to me that if we could live here we would get those boys we want. You see, my wife is 35 and I’m 42 so we don’t have a lot of time left to have children.”

Mom looked the man right in the eye and told him she understood why he might wish to own her house but it wasn’t going to happen.

After more visiting, the man left his contact information and went on his way. We never heard from him again and it would be another 18 years before my mom died and the house was put up for sale.

My grandmother used to tell me, “If wishes were fishes we could all have a fry.” And that is what I thought of as that man and woman walked away from the house that day.

Sometimes even yet as I remember those golden days of a lavender shaded porch, tall glasses of cool drink, and conversations with people passing by, I think of this stranger and wonder, did he and his wife ever get their children? Will I ever know the answer to that question?

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Are You a North Star Person? — September 3, 2017
Are You a North Star Person? —

Are You a North Star Person?

Whenever I’m going through a tough time, I try meditating, That’s the same thing as ignoring people except you do it while sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Recently, while meditating, but not sitting cross-legged on the floor, I was remembering – – – again, some of the special porch times we had living in a big old house on a hill with a porch that wrapped halfway around the house.

Hatcher Hinshaw House

My oldest brother, Robert, had been in Alaska for two years serving in the Air Force. He was home on leave and we had finished supper and moved to the front porch to see who would pass by or who might stop and visit for a spell. As we sat on the front steps, Robert told about some of the survival training he had been through while in Alaska.  He had spent hours in the freezing waters of the Bering Strait testing cold water survival gear. He had also been taught how to live off the land and in Alaska that meant learning, among other things, to find and eat ice worms without cooking them.

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But as the stars began to come out, Robert pointed out the Big Dipper, he showed me how to use the two stars in the ladle to locate Polaris. “It’s the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper,” he told me. “I suppose I always expect it to be brighter,” I said. The way I hear it talked about, it seems it should outshine every other star in the sky.”

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“It’s not valuable for its magnitude,” Robert said, “but for its steadiness”. He told me if I could locate the North Star I should always be able to find my way home. Then he explained how sailors and others have, through centuries, been able to navigate by the stars. It was reliable. The other stars changed position in the sky but the North Star was steady and dependable to always be where it was supposed to be and so could be depended on. Steadiness was better than brightness. Being dependable was better than being shiny.

That lesson stayed with me all my life. When I was an employee for someone else, I was dependable. I may not have been the brightest employee but there were none more dependable than I was.

As a married woman, I’ve been dependable and steady. My husband always could and still can, depend on me not to just be faithful but to be steadfast and dependable when he needs a helper.

As a church member, I have striven to be a faithful and steady church member. I’ve never been one of the shining lights of the church but you could always depend on me to be in my pew when it was service time.

As a friend, I’ve striven to be a steady friend to those who would let me be their friend. You know some folks just won’t let you be close to them but I’ve been a friend to those who will let me.

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As a mother, I did the best and steadiest job I could to feed, clothe, teach, and love my children so they could grow into the person they were destined to be. I tried to show by example that one needs to be faithful to fill whatever role is theirs for that time.

As a volunteer, I’ve taken my volunteer duties seriously and tried to be where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there and do what was expected of me.

Time is like the Mississippi River, it only flows one way. No one can go backward in time but in my memory, those times sittin’ on the front porch with family are some of the best.

And yes, I’ve tried to be steadfast in reading the words of the Lord each day and there is much in His word about being faithful, about being steadfast, about being like that North Star.

Will I eventually hear from the Lord these words? Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Matthew 25:23

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Tender Mercy — August 14, 2017

Tender Mercy

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It was one of those lovely summer days we get in August in Arkansas. Even the air seemed to be filled with joy as the sun shone warmly on the front porch of the old Queen Anne house. The summer rain had come and cooled things down quite a lot and now the sun warmed the little girl who sat spraddle-legged playing jacks in the sunshine. Her big brother came along and told her to pull her dress down, her undies were showing. With a quick jerk, the five-year-old girl yanked down the front of her dress to hide her undies because her big brother knew a lot of stuff she didn’t know. After all, she was only five and he was eight!

Looking back on my life, I see God’s tender mercies to me in allowing me to grow up in a family of people who cared for one another and taught one another because of that caring.

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My wonderful grandmother used to say, “Every path has its puddle.”  And I didn’t know what she meant because I traveled a path down the backside of our hill almost daily to go to the post office and store and there were absolutely no puddles on that path. Then one day when I was ten, I was accosted by an older boy who tried to do things to me that my big brothers had told me to guard against. I managed to run away but that is when Grandmother taught me that a puddle is not necessarily a spot of water.  Again, God’s tender mercies saved me from a bad experience.

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My faith in God’s tender mercy means I also have faith in his timing. Why else would my friend and I have gone to the Dairy Freeze on Sunday afternoon for a Coke at the same time my unknown to me future husband was there?  Not an accident, it was all part of God’s plan for my life and another of his tender mercies to me.

Looking back on 75 years I see too many mercies to count, but that strengthens my faith that what happens now is also more of his care for me. Yes, even when I cannot see it at the moment, His tender mercies are over me.

And what prompted my mind to wander down this path? Because the love of my life has had some bad test results lately and more tests are coming this month to find out what is happening to his body and brain. It would ordinarily be a time of anxiety and wondering. Does he have Parkinson”s Disease? Is it the onset of dementia? Things at the moment are in flux but when I think about it I have a calm come stealing over my spirit that I can only attribute to God’s tender mercy toward me. In my soul, I know that all will be well because God’s tender mercies never fail.

Psalms 40:11 Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.

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Why I Sew — July 30, 2017

Why I Sew

Panty2Growing up the only girl who sewed in our family, I learned to use a needle early and often. It was as easy for me as using the broom to sweep. My sister would press seams however I asked her to press them but she did not want to sew. She also did not want anything made at home on a sewing machine.  She wanted “store bought” clothes.

To me, sewing was a duty but it was also a comfort and a mode of self-expression. To my sister, it meant we were poor.

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The first project of any magnitude I took on was the making of a quilt for the bed I shared with my sister. I was eight years old and my sister was seventeen.

By the time I finished that quilt top my mom decided I was experienced enough to begin making clothes.  I made a pair of pajamas for myself and felt so proud as I wore those “baby doll” pj’s for sleeping.  From that time on, there was no holding me back. I chose patterns and fabrics and created my own dresses, blouses, skirts, and yes sleeping outfits.  I had fun doing it then and still enjoy the process of creating. Where my sister looked on it as “home made” I always saw it as custom made just for me.

In the summertime, I sat on the front porch to hem a skirt or sew the binding on the edge of a quilt. Lots of hand work was finished while porch sittin’ and visiting with family or friends.

In all the things I’ve made in my lifetime I never have felt that I was “showing off” by showing my sewing projects to others but like I’m making a statement about myself, about my skill, my patience, my ability to endure endless days of hard work and tedium for the sake of the pattern and of the whole project. In a way, I feel that it ultimately shows a sense of my value as a human being.  I will leave behind things that others enjoy having and using. That gives me a sense of accomplishment.

And it is FUN to sew and create things. Yes, the panties you see on this page were made by me. You may be wondering by this time what my sewing machine and I are working on now and I have to say I’ve just created this mermaid quilt top!  When you are tired of being a mommy or a teenager or a kid or a whatever you’re tired of being, then just sit down, throw this little quilt over you and be a mermaid.

Isn’t sewing, and imagination, fun?mermaid top edited

Granddad’s Wisdom — July 24, 2017

Granddad’s Wisdom

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Some of the most fun I had in the summer while school was out was the time Mom would allow me to go home with Grandmother and Granddad.  They lived on a farm and there was always something to do. There was a lovely spring at the foot of the hillside and of course the small creek that ran from it.  The spring house was cool and that is where Grandmother kept the extra milk and cream until time to take it to the train station in the closest town.

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That is where we lived and Grandmother usually came to town with Granddad when he came to bring the cream cans. She would come up to the house to visit and after Granddad unloaded the cream cans he would come up too and after lunch they would start back to the farm after getting any supplies needed from the store. It was a “top button day” for me if Mom said I could go home with them. That meant I had a whole week of fun because that wagon wouldn’t be coming back to town until next week at the same time.

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Granddad raised feed for his cattle and some cane to make sorghum molasses with in the fall.  When he would come to the house for lunch he would often bring short pieces of cane for me to chew on in the afternoon. Oh, my! Those were as good as an all-day lollipop.  I would chew and suck on that piece of cane for hours until every drop of the sweet juice in it was consumed. That made a “top button day” for me every day.

It was from Granddad that I learned what a top button day was. He talked a lot about what he called “top-button truth.” If you get the top button on your shirt right, Granddaddy used to tell me, then all the rest of the buttons will fall into place behind it. But get the top button wrong, and no matter how hard you try, nothing will ever line up like it’s supposed to. And oftentimes our days are like that. When it starts off going well it usually progresses like that. But if you get the first thing wrong, it gets you grumpy and frustrated and this usually causes you to make more mistakes as the day goes along.

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There were also “top button people” according to Granddad. He would tell me there are some people you like immediately, some who you think you might learn to like in the fullness of time, and some that you simply want to push away from you with a sharp stick. But he and Grandmother were quick to tell me that those people need love too. Just because someone wasn’t a top button person didn’t mean you weren’t to be kind to them and courteous to them and, of course, you helped them if they needed help. You just didn’t have to become bosom buddies with them.

Yes, I miss Granddad’s wisdom.

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Porch Lessons — July 19, 2017

Porch Lessons

One of the strongest and most lasting lessons I learned as a child was the one of reaping what we sow.

Our old Queen Anne style house had a porch that wrapped half way around it and we sat out there a lot because there was no air conditioning in the house and the porch was usually the coolest place to be in the summertime.  We shelled peas, capped strawberries, strung beans, husked corn or did whatever chore could be done while sitting on the porch.Hatcher Hinshaw House

As we sat on the porch, neighbors would be passing by going to or coming from the store or post office and would often stop to visit. It was 1948 when someone stopped to tell us that Mrs. Bickerstaff (not her real name) had gone to her final reward. She had passed away the night before.  Then, of course, the whole story had to be told.

There used to be a fine old couple who lived In a house down the hill from us. They owned their home and made a truck garden to feed themselves and to sell or trade to get other things they needed like flour, butter, or other staples.  Their only child was good about helping them all he could but had a family of his own to care for and times were very difficult in the 1930’s.

One day Mrs. Bickerstaff, a very large woman, came to visit the old couple who were sitting on their front porch shelling peas. When Mrs. Bickerstaff stomped up onto the porch a rotten board gave way and she fell through the porch floor. She was stuck with one leg dangling below the porch and the rest of her on the porch and unable to get up because she was so large she couldn’t lift her own weight.

The ambulance finally got there from 25 miles away but the doctor had already arrived and stated that the leg hanging below the porch had a compound fracture and had to be splinted before the woman could be moved.  It was a terrible accident.

Before Mrs. Bickerstaff got out of the hospital, there was a lawyer came to see the old couple to say he had been engaged to take them to court to pay Mrs. Bickerstaff for her injuries.

The old couple was stunned. They had no money nor any way to get some. Long story shortened, they lost their home and had to move to the poor farm because their son’s four room house was barely big enough for him, his wife, and their two children.

Now it is 1948 and we are hearing that Mrs. Bickerstaff passed away last night and none of us had any idea there was anything wrong with the woman other than greed.  We said so and marveled that she had passed away and of course, it had to be asked because it was on everyone’s mind, how did she die?

“Well, that was the thing about it,” said our neighbor, “She fell through the front porch, couldn’t get out, was there all night before she was found, and she had torn her side open and bled to death before she was found.”

We all studiously looked at the peas we were shelling and tried not to let our faces register satisfaction over such a horrible event.  But the lesson stayed with us all for the rest of our lives. It is true, what goes around comes around. Or as someone said long before that phrase became popular, Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Galatians 6:7-9 (KJV)

Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap

What Happens After — July 12, 2017

What Happens After

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It has to be said, people mess up and disappoint us. We disappoint each other and it seems it is inevitable. The question we ask ourselves is, what happens after?

Ron Howard was a guest on a show and the host asked him who he liked to work with the most; Ron said he liked to work with successful, competitive, professional athletes.

That seems reasonable when you think about it. To reach that level in competition an athlete has to have drive, determination, and be focused. Maybe even a degree of ruthlessness.  But none of these are what Ron mentioned in the interview.

Ron Howard said the reason he preferred to work with this caliber of an athlete was that a successful athlete knows how to lose. But more importantly, that athlete knows how to keep going afterward.

It is important to know how to keep going afterward.

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After the job is lost, do you keep putting in the applications even though no one is calling you for an interview? And more importantly, do you keep praying about it?

After the loss of a loved one, do you still love the Lord and keep praying?

After the honeymoon is over and you start seeing the defects in your mate, do you keep praying for that spouse? Do you thank the Lord for that spouse even when things aren’t going the way you want them to go?

After the loss in a competition, do you still keep praying?

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The Bible says, “…to show that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)

Notice the “at all times” part of what Jesus said in that verse. Not just when we feel God has been good to us and we want to thank him. Not just when we feel we need something from him and ask him to provide it. Not just when those we love need his help but at “all times.”

Notice the “ought” part of the quote. The reason men and women ought to pray is because we need to be in fellowship with the very source of our being. When we lose that, we tend to become like the other creatures of this world; creatures of instinct incapable of making moral decisions (2 Peter 2:12-14). This tragedy is being seen in our streets today.

Notice the “pray” in this verse. Yes, we should pray and here’s why, because we need Him, not because He needs us!

Notice the last part. This may be the hardest part of what Jesus is telling his followers to do. “And not lose heart,” he says. This phrase means not to faint or to grow despondent or weary. To “lose heart” is the opposite of to endure or to remain steadfast. The parable which accompanies this admonition suggests that persistence in prayer pays off.

So what happens when you pray and God doesn’t answer your prayer the way you wanted him to?  Do you give up or are you a professional and keep going?

You will stumble, you will fall, you will have storms, tempests, and other disasters or inconveniences in your life. It will matter what you do after these events. Will you pray? And will you keep praying?  It’s what happens after that matters.

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