Gratitude…

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Have you ever gotten a line or two of a song in your head and just couldn’t stop thinking about it? That happens to me occasionally…for instance recently, I kept thinking about this line…‘I hope Life treats you kind..’ from Dolly Parton’s famous song, ‘I Will Always Love You’. Dolly wrote the song when she left the Porter Waggoner Show. Later, Whitney Houston elevated this same song to unbelievable heights and popularity. Country and Pop music fans loved that song! It’s a song about leaving, heartbreak, loss, bittersweet memories and to some extent betrayal.  A sad song really.IMG_0155

Often, when a line from a song or a portion of Scripture stops me in my tracks… I want to sit with it a while…contemplate it. With Dolly’s Song… I let the words run around in my head, moving on to that line about ‘Bittersweet memories…’ Ultimately, in the privacy of my own home- I broke out singin’ it- loud….no, I did not sound like Dolly or Whitney- more like a bad version of Willie Nelson, in case you’re wondering. Then, there was a Scripture, I was reading a devotional recently and a portion of a verse just hopped off the page and stopped me in my tracks-I wanted to sit with it awhile- here it is:

 ‘…the same night in which He was betrayed, He took bread; and when He gave thanks….’  First Corinthians 13:23-24.

 Jesus was betrayed…He shared a meal, He gave thanks. Think about it. Betrayal and Gratitude are puzzle pieces that rarely seem to fit. I wondered, what if it said-

  • ‘And after she lost her job…she gave thanks’  or
  • ‘And after he was put on hospice, he gave thanks…’ or
  • ‘After she was abandoned, she gave thanks…’
  • ‘After his father had beaten him, he gave thanks…’

Think of any emotional damage that causes human suffering. Sit with loss, betrayal, abandonment, physical illness, abuse and heartache for a while. Think of them as Gunshots to the Soul. Now, insert those grave wounds into that same Scripture… Does hosting a meal and giving thanks follow heartache? It hardly seems possible. And yet…there is a deep truth in there. Suffering isn’t convenient- a gap opens up, right in the midst of Living. The Betrayal occurred right in the middle of the Last Supper that Jesus would have with his closest friends;  He continued living, He turned to what remained of His life; gave thanks and resumed the meal. I must be honest here, I am not a big fan of telling folks to count their blessings when they are in the midst of suffering– it seems to add an unnecessary burden onto an already wounded spirit. However, for myself…I have found when I am able to allow light to come into my suffering- turn to what remains- the good that life still offers- it takes the form of gratitude and the healing begins…IMG_0152

Life is hard; it never permanently gets easier. Bad things still happen to good people. Promises are broken and some dreams die.  You cannot go back and make Life different. If you look at the photograph, you will see Crepe Myrtles blooming at the back of our yard. There is a gap between the trees- where a clump of beloved dogwoods used to be- they died this year and were cut down.  I mourned the loss- this area is a Memory Garden. The loss of the dogwoods seemed to be a metaphor for what has already been a year of difficulties-among them, the loss of two sweet friends and my mother. As if to drive the heartache/ gratitude connection home, the crepe myrtles are blooming their heads off! Meanwhile I’ve been staring at the Gap- the Loss. These trees have never bloomed so profusely before this year, maybe the dogwoods were blocking our view! IMG_0156

I took photographs of the heavy blooms hanging down close enough to be at eye level- midst the most incredible blue sky with puffy white clouds- the fragrance was faint and lovely. I had stared so long and so hard at what I had lost, feeling the dogwoods had betrayed the Memory Garden… having bittersweet memories… I realized I was missing the near and present loveliness!  ‘Life was treating me kind…’ Thank you, Dolly. The day after the photographs were taken, to further emphasize the point of the Scripture from First Corinthians which I had been contemplating for days…one of the big crepe myrtle branches heavy with blooms broke.  ‘And the same night He was betrayed, He took bread, and after He had given thanks, He broke the bread…’ Wouldn’t you know? In the sun-filled blue skied day, the truth of Jesus’ actions broke through my mind…instead of dwelling on one more bad thing-I decided to cut the blooms from the broken branch and make something of it! I’m so thankful I did! IMG_3105

Just look at the planter shaped like a woman’s head! She’s surely grateful  for the glorious flower-dy hat she’s wearing! Turns out the broken branch isn’t a mortal wound… Life does go on, bright blue skies mingle among the cloudy days- enjoy what you can and when you think of it? Give thanks to God… He will always love you! Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

Love y’all, Camellia

p.s. Be honest now, you’re humming Dolly Parton’s tune aren’t you?

Christmas Bride…

‘In her soul- a woman never forgets a man who has occupied her heart so many years’                                                                                                                Author Unknown

I met him when I was a freshman at the University of Alabama. His date was beautiful, mine wasn’t exactly Prince Charming. I looked across the room and saw him, there was a knowing. I went back to my dorm and told my roommate and two other friends that I believed I had met the man I was going to marry.  It was a turbulent time, my cousin had died in Vietnam the previous summer just three days after his arrival;  yet on that beautiful Tuscaloosa campus there were protests against the Viet Nam war. And I had met a brown eyed handsome man, who was a gentleman, clean cut and the most decent person I had ever met. He still is. I felt calm when I was with him. I still do. Our first date was on Valentine’s Day, 1970. He loaded his old car with my friends and took us anywhere we wanted to go. He still prefers old cars to new ones, gets sentimental amount them. I appreciate this now that I’m an older model myself. He was athletic, had been All County in Football and Baseball, he was in a Tank Unit in the Alabama National Guard and went on to become a paratrooper Special Forces Green Beret. He was unpretentious, and even after a lifetime of achievements- he still is. His favorite TV Show was Andy Griffith, it still is. He liked Country and Classical, I liked Motown and Soul music. His Chet Atkins’ style guitar-playing won me over. I still love the songs he played back then- Silver Wings, Long Black Limousine, Miller’s Cave and Windy and Warm. When he finally got that Country Gentleman Gretsch™ Guitar, like Chet’s it sounded even better!

He made me laugh with his  dry sense of humor, like the time I asked him-

  • ‘Do these shoes look funny?’
  • ‘Well, they’re not hilarious.’

We married ten months after we met. I was a Christmas Bride.2014-12-11 16.50.53

We were told we would never have children, for eight years we didn’t. Then just 21 months apart, we had two delightful baby girls. This Christmas Bride found out we were expecting, not once but twice, just days before Christmas! We would never get over our miracle babies. We’ve enjoyed every minute of being their parents. Given the chance we would do it all over again. Our children are the joy of our lives. They have made us better people. During these many years, we have known-

  • better and worse,
  • richer and poorer,
  • sickness and health
  • yet we have never forsaken each other.

Those vows I made as a Christmas Bride were easy to keep because of the man I married. He has made my life richer in so many ways and through so many folks we have known. Our life has been full of rich experiences. Everyday he still makes me laugh and every single day he brings music into our home. img_0512

I have embraced his deepest beliefs as my own- Don’t Mistreat People. Do What You Can to Help. Pay your respects. Never forget the folks who helped us. Be there. He’s better at it than I am-but I know this to be true:

We honor our vows when we honor those beliefs.

This man has occupied my heart for  many years; I became his Christmas Bride on the twelfth day of December. Dare I say it? Young Love is sweet but Old Love is best.

Take it away Chet! And Happy Anniversary Darlin’, Camellia

 

Autumn leaves…

Autumn leaves, in all their glory are among life’s most beautiful displays. Fall has nearly come and gone here, it’s been so dry, the leaves have mostly curled up and died without bothering to show much color- it’s made me melancholy. Roger Williams’ playing the classic ‘Autumn Leaves’ is a melancholy song…it’s about a man whose girlfriend has left him; its about a man who misses her; and he misses his darlin’ most of all when ..‘Autumn leaves start to fall…’ Well, I have a few tips for Roger, but first I’ll let you listen to this vintage version- Roger, darlin’ take it away…

It’s my personal opinion that if Roger Williams had ditched that Leisure Suit- his darlin’ might have stayed. She probably said ‘Roger, bless your heart- you play that piano jus’ as good as anybody ah’ve evah heard, makin’ those trills sends chills up mah spine- but darlin’ my Momma would have a hissy fit if I brought home a big strappin’ man wearin’ a wild printed shirt and a white polyestah suit! And there’s just no tellin’ what mah Daddy would do…why that polyestah would get picked faster than a bale of cotton!

Roger Williams went on to have a brilliant career in music, made more money than they keep in the vault at Farmers and Merchants Bank. Chet Atkins went on to play a version her daddy liked better…but lordie mercy, we southern girls do have our standards

Love y’all, Camellia

Haunted Houses of Alabama?

Step inside if you dare…

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Alabama has always claimed to have some hauntings…Lord knows I’ve been some places that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck! So, just for fun, I scanned through some of Jeremy Miniard’s wonderful photographs of Alabama with ghosts, goblins, squeakin’ swings, creakin’gates, swingin’ doors or rundown chairs in mind! I found peeling paint, rusted out roofs and ominous clouds over old montrous mansions and scary broken down houses for some spooky and frightfully good fun! Enjoy!haunted-house-10

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                                                                                     Boo!

Don’t plan on going trick or treatin’ at these places! And make sure you have your face pot in plain sight to scare away the evil spirits! Camellia’s Cottage has one that seems to be working so far! imageBut there’s this fella playin’ his guitar upstairs- sounds like he’s singin’ Long Black Limosine…whew I’ve got the shivers …IMG_0596

Love y’all, Camellia

as always we are so thankful to our resident photographer, Jeremy Miniard- all the good photos are his- the face pot and the guitar picker photos are mine. Find Jeremy at http://www.jeremy.miniard.finartamerica.com  ‘Long Black Limosine’ is an old song by Bobby Bare- I have to admit it always makes me cry…

If…

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Such a little word…IF. Right in the middle of the word ‘Life’ is that tiny word – If… Part of the human experience uses the word- If… generally in a ‘looking back sort of way’. IF often stands for questioning regrets, the ‘what-if’s’ -the ‘if only’s’ which haunt us, disappointments with life and with God…

  • Lord, if You had been here…
  • Lord, if You had not allowed this.
  • Lord, if You loved us…

‘Help us Lord, to watch for that day, when our eyes see You. Give us that gift of faith, which believes when all else says impossible. While we are waiting for You to heal our broken hearts, to straighten out our paths- give us Light for an unsure future- let us see a shimmering glimmer of You. You know there are hidden places in our hearts where we just gave up. Help us renew our commitment to believe, until You reveal Your purposes in circumstances that puzzle us, in situations that are stubborn and have not changed in many years. Whenever we stumbled; whatever happened that made us stop believing; wherever the IF’s are in Life, wherever we were-whether by the grave or by the way, give to us the courage to lay down the IF’s; so that we might pick up our faith once more. In the Strong Name of Jesus Christ. Amen’


Trouble, regrets and storms are a part of life, I hope we won’t waste too much time using that ol’ word IF. Remember the old saying? ‘We can’t always control the wind, but we can adjust our sails’ as you listen to this beautiful meditative version of ‘Sails’ by Chet Atkins!https://youtu.be/TkVKPfEBoiE

Love y’all, Camellia

Top photograph- the Beautiful Sunset by our photographer friend -Jeremy Miniard. Prayer and Excerpt from Chapter 7- If is a Part of Life, page 48 of ‘Four Days-the Lazarus Principle’ by Brenda Wyatt- more information on ‘About Us’ page Bottom photograph by Tony Marlar for his YouTube video of ‘Sails’ by Chet Atkins