Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
Thursday is housecleaning day at the Oaks Manse! (It really is a manse...church of God parsonage!) I love that day! First of all because it is housecleaning day and second, because "our" boys come on Thursday night. Our boys are in a youth group that has been meeting in our home for the past 4 years. They feel like family.
We clean the back part of the house on Thursday morning and the front part after the boys leave. (You figure out why!)
I told Tommy this morning that Thursday housecleaning is my favorite part of the week. Not because of the cleaning, but because of afterwards. It looks and smells so good when all is done and we walk though our clean abode. This morning, I pictured all the germs running out the back door and down the driveway and then on down Breda Dr, which runs in front of our house. I really did that, and it made me laugh.
If you are down and depressed this snowy season (10 inches last week!) try cleaning your house. You will be amazed at how happy you will be when you picture all those germs running down YOUR driveway and into the road! HAPPY CLEANING! GOODBYE GERMS!
This is a real photo captured of a germ just before it ran out of Patricia's house down Breda Dr.
I was talking with my friend Celeste Miller this morning (via e mail) and she was talking about having to spend the last two nights in a bed at a nursing home because of the weather where she lives. Celeste is a surgeon at a hospital in Missouri and the roads were so bad, she ended up staying close by the hospital. The nursing home was her best bet.
She was telling me how good it was to be back in her own bed and taking a shower in her own bathroom.
It reminded me of an incident one night when we came home from being "on the road". We lived in a wonderful house on Crestwood Dr. here in Fountain City. We lived there for 16 years. I still miss it. That particular night, when we pulled into our driveway, I told Tommy it felt like we were getting a giant hug. We had trees that hung over our driveway and it felt just like that to me...the trees were reaching down to hug us and welcome us home.
When we went inside, it felt like the house was hugging us. When we got our shower and climbed into bed...once again....a hug.
Tommy says quite often, that one of the most beautiful words in the English language is HOME. He says it feels good in your mouth. I agree.
Sometimes, though, home can be in a place you wouldn't normally think of home. I remember being in the desert in Mexico once, and coming up the dusty road at night to climb into my "home"....a tent lined up with a lot of other tents. They all looked the same so I always hung a lantern in mine so I would know when I got "home".
I remember the feeling when I went into that tent at night and crawled into my sleeping bag. It felt like home and I felt, once again, that giant hug. (I was also praying that there wasn't a creepy crawly in the bottom of my sleeping bag!)
We often stay at a place that is called "The Gathering Place" in Columbus, Indiana. Our friend Joyce Sword owns it and is gracious enough to let us stay there when we are in the area (and we are in the area a lot!) When we walk in...once again...we get a giant hug. When we curl up in front of her fireplace on couches that she bought just for us to sleep on...a hug!
Where do YOU feel like you are getting a giant hug? It doesn't always have to be at the actual dwelling you call home. Sometimes it can be in a place you wouldn't expect. When it happens though, it is a feeling you carry with you and one that you look forward to happening again. Here's hoping you get a giant hug today!
When my boys were growing up, we made a lot of cut out cookies to decorate, usually at Christmas and Valentine's Day. Sometimes we did it other times as well, but those were the main two occasions.
Many times we invited all the neighborhood kids in for a decorating party. We would sit around our large kitchen table, with cookies and icing spread all over the top, and have a wonderful time, as I remember it.
Recently we ran into one of those neighborhood "kids" at a church where Tommy and John boy had a meeting. He is a grown man now, but he remembered those decorating parties! He said the only thing he couldn't figure out, though, was why I made everyone wash their hands before beginning. He said he figured he was just going to get icing on them anyway so why should he wash beforehand! HA! Just like a kid.
During the boys growing up years, we also made cookies to take to the inmates at the jail down the road from our house. Every week I would make 300 cookies, bag them up and deliver them to the jail. Back then we were allowed to hand deliver them to the men and the boys went along with us! The men loved getting homemade cookies every week from "the cookie lady".
Jason always took cut out cookies to his second grade teacher when we made them. She was his favorite teacher growing up...Valerie Neth. She told me once that she wanted to be a Mom who made cookies with her children, so when Miss Neth got married, we gave her...you guessed it...a cookie cutter!
We have a youth group who meet in our house each week. They are all boys...I tend to always have boys around me for some reason! This week, we are going to sit around the table and decorate cut out cookies. At first, when Tommy mentioned it, I said no. I have had a busy season this Christmas, and I just didn't want to add something else.
I woke up in the night last night and thought..."you should never get too busy to make cookies with the children in your life." So, this Thursday night when our boys come over, we will sit around the dining room table and decorate Christmas cookies. I hope they will always remember it...and yes...I WILL make them wash their hands first!
When we are with friends or just sitting around talking to each other this time of year, the conversation usually turns to Christmas memories from the past. Inevitably my first thought goes back to a Christmas when I was about 12 years old.
We lived in a tiny little house in Fountain City, Tennessee. There were 6 of us living there. My Mother and Daddy and my two sisters and my brother. Mother and Daddy slept in one bedroom and my 2 sisters and I slept in the other. My brother slept on what we called a roll away bed behind the dining room door. Every morning it was folded up so that we would also have room to eat in that room. Mother's sewing machine was also in there as well as a dining room table. My brother Jack had a chest of drawers for his clothes.
This particular Christmas, Jack was stationed in Paris Island. No one had said whether he was coming home , so I was a bit sad. I loved my big brother. He was 12 years older than me and he had always treated me like a pet! When he hung out with his friends, I was usually there as well. I remember going to the "station" with him to meet his buddies, riding high on his shoulders. (The station is where the trolly cars used to come when I was a little girl. After we no longer had them we still called the area around Fountain City Lake "The Station".
It was Christmas Eve and my younger sister, Teresa and I had already gone to bed. I don't know where my older sister, Millie was. Probably on a date. She was 10 years older than me. Teresa had gone to sleep (she was 5 years younger.) I was trying to go to sleep so Santa could come, but was wide awake.
All of a sudden I heard something! Was it Santa? (Yes, I still believed at age 12). I climbed out of bed and tiptoed into our tiny kitchen. "What to my wondering eyes should appear" but my big brother. This was even better than Santa!
After hugging me and telling me to be very very quiet, because he had come in to surprise everyone, I went back to bed. I don't think I slept at all that night. All of a sudden it was 6 in the morning and I heard Daddy shaking the coals down in the living room stove!
I don't know what I got from Santa that year. I don't know what we had to eat. I don't know if there was snow or not. All I know is that my big brother was home. That was the only gift I cared about.
I miss him.
If you are like me, that was one of your favorite stories growing up. I can almost feel my Mother's arms around me in the old green rocker on the front porch, reading that story to me (or telling it...she knew it so well.) Of course, so did I, but I still wanted to hear her voice telling it! I always loved it when that mean old TROLL "got his!"
Last night, we were under the 640 by pass bridge in Knoxville, TN, as we are every Wednesday night, and I thought of that story. I thought of it all the way home, and was still thinking of it this morning.
There is a mean ole' TROLL underneath that bridge. He tries to lure people underneath the bridge so he can eat them. He has succeeded time after time. Last night was a perfect example.
It was the week before Thanksgiving so we had a special meal for everyone. Next week (the night before Thanksgiving) we will give out sack lunches. It was the end of the night, and all the tables had been stored in the large cargo container, the sound equipment was put into the sound van and all the clothing that was left over was stashed in the van that we drive. One lone man was still sitting in the chair that had been at his table before the table was removed. He was dressed all in white (he really was) . He had a long dark beard and from a distance looked like a character out of the Bible. He was just staring into space.
Finally the cops pulled their car up to him and turned on the lights and blared over their speaker..."you need to get up out of that chair." I thought that was a bit much, but I am just telling the story.
He kept sitting. They kept the lights on him. Finally he slowly stood and someone took the chair. He kept standing. He didn't move a muscle. Just stood...and stood...and stood. The lights went off, the cops pulled away, and still he stood...staring into the dark.
Waiting...waiting...waiting, for the TROLL to come and eat him.
I could not find my turkey platter that I had bought years ago in a yard sale for 50 cents! I had kept it sitting on top of a rubber maid in my closet ever since I unpacked my fall stuff, but for some reason it was gone.
I HAD organized our closet recently...something I do quite frequenty. The closet waits until we are asleep at night and messes itself up. At least that MUST be what happens.
Anyway, back to my story. I was looking everywhere for that platter and finally Tommy said "have you prayed for the Lord to show you where it is?"
I said "I am not to that point yet." What I MEANT was that it really didn't matter if I couldn't find it because I don't get as attached to stuff as I once did.
Tommy started laughing..."that will preach!" Then he started saying "are we in ICU yet? Are we at the point where we guess we need to pray!!"
Of course we were all laughing about it, and so I said ..."Lord please show me where my turkey platter is." (I still thought it a rather foolish prayer.)
OK...are you ready? I went back to the closet, looked to the left and there sitting underneath a basket was the platter !! I had put it there when I was organizing the closet.
Almost exactly 10 minutes later, I started looking for a decoration I had gotten for John boy's birthday pie (he didn't want cake this year!)) I looked high and low! I was SO mad at myself!
Then it hit me. Once more I forgot to pray! So I said "Lord where is that decoration? Please help me remember!"
This is the truth. I walked over to my bottom drawer in my dresser (where I had already looked) and moved a couple of items and there it was!
James 4:2 "you have not because you ask not!"
When we moved into the Church parsonage here on Breda Drive, we kept seeing deer trying to climb a tree in the field in back of our house. I finally walked up there to discover a peach tree. The deer ate all the peaches that first year, but I have beat them to it every year since.
I have made some delicious peach pies with those peaches! They are the sweetest I believe I have ever had! You can eat them right off the tree too! No pesticides on those little buggers! Just warm sunshine to ripen them and rain to wash them off!
That little peach tree is probably not long for this world. The deer broke two big branches off this year, trying to climb the tree, and the bottom of the tree looks like it is ready to rot. It also leans to one side.
Yet it still bears fruit. Year after year. I can tell it is struggling but it keeps going.
"The righteous will flourish like a palm (peach) tree, they will grow like a cedar (peach) of Lebanon ; planted in the house of the Lord. They will flourish in the courts of our God, THEY WILL BEAR FRUIT IN OLD AGE, THEY WILL STAY FRESH AND GREEN, proclaiming, 'the Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.'" Psalm 92: 12-15
Several years ago we lived in New York City. We had lots of company! I always told people who came to visit that if we got on the train to go somewhere and somehow they didn't make it on before the door closed, they should just stand on the subway platform and I would get off at the next stop and come back and get them.
About two weeks ago I had a dream. I was in NYC and several of my friends were visiting. We all got on the train and as the doors closed and the train pulled away from the station, I looked out the window and one of my friends was not on the train. "Oh no", I thought. "My friend didn't get on the train!" Then I thought to myself, "No problem. I will just get off at the next stop and go back and get her." Then, in my dream, all of a sudden I thought, "No, I can't go back and get her." It was a strange dream and the next morning I told Tommy and John boy about it.
The next week I got word that my dear dear friend of many many years had died suddenly. She was not a believer. She was the one in my dream who did not get on the train.
(Read account of Noah and the great flood in Genesis chapters 6 and 7. Especially chapt. 7 verse 16.)
Once upon a time there was a tiny little weed growing in "the people's" yard.
"How I wish 'the people' would let me grow big and tall like the flowers in their yard," he thought to himself. "I don't take up much space, and I would try my best to be big and strong and bring lots of smiles and happiness to 'the people' if only they would give me a chance!"
So, "the people" seemed to hear the little weed, and left him alone to grow and to become what weeds were intended to become...tall and strong.
The flowers in the garden across from the little weed started to get jealous because of all the attention he was getting.
Every day "the people" checked on the progress of the little weed, and sure enough, he grew and he grew all summer long, Every time "the people" walked by the little weed, who was now becoming a BIG weed, they smiled and even laughed at how big and strong the little weed was becoming. His wish was coming true. He was indeed bringing happiness to all those who walked by him every day.
So, if you feel like you are merely a weed in the garden of God, take heart. Even a weed can bring joy to those around him!!
This past weekend we went to a tiny little town in Southwest Virginia called Dot. It truly is a Dot on the map. We have been going to this church for 23 years every August. The first year we went, we had maybe 20 people in attendance, but I am thinking that it wasn't even that many!
This past weekend, the church was packed! I don't think there was a seat left in the room. There were people there who were there 23 years ago, but there were also lots of new faces! The new faces were mainly young families with children! What a blessing! This church believes in keeping the children in the service too. No kids church for them! I love that. I don't know when we started separating the children from the older people, but I don't like it. Old and young need each other. I saw several of the older generation interacting with the kids and it was beautiful. That's the way it's supposed to be!
We stayed with our friend Kay. I wrote about her husband Hank awhile back. He went to be with the Lord this past year, and there was a huge hole where he always sat. I missed him giving the communion meditation too. In fact, I kept looking for his smiling face everywhere, because he seemed to be everywhere in that building.
I wonder sometimes about the hole I will leave. All of us should wonder that. When something is going on around us whether in the church building itself, on the grounds or in the community, do we spot certain faces in the activities surrounding us?
When I am out on the street among the homeless, it is rare that I don't think of Maxine, who started the Lost Sheep Ministry. I see her interacting with the homeless in a way that I will never be able to do. I want to live in such a way that even when I am gone, my presence will remain.