Monday, October 24, 2011

Starting a Second Decade of Woodsong Autumns

Fall change is in the crisp air. As I drove home from Katherine’s on Saturday night down our lane, two deer were munching a late night supper in neighbor Scott’s fields. Their alert raised eyes reflected the car lights briefly, but they quickly went back to eating. Soon those crops will be harvested and the deer will have to find another soup kitchen. Last night as I drove down the lane, I saw that Brian, Mary Ellen, and Brianna had been there during the afternoon to move their parked farm equipment on down to their Harrisburg fields.

Hearing a wild goose call this morning made me look out the window hoping to see an overhead feathered friend flying south, but I only saw our two remaining ducks swimming together on the lake. We have gone from having an over abundance of wild fowl at the lake to a much diminished population since Gerald stopped feeding them. We have finally accepted the fact that baby fowl will not live long here with all the predators waiting to ponse sometimes even before they hatch.

When I changed our sheets Saturday morning, I went ahead and put the extra blanket on the bed that I had just been tentatively laying at the foot of the bed just n case we needed it. Fearing front, Gerald picked a bucket of ripe tomatoes and a bucket of green tomatoes from the garden for fear of frost. I have tried to share the ripe ones; and last night as I watched Book Notes, I wrapped the green ones in newspaper to continue ripening and carried them into the garage. I know many people like fried green tomatoes, but somehow I have never tried to make that dish. I feel guilty enough when I fry okra, which our family loves, so I don’t feel inclined to experiment frying tomatoes. But we will enjoy having home-grown tomatoes probably into the beginning of winter as these green ones ripen.

The sweet gum tree out by the garden is now gone all red, and I so enjoy looking at it out the kitchen window. Gerald planted that tree as a tiny plant no bigger than an onion slip over ten years ago before we moved here. Gerald found the baby tree in a flower bed at the north of our other house, where evidently a bird had dropped the seed since we did not have any gum trees in our yard there. Now it is such a lovely shaped tree and taller than the martin house on the other end of the garden. It is beginning to shade the north part of the garden, so I suggest that is another reason to make the garden a little smaller next summer. The tree must definitely stay.

Another tree I look at almost daily when I awake is outside our bedroom window-- the pin oak that Gerald planted after we moved here ten years ago. Its branches usually have a bird or two lighted in them. It has been such a pleasure to see that tiny slow-growing tree reach its present adolescent height.

Many years ago when we would drive home from the University of Illinois where Gerald was in grad school, we would pass a beautiful new farm house beside the road. One of Gerald’s professors had told the class that the farmer who lived there built that new house towards the end of his career and almost immediately he had died leaving his widow alone there. I could never look at the house without a lump in my throat. When Gerald started getting very serious about building this house, that story was one reason I was reluctant. (Besides the sadness of leaving behind the house that held all the memories of rearing our children.)

Finally, Gerald asked me if we’d likely both live five more years, and I knew we likely would. And then the question was: would it be worth it to build and move if that were so? We both decided it would be worth it. In the memory-ridden house, we recalled that Gerald had knocked out walls, put up walls, enclosed porches, made the bathroom work when we first moved in, remodeled that bathroom at least twice while adding two more in a major remodel for the entire house, and on and on. No wonder Gerald was sick and tired of working on that house. Well, we moved into this house on October 14, 2001, when it was not yet completely finished in order to accommodate the family who had bought our old farm house.

So we have now lived here ten years, and I am realizing that referring to this as our “new” house is no longer accurate. It has definitely been worth it. Twice, we have had families living with us—part of a family one summer while Jeannie took classes in three different colleges to get the art classes she needed and Katherine’s family for six months while a slow and incompetent contractor did a major remodel to make their house more accessible. One summer while the Taylor camper was not available, Mary Ellen’s family spent a lot of weekends with us. And with Gerry and Jeannie’s family members divided between north and south of here, we have been able to provide bed and breakfast when needed. We could have done all these things in the old farm house, but certainly with a great more difficulty and not much comfort for those involved. I don’t think much of that would have happened. People asked us why we wanted four bedrooms, and I suggested they come sleep on our floor with our holiday overflow, which would be much worse if not for the Taylor camper. There really isn’t any room that has not had considerable use.

I knew one of the things I would miss most when we moved was the beautiful old maple trees at the other house. Yet it seemed like every time I finally got the limbs picked up after a wind storm, that very night we’d have a rain and branches would be blown out to be picked up again. We felt bad for the new owners who have twice had devastating disasters from those wonderful old trees, and they have had to remodel and repair resulting damage to the house. At our age, those problems would have been even more difficult for us. We have thoroughly enjoyed watching all the trees Gerald planted grow, but he put them all away from the house. We no longer have to pick up limbs or rake leaves each fall as we did over at Pondside Farm.

Has there been upkeep on this house? Definitely. If you are not renting from a landlord who does repairs, you have to expect that. From the beginning, things had to occasionally be finished up, repaired, or changed. Yet I think it was more pleasant for Gerald to do those tasks in a new house than one he was bored with working on. For the past two years, I kept telling myself I’d repaint the ledge of the window over the kitchen sink, but I dallied enough about doing it, that by this summer I was afraid of crawling on top of the counter to do it. Of course, Gerald did it along with getting the garage door and front entrance doors changed. I am wondering what our second decade here will bring.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rainy, Chilly Fall Weather

Cloudy, drizzly, rainy weather makes me want to stay home and inside. Gerald switched us over from AC to heat in the house last night because of this pre-taste of the climate to come. Down in Georgia, Gerry said there was rain and chill there too, and so Geri Ann’s tourney game was cancelled today until tomorrow.

I am grateful Brian has our crop in and grateful that Gerald finished up some of the “junking” he has been doing to clean up excess metal stuff that had been cluttering back fence rows. I think he paid for it with a sore back and so declared yesterday he was through working. He took off for lunch with his brother Garry down at Dixie Barbecue—our famous eatery in my hometown of Jonesboro. But this morning he was busy tightening up both our front and back doors to work better at keeping the house warm this winter. I didn’t expect his “not going to work” resolution would last long.

Everyone seems to be making chili or soup for supper these days. I made soup Sunday night, but I still haven’t stocked up on chili ingredients. The local food writer gave us an interesting article today with anecdotes and recipes for chowder made from Big Muddy River buffalo fish—like her daddy used to catch with his handmade net.

We had delicious fish from a vendor at a lake in Kentucky on Sunday when our church had its annual fall fish fry after morning services. Everyone was saying the fish and hush puppies were the best ever. (That may be like every year we think our Christmas tree is the prettiest we ever had.) Regardless, the fish and all the side dishes and desserts carried in to go with it were delicious. Again I was so grateful that those with servant hearts cooked up this feast for us. The weather was wonderful, and I was glad to have a out-of-town daughter and granddaughter able to be present to enjoy it with us before they began their long drives home in opposite directions. Katherine also enjoyed some of that fish for her lunch yesterday.

I took a couple small bags of tomatoes into Katherine’s aides yesterday. Until recently, the dry spell we had reduced our over abundance of tomatoes to just enough for our own table. When production started up again, the bottoms of the fruit were broken with ugly black cracks that had to be cut off. Gradually the newer tomatoes are in better shape. The vines are loaded, and I even made a bit of juice and stuck it in the freezer for that upcoming chili. We will have more than enough tomatoes now until frost, which may come sooner than we'd like.

Tomatoes and melons were all that Gerald planted this summer—but plenty of both. We had cantaloupe to share as well as tomatoes and really enjoyed indulging in them until the vines quit producing. I was very grateful when I heard about the cantaloupe deaths that we had not had to buy any from the store. I am not sure I want to know how those melons became contaminated.

Phone calls are not as frequent in today’s world, but we have had two from long-ago friends that pleased us. The first on the answering machine on Sunday afternoon was from our dear long-ago neighbor Joyce Combes, who was back in town for a high school reunion. We were sorry we missed our opportunity to have her visit us before she flew out back to Virginia. Gerald was here but did not hear the phone ring. I was visiting Katherine as I do each Sunday afternoon.

Our nephew Bryce, our great nephew his son Lex, and our great great niece Bryce’s little granddaughter Josie were here visiting that afternoon, and Gerald was perhaps too enthralled with Josie to hear the phone. As usually happens as families keep expanding with new generations, it is impossible to see one another as we did back in the day when we were the only older generation.

It is hard to realize that all those nieces and nephews have grown up and many are grandparents themselves. Although she lives in a nearby town, I have only seen Josie a few times during her lifetime—the last time at her Gma Opal’s house--but she thought when she came here that she was going to get to play with “Gma Sue.” Since I know Bryce and Lex would have called me Aunt Sue, I don’t know why she was calling me that—but I was honored. And a little jealous that Gerald had the pleasure of her companionship as she explored our great grandchildren’s basket of toys in the family room.

Today Gerald was lying on the floor fixing that kitchen door when his cell rang. Brad Jowers, who grew up in the Crab Orchard community before his parents Bobby and Katherine Sanders moved the family to Texas, was in Portland, Oregon, getting ready to fly to California and from there to New York. He wanted to know who Gerald was going to be yelling for tonight when the St. Louis Cardinals play those Texas Rangers. I bet Brad’s days as a Cardinal fan when he lived in Southern Illinois makes him feel a tad torn. At least it inspired his phone call to Gerald, and we were glad to hear from him.

Not so pleasant was a call yesterday and another today wanting me to change my credit card interest rate. I had finally got on a do-not-call list for those bothersome calls, but evidently that only lasts so long. Both times I clicked the number to talk to an operator and asked for the calls to stop. Unlike the last time I went through this routine, there was no courteous response—just a quick click when I expressed my desire to not have my life needlessly interrupted.

Well, I think I better go fix another quick bowl of soup for go with our supper sandwich again tonight. That game will be starting soon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Autumnal Tumbling

Red and orange are gradually being added to the green, brown, and yellow leaves in Southern Illinois. Only a few leaves are falling so far. Yet autumnal tumbling describes our recent life at Woodsong. We seldom finish one activity or thought until another tumbles in to interrupt or change our direction.

Harvest on our farm is finished thanks to the great efforts and management skills by our son-in-law Brian. He also has winter wheat sown already. He must wait awhile to harvest the rest of his acreage—rented fields over near Harrisburg-- which were sown later. I hope he has been able to get some rest before then to make up for those nights he was still working at 3 a.m. the next morning.

Granddaughter Brianna was down to help her dad over the weekend as well as to enjoy her cousin Sam Cedar’s first Homecoming parade on Friday afternoon, the football game that night, and the coronation the next night with her mom, who had also shown up on Saturday to help with the harvest.

Despite heavy traffic, I made part of the parade, which Bri was watching with Katherine and David, but I hurried off to attend (late) the Women’s Club meeting at the library since I had missed the previous month and I especially wanted to hear Jon Musgrave’s program and his latest research for his next book.

Gerald and I went to our first football game in years in order to see Sam march in the pre-game show and at half time. We left early since we had to park so far away and would be walking near the edge of the street on rough ground. We didn’t want to do that in heavy traffic. Although we walked a long way, many more people were parked further up that road than we were, and I am sure it was the same on the other side of the school. We heard the end of the game just as our car arrived in the garage—and Marion won by one point. It was Centralia's first defeat this season.

Before we left for the game, we had a message on our answering machine from my sister that their daughter Candy was in the hospital and might not live through the night. We found out she had made it, but she was still unconscious; we were still worrying about that on Saturday afternoon when my brother Jim and wife Vivian came by for a visit after being in Union County celebrating with the Class of 1946 the 65th anniversary of their high school graduation. It was a two-day affair and they also added the third day so they could visit friends, Vivian’s sister Ruby, and us.

On Sunday we were enjoying all the photos posted on Facebook of Sam and his beautiful date for the Homecoming dance. We came home from church to find that Mary Ellen, Brian, and Brianna had carried in dinner for all of us from Kentucky Fried Chicken. So we had a good visit over lunch with no effort on my part before I drove in for an afternoon visit with Katherine to hear all about Homecoming from her perspective and their anniversary celebration the night before. Before David got home from his friend’s farm, where they are making preparations for hunting season, I got to take Sam to his youth meeting—that was after he came home from a friend’s house. My sister phoned that afternoon on my cell to give me an update on Candy while I was still at Katherine’s.

Katherine herself was still receiving intravenous antibiotic every twelve hours by home health aides and David. On the previous Monday, various complications at the Cedar home kept happening so that we helped out by taking Katherine to the ER at the Carbondale hospital for tests and to be given the right antibiotic with the insert of a receptacle left in her arm so that she was given the antibiotic every twelve hours at home. Since the extreme busyness at ER that night kept us there seven hours until 2 a.m., we were thankful we had taken her and that David was home with Sam. Katherine had been told that they were dealing with three heart attacks and the arrival of four ambulances.

It was a strange experience because the waiting room was filled with weeping people, and the crowd kept growing as the night progressed. The grief was so raw and intense that I wondered if a child was dying, but it was such a diverse crowd that I could not figure it out. We were shocked and very saddened ourselves when we learned that a kindergarten teacher in a local school had hung herself in a classroom after school and was found by another teacher. As the word spread, her fellow teachers were coming in praying she might live and trying to comfort one another. She did live until the next morning when organs were donated. The school, as shown on the news the next day, was in mourning and tried to help with counseling for the students, but who can explain suicide, let alone to children.

We were so pleased with the very sharp ER doctor that night. Katherine knew from previous infections what was needed and he listened carefully and was not threatened by questions by an intelligent patient. Instead he called her urologist and found out she was right, and consequently everything was done correctly. It is difficult for patients to advocate for themselves, but a good physician appreciates it. There was the sweetest and most understanding nurse taking care of Katherine in the ER that night, and it made the long tiring experience much less difficult.
On Tuesday afternoon this week, a visiting nurse came to remove the receptacle for the antibiotic and to write the final report. And this home nurse was so intelligent, informative, and supportive that I find myself really high on the medical profession right now. We have had some bad experiences with doctors and ER people in the past, and so has Katherine, so that makes you really appreciate the good people.

Some people are scared of any kind of government employees and, thus, are scared of government involvement in medicine. I am convinced that competent and caring people work in the government bureaus just as they do in private situations. And unfortunately incompetent, arrogant, ignorant, lazy, and cruel people also work both in private businesses and in government bureaus. All of us, whether we want to be or not, are at the mercy of other people. Most of us are not unfortunate enough to be in a beauty shop, on an air plane, in a church house, or at a political rally in a supermarket parking lot when a crazed individual shows up and starts shooting. All we can do is try to encourage one another to be one of the giving people and do what we can to prevent incompetents and crazies from hurting others.

Meanwhile down in Amarillo, Candy is better though still in the hospital, and her daughter is up from Florida to visit her. Her Oklahoma sister is coming this weekend. Her local sisters are hosting their niece, and when Katherine talked to Rosemary this week, Rosie and Phil were fixing another family dinner in addition to their regular Friday night supper for their clan.

While all this family unhappy happenings have been going on, we are also carefully following and celebrating granddaughter Geri Ann’s high school softball career down in Georgia. She and her fellow pitcher Courtney Poole, both seniors, are continuing their winning ways on the mound and with their bats. Geri Ann has just broken both the all-time season record and career record for homeruns among Georgia high schools. The playoffs with several more games will continue for the next two weeks. Someone may catch up with her, especially since no one will pitch to her now, but her grandparents in Illinois believe she will finish on top.

We are also excited about our granddaughter Leslie down at Belmont University at Nashville. Her Facebook page is filled with congratulations on her stunning performance with the Rock Ensemble there on campus Wednesday night. We find it hard to believe that our little blonde is a senior in college, but we aren’t at all surprised she is winning praise for her powerful voice. Hearing her called a rock star by her band friends and Belmont audience is somewhat unexpected. Anyone who has heard Leslie sing in her high school musicals, with her guitar at coffee shop concerts, or leading worship at church would not think of her as a rock star. Yet this was the campus ensemble she was asked to perform with, and obviously her virtuosity includes rock. Here is a link to one of their concert performances now on You Tube:

Panic Attack by Dream Theater-Belmont University Rock Ensemble
From the Rock Ensemble's 2011 Show Written by Dream Theater

Tonight our computer is moving so very very slow. A slow computer in addition to all the busyness contributes to my not blogging in a timely fashion lately.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Harvest Time Thoughts

Our son-in-law Brian is down and working very hard at harvest. Gerald has helped him all day today by hauling grain. (It is usually too damp to start before l0; but Gerald did things here at this farm and then joined Brian, and he was ready for rest in his easy chair in front of the TV when the day was over.)

Brian works before and after time in the field in their camper analyzing crop results and keeping in touch with his home office at Stone Seed. (If he is lucky, he may even get needed sleep there.) At noon, I was fascinated that Gerald brought in a map print-out of the fields. Brian’s combine evidently records what it is harvesting, and Brian downloaded the information and took the chip into Twin County farm service to create this map. The same technology can be used for future fertilizing so that just the areas of the fields that need more fertilizer will receive it in just the right amounts. This is all over my head and my ability to understand, but I do understand that this is remarkable technology that is changing crop production in important ways.

The other Bryan in our family—granddaughter Tara’s husband--is now with his family in Georgia but continuing to work for his Illinois firm with the help of high speed technology that sends his work to his home office. I am amazed at these important advances in communication. I am so glad he able to be with his family now instead of depending on Skype to keep in touch with his wife and three little guys. A former Southern Illinois University football player, he was able to take Aidan, age 5, to a Georgia football game on Saturday afternoon, which was a dream come true for him. Of course, he will be making frequent trips to northern Illinois, but modern transportation makes that easily done also. Like most people, their family has been impacted by the recession since the house they purchased with high hopes and made improvements on has lost value and is awaiting a purchaser.

On TV tonight, I saw where a church in Oregon or somewhere in the Northwest had been given permission to create a tent city on their parking lot for homeless families since the city’s homeless shelters were full. While I am grateful to the church for providing this help, it is heartbreaking that families must go through this. Especially when many many beautiful homes all over the nation have been foreclosed on and are now standing empty marring their neighborhoods and often being vandalized by thieves stealing copper and other marketable items. I keep wondering why some innovative bankers cannot figure out a solution to these lose-lose situations. Again this is all over my head and my ability to understand, but I keep thinking there surely are some brilliant minds out there able to figure out a solution. As the world pays tribute to Steve Jobs, let us pray that some other creative geniuses and problem solvers will find ways to help us get families out of our present problems.

My contribution to complete the harvest has been to be available a couple of times to drive Brian and Gerald to new fields after they finish one field and have to move machinery on to the next. My skill sets are still back in the 20th century; and unlike many farm wives, I never even learned to drive the tractors or combines back then. I am not dumb, but I never had adequate training to overcome my fears and limited aptitude, so I spent a life time caring for children, vacuuming, mopping, cooking, and washing dishes—all of which I consider very important work. I was not only where I chose to be, but I think I was where I should have been with the particular geographic opportunities and peculiar set of circumstances and abilities that I had.

Nevertheless, as technology keeps improving and growing ever more complicated, education and training is increasingly important and must grow more available to everyone and more effective. We must believe in our people. There are millions of young men and women in inner cities, suburbs, and rural areas that are not dumb just as I am not dumb—but because of their limited education and lack of the skills needed in today’s economy somehow appear that way to themselves and others. As a nation, we have to figure out how to use human potential all around us. There is plenty of work to be done, and we need to prepare our citizens to be able to accomplish all the work needing to be done.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Fun and Fellowship at "The Nifty Fifties"--and Hope

Before I even drove home from our 19th Annual Baptist Student Union Reunion Friday afternoon, I felt I must drop by a young friend’s house to share the hope that Nate Adams had given us with his afternoon presentation. The personal story he told convinced me that five or six people praying could bring about important results.

Former Southern Illinois University classmates and other BSU alumni from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s had met Thursday evening for a bountiful supper in the fellowship hall of Lakeland Baptist Church in Carbondale to start our reunion. Hamburgers and hot dogs with all the fixings topped by banana splits as dessert were served by friendly Lakeland members. That menu and the colorful juke box decorations surrounding us made clear “The Nifty Fifties” theme.

So did being greeted by Jim Cox of midwest radio/television fame in his Rock and Roll T-shirt and our president Ginger Wells and husband Gene in their blue jeans. Another attendee had on 1950s style church-going outfit complete with cute hat atop her head. One bright red poodle skirt with multiple petticoats beneath it certainly caught my eye, and there were others brave enough or ambitious enough to rise to the challenge of dressing the way it was. Rosie Robinson registered us, and as usual George and Jerry Casey took our pictures—this year in a Route 66 automobile. We will be receiving those photos in the mail soon. Pastor Phil Nelson welcomed us, and Gerald and I were pleased to see this friend of our daughter Katherine from their 1970 BSU days together.

We moved from the fellowship hall across the driveway to Lakeland’s new worship center for an evening of fellowship, inspiration, and games led by Bob and Oleta Barrow. We liked hearing about the SIUC Campus Mission from Chase Abner again and also from two cute twins Ashley and Andrea Dimitroff, students from DuQuoin. You may want to check out the Campus Mission Facebook page to share with the young people in your church.

The former BSU quartet—Roger Deppe, Bill Eidson, Darrell and Harlan Highsmith--proved they can still sound good even after 50 years. Jo Nell Cannon was the best liar in the Liars Game, and she said the next day she had a lot of explaining to do to a fellow church member who showed up from Mt. Vernon and kept hearing people tell her what a good liar she was. The close harmony of Les Snyder and his sons Brent and Chris was beautiful and powerful. Then we finished the evening singing 1950s songs under the direction of four couples who got into the swing of things—especially Verona and Darrell Highsmith smooching behind their big hats.

For me, the best part of Thursday evening was people’s stories. Finding out that multi-talented Jim Cox had never expected to go to college and took vocational classes in high school not only surprised me but filled me with appreciation for his Johnston City pastor Bob Walker who took Jim to his mother’s home and arranged a free room for his first term to encourage Jim to try college and see how he could work his way through—which he did with a job at the Baptist Foundation.

Then there was George Casey telling us about growing up in Tunnel Hill, attending a one-room school with only three in his class. (All three of his rural classmates ended up with masters degrees, which says something good about one-room schools with the right teacher.) Turning down scholarship offers from McKendree and University of Illinois, George came to SIUC at age 15. He felt the support and fellowship of Christian students at Doyle Dorm not only helped him make the adjustment to university life but also convinced him he wanted to become a Christian, which he did during his junior year. He also gave us a quick history of student work at SIUC from Myron Dillow’s history book about Baptist life in Illinois. You can read George’s “BSU Story” on the website our president emeritus Helen Galloway created for us:

Helen too told about what BSU meant to her during 1945-49. When George earlier told about the BSU float winning in the 1948 Homecoming parade celebrating SIU’s progression from Southern Illinois Normal University, why did we figure that Helen was on the committee that used “We Ain’t Normal Anymore” for their theme? Kidding aside, however, as many wonderful laughs as Helen has provided for us these many years, her servant heart has always been in the right place and accomplished so much for our Illinois churches, her students during her guidance counselor career, and now in her home church and for our BSU reunion that grew from a garage-full of friends at a rummage sale to the large gathering we have now that inspires and blesses us, Helen already has the October newsletter up at and lots of updating already accomplished with the promise this year’s reunion pictures will be posted soon. Check it out at and drop Helen a note of appreciation.

Gerald and I had gotten up early Thursday to bid farewell to California friends who had been with us for a week and who left Carbondale when I drove them to the train station Thursday morning. So we were grateful we didn’t have to stay for the late night practice of the Reunion Choir under the direction of Barbara Eidson. However, the next day when I heard them sing, I was grateful that they had the energy and dedication to stay late and prepare the lovely songs we heard on Friday.

Coffee, fruit, and bite-size yummy pastries awaited us Friday morning in the fellowship hall and at ten o’clock we went back to the worship center for praise and worship under the direction of John Davis and Carol Smith. Darrell Highsmith led us in a thoughtful memorial service before the Reunion Choir sang, and Carol thrilled us with her piano tribute.

It was inspiring to hear Becky Searles, teacher and trainer of teachers, interview her husband Dr. Howard Searles about his years of work with Emmanuel Hospital Association in northern rural India. Becky is in her 45th year in education and now serving Trinity International University and Judson College. Howard is still recruiting for EHA and has seen seven hospitals grow to twenty-one and returns to help often even though he retired from medical practice seven years ago. For more about EHA’s work, visit

Lora Blackwell explained again the Fellowship of Baptist Educators program in which she participates and which not only provides teachers for other nations but also collects Bibles and books for overseas libraries with limited resources. See

Just back from weeks working in northern New York, Jack Shelby told us about our Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief Volunteer program and its 37 teams, who pay their own expenses and do everything from supplying hot meals and child care during disasters to having chainsaw crews ready to clear fallen trees and repair roofs. He told of cleaning up one little 90-year-old lady’s lawn covered with limbs as high as fence around the yard. When she thanked them, she explained when she looked out and saw the damage and mess outside her house, she knew she could not do anything about it. So she prayed the Lord would send angels to clean it up for her. She was delighted with the crew that came and she told them that she now knew that “Angels aren’t always pretty.” Another encouraging tidbit Jack shared was that at one table during one of the 19,000 volunteer days Illinois provided that year, they discovered that every man at the table had had open heart surgery. For more information, see

At our fantastic catered lunch, I met or should say re-met a neighbor I had not seen since her childhood. As she dipped my salad. she explained that she was Melody, the second daughter of Jay and Winnie Payne and she and her husband were the ones who had moved a mobile home to Jay and Winnie’s place. They sometimes bring Jay and Winnie fishing at our lake. Then I noticed her T-shirt and realized we were being catered by Marion’s Western Sizzling. Winnie is an outstanding cook, and so are her daughter and husband.

After lunch, Jim and Rosie Robinson led us in group singing. We listened to the men’s quartet again and heard Helen Galloway introduce special people—the missionaries in our midst. But I was most looking forward to her introduction of our Illinois Baptist State Association Executive Director, because she told me she had been working on that introduction for a week. She did not disappoint. She had us laughing, Nate blushing, and our hearts open to what he had to say.

He did not disappoint either. He is more than aware of the importance of trying to provide for our present young adults the kind of nurturing and educational opportunities that the adults in the Great Depression sacrificially created for our age group when we were young. With young adults of his own, he understands the need to tell the good news of Christ so that it will be understood by this generation and they too will enjoy community and relationships that will bless them throughout their life on this planet and beyond. The method needed? Prayer and caring people reaching out and sharing their journey and their struggles as they make the effort to follow the teachings of Jesus and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Knowing that many listening would do that filled me with hope as I left the reunion and headed home rejoicing.