Creature in the Garden

March 31, 2012

February is planting month in Florida, assuming there are no more frosts or freezes expected. This year, we hardly had a winter, with only a handful of cold days, so I kicked into full gear and set out to plant my first garden since retirement.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’d carefully filled cardboard egg cartons with soil and sewn my seeds. Within days,  tiny shoots appeared, and in a few weeks, some gorgeous, healthy, green pepper plants swayed in the light breeze. I watered them religiously and fed them nitrogen-rich fertilizer weekly. I even talked to a few of them. (No one was around to witness that, so let’s keep it our secret.)  As soon as they were big enough, I transplanted them into the container where I expected they’d spend the rest of their happy little lives.

Soon after the plants were about two or three inches tall, I noticed one had been sheared off at the base, cut as cleanly as if someone had taken a pair of scissors to it.  No obvious bugs were detected nor grandchildren around tall enough to be able to commit the crime.

So I planted another bell pepper in its place. Days later, all were growing and doing well. Then, the “what-ever-it-was” struck again. This time it was a smaller plant in the same container. Replanted again.

I consulted with a gardening friend.  He had no idea what could be happening. In fact, he asked, “Are you sure no one cut them with scissors?”

A few more days went by, and the little pepper farm thrived. This morning, all the pepper plants smiled, stood at attention,  mouths open waiting for that good drink of water they knew was coming. A couple hours later, another casualty.

“All right,” said I. “What’s going on here?” A little closer examination of the fatality and I spied the culprit, a three-quarter inch black and brown striped caterpillar, or worm or something. Since I’m not very fond of wiggly things, I didn’t pick it up to see if it had legs. However, I found a stick and lifted it from the soil and tossed it onto the cement pad just outside my back porch. And just to make sure it couldn’t find its way back to my pepper plants, I carefully positioned my shoe over the critter. Immediately, all that was left of it was a slimy green stain.

“Ewww.”  Yes, I agree. That’s kind of gross. But that rascal won’t be eating any more of my pepper plants!

What is it that invades the garden of our life, threatening to seriously damage or destroy it? Are we being tempted with pride, jealousy, strife, gossip, disobedience, short temper? Lying, violence, immorality, the love of money? Unforgiving, unloving, unmerciful?  Futile thoughts, foolish hearts, maliciousness?

Let us always be on guard to identify those things with which the evil one will try to infect us.  As soon as we recgonize a creature trying to steal our joy in the Lord, we need to crush it, just as thoroughly as that caterpillar. I don’t know about you, but with me, it’s a daily watch.

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  James 1: 12.NKJV

When the Memories Fade…

March 25, 2012

Memory is the ability to retain and recall information. Memories are what make it possible for us to function. Memory enables us to learn as we remember how to feed ourselves, tie our shoes,  and perform many tasks necessary to care for ourselves.

We recall the scent of a rose, the sound of our baby’s first cry, an inspiring comment from a parent, friend, or teacher, the aroma of baking cookies, the feeling of a caress from our spouse, the taste of chocolate, a Scripture from the Bible.  We learn how to count, read, solve problems. Memory makes us who we are—we experience, we learn, we remember.

Memories, precious as they are, tend to fade with age—or with illness such as Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. It’s heartbreaking both for the victims and their families. According to the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is “an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.”

In the mild stage of Alzheimer’s disease, a person may misplace or lose things, have trouble handling money, become confused in familiar surroundings, and forget simple words. As the disease progresses into the moderate stage, the person may have difficulty doing things that require multiple steps like getting dressed, increased confusion and memory loss, become unconcerned about hygiene or appearance. Changes in mood and behavior often occur. When the disease reaches the severe stage, round-the-clock care is required. The dementia patient then loses the ability to recognize family members, becomes unable to communicate,  may wander off and not be able to find his or her way home. Finally, the patient has difficulty eating and swallowing.

This is not a comprehensive list of signs and symptoms. Nor am I an expert on Alzheimer’s’ and dementia. To learn more, go While you’re at the Alzheimer’s Association site,  please sign the petition to get federal commitment to funding Alzheimer’s research.

My dear sister-in-law, Laura, has Alzheimer’s. We are losing her, little by little. It’s heart-wrenching. Her daughter, Crystal, is working very hard to increase awareness, raise funds, and point people to whatever assistance they need.  She has a Facebook page “Don’t Forget to Remember.” If you have a minute, please check it out.

Like many other things, such as developmental disabilities or retardation and mental health issues, Alzheimer’s is no joke, and nothing to joke about. Please join me in praying for a cure for this horrible disease.

Savoring the Memories

March 17, 2012

Memories.  After a while, that’s all you have left—of grandparents, parents, even siblings, perhaps friends. Sure, you may have some memorabilia, an heirloom, photographs, or other token remembrance of the person, but it’s the memories, not the objects, that are most precious.

 We “make” memories by doing things with our children, family and friends. We physically preserve social memories in many ways: in photographs, scrapbooks, videos, movies, trinkets, souvenirs.

One of my favorite memories is, as a small child,visiting my maternal grandparents  in western New York and “helping” my grandmother make fresh fruit pies. Myassistance actually consisted of sitting on a tall blue wooden stool beside her, talking with her, listening to her wisdom, watching  her deft hands craft her jewels, and waiting for the leftover pie crust to be handed over to me so I could make my own over-kneaded, thrice-rolled-out cinnamon and sugar piecrust-cookie. Oddly enough, I never learned to make great pies from scratch like my grandmother did, but I still love the cinnamon and sugar crust.

I was almost six years of age when we moved to sunny Florida, and we lived in an old frame duplex right on old U.S. #1 in Sharpes while our house was being built in Cocoa. Along with my two sisters, I slept in the loft on a mattress placed on the bare plank floor.  My two brothers, then babies, slept downstairs in my parents’ room. Every night my mother would come up and sit on the edge of our mattress to spend time with us individually and tuck us in. She helped me to memorize “The Lord’s Prayer” during his time. We didn’t attend church, so I don’t really know why I asked my mom to help me learn it, but it has become one of my most precious memories.

Sometimes we suppress memories of things that are painful to us, enabling us to function without having that heartache in the forefront of our minds. I don’t recall much about what was going on when my father decided to go to work in Mississippi and never returned to the family. Only the most indelible memories remain of when I lost my sister to illness.

A wonderful unforgettable memory was the birth of our first child in Holly Hill, Florida. The night I went into labor, my husband was on his way back from Plymouth, Florida hauling twenty-three tons of fertilizer with the International semi-truck he drove for a living. When I called the shop where the truck would be parked, C.H. Sledd told me Duke should be back within an hour or so.

Several phone calls later and after C.H. was convinced he was going to have to take me to the hospital, Duke finally arrived. He sped home, picked me up and we headed for Holly Hill. When we reached New Smyrna Beach, red lights began flashing in the rearview mirrors.  Once the officer shone his flashlight into the car and onto my ballooned belly, he escorted us to Daytona where he’d radioed ahead to advise the Daytona Beach police we were en route.  There we picked up another police escort who took us to the hospital, and two hours later, Rick was born.  I thought he was the most beautiful thing God had ever created. Then within the next six years, He gave us two more wonderful handsome sons. We now have six terrific grandchildren, five awesome great-grand children and we’re still counting. I could go on and on. We’ve been so blessed.

We “make” memories by doing things with our children, family and friends. Let’s make great memories for our family. Sometimes, it may take some effort, but for their sakes, it’s worth it.

What are some of your favorite memories?

Tune in next week when we talk about what happens when memories fade away.

Meet Eileen Hinkle Rife, author of Second Chance

March 8, 2012

It is my pleasure introduce to you Eileen Hinkle Rife and her newest book, a novel, Second Chance.  As fellow members of American Christian Fiction Writers, we share the love of writing and Christian values. I hope you’ll pick up a copy of her book!

An alumna of Christian Writers Guild and member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Eileen has published several non-fiction books, written newsletters, a marriage column, and over ten church dramas. Her byline has appeared in magazines, such as Discipleship Journal, Marriage Partnership, Mature Living, Christian Home & School, Drama Ministry, and ParentLife, as well as other print and online publications. Her fiction works include Journey to Judah, Restored Hearts, and Chosen Ones in the Born for India trilogy, and a stand-alone novel, Second Chance.  She and husband, Chuck, conduct marriage seminars in the States and overseas. Her favorite pastime in this season of life is dancing with hubby, spending time with her daughters and sons-in-law, and playing with her six grandchildren.

Second Chance: A poignant story of middle age, surprising friendships, and unexpected places. Inspired by Eileen’s own journey through the empty nest and her daughter’s and son-in-law’s work with inner city teens.  Mave Robertson, a recent empty nester, wants the fire back in her marriage, but her husband, Jerry, remains aloof. Is he having an affair? A midlife crisis? When a neighbor suggests she “get a life,” Mave accepts the challenge and volunteers at an inner city teen ministry where she is thrown into a culture of drugs, gangs, and unwed teen moms. She soon discovers someone she can help, but might he also be the cure for both her stale marriage and her crumbling relationship with her father?

Read the Reviews:

Dareece Jackson, a teen from the projects, wants something in Mave’s purse…and he’ll stop at nothing to get it.

“Gently unfolds the truth that sometimes, the best is yet to come, from unexpected people, and places, and hearts.” —Sandra Byrd, author of To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn

“Transcends race and reaches the extremes—from suburbia to the ghetto, from guilt over a loved one’s murder to a marriage gone dull. With a dash of humor for balance, Second Chance will speak to your heart, no matter your station in life.”—April W. Gardner, author of the Creek Country Saga; Sr. Editor of the literary site, Clash of the Titles

“Refreshing and thought-provoking.” —Jennifer Slattery of Novel Reviews and Clash of the Titles

“Transports readers into the worlds of two very diverse characters. With laughter, tears, and sighs, you’ll enjoy every turn of the page.” —Fay Lamb, author of Because of Me, Treble Heart Books

“Lovingly crafted imagery and dialog will carry you into the lives of two very different families and show you what forgiveness really looks like.” —Lisa Lickel, author of Meander Scar.

You can purchase a copy of Eileen’s books in paperback or eBook at, Barnes & Noble, or wherever fine books are sold.

Learn more about Eileen at:

Nurturing the Seedlings

March 3, 2012

In an earlier post, I talked about planting seeds.  I watched as the spinach, squash, tomato, cucumber and chive sprouts seemed to leap out of the soil within days. I was so excited! We’d talked about planting a garden since last summer. Now here it was, the beginnings of the fruit of our labor.

Daily, I checked on them, making sure that they had enough water, sunshine, and no exposure to extreme cold. Remember, it is February.  Now, my little garden has many new plants. And these plants are very tender. They wouldn’t fare well in an environment of harsh winds, extreme heat, drought, or mistreatment.

Reminds me of a new Christian. They are tender, vulnerable little plants, babes, if you will.  Yes, God is the One germinated those seeds someone planted in them. God is the One who saved them, and God is the One who will keep them. But just as we nurture our little vegetable plants toward being strong, healthy, and fruit bearing, God expects us to care for new Christians, to help them to grow, to strengthen, to mature, and become fruitful.

Babes in Christ will associate with the convictions and values of those observed during the beginning of their walk with the Lord. They will be watching us and listening to us. They will model our behaviors, so we need to make sure that we represent Jesus in the most positive and accurate light. New Christians must be made aware of what it means to follow Christ.

We wouldn’t leave a newborn baby unattended without food, shelter, security. New believers simply cannot be thrust out into the world to flounder on their own unprepared and be expected to grow into mature Christians on their own. We need to do more than smile and shake their hand on Sunday morning. We need to call them and tell them how happy we are that they have become “one of us.”  We need to  pray for them, they need to see us pray and seek God’s will. We need to visit them and invite them into our home. We need to teach them. We need to show them that we care.

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