Monday, February 24, 2014

Hidden Treasures in Secret Places

I have always leaned a little toward the sentimental side of things, which if not careful can easily lead one down the path to becoming a full-fledged hoarder. I mean, I can be sentimental about  a generic packet of sugar if it comes from a restaurant where one of my grand-babies celebrates a birthday! I just slap a date on that sucker, record the event and location, and ta-da!..keepsake!!

I soon began to realize, however, the older I became and the more God blessed me with these special events, I had to come up with a more selective method of remembering them. Especially trips and vacations. Pictures are a given. But come must have more than simple photographs. They only let you relive the trip frame by frame. Let's face it, you can only bore friends and family to tears for so long repetitively showing pictures of a trip they were not a part of.

So I moved on to shot glasses. Yes, the preacher's daughter said shot glasses! I did not say I drank anything out of those shot glasses, nor did I say I plan to drink anything out of them. I did, however, collect them for a while. I have a shot glass from a gift shop in Baltimore, a shot glass from a gift shop in Cozumel, a shot glass from a gift shop in San Antonio...well, you get the idea. I was okay with this until one day a few friends were sitting around joking about sentimental items we leave behind for our grandchildren. The more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea of my grand-babies fighting over Maw Maw's shot glasses. So, I quickly and happily settled on coffee mugs instead.

I especially like the coffee mugs because I actually use them. Each time I do, they bring back fond memories of the places where they were purchased. I can sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee in mountains of Estes Park, Colorado, or overlooking the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels, Texas, or even at the Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois! (I have a really good imagination.)

If you read my writing from last week, my husband had planned a trip to Louisiana in order to replace one of my favorite cups that had gotten dropped and broken. It was a beautiful cup. For the longest I would not drink from it, but I finally decided it was silly to have something so pretty and not put it to use. I had bought it at the Tobasco factory at Avery Island whenever my son was stationed a few miles away at a Coast Guard base in Abbeyville. The cup represented a special trip to me as a Mom. I gotten to see my son's base and the boat he rode out on, and I got to visit the apartment where he lived in Lafayette. This was probably one of the last trips we took as a family where all of our kids were together before going their separate ways, moving on to their individual lives. The cup represented a lot to me, but it was simply a tie to a sweet memory, and the memory itself lived on. The change in travel plans last weekend to visit Duck Commander brought great fun, and the trip to Charlie's family's old home-place was priceless. I would not have traded that experience for the world. I truly believe that trip was directed by God's hand.

The next week life moved along as usual. Saturday, I drank my coffee in Estes Park before getting dressed and heading out on our weekly treasure hunt for items to place in our antique/craft store booth. One of our regular stops is a faith-based thrift store not far from the house. I always enjoy searching for the one little treasure... something just waiting to be discovered and given new meaning with a new owner. Walking through the store, a colorful object caught my eye on the shelf on the next aisle over. The closer I got, I couldn't help but smile. There, sitting at eye level was a perfect Tobasco coffee mug from Avery Island, Louisiana. The words to the song that was playing? "You're everything good, everything true, when all the world is fading, You're everything new, You are my eyes, when I can't see, When all the world is broken, You will always be, everything good." Ashes Remain's song, Everything Good

You might say this was just coincidence, and you are entitled to your opinion. I find it difficult to believe, however, that everything aligned so perfectly - the object, the timing, the place. As for me, I believe this is yet another instance in which my Heavenly Father showed me that even the little things matter to Him. The more I come to know Him, the closer we become, I am finding much more than wondrous, amazing grace. I am finding astonishing abundance in the tiniest of gestures. I am discovering immeasurable joy. As an added blessing, in the times I least expect it, He throws in a little secret treasure...the least expected surprise that reminds you that you are His, and He knows you by name.

"I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places,so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." Isaiah 45:2-3

Click link below to hear the song, Everything Good

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

by Cindy Hester

God never ceases to amaze me. I often laugh at myself because I pray with expectation, and then I am amazed when God actually answers the prayer! To borrow a phrase from Beth Moore, "Anybody?!?" (Those of you in my Esther Bible study group know what I'm talkin' about, don't ya'?!)

Rayne, Louisiana - aka "Frog City"
The Frog Capital of Louisiana
This past weekend, my husband and I got a wild hair and decided to take a road trip. We ended up in Rayne, Louisiana, which I will have you know is also known as "Frog City". My husband being part Cajun was in need of a little jambalaya and zydeco, so we headed to Randoll's in Lafayette to eat and then planned to proceed on down to Avery Island to visit the Tobasco factory. I know, I know, we are some wild folks!! "Laissez les bons temps rouler!" (Google it, and I hope it says what I think it does...) Stay with me now. At some point in the morning we actually communicated, and we discovered we both really wanted to drive north in an attempt to follow Charlie's family roots. (The fact that Duck Commander just happens to be in the vicinity of his grandparents' old home place didn't hurt the cause any either!)


Charlie's maternal grandmother and grandfather somewhat recently passed away, both within a couple of years of each other. Charlie was extremely close to these grandparents. Growing up he spent almost every weekend with them as well most of his summers. During many of these stays, trips were made back to the old home-place in Louisiana where his grandmother and grandfather were raised just down the road from one another. (For you proper folk, where they were reared just down the road from one another.)

It was there at Selma Loop, Georgetown, Louisiana that Charlie's grandma and grandpa taught him about living off the land. He learned to shoot, hunt, and fish, as well as to clean and cook your kill of the day. Even more valuable, he learned about love, family, and being a man of your word. I don't think I fully realized exactly what a huge chunk of my husband's heritage had been lost whenever these two precious people passed away. To make matters worse, he had never truly experienced any true form of closure.

As soon as I said I wanted to make the trip to find the old home-place, Charlie was both excited and nervous. Not having visited that part of Louisiana since he was a young adult, he was not sure whether he would recognize the place. He honestly did not know whether any of his family still lived in the Selma-Georgetown area. The four hour drive there was filled with anticipation and stories of days spent in Louisiana as a child. It did my heart good to see him open up and set those memories free letting them live on.

The closer we got to Selma Loop, the more I could see the nervousness in his demeanor. What a beautiful part of the country...and I do mean COUNTRY! Now I know why he loves it out at the farm so much. As we turned on Selma Loop road I began to have doubts of my own as to whether we would be able to find the old places he had once visited, much less any living relatives. We drove down the road a ways and passed a little Baptist Church he remembered, which was a good sign. Nothing else seemed to click as far as what road to turn down, and the few houses we did pass either looked new or unfamiliar.

Selma Baptist Church

I began pray silently, "Lord, I truly believe You brought us here for a purpose. I know Charlie needed this trip. I honestly believe his heart has been locked up in grief, and I feel he has not really been able to say goodbye to either of his grandparents due to the circumstances at the time of their death. Lord, if You would, please send someone along our path that could help us find the perfect person, place, or thing that could do just that for him."

We drove along quietly for another half a mile. About that time I hear a noise and Charlie said, "This may be just what we are looking for." As soon as the words left his mouth, the gentleman pulled up beside us as Charlie rolled down his window flagging him to stop. The man had a kind smile that reminded me of someone, but I could not quite place who it was. He asked, "Can I help you folks?" Charlie asked if he knew of any Carters that lived in the area. He replied, "Sure do! There is a David Carter that lives just down the next road on your left. He lives in Miss Sarah Jane's old home place." Barely holding back tears, Charlie managed to speak. "That is my cousin, and that is the place we are looking for."

He then asked the gentleman if he happened to remember anyone ever mentioning a C.C. or Helen Carter that once lived in the area. The man's eyes lit up, and with a far away smile he replied, "You mean Aunt Helen?" This man, the person that I truly believe God sent at that moment in time to direct us to the place we needed to go, just happened to be Charlie's grandmother's nephew. Life, health, and miles had gotten in the way as it tends to do, and this family like most others had simply lost touch with one another.

A car topped the hill, so we had to cut our visit with Mr. King short. He pulled in front of us and motioned for us to follow him. As we drove up to the old home place where Charlie spent so many weekends and summers with his grandparents playing, hunting, fishing, roaming the woods, leaving his troubles behind and just being a kid, he was overcome with emotion.

Sweet place of memories.

After gathering his thoughts he headed toward the door not really knowing what to expect. He hadn't seen his cousin in many years and was not sure he would even recognize him. The screen door opened before Charlie could get to the first step. A rather imposing man in overalls stepped out, stuck out his hand and in a "matter of fact, don't mess with me I'm from Louisiana, and I could whip you if I wanted to" manner stated, "I'm David Carter." Charlie returned his gaze in a "you don't know it, but we're cut from the same cloth" manner and said, "I'm Charlie Hester." Before the words got all of the way out of his mouth, the man was bounding down the steps to meet him shaking his hand and bear hugging him at the same time. I couldn't help but hear echos of "Whaaaw, how's yo' Momma an' them?" from the stories of the past in the background.

He invited us in to visit, and I learned a lot about my husband and his Louisiana roots during that short visit. Watching David I could surely see so many of Charlie's grandpa's mannerisms and so much of his humor. Charlie's grandpa and David's grandpa were extremely close brothers. In fact, my Charlie was named after David's grandpa.

David Carter and my husband, Charlie Hester

I truly wish I could have known this family when the Carters and the Kings were still alive and living out in those beautiful wooded swamps of Louisiana. The stories of Broom Camp Bend and Boston Old River, well I just wish I could have experienced it just once while all of grandma and grandpa's parents and brothers and sisters were around.

"Grandpa" C.C. Carter giving sugar to our little grandson, Randy.

We said our goodbyes vowing not to wait so long before returning. We sat quietly in the car a moment before pulling away. I watched him drink it all in. The melancholy air settled heavy with a mixture of longing, sadness, closure and peace. It seemed as though the stars had aligned allowing the past and present to merge into one brief healing moment in time. God had provided Charlie another glimpse of grandma in Mr. King, and clear link to grandpa in his cousin, David Carter.

"Grandma" aka "Aunt Helen" showing Randy
how to use the remote on her lift recliner.

"Dear Lord, how can I ever thank You for the wonderful Valentine you gave to Charlie and I this past weekend? You never cease to amaze how you work. You continually show Your love, grace, and goodness in ways I least expect, and You do it in such a way that I know it had to come from Your hand. I love how You show me that You care about the things that matter to us. This was a matter of utmost importance to me and to my husband. You know Lord, the deepest yearnings of my heart, and You alone, Lord know the perfect plan for those desires. I trust You and You alone to lead me in whatever direction You choose to take me. I trust that You have my best interests at heart, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that You have my husband and my family's best interest at heart. I lay everything before You in trust. Please help us to find our way in life, just as you helped us to find our way on our journey this weekend. For Lord, I know if we trust You, there are many, many treasures of the heart ahead. Most of all, dear Lord, bring those who do not have You for a guide in his or her life to a saving knowledge of You. I ask these things, and I thank You again for all You have already done, in Jesus precious name, Amen."

A Poem for Bear By Maw Maw Cindy My dear little Bear who sleeps soundly and tight So peaceful and trusting, your cares free...