Lessons From Life

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The following articles are published with the permission of  Bunny Murphree  writing the column for neighborhood newspapers.  The articles are copyrighted and all rights are reserved.

Bunny is a wife, mother, grandmother, retired teacher, writer, and professional storyteller. For ministry needs, storytelling events, or for information on becoming a subscriber to the “Lessons From Life Column” for your newspaper or magazine, please contact Bunny by e-mail: bunny@otelco.net or call (205) 274-8719. Bunny is the author of “Job - A Book of Faith and Hope”.



Attila the Hun


My grandmother raised game chickens; she called them Easter Egg Chickens. These hens laid not only white and beige eggs but also pale olive green, blue, turquoise, and pinkish brown eggs. Grandmother always saved the colored eggs for us, kids. We had Easter eggs year round.

Grandmother`s coop housed a strange variety of these chickens. They all had beautiful plumes: some had lustrous coal black plumage with a greenish sheen, while others had reddish-bay feathers that were tipped in white, and the white ones with a little touch of various colors blended into their wings and tail feathers. To a little girl these chickens were a wonder to behold. Grandmother allowed us, kids to help name her hens. We named them for their colorful plumage or for the fluffy feathers that grew on their cheeks, chin, and the tops of their heads. Each one was different and distinct and had a name to prove it. I don't remember all their names but I do remember two very special hens. One was Miss Pantaloons because her feet and legs were covered in white downy feathers. I thought she was beautiful and so did she. The other special hen was a funny looking hen called, Miss No Fannie. Yep, that's right! She had no fanny. She was completely devoid of a sitter! No tail feathers or a tail of any kind.

But even with all the beautiful multihued plumes in the chicken yard there was one dark cloud: one villain, Attila the Hun. That Rooster strutted around the yard like a king. Even though he was small, he was powerful and frightening. He was always in a foul mood. All of us kids gave him respect and room. The spurs on his legs had gotten each of us more than once. The only thing Attila was afraid of was Grandmother. Grandmother said he was just doing his job, keeping his hens safe from intruders and the chicken coop under control. But to me, he was just an angry old rooster. What did he have to be angry about? He had a nice fenced in yard, plenty of corn, a clean dry coop, and a harem of beautiful hens. Yet, he was one nasty piece of work. He was the meanest critter, I have ever known.

We become incensed when a friend or family member betrays us. Even when strangers don't react in expected ways we become aggravated. We become rattled when our meticulously planned schedules go awry. We become frustrated when an unexpected expense destroys our budget. Convinced that we have some kind of control over our lives, we become irritated when faced with the stark reality that we are not really in charge at all.

If we are not in charge of our lives, then who is?

God is!

As soon as we began to understand and accept that God is in control, our perspective changes and a lot of stress and anger will be eliminated from our lives. If we truly believe that God is in control then what does it matter if someone disappoints us, if we miss our plane, or we have to replace the washing machine? All of these nuisances are just that - nuisances. They can not destroy or even change God's plans for us. The end results are in His hands. This knowledge will enable us to conquer our anger, deal with the unexpected, and adjust easily from our expectations to the designs of the Master Planner.

“Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails” Proverbs 19:21 NIV



Daddy's Sweet Potatoes


I was a daddy's girl. He was always there for me with love, direction, and encouragement. So of course, I always tried to do things to please him. He loved sweet potatoes. Mom usually baked them a couple of times a week when they were in season. Dad would cut his yam open and fill it with good sweet butter. Next he would cover it with brown sugar and top it off with a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon.

One day as I was helping mom put supper on the table, I decided that I was going to fix Dad's sweet potato. I cut it open, put on the rich, creamy butter, piled on the dark brown sugar and finished it off with lots and lots of cinnamon. Dad said it was the best sweet potato he had ever eaten. My ten year old chest swelled out with pride and pleasure.

After I was grown and married, Mom asked me if I remembered the first time that I fixed Dad's sweet potato. Of course I did. It had been one of the proudest moments of my life. What Mom told me next also makes it one of the sweetest memories of my life.

You see, in my excitement and haste, I had mistakenly gotten the jar of celery seed instead of the cinnamon. I guess all that I saw was the big “C” on the jar. My daddy had eaten that sweet potato covered in celery seeds without so much as a flinch in order to make a little girl proud.

How like our Heavenly Father, God takes our mistaken efforts and receives them as acts of love. God judges our motives and the love in our hearts. We must remember that our Heavenly Father sees the motive of our hearts even when we mess up.

It really used to bother me when I heard people say that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

I knew that I had a lot of good ideas, plans, and intentions that just never came to pass. Would God really hold me accountable for those ideas, plans, and intentions that had not been fulfilled?

Then I found the story of David in II Samuel 7 and Chronicles 22. David wanted to build a temple for God. God did not allow him to build the temple. But God still honored David's desire and intent to honor Him with a house. Praise His Holy Name, God honors our heart felt intentions even if we do not get to fulfill them.

Just as God looks past our failed intentions and mistakes, we must look past the failed intentions and mistakes of our fellow Christians. We must ask God to show us the motives of their heart. Surely they meant to sprinkle on the cinnamon instead of the celery seed!

“For the word of God is quick and powerful, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12



Three Men -- Three Loves


How could I choose--three men, three loves? Each special, each different, each unique, each mine to have and to hold. How could I choose? Surely, I have enough love for all three. Surely, I can keep them all happy and content. My life would be incomplete if I should lose any one of them, my three men--my three loves.

My first love stands tall, tan, and slim. His clear blue eyes look into the very depth of my soul. His gentle voice dispels fear and dread. His hands, rough from hard work, tenderly brush away a tear from my cheek. His wide toothy grin of approval causes my spirit to soar. Always watching, guiding, and counseling, he molds and directs my every path. Even when physically absent, his words of direction and counsel still linger in my ears, helping me choose the correct path. This knowing, world-wise man reveals to me the truth, the beauty, and the pitfalls of life. My teacher, the overseer of my youth, laughs and cries with me--a teacher who never takes advantage of my wide-eyed innocence.

To this man, I give my heart, my mind, my character. I have faith in him. I trust him. My love for him is true and everlasting.

I call him - Daddy.

Walking beside me down the long center aisle, Daddy supports me with his love. Reluctantly, he places my hand--my life--into the hand of my second love. My new love welcomes me into his life with gentleness and passion. His sparkling brown eyes reflect his love and commitment to me. His silky raven-black hair adds dignity to his otherwise boyish charm. His thin, perfectly shaped lips turn up at the corners warming me with joy. He introduces me to a new world of adventure and responsibility. His flexible nature supports and encourages me through all my trials and errors. His kind, patient love steadfastly stands beside me in a turbulent world. His good humor and optimism never give in to despair. Together we are students of life; together we are one; together we grow old; together we endure and overcome; together we laugh and cry; together we live and build. To this gentle, strong man, I give my heart, my body, my life. I have faith in him. I trust him. My love for him is true and everlasting.

I call him husband, friend, lover.

Husband, friend, lover--places in my arms my third love. I look on the soft pink face. Brownish-green eyes twinkle under a cap of black curly locks. Pure unadulterated love bubbles forth from my innermost being. His demanding, impatient cries bring contentment not resentment to my busy life. I become his teacher, maid, nurse, and love slave. No matter what time of day or night, if he needs me, I am there. I feel his pain when he hurts; I feel his joy when he laughs. He brings into my life both intense gladness and intense sorrow. To this little man, I give my heart, my protection, my life. I have faith in him. I trust him. My love for him is true and everlasting.

I call him - Baby son.

Daddy, Husband, Son, three--three loves, choose between them, never! Each of them willingly share my life and love. Each of them growing and changing yet each still firmly rooted in my heart. Their every victory and defeat strengthen my faith in them. Their daily lives prove my trust in them. My love is true and everlasting for my three men--my three loves.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. . . . . It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” I Corinthians 13:4 NIV



And I Love You

This is column is a little shorter and more personal than usual. But for Mother’s Day I want to remember my Mom, Ethelyn Jane Machen. I must tell you that I had the World’s Greatest Mom. Oh, yeah she made mistakes. But there was never a time in my whole life that I didn’t know that she loved me and wanted what was best for me. She passed away May 30, 2007.

I had spent the day with her that day and she was in good spirits and feeling well. As I was leaving to go home, I gave her a hug and told her that I loved her. She replied, “And I love you.”

It took the usual hour and fifteen minutes to drive home. We had been home about 10 minutes when the phone rang telling me that my Mom had passed away – a massive heart attack.

I never really thought about it until after my Mother passed away. But you see, whenever I told Mom that I loved her she never said I love you, too. She always said “AND I LOVE, YOU.”

It so easy for us to say, “I love you too, me too, or ditto. “ But Mom wanted to make sure that I knew that she loved me. She never replied with an also or an afterthought. But she took the time to make it special with “AND I love you.”

It is so easy for us to just give the also or pat answer without putting any thought into it. But each of us should let those we love know that our love is more than a ditto. Tell someone you love today how much they mean to you and make it special.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever beliveth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16



Papa

As a young child, I had the privilege of living up the hill from my great-grand parents, Momma and Poppa. Poppa was retired and could always be found at home, church or the city library. His four passions in life were his God, his family, his books, and his flowers. I often found him behind his house working in his flower garden. I loved to watch him work with his flowers, especially the roses. His short little body was either bent low over a bush or stretching up high to tie the climbers to the trellis. The very top of his bald head shining in the sun, with the soft white fluff surrounding his head just above and around his ears made me think of a little old monk. All he needed to complete this image was a long black robe, rope belt, and a silver cross. But instead he always had on dark slacks, a white shirt, and black suspenders. In colder weather, an old wool jacket with leather patches on the sleeves was added to his wardrobe. Even with a shovel or rake in his dirty hands he looked more like a banker than a gardener. In the spring there were golden daffodils, red, yellow, and purple tulips, and iris of purple. In the summer there were fragrant roses, bright orange day lilies, delicate white daisies, multi-hued snapdragons, vivid Sweet Williams, huge hollyhocks, and colorful but stinky marigolds. In the late summer and early fall there were huge sunflowers, and flashy chrysanthemums. Even in the winter there were vibrant pansies among the evergreens. Besides the flowers the grounds were also filled with rock gardens, gold fish ponds, bee hives, and birdhouses - everything to make it a wonderland for a little girl. Poppa loved all his flowers but the roses were his favorite. His garden was filled with fragrant pink, red, yellow, and white roses. Most of them were imported Old Garden Roses from England, Europe, and the Mediterranean. He used these beautiful old style rose bushes as alternatives to fences and walls, the sharp thorns deterring unwelcome visitors. Poppa was always working, planting, mulching, staking, pruning, weeding, and cutting bouquets to share with family and friends.

Fifty some odd years ago there were no meteorologists to warn of bad weather. But somehow Poppa’s old joints always seemed to know when a storm was coming. Often in the early spring his whole garden would be covered with Momma’s colorful quilts and wool blankets. Frequently, Poppa hurried out, cutting as many fresh flowers as he could before they were bruised by the storm. As soon as the storm passed, Poppa was back in the garden, back bent low, gently staking up the broken plants so that they could regain their strength, straighten up, and bloom again. God, the Master Gardener, knows when to cover His precious blossoms. He knows which tender young buds and mature flowers must be removed from the garden of life to keep them from being crushed by the storm. Even the ones that are left to weather the wind, rain, and hail are not forgotten.

For as soon as the clouds are blown away God comes with his gentle loving hands, bends over the broken and bruised ones and stakes them up so that His garden will once again grow, bloom, and reach for the sun.

“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; . . . .” Isaiah 49:16 “For the Lord thy God is a merciful God; he will not forsake thee. . . “ Deuteronomy 4:31



The Ten percent

My grandmother was short and plump but not fat. Her cotton house dress was always cinched in at the waist by an ever present apron. As a child I thought she looked like a pillow with a brightly colored ribbon tied tightly around its center – soft and comfy. Her snow white hair was twisted into a bun with soft wisps flying around her wrinkled face. Her strong hands were rough and callused. Her greenish brown eyes sparkled with a love of life, never revealing the hardships she had experienced. She was raised in a well- to-do city family in the late 1800’s. Everything she needed was provided except time to be a child. She was the oldest daughter of a sickly mother. At age ten she became her mother’s nurse, nanny for her five siblings, and in charge of the kitchen. Between school and her house hold responsibilities she had little time for a social life. Subsequently she fell in love with the first man who paid her any attention, a rural backwoods farmer, who delivered fresh produce to her kitchen door. She left a large white house with electric lights, running water, Persian rugs, indoor plumbing and endless chores to live in a log cabin with kerosene lamps, a bucket in the well, dirt floors, an out house, and endless chores. For years this log cabin was furnished with little more than love, children, and heartaches. She had five children. She witnessed the deaths of three of them: one as toddler, one as a teenager and one as an adult. Long before there were social services or educational resources she struggled to raise a special needs child. When most folks her age were retired she still worked as a substitute teacher. She also supplemented her meager income by raising and selling game chicken, rabbits, goats, and sheep. She gardened and canned all summer. She managed to do all this while caring for her husband who had been injured in an accident, losing an eye and the partial use of one leg. Yet even with all the heartache and hardships, I never once heard her complain. Whenever anyone asked her how she was she would always say, “Well, if I was any better I would have to be twins.”

One day I asked her why she never complained. This was her reply: “Honey, I don’t complain because I have discovered that ninety per cent of the people really don’t care about my problems and the other ten percent are actually glad I’m the one with the problem.” Now I know this sounds cynical but is it based in truth? We often greet people with a cheerful, "How are you!" -- but the last thing we want is for them to actually tell us! Are we really concerned with another person’s problems? Do we have compassion? Have our hearts been hardened by the chronic whiners? Causing us to assume that everyone with a problem is just a “poor me” complainer. Let’s take a few minutes to talk about compassion. We will begin with the Wikipedia definition of Compassion. “Compassion is an emotion that is a sense of shared suffering, most often combined with a desire to alleviate or reduce the suffering of another; to show special kindness to those who suffer. Compassion essentially arises through empathy, and is often characterized through actions, wherein a person acting with compassion will seek to aid those they feel compassionate for.” Wikipedia tells us that compassion begins with empathy. So what is empathy? Empathy is the ability to feel the suffering of others, along with the desire to free them from their pain. In our busy, hectic lives, it is easy for us to become so focused on self that empathy dries up. We must rebuild compassion and empathy in our lives. Instead of running from those in pain we should tenderly move toward them. Compassion should be the rule of our lives.

Like Grandmother, we need to keep whining out of our lives and say “If I was any better I would be twins.” But unlike Grandmother, we must never assume that no one cares. We should reach out to our family and our friends in time of need – be it theirs or ours. We must never forget that we have a tender Heavenly Father who cares for and loves us.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

“A new commandment I give unto you, That you ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”. John13: 34-35