We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Are You Picking White Strawberries?

The end of June marks the time of strawberry season here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The local strawberry farm takes loads of us locals to the fields in a wagon pulled by a huge tractor. We come back with heaping containers of red, luscious strawberries along with red tongues and a few stains on our shoes and shorts. After the workers weigh up our bounty (and accept our carefully-saved cash for this very occasion), off we go to make jam, pies, and shortcake. Yummy!

Last night as I was making jam, I remembered a story my mother used to tell. One warm June day, she took my sister and me to pick strawberries. We must've been in the lower elementary grades. Crouched in my row, I suddenly heard Mom say to me, "Sarah, why are you picking white strawberries?"

"So everyone else can have the red ones," I answered. Needless to say, after a mild scolding, I have not picked a white strawberry since . . . at least not in a strawberry patch. 

But there have been occasions I have been guilty of picking white strawberries over the years. Times when perhaps I didn't feel worthy or deserving. Times when I purposely took the short end of the stick, hung back, or allowed other people to determine what should have been my choices to make. Times when I needed to speak up, ask questions, and hold my ground.

Maybe you've picked a few white strawberries, yourself?

I'm learning that although compliance, humility, and service have their place, strength of character also includes backbone, holding your chin up, and choosing what's best for you, too. Always balanced with kindness and grace.

So, come. Take my hand. Let's pick strawberries together. 

Red ones!

*Photos courtesy of bing.com

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Daddy's Story

To Dad . . .
On this Father's Day, I finger your name on the front cover of your story.
Leafing through the pages, I discover early sketches in black and white,
later scenes in faded color, and current prints, vivid and bright.
Each chapter shares your story. Yet tucked between the lines,
a mystery echoes with silent, secret spaces.

You are a blend of caraway and oregano.
You are the haunting melody of a trombone.
You are a smiling bridegroom in the pouring rain.
You carry red, white, and blue in your heart, an anchor in your soul.
You are a rainbow of pigment on canvas.
A wooden bookcase brushed with silk.
A building project in a foreign land.

You are a little girl's playmate, a father of the bride,
"Poppy" who comes for dinner.
You read meters, the morning paper, your Bible, and my rough drafts.
You are shaving cream and Old Spice.
You are hands that fix what's broken, serve church dinners, 
vacuum the living room carpet, and color with Crayola crayons.
You are an honest day's work.
You are a tall, white steeple against clouds of charcoal gray.

You mirror my smile yet feel my tears running down your cheeks.
You build an altar on my behalf.

Every story leaves its impression.
Yours has left a indelible mark, deep and unmistakable . . .

Thank you for being a wonderful dad.
 I love you!
Dad and Mom - December 2007

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Date to Remember

June 8, 1940.  

Seventy-four years have passed since the day Max and Katherine Phillips exchanged wedding vows. In 1997, she slipped away into eternity. He followed in 2003. But today, on their anniversary date, we lovingly remember them and all they contributed to each member of our family.

They were, after all, my husband's parents and our children's grandparents. Twice a year we packed up the girls and made the long twelve hour pilgrimage back to the farm, back to their welcoming hugs, and back to the ever-present stories of days gone by. It seemed to me they knew the dates of every birth and death of every relative. Even the names intrigued me, names like Opal, Mildred, and Zella. 

During our summer visits we ate our meals on the porch and sought out a fan in the breathless humidity. Mom's green thumb lured us out into the yard to admire the array of colorful perennials. One time I went to pull a weed, only to hear her cry of alarm. "Don't pull that. It's Globe Thistle." I now have some of those "weeds" in my own garden beds, along with others she shared over the years. Dad's vegetable garden boasted perfect rows, rock-less soil, and not a weed to be seen. During those summertime visits, we also meandered in and out of rows of grape vines, where my husband and his siblings had learned to work side by side with migrant workers who came to pick the grapes before they used machines.

At Thanksgiving or Christmas, we worried about icy roads and weather conditions, but somehow the family managed to converge in one place. Mom loved Christmas. She had the cousins putting bows on every package. She played games, did puzzles, and read stories with each child in turn. She encouraged them to play the little organ in the back room and sing the songs she loved so well. Dad kept his eye on the forecast and recorded the daily temperature on a calendar that hung behind the kitchen door while rosy-cheeked cousins and uncles slid down the snowy bank. Whoosh!

I miss them. We all do. When the family gets together every year, I find myself wishing they were here to enjoy all their great-grandchildren. How they would have loved the little ones. The farm and the grape vineyard have sold, but the memories and the heritage Dad and Mom left to us live on. I'm grateful to have known and loved them.

if you're a member of the Phillips Family, what stories can you add to round out this day to remember them? And if you're not, I invite you to add a few memories of your own!