Category Archives: Thoughts from the Porch

The Table Is Set

April:

Sharing from my archives

Originally posted on Thoughts From The Porch:

The Table Is Set

For us Southern Belles, not only is getting the tree and fireplace mantle in perfect shape but getting the dinning room table is at the top of list in what absolutely has to be done at Christmas.  For me, candles are essential when setting the table not only at Christmas but year round. Having candles on the table holds meaning for me.

My grandfather on my dad’s side was a retired Army Colonel. When we visited my grandparents’ home, Mom would always make sure we were brushed up on our manners especially before going to the dinner table. Dinner at Papa Hill’s house was an event every night. The good china and silver were used. And, there were always candles on the table that were lit before we came to the table.  No one sat down until Papa Hill took his seat at the head of the dinner…

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We Need A Little Christmas

April:

Originally written and posted Dec., 2010…

Originally posted on Thoughts From The Porch:

Image by IronRodArt - Royce Bair via Flickr

 

‘Roll out the holly…..cause we need a little Christmas right this very minute” are some of the lyrics in a song that is sung  the musical Mame‘.  The last few weeks around the Hawkins’ home have been intense ones.  It was debated when and if we would even get our tree up this year.   Needless to say, the gift giving  and ready to celebrate any occasion gal was becoming frustrated. It is Christmas and I wasn’t getting much of a celebratory mood from Jim.

“The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.” Psalm 19:8

Then, I reflected back on my freshman year in college. My mother had been in and out of the hospital with kidney trouble.  Once finals were over, my plan was to go home and work with a PR company for the holiday season to put…

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Drew Said ” I Want To Be The Star”

April:

Sharing thoughts from Christmases past….

Originally posted on Thoughts From The Porch:

Drew age three "The Star" in Children's Christmas Play

I want to be the star!” was the response of my three-year old son when roles for the Christmas story was given out. His dad and I responded “the star?”, “why not a Wiseman or a Shepherd?”.   “NO!”, “I want to be the star!” The time came for the Children’s Paget and Drew was front and center playing the role of “the star”.

On that first Christmas night, one star shone bright over Bethlehem. This star led wise men, shepherds and probably countless others to the Christ Child. This star announced the birth of God’s promise of peace, joy, love,  and grace to the world. What a significant role the star played on that first Christmas night.

At age three, I don’t know if Drew had totally grasped  the real significance of the Christmas  star. However, since that Christmas Paget years ago, Drew’s wanting to…

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Can You Squeeze In A Little More?

April:

May we have open hearts and be willing to squeeze in another child of God at our table this Christmas Season.
Originally written and posted in 2010

Originally posted on Thoughts From The Porch:

Can You Squeeze In A Little More?

Posted on December 27, 2010 by April

When you read my post The Table Is Set,  I placed a picture of our family dining room table.  This table also holds very fond memories of my Mom’s mom.  Her name was Reba but us grandkids called her Rea.  This table belonged to Rea and when she passed, I acquired not only the table but a table full of memories.

This dinning room suit was how my Papa Jack proposed to Rea. After courting Rea for a while, he called her one day and said look at the dinning suit in the front window of the furniture store on your way home from work. Then, he instructed her to let him know if she liked the set.  Apparently, she liked the set and it raised a family, grandchildren and now one of her great-grandchildren and possibly…

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Thanksgiving

 

enjoy your family

 

Dear Reader:

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, I would like to say thank you for stopping by and visiting my porch. It is your visits and comments that give me the encouragement to write and share my faith. I feel richly blessed for the people God has placed into my path through writing.

Social Media is a wonderful tool for us to share our thoughts, feelings and events in our lives. However, it is my prayer that tomorrow you will close your media down and enjoy time with your family and friends. I encourage you to allow it to be a time of reflecting on the past year of how God has been at work in your life.

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving and may God shower you with many blessings as we approach the holiday season.

Blessings and Peace,

April

 

 

You Can’t Fix It…But He Can

April:

Sharing from my archives this morning. May your day be filled with blessings.

Originally posted on Thoughts From The Porch:

My father-n-law was known by family and friends as “Mr. Fix It.” If something is broken, he could usually fix it when no one else could. It is amazing what he could do with super glue, duct tape and even with a wad of chewing gum.  He could make fixing things look so easy.

There are times in our lives when we see someone doing something we don’t approve of and we want to change them to our way of thinking. Or, we think we know the whole picture of what is going on by just seeing only a few snippets without even getting to know the person/situation. In our perception, we think we need to jump in and fix the situation  or person when really we can’t.

Then, there are those situations/persons who are really doing no wrong but they are not doing things like we would do them…

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So Many Reflections

boy looking in telescopte

My Dearest Jim,

This week has been a celebration of lives joining together and becoming new families. On Monday, my parents celebrated fifty-one years of joining hands to walk life’s journey together.  Today, we celebrate the fifty-seven years of your mom and dad walking together in life’s journey. On Saturday, we will celebrate our  twenty-eight years of being married.

Jim and Louise Hawkins Celebrate 57 years together.

Jim and Louise Hawkins
Celebrate 57 years together.

dad party0018

CR and Jackie Hill
Celebrate fifty-one years together.

This past summer we celebrated meeting each other which was thirty years ago. We were blessed to celebrate  our meeting each other with the  many people we worked with thirty years ago at a staff reunion. In  this celebration of our hearts meeting, I see so many reflections.

Our wedding day... November 23, 1985 Conyers First UMC Conyers, Georgia

Our wedding day…
November 23, 1985
Conyers First UMC
Conyers, Georgia

The night we met we were  literally looking into each others’ eyes as part of an ice breaker game. At that moment and time, I saw a person with a lot of love and a heart for others.  It was at that moment I fell in love with you. Yes, it was love at first sight.

eye of love

Over the years, I have looked into your eyes so many times. Each time it is like looking into them for the first time.. When you look back at me I see God’s love shining through. I see a man of faith and a man who has a great love for his fellow-man. Your eyes reflect to me grace, hope and love in abundance.

970123_516352575086464_1401387437_n

Reflecting back I remember not only the first time I looked into your eyes but I see so many special moments we have shared.  For example, the first time I flew from Atlanta to Lexington, KY to meet up with you. As I walked off the plane I saw your eyes smiling at me. They were saying; “I love you. I’m glad that you are here with me.”   I look back at certain moments I see the laughter in your eyes when I have done something totally goofy or said something goofy.

There have been times over the years when things have gotten tough and I look into your eyes and see hope. I see you saying; “I love you and we will get through this.”  A tear may fall from your eye but I know it is because you care and love so deeply that you want to what you can to make a situation better.

scan0002

Jim and I
Our dating years
1983

Most of all, I have seen and continue to see the qualities in your eyes  that are most important and don’t fade away with time. These qualities are integrity, a close relationship with your Creator and most of all sincerity. You love not just me out of the abundance of your heart but you love others with true compassion and sincerity. 

056Over the years, what I see in your reflection is a love that grows ever more beautiful with each passing day. I have seen and experienced a love that at all cost will make sure I am taken care of, loved and comfortable.  As I read through chapter two of the Song of Songs, I see in the footnotes of chapter one  that it is a remembering of the first day Solomon met the love of his life. They recall the dream his love had about meeting him. Reading this gave me chills because I dreamed about meeting you three days before I looked into your eyes for the first time.

On Saturday,  we will  celebrate twenty-eight years together. Again, we will look into each other eyes. Yes, it will be like the first time all over again of seeing that love, compassion and passion reflecting back at me but the difference is that it will be even more beautiful than the first time our eyes met. “For the first time I’m looking in your eyes; I can’t believe how much I see when I you’re looking back at me…Now I understand why love is….” (Kenny Loggins, For the First Time).

“How beautiful you are, my darling!

Oh, how beautiful!

Your eyes are doves.

Song of Songs 1:15

Music of love.

My dove in the clefts of the rock,

in the hiding places on the mountainside,

show me your face,

let me hear your voice;

for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.

Song of Songs 2:14

love

April

 

Looking Back….I Stand Amazed

Jim and me at Bowdon High School Football Game...October 25, 2013

Jim and me at Bowdon High School ( one of the high schools I attended) re-uniting and visiting old friends.
October 25, 2013

There is a reason I started this post out with the video, I Go Back by Kenny Chesney. It is when I hear this song I go back. I go back to some of the same scenes he mentions in the song. For example, the lyrics,  The smell of fried chicken after church remind me of my family driving from Monroe to Athens every Sunday after church. My grandmother would have fried chicken and all that goes with it ready for us to enjoy Sunday dinner and family time.

This song   takes me down a long road of wonderful memories of people I have met over my lifetime. Each appointment my dad served as a Methodist minister holds their own  special memories and footprints on my heart from dear people. There are also those dear friends from my Reinhardt College days (now Reinhardt University).  Fortunately, with the development of social media I have been able to re-connect with many of these special friendships.

photo album

It is good to look back now and then. Looking back gives us a perspective on life, the blessings that have already been received, the lessons learned, and to help you to see how far we have come. It also gives us perspective on the future. We see where God has brought us and walked with us and it gives us assurance that God is still walking and is with us.

I open my bible, I look back at the Old Testament stories. These stories give a perspective of where our Christian heritage started. These passages are reminders  those who have influenced our heritage as God’s child from thousands of years ago and they show us that God is still with us!  As I scan through the stories in the Old Testament, I see how God was already showing his grace and preparing his people for the Son that was to come.

Young woman reading bible

It is people in the Old Testament receiving redemption and grace that formed the family tree of Jesus. His tree is full of redeemed people. In Joshua, we learn about Rahab who was a prostitute. She lived on the wall of Jericho. Joshua sent spies into Jericho before invading and Rahab hid these spies. She not only hid the spies but she  lied to authorities about them being in her home and Jericho. Rahab had faith that God would protect her and her family if she protected the Israelite spies.

To God Rahab’s profession did not matter to him. It was her faith that matter to him. As we read on, we see that she is a part of the family tree of the lineage of Christ.  She was a person who had received God’s grace. We can read on and see that Rahab was the mother of Boaz. Boaz is known as the kinsmen redeemer for Naomi. He marries Ruth whom is a foreigner. Ruth and Boaz have a son, Obed. Obed is the father of Jesse whom is the father of David. (Matthew 1).

King David

Look back at David. He is known as the man after God’s own heart. Boy! Did he make some mistakes. If his life were put into a reality show, I am sure it would get top billing. He had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah murdered so that he could have Bathsheba for himself. He committed adultery with Bathsheba before he even had Uriah killed. He disobeyed God and turned a blind eye to the sins of his children. Yet, David is known as being the greatest king of Israel. Fast forward to Matthew 1 and whose name appears in the lineage of Christ, David. God used David in preparing the way for his Son to come to earth to let people know that no matter how much you mess up, God still loves you and he wants your heart.  Again, if you read in between the lines you will see redemption and grace already taking place.

the nativity

In the Old Testament,  God was already showing to grace and redeeming people. He sent his Son to demonstrate that grace that is available to all of us. This morning as I thought about this my heart almost exploded with excitement just like it almost explodes from excitement from seeing an old friend. Going back to a special place and time.

It excited me to be reminded that even before Jesus arrived as a tiny infant in a manger on a cold starry night  God’s grace was already at work. He just decided to  send it down to us in the form of a baby who would grow up to be a man who demonstrated God’s grace. He demonstrated God’s grace by healing the sick, raising the dead, forgiving the tax payer, the prostitute and the list goes on. Then, one day he would be put on the cross to die for my sins so that I would have a place in paradise.

reflecting back

What takes me back? When I hear the old hymn, In My Heart There Rings a Melody I can see Mr. Mac Beggs leading the songs in a small country church known as Redwine United Methodist.  There are songs like Meet Me In The Morning, Jesus Is Coming Soon, and I’ll Fly Away that remind me of  Campton United Methodist Church. I also remember it was in that church parking lot I learned to ride a bike.It is when I see an old country store no longer in business I think of Mr. Baker’s store that was up on the corner from our home. Mom would let me walk up to his store after school to get a coke before doing homework. It is when I hear Kenny Chesney’s song, I Go Back I think of camp meetings under an arbor and beginning high school in Bowdon, Georgia. The place where I stood at many crossroads of growing up.

Sanctuary of Redwine United Methodist Church

Sanctuary of Redwine United Methodist Church

Campton United Methodist Church

Campton United Methodist Church

When I open a coke or eat  a fried pie I think of Ms. Sara who was our neighbor and always had place on the porch for you to sit and visit. It is getting on my bicycle that I think of dear childhood friends, like Beth and Robert Rowland, LuAnn and Jeff Marlow and how we would ride our bikes all over the place. Our parents didn’t worry about us back then. I can order catfish at Cracker Barrel and think of Daddy Bill and his many fish fries.  It is seeing the arbor from Shiloh on Facebook that reminds of the place and time  I accepted Christ into my life.

campmeeting Shiloh

Campmeeting at Shiloh United Methodist Church

Every time I say the Lord’s Prayer I think of the Heritage High School Band .Our band director, Mr. Dent would huddle us together to say the Lord’s Prayer before we took the field to do our show. When I see a barbecue taking place for a fund-raiser, I think of Union Church and the barbeques they had each Fall and Spring. The people that would come and the fellowship that took place as the food was prepared and served.

384257_407398572658160_1867516443_n

Union United Methodist Church
Stockbridge, Georgia

Heritage High School Band Conyers, Georgia

Heritage High School Band
Conyers, Georgia

When I see news from Reinhardt or a posting from a Reinhardt friend, I go back to those college days. I can hear certain anthems played and sung and memories of singing in the Reinhardt choir and our travels. I think of the professors who not only taught me topics but taught me things about life.

Reinahardt University Campus Waleska, Georgia

Reinhardt University Campus
Waleska, Georgia

It is in my looking back I see where God was using every situation to mold me, to teach me, show me his grace and that he was and still is with me.  Yes, there were mistakes made along the way but it is in those mistakes that I learned. I learned lessons that would help me to see life in a better light and to possibly help someone else along the way. All of the experiences I mentioned along with a lot of experiences I didn’t mention are all a part of God’s molding me, allowing me to experience his grace in ALL that I do. Not only does looking back remind me of where God has worked in my life but it helps me to look forward.  God has more plans for me, more people to come into my life and more grace for me to experience and share.

"He is the potter and I am the clay."

“He is the potter and I am the clay.”

Looking back. I walk through the scriptures. I reflect on my life. What do I see? Grace. And, I stand amazed.

Until next time, may you look back and see where God’s grace has been at work in your life. I imagine if you do, you will stand amazed.

Blessings-                                                            

Extravagant Receiving

Child carry package

Growing up I did not always see my grandparents on my Dad’s side during the holidays. Grandmother and Papa Hill always made sure packages were wrapped and mailed to us in time to be under the tree for Christmas Eve. Most years we got our Christmas pajamas from them.

Christmas

Yet, there was this one Christmas where my grandmother decided she would send me a night-gown instead of pajamas. After going out for a Christmas Eve services,  dinner and visiting with friends, my brother and I rushed home anticipating  opening that first gift on Christmas Eve.  Of course, Dad had to draw out the anticipation by acting like he could not find the packages and then magically making them appear.

 As soon as these packages landed in our laps the paper was off in the blink of an eye and the box lids flew opened. Instead of pulling out the fuzzy footie pajamas like I had always gotten, I began to pull out this night-gown. As I began to pull the gown out of the box the more material would come out.  As the night-gown began to unfold and unfold,  the entire room become quiet. I know the looks on the faces of my family had to be inquisitive. If you have every seen the movie, Christmas Story, I am sure my family’s faces looked about how the faces looked when the bunny rabbit pj’s were opened and the leg lamp came out of the box.

Christmas story pajamas

In my package that had been wrapped and shipped with love and care came out a nightgown with the size in the tag that said; “one size fits all.” As I began to unfold and unfold this nightgown, we realized that the entire family could get into this gown. (You see, I am a petite size gal. When God was giving out height, I overslept and missed getting in that line that day.) The more the gown unfolded the more everyone was scrambling for words. Suddenly out of my dad’s mouth came; “well, Peanut, looks like you have a new tent for camping.” At that moment the entire family was laughing until we were crying. Today, all I have to say is “one size fits all” and laughter will burst out in my family. I had received a gift that I was not going to be able to use.

leg lamp

 After opening Santa and eating Christmas breakfast the next morning, Dad kept with tradition and called Papa and Grandmother Hill to wish them a Merry Christmas. My brother and I would also get on the phone to tell our grandparents thank-you for their love, thoughtfulness and the presents.  This is one year I had to show gratitude for my gift while all the while my brother was in the background making a fort with the kitchen chairs and this ” one size fits all gown.”

little girl talking on phone

I share this story because it is becoming the gift giving season. People work hard and shop hard to find that perfect gift to give their loved ones.  These gifts are given or should be given out of the abundance of love from the heart. The gifts also show that the person cares enough to think about the receiver.

Yesterday, in my post, Extravagant Giving I shared how we need to be extravagant in our giving by giving others God’s grace. I also shared how God gave to us extravagantly so that we can have eternal life. We give to others out of the abundance of our hearts.

There are times when someone has received a gift and I have heard comments being made to the giver  like the following:

“What were you thinking? I don’t need this!”

“I can’t believe you spent (insert $ amount) on this.”

“I don’t like the color.”

This is NOT what I wanted!”

doesn't like the gift

I am sure in my lifetime of forty-nine years I have made an off comment like these at some point and time. However, as I have gotten older and hopefully a little more mature I have come to realize these comments are not needed and should be said. Just as the giver has given out of the abundance of their hearts, we should receive out of the abundance of our hearts. When we are negative about a gift that has been given we are stealing the joy of the giver even if they are not present when the comment is made. Instead, we should be grateful that the person took time out of their schedule to do something for us. We also should be thankful that they took time out to think of us.

gift

The gift is a material thing but it is also language of “I love you” and “I was thinking of you today.”  Thus, our response should be that of gratitude. In other words, be an extravagant receiver.  Now, what you do with the gift after the person leaves is up to you. Hold on to the gift in case you should some time need it. If the opportunity presents itself where someone else can actually use the gift, give it to them. The gift is now yours and up to you to do what you want with the gift.

receiving God's gift

As I said earlier, God gave to us extravagantly because he loves us so much and wants us with him for eternity.  God gave us his Son and  it is up to us to accept his Son into our hearts. We need to be an extravagant  receiver  of God’s gift. It is up to us as individuals of what to do with his gift. It is my hopes that we share his gift with others. We pass it on to someone else who needs Jesus in their lives.

Not only did God give us his Son but he gives us a gift everyday. As the old cliché says, every day is a present and it is up to us as to what we do with it”. It is up to us to make the most of every day God wakes us up. Each day God has blessings for us. It is up to us to be aware of his presence at all times to receive these blessings. When we receive these blessings it is important to acknowledge them and say thank you just as I acknowledged to my grandparents that I received their gift and said thank you.

This year as you receive Christmas cards and gifts be sure to be an extravagant receiver. Tell the giver thank you. Remember, the person took time out to think of you. They are giving out of the abundance of their heart. May our response to the gifts we receive and especially to the gift God gave us be the following:

“Thank you for thinking of me.”

“You are such a generous giver.”

” I didn’t realized I needed this blessing today but YOU did.”

I love the reminder we are given in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 about having a grateful heart;

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will

for you in Jesus Christ.

It is when we are an extravagant receiver that we will see the giver in a whole new perspective. We begin to see and experience joy in all things and we will become more open to see beyond the material gift and see the abundance of love the person has  in their heart. May our receiving be a blessing to others this year as their giving is a blessing to us.

Until next time, give thanks for ALL things!

Gratitude

Extravagant Giving

 

The Taj Mahal Built in 17th Century

The Taj Mahal
Built in 17th Century

When you hear the word, extravagant what comes to mind? Maybe it is the latest sports car that is on the front of Car and Driver. Maybe it is that featured house in Southern Living and how it is decorated.  For some of us it may be a vision of that tropical vacation on some remote Island.

all inclusive resort

Extravagant is defined and perceived in many ways. The picture of the Taj Mahal is an example of extravagance at its finest. Shah Jahan ordered it to be built as a dedication to his late wife whose tomb is set within the building. It was said he did this because he loved her so much. It was built in the seventh century and it took twenty-two years to build. As I googled information on the building, it is said to be known as the most perfect building in the world.  This building stands all because of the love one person had for another. In other words, it can be seen and perceived as extravagant giving.

Extravagant giving. What does it really mean? Does it mean we give the biggest and most expensive gift to someone? Does it mean we try to build something big like the Taj Mahal to show our love to someone? My personal answer to these questions is; no. Extravagant giving does not mean giving the biggest and most expensive gift or building something big just to impress or to show our love to someone.

Luke 7:36-50

Luke 7:36-50

When I think of extravagant giving the story in Luke 7:36-50 comes to mind. Jesus is invited to dinner at a Pharisee’s home. Social graces were that Simon should wash the feet of Jesus and anoint Jesus’ head with oil. Yet, Simon had neglected to do this for Jesus as he entered the home. As Jesus enters the home,  a woman enters the home. The scriptures describe her as a sinful woman. “When a woman  who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”  This woman gave an extravagant gift and that was her overflowing love to Jesus for the forgiveness and grace he had shown.

Yes, the alabaster jars were considered to be extravagant in that time. The perfume she used was said to be a very expensive perfume. In a material sense she one would say she gave extravagantly and the Pharisees would agree. Yet, the most extravagant thing in her giving was giving of herself and her gratitude to Christ. She gave out of the abundance of her heart.

If there were time and enough space to type, we could go through the gospels and see other ways people gave extravagant gifts. The little boy with the fish and the loaves, the widow who gave the last cent she had, and the list goes on. No matter the story, the theme is the same. These people knew what it meant to give in extra-ordinary and extravagant ways. They gave from their hearts the very best they had without complaining. They gave out of love.

Christmas preparations

The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. In a few weeks we will be celebrating Advent. Hanging of the Greens services will be taking place in churches. Preparations in homes will be made to get ready to celebrate Christmas with family and friends.  It is a time of year where we celebrate the extravagant gift we have been given from God. We celebrate his Son, Jesus Christ.

God's gift

For God so loved the world that he gave his ONLY begotten son-so that we may have life eternal” (John 3:16 paraphrased). It is God’s extravagant giving that we have received mercy and grace. It is because of his extravagant giving that life doesn’t end when we leave this world but we continue to live on in our eternal home with our Father.

The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. Commercials are running promoting the” have to have”  product this year.  People are making their lists for Santa and gathering shopping lists to shop for family and friends. The common statement you will hear this time of year is: “I don’t know what I am going to give_________(you fill in the person’s name) for Christmas.

How about this year you give  not the  “World’s Most Perfect Building.” In other words, it is not about the thing we give that shows our love  but  it is out of the over-flowing of love and gratitude from the grace that we have been given and shown. Maybe there is someone from whom we need to seek  for forgiveness.  Maybe there is someone who needs forgiveness extended to them.

Perhaps God has placed someone in our  life who is longing to belong.  They are searching for answers and we are the ones who can tell them about God’s extravagant gift, his Son, Jesus.

Yes, the Taj Mahal may be considered “The World’s Most Perfect Building”  but there is no gift that is more perfect than the gift of grace that has been extended to us from the cross. May we give extravagantly this Christmas.

love overflowing

Where have you experienced extravagant giving?

Is there a significant person who stands out or has shown you extravagant giving?

What are some things you can do this Christmas Season to demonstrate extravagant giving and the true meaning of Christmas?

As you go through the days ahead, keep your eyes, ears and heart opened to where God leads you to share his extravagant love and grace.

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