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Make Me a Blessing

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The month of November is about being thankful and being a blessing. Most Christians look for ways to help needy families during this time of Thanksgiving. Whether it is packing food boxes for the community or dropping off a pie to a shut-in, our hearts tend to just reach out to others. The scripture encourages us to “Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

It is funny how this works. Planning to go out of our way for our family, friends, or strangers can change our attitude in a hurry. It takes the focus off ourselves and puts it on another.

Kindness notices needs.

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In Luke 10:30, Jesus says, “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.” The despised Samaritan saw this man’s needs and saw to those needs. This is what a kind person does; he puts aside his own desires and helps others. Even if kindness interrupts my life, I want to be a good Samaritan. Don’t you?

Charles D. Meigs wrote a poem about kindness.

Lord, help me live from day to day,

In such a self-forgetful way,

That even when I kneel to pray,

My prayer will be for others.

Others, Lord, yes others,

Let this my motto be,

Help me live for others.

That I might live like Thee,

Help me in all the work I’d do,

To ever be sincere and true,

And know that all I’d do for you,

Must needs be done for others.

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Last Friday, John’s car ran into some difficulty with overheating. After filling it with more antifreeze, the same scenario happened. He ended up in a parking lot in between Tractor Supply and I Hop. After calling AAA, he called me for a ride home.

As we waited for the tow truck, a young man came walking down the hill and asked, “You folks in trouble?” John told him we were waiting on AAA. “Glad you didn’t hit each other,” he said with a smile.

About ten minutes later, a mother and her small child got out of a battered truck across the way. She called, “Do you need some help?” John told her the predicament, and I waved thank you.

We talked for a while about the two Good Samaritans that had reached out to us. Yes, we were all strangers. John and I are in our seventies, and the Samaritans were probably in their twenties. We probably had little in common. I noticed the large bag she toted on her shoulder when she headed back to the truck from Tractor Supply. I don’t remember ever doing anything like that. The man sported cowboy boots, a flannel shirt, and was chewing, as he climbed into his old truck. That’s not my hubby’s usual attire, but I do think he could handle it. I was driving our CRV, not a truck.

There were others in the parking lot that either drove or walked by us, but these two weren’t going to be like the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ story. These strangers were willing and wanted to help. They wanted to get involved.

Last night there was another shooting at a bar in California. Thirteen people died, including the policeman that went in to protect others. He, also, wanted to help, and he slowed down the shooter by taking bullets aimed at others.

One of my favorite hymns is “Make Me a Blessing” by Ira B. Wilson. We have to only open our eyes to those around us to see their needs and then choose to help.

In Matthew 10:32, Jesus says, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted,” said Aesop. Let’s don’t waste any of those cups of cold water: let’s find someone to give them to!





An October Party

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers,” said Anne of Green Gables. With her enthusiasm for life and adventures, the fall colors, beautiful sunsets, and the wind change energized her.

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Light jackets or sweaters are pulled out. Talk of fires and marshmellows begins. Henry Ward Beecher wrote, “October is the opal month of the year. It is the month of glory, or ripeness. It is the picture month.”

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Apples, pumpkins, and gingerbread are the foods that remind me of October. Smells from the first fire of the season and hot cider on the stove are perfect on any chosen day. Cinnamon toast is a favorite for breakfast, and hot chocolate is for Sunday nights.

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On porches and in the yards are pumpkins of all sizes. Orange is the color that brightens the scenery. Pumpkin pies, cookies, and breads tantalize us with their rich smells in the markets. And it seems that Pumpkin Spice is the “flavor du jour” in just about everything. You can make your own blend from cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.

Apple bobbing also called bobbing for apples, is a game often played on Halloween usually by children. The game is played by filling a tub or a large basin with water and putting apples in the water. Because apples are less dense than water, they will float to the surface. Players then try to catch one with their teeth without using their arm. This was one of the games we played at our school carnival. It was exciting then: I wonder how children today would view it.

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There are some childhood memories that I hoard. Kicking leaves up in the air used to be fun. I smile remembering those huge leaf piles that my brother and I raked and then jumped into until they had to be raked again. Football, whether watching or playing, was entertainment in October. Fun was always at the fair, carnivals at school, hay rides, and trick-or-treating.

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Boredom is not to be found during this month; unexpected happenings and parties were and are always around the corner. Enjoy your October!

October’s Party
“October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came –
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.

The Chestnuts came in yellow,
The Oaks in crimson dressed;
The lovely Misses Maple
In scarlet looked their best;
All balanced to their partners,
And gaily fluttered by;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky.

Then, in the rustic hollow,
At hide-and-seek they played,
The party closed at sundown,
And everybody stayed.
Professor Wind played louder;
They flew along the ground;
And then the party ended
In jolly “hands around.”
― George Cooper


This and That

John and I enjoyed a cup of peach cider on the porch this afternoon. With the light fall breeze waving the back door to and fro, the respite was peaceful. Holding the warm mug and savoring the tart, yet sweet, flavors was made better only by the ginger snaps I dunked in the mug.

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English colonists introduced gingerbread to America. “We ate gingerbread all day long,” wrote the Virginia diarist William Byrd in 1711, referring to a day he spent training for the local militia. Germans who emigrated to Pennsylvania added Lebkuchen to the American gingerbread repertoire; Moravians in North Carolina rolled gingerbread dough paper-thin to make delicious crisp cookies; and Swedish settlers brought along their recipes for pepparkakor, which are the cookies we now call gingersnaps.

Eighteenth-century Americans also developed a fondness for soft, cakelike gingerbread. Mary Ball Washington, George’s mother, created such a confection, studded with raisins and orange rind, in her kitchen. When General Lafayette paid her a visit in 1784, she served him some, accompanied by a mint julep—and the gingerbread cake came to be known as Lafayette Gingerbread.

The Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia serves a delicious ginger cake. I have fond memories of walking the streets with a mug of cider in one hand and one of those cookies in the other. Served warm, they are fragrant, as well as delicious.

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Cider was most often drunk by all ages during the eighteenth century.

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One recipe/receipt gives these simple instructions for Hot Spiced Cider.

“Pour a gallon of cider into your kettle. Drop two cinnamon sticks and eight cloves into cider. This may be heated hearth side. You may wish to add one quart of scuppernong wine for extra flavor.”

As I inhaled the flavors from my cup, I realized that the combined smell of fruit and spices would have also beckoned everyone to the fireplace in every one room cabin.

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Good things in life don’t change, but we need to remember to choose them. A safe harbor of fellowship can be found on a porch or around a fireplace; the century doesn’t matter. It’s the people we are making the memories with who are the most important. My Nanna taught me the added bonus of dunking ginger snaps to savor cider or hot tea.

Author Beverly Lewis says, “Growing up around Amish farmland, I enjoyed the opportunity to witness firsthand their love of family, of the domestic arts – sewing, quilting, cooking, baking – as well as seeing them live out their tradition of faith in such a unique way.”

Hope you can taste that cup of cider or tea now, and don’t forget the ginger snaps.


Celebrating Spartanburg’s Revolutionary War History at Walnut Grove Plantation

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Come one! Come all! It’s Festifall at Walnut Grove!

Watch history come alive at this Upcountry Plantation this weekend.

Saturday, October 6
10 am-5 pm
Sunday, October 7
10 am-4 pm
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Historic Re-enactments with the South Carolina Independent Rangers
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Toy making
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Enjoy talking to the reenactors who can both tell and show you about how Charles and Mary Moore lived. There was no electricity or indoor plumbing. They had to hunt, fish, or grow their own food. Dishes and utensils were crafted of wood or pewter. Clothes and tools were made. Nothing was easy.
Charles and Mary Moore established the plantation c. 1767.  They raised ten children in the house they built and lived in for 40 years. During the Revolutionary War, the Moores, including daughter Margaret Barry/Kate, supported the Patriot cause. Local militia mustered at Walnut Grove prior to the Battle of Cowpens.
Loyalist William “Bloody Bill” Cunningham raided the plantation in November, 1781 and killed a Patriot soldier sheltered by the Moores. There will be a reenactment of this battle.
Robert Frost wrote, “Freedom lies in being bold.” Our immigrant ancestors that fought for their lands were dedicated to staying in America. Loyalists/ Tories were not going to steal it from them.

Dr. Andrew Barry Moore/Dr. Jeff Willis will open his office once again both afternoons for visitors to Festifall. Learn how medicine was practiced during the 18th century. (Leeches were only a part of this story!)
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The untrained farmers/militia that fought for our freedom during the Revolutionary War were heroes and heroines that we must not forget. Visiting a celebration like Festifall helps us all to remember the price they paid, lest we forget.
 “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”–President Ronald Reagan
It’s going to be a fun weekend. I hope to see you there!


Our Flag

In 1974, Johnny Cash released an album that included “That Raggedy Old Flag.” It is a spoken word tribute to the flag of the United States, and it speaks of patriotism and how our flag has led us in battles and wars.

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

There is mystery over who made the first flag and where it was first flown.

The Betsy Ross story is the most popular, though there is no credible historical evidence to prove it so.

The story started in 1870, almost 100 years after the first flag was supposedly sewn, when William Canby, Ross’s grandson, told the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia that his grandmother made the flag at George Washington’s request. His evidence was based solely on family tradition.

While Ross did make flags in Philadelphia in the late 1770s, it is all but certain that the story about her creating the American flag is a myth. She is attributed with changing the six-pointed star to a five-pointed star, because it was easier to make.

I don’t believe it truly matters as to whom sewed the first flag. Americans love our flag. It is displayed on homes, at government offices, in parades, and at funerals. In our home, we proudly displayed my dad’s folded flag and my husband’s grandfather’s folded flag.

Truly its symbolism can bring a tear to a veteran’s eye or a smile to a child reciting its pledge.

From America the Beautiful to Yankee Doodle Dandy, lyrics about this flag stir our hearts.

Yes, to this continued stirrings of our hearts and our belief that Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson said, “This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us — speaks to us of the past, or the men and women who went before us, and of the records they wrote upon it.”

Next Sunday, October 7, 2018, there will be a celebration of the Battle of Kings Mountain at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina. Join Living History Interpreters for the 238th anniversary encampment of the Battle of Kings Mountain. Learn about the men and women who fought in this significant battle of the American Revolution.


Thomas Jefferson called this battle “The turn of the tide of success.” The battle of Kings Mountain, fought October 7th, 1780, was an important American victory during the Revolutionary War. The battle was the first major patriot victory to occur after the British invasion of Charleston, SC in May 1780. The park preserves the site of this important battle.

Hand Fans

A few years ago, I had a book signing at Latta Plantation in North Carolina near Charlotte.

This circa 1800 cotton plantation and living history farm is located within Latta Plantation Nature Preserve. The house is furnished for the 19th era, and the farm shows a possible kitchen garden, cotton fields, and animals of this time.

To learn more about the families that lived here, look at I believe you will want to visit.

One of the docents shared the history of speaking with fans during those days, and it was fascinating. She was adept at modeling this unknown language, and the children in the room practiced with her. Here are some of the secret messages she shared.

The fan placed near the heart:  “You have won my love.”
Resting the fan on the heart:  “My love for you is breaking my heart.”                                  Letting the fan rest on the right cheek:  “Yes.
Letting the fan rest on the left cheek:  “No.
Fan held over left ear:  “I wish to get rid of you.”
Covering the left ear with an open fan:  “Do not betray our secret.
Fan opened wide:  “Wait for me.
Touching the finger to the tip of the fan:  “I wish to speak with you.”
Half-opened fan pressed to the lips:  “You may kiss me.
Putting the fan handle to the lips:  “Kiss me.
Resting the fan on her lips:  “I don’t trust you.
Opening and closing the fan rapidly:  “You are cruel
Quickly and impetuously closing the fan:  “I’m jealous.
Drawing the fan through the hand:  “I hate you!
Fanning slowly:  “I am married.
Fanning quickly.  “I am engaged.
Hands clasped together holding an open fan:  “Forgive me.”
Hiding the eyes behind an open fan:  “I love you.


Maybe the “secret” language of fans is really a matter of understanding and interpreting body language and gestures.  Just like a skilled poker player learns a person’s “tells”, so can an astute observer interpret another’s use of the fan to discover underlying intent or emotion.

The fan became an ideal instrument of communication in an age in which freedom of speech for women was absolutely restricted. During the Victorian age, women were expected at all times to conduct themselves very discreetly in public; any direct communication of feelings or emotions between men and women was considered particularly undesirable. This made it extremely difficult for a woman to make her wishes known regarding the acceptability of a particular suitor. The language of the hand fan allowed for a woman to convey her desires and feelings to the prospective suitors without betraying the strict code of social etiquette.

Throughout history, fans have been made from a diverse range of materials. Some of the earliest Egyptian and Chinese fans were made of ostrich or peacock feathers.  Leaves of folding fans have been made of animal skins, vellum, paper, lace, silk and other textiles. The first printed fan dates to the 1720’s. Tortoiseshell, ivory, bone, mother of pearl, metal and wood have all been used as guards and sticks.

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Hand fans have existed since antiquity with some of the earliest examples seen in ancient Egyptian artwork. Fans then kept flies off the Pharoahs, as well as keeping them cool. The folding hand fan originated in Japan and was introduced into Europe in the 16th century. Since its beginning, the hand fan has been more than a practical means of cooling a person down. In Asia, it assumed an important ceremonial role, and in Europe it became a signifier of status. Elaborate designs and expensive materials showing both taste and wealth.

Duvelleroy's Fan Language from the 19th Century

As a child, I remember folding a sheet of paper to make a fan. It wasn’t precise, but it worked for cooling. Children still make them and decorate them in schools in art classes.

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Before the widespread adoption of air conditioning, hand fans played a major role in the comfort of the congregation in many churches, especially in small churches in the South. A simple paper fan could make a long service on a hot day in a small, crowded church bearable. In some rural areas, that’s still the case today.

But religious hand fans are not just for cooling. Their relatively large size and light weight make them an excellent way to display art or information, such as religious art and/or the name of a local business. Many local businesses donate fans with their logo and marketing information on one side and a religious portrait on the other. In a visit to e Bay, you can find vintage fans of all prices.

One of my favorite fans is my shell fan made in Charleston. This fan is both pretty and elegant. It is the fan I fan with.
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The art of sweet grass basket sewing is alive and thriving at the Charleston City Market, one of the oldest public markets in America. Made out of sweet grass by a talented woman, I bought one she completed while I watched. This “basket lady” continues a tradition of over 300 years; it is one of the nation’s oldest and most beautiful handicrafts of African origin.
Sweetgrass Baskets and Palm


On this first day of fall, 2018, with the temps expected to be in the high 80’s here in South Carolina, wondering how many of you still own and use hand fans?


In the Colonial period, tropical storms and hurricanes were known as “September gales,” probably because the ones people remembered and wrote about were those which damaged or destroyed crops just before they were to be harvested.

Charleston was hit on September 25, 1686. It was described as “wonderfully horrid and destructive…Corne is all beaten down and lyes rotting on the ground… Aboundance of our hoggs and Cattle were killed in the Tempest by the falls of Trees…”

But this gale also protected Charleston by preventing a Spanish naval assault on the city.  It destroyed one of their galleys and killed the commander of the Spanish attack.

On August 28, 1893, an unnamed storm left its calling card of destruction. This storm made landfall near the South Carolina / Georgia border, winds estimated at over 120 miles per hour, loss of life estimated at more than 2,000 and thousands were left with nothing.

Clara Barton, the American Red Cross founder, launched a 10-month relief effort on the islands and said some 35,000 people lived on the islands were affected.

It would be called The Great Sea Island Storm, as the storm’s strength was so great that a tidal wave that struck at high tide near Hilton Head consumed entire islands. It also spun destruction from Jacksonville, Fla., into New York.

Hurricanes and tropical storms are irregular visitors to coastal South Carolina. Starting in 1851, there is more information about each one. In the period, 1851-2018,  thirty-one hurricanes have made landfall on SC. In that same time period, forty-seven, made direct hits on North Carolina.

Last week Hurricane Florence made forty-eight to make landfall in NC.

Winds, rain, and surf overwhelmed parts of North Carolina, and Hurricane Florence shared her visit with South Carolina, too. The images on the television and the internet have been horrifying. For those who were in her path, it has been heart-rending. And now, flooding will take its toll.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper described Hurricane Florence, which slammed into his state early Friday, as “an uninvited brute who doesn’t want to leave.”

Hurricane Hugo attacked South Carolina and North Carolina 27 years ago, but those that lived through its assault have not forgotten its sound and fury.

“The weather on September 21st, 1989 started off not much different than any other late summer or early Fall day. But that all began to change quickly as nighttime approached. For those that decided to stay it was certainly a night they will never forget.”

We don’t have to wait for storms to come into our lives; strong winds of hurt and loss can make us stumble during any day or month. But as Gandalf said, ““All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

I watched a DVD series last month called the Winds of War. It was a 1983 miniseries based on books written by Herman Wouk. The plot follows an American family as they face the history before World War II. Even though the circumstances are the same, each individual has different reactions and chooses his own path, just as in life.

In her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott tells this story.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

When we encounter someone who is buffeted by hurricanes, let’s choose to encourage them. In fact, we can walk beside them. That is what friendship is all about.

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“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”
“The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

He’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother…”

It is a privilege to walk with our brothers and sisters, isn’t it? Let’s walk together!