A Fresh Look for an Old Memory

Today’s post was written to the word prompt “Fresh” as part of the Five Minute Friday community of writers.  Let me invite you to read the inspirational writing of other writers on the same topic at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com 

I was blessed with a mother-in-law extraordinaire. Shirley loved me fiercely, prayed for me often (even before I met her son), and lived an exemplary life as a devoted follower of Christ. She gave me, her “daughter-in-love,” as she called me, a few of her earthly belongings which serve to remind me of her love. Over the years she’d hand us a bag or a box full of surprises as we headed out the door after a little visit. One item bestowed upon me was a blouse she enjoyed wearing–a denim blouse with colorful hot air balloons embroidered on the front of it.

One day, our eldest granddaughter Violet was using her gift of organization by tidying and reorganizing my perpetually messy craft room.

My craft room

As Violet carefully sorted fabrics into color families and folded them into neat little stacks, she came across that colorful blouse of her great-grandma’s and asked me what I was going to do with it. I told her its story and that I was thinking I might reuse the fabric to make a book bag or something someday. Violet remembered her great-grandma wearing it. Her eyes lit up with an idea!

“Can you make a jacket for me?”

I hesitated a tiny bit because refashioning clothing was outside of my realm of sewing skills, but told her I would try. With all the faith in the world that grandma could do it, she folded the blouse and put it on my project pile (on top of the pile, of course, with a sticky note that indicated it would be my NEXT project).

After more than a few searches on Pinterest for some inspiration and ideas on “upcycling” and “remaking” clothing, a design idea began to form. Violet really wanted a jacket, but there wasn’t enough fabric to make the sleeves, so I decided I’d create a little vest with an inset of pretty lace on the back. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find lace that I liked in my stash or at the fabric store, so checked the local resale shop. I was about to walk out of the store when I spied a lacy sleeve peeking out of an over-crowded clothing rack. There it was! A beautiful lace blouse made entirely of the kind of lace I had in mind AND it had long sleeves that I thought I could use to create the jacket Violet desired.

I thanked the Lord for helping me find the needle in a haystack and hurried home to start my special sewing project. Here it is!

A fresh look for an old garment, made with love and a prayer that Violet will follow in the faithful footsteps of her God-loving great-grandmother.

The Christmas Photo


It’s the last Five Minute Friday blog link-up of the year 2020. Join me and this beautiful community of writers and bloggers who gather on Fridays around a single word prompt to freewrite for five minutes. This week’s writing prompt is Conclude (check out the other posts here). I suspect most of us are really looking forward to the conclusion of the year 2020, which held no shortage of disappointing losses. I could write a few chapters about losses myself, but let me instead share with you about a special lesson I learned…a lesson from a Christmas photo.


Christmas is coming, so I take my cherished photo from the drawer where I keep it the other eleven months of the year.

Boyles Family of Three – Christmas 1957

It seems like just yesterday when I found this photo. In reality it was about five years ago. As I recall, I was busy helping my dear mom sort through life’s accumulation of things, when I found a shoebox tucked away in the corner of the laundry room near the place where mom would iron the wrinkles out of my dad’s shirts. Removing the slightly dusty lid, I found this box to be filled with fascinating photos of years gone by, each filed standing on edge waiting to one day be added to a photo album. As I thumbed through each time-worn photo, I concluded that Momma had at one time been busy putting the years of her life in order, one loose photo at a time.

That was before Alzheimer’s. Before her mind could no longer put anything in order.

My treasured photo, filed under “Christmas 1957”, captured a moment in my life and a memory I was too young to keep without it. We were a family of three seated in my great-grandparents’ living room. A well-tinseled Christmas tree was in the background, and I was sitting in 3-month-old chubby cuteness on my beautiful momma’s lap. My handsome daddy was seated on the floor next to us, arms casually crossed around his knees. If you look carefully over my dad’s left shoulder, you might spy a portrait of my mom in her wedding dress.

Gracious reader, you probably recall that Jesus took my momma home to heaven this year, which makes this photo more meaningful than ever. Now, as my fingers trace the little gold frame on this precious keepsake, something hits me straight in the heart, making me pause and think about the brevity of life.

Our Christmas present in 1979

I was young like my momma in this photo, just 22 years old when my own daughter was born. Except for the years I spent in junior high school, those first 22 years whooshed by in a flash, and the years from then until now are a blur too. Doing the math, if I live to be 86 like my mom, I conclude that I have 23 years left to spend (a mere 13 years if I live to be as old as my daddy).

The Bible speaks figuratively of our lives being like a mist or a vapor – here one moment and gone the next (James 4:14). It’s so very true. How will the story of my life conclude once the last chapters of my life have been written?

As I set my special photo down in a place of Christmas-y honor, my heart wells with gratefulness for this photo’s poignant reminder to invest these final years God has in His plan for me in what matters most: loving people and pointing them to Jesus for the glory of God.  

The Gift of ‘Present’

Well, it’s Tuesday already, but this post is part of the Five Minute Friday blog link-up ( check it out here) where I’m joining up with a community of writers and bloggers of all ages and stages who gather around a single word prompt to freewrite for five minutes without editing. This week’s prompt is [Present}.


Facebook has a feature I enjoy called “Memories.” One click on the memories tab gives me visual reminders of things I have posted on that site a year ago or more. It’s a virtual photo journal reminding me of special times in my life like birthdays, vacations, Bible verses that spoke to my heart, time with the grandkids, or what was blooming in my garden at that time. Many of the photos from the past decade feature my sweet mom. Those photo memories of my mom generally bring a smile, or a hearty laugh, and (only sometimes) a few tears sprinkled here and there. But this week, the fact that I was able to take so many photos of her served to remind me of the amazing opportunity God gave me to give my mother a very special gift in the last years of her life.

The gift of being present.

Present. The gift I’m thankful I could give.

If I Could Have a Caregiver Do-Over

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

James 4:14b (ESV)

God gave me the honor and privilege of taking care of my mother in the years that her mind waged war with Alzheimer’s. I am thankful that her brave battle with memory loss and frailty of body is over–the victory won as her affliction gave way to the ultimate healing when Jesus took her home to heaven.

My regrets are few, but if I could have a do-over of one caregiving thing, I think I would listen more carefully to the stories she told about her childhood. In my do-over, I would sit next to her more often looking through old photos, paying attention to the memories she shared. I would take care to write down all of the memories the photos coaxed from the places in her mind where the old stories still lingered.

With the help of my daughter, I did create a memory album for her, but it would have been nice had I started on the album sooner, capturing those stories for her to read and re-read as her memories slowly faded away.  

While I cannot roll back the hands of time, I do find joy in knowing she is free from the bondage of memory loss and frailty of body. I find hope in knowing that those precious moments we did share are only a glimmer of the immeasurable time we will share together in eternity.


This post was written for Five Minute Friday. One word. Five minutes to write about it. Today’s word: COULD

Distant Hearts

I think most Christians have those times in their walk with Christ where they feel a bit distant in their hearts. I’ve been in that place for awhile – feeling a little sad and out of sorts – a bit discouraged. Things which once brought pleasure seem to have the joy sapped out of them.

In my ministry life, I’m feeling like my teaching ministry isn’t bearing fruit and sometimes question whether I’m making a difference at all. My devotional life and time in the Word has been slipping. I sense my heart is distant and I’m not growing. I’ve been a Christian for 50 years now, so it’s a hard thing for me to admit I’m struggling in these areas.

One thing I know for sure, while my heart feels distant, God is not. He’s as close to me in my struggle as He is when all seems well. He has not moved – his steadfast love has not changed.

Psalm 119 is very dear to my heart. I re-read it today and found comfort in knowing that the “man after God’s own heart” felt this way at times too. Here we find David often crying out before God in the midst of his struggles, acknowledging that his help would come from God’s Word. Even when he felt like a lost sheep, He knew the Shepherd was near and would deliver him, put the song back in his heart and words of praise on his tongue.

I find assurance knowing that when the heart of one of His servants strays and feels distant and cold, the Good Shepherd is there seeking, drawing her heart back through His Word.

This post is written for Five Minute Friday Link Up. The word for today is “Distant.”

Five Minute Friday: Willing

Hubby asked me earlier this year if I wanted to travel with him to India where he and two other men from our church will be serving in a teaching capacity (I wrote a little more about that in Enlarging My World). I don’t think I answered right away, as I had just placed my mother in assisted living memory care. But there was definitely a tug of willingness and a sincere longing in my heart to travel with him and see firsthand this ministry.

After prayer about the ‘what-if’s’ related to mom’s care while I’m away, I decided to go. God had put the willingness in my heart. Momma was, is, and will always be in God’s very capable hands. 

As soon as I said yes, I learned there was a job for me to do. I would be teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). I’ve been busy preparing for that ministry from the moment I learned what my responsibilities would be. There’s a passport to be obtained (check!), immunizations to be received (done!), shopping for appropriate clothing (dragging my feet on that one), and reading nearly every library book I can get my hands on related to ESL. Most days you’ll find me listening to experienced ESL teachers share their teaching tips on YouTube.

Even with this preparation, I have felt for a few weeks now like I’m spinning my wheels. My foot is on the gas, but I’m getting nowhere, and digging myself into a rut of negative thinking. When I find a great idea and try to incorporate it into a lesson plan, ten reasons why it won’t work pop up in my mind.

I have five lessons to teach while I’m there. Five hours to give the students a better grasp of conversational English. Five lessons and five hours — that’s all. I want to make them count.

I’m finding myself melting into a puddle of anxiousness as I wrestle with what to say, what to teach, and how to do this thing I’ve never done before. This wrestling match has driven me to spend more time praying about this ministry opportunity. I know that all of my willingness and preparation in the world won’t matter one iota if the plans that I’m making are my plans alone. I have been reminded once again that my heart must be willing to seek and rely upon the Lord’s wisdom and guidance. 

Here I am, Lord. Please take my willingness to serve You and guide my steps of preparation in the way I should go. Direct my paths to the resources that will be helpful. Shield my heart and mind from that which discourages. Keep my mind focused on what you want me to teach. Your will, not mine.

Interesting how, once I released my tight grip on what and how to teach this class, the Lord directed my steps by allowing me to find the teacher’s edition of the English Grammar and Composition book I had loved using when I home-schooled my daughter eons ago. I thought the book was long since given away, but the Lord knew it was going to be helpful in the future.

Although I’m a little late to the link up, this post is inspired by the writing community at Five Minute Friday. Each participant writes for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt – last week’s prompt being “willing.”

Five Minute Friday: Enlarging my World

My world has been relatively small the past few years, staying pretty close to home. Life has revolved very much around taking care of my mother as she battles Alzheimer’s. Over the years, I found myself growing weary and having to stop doing several things I love in order to be able to focus on her ever-increasing needs.

In late March, my sweet momma took up residence in a beautiful assisted living facility devoted to those with memory care needs. I still spend a few hours each day with her, but I can sleep throughout the WHOLE night in my own bed and am no longer fully responsible for her daily care. I’m beginning to feel more rested and able to resume some (but not all) of my former activities and ministries. I can take a little road-trip with my hubby, play in the dirt in my garden, or prepare a Sunday School lesson for the kids at church without interruption. It’s truly a blessing from God’s gracious hand.

With this new freedom, my world will enlarge even more in September when I accompany three of the men from our church (including my hubby) on a teaching trip to India. My responsibility during this trip will be to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to the students who will be gathering for the purpose of enjoying some seminary-level training. I have never taught ESL, so this will be a huge stretch for me – something which will also enlarge my world as I help this group of adults whose first language is Hindi in their continued quest to become more fluent in their conversational English.

This is my hubby Wayne’s second trip to India (he’s the handsome, white-bearded guy on the lower left of the group photo above), as he traveled with our pastor and another friend on a teaching trip last year. This fall’s trip is a giant leap for me, as I’ve never been out of the country. [Well, unless you count the time when my hubby and I were honeymooning 43 years ago in a rented recreational vehicle and we drove over the Canadian border in the days before a passport was required.] This trip to India will be my first trip overseas, passport, visa, shots, long international flight, and all the cultural adventure that will surely come with that experience.

In the meanwhile, I will need much prayer support as I prepare for my role as a teacher on the other side of the world.

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Please come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

Cottonwood Music

Listening to the gentle rustle of leaves as summery breezes
play in the branches of a neighboring cottonwood tree –
wondering why would a tree with lovely wind-stirred song
leave such a terrible fluffy mess lying on the ground?

A squall of snowy tufts swirl by, tickling my nose,
blanketing the lawn in maddening cottonwood snow.
With hair covered in velvety fluff, I sigh as it drifts along garden edges,
then sticks like socklets to my feet wet and bare.

For a few weeks each summer I fuss, whine and complain –
“the tree’s such a mess” and inwardly wish it weren’t there.
Well, the ‘snow storm’ quelled on this summer’s eve, and I thought I did hear
the cottonwood’s beautiful wind-whispered music beg my forgiveness.

Cottonwood Mess – photo credit treeandneighborlawblog.com

Linking up today with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community for five minutes of free write on a weekly word prompt.  This week’s word is question. Hello, to my neighbor and friend Marianne, in whose yard this tree resides. I hope she enjoys my question to the stately cottonwood tree and my unexpected revelation that the beautiful parts of life may very well make up for the messy parts.

Five Minute Friday: Love Without Measure

My daughter gave her grandma a baby doll – a Goodwill find. Except for the fact that its eyes don’t close, the doll baby looks and feels convincingly enough like a real baby. The baby doll is wearing a cute little dress  embellished with sweet, girly-looking smocking – reminiscent of a favorite outfit our daughter wore when she was a itty-bitty girl. 

Why give an 85-year-old woman a doll?

My mother has Alzheimer’s and the list of things which bring her joy grows smaller with each passing week. We had hoped the baby doll (we’ll call her ‘Dolly’) would bring her a measure of joy in the midst of the stress that her life had become – especially the stress she did not yet know she would experience with the next day’s move from our home to her new place in memory care assisted living.

On this final night in our home, Momma sat on her bed with Dolly propped up against her bed pillows. I sat in mom’s comfy chair in the corner of mom’s room and watched the encounter between the new would-be friends. Seemingly oblivious to my presence, Momma talked to Dolly a bit, patting the doll’s dress and stroking her hair, telling her how pretty she looked. She seemed a bit troubled by Dolly’s inability to reciprocate in the conversation, skeptically watching the baby for a response, then looking concerned when none would come.

Just when I thought Momma would give up on Dolly, my sweet mother leaned in real close, gently stroked the baby’s cheeks, then held Dolly’s face between her time-worn hands. Momma then demonstrated the measure of her big heart when she gazed into the unblinking eyes and said something to the baby that astounded me.

“I’ve learned in my lifetime that if you’re trying to have a conversation with someone and they don’t talk back and they just stare at you, it sometimes means that they have been deeply hurt and had trauma in their life.”

Momma gently kissed the baby’s cheek and added, “You’re safe with me.”


This post was brought to you courtesy of Five Minute Friday (hosted by Kate Motaung) and the word “measure.” Writers set a timer for five minutes, free write on the word prompt and publish it on our blog so the whole world (well, our little corner, anyway) can read it! Learn more about the writing challenge at Five Minute Friday.