Sage Superheroes


grandpa hero

Grandparents Day, officially recognized by President Carter in 1979, occurs this year on Sunday, September 13. These grand gems deserve much recognition!

According to Psalm 145:4, “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” I am eternally grateful for the family and friends of previous generations who have nurtured my faith and served as my role models. They are nothing less than sage superheroes.

Many of them wore overalls or aprons, not capes or masks; but they all put on the full armor of God. Ma and Pa Sartain, Ma and Pa McCullough, Daddy Warren, Ma Shelton, Pop Churchman, Grandma Treva, Miss Dean, aunts, uncles, neighbors, Sunday school teachers, and many others impacted the early years of my life.

My grandfather had a limited education, but he was one of the wisest men I’ve ever known. He taught me faithfulness, generosity, kindness, honesty, compassion.

In the book of Ruth, Naomi adopts her daughter-in-law’s baby as her own grandchild. Naomi is obviously Ruth’s superhero! “Naomi took the child, placed him on her lap, and became his nanny.”–Ruth 4:16

Ma and Pa

In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods, Pa Ingalls tells Laura about the faith of her own grandpa.

“Supper was solemn. After supper, Grandpa’s father read aloud a chapter of the Bible, while everyone sat straight in his chair. Then they all knelt down, and the father said a long prayer. When he said, ‘Amen,’ they got up from their knees and each took a candle and went to bed.”

These habits, commended from one generation to another, create a community of faithful believers.

My own grandparents shared with me the importance of praying and reading the Bible and going to church. I can still see my mother’s father reading his well-worn Bible in his chair in the corner of his little house in the country.

A cousin who lived for a time with my paternal grandmother recently shared with me our grandmother’s routine of praying on her knees before getting into bed every night. While I never saw my grandmother in this prayerful pose, I saw her faith in the life she lived.

For a week every summer my sister and I vacationed “in the country” with my mother’s parents. My grandfather taught us to milk cows and bale hay, and my grandmother shared her cooking and gardening skills. We learned how to tie a June bug to a string and spit watermelon seeds and gather “hicker nuts” and thrive on our grandparents’ love.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” –Proverbs 22:6

Ma Sartain

Johanna Spyri reveals this kind of relationship between grandchild and grandparent in her children’s classic Heidi. Through Heidi’s grandfather, Peter’s grandmother, and Klara’s grandmamma, loving relationships develop throughout the story as the characters spend quality time together. Through the examples set before them by these grandparents, Heidi and her friend Klara learn to find faith in God as a result of and in spite of their difficult circumstances.


Heidi tells Klara, “We must pray to God every day, and tell Him everything, everything; so that He can know that we do not forget Him, and then He will not forget us. Your grandmamma told me so. But we ought never to think that God has forgotten us because He does not grant our prayers, and so stop praying, but rather pray in this way: ‘Now I am sure, dear God, that there is something better in store for me, and so I will be happy, because you will provide.’”

Heidi and Klara become great philosophers as a result of the sage superheroes in their lives:

“Do you know why the stars are so happy and look down and nod to us like that?” asked Heidi. “No, why is it?” Klara asked in return. “Because they live up in heaven, and know how well God arranges everything for us, so that we need have no more fear or trouble and may be quite sure that all things will come right in the end. That’s why they are so happy, and they nod to us to be happy too. But then we must never forget to pray, and to ask God to remember us when He is arranging things, so that we too may feel safe and have no anxiety about what is going to happen.”

In Laura South Sassi’s picture book Love Is Kind, Little Owl, much like Heidi and Klara, faces disappointment and frustrations throughout his day. However, when he spends quality time with his grandmother, he learns the importance of kindness and love. As she rocks and cuddles Little Owl, she shares her wisdom. She is his sage superhero!

little owl


Glenys Nellist’s new picture book Grandma Snuggles also focuses on the importance of grandparents in our lives. From prayerful pandas to playful puppies, Grandma Snuggles reminds children that all creatures, including our own human grandparents, are gifts from God. As the young beaver declares, “Grandma snuggles are the best. She’s God’s gift to me.”


The sage superheroes in our lives provide the support and encouragement we need to carry on, to forge ahead. Those literal and metaphorical “snuggles from grandma” reassure us that all will be well.

Even though my grandparents are no longer living, I am reminded of them often. I snuggle under my grandmothers’ quilts in the winter, and I still hear their wise words of advice. I am proud to carry on their legacy of faith.

If possible, go and spend some time with your own grandparent or another sage superhero in your life.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”                                                                                –Julian of Norwich, a prayerful superhero of the Middle Ages

“Every house needs a grandmother in it.” –Louise May Alcott

James 1:17; Proverbs 13:22; 2 Timothy 1:5


Language Lessons: Verb Conjugation

Verb heart

When asked to identify the most important part of speech, many people might answer, “The noun.” However, in my opinion, the verb is the most important, and often misused, part of speech. A sentence cannot function without a verb. Even in imperative sentences with an implied subject, the one spoken or written word of that sentence is a verb. Listen. Learn.

Colloquially, people often say things like, “I seen it!” or “I had went.” Even though everyone else might be using these expressions, they are grammatically incorrect.

Whether you are currently involved in homeschooling, distance learning, or virtual learning, I’d like to offer some assistance with basic verb usage. Younger children might be introduced to verbs through Irina Gonikberg Dolinskiy’s Parts of Speech Parade (illustrated by Mark Wayne Adams).

parts of speech parade

Middle school students might benefit from Everything You Need to Ace English Language Arts in One Big Fat Notebook. (Disclaimer: I do not own this book, but I have skimmed through it at Walmart. It appears to be a good resource.)

middle school language arts bk

For high school students, as well as college students and adults, the latest edition of Hodges’ Harbrace Handbook can be a valuable reference tool. Yes, I know Google or Alexa is readily available, but your Wi-Fi hot spot might not be.

harbrace handbook

Once again, the verb serves as the heart of the sentence. It expresses the action of the subject, or it links the word following it back to the subject. In English, six tenses are used to show the time of the verb’s expression: present, past, or future.

Verb conjugation 2

Regular verbs form their past and past participles by adding “d” or “ed” to the base form. These words are not difficult to conjugate. Most problems arise with irregular verbs which have no consistent usage rule.

This list of Common Irregular Verbs pdf may be used for practicing conjugation. Simply plug in the correct form of the verb in the proper section of the Conjugation Graphic Organizer pdf.  Use the Verb Conjugation (go) pdf to determine which form of the verb to use with which tense. The Conjugation of See pdf might also help.

Note: The past form of the verb is never used with a helping verb. The past participle form of the verb is always used with a helping verb.

I am also including an explanation of Troublesome Verbs pdf, which I hope you will find helpful.

My language lessons are based on your requests; so if you need guidance in other areas, please let me know.

“Good words are better than bad strokes.” –William Shakespeare

Colossians 4:6; Proverbs 141:3; Proverbs 21:23






A Reader Review: The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion by Annette Whipple

LIW pictures

Annette Whipple’s “Companion” to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books offers a true side-by-side study of life in the Wisconsin woods, the Kansas prairie, the Minnesota creeks, and all the other settings of Wilder’s Little House stories. For example, in Chapter One of Little House in the Big Woods, Laura describes how Pa provides food for his family by hunting wild game and growing his own fruits and vegetables. In the Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion, Whipple compares the “Butchering Time” of the 1870’s to the modern methods of purchasing meat today. In addition, each chapter contains a “Live like Laura” section filled with recipes and crafts for children to make. A “House Talk” section also provides reflective questions relating to each of Wilder’s nine books. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion can be a perfect tool for supplemental study of the Little House books, and it can also serve as a resource for homeschooling parents to enjoy side by side with their little ones. Rich in resources and history, this book is a must-read for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Grappling Guidelines

isaiah image

For years I began the new school year by teaching Carl Stephenson’s short story “Leiningen Vs. the Ants.” Charlton Heston played the role of this character in the movie adaptation, The Naked Jungle. If you know anything at all about Charlton Heston, you know he was good at overcoming obstacles. (I think he also played the role of Moses.)


“Organization is the key to grappling with life,” I repeatedly told my students. Leiningen, the hero of this story, overcame great obstacles by adhering to this adage, and he felt this was the first step toward becoming “master of his fate.”

I wanted to initially impress upon my students the importance of perseverance in their academic studies, and I also wanted them to know life might require a bit of “grappling.”

Warned that soldier ants were headed toward his South American plantation, Leiningen learned how to grapple. He developed a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C. He understood the severity of the forces against him and planned accordingly.

How many of us develop even one backup plan, much less two? How have we managed in the midst of this so-called year of “perfect vision?”

Solomon tells us in Proverbs 6:6 to consider the ways of the ant and be wise. They never ever give up! They adapt to whatever life throws their way.

[Leiningen] did not need to be told that ants are intelligent, that certain species even use others as milch cows, watchdogs, and slaves. He was well aware of their power of adaptation, their sense of discipline, their marvelous talent for organization.

This year life has thrown us a pandemic, and fear of the unknown looms over us like an ominous storm cloud. As opening day of the new school year dawns, everyone hopes students and staff stay safe and well. Parents, teachers, administrators, and students are unsure of what lies ahead. However, having a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C, and perhaps a Plan D will see us through. There is hope in the midst of the storm.

Like the ants, we must be able to adapt; but first, we must have faith. (2 Corinthians 5:5)

In Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book Two Bad Ants, a couple of wayward characters decide to abandon their fellow ants and go against the teachings of their queen. As a result, they find themselves in hot (literally boiling) water. Yes, their waywardness gets them in trouble, but their perseverance gets them back on track. They learn their lesson in the end, and they stay loyal to their queen.

This school year, educators, like the ants, may have to march into dark, uncharted woods. They may be required to climb mountains whose peaks they cannot see. They may find themselves in a strange and puzzling world. They may need to paddle hard to keep their heads above the crushing waves of schedule modifications, new policies, and procedures.

two bad ants

We can all better adapt (like the ants) when we consider others before ourselves. Philippians 2:4 encourages us to “look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 1 Peter 3:8 also reminds us to “be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble.” These are the characteristics of empathy.

In We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, author Ryan T. Higgins shows children how to be like-minded and love one another. On the first day of school, Penelope Rex worries that her classmates may not like her. Indeed, her classmates are afraid of her because she tries to eat them!

It was NOT the best way to start school. Still, Penelope was determined to have a good first day.

When the tables are turned and a goldfish tries to eat Penelope, she finally understands the importance of seeing life through the other person’s eyes.

we don't eat our classmates

As the new school year begins, I encourage everyone to focus on three goals.

First, stay organized. According to Leiningen, being organized is an important step in facing life’s hurdles, and it can help alleviate stress. Having a place for everything and having everything in its place gives you one less thing to worry about. Also, develop your own Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.

Show empathy, and understand that others may be experiencing anxiety just as much as you. Focus your attention on being kind to someone else, and you may forget your own fears. Now is not the time to eat your classmates, your principal, or your co-workers. Don’t get too close to them, for that matter. Keep your distance, but show compassion.

Above all else, have faith. Continue to pray without ceasing. Don’t let the sugary sweetness of temptation lure you away from the One True God.  Remember the words of Psalm 18:2: “The Lord is my protector; He is my strong fortress. My God is my protection, and with Him I am safe. He protects me like a shield; He defends me and keeps me safe.”

May less grappling be required of all of us as we go forward into this new month of this memorable year.

Go in peace.

“Follow the Christ the King. Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King.”—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”—Harper Lee

“How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” –William Shakespeare 

James 1:3; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Ephesians 2:10; Isaiah 26:3



Language Lessons: Pronoun Usage

I recently heard Prince Harry give an interview about why he and his wife had moved to Canada. His elocution seemed flawless, and I usually love hearing him or any other Brit speak. However, when he said, “This was the best decision for Meghan and I,” I cringed. I’m sorry, but I cringed.

I truly want Prince Harry and every other human on earth to live a happy life; so whatever decision they need to make is their business.

Proper grammar, on the other hand, is one of my fields of interest.

I had a great response earlier in the year when I shared some homeschooling help on comma rules. Some of you indicated you would like to see more grammar help; so this is my attempt to accommodate your requests.

Today’s “Language Lesson with the Literary Lyonesse” covers pronoun usage. If you would like help with other specific areas of need, please feel free to make comments to this post; and I will address those areas in future lessons.

First, take a moment to watch Bill Flanagan’s explanation of the pronoun problems I’ve addressed in these exercises. Interestingly, this clip first aired on CBS Sunday Morning in 2014, but it’s still a major issue.

The problem with pronoun usage lies in not knowing the function of the cases. For handy reference, I have created a pronoun chart which explains the three cases and their functions.

Using this chart, you may be able to identify the errors in this pronoun quiz found in “The Tale of the Baby Bats.” A pdf answer sheet is also available.

After you have studied the chart, see if you can identify the correct pronoun in each of the following references to Aesop’s fables.

  1. A lion asked his friends to tell him if his breath smelled bad.

[The sheep thought, “The lion has asked the wolf and (I or me) for an honest answer.]

“The fox gave a hollow cough, then cleared his throat. ‘Your majesty,’ he whispered, ‘truly, I have such a cold in the head that I cannot smell at all.’”

The fox knew he should say nothing at all if he couldn’t say anything nice!

  1. A lion and a goat arrived at a mountain spring at the same time.

[The goat said, “The lion or (I or me) might be eaten by vultures.”]

The lion and the goat both learned not to be greedy.

  1. One day a fox met a lion, a creature he had never seen before.

[“I hope this lion will be friendly to the other animals and (I or me),” declared the fox.]

The fox learned the lion was not a danger to him.

  1. Once upon a time, a lion fell in love with a woodman’s daughter.

[The woodman shouted, “You make her mother and (I or me) afraid”!

Even a wild lion in love can be tamed.

  1. A hungry lion and a hungry bear fought over a dead carcass.

[The lion watched as a fox stepped boldly between the bear and (he or him) and dragged the carcass away.]

The lion and the bear learned not to fight over their food.

good grammar

I hope you enjoyed this “Language Lesson with the Literary Lyonesse.” Stay safe, and stay tuned for a future lesson on verb conjugation.

Matthew 6:26



God Bless America


The month of July reminds me of family reunions, fireworks, fish fries, and fun times. I remember slurping watermelon on the back porch, running to catch the ice cream truck, and playing “steal the flag” with the neighborhood kids until dark.

I always looked forward to our annual trips to Opryland USA where we rode the Wabash Cannonball and the Flume Zoom and walked for miles and miles. We cooled off by going inside the air conditioned music shows. I can still visualize the red, white, and blue of my favorite show, “I Hear America Singing.” Even as a child I felt a great sense of patriotism to hear those songs about our flag and our country.

I think there might have been protests and unrest and possibly war somewhere, but we kids focused our attention on the good, not the bad. We chased butterflies, caught lightning bugs, and ran barefoot through the park.  As a result, I remember a childhood full of blessings.

Ah, to bring back those good ol’ days.

Our country could use a good blessing right about now.


In Hannah C. Hall’s board book God Bless Our Country, the old eagle proudly raises the American flag while the young eaglets fold their hands in prayer and thank God for their freedom.

All God’s creatures focus on the blessings of the summer season. The squirrel, the raccoon, the beaver, and the bear cheer because their country makes them proud. The animals work side by side as they picnic together and appreciate their blessings.

I Hear America Singing

In the poem “I Hear America Singing,” Walt Whitman portrays a nation bound together by its diverse work force and strong work ethic. From the mechanic to the carpenter to the young mother, all unite their voices in harmony, not in discord. Their “varied carols” echo throughout the land, and the voices of these ordinary people blend together as one. Their reverberations are blessed and beautiful, not baleful and broken.


Melissa Henderson’s picture book Licky the Lizard also shares a great example of harmony among God’s creatures. When Licky startles a lady one morning, she screams, spills her coffee, and shakes with fear. However, when both the lady and the lizard stop shaking and start showing love to each other, they soon realize they have nothing to fear. We can learn a lesson from Licky and the lady.

As I was watching an episode of Downton Abbey recently, I reflected upon the characters’ obvious class differences and their clearly similar emotions. All experienced doubt and hope as well as joy and sorrow. All were human.

Yes, we are living in uncertain times. We may be unsure of strange creatures and deadly viruses, and we may be afraid of the dark. However, “God is our place of safety. He gives us strength. He is always there to help us in times of trouble.” –Psalm 46:1

Peace is possible if our minds are stayed on Him.

We live in a wonderful country with many blessings and freedoms and possibilities. Let’s work together, with God’s help, to keep it that way.

Enjoy your freedom, and thank God for your blessings!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

                                    –Katharine Lee Bates

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. –Isaiah 40:31

2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 133






Summer 2020 Newsletter


Dear Reader:

Welcome to my newsletter for June 20, 2020, and my timely topic of compassion.

Many years ago my school system adopted a character education curriculum. Each month teachers were asked to incorporate lessons on various character traits such as compassion, respect, honesty, or other abstract nouns focusing on morality. Large signs reminding students of these “character” words were displayed throughout my school building.

As an English teacher I decided to teach these words through literature. I had lots of “aha” moments as I discovered poems, jokes, songs, video clips, etc., that paralleled my character word of the month as well as the theme of my current teaching unit.

For example, when I taught the play Antigone, my students conducted a mock trial on the subject of moral law vs. civil law. During this study I shared the anonymous poem “Guilty or Not Guilty” and the Chicken Soup article “Things Are Not Always Black or White” by Nikos Kazantzakis.

I introduced them to Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock” when we studied Silas Marner.

When we read Elie Wiesel’s Night, I shared Robert Fulghum’s story “The Mirror” to show my students how to reflect light into the dark places of this world.

When our word of the month was “perseverance,” I told them about the mule who kept “shaking off the dirt and stepping up” in order to get out of his hole. For “honesty” I read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” one of Aesop’s fables. I was amazed they had never heard the story before, and most of them had never heard of a man named Aesop.


According to my Illustrated Junior Library edition of Aesop’s Fables, a freed slave who lived in the 6th century B.C. gained fame by teaching moral lessons through stories about animals. He helped humans to better understand their own strengths and weaknesses by addressing “the ways of the wily fox, the timid deer, and the noble lion.”

Much wisdom can be found in the moral lessons of this man called Aesop. Click Aesopbkmks to download and print bookmarks with Aesop quotes.

Long after the required character ed curriculum was cast aside, I continued to supplement my lessons with what came to be known as my “Monday Stories.” Every Monday I began class with a relevant “story” that emphasized the theme of our unit while also emphasizing character. These stories grew into a giant notebook that I still treasure and use today in various ways. These Monday stories had more of an impact than I realized.

One Tuesday before class, a student brought me an excuse for her absence the previous day. As I was signing the note, she asked, “Did you read a Monday story yesterday?”

I replied, “Yes, I did. You missed a good one!”

“Oh, no! I’m never gonna miss another Monday! I love those Monday stories!”

I never dreamed these stories were making a difference in anyone’s life!

This young girl was repeating tenth grade English her senior year because she had dropped out of school two years before to have a baby. I did not know her then, but I understood she was having a difficult time when she was in my class. Her mom was taking care of her child, and she was trying to work forty hours a week and finish her high school requirements. My Monday stories were having a positive impact on her!

I love stories that send a message. Maybe that’s why I became an English teacher and why I love reading. At any rate, I wish the world could hear a Monday story every week to set the tone for whatever might lie on the course outline horizon.

I will leave you with a Monday Story entitled “The Paradox.”

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We have learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but we have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.

We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space; we’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice; we have higher incomes, but lower morals; we’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times of tall men and short character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce; fancier houses, but broken homes.

It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to make a difference or just hit delete.                                                                                                                                                                     –Author Unknown

During this summer of 2020, may we all show compassion to others and heed some of the lessons of Aesop: Unless the seed of evil is destroyed, it will grow up to destroy us.                                                                                                                                –“The Swallow’s Advice”

Compassionately yours,

The Literary Lyonesse

Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12





A Righteous Man


He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God.—Job 1:1-2

My father didn’t quite have the patience of Job, but he was a God-fearing man who persevered.

Daddy wore many hats:  son, brother, husband, friend, soldier, farmer, cattleman, fisherman, salesman, deacon, elder, and more. Most importantly to me, he wore a father hat, and he wore it well.

He had the wisdom of Atticus Finch, the work ethic of Charles Ingalls, and the devotion of Bob Cratchit. He was also funny and folksy like Andy Taylor.

Before I was born, my father served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He received an honorable discharge so that he could return home to help care for his invalid father, disabled brother, and their family farm.

Not once through all this did he blame God.*

I’m sure he and my mother struggled to make ends meet in the early years of their marriage, but he persevered. They lived in an upstairs apartment over a garage; and during those lean years he worked in a factory on weekdays, pumped gas on weekends, and sold Bibles door-to-door on weeknights.


When [he] walked downtown and sat with [his] friends in the public square, young and old greeted [him] with respect. [He] was honored by everyone in town. All [his] dealings with people were good. [He] was known for being fair to everyone [he] met.

My father didn’t have any formal education beyond high school, but he was an avid fan of Dale Carnegie. He did enroll in several Carnegie courses, and he learned well how to make friends and influence people. He never met a stranger. He eventually used his “Carnegie” skills to become a Nabisco salesman and later sell insurance.

Daddy was an active member of the Masonic Lodge and was honored to receive the 33rd degree. He always tried to live by the Masons’ “square and compass” philosophy of placing God first (as Solomon did when he built his temple). He believed in the edification of others, and he often quoted these lines from a poem by Carmelo Benvenga:

Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?

I believe it would behoove us all to “chew upon” these words.

[He] was known for helping people in trouble and standing up for those who were down on their luck. The dying blessed [him], and the bereaved were cheered by [his] visits.

Like Jan Karon’s Father Tim, Daddy was a friend to the waitress at the local diner, the mechanic at the gas station, and the guys down at the lodge. When our neighbor across the street lost her husband, he helped mow her yard and discipline her five children. I remember several occasions when our family piled in the car and traveled across town or drove to “the country” to help a friend or relative in need. As a deacon, elder, and lay  speaker in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Daddy believed in sharing the gospel and serving others.

I am thankful for my father. He wasn’t perfect, but he was a hero to me. Like the daddy in Amy Parker’s picture book, he taught me, took care of me, and tried to be a good, good father.



One of my earliest memories of Daddy reminds me of the trust I had in him and also the trust he taught me to have in God the Father.

Marthe Jocelyn’s description of young Aggie Morton speaks to me of this memory.

aggie morton

The bicycle wobbled along, meeting each pebble as if it were a boulder. I concentrated on balance, and also on steering. The pale, holy glow of the moon transformed familiar hedges into monstrous tree spirits.
“Thank you, Papa,” I said out loud, my voice a funny quack next to the clickety-clank of the bicycle and the silence beyond. Papa had spent many hours holding the seat of my child-sized bicycle while I learned to pedal up and down the drive. He’d tricked me in the end, trotting alongside in a pretense of holding me up, but having let go many minutes before.  

I don’t have many pictures of my father because he was always the photographer. However, this shot shows him in the shadows as he is urging me to ride my bicycle, to do what I thought I could not do.

bicycle image 3

My father died over thirty-five years ago, but I can still see him in the shadows. I can still hear him encouraging me and giving me advice. Like my Heavenly Father whom I also cannot see, I know He’s there when I need Him.

If you’ve never known your own father, or if you’ve not have the blessings of a good relationship with a father figure, know that you have a Heavenly Father who holds you in the palm of His hand. He hurts when you hurt, he smiles when you smile, he rejoices when you rejoice. He’s always there for you, even in the shadows.

If you can, spend some quality time with your father, your grandfather, an uncle, a brother, a mentor, a righteous man, the Heavenly Father. Honor him, and show him your appreciation.

“Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”–Dale Carnegie

“She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father.” –Harper Lee

James 1:19-20; Genesis 6:9; Psalm 15

*Verses taken from Job, Chapter 29 are from The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language.

A Tribute to Virtuous Women


A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.*

Proverbs 31 must have been written about my mother. I’ve never met a more virtuous woman. She was classy. She was strong. She was devoted. If you are familiar with Margaret Anderson on the old TV show Father Knows Best, you’ve met my mother.

She possessed many characteristics of Caroline Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, Mrs. March from Little Women, and Marilla from Anne of Green Gables. She could also rival Aunt Bee from Mayberry in the kitchen.

She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.

I don’t know how she managed without a microwave or the modern conveniences of today’s kitchens, but my mother could prepare an elaborate homemade Sunday dinner (including meat, several vegetables, rolls, and dessert) and still make it to Sunday school and church with time to spare. She also worked outside the home and was a Hidden Figures kind of woman.

She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth.

Having been raised by farming parents, Mother knew how to can vegetables and create something beautiful out of nothing. She was athletic and good at basketball, badminton, and bowling. She planted flower gardens. She wrote poetry. She made ceramics, curtains, and baby quilts. If she’d had a Pinterest account, she would have had many followers.

Her clothes are well-made and elegant.

Mother was a domestic engineer. She made most of the clothes my sister and I wore until we graduated from high school. She tediously stitched together numerous outfits for our Barbie dolls.

For my first high school dance, I begged Mother for a store-bought dress. At the time, I did not appreciate her skill or her sacrifice. My mother gave in to my pleas, and we found a dress from J. C. Penney. I wore the dress, but I came to realize it did not hold a special place in my heart. The following year I requested one of her hand-made creations, a beautiful royal blue velvet gown with silk sleeves, a gown which I cherished because it was made with love.

She always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks, she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.

Mother was a strict disciplinarian. She spoke softly and carried a peach tree limb, but she never failed to explain why she needed to use the rod and not spoil the child.

“This is going to hurt me more than it will you,” I believe she said on several occasions.

Mother led by example, and she made sacrifices for her family.

mommy reading

My mother read stories to me when I was young and instilled in me a love for language. I can still hear her voice imitating a poet or a character. We didn’t own a storehouse of books when I was a child, but Mother read to us from her old high school textbooks. She especially loved Eugene Field’s classic poem “Little Boy Blue.”

“Now, don’t you go till I come,” he said,
“And don’t you make any noise!”
So toddling off to his trundle-bed
He dreamt of the pretty toys.

 I never understood the sadness of this poem until I became an adult, but Mother made it special because of her empathy for the characters.

mother cat and kitten

My mother was also a great listener. When I struggled as a young teacher, she quietly allowed me to share my frustrations of the day and then gave me sage advice.

i love my mommy book

Like all the mothers in Laurel Porter-Gaylord’s beautiful board book I Love My Mommy Because, my mother gave me many reasons to love her and honor her and call her a virtuous woman.

My mother suffered the emotional pain of the unexpected and untimely death of my father, and she suffered the physical pain of treatments for breast cancer and a brain tumor. All the while, she never complained.

This May, if you’ve been distanced from those you hold close, remember that you are loved. Whether you are a mother of one or a mother of none, whether the world compares you to Mother Teresa, Mother Goose, or June Cleaver, know that someone appreciates you. While many of you are juggling traditional and not-so-traditional roles of mothers, teachers, caregivers, and other strong women, I salute you for your virtues.

This is my tribute to Gean McCullough, my own mother, and to all the other virtuous women. The world has been a better place because she and you have been a part of it.

Mother 2

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent.—Lord Byron

“The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlid here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter.” –Louisa May Alcott
“But behind all your stories is your mother’s story, for hers is where yours begins.” –Mitch Albom

Philippians 2:2-4; Proverbs 19:14; Proverbs 31:10-31

*Proverbs 31 verses are taken from The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language.