Sunday, December 13, 2009


At the Benjamin home we began to take our places as children of purpose. Our mother was the dearest person in the world to us and even at our tender age we were sensitive to her needs and learned parental respect for her. But we were, after all, children.

Mother had now achieved a level of financial stability that allowed her to purchase our first pieces of new furniture, a sofa and chair that I recall as a very pretty rose color. We were working in the cotton field and I can't recall how or when the items arrived at our home but they were left sitting on the front porch. However it came to be, we found them there and, being children, began to have a heyday climbing all over them, jumping up and down on them – in essence, having a ball. The party was to be short lived.

We saw her coming, in no particular hurry but slowly and patiently making her way across the field toward the house. She carried in her hand the dreaded hickory switch -- which on this occasion was from a tender cotton plant -- and when she arrived delivered it on the three in turn quite deftly. Her point was well made and three pairs of skinny legs told the tale. Lesson learned.

Our mother never failed to discipline us when discipline was required. It was always swift, just and thereby infrequent. Her method of parenting her children was to teach, and we learned early on that our best choice of discipline would be self-discipline.

Our mother demanded, earned and received our respect for as long as she lived. We will never forget her or the lessons she taught us.

Friday, December 4, 2009


In 1971 my husband was transferred by his employer to Florida from Greenville, South Carolina. We spent all that summer preparing to leave our families. Beginning in April, Tommy would catch a plane each Sunday afternoon and spend the workweek on the job, all the time searching for a new home for us. Then on Friday evening he would return home for the weekend.

Back in South Carolina I was taking care of our four children and attempting to sell our home there. From April until July, this activity went on with no success. Then on a Sunday afternoon in July, a weekend that Tommy did not get to come home, we had a visit from a young couple to see our house. There was no question in my mind that they would return. The very same weekend, down in Florida, things were happening. On our Sunday afternoon telephone conversation, Tommy said to me "I've found the only house that I would buy for you, sight unseen, because I know you'd love it." Excited, I told him, "Well guess what! This afternoon a couple came to look at our house and I'm positive they'll buy it. They did, and we did.

A couple of weeks later I flew down to Florida to see the house. Tommy was right. It was perfect. And in the front yard, a humongous magnolia tree shaded the whole front yard from the curb to the front steps. Later we made a return trip with all the children and they were equally pleased. In September we relocated our family to Florida and never looked back. We had the perfect house and the perfect tree. We were at home.

A few short years later as progress was being made in the local infrastructure, the telephone company came through our neighborhood and laid an underground cable down the side of our street. We would later learn that a main root of our magnificent magnolia had been disturbed and it began to fail. For ten years Tommy babied, nurtured and cajoled the tree to survive. It stood proudly as long as it could but finally the time came when safety became a major concern and the tree had to come down. God is so good. Not only did he provide shade for the hot Florida summer sun but also a touch of nostalgia to nurture our family during a time of separation from our family.

FAMILY – God takes care of His own.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Our home adjoined the property of the Benjamin family who owned and operated a dairy farm and in this time period a dairy farm provided a quite well-to-do lifestyle for its owners. The family home sat on a slight hill surrounded by wonderful trees and plants spread out over the well-kept grounds. Two that I recall quite vividly were a tremendous magnolia tree and what we knew as a snowball bush. Both rendered glorious white blooms that gave off lovely fragrances.

As children we spent many happy hours playing in and around the dairy and the big white house. It was quite exciting to bounce in and out of the milking barns as the cows were being coaxed to relieve their heavy load of the day. Frequently we three younger ones were allowed to observe as our older sister shared the milking chores.

To this day my most favorite of all trees is the magnolia. Not so for my husband who, upon our relocation to Florida spent untold hours caring for our very own tremendous and beautiful magnolia that finally succumbed to damage done by workmen laying underground telephone cable. Only in my mind's eye have I seen another snowball bush.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009


On this the eve of Thanksgiving Day 2009 I pause to consider the blessings that have come to me through Family: My devoted and loving husband of 58 years, my own four children, their spouses and our grandchildren (all 12 of them plus one great-grand) along with their spouses – each through his or her own special goodness bringing joy to my life; My mother who gave everything she had, every ounce of energy of her very being, to her four girls; Her parents -- our wonderful grandparents – who extended themselves to keep us under their wings, nurturing us as their very own; Her siblings – our aunts and uncles – who cared for us, taught us, and allowed us to share their space in the family home; Her nieces and nephews – our cousins – with whom we laughed and played and shared their homes, their food, their toys and their parents. The many pastors who blessed our lives as the only "father" we ever knew; Our extended family, the church and Christian friends who have held our family up in actions and in prayer through both good and less good times of my life.
As I observe and contemplate the brokenness of families through sin and wrong choices made in these chaotic times, an explosion of thankfulness arises in my heart for these who helped to mold my thoughts and beliefs to keep my life on solid ground. COME YE THANKFUL PEOPLE, COME! RAISE A SONG FOR WHAT GOD'S DONE!

Thursday, August 6, 2009


It was from this home that I have my first recollection of joining Mother and my sisters in picking cotton. Across the dirt road from the home was the cotton field spread out as far as little eyes could see. Big eyes could see more clearly and distinctly, keeping an eye on the task at hand but also checking back at the house where children might be at work or play – mostly the latter. Early in the mornings we would suit up in our bonnets and sling over our shoulder our little cotton picking bags Grandma had made for us and cross the road into the field for the day of work. A sheet would be spread on the ground between the rows to catch our pickings and we would frequently return to it to empty our little bags. We would pick and empty – pick and empty; that's how our day would go. When little hands and feet grew tired we sisters would refresh ourselves by sitting on the sheet and making beautiful hair-dos, tightly winding cotton boles around a stick to form lovely white curls, arranging them into head shapes and laying them out on the sheet for all to see. At the end of the day the sheet would be gathered up and taken to the scales back at the tenant farmer's house for weighing in. Each day's pickings were tallied and credited to Mother's account to pay the rent and provide for our needs. FAMILY – CONSIDER IT ALL JOY

Monday, July 20, 2009


A new home in the country provided new horizons, new venues and new places to explore. Of course living in the country provides wide-open spaces where children can run and play without the slightest need for supervision or structured entertainment. A favorite place at this home was the surrounding pasture where we spent many happy hours exploring and dragging up rocks and old discards of other families who had come and gone, using anything we could find to build our houses. Building houses was a favorite pastime for us. We would line them out with rocks and would build tables and chairs and other items of "furniture". Then, of course, the visitations would begin as we would visit back and forth to share the news and the gossip of the day. In the front yard of this home (the Benjamin house we called it) was a tree that provided many wonderful, beautifully colored leaves in the fall to roll and jump and tussle. I have no recollection of what kind of tree it was but the leaves were big and made a wonderfully soft pile when swept up with the straw broom. I can still see within my mind my sisters and me playing in the leaves we had piled high as we completed our chore of sweeping the front yard. Chores were so much more fun when they ended with playtime! FAMILY – TOGETHER IN WORK AND IN PLAY

Sunday, July 12, 2009


We've experienced over the past week a very special time of family togetherness. My own family consists of my husband and me, our three sons and one daughter. Our four children have blessed us with nine granddaughters, three grandsons and one great granddaughter. Quite a brood and oh so wonderful and fun. All but our daughter were home for the Fourth and the commemorative day turned into a week of celebration culminating in our 58th wedding anniversary. What a special time it was! Our number one son has three daughters; our second five daughters and one granddaughter; our daughter has two sons and our youngest son a son and daughter. Each is unique and special in his or her own way and contributes much to the joy we share as a family. The time we get to spend together is infrequent – our second son with his family live in Ohio; our daughter and her two sons in Miami; all the rest of the family live in Jacksonville, Florida. When we all get together it's quite loud and boisterous to say the least! Such was the time we shared over the past week. The Fourth of July fireworks provided beauty and excitement but paled at the excitement we shared as family. Life is short, is full of twists and turns that sometimes challenge our emotions, our energies and even our faith but God gives us family to love and receive love; to caress and to cover; to pray for and to pray with; to guide and protect with all that we have. FAMILY – INTERDEPENDENT AND PRECIOUS!

Monday, June 15, 2009


I hope you've missed me! Of late I've had to take a health break to focus attention on some issues that, quite frankly, I could no longer ignore. While not life threatening they certainly have meant life adjusting and my doctor quite aptly calls them the ravages of aging! So I've been engrossed in some extensive physical and aqua therapy seeking relief from a bummed out knee – the result of a foot broken several years ago and a resulting altered gait. But as has been my way over the years, when life's lemons come I look around to find a way to make a sweet mix of lemonade. Taking time out to heal a torn meniscus gave me opportunity to participate in a most joyous occasion in the life of our family – the marriage of my oldest sister whom by now you must surely know is very special and dear to me. On a visit at New Year's this year we were introduced to the man who would soon attempt to fill the shoes of a dearly loved brother-in-law. Could this happen – ever? It could, and it did. He fits in the family like a well-worn old shoe, very comfortable and soothing to the touch. A May date was soon set and the activities began. It surely was to be the wedding of the century! There was no way I would miss this event. Over the next couple of months it became more than apparent that I could not travel from Florida to South Carolina – not by ground or air. Brokenhearted though we were, she and I had a blessed time of sharing – she making the plans, allowing me to give input, doing what I love to do. She gave me a program outline and I gave back the finished copy for the printer; she gave me the tune and I gave back the words for her song. Shortly after the honeymoon the happy couple returned to visit. What a time we had – sharing the pictures, the video, shopping for her new home, cooking with my family – just being family! Life is so short; God is so generous! FAMILY –IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


This perhaps is the home from which come my most vivid early childhood memories. I really don't know why, but this home seemed to leave a special place in my heart. Again, it was just an old country farmhouse but I treasure the good times we had there. I believe it was during this period that our mother began to long for the freedom she had experienced with our father. While our grandparents and all of our mother's family was strong in their religious faith and steeped in the Methodist religion and its traditions, my mother had experienced a different, more evangelical worship style in my father's Pentecostal faith. In fact she too had been ordained a minister in what was then the Church of God, later to become the Church of God of Prophecy. From time to time, not frequently, a family would come and get all of us and take us to church in the City, as Grandpa would refer to it and thus we became reintroduced into the evangelical way of worship. My earliest memories include those of my "twenty-something" year old mother every night openly on her knees in fervent prayer in the bedroom we all shared. Her faith was lived out in every facet of her life and served her and her family very well in storms and in Sonshine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Because our mother always had to work we three sisters learned at an early age to take care of each other and the home. At the time we moved into our first home I was five, my second sister seven and the oldest nine years old and we each had our assigned chores. My mother and my oldest sister would spend the day picking cotton. My second sister and I had the dishwashing and housecleaning chores. Water was heated on the stove and the dishpan was set up on the kitchen table. I would sit on the side of the table and wash as my sister dried and put away. Over the next few years we would move several times, inching toward complete independence from our grandparents. Independent relationship? Yes. Broken relationship? Never. To this day our aunts, uncles and cousins continue to be very much a part of our lives and our love for each other. Our next home would be a slight step up as it afforded greater opportunity for our livelihood. Again my mother would work in the cotton field, but this landowner also had a dairy where my oldest sister could work and help out. This set the pattern for our entire lives -- my oldest sister building that helper/caretaker bond with my mother.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Our mother, much like her father, was a strong disciplinarian. She seldom had to speak twice to get our attention; never issued empty threats. Patient and just as she was, if discipline was needed, and deserved, you could be sure it would come. Once, on a warm spring day as we played in the yard, Mother sat with Grandma and a couple of aunts on the back porch engaged in pleasant conversation and laughter. Mother told me to do some chore and audaciously I spoke up and said No, I won't do it. I knew those words should never have left my mouth and I headed around the house as fast as I could go. In a flash she had hit the ground and was right behind me but I was an excellent runner and escaped into the back door and took refuge under a bed. She patiently allowed me to stay there. But the time came there was reckoning. When the older children arrived home from school later in the day, I foolishly allowed my uncle to lure me from under the bed promising candy. Lesson learned. On those very infrequent occasions when our mother was forced to administer corporal punishment, it was done with a keen little hickory switch. Often as not we would be the one sent to fetch it for her and then to suffer the indignity of the sting. The lessons learned from our mother's switchings would last a long time in our memories and the bad behaviors would seldom be repeated.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Although we were now in a home of our own, we were not emotionally removed from the home or the rearing of our grandparents. They were still close by and we spent much of our time with them. Two of my mother's siblings were in our age range and we grew up more as siblings than aunt and uncle and our grandparents continued to treat us as one family.

An event that occurred routinely in our lives was "washday" when my mother and my aunts would gather up the clothes to be washed and we would head out with the cousins to spend the day at the "pond" in the middle of the woods. This was somewhat of a "community wash house" I suppose as there was a big black iron pot set up where a fire would be built for heating water and boiling the clothes. The pot was surrounded by a large area of ground that had been cleared from many a footprint having worked on it.

Of course it wasn't the work that went on on washday that attracted us children. It was the huge trees that bore "Tarzan-like" vines that we took turns swinging over and dropping into the pond as we played the day away while the wash was being done. Before returning home we would have a nice bath with Grandma's homemade soap and don a fresh set of clothes that had been washed and dried at the pond in the woods!

Monday, March 9, 2009


It was in this home that we had our biggest ever Christmas – between the four of us receiving 17 dolls. There was also a "scooter" and a "rocky horse." I remember taking the scooter down the road for a ride in an early morning fog where you could barely see your hand in front of your face, but I knew the way well to a favorite aunt and uncle's house across and down the dirt road from us. I traversed the trip very well and returned to check out the wooden rocky horse. Being energized from the scooter ride, I hopped on the horse, held onto its head and swung it into high gear for my ride. The ride turned out to be a short one and I was devastated as I beheaded the precious rocky horse. This memory of the rocky horse stirred in my soul when on a recent tour through our favorite thrift store there it sat – a sturdy "pony horse" that had been lovingly, I'm sure, handcrafted by some grandfather for some beloved grandchild. We brought it home and it sat on the garage floor for some time. When we learned we were to become first time great grandparents, off it went to Ohio to adorn the nursery of a precious baby girl!

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I suppose life in our first home was pretty mundane; I don't have a lot of stored memories from there. One special memory I do have of this home was a room just off the front porch that was jam-packed with newsprint and Sears Roebuck catalogs – not to be confused with the "outhouse" which also had its stock of "print". Those catalogs provided unlimited hours of play as we cut from the pages our favorite images and they became our "paper dolls", as much a part of our lives as is today's generation's "Barbies"! It was in this home that red measles broke out in the family and, of course being the puny, sickly kid that I was, red measles hit me hard with its accompanying dangerously high fevers, heavy recurring nosebleeds and matted eyes rendering me blind on wakeup. It was a special time of family caring and concern as my aunts and my sisters would hover, sponging my burning body and bathing my eyes so that I could open them and see. It was during this period of time that our oldest sister would forever become the caregiver of our little family. She was the glue that held our mother together; the safe haven that we ran to; the stalwart one that we always looked to for the final word on any issue! It is thus today.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Our father had been a widower with a large family of his own and just happened to fall in love with a young girl with an independent streak and swept her off her feet. Against the wishes, and in spite of the admonishments of her own family, the two eloped and were married. There was a vast difference in age but certainly not in spirit. O, the tales Mother would tell us about a young farm girl's escape into romance with a handsome, strong preacher man who swept her up into a whirlwind of courtship, marriage, travel and babies. Our father was not a sentimental being and never looked backward, always moving forward. He taught his young bride to do the same; don't hold onto the past, leave it behind and go forth into a new day; a day promising opportunity, excitement and always – romance! Don't record events and hang them on the wall or record them in a journal and hold onto them. Take the new day as it comes and anticipate an even brighter dawn tomorrow. Not surprisingly, we grew up knowing little or nothing about our father's family. They did nothing to reach out to us nor did my mother call on them for assistance. We had little; they had much. They chose not to burden themselves with a young widow and four little children.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


And so our lives began – a mother and four little girls brought into a reality that life would be harsh but wonderfully rewarding; that storms would surely come but just as surely, if we kept our faith in God, that Joy Would Come in the Morning. After a couple of years at our grandparents' home we began a life with just the four of us – our youngest sibling being left behind with our grandparents – in an interdependent relationship of encouraging and uplifting each other. Our mother moved us out into a small farmhouse where she negotiated rent as a tenant farmer. The owner had cotton fields that needed workers and so it was that this would become our means of a blissful journey together as a family. It was always thus. We had nothing; but we were never poor! We wanted for nothing; because we had everything! The Lord was the source of our strength and He poured out His love through each of us individually to bring loving abundance each to the other!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Our faith, borne out over the years has withstood us through many a storm. It was taught to us as children, lived out before us and expressed in corporate worship. Weekdays would find all the extended young adult family members working Grandpa's crops of cotton, corn, whatever the season brought. We children had our jobs too, keeping the water supplied and, in mid‑afternoon delivering Grandma's special treat of the day, a hefty plate of flapjacks or perhaps her very special apple turnovers. We somehow managed to always find our way back to the field to pick up a ride on the horsedrawn sled bringing the tools in at day's end. Come Saturday, the day would be spent preparing for church on Sunday – we children giggling and teasing as we got our baths in a tub of rainwater warmed by the sun; polishing our shoes and finding our best socks, checking clothes to be worn, everything to be in readiness for Sunday morning. No time to fool around on Sunday morning; like as not, there was a chicken to be caught, killed, dipped and de‑feathered to be prepared for the meal later that day. Grandpa was the inspector general on Sunday mornings. He would check us out for appearance, socks turned down, no slip showing, etc. Grandpa would make sure that each one had a clean handkerchief in our pocket and he would give to each child a nickel for Sunday School.

Friday, February 27, 2009


“My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock…" Psalm 62:5-7 David was a great king. We know that from his lineage came Jesus. But David was not a perfect man. He - like we are - was weak and vulnerable. He was guilty of great sins. But David was used by God. Many of the Psalms were written by King David, as were these. In this passage, David is giving recognition to the work of God in his life. He doesn’t try to hide his sins. He comes clean with God and opens up his life before Him. He speaks to his soul and says, “Soul, be silent. My hope is in God. God is my ROCK." What do we see when we think of a rock? A rock can be very small or very large. But it’s hard; solid. It doesn’t surrender to a squeeze and come apart; it fights back at a sledgehammer. It doesn’t give way easily to breaking up. A life built on The Rock can withstand the uncertainties and storms of our lives.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


When I remember Thee on my bed, I meditate on Thee in the night watches, for Thou hast been my help. And in the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to Thee; Thy right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:6-9 Today our minds are full of troubling thoughts. Our lives are so busy that we can’t hear ourselves think. But, like David, we must learn to say, “Soul, be quiet.” We must learn to come before the Lord in quietness. A wonderful way to come before the Lord is to silently sing a quiet worshipful song until your mind is quiet and you can begin to talk to God and to listen to what He has to say to you. Wait quietly in His presence. Acknowledge your total dependence on Him. Thank Him and praise Him for what He does in your life. “When I remember Thee on my bed, I meditate on Thee in the night watches for Thou hast been my help. And in the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Thus I learned to play, by ear, gospel piano, and it became my life to play and sing with the "big boys and girls" even at the grand old age of seven/eight years old. One of my favorite uncles had a wonderful tenor voice and over the years he taught and nudged me along to learn. I distinctly recall, as though it were yesterday, his holding me on his lap on the back porch of the "big house" and teaching me a newly published song "Where the Roses Never Fade." This was to be the last song I would learn from him. The time was during World War II and he left soon after that to go off to war and was killed shortly after. Gospel music remains a part of my life today and nothing gives me joy that is more pure. I've never done anything that remotely approaches professionalism, but oh, the joy I've found in playing and singing Southern Gospel with my mother, my sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and my friends.

Monday, February 23, 2009


My grandmother's side of the family were all musicians and singers. Sons, daughters, aunts, uncles and cousins all sang and made beautiful music on guitars, mandolins, banjos, piano. Any time the family came together there was a gospel music fest. Such beautiful harmony you've never heard and we children carried on the tradition. We would go to bed and "make harmony" late into the night. My uncles thought I could do anything they wanted me to and they would sit me down to the old pump organ and sing a tune and I would pick out the notes. This is how I learned to play – listen to them sing, pick up the harmony. Of course all this "practicing" elicited many an "Es – get off that organ!" yell from Grandpa when he'd had all he could stand. But when the family got together and made harmony, Grandpa sat close by, rocking in his chair and patting his foot.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

CUTAWAY - Life's Interruptions

Hi. I hope you've missed updates on BLOGGING WITH ESTELLE. I've been away for a few days recovering from the flu and doing some research on how to make this forum more accessible to more people. If you've been involved in the news over the last several months, you've surely become aware of the stories of the lives of parents and children gone awry. As I continue sharing our family stories I will be searching out and offering tools to rebuild and restore family relationships. I trust you will help me spread this message of hope and commitment.

Monday, February 16, 2009


As a "sicky" I spent many hours on Grandpa's lap in the rocking chair. Frequently an earache would send me there and he would hold me close, smoke his smelly old pipe, and blow wonderfully warm smoke in my ears to ease the pain. Being sickly sometimes messes with your good judgment and on occasion my temper got me in real trouble. Playing in Grandpa's wagon was a favorite pastime where my sisters and I would perfect beautiful "maypop" people, choosing just the right sizes for body parts to be attached with broom straw. Don't mess with my maypops - a flash of anger, a butcher knife thrown, a sister's eye that could have gone out. Such antics earned me the title "Samson" from Grandpa and he would chide "Now, now Samson, put down that jawbone" and administer the appropriate action. A sick old man and a sickly child - Grandpa and I connected.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Grandpa was a stern, earthy old teddy bear. When he was troubled, the entire household knew it. A command never had to be repeated. His pipe smoking, tobacco chewing and asthma powder burning rendered him smelly and his apparent dislike of shaving made for constant stubble that could either soothe a ruffled feather with a giggle or bring a squeal of displeasure. He was top rooster in his household. At Grandpa's table there would be no talking. We children would file onto the bench at the back side of the table and sit quietly as he prayed a blessing for the food and for his family. He would then pass a bottle of "Vim Herb", the day's remedy for health and wellness, and while it made its way around the table he would butter each child's biscuit and personally deliver it across the table. Food was served from the table with nary a flinch at what was put on the plate.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Today I received from my daughter a most cherished Valentine's Day gift – the affirmation that I had correctly responded to the call to produce this blog site. I have to say quite frankly that even I don't quite know how it comes to be – I can only say that on a recent night, I awoke shaken, with words flowing like a torrent through my mind, bringing an urgency that somehow I must let others know the wonderful Blessing of Family. God has truly given this family a unique place in history and it has nothing to do with wealth or fame, only an extraordinary love and commitment to each other. I hope you will become an avid follower of these stories and that something will be shared that will touch your life and cause a spark to ignite into a roaring flame of nurturing love for your family. Your feedback is very, very important to me so please share your thoughts.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Living with our grandparents was a quite wonderful time. There were many aunts and uncles and cousins by the dozens who alternately made our lives wonderful and miserable. They delighted in playing tricks on us but they educated us in music, laughter and how to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get going again when life gave us a tumble.

Grandpa had a huge old tom turkey who strutted his stuff in the whole of the outdoors. He owned the yard, the barnyard and all points in between. He got along pretty well with the rest of the family but he did not like me. If I stepped off the back porch the chase was on and didn't end until I was chased onto the porch and escaped for my life back into the house. This provided much amusement for all of course; there was no sympathy forthcoming.

Grandpa had severe asthma and spent most of his days in a rocking chair by the hearth or on the front porch swing when the weather was good listening to the dogs treeing a fox up on the mountain across the way. He knew the sound of every dog and called them out by name as they made their way through the hills. One dare not say a word when Grandpa was listening to the dogs run. To be in his presence was an honor highly desired, but to be allowed to join him on the swing or to sit on the porch steps required silence until the hunt was done.