This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘romance’

The Old Paths: The Sap Is Rising

*This was published in The Stokes News in 2009 in my regular column, “The Old Paths.” Due to the fact that all Internet links were broken to our old articles when Civitas Media switched websites, I am slowly but surely posting all of my old columns in my blog so that they will be archived as they SHOULD’VE been on the newspaper website.

bradford pear blossom--Jones

Photo by a former student of mine, Angel Smith Jones, of Madison.

The ground beneath my Bradford pears in the front yard looks as if it is covered with snow. The blooms are already gone, although spring is only a few weeks old. My sunshine-yellow daffodils are holding on valiantly, perhaps knowing all the while that multicolored tulips are waiting in the wings to upstage them.

Redbuds next doorI hold my breath, waiting to exhale when the redbud trees burst into full bloom in the still shorn and forlorn forest. The dogwoods will be close on their heels. It’s not hard to spy the infant leaves still curled up in the arms of tree branches all over the woodlands of Stokes.

You might say the sap is rising.

If you attended South Stokes High School during the reign of Principal Vernon Kimbro, you’ll never again hear that saying—the sap is rising—without thinking of him. Just like “It’s snowing in Pinnacle,” the sap is rising evokes a reaction, a grin and perhaps, fond memories.


I went into “The Red Rooster” back in the fall and there sat two South Stokes alumnae, Kim Harger Christie and Felicia Cooper. They told me I should do a column on “The sap is rising.” I assured them I already had it planned for spring.

After “Snow in Pinnacle” was published, I attended a county commissioners meeting where my old pal Jimmy Via, now a principal himself, and another friend, Keith Jackson, encouraged me to write a “sap is rising” column. Others followed suit in an attempt to relive a collective memory. Shannon Fenner, my general manager, even told me that Principal Sherrill Doby continued the “sap is rising” tradition after Mr. Kimbro was gone.

Even if you didn’t attend South Stokes under the headship of Mr. Kimbro or Mr. Doby, I’ll bet you can identify with the subject matter. I guarantee you the “sap” phenomenon is universal and occurred at King High School, the Walnut Cove Colored School and up at Francisco School as well as Timbuktu High and Moscow Prep.

The sap rises everywhere.

One of my favorite old baseball movies is “It Happens Every Spring.” Yes, baseball happens every spring, but so does something else. The male of most species begins looking toward the female of the same species with that speculative look in his eye. The female begins to notice that she’s being noticed and lets it be noticed that she notices the notice.

young man's fancySprings turns a young man’s fancy, the old cliché goes. The actual quotation is “In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love” and comes from a poem called “Locksley Hall” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Ole Lord Al sure knew what he was talking about.

And Mr. Kimbro obviously agreed.

Some time around late March or even early April, students at South Stokes inevitably awaited the click of the intercom which would bring our principal’s voice. It wouldn’t be the Student Council president or school secretary but the big man himself.

And then we knew. And we giggled. And we eyed each other furtively and with some embarrassment as we sat primly at our desks. And we listened to the traditional springtime speech.

Mr. Kimbro would remind us that the sap is rising, not only in the trees outside but in young hearts all over the school. He admonished us to be careful what behavior we engaged in behind the lockers, in the bus parking lot, in the front lobby. He warned the young men to keep their hands to themselves and the young ladies to make sure that the gentlemen did.

There would be no smooching at the smoking area, no cuddling between classes, no liplocking in the library, no caressing in the cafeteria. Mr. Kimbro knew that Emma Racine deFleur was correct when she wrote, “In springtime, love is carried on the breeze.”

Let me tell you about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees the moon and the stars and a thing called loveNature has always been a point of reference when it comes to love. “Let me tell you ‘bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees and the moon up above. . .and a thing called love.” Mr. Kimbro definitely took the tree analogy and went with it. He was right.

In late winter/early spring, the sap begins to make its run up the tree. This nourishing liquid of stored sugars is carried by a specialized vascular system up, up, up the tree to the leaves to help them mature.

As the wood ages, it doesn’t transport the sap anymore. It is called heartwood and gives support to the still-growing part of the tree, helping to hold it upright. The actual wood that carries sap is called sapwood and surrounds the older heartwood. The sapwood seems to be the most active wood, but it could never function if not held up by the solid, stable heartwood.


Mr. Kimbro was our heartwood, giving us solid advice to benefit us and keep us safe when all we headstrong “sapwood” teenagers could hear was what comedian Robin Williams heard when he said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”

Christopher Morley, a writer in the early to mid-1900’s, penned, “April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks GO.” When April arrived on the South Stokes campus, it was we students who were thinking GO and Mr. Kimbro who was wisely saying, “STOP!”

It’s April again, and the sap is indeed rising. We may be older, but the siren song of spring beckons to us all. May we all enjoy the beauty and hope that the season brings even as we fondly remember the words of our esteemed principal, Vernon Kimbro. What I’d give to hear the click of the intercom and his distinctive voice telling us all, “The sap is rising!”

heart on wood

Staycation #1–Pilot Knob Inn!

DSCN0329*With the rising cost of everything, including vacations, many people are opting to vacate closer to home. We call this new phenomenon the “staycation.” You stay near home but still get a vacation. I am doing a series of blog posts about fascinating places to visit that aren’t too far away from my home. (And if you live far away from me, you might want to consider taking a real vacation to come here and see these wonderful places!)DSCN0320

Each winter–around Valentine’s Day, conveniently enough–I begin to get itchy feet. By then, Ole Man Winter has been hanging around for a few months, and spring fever is already starting to sprout in my heart. Summer vacation past is WAY past, and summer vacation future seems eons away.

So what is the solution to this winter doldrums dilemma? SIMPLE! I bug the hubster until he takes me somewhere. Because we save our money for longer vacations in late summer, we have to find somewhere nearby to go in mid-February.

In 2012, I heard from a friend about a B & B that was only a half hour away from home–Pilot Knob Inn. We tried it out and were so pleased with our one-night “Valentine’s Getaway” stay that we took another trip there in 2013–this time in early March. Once again, we enjoyed our respite at this quaint, romantic retreat at the foot of Pilot Mountain–“Mount Pilot” for you Andy Griffith fans.

A view of the Knob

On the drive north up Highway 52, you are greeted by the looming knob that looks as though it could’ve been a volcano long ago. Before long, you’re off the highway at the Pilot Mountain State Park exit and nearly immediately turning into a secluded driveway. Not far up the driveway, you will begin to see rustic old tobacco barns. Just a part of the landscape? No! These are cabins for lodging.

The first year, we stayed in Cabin 4 which was further removed from the lodge and breakfast room than Cabin 1 where we stayed this year. Both had front porches with rockers–his and hers. I found Cabin 4 to be preferable because it had a balcony off the back of the upstairs loft bedroom.


This is Cabin 4 where we stayed in Feb. 2012–more private but farther from the breakfast room. You could still walk it, but we two lazybones drove–ha ha!


Here is Cabin 1 where we stayed this past March. It is very near the breakfast room–an easy walk!

There is a neat stack of firewood on the front porch for that romantic fire in the stone fireplace later!

The hubster has no problem relaxing on the front porch!


The view from my upstairs balcony at Cabin 4 last year!

Both were furnished in a style reminiscent of the West–Montana, Wyoming and such. Both had a cozy sitting room downstairs with a couch, a couple of chairs, a small TV. For the cooler months, there is a stone fireplace with a free stack of wood on the front porch.


The downstairs living area of the tobacco barn cabin–very cozy!


You can see there are various means of entertainment in the room.

The hubster and I sat at the small table in the downstairs room and ate a takeout meal from a restaurant in the nearby town of Pilot Mountain. There are many choices of tasty food at various restaurants in the downtown section that is only a mile or so away.

For a late night snack of popcorn or whatever trips your culinary trigger, there are a small microwave and mini-fridge. For the early morning caffeine enthusiast, there is a coffeemaker with packs of coffee, tea, sugar, etc.


We shared a cozy little dinner right here. Sweet memories. . .


I don’t do coffee, but there is plenty here for those who do.

I can forgo late-night snacks or TV (although we did select a videocassette from the breakfast area to watch on the cabin’s VCR)–as long as I get to enjoy the Jacuzzi. Aaaahhhh. . .the Jacuzzi! Both cabins had roomy ones that worked well, although I liked the one in Cabin 4 better–easier for me to get in and out of.


Jacuzzi in Cabin 1 this year–nice, big, fluffy towels nearby!


The Jacuzzi in Cabin 4 last year–I preferred this one, although both were great!


Me being my silly self in the shower (which I loved–just not fully clothed–ha ha!).

Up a flight of stairs was our sleeping quarters–a spacious loft. Again, the Out West theme predominated. How I loved lying in bed and watching the flat-screen TV (not a luxury I have at home). Since we only stayed one night, we didn’t avail ourselves of the storage areas–a wardrobe and chest at the foot of the bed. I loved the heavy-duty wood of all the furnishings.


I want a wardrobe like this at home!


Lying in bed watching TV is a rare treat for us. The upstairs loft was supremely cozy.

I did, however, avail myself of the Wifi. As a free-lance writer and columnist for my local newspaper, I need constant access to the Internet, so I was happy to have good online service. (And of course, I wanted to brag a little about my great staycation on Facebook!)

We found the large bed (king or queen? I can’t remember! Maybe king in Cabin 4 and queen in Cabin 1?) to be super-duper comfy, with great pillows and high thread count sheets. And I didn’t even break my neck going downstairs to use the potty in the middle of the night–ha ha! (Yes, I am used to having a bathroom on the same floor of my bedroom, but this was no big deal in the coziness of this loft bedroom.)


That’s Superman there on the bed–enjoying his staycation in pure leisure.


Who knew that the tobacco barns I grew up working in would one day function as romantic getaway cabins–ha ha!


Me in total peace in my big ole bed in Cabin 4 last year. You can see how the furniture differs slightly from cabin to cabin.

I like to sleep late on vacations, but the temptation of a delicious breakfast was enough to lure me from the plush bed fairly early–8:45! And we even made it down to the breakfast room before they quit serving at 9:30. It was well worth every second of sleep I lost! And you paid no extra for it–price included in lodging rate.

The first year we ate at a table for two near the large open fireplace. This year we ate at the windowed wall that looks out at the swimming pool and right at Pilot Knob. Great views but an even greater breakfast!


Our Valentine’s getaway breakfast by the fireplace last year.


This year we got a table by the big window; it was occupied last year.


The breakfast room is full of interesting local memorabilia and pictures–a lovely place.


Love the high ceiling and glassed-in wall of the breakfast room!


On both trips, we stayed on a Sunday night. Not many people in the breakfast room on a winter’s Monday morning!

We began with fruits, muffins, yogurt, cereal and other goodies at the well-stocked tables to the side. While we ate that, our orders were being cooked in the nearby kitchen. Eggs any way you like them, bacon, sausage, toast, Belgian waffles and MORE! The waitress (Kathy or Cathy?) was super-friendly and pleasantly conversational. One of the owners, Jennifer, helped us out the first year and was just as amiable and sweet.


Looking at this good fruit and such makes me hungry right now!


Believe me, breakfast is a veritable feast, with something for everyone!

They had t-shirts and such for sale (I regret not buying a tie-dyed one), and we settled up our bill right after breakfast in the kitchen. The atmosphere was casual and down-home. Some owners at places I’ve been are all uptight, wanting you to pay upfront before you even step inside your room. Not these folks. True Southern hospitality.


From the swimming pool area, looking back at the breakfast room.


The view from the window of our breakfast room.

Since I’m from the region, I didn’t take advantage of the cool places to visit in the area–Hanging Rock State Park, Pilot Mountain State Park, Mount Airy (the real Mayberry–Snappy Lunch and all), the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was satisfied to hike to the Swinging Bridge and enjoy the stream in the March sunshine. I was pleased just to sit by the lake and daydream of the spring to come. I was happy just to chillax in the gazebo across from my cabin and read a good book while enjoying the view of the daffodils just beginning to show their pretty yellow heads.


A real swinger on a swinging bridge! The hike to it is very easy to manage.


The nearby lake on a late winter’s day. . .


Guests can canoe on the lake if they please. We did not but would like to one day.


Dreaming at the lake on a Sunday afternoon. . .


I enjoyed some quiet time reading a book at the gazebo across the road from Cabin 1.

We have not stayed in any of the suites or the Love Shack or either of the two cabins that allow pets. But the two tobacco cabins that we lodged in were just perfect for us. And the price was very reasonable for such a place and meal.


This is a larger, private hideaway near the main lodge. There are several options for lodging here.


The Love Shack has such an interesting vibe to it. It has a great view of the mountain.


This is a luxurious suite at the main lodge. The ones there are more expensive but full of luxuries.


This is the Yadkin Valley Honeymoon Cabin at the main lodge. It has gas logs and the biggest Jacuzzi of all!

I long to go back there for more than just one night–to be able to escape the demands of life and meditate on the Lord while enjoying His beautiful creation there at the base of the regal mountain knob. Maybe when the last of the five kids is grown or when they are between sports seasons.


But for now, I will fondly recall the two trips I took to Pilot Knob Inn–the mini-staycations with the beloved hubster, the escape into an oh-so-brief hermitude, the peace of a cabin in the woods where God seemed just a little nearer in the quietness of the retreat.


For information on prices and further details, visit

Seize the day! (The birthday, that is!)

I hear so many people say that a birthday is just another day. Probably even I have said that once or twice, but I didn’t really mean it– shame on me for saying it.

When we get to the point that we realize we have probably already lived more years than we have left and when we remember so many dear friends and loved ones who left us too young, we suddenly realize what another year of life really means. The American Cancer Society has deemed itself the official sponsor of birthdays; that alone speaks volumes of how precious each birthday should be.

I’ve heard people argue that the Bible never says anything about celebrating birthdays and that we shouldn’t make a big deal about the day we were born because it is somehow arrogant. I beg your pardon, but I DISAGREE.

If we expect that day to be all about us and what others can do for us on that day, then yes, that’s arrogant. But if we view the day as a reminder from God that He has blessed us with yet another year to live and do His will, then THAT is a good perspective.

I thank GOD for this birthday! I thank God for His blessings in my life. I choose to use my birthday to be with those I love the most and to reflect on just what God has meant to me in the past year. I also take stock of my life and become determined to make the next year an even more productive one for the Kingdom of God.

On June 6, 2012, I choose to praise my Maker and to practice His presence and to worship Him for WHO HE IS. He is the one who planted me in my mother’s womb, brought me forth with health and started me on my way. His blessings have been poured out so abundantly on me that I just can’t tell it all! He called me, He chose me, He filled me with His precious Spirit and He loves me unconditionally. There is no better birthday present than that.

I thank Him for the hubster choosing to take a day off work so that he can be with me nonstop on my special day. I told him not to, but he insisted. After a few hours of sleep upon coming home from a long night at work tomorrow morning, he will be mine to command! Bring me my favorite food, scratch my back, play Skip-Bo with me, watch a chick flick with me, cheer for the Yankees with me (not gonna happen–ha ha!).

Okay, now I’m getting arrogant, thinking the day is all about me–ha ha!

Seriously, having that kind, thoughtful and adoring man near me all day and night will be a superdeedooper present. (Speaking of presents, I might go peek in the drawer where he hid those packages that came in the mail! Nah, surely I can wait until morning!)

I thank Him that my little kiddies will be with me all day and night, too! They will run and jump into bed with me early in the morning and be so excited to give me the presents and cards they have made. Malachi couldn’t hold back any longer today and gave me his present a bit early–a heart-shaped rock painted red on one side, blue on the other. Abigail followed suit and gave me a rock she had painted for me–pink and purple and blue and other lovely colors and dots.

I thank God that my other two daughters may go out to eat with me tomorrow (one of them called and mentioned that anyway). Both of them have already wished me happy birthday while I’ve been typing this after midnight! They have always made every birthday precious to me just by remembering me and being near.

I thank God that my mother wants to take me out to eat tomorrow, too. I REALLY want to see her–the woman who laboriously gave birth to me at age 19 at the exact same SECOND that another woman was giving birth in Danbury at Stokes-Reynolds Memorial Hospital! Dr. Jack Fowler said that had never happened up there to his knowledge (small hospital, you know). My mama always told me that special story, and I wondered what had happened to that other little girl born at 10:55 a.m. on June 6.

Well, guess what?! When I was taking Driver’s Ed, on my very first day of in-car training, I was placed in the back seat with a tall blond girl named Debbie Whitt from King. We began to chat while we waited for Mr. Leonard, and we freaked out when we realized we were the two record-setting baby girls who had been born at the exact same second in Danbury! Her mother had told her the same story! We are now Facebook friends, and she messaged me last week about how special we were–ha ha!

I thank God that I can stay home on my birthday and enjoy the day–made possible by my unselfish hubster who insisted that I quit my job last fall (as I had desired to do) and follow my dreams of Christian ministry, raising children and writing books. I plan to play games, watch movies, eat good food, play on Facebook, read a good book, fellowship with family and have a prayer/praise session that raises the roof off this little house!

And I thank Him for the little things that I hope to enjoy on this birthday–a cool spring day when June is often already so hot, the barking of my sweet hero beagle Rocky Balboa, the smell of my vanilla lotion when I put it on, the thought that–God willing–I will see Derek Jeter and my beloved NY Yankees in Atlanta next week, reading the poem “And What Is So Rare As a Day in June,” the beautiful black horse in the lush green meadow behind my house, the sound of my children’s voices all around me, the hubster’s corny yet hilarious jokes, some kind of ice cream treat and who knows what else?!

My birthday advice to me and to you: Life is short–yea, even a vapor. Even the Good Book says so. Go for the gusto. Remember the blessings He has showered on you during the last year of life. Thank Him for what He’s doing right NOW and for simply Who He is. Look ahead to whatever life you have left with the mindset of following Him more closely and walking in divine order. Celebrate His wonderful gift of life by making a difference in this world.

Carpe diem (seize the day!)

My romantic getaway

Right about now, I am like a balloon pumped full of helium–ready to pop from all of the exciting stuff within me. You see, for the first time in my life, I’ve planned a romantic getaway. I am taking the hubster off somewhere (I can’t spill the beans, because he reads my blog!) in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

I see that man every day. Despite the difficulties of third shift, we manage to be together in some capacity daily–whether it’s just sitting on the couch watching SportsCenter or riding with the other one wherever he/she has to go just so we can be together. But every now and then, it’s nice to have a special, out-of-the-ordinary time together–a time when the TV doesn’t compete for our attention, when the kids aren’t running all around us, when the to-do list doesn’t get done.

It’s the same way with our God. Yes, we are with Him every day. In Him, we live and move and have our being. I’m sure we manage to find time daily–despite our busy lifestyles–to have prayer and/or Bible study. We even “give Him” a couple of hours on Sunday morning and maybe some time on Sunday and Wednesday nights. But it’s nice every now and then to spend a special day with Him–a time for just the two of you to be together, the way you would steal away for a romantic encounter (of the moral kind!) in the natural.

That’s what I did yesterday.

I didn’t plan it, I’m sorry to say. I get so caught up in my busy life that I think I “can’t afford” not to be productive every single day. Well, maybe I “can’t afford” not to occasionally leave behind the workaday world and just soak in Him.

My “romantic encounter” with my Bridegroom evolved as a result of a nasty virus that has tried to attack me for over a week. It hasn’t latched on, thank God, but it has played a game of tennis with me–back and forth, a day of feeling better, a day of feeling under attack again. After feeling particularly challenged and exhausted by this bug on Monday night, I decided to take a mental/physical health day on Tuesday. I had heard people use the “mental health day” term for years but had honestly never taken such a day off.

Tuesday is the day the kids are with their daddy, since it used to be my press day at the newspaper, and the hubster sleeps much of the day. That leaves me alone to teach piano lessons, write newspaper stories, run errands, etc.

Well, this particular Tuesday, it seemed as if my loving Savior orchestrated the day’s events just for me to be with Him. All three Tuesday piano students canceled for a variety of reasons. I found that to be too unusual to be coincidental. So for once, my common sense prevailed, and I made the decision to simply rest for the day.

It was not easy.

I itched to clean out a filing box or two. I wanted to continue my new health regimen and go walking all through the neighborhood. I thought of a zillion and one things I needed to do around the house. But I contented myself with just a few necessary chores–doing a load of laundry, distilling a gallon of water, making some long-neglected phone calls.

And you know what? I had a marvelous day! I actually took time to read a book–a fabulous juvenile fiction book that my son had begged me to read. I dozed on the couch for a while in the afternoon. I took a long, hot shower.

But most of all, I communed with my Maker. His presence was supremely real to me all day long. It was as if He and I had scheduled this time to be alone with each other.

The house was almost totally silent, with just the faint whir of the hubster’s fan in the bedroom and the ticking of the clock audible–comfortable little sounds. The sunshine poured in through the living room window. The very atmosphere was pregnant with His presence.

I knelt/lay in the floor for a while, just soaking in the river of His essence. Meanwhile, my computer played for me worship songs such as Kari Jobe’s “Revelation Song” and Christ for the Nations’ “So Beautiful”–peaceful, lovely songs of praise. I couldn’t get enough of Him.

I took a comfy chair down to the creek bank in the backyard and sat there facing the afternoon sun, hearing the refreshing bubbling of the creek as it meandered toward the mighty Dan River not far away. I opened my Bible to the middle, hoping to land on a Psalm that would match my mood.

It opened to Psalm 19 which seemed absolutely perfect for my natural outdoor setting:

Lower Cascades, Hanging Rock (Photo by Monty Stevens)

“1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
   night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
   no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
   their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
 5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
   like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
   and makes its circuit to the other;
   nothing is deprived of its warmth.

Lower Cascades, Hanging Rock (Photo by Melinda Ring)

 7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
   refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
   making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
   giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
   giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
   enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
   and all of them are righteous.

 10 They are more precious than gold,
   than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
   than honey from the honeycomb. . .”

All too soon, my romantic getaway with my Lord was over. I had to work that night, covering the Walnut Cove town meeting and writing the stories from it.

But I was all the better both physically and mentally for the day I had spent focusing on Him. His presence provided times of refreshing, as the Scripture says it does (Acts 3:19).

I still smile when I recall yesterday. My sigh of recollection is a satisfied one. I know I’ll feel the same way when the hubster and I get back from our Valentine’s getaway. I’ll smile when I remember the time we spent together. I’ll feel all mushy inside when I recall the love we shared–just the two of us. And our relationship will be stronger for it.

So why do we see the wisdom in doing this in the natural with our spouses but not in the spiritual with our Lord? I’m not talking about drawing aside for a time of prayer; we should do that every day. I’m talking about marking off a whole day on the calendar to be drenched in His love and Spirit, with no outside interruptions.

Maybe you can only do it once a year, maybe once a month. But I encourage you to go for it. It’ll be a day you won’t soon forget–a sabbatical that strengthens your relationship with Him and brings you forth refreshed!

Try it; you’ll like it!

(Click on the link below to hear one of the songs that helped bring me into His presence yesterday!)

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