Thursday, November 11, 2010

Coming Home (from Viet Nam 1971)

The screech of the tires echoed in my memory as the airplane finally landed on the runway at Indianapolis International Airport. My heart was throbbing unrelentlessly in my throat as the realization that I was finally home became apparent. Soon I was to be reunited with Joyce and Michael and my family. Feelings of joy, and fear and relief flushed over me with nervous enthusiasm.
For most of the trip home from Viet Nam, in my display of almost debilitating anticipation I began to hum and softly sing,”I’m gittin married in the morning, ding dong the bells are gonna chime…” It seemed weird even to me but for some reason it seemed to settle my nerves and kept me from bursting out in tears. From the time I arrived in country and began the 365 day countdown to going home, nearly every moment and every conversation concerned how much longer before we are home. Each night when we hit the bunk and each morning when we got our wakeup call, time was right there with no relief from the anxiety of wanting to be home. Finally the time had arrived and I was about to step foot on American soil.
As I nearly galloped down the ramp to the waiting area, I stretched to see a familiar face. There they were huddled with faces that spoke with the radiance of the love I needed to see and feel after such an ordeal.
It seemed our hearts beat in rhythm as we all managed to hug and kiss and release an almost simultaneous breath of relief. I had been around babies enough to realize Michael may look at me as a stranger. After all I left when he was just two months old and now he was over a year old. But he let me hold him almost as if somehow he remembered my face and how much I loved him. The touch of his baby soft skin and the grasp his tiny hand gave my finger, almost made my heart melt in a puddle on the floor.

When we were preparing to come home, one of our instructions out of many was to wear civilian cloths and try to be inconspicuous. I had been sheltered somewhat from the news for this year but I still was aware how unpopular the Viet Nam War was and how some had gone to the extreme of blaming us GI’s for all the terrible things that had gone wrong with the war effort. Some returning GI’s had been attacked or at least threatened by the “war protesters”. I was probably too naive to be afraid. But I also knew enough about the war not to expect a hero’s welcome except from my family.
Upon return and even to this day, I have issue with placing myself in the same ranks as the young men and woman who actually fought with face to face combat. I was an administrative assistant and my weapon of choice was an electric typewriter. The possibilities of attack and injury was there for anyone and at any place while I was there, but I didn’t spend the year in constant fear for my life. We were for the most part pretty well isolated within the perimeter of our base. I did spend several sleepless nights hovering under my bunk as the obnoxious alert horn blared throughout our base.
It could be heard on a pretty regular schedule, especially around holidays.
It was no time before I arrived back in Rushville and began to nestle back into living life as a husband and father. Before I left the country, we packed everything we owned into the back of a rented u-haul trailer and traveled from upstate New York to a tiny one bedroom upstairs apartment in Rushville Indiana, my hometown, just a few blocks from my mom and dad. The apartment was owned by a retired school teacher, Ruth Ray, who happened to live downstairs. Somehow having her close at hand made Joyce’s living their alone less threatening. It was Joyce’s desire to demonstrate her independence that kept her from moving in with either of our parents. Joyce was just twenty and just learning how to be a mother and a wife and how to take care of herself. She had gone from living with her parents to living with me for one short year to fending for herself and her baby in a strange house and a strange town. If any metals were to be given out for this war effort, she definitely should get some metal of honor for her courage and determination and survival skills displayed in that year during the Viet Nam War.

Being a parent of three boys now makes me so very aware of how my parents must have felt for that seemingly endless year that I was gone. They thankfully took my wife and child under their wing and gave much needed support than and now. But their hearts must have ached with sorrow and fear not knowing on a day to day basis whether I was safe or not. Even though I constantly reminded them that where I was seemed pretty safe. The barrage of pictures of boys coming home in body bags on the television had to impede any relief from fear , knowing I was so close to this battle. The families of the GI’s that came home in body bags I am sure received metals and flags to honor their sons and daughters . What about the families of the survivors? They so deserved some reward for the time their family member served. Like Joyce I am confident my mom and dad deserved a metal for that year I served. But the reality is I am sure they felt having me home safe was reward enough.

As I recall, I never had a lot of questions asked about my time over there. It was almost as if to say, “you are back now and safe, let’s just get on with life.” But getting on with life is never that simple is it. Now as I write this I feel confident that I suppressed a lot of feelings on that day. Feelings about the war and all the questions that still go unanswered.

I know now I am proud to be a veteran. I am even proud to be a Viet Nam Veteran. Somehow it seems when I stand up as a veteran, I am not really standing for myself as much as I am standing for all those guys that can not stand. So many young men and woman served our country over the years, many losing their lives for our freedom. It continues for me to be a humble honor to be small part of such an Honorable group.


Monday, November 1, 2010

FOR THOSE WHO KNEW ME By Stephen J. Jeffries
A poem for Breeliegh, a tiny baby that was born into the family of good friends, arriving early and only lived 4 days but touched the lives of many. Even in tragedy , God can speak to us about love and the value of each breath of life.

Too soon I came,
Too soon I reached my tiny hand out.
Out into the harsh sun lite world.
But I could not reach far enough
or high enough to breath the
clean fresh air of living.
I looked up, up to the loving faces
ready to welcome me into their lives.
I reach out, out to an unknown world
ready to test my very being.
I could feel each prayer
lifting me up
Hoping beyond hope
Loving beyond love
But this was not my day
this was not my time to enter.
My life thou short gives hope to others
Hope and joy,
Each beat my heart took
will echo in the lives of those
who knew me.
My heart stands still
but love lives on in those
who knew me.
I was blessed o be a blessing,
if even for a moment,by those
who knew me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Walk into the Forest. by Stephen J. Jeffries
Standing in the middle of the forest,

Feet firmly planted on the crisp and crunchie pathway
That leads home.

The last leaf is layered like a carpet
beneath the tall oak tree
bowing to it's magesty and grandeur.

Remembering lush green days of springtime,
flitering and fluttering in the breeze.

Remembering the tapistry of color weaving
its heart through the landscape

so rich in hue that only God's palette could hold
the rich and regal spectrum we call fall.
I look up, up up up to that one lone leaf hanging on,
not quite ready to give into winter winds.

With arms stretched up to heaven,
the tall oak trees points to God pointing back at them.

Listen! Listen!
In the silence of the Forest I hear God's symphony
sounding the song of nature.

I hear the the thump thump thump
of a loving heart feeling the presence of God.

The presents of God,
wrapped in brightly colored ribbons, ready to be unwrapped.

The hymn is clear and simple,
God is in this moment and this moment is in God.

Into Autumn

Into Autumn Stephen Jeffries 2010
I remember Spring time, 
                               ..    .when all the blind and
fresh beginnings,
           were just that, ........beginning.

Seeds were planted, one by one 
                                    ....., some in shallow soil ,
others set deeply in the rich and fertile ground 
.....we call life.

Dreamie youthful springtime, fresh and full of hope,
for tomorrow's living was about to                                                                springforth....... and be.

I remember Summertime, when hopes fulfilled, I stretched out
on the cool and silkie grass

and looked to God's heaven, escapeing into the fluffy clouds

The sun lite beams of glory that almost blinds me,
as it saunders through the outstreached tree limb
                           gives my face a warm embrace
the world is right and I am in it.
Summertime carresses my soul, as I walk barefoot in the
meadows of living..................just living.
So glad the journey is not alone,
so glad my life is filled with love and laughter
and lingering smells of springtime.
But snap!!! I must arise and commence to sew and weed
and become what God intended me to be.
I jouney to the summer mountain, through the uncleared trail ,
sometimes exhausted
                                but reaching toward the top .

I may never reach the peak of my existance but I will have journeyed,
                I will have reached for God's promise.
When Authumn springs upon us,
like the heavy morning dew rests on a blade of tender grass.

It rests solidly on my shoulders,
weighting each footstep causing a breath of gasps.
We were warned , but still, when it arrived,
pretending not to be shocked......
                                                    we were shocked.
Autumn leaves fall gently, gracing each.                                                                                footprint,
               like a patchwork quilt of beauty
guilding me into the winter of our existance.

The soft sounds of Springtime,
                   the loud parade of summer sirens,
are but a scrapbook of memories.

Autumn is upon us, and I embrace it and feel .

With winter wind swiping across my neck, I am so afraid,
Afraid of an uncertain existance.
Afraid the storms will slow my heart
and cause a stumble in my walk.
Afraid the springtime vision of the branches of my tree
will be hidden in the depths of winter's expectations.

I have a choice..
lay down and bury love beneath the quilted leaves of fall
                      and just wait..
                                    for winter's sure to come.

or Stand up and wrap myself in the warmth of living
          and loving and believing.

Believing that God and love will fill the empty spaces of my heart
                      and lead me into winter's journey.

I choose life.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Birth of The Acorn Tree-25 years

This year, The Acorn Tree is proud to celebrate it's 25th year of business. Looking back the last 25 years seems to be a big blur of people, of places of memories . Like most people, my business , The Acorn Tree, has become a part of who I am as a person. I am reminded of this when I go to Walmart and cash a business check and the cashier says "Thank you Mr. Acorn, for shopping at Walmart."
I have noticed lately that where ever I go I don't feel entirely dressed if I am not wearing an Acorn Tree shirt. In fact my grand daughter. Khloe, asked me if I had my shirt on backwards or wrong side out because she could not see the Acorn Tree logo on a new shirt I recently purchased.
As I approach retirement age, I ask myself could I survive not being "The Acorn Tree Man". I have asked myself that many times over the years, especially when we discussed the possibility of closing the shop door and getting a "real" job, as my brother used to say.
My faith, my family, my personality are so intertwined with my business that I am quite sure if this was taken away from me tomorrow, I would end up in the "loonie bin", as if I don't need a little visit there anyway.
If you were to trace the origin of my business, I supposed you would need to go back before 1985, back to the 1950's when I started working in my Dad's shop in Rushville. He was a Mr. Fix it right up to the day he died. Sweepers, Washers, electrical, plumbing, whatever he found broken, he managed to screw, bolt or duct tape together. Before I could look over the counter, I stood along side him, after school, sweeping, inventorying, crawling under houses, holding his flashlight. I found a picture this week of his front window that I had set up and decorated with antiques for an "old fashion days" sale. In one of the early shops, there were several over the years, I built a small "photo studio" with my little Kodak Brownie camera and some sheets for a backdrop.
Probably another sure sign that I would eventually end up where I am was my after school adventures. This was even before working in my Dad's shop. I lived in a neighborhood where there were lots of kids but I was shy and could never seem to find a "best friend". My mom worked so I was a latchkey kid most of the time. While the neighbor kids were playing ball, I was setting up a lemon aid stand. Of course my stand would usually evolve into a "restaurant" with cookies and peanut butter sandwiches and anything else I could sneak out of mom's refrigerator. I would also put together many circuses, once with a roll coaster fashioned from a long loading ramp, the kind with a series of "roller skate" wheels that I "borrowed" from the neighborhood grocery. I sold the miracle suave from the back of a magazine, the kind you send away for and are guaranteed to become a millionaire over night.
Not sure if this counts as a business but I remember my older brother paying me to leave while he "entertained' a girl at the house after school. I took the money and quickly rounded up the neighbor kids and charged them to peek in the window as my brother "necked" on the couch. "necking" back than was a big deal. I am sure this was the first sign that I was destined to be an business person.
I was the last of three sons, growing up in a family that was supported by my Dad's business and the minimum wage my mother made working in sales. I was not aware at the time but money was often scarce, when business was down. My dads big heart often meant customers would get their repairs for free or on the payment plan. By the time I graduated from High School, things were better and mother insisted that I go somewhere to school. She would have insisted that my brothers go also to college but their circumstances were such that this would not happen.
Knowing that college was expensive, I choose International Business college, in Fort Wayne. After all somewhere buried deep in my personality, I knew I would some day be in business of some sort. I always knew I was not interested in my Dad's business, I was never a "fixer". My interests lie in the visual and the creative side of living and in service to others. I remember, when I came home after school, pretending to entertain guests and imagined throwing parties for my parents and my family. In college I somehow became the chairman of the decoration committee for the annual school dance. It was held in the Scottish Rite building in Fort Wayne and was one of my proudest successes in life and was done like I had been doing events all my life.
When I graduated from school I was hit face first with the Viet Nam war. As long as I was eligible for the draft no employer would even talk to me. I quickly choose to try and beat the draft by joining the Air Force. The summer of 1967 was one of the longest in my life as I spent it waiting to go into the Air Force in the fall, fearing that I would be drafted before that. Sure enough I got my notice to take my army physical in June or July. My recruiter hurried up my paperwork and I got to basic training in San Antonio just in time. I can only imagine how my life would have changed if I had been drafted into the army.
It was not long after I joined the air force until I was decorating USO dances and helping to set up parties and programs. I designed a float for the Rome New York Festival parade. When I was finally sent to Viet Nam in 1970 I was again in charge of decorating the stage for the big day when Miss America would come to entertain the troops.
When I got home from Viet Nam, Joyce and I settled in Greenfield, Indiana. I became a loan office manager. This was not my favorite job but it put food on our table and taught me a lot about people and myself. Calling to collect unpaid bills, repossessing furniture and cars, all made a big impact on me.
Later I came to work for a mom and pop jewelry store, Miller's Jewelry Store.. When Mr. Miller came to me and offered me a job and an opportunity to someday take over his business, I was completely caught off guard. What in the heck did I know about jewelry The only jewelry I had ever purchased was Joyce's wedding set , that I got from the Base Exchange. I did buy rings for myself as a teenager from my uncle in Rushville, but I knew nothing about diamonds and gold.
I was convinced that the only thing I possibly could offer Mr. Miller was decorating his front window. I took the job and eleven years later was proud to be thought of as a jeweler and diamond appraiser. This job became my ideal occupation. I felt like I thrived and flourished. I learned to buy and appraise jewelry. I learned so much from Mr. Miller and his vast experience in business and was certain my life was complete. That was until Mr. Miller's family stepped up and became interested in the business and almost over night the "adopted son and daughter" that Joyce and I had become seemed to evolve into the "step child" that had no place in the family. I was angry and disappointed but determined to somehow survive. I guess in my mind this was the actual birth of The Acorn Tree.
It was not until years later when the Jewelry store was ravaged with fire that I was reunited with Mr. Miller and all the anger and disappointment disappeared or at least was forgotten. After that and until his death we were close friends. He would almost always cry and concede his regrets for letting me go all those years ago and I would console him and remind him that I had no regrets or hard feelings and that starting The Acorn Tree was the right thing for me to do.
I remember as vividly as if it were yesterday, standing in the rear of the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church in Cumberland. It was Christmas time and the large Christmon tree was ablaze with tiny lights and hand made ornaments, each a different symbol of Christ.
It must have been a candle lite service as I remember all the Meyer Mill Oak lanterns being lite in the beautiful lead glass windows that engulf the whole sanctuary. It seemed even the oak pews, hand made by the Amish years before sparkled as a reminder of all the loving people that had set in them over the years. My heart was filled with such a spirit and I thought to myself, If I could just bottle this feeling, the feeling I got from seeing all the handcrafted things in our place of worship, it would make a great business and God would provide for our family.
.Why The Acorn Tree?? This was easy. Our best friends than and now are the Meyer's of The Meyer Mill Oak Lantern Company. Now evolved into Judy"s Oak Weddings. One of the first gifts Joyce gave me for Christmas that made me cry was one of their lanterns. After that we worked for them selling their products in homes or at the State Fair and decorating their window. We filled our home with oak and soon the symbolization of the might oak tree came to mean a lot of our family. Whether thinking of the tree or the tiny acorn, the symbols seemed to fit us as a beginning or seed to growing a business.
Our first shop was a wooden structure built by Alva Meyer on the sidewalk in front of his downtown building during Riley Days. Our second shop was in our home on East Street, first the side room and finally half of the living room. It was not long until we moved into the old Carnegie Li bray basement. Setting up shop not only seemed natural, I think I had spent my life preparing for this time.
Defining who you are as a business seems to be the most important part. After 25 years I am not sure I have done a great job of that. Our goal was to be a handmade , American made shop influenced by our faith in God. To this day when asked what The Acorn Tree is I still stumble with words and ideas.
I was still employed by Miller's Jewelry when my sister in law traveled from Rome, New York to Greenfield to pick out her engagement ring. It was not long after that she ask me to do her wedding flowers. After showing off my first attempt at making a bridal bouquet, I received a phone call from Mr. Miller's neighbor that said I hear you "do weddings" . From that first wedding in a little country church to the variety of locations I have seen in 25 years, I can't say this was less or more of a beautiful wedding.Each and every step from putting the flowers together to decorating the church to getting the bride down the aisle, seemed to be a natural gift from God. I ended up doing five weddings for this first family, some twice due to divorce.
My first weddings were decorated with Meyer Mill Oak Lanterns. To me it was a natural thing to do as I already felt that Alva's handmade oak was tied to my feelings of spirituality. In using only oak, I felt that I set myself apart from other florists, I had so many Meyer Mill products and soon ask Alva to make me a set of Abra's in oak. I still remember how disappointed and hurt I was the day the Meyers told me I could no longer use their oak for weddings. This was the end of oak Acorn Tree weddings but the beginning of Judy's Oak Weddings as it now has become. The wedding business has become a beautiful and integral part of the Meyer's business and I am sure many people would agree a great asset to our community.
Without the oak, I at first had thought of quitting. But soon I was encouraged to go on. At first creativity was a necessity. Two washing machine agitators painted green with electrical conduit from my dad's shop became an arch. Two medal coat racks became my candle abras. I rented equipment from Marjorie Ellis who now owns the Victorian Rose. It was with the help of a lot of good friends that I was able to go on with my wedding business.
The wedding business progressed on from there to be a major part of what The Acorn Tree finally became. I love the hand crafted gift business, but necessity and finances led us to pare down our inventory and concentrate our efforts on weddings and events and of course the tuxedo rental business.
When I look back and think about all the couples we have helped begin their married life , I am pleased and proud to have been even a small part of their lives. To me marriage has always been the ultimate worship service and to be allowed to be involved in the planning and presentation and celebration. has been a great source of joy. I have laughed and cried at so many weddings, each unique with memories standing on their own.
The worst I ever cried at a wedding was as I watched a beautiful bride walk down the aisle just days after her father had passed away. Another time I balled as I heard a young bride practice singing "wind beneath my wings" in the back room before she was to walk down the aisle and sing to her groom. Tears have never been a choice for me, they are just part of who I am I guess.
I could never pick out the most unique wedding. The wedding I did in a Villa in Galveston Texas was a highlight, but so was my children's weddings, each different, each unique in their own way. I have done Christian, Bahia, Hindu, Catholic, civil, gay Christian,. I have setup in the Greenfield Senior Center turning a sewing machine into an alter,, St Peters and Paul Cathedral, The Statehouse Rotunda, Scottish Rite Cathedral, Marriott's, Omnis, Sheridan's, Union Station, back yards front yards , living rooms, the Indianapolis Zoo, Conner's Prairie, Indiana, New york, Florida, each location unique on its own.
One of my favorite wedding stories was my sister in law's wedding in upstate New York. It was mid afternoon on the day of her wedding and I was at the pulpit practicing the songs I was to sing at the wedding. When I finished I turned around and started putting on the altar flowers I had brought from home. I noticed a couple setting out in the pews while I sang but did not think too much about it until the stood up and with a confused look ask me who I was. Was I the singer, the florist or what. I told them I was about to leave and go help set up the reception. But really I was their jeweler , I sold them their wedding rings. They laughed and of course still looked confused.
It has been easy, rewarding, fulfilling and , inspiring, to get to know people and share this most awesome time of their lives. I may not always remember the details of each wedding or even the names of the couple but I remember the smiles and the look of love that is shared on their wedding day.
I get sad when I think that someday there might not be The Acorn Tree. I don't say that in an arrogant way but in a proud way of knowing what I hope the name of my business means . When I think that I am my business and my business is me, I really think my business is more that me and has taken on a life of it's own. It is more and better than I can hope to be. I sometimes find myself feeling unworthy. I am nearly 63 years old and I think I have earned the right to question myself and my business. In my faith I have learned that being a good Christian is all about asking the questions and knowing full well that we can only have faith that God has the answers . In business I am not always as good about asking the questions. I am not sure I always want to hear the answers.
I believe that our country was founded on the principals of small business. I believe that you must be a little crazy to own your own business but I believe that it is Crazy with a Capital "C" and I would not want to be any less crazy. I am not the very best example of a business that has been outstandingly successful, but in my own way I am successful and hopefully will continue to be a good example of what it means to be self employed. Like I said before, owning your own business can be overwhelming and totally consuming and yet rewarding and fulfilling. Twenty five years have come and gone too quickly just as my sixty three years have. If I were to give one piece of valuable advice , don't put off starting that business or that painting or that book you have always wanted to write. Do all the things that you dream about now. I guarantee you that your life will speed by just as mine has.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Working on Sunday by Stephen J. Jeffries
Growing up in a small town Baptist church, I was taught early at church and at home that working on Sunday was highly discouraged. Aftet all Sunday was the Lord's day and kind of like the Sabboth except not on Saturday like the Bible said.
I remember being confused but unquestioning and making this a pattern in my life.
Sundays became a ritual as was most of my life growing up. My very earliest memories were of our family getting up early for Sunday School and church, going home to fried chicken or meatloaf, watching my dad nap in his recliner, rushing off to Baptist Youth Fellowship, and Sunday night church service. It was a full day and there would never be a time to do much work evfen if we wanted too. I remember wondering if mom cooking our dinner should be considered a sin but I guess cooking meals was not considered real "work".
When I left home, not only did I experinence sudden freedom, my life as I knew it was completly turned upside down. When I moved to Fort Wayne, my first housing was a YMCA. I had no transportation so if I was to think about going to church, it had to be in walking distance of the "Y". All I ever knew was an American Baptist church and I found out earlyon that the American Baptist church was way on the other side of town. It would be impossible to travel there. I thought of calling and asking
My parents were paying my way but I felt if I was do anything outside of school I needed spending money so I took a job in the YMCA Cafateria. This was good but it also meant I had to work on Sundays. Along with being taught to not work on Sunday, I was also taught work ethic and the need to honor and respect your employer. I was not about to complain about the Sunday hours and besides how was I suppose to get to church anyway.
Now this cafateria was probably pretty tipical of intercity resturants. One thing I learned early was that during the weekdays it was a completely differant resturante than it was on Sunday. During the week we served a variety of people, mostly those that worked downtown or exersised at the "Y". On Sunday we became the local after church buffet. The clientel was almost 100 percent church people.
The atmosphere went from impersonal matter of fact to warm friendly and expecially joyful. We learned quickly that not only did we sometimes get a tip or two from this group, we had fun and became friends with many of the customers.
As I think about this experience all these years later, I know now that this was my Sunday "church" experience. The warm feeling,the joyous atmosphere sometimes gave me more than I would have received from a Sunday morning sermon. I was blessed by getting to service and attend to some of God's children.
Learning to feel good about serving others I think now probably was the foundation for my desire to serve others now. I am happiest when I can "wait" on someone else whether it is at a church dinner or when my family and I cater an event or wedding.
A hold over to being raised to not work on Sunday was always questioned by my children and my wife. I would never allow my boy's to mow the grass on Sunday. They complained and argued and often ignored my wishes. But I held tight to my choice to not mow the grass on Sunday.
To my family and maybe to others this seemed inconsistant and hipicrital as most people knew on occasion I worked on Sunday. But now I am here to tell the truth behind the reasoning for not allowing Sunday lawn mowing.
One of my earliest memories was sitting in the old First Baptist Church on Morgan street in Rushville . Our family always set in the same pew, right side four rows back. This was before air conditioning and the windows had been cranked wide to allow the Summer breeze. It was near the end of the sermon and suddenly I heard the roar of the neighbor's power lawnmower. Was this the same lady that on many occasions laid out on Sunday morning in her two piece bathing suit soaking up the rays of God's great sun, almost out of sight of this curious eight year old.
I could see a look of anger in my mother's face and I vowed to myself that day, never ever to envolk that anger in my mohter or to take the chance of disturbing someone else's time in church. Mowing on Sunday became a symbol of disrespect for a day of worship. To my children's dismay it was never about "working" on Sunday.
In my lifetime I have had several opportunities to take a job were I had to work on Sunday. I always considered what my mom would say about it but usually did not hesitate to take the job. I almost always took time while working to consider that the people I met while working on Sunday might just be my "sermon" for the day or that I might somehow become theirs. If I did not learn anything else during the early days of working on Sunday, I do know in my heart that worship and celebration of God's love is not confined to one hour on Sunday, one place or building or one spiritual practice or denomiation.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Silence--after 9-11

It was a Wed. night as we sat in silent prayer in our sanctuary. The towers had just fallen in New York City and the Pentagon had been attacked. Wyatt and his family had just arrived at our church and had called this special prayer service as much for his own feelings of fear and loss as for his new congregation.
We were all visually shook and as we prayed fervently for those involved in the this tragedy, for our country and of course for ourselves we sat in lingering silence. In the back someone had come in and sat in a back pew. They had a small child and in the midst of this solemn time this child mumbled and chattered breaking the silence.
Having been in this situation with my own children, I knew how the parent must have felt. Before this parent could possibly consider taking the child out, Wyatt spoke up. I don’t remember now if he spoke in prayer to God or in a statement to us. I don’t remember his exact words but I will never forget what his words meant to me as I sat there in tears filled with emotion.
He made it clear that the sound of this child in this very sanctuary was the purpose and reason for this prayer service. More than that , this interruption in our silence was what freedom, and faith and love and family is all about.
We have recently noticed some breaks in our silence here at Cumberland Baptist. The recent increase in children in our Sunday worship has brought with it a certain amount of chaos and clamor. I will admit I broke down and cried a few Sunday’s ago when so many children came forward for Kevin’s children’s story. It certainly struck a cord in my heart and reminded me of past times when our church was larger. But more than that it reinstated hope that our church was going to survive and be here in the future to continue what we have started.
We can hope for an increase in the number of folk in our pews but with out children to teach and nourish and pass on a faithful legacy to, our church could not possibly dream of a future.
As a grandparent, I cherish the chaos my grandkids bring to my life. It gives new purpose for me as person and I can hardly imagine my life without them.. As a church we need to cherish the children we are so blessed to have in our midst and continue to cultivate our church life to always have a place that makes these children feel at home. Thank God for broken silence!
Stephen Jeffries

Other Self

Two faces stand before the door,
naked and vulnerable.
They plead, first softly than a scream
To be admitted and to admit.
Born into a world
that told me who to be,
Born into a world
that kept me locked inside.
I always felt the shadow,
the warm breath on my neck
invisable but ever present,ever near.
But still I kept him hidden, in the billows of my heart.
So easy to hide,.......... that otherself
,just close my eyes and be what they expect.
But now I know each moment
hidden In the fog
two faces escapes into the night.
Come out ture self, come out and join the journey.
Believe that those who meet you first,
will bring you home to stay.
I love you dear self,
I love you and I will protect.


Mother by Stephen J. Jeffries
She lay eye open,
one eye shut
almost awake......but not quite.
She knew me.
She clutched my hand.....almost tight
but not quite.
She knows it is her time,
and she is ready and not afraid of what is ahead.
She is dying as she lived, with dignity and strength
.......... one step at a time.
I felt her hand, warm soft
so glad to be held
and so glad to be holding.
As she lay there half asleep,........... half awake
....... I fought back my tears
It was all it could do
not to curl up on her bosam
like a newborn carresses his mother.
It was all I could do
not to grab her frail little body up into my arms,
cuddled and cradled
like a father caresses his child.
Each moment,,,,,each second,,,,each word became a monument.
The clock is sweeping my breath away with each toc,
The faith she willed me strength and assurance
that all is well.
I will cry. I will morn.
but today I will celebrate!!!
a woman,
a sister,
a mother,
................a friend.
Jackson's Poem
She called me her "sunshine" as I came into the room,
a little bit of light to fill a day of gloom..
She never failed to grab my hand
or say"I love you so."
I couldn't wait to kiss her cheek
and hug her to and fro.
She called me her "sunshine"
and I know it to be true
cause each time I saw great grandma
her eyes would really glow
Like the sun on summer days
they twinkle and they flash
I hope I filled her heart with light
to hold her to the last.

If I Die Tomarrow for My Mother

If I Die Tomorrow as written for Marie Jeffries by her loving son Stephen
If I to die tomorrow,
I would be happy.
Not happy to die,
but so very happy…
to have lived.
To have loved.
To have been loved.
If I to die tomorrow,
My life would be complete.
Not finished,
No I would never be finished with
and loving
And caring.
I will surly take that task with me to the grave,
And beyond.
If I die tomorrow,
I leave no gold or silver.
My only gift to you is
My strong will
My determination
My unwavering love for God.
And my constant love for my family.
If I die tomorrow
It’s OK to cry,
because I’ll miss you too.
But the day will come to stop crying
So stop crying and get on with life.
When you do stop crying
I won’t be far away.
Cause I plan on living in your hearts
As long as you live and breath and laugh.
Oh I’ll be with Jesus
But the Jesus I believe in also
lives in your heart.
If I die tomorrow
I’ll be somewhere between your heart and the golden streets of heaven…
The ultimate commute .
If I die tomorrow..
Don’t be afraid to look for me
If you don’t feel me in your heart….
Look for me in the faces of my grandchildren
Or in the ocean breeze
Or in the church
Or in the melody of that song you’re humming.
Find your own place to look
Cause chances are if you are there
I’ll be there also.
If I die tomorrow……..
I love you.
I love You
I love you.


Hope S Jeffries
I saw a tear roll down God's cheek today
as safe in her father's arms a child did lay.
Pushing and stretching to hold on to dear life,
we share her plight, each day each dark night.
When one falls victum to life's mundane tragadies
we all feel the pain of what our lot could be.
Hold up your brothers, your sisters in love
screams to be the message from God above.
Our stories are the same, we all have the chance.
Give reason to hope, give reason to dance.
A nurse's soft touch, a doctor's sheer smile
gives reason to hope,if for just a little while.
Give reason to hope, give reason to dance.
We all hold the power to heal in our hands.
Death can not conquer, it can not kill
The hope that is present ,in hearts that fill.


Through the misty pain of tears,
I call his name. God oh God.
You fill my heart, you overflow in to my very being
Just being. I’m filled with your warmth
Flowing into my breast, I know you are there,
I feel, I feel you , in my choked up throat
In the depths of my stomach.
I am engulfted in the sunlite of your loving heart.
In the breeze of this day, I can faintly smell the
sweat and persperasion on your brow.
Holding up the weighted past and future generations
only to be ignored or forgotton in the midst of
life and turmoil can only bend your arms low.
But you stand tall, like a beacon on a cold dark night.
You stand firm like the mountains lifting me up and shielding
me from the winds of life.
You blow through our lives like a wind, lifiting us above.
God,the creator, creating love in a loveless world
Asking only that we guard and guide His creation
for now and for eternity.
God you are like my mother, creating life and soul from within
your very being.
I call you father, oh father because that is where life has led me.
Whatever name I call you, whatever picture I paint of you in
my minds eye, is worth nothing unless I allow you live within
my soul.
The pain I feel, is your pain, The love I yearn for is your love
The spirit I treasure is your spirit
God oh God,
God oh god
God oh God.

Christmas 1970 Viet Nam

Christmas in Viet Nam 1970
Thirty Nine Christmas's ago, I woke up like many other Christmas mornings to a bright sunlite day. The sky seemed especially blue today and the sun especially bright. I knew I did not need to put on my winter clothes and that there was not a single chance of hoping for a "white Christmas". No, for me the reality of the day was that it was just another work day on the calender and any idea of a Hallmark Christmas was not a possiblity.
But even though this day was much the same as any day I had spent at Phu Cat Air Base in the Republic of Viet Nam, I felt differant. I felt differant from my smile all the way down to my belly. The feelings in the belly could have been the stale fudge I had snuck a bite of on Christmas Eve. Even though the world around me said business as usual, in my heart I felt that today was a very special day.
My job in the Air Force was administrative assistant to the squadron commander. I processed new people in and out of our squadron and prepared their awards and commendations. I was in charge of a room full of M-16 rifles and in the event they were required would be the one to distribute them to my fellow airman.
Christmas in Viet Nam, as well as any holiday for that matter, was always threatened with a motar or air attach. It seemed the enemy knew these were special American days and chose those days to sture things up. This day was no differant but I could not put a damper on how I felt inside.
I grew up with a pretty tradtional idea of what Christmas was to be like. I had a alluminum tree in my office but no tree in my room. I had received a care package of goodies from home. Usually when any food arrived it was tossed and thrown so much it was mostly crumbs. I will always remember the birthday cake Joyce tried to send to me. It gave new meaning to upside down cake. Joyce and mom had wraped up soap and fudge and I can not remember what else, but I saved them to open symbolically as my Christmas.
I spent the day looking forward to going to the Christmas night chapel service. Without the strong chapel program that we were blessed with the year I spent in Viet Nam would have been totally unbearable. But as it was I have many cherished memories of people and moments sitting in the A framed chapel celebrating God's love.
When the time finally came, a peace came over me and filled me with joy. Sitting in that pew, singing familar Christmas songs listening to the chaplins sermon became my moment of "Christmas" I knew than that I would never look at Christmas the same again. I knew that Christmas was not a time or a day or a place but something that arrives in your heart. It is a feeling, a joy, a moment of truth and clarity. We as indivdules and as a nation and probalby as a world put so much pressure on one solitary day, a solitary moment. We decorate, we cook, we shop, we party in a journey to a single moment in our lives. One little snag or family issue or even unexpected tradgedy can make that one single moment explode into a lifetime of pain. Christmas is about being reborn and new and full of God's love, as the baby Christ must have been on that first Christmas. But the baby Jesus must grow up and so must we. The moment of Christmas must fill our hearts on the day after Christmas as well as each moment in our lives. A former pastor called us The Christmas People. If we can become the people of Christmas, our lives would be complete and the purpose of Christmas would be fulfilled.
I will always remember that Christmas in Viet Nam not so much for what it was but for what it showed me about myself and the meaning of Christmas.


ByStephen J. Jeffries

Like a tiny seed,
gently pressed beneath the rich black earth,
we lie patiently waiting for the chance to touch the sunlight;
waiting to be the beautiful child of God's imagination.
Seeping silently into each pour and fibur of our soul,
you touch us , gently at first,
like a father carresses his babies brow,
than tighter to reassure our worth and
force our bud to sprout into the sky,
reaching for our potiential
reaching above the relm of possibilities.
We are born into beauty .
But beauty ceases to exist without
the eye's reflection proclaiming to our soul
"you are beautiful"
The rules of beauty only help to
color and coat that reflection
causing us to soon forget our worth,
soon blossoms fall and wither to the ground,
forgetting what it meant to be loved and to love.
Recall our everchanging beauty, proclaim it!
Declare it with word and deed ! So that we
may continue to sprout and blossom toward
the sacred sunlite and someday reach the heart of God.

A Bushel and a Peck and a Hug around the Neck

I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck .
Written for Khloe to her Great Grandma Marie
That …was the claim she made as I said good by to the
old lady in the wheel chair. Each time she struggled
to awkwardly hold me tight to her chest and kiss me
on the forhead, I could only guess how much love was
in a bushel and a peck. I knew she was special. I
knew she made me feel special. I didn’t know really
who she was. They called her mom and grandma and
great grandmother. I just knew she was the old
woman in the wheel chair.
Someday I hope I remember her. Someday I hope I
will know how much love is in a bushel and a peck. I
want to know why she loved me. I want to know why
she loved me so I can learn to love that much. I want
to know why she loved me so I can completely love
myself . I want to know why she loved me so I can
learn to love even more than a bushel and a peck and a
hug around the neck. I just hope I don’t have to wait
until I am “the old woman in the wheel chair“.

The great grand daughter