"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"

Luke 15:4-6

May 4, 2016

Happy Mother's Day


Every year for the Mother's Day newsletter, I always have problems thinking about what to write. I feel obligated to write something related to mothers, but then I think, "What in the world do I know about being a mom, considering I have no kids!?" So this year, I'm just going to ramble and share some memories.

I have written many times about my own mama. As you all probably know by this time, she was diagnosed with colon cancer when I was age 7 and passed away when I was 15. But those eight years were filled with many memories; not just about the kind of person that Mama was, but about how she interacted with her daughters, husband, siblings, other family members and friends. She was well loved and respected by all!

Mama was an excellent cook, and instilled in her girls those same country, down-home cooking skills. I enjoy cooking for other people; whether it be cooking a meal for us to eat together, or baking something special to share with others. When Mama's brothers stopped by for a visit, they would always go into the kitchen to see what kind of leftovers or baked goods she had. Sometimes it may have only been a glass of cornbread and milk, while other times it may have been a piece of pie or cake or a piece of cold chicken; but they always managed to find something to eat. One of my cousins has shared the story with me many times that whenever they came for a visit, before they got to the house my uncles' wife would always say, "Now don't you go in there looking for something to eat as soon as we get there!"; but he would. Mama didn't mind whatsoever and was happy that her brothers felt comfortable enough in her home to go raid the refrigerator or look around the kitchen for something to eat whenever they stopped by; and they would do that whether or not we were home (we never locked our doors). Every time she fried donuts, my uncle Freeman would always show up about the time they were done. Mama would make them a cup of coffee, if they wanted one. She loved her siblings, and they loved her.

Whether we had a little or a lot, mama was always happy to share what we had. When we girls got off the school bus, she would have a homemade snack ready for us. Mama made the best "stirred up" chocolate cookies; which she never used a recipe for, therefore, none of us girls know how she made them. Some days, if she had baked a pie, she would roll out the leftover pie crust and cut it into strips, sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon, then baked them for a treat for us. Yummy!

I have wonderful memories of getting home from school; which was a highlight of my day, considering I never particularly cared for school. I remember Mama taking time to talk to me about what all had happened and what I'd done. Even when she was taking chemo and not feeling well, I would come home and lay down on the bed beside her and she would ask me to tell her all about my day. We would lie there and talk, which was always a very special time.

After Mama passed away, my dad married June a couple of years later. Honestly, that was a difficult time and huge adjustment. June was opposite of my mama in many ways. She wasn't a fantastic cook. Whether you were there for lunch or supper, you could always (and I do mean always!) count on there being pinto beans on the table. She did make really good homemade rolls and pies. There just wasn't much variety in her menu.

One thing that June said to my sisters and me that helped us accept her was, "I know that I could never take the place of your mom, and I'm not going to try to. All I ask is that you let me be your friend." And over the years, she did become a friend to us all.

These are a few of the memories I have of June: She loved to sew and was very good at it. If she used a pattern, she'd lay it out on the fabric, but not pin it; she'd just lay a few butter knives on top to hold it in place while cutting it out. Any one of us might show up at their house and if she had a piece of fabric lying around, she would decide to just whip us up a dress and away she'd go! AND she really liked ruffles and lace; which I did NOT! She would make me a dress and ask, "Are you sure you don't want me to put a ruffle around the bottom or sew some lace around the neck; it looks awfully plain?!" I laugh about that now! When you went to visit, she always wanted to send something home with you, even if it was a jar of home-canned green beans. She never had a bad word to say about anyone -- ever. They had an old rectangle trampoline and she would get on it and jump with the grandkids. She would load up whichever grandkids were there in the back of the pickup they had and take them for a ride down the dirt road on which they lived. June really did have a big heart and never made any differences between her kids and grandkids, and daddy's kids and grandkids.

I also had an aunt that mothered me quite a bit. Ruth was my mom's sister and she and her family lived probably a half mile from our house, when I was growing up. As a little kid, I would sometimes spend the nights with Ruth and Bill. When I was single and living alone, I lived behind them for a few years and visited them often. Bill work for the highway department for all my growing up years, until he retired, and during the winter would have to run the snowplow during the night when we had snowy/icy weather. After their kids were grown and left home, Ruth would often ask me to spend the night with her when Bill was working at night. She was scared to stay by herself. Ruth was a really good cook! When you would compliment her on something she'd cooked, she'd always say, "Oh, it didn't turn out as good as it usually does!" She made an angel food cake with a strawberry filling and dream whip frosting that was so yummy. When I was single, she made one for me several different times for my birthday. One year Bill brought it to me and said, "Ruth will make you this cake, but won't make one for me!" Mama was the sister that tended to mother her brothers and was calm and easy-going, and Ruth was the sister that was a tad high-strung so the brothers enjoyed aggravating her. So many wonderful memories of the entire Parton clan!!

My sisters have always been my very best friends and we've shared a close relationship ever since I can remember. Even though I was the baby, my sisters would always let me run around with them -- and they honestly didn't mind having me tagging along. When my sisters all got married and started families of their own, it was interesting to watch them become mothers. Joyce got married a few weeks before my 6th birthday, so in a lot of ways, her boys were more like little brothers than nephews. I was closer in age to the oldest two boys than I was to my oldest three sisters. So I basically grew up seeing Joyce in the role as a mother. I was in my teens and twenties when my other nephews and nieces were born. It was fun visiting my sisters when they were raising their children and seeing the interaction that they had with their kids. I could see a lot of Mama in my sisters.

My sisters are all grandmothers now, and that has been a totally different ballgame! It's been fun to watch them take on the role of being a grandma. It's been interesting to observe a niece and several nieces-in-law become mothers; and how they interact with their children . I've enjoyed seeing how life cycles and changes, as we all grow older and mature. I've watched how my sisters carried on traditions that was passed down from our mama, as well as began new traditions and ways of doing things with their children. Now I see their kids carrying on some of those traditions with their kids, as well as beginning new ones.

For the past 10-plus years, I've been blessed with a godly mother-in-law. Even though she loved me and was happy to have me as her daughter-in-law, I'm pretty sure I was more confrontational and open than what she was used to or expected prior to me joining the Gray family; which took some adjustment. I was used to the type of relationship that I had shared with my family, where we are very upfront and talk about everything; even if we disagreed or were upset about something or questioned something said. But we have forged a close friendship and I'm grateful to have her in my life. I've also been blessed with a wonderful sister-in-law, although I haven't been able to spend as much time with her as I'd like, considering her family lives in Texas and we live in Oklahoma. I've also been privileged to have gain some terrific aunts-in-law when Jon and I married; Diane's sisters, Marilyn and Nita, as well as Stan's sisters, Jan and Pat. I've heard the horrible in-law stories and jokes, but thankfully, I have wonderful in-laws.

I have been so blessed to have so many women who have loved and cared about me over the years; a mama, stepmother, sisters, aunts, cousins, in-laws, and friends. I've had pastor's wives over the years who have been an important part of my life. It's because of all these godly women that I'm the woman that I am today. They've been examples to me, prayed for/with me, loved me, encouraged me, helped me, advised me, accepted me, and been cherished friends.

I could write pages and pages (but I won't!) about all the different women who have been in my life and the important and memorable roles that they've each played. If I started writing about all my aunts and cousins and how much I love them and the memories I have, that would make for an extremely long newsletter!

Titus 2:3-5 says, "Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God."

I'm thankful for those older woman who have used the wisdom that they've gained through difficult life experiences to teach others who have to go through similar situations. I'm thankful for women who have been faithful to God, faithful to their husbands, and faithful to live upright lives. We all have roles to play in the kingdom of God; roles to train and teach other women and be a godly example to them.

Proverbs 31:30 says, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last (can I get an amen!); but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised."

This Mother's Day, I celebrate all these tremendous ladies who have touched my life! My prayer is that my life, in some way, will touch the lives of others in the same special way that these woman have impacted me.


My mother and I didn't often see eye-to-eye. I think I was taller than her by the time I was 10, but I still thought of her as tall for a woman--she was tall for women on her side of the family. But that isn't what I mean. I was the type to approach every project with a goal of doing it exactly right, so when I'm done, I can look back at it as a perfect job I can be proud of. But she approached every project with a goal of getting it done so you can be done, and look back at it as finished. That tends to cause quite a bit of strife. But she did show a tremendous amount of patience with me.

And she went back to work, just to put me through college. I can guess what a struggle it would be for Loretta to go back to work. I was thankful then for Mom putting me through college, but now I can appreciate what a sacrifice it was. And I see so many family who have struggled for decades to get out from student loans that I am even more thankful.

It seems like the big sacrifices we don't notice or appreciate at the time that turn into the greatest help. It makes me wonder what other things people have done for me that I didn't notice, didn't appreciate, or wasn't thankful for at the time.


Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding

2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessman cookies

6-8 bananas, sliced

2 cups milk

1 (5-ounce) box instant French vanilla pudding

1 package cream cheese, softened

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 (12 ounce) container Cool Whip

Line the bottom of a 9x12 dish with 1 bag of cookies; layer all the sliced bananas on top.

In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix; blend well with a handheld mixer. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add this mixture to the pudding and stir until well blended.

Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas. Layer the second package of cookies on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Household tip:

My stepmother recently had a problem with ants, so hired an exterminator to come and spray her house. As he was leaving, he told her if she had anymore problems, to use Windex, which will kill the ants.


Because God has been faithful in the past and He's good in the present,

I can trust Him with my future! - Christine Caine


We love you!

Loretta & Jon