DON’T LET YOUR YESTERDAYS RUIN TODAY

A song by Carol E. Crain

Don’t let your yesterdays ruin today.
Don’t let today
Put a cloud on tomorrow.
Don’t let all your memories
Of the past and its mistakes
Continue to cause you
Pain and sorrow.

For what is behind you
Is part of the days gone by.
What good can it do you now
To continue to cry?
Don’t let your yesterdays ruin today.
Don’t let today
Put a cloud on tomorrow.

Don’t let who you used to be
Keep you from who you are.
Don’t let all your failing
Keep you from winning.
Don’t let where you used to walk
Keep you from finding out
Jesus can give you
A brand new beginning.

For what is behind you
Is part of the days gone by.
What good can it do you now
To continue to cry?
Don’t let your yesterdays ruin today.
Don’t let today
Put a cloud on tomorrow.

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Now Is All We Have

I know that
Now is all we have
And today is all there is.

Tomorrow may never come
So let’s make each
Moment truly His.

God gives us life and breath
To lead the lost to Him.
What are we doing with “now”?
So many are not in . . .

Not inside His fold,
Not cleansed of their sin —
Not forgiven of their sin.

Oh, tell them of God’s love
And how He sent His Son
To die for every soul,
Yes, each and every one.

Tell them of His peace,
The joy that can be theirs.
Oh, let them know He cares —
For their souls He cares.

I know that
Now is all we have
And today is all there is.

Redeem the time.
Each day redeem every minute;
For your life is not your own.
It belongs to Him.

Your life is not your own;
It belongs to Him.

— (Nov. 30, 1975, A song by Carol E. Crain)

Return with Me, Jesus

Return with me, Jesus,
To days that are past.

Walk down roads where I’ve been.
Give me peace that will last.

Return with me, Jesus,
A little each day.

For my present is tied
To the hurts I have known.
My feelings keep falling
Through the tears that need sewn.

Go back with me, Jesus,
So I might go forth
To learn who I am
And how much I’m worth.
Go back with me, Jesus. Heal my memories, I pray.
Return with me, Jesus — a little each day.

A Wound Used

My parents were divorced when I was two, and I never knew my father. Although I received Christ as my Savior at an early age, I could never see anything good that came out of my having to grow up in a broken home.

When teaching fifth grade in a rural school, I had a gifted, artistic boy in my class. Mark loved to do bulletin boards and displays, and I developed a special feeling of warmth toward this creative child.

As the year progressed, however, I noticed he seemed increasingly troubled about something. It bothered me to see him gradually lose his enthusiasm for his creative work.

One day Mark came to me after school and said, “I won’t be in school tomorrow. I have to go to my grandmother’s.”

“Why?” I asked.

“My parents are going to court tomorrow to get a divorce,” he answered. Then he started to cry.

I put my hand on his arm and said: “Well, Mark, I know how much this hurts you. My parents were divorced when I was not quite two years old, and it has hurt me a lot. I never even knew my father. But you have at least had yours with you for 11 years, and I’m sure he loves you and will keep in touch with you. Just because your parents are getting divorced doesn’t mean you won’t have a happy life. God has a purpose for your life, Mark. And even though this has happened to your parents, someday you can have a happy marriage just as I now have.”

After Mark left, I sat there at my desk. I suddenly realized for the first time in my life I was thankful for what I had experienced because if enabled me to comfort Mark that day in a the special way he needed.

I knew it wasn’t God’s perfect will for me to live in a broken home; but since it happened, He could use me to reach out to others like Mark who were being hurt as I had been.

That day I learned what the Word of God means when it says, “In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

The Big Bed

By Carol E. Crain, 1975

A tiny little lady in such a great big bed . . .
As I stand here and look at you,
I feel a sense of dread,

For as I think your bed’s so big,
As you’re lying there,
What will the world be like to you

As you begin to dare
To venture out upon your own . . .
But Jesus will be there.

I know He watches over you
As you are fast asleep.
You haven’t even turned two yet,

But He your soul will keep.
He’ll be there when you start to school
And when you graduate.

He’ll show you when to step right out
And teach you when to wait.
And He’ll be there to guide you

When you meet that special “one” —
His love for you is endless,
Warm as the morning sun.

So as I think of you, my child,
Asleep in your big bed,
My thoughts are far more peaceful now,
Since these few things I’ve said.

A Postcard from My Grandmother

By Carol E. Crain

A few years ago, I found a postcard dated Sept. 21, 1959. It was written to me by my maternal grandmother, Rose Ella White Steele. The pet mentioned in the below message was my dog, “Cubby.” He stayed at my grandparent’s rural Marianna, Penn., home, because I couldn’t keep him in the apartment my mother and I occupied in Washington, Penn.:

“Monday morning: Hi, Honey. Well, I thought you’d like to know how the pup got along last nite. We put him in the shed not long after you left, just turned him loose and shut the door. I gave him some bread and milk and a flat bone from the roast we had. It had grease on it and you should have seen him gnawing on it. He didn’t cry to amount to anything, just settled down and we didn’t hear him all nite. I went out just now to feed him and he was still asleep in the corner on a sack. From now on I’m going to leave him in the room at nite. I don’t think he will keep us awake and he will be warmer in there. I’ll get him a collar when I go to town. I’ll take good care of him. So don’t worry. Love, — Gram”

— Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 9:37 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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My Grandmother’s Kitchen

I have many memories of my grandma’s kitchen in Zollarsville, Pennsylvania.

My Grandma Rose Ella White Steele baked little rolls she called “lightcakes.” She also baked “salt-risin’ bread” that had a strange smell. I didn’t like that bread when I was a child, but after I married, I’d go to the local bakery where I lived in South Carolina and buy it at least once a year. I’d take it home and toast it and drink hot tea as I ate it. The smell of the bread in my house reminded me of my grandma who died when I was 19.

Grandma also made cornstarch pudding in a pan on the stove. I remember standing and stirring the pudding with a wooden spoon. I stirred it until it thickened, so it wouldn’t scorch and burn.

Grandma baked all kinds of pies in her kitchen. She made rhubarb pies from long rhubarb stalks that grew near the white fence in our neighbor Miss Martin’s yard. Miss Martin let Gram have all the rhubarb she wanted. Gram would always give Miss Martin some of what she baked.

Gram also baked blackberry pies with berries she’d picked along the road and canned.

Most of all, I remember her pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving. They weren’t spicy, which is why I liked them. I remember Gram taking her finger and “crimping” her piecrust so the extra dough around the edge would fall off.

I washed lots of dishes for Gram in her kitchen, as I was growing up. I was glad to help her.

Grandma, Grandpap and I sat around the Formica-topped kitchen table and ate our meals together. I have Gram’s cream pitcher and my Grandpap’s sugar bowl, which sat on that table many years ago. They bring back good memories to me when I look at them now in my kitchen each day.  

(Written in 2003 by Carol E. Crain)

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It’s Hard to Celebrate Father’s Day


It’s hard to celebrate Father’s Day
For a child whose father is away
Unavailable and disconnected
Showing no love
To a child he’s rejected.

His support checks don’t arrive
There’s no proof he’s alive
No proof he really cares
For just what does he share?
Not his heart—or his wallet
Such callousness
What do you call it?

He lends no listening ear
His abandonment makes it clear
That Father’s Day is not
A day to celebrate—
Just a day when
His child feels second-rate.

A day to feel sad
About rejection and loss
And don’t forget the high
Emotional cost
Paid each lonely day
In innumerable ways
By a child who doesn’t understand
Why there’s no father’s
Guiding hand.
While “Dad” gives no thought
For his
Child’s pain
Caused by
Wondering and grieving
Again and again.

It’s hard to celebrate Father’s Day
For a child whose father is away.  

(Written in Southern Pines, N.C., June 2004)


Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 7:53 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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Parental Advice

Here is advice to parents of grown children, especially to parents of children in their teens or twenties:                                                                                                                          
Be concerned—but not too anxious.
Be available—but not too ready.
Be interested—but don’t be nosey.
Be cheerful—but not detached.
Be transparent—but not too revealing.
Be agreeable—but not vocal when you disagree.
Be accepting—but don’t be a phony.  
Be sympathetic—but not suffocating.
Be a friend—but not too chummy.
Be engulfed in your own life—not too engaged in theirs.
Be warm—but don’t be parental.
Be real—but don’t insist on reality.
What to be, what not to be? Now, that is the question. 

(Written in December 1999)

Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 7:48 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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Big Bird Days

A rhyme for teenage daughters and their mothers:

      I miss their Big Bird days
      And their little toddler ways—
      Given way to hormonal craze
      And tired, parental daze.

      I miss their Big Bird days
      And often am amazed
      How dumb they think I am
      When they used to be my fans.

      I miss their Big Bird hours
      When the car keys held no power
      And looks at me weren’t sour
      In their simpler Big Bird days.
      How I miss their Big Bird days.

Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 7:43 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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Four Therapy Dogs

On Thursday, March 13, 2014, my husband, Steve, underwent eye-alignment (on his left eye) outpatient surgery in Pinehurst, N.C. At 9:00 a.m. the next day, I drove, and we both took Daisy, our 11-year-old beagle, to be “put to sleep.” Dr. Keith Harrison at the Animal Health Center in Southern Pines, N.C., carried out the procedure in a kind and sensitive way.

We had tried prescribed medicines for Daisy’s urinary difficulties. She would try to relieve herself but spend lots of time squatting in various places in our yard. And often, soon after coming into our house, she needed to go outside again. Our veterinarian indicated Daisy probably had bladder cancer.
Knowing that I would face a heart catherization procedure not many days after Steve’s surgery, I told Steve that we should go ahead and have Daisy put down. That was a painful and heart-breaking decision to make, but Daisy was getting worse. 

We had known Daisy for nine years. I found her in a rescue shelter in January 2005 (a few months after our 15-year-old Dudley, a miniature dachshund, had to be put down). Daisy’s soldier deployed and had to leave her, a purebred (then 2-year-old) beagle, in that shelter. She’d been there two weeks when I met her. They told me, “Daisy loves everybody.” That proved true. And we loved her very much.

On the Saturday afternoon after losing Daisy on Friday, I took Steve, who wasn’t supposed to drive because of his surgery, to Gold’s Gym in Southern Pines. I decided to enjoy the spring-like weather, so I drove to downtown Southern Pines and parked in front of the Country Bookshop. I rolled down both of my vehicle’s front windows and stayed in the driver’s seat to write a letter to a friend, while watching people walk by. I was sad.

A man, probably in his mid-forties, sauntered by, walking two large black-and-white, long-haired dogs. They were about the size of Labrador retrievers and had facial features like Labs.

I called out through my open window, “Sir, I just had to have my beagle, Daisy, put to sleep yesterday morning. I was wondering if I could pet your dogs.”

“Sure,” the man said.

“Just open the door so I can pet them,” I said, pointing to the front passenger door.

He opened the door.

“This is Abby and Jake,” he said.

Abby put her paws on the front seat. I reached over, petted her head and told her how pretty she was. Jake looked on from outside the car.

“Abby is seven, and Jake is nine,” the man said.

They stayed about five minutes, and I thanked the man.

About five minutes later, a woman in her twenties walked by with a beautiful, large and lean, brownish- and gray-colored dog.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I had to have my dog put to sleep, yesterday. I’m wondering will you let me pet your dog?”

“Sure, I’ll be glad to,” the young lady said. “This is Lilly the Great Dane.”

I asked the lady to open the passenger door, and Lilly put her paws on my front seat.

“She’s only six months old,” the lady said. “She’ll be twice this big when she’s full-grown.”

I enjoyed petting Lilly and rubbing her ears. She had the most beautiful eyes.

I thanked the lady and told her how good I felt about getting to pet her dog. She closed the door, and I returned to writing my letter.

About 10 minutes later, I was surprised to see a dark-haired lady walking a large spaniel-type dog about the size of a Lab. That long-haired dog was blond-colored with rust-hued speckles spattered throughout its almost-white, blond fur. He had a bushy tail.

I told the lady about about Daisy being put to sleep.
“Would you allow me to pet your dog?” I asked.

“I’d be glad to,” the lady said.

I asked her to open the car door. Then Gus put his paws on the front seat.

The lady said her husband was stationed at Ft. Bragg and that she worked there, too, as a civilian. She added, “When we were stationed in Greece, my husband found Gus. He was a stray.”

I petted Gus, and he stepped fully into my car and lay down on the front seat with his head toward his master. He looked back over his shoulder at me as if to say, “Keep on petting me.”

While I petted Gus and rubbed his back, his owner said, “I can’t believe this. He looks like he’s ready to go home with you. When I take him for walks, he’s always very purposeful and moves forward and doesn’t want to stop for anything.” Then she added, with emotion, “I think Gus knows you need him today.”

“I think so, too,” I said. “He’s my pet therapist.”

I thanked the lady and told her I had to leave to pick up my husband. 

Gus seemed comfortable and made no offer to leave. The lady gave a gentle tug on his leash, and he moved out. As she closed the door, the lady said, “Oh, I’m sorry. He got dog hair on your seat.”

“I don’t mind at all,” I said.

I was astounded to realize that in the span of 40 minutes, I had met four furry “therapists” that helped lift my sadness.

(Written on March 15, 2014)

–Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 7:39 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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As You Walk

As you walk down life’s pathway of trials,
Remember, God’s there by your side,
Helping you come through victoriously
As you are tossed, tempted, and tried;

For when you asked His Son to save you,
He promised that He’d carry you
Through all the tests and dilemmas
The god of this world puts you through.

So rejoice, though your path may seem rocky.
Praise Him, though your way may be rough;
For because you’re His child, He will show you;
His grace is far more than enough.

So don’t worry about your tomorrows,
And stay worn out from living each day;
Don’t fret o’er the world that surrounds you;
Just trust God to show you His Way. 

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I’d Never Choose to Cry 

Sept. 05, 1983

Lord, I know I would never choose to cry.
  I know I would never order pain.
I’d always choose the sunshine —
  I’d never choose the rain.
If I could have my way
  I’d never choose to cry.

Lord, I know I’d never choose
  A mountain to climb.
I know I would never choose
  The hard path.
But after I have realized
  That the times when I’ve grown strongest
Were not in fields of flowers
  But as I’ve climbed trial’s mountain,
Lord, my Lord, I will trust You
  To lead me where you choose.

Lord, my Lord,
  I will trust You every day,
For I know if I do,
  I will always win — not lose.
So, Lord, I will trust You.
  I will trust You every day.
For I know if I do,
  I will always win, not lose.
So, Lord, I will trust You.
  I will trust You very day.
 

–Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 6:53 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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Fall

Leaves are falling –
Floating down,
Piling loosely
On the ground.

Signs of autumn –
Cooler air,
Pumpkins and mums
Seen here
And there.

Apple cider,
Hot or cold.
My favorite season
Never grows old. 

(Written October 4, 2015)

–Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 6:47 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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An Imperfect Vacation

My husband, Steve, and I prepared to take our daughters (Janelle, 16, and Suzanne, 11) to Williamsburg, Virginia, during our Easter vacation in the early 1990s when we lived in Southern Pines, N.C.

I purchased several new spring outfits to enjoy wearing during our family excursion.

Steve dutifully toted almost all the clothing his wife and daughters owned—at least it probably seemed that way to him—to our car.

We hadn’t even left our driveway when Steve accidentally dropped a two-gallon-sized glass jar holding assorted muffins I bought at Granny’s Doughnuts to enjoy on our long ride to Virginia from Southern Pines. There on the blacktop lay what seemed like a million shards of glass mixed with chunks of blueberry, banana-nut, bran, and apple-flavored muffins.

As we cleaned up the mess, Steve asked, “Why would you take a big glass jar like that on a trip anyway?” I’m sure he was also thinking “ridiculous, unbelievable, and insane!”

We drove off and were sort of quiet for the first few miles of our trip. As we moved along, the girls kept giggling in the backseat. I finally discovered they had been putting bits of torn-up Kleenex on the top of my hair. They could have put half a box of Kleenex on top of my hairdo before I felt anything because I have worn my hair teased as high as Marge Simpson’s (cartoon character Homer Simpson’s wife’s) hair since I was a freshman in high school in 1962. I’m glad they didn’t let me go into a Quick Mart wearing their Kleenex “trash hat” when we took a road break. 

We lodged in one room (with two double beds) in a Williamsburg motel. The accommodations were nice, except the beds were way too soft. We finally stood up the mattresses against a wall and spread sheets and blankets on top of the box springs. And we slept . . . sort of.

After four days in Williamsburg, we ate breakfast and began loading our car to return home. Once again, Steve dutifully toted his wife and daughters’ mammoth amount of clothing to our vehicle. I packed my new outfits, which I’d worn, in a white plastic bag and sent them to the car to be loaded.

We buckled up, settled in, and were riding down the road when Suzanne took out a booklet of Colonial Times paper dolls she bought at a Williamsburg gift shop. She happily punched out perforated dolls, fashions, and accessories. She was carefully matching up various costumes with each paper doll when her older sister decided to roll down a window. Paper dolls and their outfits went blowing and soaring all over the backseat—and I mean all over!

Suzanne screamed in protest.

Steve boomed in his loudest fatherly voice, “Janelle, why would you roll down the window? Didn’t you think about what would happen?” (He may have, once again, thought “ridiculous, unbelievable, and insane!”)

Janelle apologized and helped her sister collect her precious dolls with their fashions, paper powdered wigs, and all.

After we arrived at home, I began sorting everyone’s laundry and saw none of my new spring outfits. When quizzed, Steve finally realized he had left the coveted bag containing all my new outfits sitting on the sidewalk next to the parking lot of the break-your-back motel.

I pictured my beautiful clothes either stolen and sold at a consignment shop or mistaken for trash and thrown in the motel dumpster—where the cheap mattresses in room 207 should have been.

I called the motel.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was when a desk clerk assured me that someone had found my bag of clothes and turned it in to the front desk. I can’t tell you how irritated I was that it took three calls to that desk and one call to the motel manager to get my clothes boxed up and mailed to me in Southern Pines. I had begun to think I would receive my spring outfits just in time for the first ice storm of winter when the box finally arrived.

I’m sure there are many fascinating, historical facts I leaned about Colonial Williamsburg during our vacation, but my mind seems to most vividly recall muffins in a mess, mattresses of torture, and my mislaid, left-behind vacation clothes. We had an imperfect vacation.

Drawers


By Carol E. Crain, written August 1, 2011

Throughout my life
I’ve had drawers of emotions –
Emotions I had to stuff,
Put away, not show,
And lock them up.

Then as I lived life later,
I was able to open the drawers
And look at the contents
Little by little – piece by piece.

The drawers are being emptied
more each year.
Some of the things I kept,
And thought I always would,
I see no use for keeping now.
I’m doing a kind of sorting,
Re-filing and re-thinking
About the purpose for keeping
Each memory . . .

Each painful experience
Letting some of them go
Isn’t like saying,
“This didn’t really happen to me –
This wasn’t really done to me,
This didn’t really affect me –
Or wreck me or wrack me,
Rock me or wound me!”

In time, I have seen
That letting some of the drawers’ contents go
Frees me, relieves me, heals me –
To make room for other positive
Experiences in my life.

Some memories are like old blankets
That keep me warm and comfort me.
Those I keep.

Other things in the drawers
Bring up sadnesses and pain,
Loss and damaged emotions.

What to keep? What to let go?
The Lord is helping me know.
Some things I redefine,
Rather than discard.

I look at them with the new light
I have gained through years
Of looking within, without,
With various lights shone
on my drawers’ contents.

Sometimes a spot-light glares.
Other times a soft-veiled light
Shows the finer details,
Rather than glaring, searing pain.

Sometimes I choose to keep
The drawer closed –
Contents kept in the dark,
Because I feel too frail
And not up to looking
At all that’s inside.

Sometimes when someone else’s pain
Is evident enough, I’ve opened my
Drawer and shared certain artifacts
In order to help them be set free
From part of their pain.

As I do, the Lord makes it worth it
To me to share my rips and tears,
My fears and rage and vehicles
Of healing.

Sometimes I want to be all fixed instantaneously healed and whole
And yet, I realize I learn
From the step-by-step journey
More so than if I’d been
Catapulted into instant perfection.

I do value the process, the
Gradual unveiling, un-layering,
Arranging and re-arranging,
Tears and expressed rage,
Sadness for loss and making
Peace with what is left –
What remains.

Sometimes, who I am now
Seems so intertwined
With who I was then.
I find it hard to separate Myself
From that child,
That teen, that person in her
Twenties and thirties.
I can’t really separate myself
into then and now.

I don’t have to be void of
Memories of them
In order to let the Lord
Give me peace now.

I don’t have to have the past
Surgically removed and discarded
In order to feel renewed
And able to be free to embrace now.

I don’t have to gut my life from then
In order to renovate my heart –
Remodel my mind . . .
Renew my spirit now.

As I look back, I’m empowered
To look ahead.
Only as I look back can I
Look ahead.

I don’t have to have amnesia
About my past memories
In order to create new,
Better ones.

Can anyone really understand
All the facets of my being?
No, I can’t expect them to.
They don’t live inside me.
They haven’t witnessed
My days and nights.

Only Jesus and I were there
When each memory was made,
When each rip and tear took place.
He was also there as the stitching
Took place.

He is the ultimate alteration King.
At times, I felt like my
Life’s tapestry was unraveling
And being reworked.
The back of the tapestry has
A variety of threads and knots,
But the scene on the front
Has been forming for almost
Sixty-four years.

The final stitches won’t be finished
Until the last day I’m here
On this earth.

When I see the Lord, I’ll have
A new tapestry of total perfection –
His picture of my life will be
What it was finally meant to be.
I’ll be who He created me to be.

Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 7:21 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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Sending “Envelope Hugs”

 Pictured is Carol E. Crain of Taylors, S.C., a retired elementary school teacher.

Here is a May 1, 2007, interview with Carol E. Crain by her husband, Larry Steve Crain, written when they lived in Southern Pines, N.C. At the time of this posting, they live in Taylors, S.C.
    Carol sends “Envelope Hugs” to her friends and to some people she doesn’t personally know who experience tough times. She is a retired fourth-grade public school teacher, wife, and mother of two adult daughters. Carol enjoys sending encouraging hand-written communiqués to friends, acquaintances and strangers. 



I send hand-written, hand-created notes, often including songs and poems I’ve written and quotations I’ve collected. What I send depends on the situation a person is going through—whether he or she has cancer, has lost a child, is going through a divorce or whatever the need is.

I don’t type my notes and letters or use e-mail. I write my letters, my “Envelope Hugs,” in longhand. I think this means more in a day of e-mail and junk mail.

I have many kinds of cards and stationery, and I hand-make some cards, using magazine pictures. I’ve been doing this off-and-on since I was in college in South Carolina. Most of my friends and relatives lived in Pennsylvania, and I began sending cards and letters.

My husband and I married a year after we graduated from college and each taught school for a year. He left for a year in Vietnam only a few months after we married. I wrote him many letters during his army service (almost two years). And I kept in contact with some college friends and my relatives.

I’ve continued contact with many people who have specific needs, and sometimes I read in the newspaper about someone going through difficulties, and I follow up on that. It just depends on what I feel led to do in reaching out to a person.

After I went through malignant melanoma cancer in 1985, I’ve tended to notice people who’re going through any type of cancer. I know how they feel when they’re told they have cancer. When you’ve been through something like that, you belong to a fraternity or sorority you never wanted to join, but since you belong, there’s some good that can come out of it, since you understand.  

I put lots of different things in envelopes. It depends on how well I know the person, as to what I enclose.

If I don’t know a person, I’ll tell them, “Even though I don’t know you personally, when I heard about your situation, I wanted to share with you, and I hope the things I’ve sent to you will be a blessing to your life.”

I go through the songs and poems I’ve written, especially those written since about 1974, and I think about which one/ones might be most helpful to them.

One thing I’ve had to settle is that it doesn’t matter if I hear back from people. I know that the fact that I felt the Lord putting it on my heart to write to them in the first place means there was a reason for it. If I never know what they got from what I sent and how it ministered to them, it’s okay. Sometimes I think the fact that I don’t know them is what ministers most to them, because they realize I took time to write, even though I don’t personally know them.

Sometimes I send several different letters to the same person, but often it’s a one-time thing. If just depends.

Of the people whom I don’t know, I hear from a few. Once in a while, someone will write a note to me, saying thank you for sending the things you sent. But sometimes they’re so involved in what they’re going through that I don’t think anything about not hearing from them.

Sometimes I read an obituary, cut it out of the newspaper, and then wait several weeks before I follow up. I may follow up by writing the next day, or I may wait several months, because I think that after everything gets back to the day-to-day grind for people that it may mean more to them when someone reaches out to them by writing—after the visits, the phone calls and the mail have long ago quit coming.

I often call the church where the funeral was held or a funeral home to get a person’s address. If it’s local, I look in our phone directory.

I call my creations “Envelope Hugs”. I did a workshop on “Fun with Snail Mail: Creating Envelope Hugs” for a few ladies who came to my home and have conducted larger workshops for church ladies groups. I like to invite about four ladies to my home and show them how to reach out to others, using their own personalities and contacts. Whether it’s a mother who stays home with her baby or an elderly person what can’t get out much, anyone can send a letter of encouragement, an “envelope hug,” to people who need ministry.

Not all my cards are handmade. But sometimes I clip a picture from a magazine and write a quote with a Sharpie pen on that magazine page. I collect quotes. I put lots of little things in an envelope along with a card or letter—songs, poems. I don’t spend a lot of time keeping track of everything I send to people. I do try to track which songs and poems I send, so I won’t send one twice. I keep a date book listing people and the dates I’ve written those people.

I received a touching response from an elderly man who had been married over 60 years when his wife died. He approached me at church after I’d sent him something almost every day for several weeks after his wife died.

He told me how much my cards had meant to him. I sent cards with pictures of dogs, boats, lighthouses, nature scenes, etc.

“I have them standing up in each room, and when I go from one room to the other, and I look at your notes cards, they’re like company for me,” he said tearfully.

I thought that was a very meaningful way to describe what it means for a lot of people who go through their mail and see a personal piece of correspondence in the middle of all kinds of bills, pleas for money and junk mail.

I wrote a lady who was going through cancer, and she said that she kept my envelope hugs in a box, and when she felt especially down, she’d take my letters out and reread them. She said they ministered to her, again, and even in a different way.

Sometimes the Lord will impress me with something specific to share in an envelope—maybe a picture or something to say. Then later I find out why that particular item meant something to the person receiving the letter.

One time when I wrote a lady I didn’t know very well who was going through cancer. I’d met her in the downtown store she owned. I felt I should cut out some paper dolls in a magazine. They were only little childlike dolls. I cut out the dresses and the dolls and included them in an envelope with other items. I wrote, “I used to play with paper dolls when I was a child. Did you ever have any paper dolls?”

One day when she was especially down, she went to the post office and received that piece of mail. She said she opened my letter, saw the paper dolls and experienced such a warm feeling as she thought back about her childhood when she had a collection of paper dolls and her mother designed clothes for those dolls. She said her mother would draw the clothes, cut them out and give them to her to color for her dolls.

That was a very good memory she had, and she knew I had no way of knowing. She said she felt God gave her that special memory of her mother through my sending those paper dolls. It made her feel close to her mother while she was going through cancer treatments.

We became good friends. One night she called, and I sang some of my songs for about 45 minutes to her over the telephone. She said it was like hearing a lullaby that gave her peace before her first chemotherapy treatment the next day. She later died from cancer.  

Another time, a lady’s Army-officer husband spent two tours in the Middle East and returned safely to the U.S. Not long after his second return, he died in a head-on collision near their home. I didn’t know her personally but knew of her in our community.

I sent her and her three young children mail almost every day for months. I sent things of age-level interest to the children and sent her songs and poems and prayers the Lord would lay on my heart for her. I’d hand-write all those.

I only received one or two postcards from her during the months I was writing but never wondered why she didn’t respond more. I knew she was probably completely overwhelmed with her husband’s death and being the single parent of three young children.

One day, I came home after an especially hard day of teaching. This was probably a year and a half after I’d begun sending envelopes to this young widow. I’d tapered off from sending letters after several months, but I was still sending something once in a while. When I pulled in my driveway, there was a beautiful shopping bag, like a gift bag, on my porch.

“What’s that there for?” I wondered. “It’s not my birthday.”

The lady I’d written to had given me a whole shopping bag of very expensive stationery and note cards. She’d gone to a shop downtown and probably spent over $200. She hand-wrote a little card, saying she wanted me to know how much all the things that I’d sent to her and her children had meant to her.

It seemed as though the Lord was giving me encouragement to go on and do this for other people. I still use some of the stationery she gave me, and I think of her and the encouragement I felt.

I met another lady, Sharon, years ago, at a Bible study. She had been through a divorce and had two small children. She lives in a distant state, but that friendship has spanned almost thirty years. We still send notes, letters and packages, and we also call each other. 

I kept in contact with my first grade teacher until her death a few years ago. She was an inspiration to me, and I never forgot her. I now correspond with her daughter.

One of my fifth-grade students (1998) liked to write poetry. She moved away mid-year of the year I taught her. We’ve stayed in touch, and I encourage her in her writing. 

Another young lady—I read her essay about how she felt when her dog had to be put to sleep—began writing after I wrote her. She’s now married and has children. We’ve stayed in contact.

I’ve sometimes written to famous people, but I mostly write everyday people. 

I often include cards with quotes inside bills I pay. I never know when God may use a devotional quote to encourage someone who is going through a hard time and need to know God cares about them.

Sometimes people respond long after I’ve written them. Often their responses come on days I need something.

There’s a young lady at the gas station. I broke my ankle in 2004, and the healing process has been long. This young lady, if she had no inside customer, would come out and pump my gas for me. I sent her an envelope hug.

I have to have peace that I follow up on contacts when I need to. Some may sit on my desk for a while.

Years ago, a local man died when he accidentally drove his small truck in front of a speeding train. He was on the way to buy materials to build a playhouse for his grandchildren. I didn’t know the man or his wife, but when I read about the accident in the newspaper, I felt I should send something.

My note stayed several weeks on my desk until one night about 10 p.m. I was turning out the lights in my office and felt I should fix an envelope and send it the next day. I spent about an hour preparing that letter and things I included in the envelope.

In the letter, I apologized to the deceased man’s wife for waiting so long to reach out.

She soon called and said the letter came exactly when it was supposed to, because the envelope arrived on the day of their wedding anniversary.

When a young fellow teacher died in his early forties, I sent his wife and four children envelopes. One devotional book I sent arrived on her husband’s birthday. She said that meant a lot. I hadn’t known about his birthday. The Lord knows exactly what these people need. I try to stay open about that.

What do I put in my letters and envelopes?

Sometimes I put childish things, whimsical things, artwork. I collect calendars with pictures of animals, barns and a variety of all kinds of things. I try to make these very individual and out of the ordinary.

I wrote one couple whose young daughter was accidentally run over and killed at a family reunion. I noticed in the obituary that the daughter was the age of the children I taught at that time, and the Lord put that family on my mind many times. I’d sit in church some Sundays and write out prayers for them, which I’d send them.

The father called me, and the mother and the other remaining daughter wrote me.

The father told me how much all the things I sent had meant. I still sometimes send them things.

I feel like the Lord puts certain people on my heart because he knows whom it would touch and mean something to. I can’t cut out all the obituaries in the newspaper every day, seven days a week.

It’s not always the obituaries.

I read about a murder in another state and sent an envelope to the reporter who wrote the story about the murder. I wrote to the family of the deceased, also.

I want to listen to the Holy Spirit and stay open to letting the Lord use me to minister to hurting people and to use the talent and the gift he’s given me in writing songs and poems and making these creative things to make people feel ministered to when they’re in lots of pain.

Many of my poems and songs came from working out the healing of the memories of my childhood. 

When I was diagnosed with cancer, my minister said to me, “You’ve written a lot of things to minister to people who needed inner healing for hurtful experiences in their lives. And now maybe you’ll write things to minister to people who are going through serious illnesses.”

I remember looking at him and saying, “Well, maybe. I don’t know.” And the very next day, the Lord began to give me one song and one poem after another.

How do they come to me?

Songs come to me in the way that people think of their favorite Christmas carols. You can hear it in your mind. You can hum it. That’s how they come to me. The music usually comes at the same time the words do, if it’s a song. I’ve pulled the car over and written words on a paper bag or anything when they come. Then I sing my new songs into a tape recorder.

The poems come sometimes when I’m reading the Bible or a devotional book or any book. I write down quotes from things I read or hear. I have a lot of journals. I’ll write something someone said and then what that quote makes me think about. I’ll write, “Helen Keller said . . .” or “Abraham Lincoln said . . .” and share them in a letter. I have hundreds of quotes.

Writing has always been a very cathartic way to receive healing from the Lord for me. I write as I listen to sermons. I write as I watch a movie on TV. I write while reading devotional books and magazines. I’ve always related to writing. I think a lot of people don’t realize how they could be used in this way in their own personalities and creative abilities to reach out to people I’ll never meet.

I suppose people hesitate to reach out to others because sometimes no words seem adequate. But human words are all we have, and I hope God can use things I share in envelopes to ease pain.
Sometimes people don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything, and a needy person thinks, “I thought they cared more than that.”

Other times people don’t know what to say, so they say ridiculous things, which don’t help at all. They mean well but say inappropriate things. But at other times, God gives people words that are exactly what someone needs at a particular time. I’ve spoken to people at times, rather than wait to write to them.

I have several notes in progress. I don’t write ten or fifteen every day. I am now working on a note to a friend who has experienced divorce after 40 years of marriage. She’s alone, now. I’ve sent her all sorts of little messages telling her I care about her. And I’m always looking for little interesting things, little cartoons, little magazine pictures, all kinds of things to put in an envelope to convey that the Lord loves her and cares about the things she’s going through.

We never know when people may be suicidal, and the Lord may use an encounter with us to let a despondent person know how special they are and that the Lord cares about them.

Some may have never thought about being used of God in this way, this way of writing and reaching out, this way of sending envelope hugs.

Especially people who can’t get out of their homes very much can reach out by letters.

Some may look at others and think, “Oh, they have more gifts than I do. They’re up in front of people in my church.” But this is something shy people can do. Retired people can do. Shut-ins can do. People in nursing homes, those who are able to write something at all can do this. Mothers who are home with babies can write while their youngsters take naps.

I sometimes used to get up in the middle of the night or write from 4:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., before I went to work, but now that I’m retired, I devote many hours to writing personal letters.

Someone may think, “Well, that’s just something special that God is doing through her, but God couldn’t use me like that.” I think God can use many people.

Some fear the rejection of not hearing back from people. But you need to feel that if you don’t hear from anyone you send mail to, it’s okay. If you start keeping track, saying, “Four weeks ago, I wrote Sally, and I never heard anything. And I sent 30 pieces of mail to so-and-so over the last year because they went through thus-and-thus, and I never heard . . . .” If you start keep track like that, you will lose the meaning of what this is all about. You don’t do it so you’ll get a reply. 

But like finding that shopping bag on my porch, that was like a 30-page letter to me. It was like the Lord saying, “See. I am encouraging you to keep on keeping on with this. See how much it does mean to people.” And it wasn’t about how much money she spent on the stationery she bought for me, but because of what she felt impressed to do.

There’s no two letters or envelopes I’ve ever done that are identical. There are no two people alike. There could be five people going through cancer, but you don’t make five envelope hugs that are all alike. Each person is different and individually special to God.

I like to take the time to think of each person I’m writing to. I want to create something just for that specific person. I don’t send e-mail, though I don’t criticize those who do. Many of us associate e-mails with stock items we copy and send, maybe send to 50 people with one click of a computer key.

In a world becoming more and more obsessed with technology, my Envelope Hugs ministry reaches out in a personal way. I print because my printing is much more readable than my longhand writing. I prefer printing over typing letters because of the personal character of handwriting.

Some say to me, “I bet you enjoy scrap-booking,” and I say, “No, I really don’t.” My envelope hugs are a form of scrap-booking—I’m just mailing the pages out to people. I may take a piece of paper and glue a word or pictures from magazines. Then I may write about what that word makes me think of. You can be creative.

Peggy, one of my friends, sends creative envelope hugs to me. I’ll send her a letter about childhood memories, and often, when she returns a “hug,” she’ll take the same picture I sent and write a note about what the picture made her think of. Or she’ll take a quote from one of my letters and write about why that quote ministered to her. I recently opened one of her letters before I went to my beautician. She’d written about not allowing people to steal the joy from our lives. I read that letter to my beautician. I feel Peggy’s letter ministered to her. I wrote Peggy and told her that she ministered to the lady who styles my hair. I sent Peggy about 12 different kinds of note cards, so she can use them to write other people. Sometimes I include blank note cards and say to the person I’m writing, “Maybe you’d like to send a card to someone today.”

When I write, I picture the person receiving my letter and looking at each little thing I’ve included in the envelope. I have all different sizes of envelopes. Often I’ll put a smaller envelope inside a larger one and write on the smaller, “Open tomorrow” or “Open on Sunday” or “Put in your pocketbook and open whenever.” When I feel impressed to be creative in this way, I believe it’s a beautiful manner in which God is showing the person receiving the note that he is ministering to them in a very special way, a way that is all their own.

Another friend tended to respond by writing formally but has become more creative in her responses over the years as I set an example of finding joy in writing. I feel her new-found creative expressions have eased some of the melancholy in her life.

My notes, letters and hand-made cards don’t appear mass-produced. I even put a little bow around a set of quotes I recently copied from a devotional book. I wrap some notes in brightly-colored cloths before tucking them inside envelopes. 

Years ago I read an article in “Home Life” magazine about a Christian couple whose daughter and son lived away from home and shared an apartment in the town where they attended college. While the brother was away from the apartment, an intruder broke in and killed his sister.   

I wrote the grieving mother and shared heartfelt sympathy. She and I have been writing ever since. At the time of the trial for their daughter’s murderer, I had a Dachshund and so did she. When she and her husband traveled around Easter time to attend the trial, they took their Dachshund with them. In one of her notes, she mentioned the name of the hotel where they were to stay during that trial.

I prepared a care package to send to the hotel, so it would be waiting for them when they arrived. I included all sorts of Easter things such as Easter candy, a stuffed Easter bunny to decorate their hotel room, dog biscuits, a journal for her husband and one for her son, who was 21 years old.

Before I closed the envelope, I felt I should send a letter from my dog to her dog. I didn’t want to seem ridiculous or frivolous in light of the serious ordeal they faced. Yet, the idea of writing a dog-to-dog letter wouldn’t leave me. I had stationery with Dachunds printed about the paper’s border.

So I wrote “To Ellie Kay from Dudley”. I wrote two or three pages from our dog Dudley.

When my friend received the package, she went to a drugstore, bought a card with Dachshunds on it and wrote a return letter from her dog. She included lines such as
”Mom and Dad talk about how the jury is going to be chosen,” “They’re going to have to see the person who ‘did this’ to their daughter” and “They both pet me a lot.”

I felt the Lord inspired me to write in a manner—a seemingly childish way—that helped my friend get out her feelings in a way she was able to deal with—through the imaginary words of her dog.

Through the years I’ve sent little Dachshund things and my songs and poems to her. And I’ve also mailed notes to the father and the brother. We’ve enjoyed years of staying in touch, and I met her through responding to a magazine article about her tragedy.

A day hardly goes by that new contacts don’t come across my path. Here is one of my favorite quotes by an unknown author:

“It was only a kindly word / And a word that was lightly spoken / Yet not in vain / For it stilled the pain / Of a heart that was nearly broken.”

That’s what I want my envelope hugs to do. I want them to still the pain of hurting people.

–Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 9:17 AM 3 comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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What Christmas Is

Christmas is not
   A downhill sleigh ride.
For many,
   It’s an uphill climb.

Christmas is not a
   A sparkling fire in the fireplace.
For many,
   It’s a cold, chilling time.

Christmas is not
   A gathering of family and friends.
For many, it’s lonely days
   That seem without end.

Christmas is not idyllic scenes
   In a picture book.
For many, it’s memories
   That cause a painful, inward look.

But we must remember all Christmas is…
   Not dwell upon what it is not.
It’s a celebration of Jesus’ birth –
   God’s gift to all that cannot be bought. 

(Written in December 2009)

–Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 8:34 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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Lord, My Faith’s in “Your Love without End”

A song written around 5:00 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2009:

“When I called my Cousin Don Perkins on Nov. 25, 2009, he asked me to write a new song and send it to him. This is that song.” – Carol E. Crain

I don’t know when my life will be over.
I don’t know when my days here will end.
But, I know, Lord, I will see You in heaven,
For my faith’s in “Your Love without end.”

Your love for us sent You to the cross.
You were willing to die for our sins,
So that we might be able to spend the hereafter
With You, our Redeemer and Friend.

So, I don’t have to fear my last breath, here.
I have peace in my heart every day.
For I know You are my Lord and Savior –
You’re the Truth, the Life and the Way.

I don’t know when my life will be over.
I don’t know when my days here will end.
But, I know, Lord, I will see You in heaven,
For my faith’s in “Your Love without end.”

In this world there is much that’s uncertain.
Endless wars, loss of fortunes cause dismay.
Yet, Lord, I have peace and a sense of relief,
When I think of what’s coming my way.

When my life here is finally over,
My spirit will live on and on.
Though I’ll no longer live on this earth, Lord,
I know I will never be gone.

I don’t know when my life will be over.
I don’t know when my days here will end.
But, I know, Lord, I will see You in heaven,
For my faith’s in “Your Love without end.”
I know, Lord, I’ll see You in heaven,
For my faith’s in “Your Love without end.”

Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 8:27 AM 1 comment: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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Lord, I’ve Been Thinking

Lord, I’ve been thinking
About the problems of life.
You’ve shown me that I can analyze,
Dissect, reason, search for the whys,
See who’s to blame for this part
Or that part . .  . 
Try to figure out this, that and the other –
But I’ll always be brought back to
“Jesus Christ the same Yesterday,
Today and forever.” (Heb 13:8)
No matter how complex a situation is,
You, Lord, are our only source of strength,
Peace, guidance, comfort and reason.
No amount of self-effort to intellectualize,
Philosophize, reason out
Or on and on and on . . .
Can bring us peace.
Only YOUR Word,
YOUR Truth can do that, Lord.
No matter what situation
We find ourselves in,
Help us not to waste time and energy
In useless self-effort.
Help us learn more and more how to let go
And let YOU be our peace,
Our truth, our comfort
In the midst of the problem
— While we wait for the answer —
— While we believe for YOUR solution —
We can have peace now —
We don’t have to have the problem
Gone and fixed
In order to have YOUR peace.
We can know YOUR peace now, Lord!

(Written in 2011)

Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 8:18 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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House in Zollarsville, Pennsylvania

There’s a little house
   In Zollarsville
Where I’ve spent
   Such happy days.
The memories
   Stored in my mind
Flash back in many ways.
   And even though I’m far away
From that little house back there . . .
   Grandpap, you know
I love you lots
   And that I’ll always care.

Pictured: September 1970, Zollarsville, Pennsylvania: Benjamin Newton Freeland Steele, Carol Crain’s maternal grandfather, stands in front of his rural residence. (Poem written in 1973)

Posted by Larry Steve Crain at 8:13 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

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I Miss the Snow

I miss the snow – it never comes
    In great big flakes of fluff.
Once a winter snow dust may fall,
   But that’s just not enough.

I grew up playing in piles and drifts,
   Making snowmen as tall as small trees.
How I’d love to do that again.
   It would be such fun for me.

I’d put a big hat on his head
   And a tall broom in his hand.
If I could build a snowman again,
   Oh, that would be just grand.

Though Southern children wish and wish
   For a snowstorm inches deep
And hope before they go to bed
   For a snowfall while they sleep.

They are disappointed
   Year after year after year,
While Northern children play in piles and drifts.
   It hardly seems quite fair. 

(I was raised near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but was living in Southern Pines, N.C., and teaching in public elementary school when I wrote this poem on December 3, 1995. — Carol E. Crain)