Appalachian Thursday — Playing O-possum

OpossumI let Thistle out for her final constitutional before bed recently and the light from the open door fell on, of all things, a young opossum. Thistle hurried to investigate and thankfully seemed content to just sniff the little critter. The opossum was less content and hissed with its mouth wide open until Thistle moved on.

Since then, we’ve seen it scavenging for seed under the bird feeder a couple of times and yesterday I got some decent photos. At this rate, we’ll have to name it.

When I mentioned my encounter to some friends, they confessed to pronouncing the “o” at the beginning of opossum, which, I told them, was wrong. After a bit of research, however, I learned that it’s fine to pronounce the “o,” just maybe not in West Virginia.

Opossum are almost legendary in my home state–mostly for being fried, fricasseed, stewed, etc. I have never personally eaten one and I don’t advise it. They’re carrion eaters and, well, you are what you eat.

There was a man back home who bought pelts–including opossum–and then sold them to a furrier in New York. In true waste-not-want-not style he often ate the animals he’d relieved of their fur coats–including opossum. Until one Sunday dinner he offered his hound dogs some leftover fried opossum and they turned up their noses. He reckoned if a dog wouldn’t eat it, neither would he.

I say that’s just plain smart.

Opossum facts:

  • They’re the only marsupial native to the U.S.
  • They can have 15 or more babies, but many don’t survive.
  • Living to be four is a ripe, old age for an opossum.
  • “Playing opossum” is involuntary and it can take as long as a couple of hours for them to wake back up.
  • In addition to appearing dead, they secrete a stinky fluid that makes them smell dead.
  • They don’t hang from their tails (it isn’t strong enough), but they do use it as a stabilizer.
  • They have amazing immune systems that make them resistant to rabies and snake bites.
  • They have 50 teeth–the most of any mammal.
  • One of their major predators is–you guessed it–cars.
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Found Money & Selfish Acts

Ten Dollar BillWhile hiking with Thistle on Saturday I walked up on, of all things, a ten-dollar bill. There it was, folded in half and soggy in the middle of the trail. I picked it up, scraped dirt off and tucked it in my pocket.

And then I got to thinking about how my reaction to finding $10 has changed over the years.

  • When I was a kid, finding such a huge amount of money would have been a treasure trove of possibility–candy, toys, soda–I would have been RICH.
  • When I was a teen I probably would have added it to my allowance to buy clothes or shoes.
  • When I was in college it would have been gas and/or food money.
  • And even as a young adult I probably would have seen it as lunch out with friends.

But now, as a forty-something adult with a good job and all my needs pretty well met, I dried the bill out and dropped it in the Easter Sunday collection plate. And I felt noble for just an instant. But here’s what struck me about it:

That list of things I would do with an extra $10 at any point in my life? They’re all selfish. Even the one about giving the money away. Buying candy at 10, shoes at 16, gas at 21, and lunch at 26 would have given me pleasure. As did giving money away at 42.

I think there’s no such thing as an unselfish act–only selfish acts that fit into God’s will. I guess I’ll keep working on that.

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Fear Fast Results

Normally, I’d post something about Appalachia today, but I thought you might be interested in how my flights went since I posted earlier this week.

Bethany House

Amy Green, authors Dani Pettrey and Victoria Bylin, me, Dave Long.

Here’s the funny thing–I anticipated God replacing any fears with confidence and excitement. But he didn’t. Instead, I just felt–normal. I wasn’t scared, but I also wasn’t what you would call thrilled or delighted. I just tolerated each flight, put up with the general discomfort of flying (swoopy tummy, pressure in my ears, jaw ache), kept both feet on the floor during takeoff and landing (helps keep the plane level) and waited for the next step.

What God DID do that I DIDN’T expect, was give me the best seat mates ever.

Leg #1 – Deborah and I chatted about growing up in the mountains of Appalachia for the full flight. When I used my body to help the pilot keep the plane level, she gave me a knowing smile.

Leg #2 – Peg was on her way home for her father’s funeral. Eunice was headed back home to Minnesota. Lovely ladies who helped the time pass quickly.

Leg #3 – Hal and Anna both happened to be heading east from the North Dakota oil fields (they hadn’t met before). Somehow the three of us talked non-stop for more than two hours. And we’re all Jesus fans. And Hal is a former counselor who specializes in anxiety (just in case, God?). And Anna had only flown once or twice before and was nervous, though I couldn’t tell. We’d both prayed over that flight and God put us next to each other. I got to help her find her connection (we were both scrambling!) and I’d venture to say all three of us blessed each other.

Leg #4 – My one delay happened on the last flight home. But it was just a delay and I had an empty seat next to me. God knew I needed a moment of rest.

So here’s the thing, my answer to prayer was tailor-made for ME. It was better than I imagined. And while I don’t see myself ever being excited about flying, I know God will escort me wherever I go. And he just might introduce me to someone special along the way.

Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

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Lenten Fear Fast–Flying High

AirplaneA while back I pretty much decided that I wouldn’t go anywhere that required air travel. It didn’t seem like that much of a sacrifice. I’ve flown before–been to California, Las Vegas, New York and a few places in between. I just couldn’t think of anything I wanted to get at bad enough to climb aboard an airplane to reach it.

My fear isn’t as simple as being afraid of something going wrong. It’s more of an issue with giving a stranger such utter control over my very self. And then this writing thing started to happen. And there are conferences and events and places I might need to go. Far away places.

I finally decided that if God wanted me to get on an airplane, then by golly he’d put me on one. And so he is. Tomorrow I fly to Minneapolis. Oh, I checked driving directions and Greyhound and Amtrak, but it just wasn’t practical to do anything but get on an airplane. So I will. So I am.

Which is what gave me the idea of giving up fear for Lent. I’ve been living with this idea of NOT being afraid since Ash Wednesday. And I think it’s taking hold. God has yet to ask me to do anything by myself. I trust he’ll be right there with me tomorrow.

And the funny thing? I’m kind of excited. The idea of doing something not by my own strength but through the Holy Spirit is thrilling. And peaceful. When God says, “Go,” the only thing to do is start moving. And if God says, “Go,” how can I possible go wrong?

Proverbs 3:5-7 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight.

Tune in to Facebook–I’ll keep you posted.


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Appalachian Thursday–Ramps!

GE DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s April in Appalachia. That means it’s time to go dig some ramps. I know where there’s a patch up in the national forest near our house. Okay, so maybe it’s on a neighbor’s property right on the edge of the national forest. Technically off-limits.

So, a few years ago, I borrowed two. Dug them up and transplanted them in the woods behind our house. Now, my husband would be quick to tell you I’m more of a theoretical gardener. I have wonderful ideas, but I’m not much on follow through. I plant things and then trust the ongoing care to nature. And sometimes nature comes through. Which is why I have a baby ramp coming up in the woods.

I’m certainly not going to eat it, but I like knowing it’s there. And maybe one day this little guy will naturalize and I’ll have a whole crop. Feels like home.

If you want to try this stinky cross between garlic and a leek, you can order them at Seriously!

-Fry 3 or 4 strips of bacon in a cast iron skillet.
-Remove bacon and drain off all but about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat.
-Cut up 3 decent-sized red potatoes into bite size pieces and fry in the hot fat.
-Once the potatoes are almost cooked through and getting brown.
-Add a handful of chopped up ramps–white and light green parts–more or less depending on whether you plan to be around people who haven’t eaten ramps.
-Saute until the ramps are wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
-Add crumbled bacon over the lot and serve warm.

Some folks like a splash of vinegar.

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Lenten Fear Fast–Nearing Easter

CrossThis coming week we’ll celebrate Palm Sunday and then Holy Week leading up to Easter. At which point I can start being afraid again. Right? I mean, that’s how fasts work. You abstain for a time and then you resume.

Except, maybe, that’s more to do with food fasts. I’ve given up various foods for Lent in the past, and let me tell you, when you haven’t had a French fry in 40 days, they’re VERY tasty. Or the year I gave up candy–those after Easter sales were an unforeseen boon.

But when I gave up my credit card, I never looked back. Still don’t have one. And if I ever get brave enough to give up gossip, I hope I won’t go back to that, either. Fear is a good thing to give up once and for all.

Oh, not the hard-wired, a-mountain-lion-is-chasing-me, fight-or-flight fear. God programmed us with that for a reason. But the what-will-people-think fear, that’s a good one to say goodbye to forever. Or the, I’m-not-in-control-what-if-I-don’t-like-it fear. Or the I-don’t-like-suffering-even-when-it’s-for-God fear.

Last week I swallowed down that what-will-people-think fear. It was the tail end of Bible study and some ladies I’d never met before came in for Faith and Fitness, which meets right after our study. I was about to say something personal that I was comfortable saying in front of friends who know me pretty well. I swallowed hard and said it in front of the newcomers even though it was something I’m really not proud of. Maybe they were horrified. Maybe they were relieved that I wasn’t pretending to be perfect. Either way, I didn’t let fear stop me.

I’ve got a LONG way to go in conquering this fear business. Next week I’m looking forward to tackling a big one. And that right there is a mighty step for me. I’m looking forward to seeing how God will help me abstain from fear.

I’ll be telling you all about it.

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Appalachian Thursday–Win a Copy of My Book!

Bethany House is running a contest to give away an advanced reader copy of Miracle in a Dry Season. I’m so excited to know I’ll be holding my novel in my hands soon and now someone else can hold it early as well! If you’d like to enter to win a copy, follow this link or click on the image below.


Posted in Appalachian, Church, Family, Food, Friends, Love, Miracles, Reading, Waiting, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments