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FOREVER
I learn as the years roll onward
And leave the past behind,
That much I have counted sorrow
But proves our God is kind;
That many a flower I longed for
Had a hidden thorn of pain,
And many a rugged by-path
Led to fields of ripened grain.

The clouds but cover the sunshine,
They cannot banish the sun,
And the earth shines out the brighter
When the weary rain is done.
We must stand in the deepest sorrow
To see the clearest light,
And often from wrong's own darkness
Comes the very strength of right.

We must live through the weary winter
If we could but value the spring,
And the woods must be cold and silent
Before the robins sing.
The flowers must be buried in darkness
Before they could bud and bloom
And the sweetest and warmest sunshine
Come after the storm and the gloom.

So the heart from the hardest trial
Gains the purest joy of all,
And from the lip that have tasted sadness
The sweetest songs will fall.
For as peace comes after suffering,
And love is reward of pain,
So after earth comes heaven
And out of our loss the gain.
Author unknown

This poem is one of my favorites, because it speaks to my heart.  I remember one dismal morning when dark clouds obscured any rays of light that endeavored to shine. I was going through a hard trial which seemed to have no answer and God seemed so far away. My thoughts were as gloomy as the day, and the weight of the world seemed to be on my shoulders.

All at once the sun broke through the dark clouds, sending heavenly rays of light into the world. The clouds moved away, leaving a bright beautiful day in their place. My heart lifted as I began to say aloud, "Why, the sun hadn't quit shining—it was there all the time! God was there all the time too! My burdens and sorrows merely had His face obscured, just as the clouds hid the sun!" I began to praise and thank Him for His tender care.

Now whenever troubles and trials try to overwhelm me, I remember the day when God showed His face through the clouds. He is always there!

After all of the cold and wet days of spring, hot summer-like weather has exploded in our hills. The leaves on the trees are getting fuller every day, and spring flowers abound. It is one of God's miracles that the hills were so recently bare and gray are now garbed in bright shades of green, and flaunting fluttering leaves. Dogwood trees are covered in white cross-shaped blossoms, and the lavender blooms on the redbuds are giving way to slender bean pods.

The common white and yellow oxeye daisy is now appearing along hedges and roadsides, heralding the end of the school term. It seemed that the first daisies bloomed as school was ended for the summer. Daisies were an important ingredient in our summer fun; how could you have a playhouse without daisies? They forecast our love life "he loves me; he loves me not—he'll marry me; he'll marry me not" and comprised a lot of our menus. Fried eggs? They were perfect sunny side up. The crumbled centers were good for shredded cheese. I've never outgrown my love for a play house.

Oh, the good old summertime! There was no limit to the things our imaginations could devise. No electronic games for us, no television or Ipods—we roamed the woods and played in the creek. I found an essay that our grandson Luke Thompson wrote many years ago while he was still in school. It describes country life in the summertime for kids.

It's called "A Nail of Truth" and is very appropriate. Grandpa Criss often wondered what happened to his nails!
Running through the hills, hollers and creeks in bare feet are some of the past times of the kids up Summer's Fork Creek. Needless to say, that doesn't even touch the favorite past time of all—building a cabin and staying in it. As most people know, in order to build a cabin you have to have something to make it out of. My friends and I would get our stuff any way we could even if it meant stealing it.

One day in the summer, when I was still in grade school, my younger brother, our cousin and I made plans to build a cabin and stay in it on Friday night. I was so excited that during the school day I often found myself drifting off in a world of my own dreaming of our cabin.

As soon as we got off the school bus, we split the woods wide open trying to find the perfect place. We decided on a small knoll just behind our grandparent's house. Upon finding the site for our cabin, we separated to find, borrow or steal the necessary equipment.

Later, when we all rejoined we had come up with three 2X4's, a few sheets of plywood, a small piece of carpet and enough grass rope to raise a ship out of water. We soon found out that even with all the rope we had, the 2X4's just weren't going to stay up. To solve the problem, we flipped a coin to see who was going to borrow some nails off our Grandpa-without asking of course. I was chosen.

I started out on my journey off the hill. As I reached the edge of the woods, I slowed down my pace to make sure no one was outside. Then I edged my way to the creek bank being ever so careful not to attract any attention. Jumping to the opposite bank, I made a mad dash to the shed where my grandfather kept all his stuff.

Upon reaching it, I grabbed the first box of nails I saw, and then retreated back to the woods in a fast sprint. We quickly put the nails to use. Putting one of the 2X4's up between two trees as a crossbeam, we put the other two up to create a lean-to. The plywood was used as the roof, the carpet as the floor and we used the rope to make snares.
Later that evening, we all went home to eat supper and round up some sleeping bags, which were simply some old blankets that Mom sewed together. On the way back up the hill with my stuff, I neglected to see one of the boards we had dropped had a nail in it. I stepped right on it. When I finally got back off the hill, wounded and weary, and got bandaged up I had to stay home because I couldn't make it back up the hill.

All that night I kept thinking to myself that I would never steal again!


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