"But I can show you morning on a thousand hills, and kiss you and give you seven daffodils."

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The annual Halloween party at the Essex Church of God was the pin that stuck that holiday into my heart. Fellowship - a time of family and friends. Anticipation - searching for that perfect costume; waiting for night to fall. Joy - gobbling up unlimited treats; playing unique games. Laughter - savoring those scares; and finally, revealing oneself. Autumn – crunching leaves; crisp air. It was, indeed, a magical time!

My mother would drop us off at the little white house behind the church, and then change into her costume and return. Incognito. My sister and I would wonder all evening, “Hmm, is that scary old witch sitting in the corner, my mother? Or, is she that hump-backed monster growling nearby?” Prizes were awarded for the best costumes, and invariably, my mother or one of my brothers would win for the “scariest.” I remember one of them cutting the sleeve off a shirt, sewing it closed, and applying fake blood -- then, stuffing the sleeve with paper, stitching it closed, adding the fake blood, attaching a rubber hand on the other end, and dragging that bloody arm around all evening. Ah, yes. Scares were plentiful in my house.

I vividly recall watching a movie entitled “Two on a Guillotine.” I was 6; my sister was 8. It was one of those rare times, when my older brothers actually allowed us to watch a movie with them. My mother initially said no, that it was too scary. Sharon and I insisted, “No, it’s not! Please, mom, please?” She relented. We managed to get half-way through it when Sharon announced that she had to use the bathroom. Of course, she demanded that I go with her. She wasn’t going alone. No way. Upon exiting the bathroom, my brother, who was hiding in the nearby, darkened bedroom, breathed. He took in a deep breath, loudly … and let it out, loudly. Inhale. Exhale. Sharon and I … ran. We raced down those stairs three at a time, and fell all over each other, crashed into the magazine stand at the bottom of the steps, and started crying. My brothers, of course, couldn’t stop laughing. And finally, we too, started laughing. In relief. Needless, to say, we weren’t allowed to watch the rest of the movie.

My childhood was filled with those little frights and scares – ya know, those little displays of affection from my family. Countless times, my mother or sister jumped out from behind a door and yelled, “Boo!” On one occasion, my sister crawled under my bed and waited. At bedtime. For me.  I had no cause to check under my bed.  Ever.  It was simply to low to the ground for anyone or anything to hide.  I brushed my teeth, and climbed into bed to settle in for the night. When all was still … she simply reached out and grabbed my arm. Scream! And of course, the ensuing laughter.  

As a teenager, my favorite place to frequent was this one particular road – because it was home to several cemeteries – eight, to be exact. Each unique. Each beautiful. The winding pathways, decaying flowers, crumbling stones, and meaningful trinkets – loving memorials for those that had gone before. A place to ponder one’s mortality. A place to appreciate and respect the dead. A place to commune with God.

My husband and I were fortunate enough to purchase a home on that road. I remember telling my mom, after she had moved to South Carolina, where our new house was located. She said excitedly, “Oh! You get live near those cemeteries.” Yes. Whoop, whoop!

When we head out in the early morning hours for exercise – we go straight through those cemetery gates and choose a path to run. God is always there. His handiwork is more prevalent, as the lights of the county fade. I often gaze in wonder at the vastness of the sky and the overwhelming beauty of the stars and the moon. And I feel victorious – knowing that Jesus conquered the grave. 

The LORD is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1

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