The Two Things That Define Character


Character Defined

In the end, I discovered that my father was right when it came to things of character. My mother was the one who passed it on to us. I can’t tell you how many times I heard her say this:

There are two things that tell the character of a person: 

           settling an estate or building a line fence.

My father had no doubt seen his share of squabbling over line fences, for he was a surveyor and was sometimes called upon to settle disputes. In addition, as a man who served as an executor of many estates, I suppose he had seen and heard it all.

Perhaps that is why he felt so strongly that a person’s true character is shown when it comes to working out differences in our property, our possessions, and our money.


Character in Action

When a fence is put between two properties, there’s always a concern for the right-of-way and who gets which corner so that all is fair. Each party looks out for his interests more than the interests of the other side. That’s our human (sinful) nature.

When it’s time to settle an estate, it matters not so much how things are written in the will to be divided out. What is more important is how we respond when we think things aren’t quite fair. Unfortunately, most times we’re  just selfish enough to keep harboring what we should maybe let go. Sometimes we’re just selfish enough that we don’t consider the other side of the estate.

When it’s time to build a line fence, it matters more that those on the other side of the fence don’t have to fight to get a right-of-way. It matters more how the folks on the other side of the fence might be feeling.


Our Role Model

For the Christian, there are some things to consider because our role model is not our friend or an attorney. Our role model is not our neighbor or our legal counsel.

Our role model is Jesus. The same person Who talked about daily cross-taking to follow Him. The same God Who said we should, as much as possible, be at peace with each other. The same Savior Who gave up His rights so that we can have eternal life. The same person Who said that first,  we are to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Much as we’d like to pass it on to our kids, much as we’d like to keep it in the family when all is said and done, there will be no titles or heirloom pieces in Heaven. We won’t be able to take it with us, so let’s make certain the way we’ve obtained it – whether it’s our inheritance or our line fence –  is good, honest, fair, and true.


The Importance of Character

Today, there are families the world over who have developed a rift over the settling of an estate. They miss out on sharing holidays and family reunions. They miss out on seeing grandchildren or nieces and nephews grow up. They miss out on comradery, all because of the response of one side (or both sides) to the Will or the settling of an estate. Sometimes the rift that occurred in the first generation is carried on to the next, and the grudge is maintained. The chasm is wider and the next generation doesn’t even know what the rift was about, yet in loyalty, they carry on the rift.

There are neighbors who aren’t speaking to each other because of a line fence. Walls are built, stones are thrown, and the cold and silence become deeper and stronger. Hatred spews out, and sometimes there is violence. Is it really worth that pain to be so right?!

When we settle an estate or build a line fence, what really shows is not so much the possessions we inherit or the line on the farm. What shows is the character of those who settled the estate and of those who have built that fence.

What does your line fence say to others about your character?

What does the way you’ve settled an estate tell your family about your love for Jesus?




I Want To Grow Old With You



It’s Valentine’s Day, and young lovers are enjoying the freshness of their relationship. I watch them, and I remember how it was with us. I treasure the memories of our beginnings, for there is nothing quite like the fragrance of an opening flower.

Yet the fragrance of our love is deeper and richer than that of a fresh blossom. We’ve weathered storms and seasons because we are committed to each other. I want to weather many more storms and seasons with you.

I want to grow old with you.

I always said I wanted to marry a man who was a leader.  Who, by the love and character he possessed, would cause submission and following to come easily and readily.  Then I found you. You encourage and challenge me to be my best, yet allow me to be different from you.

I want to experience your leadership, when I grow old with you.

I said I wanted a man who was tough as well as tender. Then I found you. I’ve watched your face soften as you’ve held our babies. I’ve watched you deal out tough discipline when necessary.  Then I’ve marveled at the productive results.

I want to experience the tough and the tender of you when I grow old with you.

I said I wanted a man who was made of steel and velvet. Then I found you. I’ve watched your steel endure long hours to provide for us. I’ve watched you stand alone when you’ve been asked to violate your convictions and conscience. You are a man of your word.  If fame were integrity, you’d be the star. Our children have a stellar example to follow in you.

I want to know the strength of your steel when I grow old with you.

old dogs

Burying a dog one morning before school.

I’ve felt your velvet as you’ve held me or asked forgiveness.  I’ve experienced your velvet as you’ve taken the time to dig a grave for yet another dog and allowed your sons to help shovel in the dirt when you could have done it faster yourself.  I’ve seen your velvet with the little girls you call Princess when they come running with excitement because Papa is home.

I want to feel the softness of your velvet, when I grow old with you.

old girls

The little girls he calls Princess.

I always said I wanted a man who could make me laugh. Then I found you. You have a way of making me laugh (especially when I’m mad at you!)  You’ve helped me laugh when I intended to cry. I’ve watched our children’s faces as they enjoy this rare side of their father, wondering what he’ll do next.

I want to laugh, when I’m old, with you.

I never asked for a perfect husband. I knew I couldn’t be a perfect wife. I wanted someone who didn’t always agree with me. We found imperfection and disagreements when we found each other.

You trim the kid’s nails and leave the clippings wherever you happen to complete the job. You track soot into the house from your shoes and forget, at times, to call me when you’re working late.

I forget to keep a grocery list and we’ve been out of essentials when you could have picked them up if only I had remembered. I’ve thrown away papers that were important to you and eaten your food at McDonald’s when I said I didn’t want any.

You willingly dress the children but leave PJ’s and nightgowns wherever you dropped them. You’ve left medicine within reach of a toddler, an opened shampoo bottle on the side of the tub, and forgotten to close the toilet lid.

I’ve forgotten to give you important messages relating to jobs; forgotten to mail bills due tomorrow; been too tired to tidy up the house, and cooked meals without tasting them.

When the kids are gone, I’ll still be forgetful with you.

old clock

You think the day is half over at 10 AM, which is a good time, I think, to be getting out of bed. I like warm beds with the electric blanket on high; you think a crisp, cool bed is invigorating.

I love peanut butter and chocolate. You refuse to eat either. I like coffee in the morning. You dislike coffee kisses.

I’ll still disagree, when I’m old, with you.

old coffee heart lips


I wanted a man who loved me for me, who believed in me. Then I found you.

There have been times you’ve said, “I don’t know what to do with you, but I can’t live without you.”

You continue to love and cherish me, even when I am unlovely.

I want to be cherished, when I’m old, by you.

I wanted a man who believed in commitment and the permanence of marriage. Then I found you. There have been days I have been especially grateful for that commitment. It was the glue that held us together. It was the source for “working it out” no matter how many hours or days it took.

Your assurance, “I don’t know how we’re going to work this out. But I want you to know that I love you and am committed to you and to us,” is the best marriage insurance we could have.

I’ll still have that insurance when I’m old, with you.

old bench

I wanted a man who wouldn’t grow tired of me–nor I of him. You are my best friend, my most creative critic, my favorite person. Even when I am angry with you, I want to be with you. I enjoy your company more than anyone else’s. I pick out your voice from a hundred in a room. My eyes find yours across throngs of people. I recognize the feel of your skin, the clasp of your hand in the dark. I am at home with you.

I want to be at home, when I’m old, with you.

Through seasons of uncertainties, your love and commitment are certain and sure. “A good marriage doesn’t just happen; it takes work,” you’ve said.

We’ve worked and cried and prayed together. We’ve laughed and sung and played together. We are committed to each other. That is the essence of our relationship, our marriage.

On this Valentine’s Day, I want you to know that I am deeply in love with you. I admire and respect the man you are. For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness or in health, I am committed to you.

And I want to grow old – with you.

Pinterest Grow Old

This story was written by assignment in 1996 when I was pregnant with our youngest son.  Dave and I are growing old together – and enjoying it immensely!  It was first published in Christian Living Magazine and later in Discover Southside, an online ezine. You can also read it under My Attic.

How Our Thoughts Shape Our Destiny

destiny poppy flowers sunset


I’m still adapting to writing the New Year: 2016. It always takes time, but before I know it, I’ll be writing the correct year without realizing that I’ve made the adjustment. That’s how life is.

A thought enters our minds and before we know it, we are following the trail of that thought without realizing where it came from or where we will end up by riding that train. We follow perceptions without considering whether or not they represent the truth.

Once we begin this process, we often follow it with little or no evaluation of its merit. We’re going down this road, not even thinking about where we’re headed. Sometimes we don’t even realize where that road will eventually take us. We’re just traveling on it because it seems right or it feels right – but we’ve never checked it with GPS. I’m not talking about a  global positioning system. I’m talking about God’s Personal Standard.

If you don’t subscribe to the Bible as a pattern for living, you won’t be able to follow this post or understand it. If, however, you aspire to live redemptively, then keep reading.

A few days ago, I heard an older, newly-retired man share his thoughts on how to live as a retiree. He reckoned with the fact that life would be different now, and he could choose to live or to just exist. It was obvious he was struggling with his identity and importance since he no longer had a set schedule and a job. Even though it was his decision to retire, he was still grappling with the changes that choice had brought.

destiny girl pensive

Jonas told us that he was struggling with his thoughts. He recognized that his thoughts could take him places he didn’t want to go. So the first thing he aimed to do was to guard his thoughts.

“Because,” he said, “thoughts shape our destiny.”

“Our thoughts will take us down a road that leads to other mile markers,” Jonas explained. “And at the end of time, our destiny will be decided by the road we traveled.”

Then he carefully explained the progression from thoughts to destiny.

Our thoughts become a part of us. Before we know it, those thoughts are shared in our words.

destiny words

What we think, we will say. Oh, how well I know. We all know, don’t we?

After we speak those words, we act on them. Our words become our actions.

destiny waterfowl habits

Actions repeated often enough become habits.

Habits can be good. They don’t need to be negative, even though I often think of a habit as something that needs to be broken, fixed, or changed. Perhaps this is because our most glaring habits are often the result of not-so-good actions. Hard to admit, but true.

Soon the habits begin defining who we are. They envelop our character.

destiny blue clock

And character defines our destiny.  It’s true.

There’s a verse in Psalms that says “as we think in our hearts, so we are.”

This whole progression really starts in our heart, which influences our thoughts.

Ouch. Oh, ouch!

How can we go from one bad, ugly thought to a bad destiny?

But really, how can we not?!

There’s a proven way to have our destiny be what we want it to be.

There is a way to change the course of our thoughts. It’s actually a prayer and it comes right from Scripture.

Here it is: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord . . . . ”

What better way is there to pray than to ask this, every day in 2016.

How about it.  ‘Care to join me?











Who I Am When No One Is Around

pumpkins large

“It’s just up the road, about half a mile after the church,” my neighbor told me. “The pumpkins are sitting out in the yard. It’s the honor system, you know,” she added.

The honor system, I mused.

We hear about making the honor roll and about honors given to people for specific accomplishments. Yet this is a different kind of honor. This idea of an honor system speaks of trust. It expects and believes the best.

I recognized the place as I parked my vehicle along the curve of the road. I’d been there before.

In the summer,  I’d helped myself to cantaloupe and emptied my change into the box.  Now, in the autumn, I’d heard there were pumpkins for sale.

There certainly were pumpkins for sale — rows and piles of orange pumpkins, as varied as the kids who play in our yard.

I chose my pumpkins and put the money in the box.  That’s right— an honor system with a shoe box for collecting money.

I’d been there before when the box had piles of bills in it. How easy it would be to help myself to the change!

That first time around, I expected someone to come out from the house to take my money.

Then I noticed the hand-written sign: “God trusts you, and so do we.”

I spoke to the Mrs. the other day. “I check the box often and keep a count of the pumpkins, and as near as I can tell, no one takes any without paying for then. I figure if they need them badly, they can have them,” she chuckled.

pumpkins large 2

How easy it is to pay up when someone is watching. Yet how simple it would be to take five pumpkins and only pay for four. Especially when no one is watching.

It’s a matter of principle — and of character.

I remember the cassette tape my kid’s grandmother made for her baker’s dozen grandkids before she went to Heaven.

She tells a story called “A Penny’s Worth a Character.”  Before she tells the story, she explains character to the kids.

“Character is what you really are,” she says. “You can pretend to people that you’re something you are not. Character is how God sees you. What God know about you, that’s your character— the real person you are.”

Someone has said, “Character is what you are willing to do when the spotlight has been turned off, the applause has died down, and no one is around to give you credit.”

pumpkins small group

I think of that when I shell out my greenbacks and put the rock back on top of the lid of the misshapen box.

I think about that when I’m wheeling my cart down the grocery aisle and knock something onto the floor. No one else is in the aisle with me— and it would be quicker to keep moving than to backtrack and pick up the item. That’s what the clerks get paid for anyhow, right?

I think about that when the change the clerk hands me is incorrect— and I’d never have to tell.

I think about that when I’m tempted to return something to Wal-Mart that’s broken. How easy it would be to tell the clerk it was broken when I got home —when it wasn’t.  I’d get my money back— but I’d lose peace of mind and my integrity.

I think about it when I had the parking spot first and someone is making a move to pull in.

I think about it when I’m driving down the road and choose not to  throw trash in somebody else’s yard.

I think about it when I notice something fallen off the shelf and lying in the aisle—and I’m tempted to go on because it’s not my job – instead of making my world a better place.

Yet there’s a sense of satisfaction when I take the time to right the wrongs in the world around me— especially when nobody is around to give me credit.  Nobody that is, but God.

The pumpkins are nestled among the mums and hay bales in our front yard. How would it feel to look at them, and know that I’d cheated folks of their money? How does it feel to know I was true to the honor system—even if no one else knows?

No one, that is, but God.

pumpkins front yard 2



This article was first published in November, 2000 and later printed in the book  Southside Glimmers.  That was fifteen years ago.  You know what I’ve learned?  We never outgrow temptation.