Retirement Lifestyles: Senior center offers writing classes

Published on Thu, May 13, 2010
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Senior center offers writing classes
Kay Dee Powell, a retired teacher from California, has been facilitating a creative writing class at the Blaine senior center for the past six years.  The group meets Wednesdays at 10 a.m. beginning in September and starts each meeting with a quick write on topics which encourage divergent thinking and stimulate creativity.  Next, members read pieces that they have written at home. Topics can range from autobiographical vignettes to opinions, prose, or poetry.  Many of the seniors are composing their life stories to be handed down to children and grandchildren.
Here’s one by the late Evelyn Yarbrough, who passed away April 24 of this year at the age of 89. She was a long time resident of Blaine and the president of the Blaine senior center as well as treasurer of the Whatcom County Council on Aging. She is fondly remembered by those who frequent the center.

“The Night We Tested God”
By Evelyn Yarbrough

“The Night We Tested God”
God was the really dominant personality in our house, the final authority. We said our prayers to Him every night, but He never spoke to us. He must have talked to Mama and Grandpa. They always seemed to know what He thought about everything. The only problem was that the two of them received very different messages.

Mama’s God was gentle and kind. His purpose was to make people happy. If He didn’t give you exactly what you prayed for it was because He knew something else would be better for you. He was the sort of God who wouldn’t have been above kissing a dirty sore toe if that was what you needed, at least if He wasn’t busy with other things.
Grandpa had been a hell-fire and brimstone type of preacher until something happened to his voice. He could carry on a conversation. But when he shouted and exhorted as was expected of such preachers his voice would crack. He would be left with just a whisper.

His God was a God of vengeance. We imagined that He had eyes that saw everything and shot lightening bolts when He was displeased. He also had arms long enough to reach anywhere and snatch up unruly children for punishment when they misbehaved.

Growing up we often worried about that contrast. We were still too young to have reached the state of development where contrary things might both be true. We might have been able to conclude that God was a “schizoid” or at least a victim of split personality. For us it wasn’t enough to just discuss the problem. And at the annual harvest time revival meeting, our conclusions reached a climatic moment.

As usual, visiting ministers and their families stayed at our house. My brothers and I made do with quilts in the hayloft. On one particular evening the visiting minister had delivered a rousing sermon on the Book of Revelations. It led to a long discussion when we got home.

That preacher, the Reverend Hallgrimson, agreed with Grandpa that the last days were at hand. There would be blood on the moon and moaning and gnashing of teeth. Such things were as scary as tales of the headless horseman.
My brother, Ray, and I sat in the barn and discussed the problem. Since all of this was about to happen anyway we didn’t have too much to lose by making a test to see who was right, Mama or Grandpa.

We worried over available options for the test. Finally, we decided we would break a commandment and see what God did about it.

Choosing which commandment was a serious problem. We were too young to understand anything about coveting the neighbor’s wife and we didn’t want to do anyone harm, let along kill someone.

We finally thought of something. Our father had been talking only a few days before about watermelon stealing. In those days, it was a pastime of some of the “wild” kids in the neighborhood. Dad felt that stealing any property was a crime, not a prank. This was our answer.

We were not allowed to pick melons for ourselves because we were not good judges of ripeness. We would go down to Dad’s watermelon patch and steal a melon. The crop was so plentiful that we could steal one and break a commandment without anyone being hurt.

We stole one melon and went up to the top of the hill to break and eat it. It was a good choice. The melon was sweet and delicious. We tried to enjoy it while shivering in anticipation of what God might have in store for us.
Across the valley, over the next range of hills, the moon began to rise. As sometimes happens in the autumn the moon appeared to be a deep orange, almost red.

We thought about the warnings of blood on the moon in the last days and thought that we might not have just brought retribution to ourselves. We might have triggered the end of the world.

We waited for God to reach down and grab us by the napes of our necks and the seats of our pants to fling us into the fires of Hell. We waited and waited, but nothing happened.

The moon finally disappeared behind a cloud. We went back to eating the watermelon. It tasted even better. God had allowed us the special treat to show us He cared. Mama had been right all along, but we didn’t think we could ever convince Grandpa.

God was really a nice guy and when Mama went through the house singing, “And He walks with me and He talks with me and tells me I am His own,” she was on the right wavelength.

She and God understood each other.

All was once again right in our small world.