Monday, October 30, 2017

Reluctant Trick-or-Treater Had fun Halloween Anyway




Sunday, November 2, 2014


Reluctant Trick-or-Treater Had fun

Halloween Anyway


By Peggy Toney Horton
Our house was situated on the banks of the Kanawha River. It had a great yard shaded by large fruit trees. Apple, pear, plum, and peach trees delighted the senses as well as the appetite. What's more, a long arbor laden with succulent purple grapes all summer completed the orchard–like feel of the yard.

Ah, but it was very dark at night. Spooky. Not even the brightest moonlight could find its way around or through the abundant foliage surrounding the house. It was a small town and there were few streetlights – certainly none at the end of the street that led to the river.

As a child, I cared nothing about Halloween. Still don’t. I realize I was then, and still am, among the minority, but the day holds little fascination for me. When my friends said, “What are you gonna be for Halloween?” I crinkled my nose and answered, “I don’t know. Probably nothing.”

Yet, invariably, a few friends came to my house at near-darkness every Halloween night, and insisted I go trick-or-treating with them. It didn’t do any good to refuse. They kept on until I went to my mother’s closet and found something to fashion a costume – an old dress, hat and some make-up was enough to do the trick for me and off we’d go hitting every house in the small town, saying the words, trick-or-treat what seemed like a thousand times and coming home with our bags full of goodies. I enjoyed it in spite of myself, but always vowed never to do it again! It was the same every year.
Almost.
One year stands out in my memory.
My father loved practical jokes. This particular Halloween, he came up with one that still makes me chuckle.
There was a weathered old garage standing at the edge of our property in the front. It seemed to have no purpose. I don’t know who owned it or why it was there.
My dad got the bright idea that, since the dilapidated old garage was already scary looking, especially after dark, and one could imagine all sorts of things going on inside, it might be fun to make it even scarier for the trick-or-treaters and see what happened.
And so… just before dark, he squeezed through the small opening in the garage door, which stood a little ajar at all times but didn’t seem to open fully. The way it creaked when it was moved made it a perfect Halloween prop! The cracks between the vertical boards were just far apart enough so that he could see out without being seen.
I was given the honor of sitting on the front porch swing with a bowl of candy to hand out when the little ghosts and goblins said, “Trick or Treat!” 
My dad watched for the kids through the cracks and allowed them to go to the porch and collect their goodies, but when they turned to leave and reached the end of our walk, which was parallel with the side of the old garage, he’d shine a flashlight through the cracks and let out a horrible monster sound that could have awakened the dead!
Each reaction was almost the same: the child stopped, looked surprised, and then screamed a blood-curdling scream before running away as fast as possible. My dad enjoyed himself to the max.
But as more kids came, they had been warned by others and were ready for the trick. We thought the fun was over until one little guy decided he wasn’t gonna let a make-believe garage monster scare him. “I’m gonna open the door and see who this person is that’s scaring my friends!” he announced proudly.
He bravely walked up to the partly open door, stopped and was ready to peek inside when suddenly, with a deafening bellow, my father lurched right in front of the boy. But something was different. 
He had no head!
Even I was startled for an instant.
The little boy’s eyes grew as big as half-dollars and, for a few seconds, he seemed paralyzed, but when he finally managed to move, he turned and ran away. 
Fast!
Unbuttoning his jacket and removing it from his head, Dad smiled, winked at me and said, “Let’s go inside. The fun’s over.”
It was the best Halloween I ever had!

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro and can be reached at pegylu@suddenlink.net
©Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail-November 2, 2014

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Even When we are Alone, God is With Us


     

  July 23, 2017




Even When we are Alone, God is With Us



By Peggy Toney Horton


     One of our lifelong friends passed away recently, leaving a wife he was married to for more than sixty years. They had no children. Sadly, this wonderful lady is now all alone.

When this happens, friends and relatives are attentive at first – sending cards; bringing food; stopping by to talk; checking to see if the survivor needs anything and phoning often. It seems that this might go on indefinitely. But, although these people mean well, they have jobs and families and obligations. Life soon beckons and they respond. Suddenly, the survivor finds herself alone—and lonely.

At some point in our lives, many of us have probably dealt with loneliness – one of life’s most painful experiences. This can be discouraging, especially when there is no one to help us through this trying situation.

After my father died, my mother used to say that weekends were the loneliest times for her. I never understood that. It seemed to me that every day would have been about the same, as my father was retired. And even though I visited her on weekends, it wasn’t enough. She explained it like this: “That was our quality time together,” she said sweetly. “All week, I stayed busy with housework, laundry and cooking, while he worked in the yard, washed the car or piddled around the house. There’s always something to do when you own a house, you know.” I nodded.

“But come Saturday morning,” she said, “We lingered a long time over breakfast, enjoying lengthy conversations as we drank our coffee, and then we’d get cleaned up and go downtown and do a little shopping. Sometimes we just looked around, or he’d find something to do while I got my hair done. Finally, we’d go to a nice restaurant for dinner before going home. We looked forward to Saturdays. After church on Sunday, we’d have lunch and sit around for hours sipping coffee or iced tea while we read the Sunday papers. I miss all that,” she said wistfully.

My mother lived 25 years after my father died, never remarrying. And she never stopped referring to her lonely weekends.

Although it’s difficult for most of us to understand, sometimes God allows such situations because they are opportunities to bring us into a closer relationship with Him. When we’re all alone and others are unable or unwilling to help, God is the One who is always with us!

While the reality of God’s constant presence with us is a fact, unfortunately, we are not always aware of Him, especially in lonely periods. Have you sometimes wondered, if He’s with me, why can’t I sense His presence? Why do I feel so alone? At times like these, our courage weakens and it’s difficult to rely on the truth that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Heb. 13:5)

In his lifetime of walking with Christ, the apostle Paul learned that times of weakness were God’s invitation to depend on Him. When Paul was struggling with a “thorn in the flesh,” the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”

Christians have a responsibility to visit widows and others who are lonely. It must be made clear that God is always with them. Our greatest resource for letting them know that, of course, is the Bible. Throughout its pages, the Lord tells His people that He is with them. Before Christ ascended to the Father, He promised His followers, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20)

Thus, the Holy Spirit abides within us—and we are never alone!

Peggy Toney Horton lives at Nitro and can be reached at pegylu@suddenlink.net

©Sunday Gazette-Mail - July 23, 2017

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Beauty of Pain and Scars


The Beauty of Pain and Scars

 July 24, 2016

Page 6B



The Beauty of Pain and Scars


By Peggy Toney Horton

     Drying off after a shower, I spied a scar on the inside of my left foot. I’m surprised that’s still there, I thought. Should have faded by now.
I smiled as I recalled the hot summer day long ago when a friend and I were splashing around in the cool, swirling waters of a shallow creek. Our fun was interrupted suddenly when I screamed in pain.
I had stepped on either a sharp rock or a piece of glass. My foot stung like crazy and started bleeding immediately. My friend held my hand, steadying me as I struggled to walk out of the water and toward home without putting weight on that part of my foot. Every step was painful and blood seemed to be coming out of the wound awfully fast.
When she saw my foot and all the blood, my mother was quite upset at first, but fortunately for children, mothers wear many hats, so, donning her nurse’s cap, she went right to work and, in no time, had stopped the bleeding and patched me up almost like new – except for a small scar that would remain on my foot for the rest of my life.
That was not the last scar I got in my lifetime. There were many – both physical and emotional: physical scars from a variety of cuts and scrapes, emotional scars from missed opportunities, lost loved ones and disappointments of all kinds.
We all have scars.
They tell the world we’ve lived. A body or mind without scars means you never took any chances, never learned any lessons.
In order to have a scar, we must first have pain. Pain corrects. You put your hand on a hot stove and get a message that says, "it's hot" that goes to your brain; your brain says, "move your hand" and you move it, you don't have to think about it. It moves instantly. Lesson learned! You never put your hand on a hot stove again!
Why does God allow us to live in a world that is cursed with pain? Because what we call a curse is in fact a blessing. The worst thing God could do is let us live in a world with no pain because it is pain that tells us something is wrong that needs to be corrected.
But what does it say to us when we see the wounds on the hands of Jesus? It says, not only has He suffered and therefore, understands how we feel, but also, that He willingly identified with our humanity that He might take that load and share it with us. He didn't have to suffer this way. He chose to do so.
How could we ever think about our own scars without remembering the nail-scarred hands and feet of Jesus – the gaping wound in his side?
Christ could easily have erased those scars from His body. He could have removed all the marks of His suffering when He rose from the grave.
But He did not.
Instead, they remain as eternal reminders that He cares about our pain and suffering.
Peggy Toney Horton lives at Nitro and can be reached at pegylu@suddenlink.net
©Charleston Gazette-Mail - July 24, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Father’s Example


June 19, 2016

Page 11A



 My Father's Example


By Peggy Toney Horton 


        I awakened early and looked out my window toward the horizon. Although the sun was still nestled behind the hills, its golden rays were a harbinger of the beauty that was still to come. Beyond the burst of yellow was a hint of sky, the promise of blue. It was magnificent to behold!
I thought of my father.
My father was a morning person. I inherited so much of him, why not that? I’ve never been able to start my day early and have often been criticized for not being an early riser. My mother liked to tease that I was “born lazy,” but I prefer to think that God made each of us different and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s okay. Everyone doesn’t have to be the same.
So, no matter what time I get up – early or late – I have priorities just like everyone else.
My dad often told me, “It’s good to start the day by yourself. Just you and your thoughts – alone with God. That’s where you find direction for your day.”
And it stuck!
After many years, I still find it a necessity to be alone for about thirty minutes each morning before I start dealing with anyone or anything. If I don’t get that, my whole day is a bit askew.
As a child, I frequently awakened to find my mother still in bed and I’d go looking for my dad. On warm, spring days or summer mornings, I’d find him sitting on the front porch swing. He was sometimes reading the newspaper, but most often, he’d just be sitting with the most pleasant look on his face – not exactly a smile – but rather a look of contentment. Who knows what he was thinking? Knowing him as I do, I suspect he was having an intimate conversation with God.
But when he saw me, a broad smile would light up his face and he’d say, “Well, good morning, sunshine! How’s Daddy’s baby today?” It was always the same. Even after I was grown and had a family of my own, knowing I’d be up early with my children, he’d phone and say those very words. I never tired of hearing them.
On this day to honor our fathers, I’m remembering so many things about my wonderful father: his dark good looks, tender manner, sense of humor, his kindness toward everyone and his passionate love for God, his family and baseball – in that order.
It’s been many years since my father left us, but his memory remains vivid. I thank God for blessing me with a father who taught me what my Father in Heaven expects of me, and he taught it in the best possible way—by example! 

Happy Father’s Day!   
Peggy Toney Horton
112 Brentwood Rd.
Nitro, WV 25143
pegylu@suddenlink.net


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Are You Plugged In?


 

10 Apr 2016 — Charleston Gazette Mail 




Are You Plugged In?


By Peggy Toney Horton

          A year ago, an unexpected illness forced my husband to have major surgery. When the doctor informed us it was necessary, I was terrified, but Mr. H. was as cool as the other side of the pillow. In the days leading up to surgery, I worried and fretted and lost sleep but he was not concerned.
This was serious.
Throughout his life, he rarely went to the doctor, and he didn't have periodic tests like blood work or colonoscopies. Therefore, I feared that, as testing progressed, the possibility that something life threatening might surface was real.
Although he had always enjoyed good health - except for painful arthritis - there are so many things that can go wrong, and, in most cases, early detection is key to overcoming them.
One day I asked, "How do you stay so calm knowing what you have facing you? Aren't you the least bit worried?"
"No," he said.
"How do you manage that?" I asked.
"I always assume everything will be all right," he said.
Oh, how I envy his ability to stay calm no matter what life throws at him. I'm a world-class worrier. I learned it from my mother, who was an expert. But worrying is a choice, and we can choose not to do it, especially if we're fretting about illness.
Think about it.
When electrical equipment malfunctions, the first thing we do is check to see if it's plugged in. In the same way, when we experience dysfunction or disease in our body, we must check to see if we're "plugged in" to God.
If we are harboring grudges or unkind thoughts, we let them go. If we have given power to beliefs of discord or sickness, we disconnect from these thoughts and reconnect to truth. Once established in right thinking, the light of truth can heal and transform us. But we must do our part.
Each of us has been given a wonderful gift - the gift of a physical body made in the image and likeness of God. It is the housing for our spirit and soul. We show our gratitude for this gift by treating it with love and respect.
The body is a holy temple - a divine creation - and we partner with God in caring for it. We energize it with healthy food and beverages, strengthen it through exercise and bless it with affirming thoughts and restful sleep.
Although our well-being is enhanced by what we take into our bodies, healing is generally from the inside out. Therefore, we should turn within in prayer and meditation to affirm health and wholeness and cease all concern about what could be wrong with our body.
My husband has been blessed with the capacity to do this. He expects the best outcome in every situation, never speculating on unpleasant possibilities.
I still have a ways to go.
"So long as there is disease in your thoughts, there will be disease in your body. Only when your mind is at rest can your body build health. Worry is an actively destructive force. Anxiety produces tension and tension is the road to pain. Whatsoever you sow in your secret thought-life, that shall you reap. Sow praise and you shall reap joy and well-being and a strong faith." - Frances J. Roberts

Peggy Horton lives in Nitro and may be reached at pegylu@suddenlink.net.
 

"Are you plugged in?" Charleston Gazette Mail 10 Apr 2016: B6

 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

How Well Do You Accept Change



 
Sunday, October 11, 2015



ESSAYS ON FAITH

How Well Do You Accept Change


By Peggy Toney Horton


The summer of 2015 appears to have moved on; taking its place in the annals of “Summers Past” as autumn commences to delight us. In a short while, the excitement of the holidays will be upon us, and soon after, winter will usher in a few months of cold, gloomy weather.

Many people are dismayed by such a prediction, just as I am in May when I hear all the cheerful chatter about approaching hot weather. Yes, listening to peoples’ plans for vacations on sandy beaches, trips to faraway places and other kinds of forced merriment for the summer months depresses me. But it seems one must love summertime like the majority of the population, or else he or she appears peculiar, as I do to some of my friends and acquaintances.

A few actually get nasty when I speak of my love for cold weather and snow!

But, I don’t have to think about that today. It’s October — my favorite month of the year, and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest! Not one single soul, no matter what he or she says, can ruin it for me!

October reigns supreme in my book. Though I was born in springtime, I’m quite certain I wasn’t fully awake until October.

God gives us many good gifts—because He loves us. He surely must have been in an especially loving mood when He created autumn! What could be more exciting than an October day? It’s your birthday, Fourth of July and Christmas all rolled into one!

But it’s a distinct change. To some, the very word seems overwhelming. Although I’m not usually quick to accept changes myself, I welcome this one with open arms.

As autumn begins and temperatures cool, the most noticeable change is a colorful display of leaves. The hills are speckled with color. Reds, oranges and yellows stand out amid dull greens and browns. Warm sunshine, less intense than it was a month ago, highlights the beauty of the mountains.

Hopefully, there is also a shift within the spirit of each of us — a sense of fresh energy and excitement. Visible changes should remind us that all is evolving. Seeing God’s dramatic handiwork in nature should trigger an awareness of our potential for positive change.

As our surroundings are altered, we can choose to accept, to adapt, to appreciate and best of all, we can choose to learn and grow. Nature shows us that we die to the old and are reborn in the new. When we see leaves changing color and dropping from tree branches, we know that this will be followed by new growth in springtime and we see that, just as in nature, we must let go of what was, in order to grow anew.

As we evolve in spiritual understanding, we must release the past and welcome the richness of the present in whatever form it takes.

Sometimes the world seems to change too quickly or events in our lives become intimidating or confusing. When that happens, we have only to turn to the power that never changes — our one constant: God. As we connect with the love of God, we know that all things are possible and we can face the world with courage and confidence — no matter what the season.


Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro and can be reached at
 




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Copyright © 2015 Charleston Gazette 10/11/2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Learning a New Trick


 

Sunday Gazette 08/23/15, Page FO2 
WRITE YOUR OWN COLUMN
Learning a New Trick
By Peggy Toney Horton 
Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail 

For a long time now, my husband and I have wondered: what is all the hullaballoo about cell phones? Everywhere you go – to the mall, grocery store, or just taking a walk in your neighborhood, you pass people – youngsters and adults alike – with   their heads down, looking at a little device in their hands called a “smart phone.” Some will look up long enough to smile or say, “Hi,” but others never look up – don't even see you. One wonders why they don’t run into trees or telephone poles, or walk in front of moving vehicles.
“What are they doing?” you ask.
Texting.
It seems that literally everyone is so caught up in texting that they can’t go anywhere without their texting device. If you suggest to a family member or friend that she might leave her smart phone behind while the two of you go shopping, you’re told in no uncertain terms, “I couldn’t do that!
Someone may try to reach me.”
When did everyone become so important?
I remember a day when you could be gone from home from daylight till dusk and never receive a phone call. Texting wasn’t even a reality then. If there were any important events that you needed to hear about, you heard about them when you returned. And the world went right on turning.  Most everything could wait until you got home.
Although there was that one time that my youngest daughter called the Sears store she knew I’d be shopping in, and had me paged to tell me she was in the ER because she had cut her hand badly while washing a glass! When my name was called on the PA system, followed by the message, “Call your daughter immediately,” I must admit, I panicked! However, by the time I got to the ER, she’d been taken care of, which proved she could have handled it without giving her mother heart failure!
Nobody had ever heard of a smart phone then!
Now that I’ve had my rant, it’s confession time. A few months ago, I became the proud (?)  owner of a Smart Phone!
It wasn’t something I needed – or even wanted for that matter, but for the past year, my grown children have been complaining because their mother was “out of the loop!” In order to communicate with me, they had to pick up a phone, push a button and wait for me to answer – and give up at least twenty minutes of their precious time to talk. Sometimes they could get away with e-mailing, but even that took time away from other things they’d rather be doing.
What an inconvenience!
I’m not dissing my children; really, I’m not! They’re kind, generous, caring children and I love them dearly!  I understand that times have changed drastically in the past ten to twenty years.
 But everyone is so busy these days. I’d give half my life if I could pick up a phone and talk to my mother for twenty minutes. Or five!
Ah, well, as the saying goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” So that’s what I’m trying to do. I say “trying” because this texting thing is not as easy as it looks! I type every day on the computer with no trouble at all, but have you ever really looked at the size of one of those keyboards on the new phones? They’re tiny! My fingers just don’t fit. Most of my words come out looking like “mstz[p or xtorn’t” The first time I tried to show off my texting ability to my daughter, I wrote, “This iw fim” (This is fun), “Loo” (Lol). 
Trying to sign off with my son, I typed, “Lat” the first time, “Latre” the second time and, while I was working on the third try, he helped me out by writing, “Later.”
"Yeah, tha'st it," I wrote.
So, as you can see, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but they all tell me to keep practicing.
“You’ll get it,” they say.
And I text back, “I hopr yor rigjt!”
Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro and can be reached at pegylu@suddenlink.net  
Copyright  ©2015
Charleston Gazette
08/23/2015