Planted in Rocky Soil (Encouragement for Creators)

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John Herbert Gleason had the potential to bloom into a superstar. But because he’d been planted in the “rocky soil” of a family struggling with illness, financial hardship, and a good dollop of dysfunction, his future didn’t appear promising.

John was born on February 26, 1916, in Brooklyn, New York. He was the youngest of two sons born to Herb Gleason, an Irish American who worked as an insurance auditor. But John’s brother died of spinal meningitis at age 14. Shortly following the boy’s death, John’s father sat down and went through the family photo album. He removed all the photographs of himself, including any pictures of his family that included him. After he’d culled the photographs in the album, Herb Gleason then destroyed them.

The next morning, on December 15, 1925, John’s father went to work as usual. At noon he collected his paycheck, grabbed his coat and hat, and walked out of his office at the insurance company. His employer never heard from him again. Neither did his family. At the age of nine, and just ten days before Christmas, John Gleason learned his father had abandoned him.

When John’s mother finally faced the reality that her husband wasn’t coming home again, she got a job at the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation, collecting subway fares. Her disillusioned son started hanging out on the streets. He eventually dropped out of high school and joined a local gang. But John never abandoned his mother. He often helped support the household by hustling pool.

Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman in The Hustler.

But John wanted more. He’d caught the acting bug after taking part in a school play, and soon found a job at a local theater as the master of ceremonies. He made $4 a night. John was on his way…but he was about to encounter yet another bump in the road. When he was 19, his mother developed a severe abscess on her neck. There wasn’t enough money for a doctor, so John tried to lance the boil himself. Ultimately the infection spread throughout her body, and John’s mother died a few weeks later.

Now homeless, and with only 40 cents in his pocket, John hit the road. Then came a succession of jobs that included work as a carnival barker, a latter-day vaudevillian, and a stunt driver in movies. Later, John met up with an old friend, who told him about a job in Reading, Pennsylvania that payed $19 per performance — more money than John had ever seen in his life. So he borrowed the bus fare and headed for PA. That job became his first professional work as a comedian.

Television and movies soon followed, and the name of John “Jackie” Gleason grew familiar to Americans from coast to coast. His best known role was that of Ralph Kramden, the disgruntled Brooklyn bus driver in the comedy series The Honeymooners, a show which depicted the humble surroundings and struggling “everyman” people he’d grown up with.

Despite the adversity Jackie Gleason faced in his youth, he was determined to surmount every obstacle and follow his dreams. He’d been planted in rocky soil, but nevertheless, he bloomed as an entertainer: an actor in both serious and comedic parts; an accomplished musician; a screenwriter, producer and director.

The gifts and callings of creative people don’t change with seasons or circumstances. And their dreams don’t have to die when the storms of life come. Are you feeling like you were planted in a barren wilderness? Do you believe the facts of your life make less than fertile soil for all your hopes and dreams? Are you facing a dry season in life? God is with you, and with His divine help you can overcome every adversity! Only believe! Keep the faith, never give up, and bloom where you’re planted!

“God never changes His mind when He gives gifts or when He calls someone.” (Romans 11:29 GOD’S WORD)

“There is a season for everything, a time for every event under heaven: …a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 4 ISV)

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New Seasons Ahead! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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“Deep snow in winter, tall grain in summer.” (an Estonian proverb)

“Hey, Punxsutawney Phil, will Spring arrive on time? Give us a prediction, you furry fellow.” Alas, this grumpy groundhog woke up on the wrong side of the bed! “Prediction? I’ll give you a prediction! ‘Man who asks silly question gets pierced earlobe!’”

After a long winter, the arrival of Spring brings a welcome change of pace. Spring officially starts on March 19, and we’re ready to welcome the changes it brings! In fact, we love the change of seasons. The weather changes and so does our wardrobe and activities. With warmer months ahead we begin to store away our sweaters and long sleeves, and move our summer outfits to the front of the closet. We marvel at the changes taking place in nature, too. With Spring, all of life seems renewed. In the woods surrounding Woodhaven, the trees thicken with vibrant green leaves, the landscape becomes speckled with the blossoms of dogwoods and mountain laurel. Our old friends the hummingbirds return, rejoining our year-round regulars: cardinals, goldfinches, chickadees, huge pileated woodpeckers, and even a red hawk.

Along with the change of seasons, come changes in what we tend to eat. All those hearty soups and stews that warmed us during the winter no longer have as much appeal. Our tastes turn away from turkeys and roasts, to grilled steaks and fresh vegetables. We start craving cool crisp salads and other, lighter fare.

Our desserts change, too. In the Winter we love warm bread pudding in brandy sauce, and hot apple pie. Now, we’re ready to serve and enjoy lots of ice cream. One of our favorite warm-weather desserts is homemade vanilla ice cream topped with fresh, sliced strawberries. We like to serve it up in a pretty margaritta glass, and add a dollop of whipped cream!

Can you think of other seasonal foods? How about pumpkin pie and eggnog? (Fall and Winter) Deviled eggs and Challah bread? (Spring) Hotdogs and watermelon? (Summer) These are a few of our favorites, but you probably can list many others.

Just as there are seasons of the year — accompanied by seasonal foods and seasonal clothes — there also are seasons of life. Seasons of sowing and reaping, of adversity and rest. King Solomon wrote, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. …A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. …Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4,11 NLT)

Many of us have gone through seasons of struggles, challenges, grief, and discouragement. Periods in life when it felt like every time we took one step forward, we took two steps back! But, like the weather and our food preferences, these seasons do change. Nothing lasts forever except God’s eternal love. So no matter what adversity your facing, “this too shall pass”!   Therefore, “…let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 ESV)

Thank you, Lord, that real life is not like the movie Groundhog Day. Spring is just around the corner and tomorrow will be a NEW day with renewed hope and blessings.

Don’t give up. Keep believing, keep dreaming, keep on doing your best; keep on loving and helping others, and your breakthrough will come!

Are things looking bleak at the moment? Are you going through a “cold, dark season”? Look back at the other times in your life, when you were facing a difficult situation, when you felt like you were at the end of your rope. Those were dark seasons, too — but you’re still standing! You came through the tough times, and into a new season. “…The winter is past… Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come….” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12 NIV)

“You give [us] peace and quiet from times of trouble….” (Psalm 94:13 GOD’S WORD Translation)

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