Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Looking Forward

"Till now the Lord has helped us." I Samuel 7:12.

"Through poverty, through wealth, through sickness, through health, at home, abroad, on the land, on the sea, in honour, in dishonour, in perplexity, in joy, in trial, in triumph, in prayer, in temptation...the Lord has helped us!

"We delight to look down a long avenue of trees. It is delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, a sort of verdant temple, with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves; even so look down the long aisles of your years, at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of lovingkindness and faithfulness which bear up your joys. Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely there must be many, and they all sing of mercy.

"Yet we also look forward, we are not yet at the end, There is still a distance to be traversed. More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; and then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No! there is more yet...the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fulness of eternity, the infinity of bliss. O be of good courage, believer..." (Charles Spurgeon.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Glimpses of Christmas

Preparing for Christmas was rushed and joyless...until my friend asked me to watch her children while she visited her husband in the hospital. Her girls and mine had a wonderful time rolling and cutting and baking and decorating cookies. I enjoyed their fun. This set the tone for the next few days.
I couldn't find peace...until Christmas Eve when I was dropping something off at another friend's house, in a hurry as always, and when she opened her door, I saw she had a cup of hot tea ready, along with oat bran muffins, all set up in her dining room. Those brief few moments are a special memory of this Christmas. Her house was so warm and inviting, and I found rest in quiet conversation with a dear friend.
I couldn't find joy...until we went to our Christmas Eve service at church and found some friends who only come once a year. This family has suffered much in the past few months, but here they all were, dressed in holiday finery, singing out the carols with all their hearts.
I couldn't find contentment until Christmas morning when I realized my daughter Arielle was right. It's all about family. All our kids arrived, the big kids and the little kids, together with all the laughter and stories and feasting and celebrating. Of course, we longed for the missing ones: Dominic and Stacia were in Chicago, Kelsey and Seth in Minnesota. And our extended family in North Carolina and Georgia. But phone calls late into the night connected me to my brother and mother. How blessed we are to have so many loved ones, near and far.
Sometimes I think I expect too much from life. This quote from C.S. Lewis sums it up. "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
And yet, God gives us plenty of experiences in this world to enjoy. And the best is yet to come.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Magic

Early this morning I was sitting in my darkened living room with only the tree lights glowing bemoaning the fact that Christmas has no magic for me this year. Why? The suffering of my friends weighs heavily and Fred is working all the time and comes home exhausted, just to eat and go to bed. We are too busy, too much to do in too little time. Everyone is on edge.

So if I focus on the true meaning of Christmas--Immanuel, God with us--I see Jesus as our only hope in a world of pain and hard work. The joy he brings is the only kind of lasting joy. I know this, but I'm having a difficult time getting perspective this year. This morning I am not feeling very spiritual.

I look at the tree and remember Christmases past. The carols and the lights surrounding the holiday allow children to indulge in the world of their imaginations, where children long to dwell. But we parents make them concentrate on the real world of school work and chores and responsibility. Usually at Christmas we briefly join them in their fantasy world where Santa and reindeer live at the North Pole and an adopted elf searches for his roots and a couple tries to escape Christmas only to find true meaning by sacrificing their needs for others. (These all come from movies we've watched recently.) Fred sets up his trains and he and the girls lie on the floor and watch them go around the tree and imagine living in that tiny village.

The girls and I were shopping for toys for the little ones in our family. After we chose our gifts I asked Arielle and Liana if they wanted to walk through the doll section of this big store. No, they said. Didn't they want to just look at the dolls? No. It's so very sad. Arielle wants no toy for Christmas. She hasn't for awhile. And this will probably be Liana's last year for Christmas toys. They are both growing up.

I remember my middle-school years when there was no more jumping out of bed early in the morning to see what Santa had left for me. In 7th grade I got white go-go boots (that I very much desired) and a warm sweater. Great gifts, but not thrilling. It was hard to face reality for a child who often lived in an imaginary world.

Late at night on Christmas Eve this year Fred and I will not be arranging toys on the sofa to be discovered at dawn by excited little girls in their pjs. Gifts now are more practical and sophisticated. As I sadly contemplate this, I think of what my wise daughter Arielle said a few weeks ago. She told me the best part of Christmas for her is not the gifts but the family gathering all together. She loves the crazy antics of her brothers and playing with the youngest ones and the laughter and loud voices and the special food and sitting in a circle watching each other open gifts one by one. The girls have both enjoyed making special gifts for their siblings and nieces and nephews and are eagerly anticipating giving these gifts. I need to learn from my daughters.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Perfect Tree

Once again we chose a very cold day to go to the tree farm in search of our Christmas tree. Another Christmas season we are PRIVILEGED to plan, shop, and decorate. As we see friends ill and families suffering, I am learning to appreciate each day.

Our usual tree farm was closed, so we traveled a little farther and found a forest of perfect trees. The air was crisp and cold as we rode the tractor out to the fields, but we enjoyed the beautiful landscape. So many years we have taken our little girls tree hunting, from days when they were stumbling over the stumps and had to be carried. It's a tradition the girls would surely miss if ever we didn't do it. Fred and I would miss it too!

This farm had every size and shape tree imaginable. It was easy to find a good one. Fred quickly cut it and he dragged it down the hill to wait for the tractor. As it was shaken and bound, we enjoyed the free hot chocolate. Another tradition.

The girls are getting older now and take over most of the tree decorating, except for the lights that Fred does. In no time our perfect tree was dressed and lit. I tried and tried to take a good picture of it but none turned out well. Just picture an artificial tree in a department store, precisely symmetrical and flawless. That's what ours looks like, only we have a fresh pine scent and soft branches you can touch. A Christmas tree marks the years of our lives; memories flood my mind as I sit in silence and enjoy it. Thank you, Lord. One more year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Time to Pray

"City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style,
In the air there's a feeling of Christmas,

Silver bells, silver bells,
It's Christmas time in the city..."

I always loved that song. Not growing up in a city, I never really knew what it meant. But years ago a friend took Arielle and me at Christmastime to a big department store in the city that my friend visited with her parents as a child, and we heard carols played on a big organ and saw the city dressed in lights. The sidewalks were full of wide-eyed children bundled in their coats and scarves, and then the song came alive for me.

Last week I took the train into the city on a cold and windy day, and yes, in the air there was a feeling of Christmas. But soon I entered another world far removed from Christmas--a big city hospital where a friend's husband is dying of a disease that the best minds in this big city can't figure out.

As our family rejoices in our blessings this year, it is not a joyful time for many families close to us. Serious illness casts a shadow over any happiness this Christmas might bring. My heart is heavy as I think of them. Earlier, I posted this verse that always makes me think of Thanksgiving around our table.

"May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace,
May our granaries be full, providing all kinds of produce,
May our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields,
May our cattle be heavy with young, suffering no mishap or failure in bearing,
May there be no cry of distress in our streets.
Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall.
Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!" Psalm 144:12-15.

How do we reconcile those words with these from Habakkuk 3:17-19?

"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold,
and there be no herd in the stalls,

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength,
he makes my feet like the deer's,
he makes me tread on my high places."

This reminds me of what Job said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him." I think if we really knew what lies ahead after death, we would have a different perspective on suffering. We would have God's perspective. In trusting God, we can find joy--not in the circumstances surely, but in God and in his presence. He has promised never to leave us and to walk the journey with us.

At this stage in life it is inevitable that we will see friends (and ourselves) suffer. Do we despair or do we trust in a sovereign God? Today I read Daniel 9, Daniel's prayer for his people during desperate times. His words tell us how to respond to calamity. We are to entreat the favor of our God. We are to turn from sin. And we are to gain insight into God's truth. Daniel ends by saying:

"O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive, pay attention and act. Delay not..."

Pray for others.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Well, here we go again! I have a teenager in the house once more. Somehow I think this time around will be different. Girls and boys are SO DIFFERENT! I've discovered that fact over the years. And my daughter is a unique person, wise and responsible. I will not buy into our culture's view that the teenage years will be tumultuous and difficult.

Arielle is 13! She decided she is too old for our usual kind of party with friends coming for crafts and games. With all that has been going on here, I wasn't up for it anyway. Financially we can't do the birthday event parties where the group goes to an ice skating rink or a pottery-making studio. But I told Arielle I would give her a day off from school and we could go or do anything--just the three of us girls.

Arielle had a hard time choosing. But she decided she wanted to shop 'til we dropped. So we did. We went to the mall and I bought her some needed clothing. We had smoothies from the food court and then walked around sampling all the food the vendors were handing out. We found Santa, just to see if it is the same "real" Santa who has always been at this mall every year since Arielle was a baby. He's getting old. With some trepidation we walked over and discussed how sad it would be if he wasn't there. But he was!

We bought Fred a birthday gift and Kelsey a Christmas gift. Liana bought an outfit for her new Build-A-Bear. We walked over to the next-door mall we never visit and found a great family gift for my nieces. I won't say what it is here, just in case my brother is reading. The best part of this trip was having no schedule, just doing whatever the girls wanted. Finally even Arielle had had enough and we went home. I made her favorite birthday soup. Then her cousin Julie called and that really made her night special.

Arielle wanted a new guitar for her birthday. She doesn't have a teacher, but we got her an instructional DVD. She also has a brother who plays guitar, so she looks forward to him showing her some techniques. Amazingly, she has already learned how to tune the guitar and how to play some simple chords. Her years of piano study have helped in reading the music and understanding the terms. My little girl has grown up! How blessed I am that she is my daughter!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. Most all our family gathered around the table this year. Everyone is a year older, but here we are all together on this earth. That alone is enough to be thankful for. But we have more. We have joy and laughter, stories and memories, good food, and love.

Dominic and Stacia arrived from D.C. for a few days. The family comes together when they are here. I wonder if in every family there is one person or couple who unites the others and makes family gatherings fun. Stacia wanted to help me cook and when she is here, cooking isn't so lonely and tedious. Liana also joined in to make the rolls. Dominic set up his laptop in the kitchen and he taught Arielle how to edit video. We had a fun day-before-Thanksgiving.
Arielle, as always, entertained the little ones. She is sensitive to include each one and makes sure they all have fun. Sometimes there is squabbling when cousins get together, but Arielle is a great mediator.

I always think of this scripture every year when we sit down to dinner. I wish I had a picture of all of us around the table. I read this years ago when we were going through a hard time and I took it as a promise from God that blessings would come. It has been fulfilled. Okay, we don't have sheep and cattle, but read the deeper meaning!

"May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace. May our granaries be full, providing all kinds of produce, may our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields. May our cattle be heavy with young, suffering no mishap or failure in bearing. May there be no cry of distress in our streets. Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall. Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!" Psalm 144:12-15.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christmas on the Radio

Many years ago when I was a single mom with little ones living in St. Louis, I rented a small apartment. Our complex of only about a dozen one-story units arranged in a horseshoe shape allowed us to become somewhat close to our neighbors, whether we wanted to or not. An elderly couple lived a few doors down and on summer evenings their front door would be open and you could get a glimpse of them sitting in their recliners. And you couldn't miss hearing them. One or both of them must have been hearing impaired because the TV or radio blasted out noise all evening long. It was so loud I could hear every word and every song of The Lawrence Welk Show that they seemed to love. This couple was a mystery to me, so far removed from my life. I couldn't imagine getting old and staying home listening to the radio or TV all night.

Tonight I thought about that couple. Fred is working so hard at his three jobs that he is exhausted by early evening. Usually he collapses and falls asleep before we even begin to get ready for bed. I come in and turn off the lights and the blaring TV. But this night he is still awake and it's not the TV that's on. He's brought an old radio into the bedroom and he is listening to Christmas music. The girls and I join him, talking about the old songs, singing along. Every year Fred listens to this particular station in the car because right around Thanksgiving it plays a 24 hour Christmas music marathon. We know all the words to these songs. Sometimes I wish we could hear a few new ones.

Tonight we listen to Andy Williams, a young Michael Jackson, Jimmy Durante, Karen Carpenter, John Lennon, Frank Sinatra...Neil Diamond--finally someone who is still alive! We laugh about that. Fred is covered up to his neck in big blankets. He's cold. He's tired. He says, "I'm getting to be an old man."

Fred loves Christmas. Earlier in the day he put up the lights outside and set up our lighted angel in front of the house. He stopped at a hardware store and bought a battery operated snow globe that blows the "snow" around while Burl Ives sings songs from the old cartoon, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

The mystery of aging is solved. It's us! Just slower and more tired. It's knowing what's important in life, sitting with your spouse listening to Lawrence Welk on summer nights or laughing with your family and singing old Christmas songs. It's being satisfied with small joys.

As I wrote earlier, we want to celebrate the holidays in a God-honoring way. Do we totally reject the secular trappings and devote ourselves solely to the sacred? I think about that tonight. Yes, we are very aware that Christmas is the day God sent the greatest gift to mankind, the gift of his Son who would be the Savior of the world. But Christmas is also a family tradition, one we have kept since childhood. It is a time for reminiscing about the years that came before. I am thinking of small boys in pjs watching the Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon on TV. This was before you could buy the video and watch it whenever you wanted. You had to wait for it to come at Christmas! I think of the only time my mother ever sang. We kids were sitting on the couch with her in our little house in Arizona and she was teaching us the old carols. She sang "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and I've loved that song ever since. I think of my little girls lying on the floor beside the lit-up Christmas tree that is towering above them, watching Daddy's electric trains go around and around, lost in their imagination.

A new song comes on that I've never heard before. It's the Trans-Siberian Orchestra playing "Christmas Canon Rock." Liana catches my eye. She recognizes one of her favorite pieces of music, Pachelbel's Canon in D. This is a jazzed-up version on an electric guitar, but we are still mesmerized and silent as we listen. It's magical.

God is honored when we think back and smile on the rich, full life he has given us and when we gather our loved ones around us making new memories that they will someday treasure.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Goat for Christmas

It's the Christmas season again. How did that happen so fast? We've been having a lot of discussion lately with our grown kids about celebrating Christmas, cutting back on gift-buying, getting back to the the meaning of the holiday and avoiding the materialism. What pleases God in celebrating the birth of his son?

Years ago Fred and I sponsored a child through World Vision. So we continue to be on that organization's mailing list. We recently received a gift catalog. I thumbed through it and set it aside. The purpose of it is that you buy gifts for others, but they don't go to that person. The gifts go to poor villages in places like Zimbabwe, El Salvador, or Bangladesh. The gifts you can buy are farm animals, clothing, fruit trees, seeds, medicine, mosquito nets, clean water, tuition, or sewing machines. These things help to keep people healthy, feed them, or help them make a living.

I came across the catalog again and tossed it in the trash...but then pulled it out again. I was going to tell Fred I think we should give something. Fred would agree, but then I realized it had to be more personal. Instead of Fred buying me a gift for Christmas as he always does, I told him I wanted something from this catalog. He then decided he wanted the same from me.

The girls and I have since looked through the catalog many times and talked about what gift we would give. All the gifts are so necessary and needed. But I like the idea of giving an animal. Which one? After much discussion, we decided on a goat and chickens. The goat could provide milk and cheese and the chickens would provide eggs. They can forage and not require a lot of expense to feed. Their fertilizer will be good for a vegetable garden.

Now there would be people who would say this is nonsense. Will our money really go to buy a goat? I think World Vision is a trusted organization. Our church has some sort of relationship with them and has even adopted a village in Mali. People I actually know have gone to Mali and worked in that village.

It's a small thing. But we can pass on gifts this year and hopefully make one small bit of difference for a family in a village far away.

Anyone else so inspired, check out the website:

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


It's the official start of the Christmas season at our house! Saturday night Fred made the first fire in the woodstove and we all retreated to our cozy little room in the basement and watched Christmas videos. The girls chose "Santa Clause 2" and "Elf." Silly, funny movies that we have seen a dozen times yet they never grow old because they are part of our family's tradition. When we hear the familiar lines and music, it means Christmas is coming.

We needed this. After the foray into the medical world of uncertainty and fear, we needed familiarity and sameness. We needed each other. This is not a same-old, boring routine we do every year. We rejoice to do it all again! Another year of life! Another Christmas!

The best part of watching movies over and over again is that you can do other things and you won't miss the story. Liana had her Build-A-Bear toys out and she was lost in her own world with them. Arielle was making a Christmas craft, painting and decorating a wooden ornament. Fred was roasting hot dogs over the fire, and I was hand-sewing the binding on Liana's quilt. I'm amazed how working my fingers brings me peace. Generations of women before me have found this gentle rhythm relaxing, I'm sure.

Yet in the midst of our tranquil evening, I am not quite at rest. Two friends of mine are going through terrifying ordeals. One, a mom of two young girls, was just diagnosed with breast cancer. For another, her husband has a debilitating muscle or nerve disorder, and he is going downhill fast. Doctors can't figure out what is wrong, and this night she is at the hospital with him. So much pain and fear in this world. The carefully ordered lives we create for ourselves are often shaken apart.

Our pastor says we try so hard to get our kingdoms not to shake that we neglect the unshakable kingdom. We are to hold fast to Christ because everything else shakes, and all will be lost except what is tethered to God's grace in Christ.

My son Jonathan and I had a talk the other night about suffering in the world. He paraphrased the idea of this verse, and he is so right. "For I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Romans 8:18.

Scripture says all of creation, including us, groan inwardly as we wait for redemption and the end to the pain of this world. We can't even imagine what comes next. Our greatest earthly joys are only a hint of what is to come. In the meantime, "Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35-39.

So we live in the moment, trusting God, and thanking him for what we have.

Narnia Quote

"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.

"I am dying of thirst," said Jill.

"Then drink," said the Lion.

"May I--could I--would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

"Will you promise not to--do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill.

"I make no promise," said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. "Do you eat girls?" she said.

"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.

"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.

"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."

"There is no other stream," said the Lion."

C.S. Lewis from The Silver Chair.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Another Storm

An update on Fred: He came home on a Friday, just two days after surgery. We had a peaceful, relaxing weekend at home with Fred resting. (Unusual for him.) He even stayed home on Monday. But then Tuesday went back to work at 6am. At 4:30 when I came in to cook for Alpha, I tried to persuade him to go home and he finally did about 5:30.

In the middle of the night Fred woke up sick. I felt the heat radiating from him and took his temperature. He had a fever. It did not drop in the morning, and by noon it was 103 degrees. At my second call to the surgeon's office, the nurse said to come to the ER. As we drove there, I suddenly realized I hadn't told anyone and NO ONE was praying for us! Everyone thinks Fred is fine, I thought! We were on our own. But God knows our situation.

Fortunately, there was no infection in his incisions, internal or external. After several hours in the hospital and numerous tests for other issues, the doctors concluded he has a bacterial infection from the high doses of antibiotics he had prior to surgery that killed off the good bacteria that usually keeps this bad one in check. So another antibiotic targeting that particular one is prescribed. Fred is better now.

It is so easy to give in to fear. As my dear husband lay in the hospital bed appearing so weak and frail, all I could do was pray. What will happen? What should we do? Oh, I was scared, I admit. My faith is strong, but God never promised us a leisurely life without difficulty. I thought back to a sermon given by a guest speaker at our church just a couple of weeks before. I will write some of the basic points because it was a powerful message.

Paul Tripp is a dynamic speaker and prolific author. We are fortunate that he lives in the city near us and he occasionally comes to our church. This day he spoke on Mark 6:45-52.

In this passage Jesus had just fed the 5,000 with the five loaves and two fish and the people were all going home. Jesus told his disciples to get in the boat and go to the other side of the lake. Jesus wanted to go up to the mountain to pray.

"When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and Jesus was alone on the land. And he saw they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought he was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, 'Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid,' And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. They were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened."

Here are my notes from Paul Tripp: How does God build faith in us? Jesus crafted experiences, difficulties for his disciples, and then revealed his glory. In this passage, his disciples were in a difficult moment and not because of sin. They were in that particular situation because Jesus had told them to be there. They were there by the will of God. So why does God choose difficult moments for us? God knows we are very self-reliant. Jesus takes us beyond our strength and wisdom because he loves us. God takes us to the end of ourselves. Difficulties are not just for God to bail us out, but part of his plan. God doesn't want just circumstantial rescue for his followers. He doesn't want just to make life more "doable" for us. Our difficulty + His glory = God's Grace. In a moment of difficulty, do we see ghosts and become more terrorized and fearful?

Jesus got into the boat and declared his sovereignty. "It is I." The scripture says the disciples were utterly amazed. That's not complimentary because it wasn't faith. Why didn't they understand? They had not been learning their lessons. Why were they unprepared? Why do we panic in difficulty? Do we have a life of expectancy, hope and courage? Or do we give in to fear? It says the disciples' hearts were hardened, resistant to change, just like a stone.

Jesus has invaded our lives. Are we too satisfied? Do we not long for greater spiritual growth because we want calm seas and no wind? Then we don't want grace. Paul Tripp ended his message with this thought: Hold on to the gift of Jesus until he radically transforms you into his image.

I have been thinking there must be a balance between contentment with what you have and a selfish grip on what you have so that you resist any change in circumstances. Okay, that describes me. Keep it all the same and I'm happy with that. But then I do want desperately to know him more deeply and see his glory and grace. In that case, I am inviting difficulty. But also inviting Jesus to join me on that journey. He is always there and I am always delighted in how he reveals himself to me and lets me know he is there. Why do we so quickly forget all the miracles he's done in our lives in the past? I need to keep my heart from being hard.

We got home from the hospital last Wednesday night and I had an e-mail from Liana's Sunday School teacher. She said she and her husband had been praying for Fred that day and was everything okay? This, after I had sent out e-mails days before to everyone saying Fred was fine and recovering. But God put it on her heart to pray and she sensed something was up. So when I thought we were all alone at the hospital, we were not. God is gracious to us.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blessed Man

6:00 am. Fred drove to the hospital, even after two days of no food and the colon prep that wipes you out. He had to be weak. Still, he stopped and got me coffee on the way. It was dark, before dawn. My good friend came over at that awful hour to spend the day with the girls while we were gone. I hope she knows how much that meant to me.

This hospital is top of the line. The best of our American healthcare system. How fortunate we are to be here. New, modern, spotlessly clean, efficient. The personnel are professional but friendly and...human. Refreshingly so. Fred was taken in for "processing" right away and I was able to go with him. This pre-surgical business--paperwork and payment, bloodwork and IVs, more colon prep, interviews with nurses and doctors and then more nurses, each of them with a different job. One of the nurses was so likeable she immediately put us at ease. Fred had her laughing when he told her what exactly got him in this predicament to begin with. He told the story of how he had inhaled his dental appliance. She was quite shocked. She said, "Why didn't you choke to death?" Fred answered that it was a miracle. This nurse then raised her hand in the air and exclaimed in a loud voice, "You are a blessed man!" Yes, he is. God reminded us he is here and that he is in control of everything.

The anesthesiologist was very humorless though. He seemed very competent and serious, and that's important too. He asked Fred, "Why are you here?" Fred said, "I'm having an appliance removed from my colon." The guy didn't bat an eye and didn't ask for further explanation. After he left the room Fred had me in tears laughing as he joked, "He didn't even ask what kind of appliance! A hair dryer, A mixer? And he didn't ask how it got there!"

9:00 am. Even though Fred and I had a few of hours to be together pre-surgery, too soon he was given an IV drug and they started to wheel him out. I asked the tech, "Is this good-bye?" Yes, I was told. A quick kiss and Fred is rolling down the hall. He is gone.

Tears spring to my eyes and I rush outside, cold and shaking. I call Joan. She knows what it's like because she's been here. She's the one caring for my girls and right now I need to hear their sweet voices. Then I go back inside and wait. I remind myself, Jesus is here.

10:20am. I check the computer screen and see that Fred is already in recovery! It's only been an hour and twenty minutes. The doctor had predicted it would take two hours. Ten minutes later the doctor comes out smiling. He says everything went just fine. He found the appliance and it is out. Then he takes hold of both of my shoulders and looks me in the eye. "I do have one concern though." WHAT? Then he tells me the hospital doesn't carry the correct dosage of one of Fred's heart meds, so he will have to use his own from home. That's a concern? The surgeon leaves. I am awash in relief and gratitude to our gracious God.

1:15 pm. What is going on? They told me an hour, maybe two, in the recovery room. The women are so patient with me when I keep coming up to their desk to ask about Fred. Finally, he is taken to his room. I stand outside the door while they get him settled. I don't recognize his voice. It is deep and harsh from the anesthesia. Morphine drips into his vein and he is falling in and out of sleep.

2:40 pm. Fred's nurse is gentle and soft-spoken. She knows how to calm worried family members and assure patients they are doing well. She asks me how I'm doing. Then she says, "We're here to care for your needs too." She brings me a glass of cranberry juice and puts her arms around my shoulders. Her kindness causes more tears.

4:40 pm. About a week and a half ago Fred asked his boss about a full-time job at church. Right now he is only working two days doing maintenance and he really enjoys the work. Fred can fix just about anything. I've heard from others that going to full-time is near impossible and, in fact, Fred was told just about the same thing. But as Fred was lying in the hospital bed half conscious, his cell phone rang. It was his boss offering him a full-time position with benefits!

The next day. Fred had a very rough time that first night. I felt awful leaving him there alone. He was in pain and very restless. The machines beep constantly waking him up everytime he would drift off. But he made it through the night and the next day. He's hungry. No real food this whole week. He is up walking in the morning though and I'm amazed at his quick recovery. He is not taking any narcotics, insisting they remove the morphine drip that kept his mind hazy and his stomach upset.

The second day. Fred was in rare form demanding this and refusing that. He wants out. He was supposed to have only clear liquids but finally the doctor relented and let him eat. Breakfast, then lunch. Then they said one more meal and if he tolerates that he can leave. He ordered his dinner as soon as possible, ate it and then his doctor came in. The surgeon said in his 30 years of practice he's only had two other people who went home the second day after this particular surgery. We packed up and left.

What a journey this has been. Only three days real-time, but it seems like a faraway trip when you leave your routine and daily schedules and all that is familiar to go into this other world of hospital-time. Fred is home resting. Keeping him down long enough to heal properly will be a challenge for me.

We are grateful to God and to each of our friends and family members who offered support every step of the way. Thank you!

Another homeschooling mom took the girls on Thursday and Friday to give Arielle and Liana a break from staying at the hospital with me all day. She and all the kids collected beautiful fall leaves and glued them to a poster board. Then they wrote out this verse in big letters: Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10.) It turned out to be a giant get well card. As we propped it up in Fred's hospital room, I knew God had surely answered. This was the verse we prayed for him before the surgery.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Celebration Weekend

We had a busy weekend celebrating a wedding and a birthday. On Saturday Fred's old best friend got married in the same church Fred and I were married. It might be the first time I've been in that sanctuary since our wedding. This friend was Fred's best man, so the whole ceremony was eerily familiar, especially on the eve of our 14th anniversary.

We walked in and the organist was playing the same prelude we had for our wedding, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." For a beautiful rendition, check this out: Now that's real music.
Was the church really this small? I remembered it bigger, with the aisle longer, at least it seemed like that when I had to walk down it. The mothers went up to the altar and lit the candles and I could clearly see in my mind Fred's mother and my mother doing the same. I see their dresses and how they had done their hair. I remembered how they walked to the front, both of them uncomfortable to be there with everyone watching. Then the organist played Pachebel's Canon in D and the wedding procession began. But I was thinking of Marissa, just a little girl back then, walking in with her basket of roses along with little Alex (now 18 with a baby of her own!). These two with their sweet faces made all our guests smile. A young boy helping to usher at the wedding today even looked like Anthony back then.

I looked to the front and there was Fred's friend, waiting for his bride. He was in just one place over from where he stood 14 years ago. Back then my husband was in his friend's very spot, and I could think back and see Fred again, so handsome, waiting for me to come down and take his hand. I was near tears remembering my husband that day, and this wedding had hardly started! Do we all relive our own weddings every time we attend one? Maybe that's why people cry. Not for the new couple but for ourselves and the passage of time.

Then I looked at the group gathered here and thought of our guests back then. My boys were so young. Dominic stood at that same podium, reading the scripture. Psalm 103, it was. Nick, with my only granddaugher at the time just a baby, sat down near the front after he walked me down the aisle. Fred's dad was up front on the other side, gone now. Fred's sister was a couple of rows back, gone now too. The young woman who caught my bouquet at the reception, gone. So many changes in so few years.

The next day we celebrated Lana's birthday in the park. What a gorgeous fall day! October is the best month for a birthday, although the weather is unpredictable. Luckily for Lana, this was the nicest day of the week, very warm but quite windy. Lana was a little sad that her candle wouldn't stay lit long enough for her to blow it out. But she had fun anyway playing with cousins--and her Aunt Arielle and Aunt Liana.

Family celebrations are the best. Even at the wedding we attended, the girls said, "We wish it was a family wedding! It would have been more fun."

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Fred saw the surgeon and we are waiting for the big day to arrive. Despite the surgeon's reassuring words and confident demeanor, the future looks scary. I won't allow myself any thoughts of "what ifs." This doctor told us what would take place, the probable recovery, and when Fred can likely return to work and normalcy. We will stand on that. Not that we trust in this man, but we trust in God and the circumstances he directed that led us to this doctor at this particular time and place. I look for the day we can put all this behind us. But there are lessons in the journey getting from here to there.

After Fred's appointment, the weekend came and we didn't talk about surgery. The weather was delightful and we enjoyed the colors of the turning leaves, the blooming mums and freshly picked apples. This is my favorite time of year. On Sunday Marissa came with us to church and afterwards we went to our local fabric store. All the girls had their hearts set on making purses that day.

After lunch they set to work. Arielle and Liana have good sewing skills and don't need much help. But the pattern and directions for these purses were difficult and the girls needed my help interpreting them. To make things worse, we were altering the pattern and I needed to figure out how to best do that. By the time Purse Number 3 was coming together, I had it down. Marissa had a little bit of trouble too. She's had very little sewing experience, but the seam ripper was soon her best friend.
Unbelievably, we spent seven hours on this project. Here are the girls proudly displaying their creations.
Nothing much was accomplished this day. Or so it seemed. Except when I think back, I see all of us working together, focusing on our task, solving problems, and laughing at our mistakes. At the end, each girl had a new purse, but that was the least of it. We made memories. And we didn't think about surgery. There is enough time for that.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Strength for the Battle

One reason medical testing is so fearful and we so often put it off is because we know the results of such tests may change the course of our lives.

Fred had the same routine screening I had last week. For readers who have kept up with the continuing saga of the dental appliance Fred swallowed months ago, here is the update. The doctor thinks he found it. The problem is that it cannot be removed except by surgery. The situation needs immediate attention and Fred is seeing a surgeon this week.

I was seeking the Lord with many tears and petitions this morning. God has provided so bountifully the past few months. Fred is working again and I've never seen him enjoy his work so much. My husband is back! Now this.

I read a passage from Charles Spurgeon's writings today. It was about God strengthening us and getting us ready for the coming tasks. The past few months God has given to us all we need so we can pay our bills, set our home in order, eat well and get strong--physically and spiritually. We are ready for what's coming. Instead of despair, I will look for God's hand. He won't leave us to flounder but he will go with us. Accidents happen, illness comes. It's the human condition. Why should we be surprised? Rather I am thankful that the past few months God has been preparing us. Now it is time to do battle.

Is it any coincidence that I just finished a study in the book of I Peter? The theme is persevering in faith through hard times. God's words are for Fred, for me, and for all of you going through difficult times.

"Prepare your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you might follow in his steps."

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed."

"Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good."

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Little Nurses

Something should be written about this momentous day. Although, for many people it would be just a routine, boring nothing. For me, it was years of procrastinating due to fear of the unknown. But I finally did it!

You know, it's the routine screening that is supposed to be done at age 50. I'm always skeptical with anything the medical profession tells us is "necessary." (Example: flu shots.) But it seemed advice was coming at me from all sides. Two friends of mine had the procedure and gave me details. My family doctor was the clincher though. She said every year in her practice three or four people are found to have pre-cancerous lesions that are removed with this procedure. She said it saved their lives. Okay, it's time to do it.

No food yesterday! No lovely hot, creamy coffee in the morning. That was the hardest part, really. By the end of the day I felt weak and had no energy. And then I had the "prep," which turned out to be not so bad. It was really nothing like I expected.

Now this morning: We woke at 5:30 a.m. because mine was the first appointment. Someone suggested making that early appointment to avoid waiting. Still no eating. I was really spent and just wanted to go and get it over with. We left way too early for the drive, but traffic around here can be horrendous and I sure didn't want to arrive too late and not get this done.

A good friend of mine offered to keep the girls, but Fred promised them breakfast in a restaurant so they were excited to go, early as it was. After we arrived, I told them to leave. No sense suffering with mind-boggling boredom sitting and waiting if you don't have to. I forgot my book! So it was very boring. And I did have to wait because I was there much too early! As the time inched by I got more and more nervous. Finally they called my name. I was led back to a curtained off cubicle to wait for the anesthesiologist and the doctor to come in. Panic! What am I doing here? Was I out of my mind? Is this really necessary? Those were my thoughts. I was ready to jump up and run. A nurse asked me a couple of times if I was okay.

Soon I was wheeled in the gurney to the treatment room. A few bits of conversation with the nurse and doctor and then the next thing I knew I woke up in a different room. It was over.

Fred and the girls were waiting. It was wonderful to see them and receive their hugs. I was still groggy and disoriented, but little Liana took my hand and helped me out to the car. I was so thirsty! My good husband stopped at Barnes and Noble and got me a chai tea latte. Perfect. It was so hot and comforting.

As soon as we were home, the girls rushed around making me a nest on the couch. They brought me pillows and blankets and told me to get in my pajamas. Liana helped to heat up some soup and brought my book to me. Arielle washed and sliced my favorite kind of apple so I could enjoy it when I wanted it. My nurturing little daughters, taking good care of me. I am so blessed to have them. They told me they won't let me do any work today.

Yesterday I made homemade chicken soup for Liana since she has a cold. It's going to taste great tonight after my fast. Anyone agonizing over whether to do this procedure or not? Do it for the people who love you. It's not so bad. Call me, I'll give you the details.

If this post has errors or doesn't make sense, sorry. It's the drug I got today. I was told not to do anything that requires good judgment. Does that include blogging?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

House with No Foundation

I'll never forget the dreadful, sinking feeling I had when I visited the site where our house was to be built on our property in South Carolina. I had flown to Spartanburg with Arielle who was just a baby at the time. I rented a car and drove out to Oconee County to our 7 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was there to check on our builder. We were having trouble communicating with him, as he seemed to be avoiding us. We needed to know what was going on with our house. Fred was busy at work and planned to drive down in a few days.

I drove the windy road to the top of the hill. The builder was there that day, to my great relief. But when he saw me, he took off in the woods. I saw he had built a flimsy shelter that was supposed to be our garage. It was just a bare skeleton of wood frame. I carried Arielle over the rocky, uneven ground and then tramped through the loose fill dirt to the place where our home was to be built. Now I knew nothing of home building. But when I saw what looked like just an outline of cement in the shape of a house, I knew something was seriously wrong. This man had been given months of time and our life's savings to build us a house. What had happened?

Shaky and scared, I put Arielle back in her carseat and drove the two hours to my mother's house in North Carolina. I called Fred with the bad news. We were in for a long battle. Our builder had cheated us out of our money and was only giving the appearance of building so we would continue to send him checks. I'm not sure now that he even knew how to build a house. Our dream of moving south ended that day. We sold the beautiful property but never recouped our house money.

Today I read Luke 6:46-49: "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great."

I immediately knew the foundation the builder lay on that loose soil would not support the two-story log home we had dreamed of. It was not built firmly on the rock below the surface. I knew our dreams were shattered. Our decision to move south had not been built on a rock either. We had hastily made our plans and rushed headlong into disaster. Still, so many times through the years I have thanked God for this calamity in our lives. Our motives for moving away were not right, so we suffered the consequences. But what another planned for harm, God intended for good. I could write volumes on the blessings and lessons that came from our financial ruin.

Today we are not building a literal house, but how well am I hearing the voice of my Lord and doing what he says? Every day requires digging deep, seeking his face, doing his will. Fred and I survived our disaster because our faith was on the bedrock. We knew God had not betrayed us. We went back to our strong foundation and built a new life. The building continues. Storms may beat and batter us, but we will not be shaken.

Fall Soup

Autumn is officially here! My favorite time of year. One reason I like fall is that I like to make soup. In general, I don't like to cook. But I love to make soup. There is something about having a big pot on the stove, adding nourishing ingredients, hearing the gentle simmer, savoring the fragrance, and anticipating the warmth at dinner time.

We do not eat hot soup in the summer. It is a special treat for cool nights and blustery days. At the very end of our garden harvest I made a big batch of our favorite, Tommy's Soup, and put it up in jars in the freezer. We will eat it on the day we have our first winter storm.

I got a good price on butternut squash at our local produce market. Here is a recipe for a quick, easy, nutritious soup.

Butternut Soup

2 T. butter
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 potatoes, cubed
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed
4 cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter and saute the vegetables in a large pot for about 5 minutes. Add enough chicken broth to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Save the rest of the broth. Then reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 40 minutes until all vegetables are tender.

Scoop out the vegetables with a slotted spoon and put in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Return to pot and add the saved broth. Heat and season with salt and pepper.

I'm looking for good soup recipes. Anyone have any? We love soup!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Rest of the Weekend

Dominic and Stacia brought joy to our house! Fred and I always seem to be caught up in never-ending tasks and forget to have fun. Maybe that's one reason the girls are so thrilled to have guests come. Then their parents relax and are open to adventure.
We didn't do anything big or travel far. We went lamp shopping at the shop where Gretchen works. But then Dominic and Stacia turned it into fun by suggesting we stop at an ice cream shop. Then we enjoyed our treats while walking around the town.

On Saturday night I thought the younger people would want to get away and spend time with friends or the other kids. But Dominic suggested we play miniature golf. And he wanted to wait until dark. Usually Fred and I would be setting our minds on finishing chores and getting ready for bed at that time. But this night we headed off to the golf course. What fun we had! Of course, it was better in the dark, playing in the lights and shadows. None of us are very good at golf--well, maybe Fred and Stacia--but that made it even more fun as we shot balls into waterfalls and sent them rolling down hills. Liana even got a hole-in-one on the last hole and won a free game!

After we finished the game, someone suggested the batting cages. Dominic, Stacia and Fred got their helmets on and hit several rounds of balls. Next, there was the driving range. The guys bought a jumbo bucket of balls and we all took turns trying to send them off into the dark field. Even the girls gave it a try. Dominic said last time he did this he hit a fellow golfer and knocked him out. That wasn't too reassuring, so we decided to move our bucket to the end of the range, out of the way of others.

Dominic carried the bucket over and as he set it down, he spilled the balls. They started rolling down the slope as he tried to gather them. For some reason this struck me as hilarious and I laughed and laughed until I was in tears. This was so typical of Dominic! He always made life humorous and fun. My heart swelled with love for him, even as I laughed hysterically. He is a grown man, but not above reverting back to his boyish antics. He is still my little boy!

I told Stacia later it was so good for my husband who works so hard to actually get out and PLAY. Stacia said Dominic also needed to just play. We all do. Laughing and just being together. It's the best of life.

The next day we had another family cook-out. Each person in our family came, with the exception of Kelsey and Seth who are in Minnesota. All our kids are together so infrequently that it was time for a photo shoot! We cooked and ate and sat outside until the night became cool. The big kids played bocce ball and the little ones played on the swings. Dominic gave Liana and Lana horsey rides. We told stories and passed Deacon around when he got fussy. We ended the evening with Marissa toasting waffles and serving them with ice cream and homemade strawberry topping. Oh, life is good!

Summer is over, but what a last hurrah!

The Boys

The Kids

The Girls

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cooking Lessons

Dominic and Stacia came over Labor Day weekend. We always have lots of fun with them. Both are very attentive to Arielle and Liana, so of course the girls are thrilled to have them here.
Stacia has taken the time to cook with the girls nearly every time she is here. I remember them making homemade applesauce and green beans with almonds on previous visits. This time Stacia made stuffed peppers with Liana. We had just gone to a local farmer's market and bought the peppers and Stacia already had a good recipe. This was a rather labor-intensive project with lots of prep and many steps to do. I tried to stay out of the way and let Stacia and Liana have their time together.
Liana likes to get out the aprons, making it official that she is cooking. Stacia allows her to do things in the kitchen that she hasn't done before and that makes Liana feel very capable. And she is quite capable. It is hard for me to accept that my baby is growing up and can do many more things than I imagine she can do. Stacia gives her the freedom to test out new skills.
When I saw them working so closely together over a bowl, I had to momentarily interrupt them to take a picture. This moment was precious. The two of them were talking softly, about what I don't know, but Liana was enjoying it immensely. She was so focused on her task and Stacia's words.
The finished product! Liana was so proud of herself! The peppers were delicious, too. But even more important than a great dinner was the relationship building between the two of them. For Liana, this was an event, a memory to be cherished. Stacia could have quickly prepared these peppers by herself. But she took the time to nurture a little girl. Maybe she is following in the example of her own mother who took time to teach her to cook. Stacia is a treasure and I appreciate how loving she is with my daughters. I have a lot to learn from my future daughter-in-law, and I look forward to the years we have to share together.
Now for anyone feeling sorry for Arielle left out of this cooking experience, she was having her own fun with her big brother. No matter how busy he is, Dominic always takes time for his sisters. These two have an on-going Blokus competition and here they are again. After several games, I think it ended up a draw. They will continue next visit, I'm sure.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Perfect Gifts

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights..." James 1:17.
Fred read that verse at Arielle's dedication. It was very meaningful to us because our baby daughter was the perfect gift from God. Right now my two sleeping girls are still perfect gifts, as is my husband hard at work since early this morning.

God gives many gifts if we have the eyes to see them. The other night Fred came home and told me a praying mantis was on my car. Arielle and I ran outside to see. We slowly approached with the camera and as we did, the insect pivoted his head and glared right at us. We snapped a picture anyway. We were amazed to see that the mantis was a mixture of red and green. Did it change color to be camouflaged against my car?

Yesterday the hibiscus I just bought at a bargain price opened its first wide, purple flower after basking in the sun all afternoon. I have been waiting a long time for hibiscus to bloom on my deck. I do believe it is my favorite flower. Unfortunately, I killed two beautiful plants by leaving them outside after a frost and I have wanted another plant every since, but they are usually so expensive. I was lucky to find this one.

I was talking with my friend Connie in the kitchen a few days ago and a brown streak flew by the window. Then another and another. We ran to look out the front of the house and there was a herd of deer standing under our big maple, in the middle of the afternoon, not six feet away from the window. What beautiful creatures! My usual annoyance with them for the damage they do to our garden was suspended as we watched them.

All gifts! All perfect gifts from the Father! This morning I was reading World magazine as the sun rose over the field in front of our house. An article entitled "Wanted: Spiritual Eyes" by Andree Seu made me think about these things. What exactly is a good and perfect gift? She said what it meant to her was to "see God's love in the details of my day."

It is easy to see God in nature. But what about events and circumstances? Maybe ones that appeared good but turned out to be not so good? Do we withhold judgment on whether these are good gifts until we see the outcome? If the outcome is poor, was it not a gift? Or what about real problems that arise? What if those things are as she states, "a necessary stepping stone to better things" and therefore a gift? I don't know all the answers.

When I look at the sunrise, I'm good at blocking out the telephone wires and the noise of the traffic to see the beauty. I love cool September mornings like this, despite the ragweed pollen that clogs my nose. Fred and the girls took a hike and played around with his metal detector. After a strong positive reading behind our house, Fred dug out of the dirt a honey-combed black rock bejeweled with sparkles. The girls were so excited to find this treasure.

I pray my spiritual eyes can be more attuned to filter out the pollution and dirt of this world and see the gems, those perfect gifts, the gifts from the Father, given freely for us.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Rest of the Gettysburg Trip

The next morning the girls and I returned to the Visitor's Center and spent a lot of time in the bookstore. My son Jon, like Liana, was drawn to the Gettysburg Address as a child. His birthday is coming up and I saw a picture book in the store that the girls and I read last year. It is called, appropriately, The Gettysburg Address and the author is Abraham Lincoln. That's all it is, but the illustrations and how the text is divided on each page makes this a beautiful book. I thought Jon would enjoy reading this to his daughter.

We don't usually spend money on souvenirs when we take a trip, but I told the girls they could each get a little something in that store. Liana chose a book of paper dolls of a family at the time of the Civil War and Arielle chose a copy of The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. We did not visit the Cyclorama or the museum again due to the cost, but for anyone traveling to Gettysburg, these are a must! As we were leaving we saw a display set up where visitors can send a postcard to our service men and women, so each of us wrote a message and mailed it.

It was near lunchtime so we found a Farmer's Market nearby. August is a little early for apples, but to our delight, one farmer had his first pickings. Nothing compares to a fresh apple right from the tree! And he had my favorite, Honey Crisp! He also had fresh, ripe peaches and tomatoes. Great lunch!

Fred had some free time in the afternoon so he took us out to the battlefield. We climbed the high tower at Culp's Hill and then said the girls could return to their favorite places. Liana chose to see the Pennsylvania Monument again and Arielle wanted to go back to Devil's Den. I wanted to visit Little Round Top. We all had recently seen the movie Gettysburg, so we could picture some of the events in these areas. Now when we hear about Pickett's Charge and General Armistead leading his troops across the fields, the Highwater Mark is more meaningful. When we walked through the woods where Colonel Chamberlain ordered the bayonet charge down the hill, it is not just a history lesson but real people who walked and died on this ground.

Back in the hotel, Liana busied herself cutting out her paper dolls and Arielle watched a movie on TV. They look forward to the pool later with Dad. How relaxing to be together and have no agenda or schedule. It was a wonderful vacation.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Time With My Girls

I spend lots of time with my daughters, actually, most every minute. But vacation time is different. We had three and a half days in Gettysburg to do whatever we wanted while Fred was attending his seminar.

First we had to figure out the lay of the land before we could roam around and look for things to do. Soon we had a map in our heads and knew where everything was. Gettysburg is not very big, but the battlefield can be confusing to find where you want to go with all the one way streets.

The girls' choice for our first event--go to the outlet mall at the outskirts of town. Shopping at home is usually stressful for me. There is always some item we must find and we are always on a tight schedule to get back home. This day, no pressure. We wandered in and out of stores and the girls found some fall clothes. They both finally spent the Claire's gift cards that they got at Easter. Liana bought earrings and Arielle bought a purse.

We drove into Gettysburg for lunch. The girls wanted Chinese food and we found Ping's Cafe on Baltimore Street in the center of town. On our April trip we ate the worst Chinese food ever at a different place, but this restaurant was one of the best. We each thoroughly enjoyed our food, but best of all, we had fun just being together. It is a special treat to have lunch out with my daughters. We just never do that at home.

We visited small shops along the street after we ate. The girls won't let me take silly pictures anymore. I had to coerce them to pose in front of the statue of Lincoln, but of course, they don't want me to post those pictures here. We passed the David Wills house where President Lincoln stayed when he came in November of 1863 to dedicate the National Cemetery and deliver the Gettysburg Address and I really wanted to tour that museum. But this being our first day, we had to plan our expenditures, and the girls had already told me they wanted to see the Hall of Presidents.

So that is where we headed next. This tourist attraction is a wax museum with life-size models of each President. Visitors go from room to room and chronologically listen to each President tell what was happening during his presidency, and in some cases, hear his actual words in his own voice. It was a condensed history of our country in about an hour. Some of the Presidents looked remarkably like the real person, some not so much so. Still, we found it very interesting and sometimes creepy when certain figures seemed to be looking right at us as we sat listening.

The girls said later they enjoyed seeing the men's fashions change through the years, as each was dressed in the attire of the time period when he lived. In another room were smaller models of each First Lady. These figures were not made to look like the actual women, but attention was given to their clothing and hair styles that they wore to the Inauguration. We were told they were modeled after the Smithsonian collection, so of course, some day we would like to see that.
So ended our Day 2 in Gettysburg. We met Fred for dinner and headed back to the hotel. For the girls, evenings in our room while on vacation are just as fun as whatever we did during the day. I love seeing them so happy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to Gettysburg

Fred had a chiropractic conference in Gettysburg so we went with him for a little vacation. The girls and I had a lot of time to spend together while Fred was in his classes.

Several people advised us to visit Eisenhower National Historic Site. It is the home and farm of our former President. I didn't really know much about Eisenhower except for the fact that he was elected to be President around the time I was born and that he directed the invasion of Normandy. I thought it was interesting that a great war general would choose to retire in Gettysburg.

We rode a tour bus through the battlefield to get to the private estate. The last time I rode a bus like this was in China. Today ours was equipped with a crying child, which reminded me of China even more. A tour guide met our bus and told us how the Eisenhowers had acquired these 180 acres for a mere $44,000 back in 1950. It was the only home they ever owned. After a brief talk outside, we entered the house. Arielle and I were in awe. We stood in a beautifully furnished, elegant living room. Large oil paintings hung on the walls and interesting and ornate artwork of every sort decorated the room. We found out most of the items were gifts from foreign heads of state. The guide said 99 percent of the furnishings in the house were authentic and actually belonged to the Eisenhowers. We were told they did not actually like this particular room and found it too stuffy. Then we were led to their very casual enclosed front porch that opened to the lovely woods and farmland that surround Gettysburg. Here we found out General Eisenhower entertained guests like Nikita Khrushchev and Charles De Gaulle.

The home was comforting and welcoming. I said to Fred, "I feel like I'm visiting my grandmother's house." Then I realized why I was so drawn to this place. The furnishings and personal belongings of the Eisenhowers came from the 50's and 60's. I started to recognize different items--the telephone! The old corded, dial phone. In my childhood home it was black. I even remember the number, written right on the phone in the middle of the dial, Temple 8-0848. "Old" friends, remember that? And the TV! Years ago we had one very similar to the one here. Those simple knobs to change the channel or volume--no remotes back then. Televisions were encased in a cabinets too, blond wood being popular. Summers at my home my mother and us kids watched Queen for a Day on our set while she ironed. What memories the old TV brought back.

In the kitchen I recognized the linoleum floor. I remember how it felt cool on my bare feet. And there was my grandmother's Revere Ware pot on the stove! It looked like the very same one. The old refrigerator resembled one we used to have. When the handle broke off my dad fixed it with some kind of epoxy he called "greenie." Even the white wicker hamper in the bathroom was familiar. I want to live here! It was an eerie walk back in time. But curiously, I was drawn to it. The warm feelings this tour brought was a reflection of the memories of my mother's love and care for us as children.

Outdoors we walked past a well-cared for rose garden and viewed the Eisenhower's old cars still parked in the garage. This tour was a fascinating look at another era and a glimpse into the lives of our former President and his wife. After the horrific stories told from the battlefields of Gettysburg, it was a reminder that this land has seen more pleasant times.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taming the Tongue

Damien and Gretchen invited us over for a cookout because Gretchen's mother is in town. I had only met her once before and we both wanted to get to know each other better since our kids will be married next year. So we waited for dinner and made small talk. I hate "small talk." I like big talk about meaningful topics. So I asked Gretchen's mom her views on immigration since she lives in Arizona. Mistake! Soon people jumped in to express their opinions while some people simmered holding theirs back. At one point I thought, "I'm just like Dominic--stirring up people!" He always knows how to get the conversation ball rolling with his questions. Actually my son Jon is like that too. At a crowded 4th of July event, as we waited for fireworks to begin, Jon casually asked my friend, "So what do you think of Obama?" I was worried about shouting and fist fights erupting in the crowd.

As I reflect back on our conversation at Damien's house, I realized our discussion was inappropriate for the time and place and I was insenstive in what I said. It was an opportunity to bring Biblical perspective to the conversation and I did not do that.

So today I read James 3. "For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things."

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God."

So what is the answer? Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. I need to clean up what's inside, so what comes out in words is not poison. James 3 ends with the solution. The verses say we need wisdom--wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. The chapter ends with: "A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Life gets complicated. I like routine and I don't like changes. Summer is stressful for me because each day is different and we don't have a schedule.

Fred's change of career back to chiropractic has brought many changes. I haven't been so happy about some of them because Fred is seeing patients at our house. (What about my routine?!) But I am accepting this as God's chosen way to provide for our family.

So with people coming into our home, we've got to clean up! No clutter allowed. The patients walk into our family room, then go into a treatment room. Across from that room is a bathroom. All these rooms must be kept spotless! Not only that, but patients can see into our school room with the big guinea pig cages and into our sewing room, usually strewn about with on-going projects. Bottom line: we've had to organize and throw lots of stuff away. Our house is too small to just transfer junk to another room. We've got to get rid of it. I realize I cling too much to useless objects. I cling too much to the past. I clutch onto my sacred routines and schedules. And worst of all, I hold on to attitudes and habits that hinder me from moving forward in life.

Today I read Colossians 3. "Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth." There is a long list of things to get out of our lives. Impurity, evil desires, covetousness--which scripture says is idolatry. Whoa! Think about that. God's word tells us we must throw away anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, and lying.

So I clean my house and ask God to clean up my heart. A new season is approaching. We can't be hindered with useless stuff.

"Let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith." Hebrews 12:1.