Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Trip to the Big City

Another post and photos from Liana.

I awoke early one morning to find my mother and father on the computer checking their e-mail. Then my mama asked me if I would like to have a meal now to hold me off until my aunt, uncle, and cousin came for breakfast. It was special that they would come since they lived in Georgia.

After breakfast we went to the train station and rode the train to the city. When we were there we walked over to the Visitor's Center and looked around. Then we went to have lunch. My mother and I got fried rice and the rest of them got hoagies.

After that we went to Independence Hall and got a free tour there which was very interesting. Then we went to a very old church. We actually got to sit in the spot where George Washington sat! I thought that they would not let you sit there and would have it roped off. The church had bodies buried in the walkway which was strange, odd, and creepy at the same time. And worse than that, the bodies were not buried in a coffin. They were just buried underneath the walkway.

We left the old church and went to Starbucks. I got a berry smoothie. My sister and my cousin got a chocolate chip frappuccino, my mother and my aunt each got a cup of tea, and last, but not least, my dad and my uncle each got a cup of coffee.

Then we walked through Chinatown to get to the train station and went home. It was such a nice trip! I can't wait to go again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reflections on Gettysburg

The girls and I spent the first semester of the school year studying the Civil War. Three times we scheduled a trip to Gettysburg and three times we had to cancel. It is one thing to read about an event in history, but quite another to actually see the place it happened. Finally, we arrived in Gettysburg on a gorgeous, sunny spring day.

Fred's desire for the trip was to buy a CD for the auto tour and drive around the park listening to the chronology of the three day battle. I was hoping to see the newly remodeled visitor's center and see what all the talk was about the Cyclorama--a 360 degree painting of Pickett's charge that will immerse you in the scene. The girls wanted to swim in the hotel pool and not have me make this trip into a school lesson (although, of course, it was). For each of us, Gettysburg did not disappoint!

Arriving in the town, you feel as if it was 1863 again. Of course, there is an outlet mall on the highway going in and fast food restaurants line up on either side of the main road on the outskirts. But the town has been preserved in many ways to reflect the time of the war. Our tour book tells us even the farmland surrounding the town is very much the same as it was over a hundred years ago. It is an idyllic setting, tranquil and lovely. Delicate, tender green shoots of early spring intermingled with the purple soft flowers of redbud trees. The rolling, peaceful countryside is a sharp contrast to the savage and bloody three days on these fields long ago. It is hard to imagine the booming of cannons and the smoke of the rifles when all we heard this day was the singing of birds. Even when other people were around, most spoke in hushed tones. The place commands a solemn reverence.

Part of this quote written by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in 1889 hangs on a wall as you exit the Civil War Museum. Many pause to read it: "In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream, and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls."

Abraham Lincoln says in his Gettysburg Address, "...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom..." Did these men die in vain? What was it all about anyway? Visiting Gettysburg causes you ponder.

At the Eternal Light Peace Memorial is another quote by Lincoln. It says, "With firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right." Honorable men act on what they believe is right. There were honorable men on both sides of this great war.

What I Thought of Gettysburg

Liana is the guest writer today. She is writing about our recent trip to a famous battlefield of the Civil War. She also took the photographs.

We were in Gettysburg for two days. I thought that the tour was interesting. My two favorite stops on the tour were Devil's Den and the Pennsylvania Monument. Devil's Den is a big rock formation. It was fun to climb on the rocks and go through the cracks to find an opening. I liked going up the stairs in the monument and looking down on the battlefield. I thought the monument was very beautiful. We bought the tour CD at the Visitor's Center. The tour told us to drive to a certain spot and then turn the tape on and hear what happened there.

After the tour was over were went to Friendly's. I got macaroni and cheese, french fries, lemonade and a very yummy Oreo sundae. It was my first trip there and I didn't know what to expect. The drink and sundae came with the meal! After that we drove home. It was a wonderful trip. I can't wait to go next year.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Spring has come again! I love the soft green of the trees. This is the view from my kitchen window. In the foreground is the pine that was our Christmas tree years ago. It was damaged in a winter storm and had to be staked. But it seems to have recovered well. I don't want to lose it. It marks time and our years together as a family. I have another tree, a flowering hawthorne, that was planted on my oldest son's birthday in March of 1996.
Continuing with the theme of being still...I've discovered one reason "time flies" is because we are so busy. Every day is packed with schedules, tasks, errands, commitments, daily chores, events, interruptions, etc., etc.. It's a marathon to complete it all and a race to finish before nightfall, only to get up the next day and run again.

We need to SLOW DOWN! I wish someone would tell me how! Our daily Bible reading brought us to Psalm 90 today, a prayer of Moses. I remember studying this Psalm when I was in Women's Bible Study at church years ago. The class was on Using Time Wisely. Oh, yes, Time Management. I failed that lesson. I picture time as a wild stallion I daily try to lasso and tame.

What new insights did I find in Psalm 90 today? Our lives are compared to grass that flourishes in the morning and in the evening it fades and withers. Life is short! But we know that.

Verse 9: "We bring our years to an end like a sigh." The day will surely come.

Verse 10: "The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty..." If only I knew I had seventy years! Would I be satisfied? No, I would ask for eighty. Life is a precious gift.

Verse 12: "So teach us to number our days that we present to you a heart of wisdom." We need to learn how to live out our days wisely.

Verse 14: "Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." Time with our heavenly Father each day.

Verse 15: "Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil." Life is good if the good days outnumber the bad.

Verse 16: "Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children." Yes!

Verse 17: "Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands." This is our prayer too.

The notes in my Bible on this last verse give another interpretation: "Give permanence to the work of our hands." Isn't that what makes life worthwhile? That something we've done will be lasting? What in this world lasts forever? Only the souls of people. So our priorities should always be people.

I still haven't figured out how to get through my day without rushing and all the frustration that comes with that. But without an earnest prayer for God's help, I will accomplish nothing of lasting value. As we read through the Old Testament, I am thinking about the emphasis on the Sabbath day of rest. Is this where I'm missing the mark? Did God foresee our tendency to rush about and overlook the essence of life?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Number one brother

My brother was in town! Well, not exactly, but he was in our state for the first time in about 25 years! He had a business trip about an hour and a half from our home, so we drove out to see him today.

We have been to his state of North Carolina many times to visit him, but it was great to have him come up north. His hotel wasn't far from Hershey, so we decided to spend the afternoon there.
As my brother Jim said, even though we hadn't seen each other for about three years, it was as if no time had passed. I guess that's how siblings are who grow up together and share so much. We caught up on family events, shared laughs over our crazy childhood, and just enjoyed being together. Jim and Fred get along so well and it was interesting to observe all they have in common.
By the way, this Chocolate World in Hershey is not worth the drive unless you are also seeing the other attractions in that town. (Zoo America is great!) But it was fun to walk around and hang out with Jim. Later we had good Italian food at a little restaurant near his hotel. He will go back to North Carolina tomorrow.
Next week my number three brother and his family are coming up from Georgia! We can't wait to see them.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Be still

A friend of mine asked why I haven't been writing much. I've been too busy! But it's not the writing that takes much time. I haven't had time to THINK! I've been stumbling along through my days, doing one task after another and not finding meaning or joy in anything I do.

This morning when the girls and I read our daily devotion, the scripture was Psalm 46:10. "Be still and know that I am God." Instead of proceeding with our work, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how important this is. Then we each went to our separate work areas and we took out our prayer journals and had five minutes of peace and listening for God. This post is what I learned in my five minutes of being still.

I started to write down what has been on my mind. I realized I've been stressed about many things and many people. A job for Fred. A job for me? The Census Bureau called again. Damien's house in the midst of negotiations. My friend Bridget in Peru. An old friend suffering with pancreatic cancer. My niece. After each entry on my page, I wrote a brief plea to God. Whispers of scripture came to my mind, bits and pieces that I later looked up and reflected upon.

"I do not involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul." Psalm 131.

"In quietness and trust is your strength." Isaiah 30:15.

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a might one who will save. He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love." Zephaniah 3:17.

We all started our school day with a better attitude. Another translation of Psalm 46:10 says, "Cease striving, and know that I am God." I need to cease striving with everyone around me and not try to solve problems that are beyond my ability. I need to take five minutes to rest in God's presence and listen for his wisdom to guide my day. In stillness we find our bearings.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Easter gifts

The Gifts of Loved Ones!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The cross, the grave, the skies

"Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!"

What would Easter be without singing that song in the congregation of the people? It never fails to stir me. What a gorgeous Easter morning! The warmest Easter I remember. The early spring flowers are blooming; it's sunny and bright. During the service we see Damien and Gretchen across the sea of people. Last night was supposed to be their BIG night! Damien was proposing! As we left the sanctuary we hurried over to the door they would soon exit. Damien gave me an affirmative sign that all went well and I got to hug my soon-to-be daughter-in-law. What a joyous morning!

While we sang the old hymn, one of the lines struck me. "Ours the cross, the grave, the skies..." It's the story of our lives, isn't it?

The cross: "For we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings." II Corinthians 1:5. "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes among 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." I Peter 4:12, 13. "We are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." Romans 8:17.

The grave: "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment." Hebrews 9:27. Death. The certainty of it hangs over every human being on this planet. Jesus knew his ministry would ultimately lead to his death. Death is not a "passing" or a "crossing over." It should not be glamorized. It is ugly and causes horrific suffering for people who lose a loved one. It was not God's original plan. Death is the enemy. But...

The skies: The glorious message of Easter is that Jesus conquered death! We suffer in this life, as did Jesus. We die, and so did Jesus. We are raised from the dead, as our Lord rose! That is the great news. That is our hope. That is how we can endure the suffering of this life. And when our death comes in this world, Jesus promised, "I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:3.

"If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless...if we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are people most to be pitied." I Corinthians 15:17-19. If Christianity is just a nice idea to get us through this life, we are miserable and misled people. If Jesus was just a good teacher or one of many prophets, we are hopeless. But scripture says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us." Romans 8:18. This is our hope! This is the promise we live and breathe. We do not grieve in our suffering as those who have no hope. We do not fear death as those who have no savior. We know one day God will wipe away every tear, and death shall be no more. There shall be no mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things will have passed away.

In the meantime, even in the midst of carrying our crosses--whatever they may be, God's gifts abound. We see glimpses of his glory and know in the end, all the wrongs will be made right.

Happy Easter!