Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bounty of Grace

Counting my blessings...

515.  God's provision from the garden.

516.  Our family blessed with another new baby on the way!  Incredible joy!

517.  A picnic with prayer offered through the towering trees, accompanied by insect song.

518.  The girls playing a game with their friend Thomas and the laughter and silliness of an adolescent boy making me smile, remembering...

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."  (Jesus)

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Now for some good news.  We had the most incredible, fun weekend visiting Dominic and Stacia and I haven't had time to write about it!  For the first time with the girls, we traveled to Washington, D.C. to stay overnight and have fun in the city.  Dominic and Stacia are such gracious hosts and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them.

After a wild ride down 95, we arrived safe and sound and Dominic and Stacia had a big day planned for us.  Unfortunately, the metro from their town was shut down and we had to take two cars into the city.  (No one car could contain us all.)  So we followed them.  First stop, Dominic pulled over into a park.  He said he wanted to show us one of his favorite spots.  We walked into a field in the midst of biking trails. Soon we found out why we had stopped.  Planes were coming in for a landing right over our heads!  They appeared incredibly close.  The roar and the power of those planes!  We were off to a great start on our D.C. adventure..

Dominic had a parking garage chosen for us, so we parked and then headed to the free museums.  We lost track of time as we explored the fantastic displays.  As for the girls, they loved the mammal exhibit in the National Museum of Natural History.  Liana and I were in awe of the rocks, minerals and gemstones.  I wish my brother Shane the rock collector had been here to share this treat.  There was just too much to see in this museum and we were dazzled by the sights.  At the National Museum of American History, the girls first enjoyed the dresses of the First Ladies.  They had seen replicas of these dresses in a museum in Gettysburg and they had long been waiting to see the real ones.

There wasn't enough time to see everything, even in just two museums.  In fact, I think you could spend hours reading and observing just one exhibit.  But it was dinner time.  We strolled down the beautiful streets to a restaurant Dominic and Stacia had chosen for us.  We looked up and saw some dark clouds hovering and made predictions on the weather.  Suddenly rain descended on us in heavy sheets!  We ran for cover under a tree with sparse, dry leaves which were not much protection.    

Dominic to the rescue!  He hailed a cab and we all climbed in--except for him.  We had too many people for the cab and Dominic had to walk!  We got out at a nice Asian restaurant, went inside and waited for poor Dominic.  Finally he walked in--drenched!  He had to be cold in the air conditioning.  But Dominic is not a complainer and he directed us to some great food on the menu.  We settled in with hot Thai food, hot rice and hot tea to go with it.  Comfort food.  For me, this was the best time of the trip--being with this precious family, all of us gathered around the table with nourishing food.

We left the restaurant and the day resumed as if no rain had fallen--hot, humid and sunny outside.  I think we walked miles in the late afternoon, but it was peaceful and relaxing. We saw the White House with some interesting protesters outside.  We bought the girls ice cream from a street vendor.  We passed the majestic Eisenhower Executive Office Building that fills a city block.  The Washington Monument came into view.  On to visit the memorials.

The World War II Memorial is new since Fred and I were last here.  There is a beautiful fountain in the center and we enjoyed a rest.  Dominic and Stacia hoped we would see the Lincoln Memorial after dark, all lit up.  But the timing was a little off (which turned out for the best considering what happened later).  It was fun to climb the steps with the multitude of tourists and look out across the mall to the Capitol.  

We passed by the Vietnam War Memorial and a hush seemed to come over the people as we all saw the thousands of names.  Then the Korean War Memorial.  This one was haunting for me.  I am amazed by the creator who captured in stone the fearful, wary faces of men marching through a field during the war.  It was dusk now, and these forms rose white in the impending darkness.

Dominic wanted us to see his office very near the Lincoln Memorial, but the guards wouldn't let us in.  Still, the building was quite impressive and it was nice to see the place where my son travels to work every day.  It was getting late and we realized everyone was too tired to walk the long way back to the parking garage.  The men decided to get a cab and go back for the cars and pick the rest of us up. (We have too many people for one cab.) Stacia, the girls, and I rested in the arms of a giant Einstein sculpture to wait.  It was very dark now and the tourists passing by had dwindled.  I was a little nervous but Stacia seemed quite comfortable in the big city.

A little while later we got a call on the cell. The guys were at the parking garage, but could not get the cars.  Neither Dominic nor Fred had the parking tickets!  The tickets were with Stacia and me!  The parking attendant would in no way let them take the cars--and the garage closed in about half an hour.  We had to take a cab back to them.  

Dominic and Fred had gotten a cab right away.  We were not so lucky.  But eventually Stacia found one to take us to the garage.  We arrived before the garage closed and headed back to the apartment.

The next morning Dominic prepared a fabulous breakfast for us and afterwards we went into the city again.  We returned to the American History museum and saw some of what we had missed.  There is a fascinating exhibit on the history of transportation in America and how American life changed through the years as people embraced new ways of traveling.  Liana and I got away for a little bit to see the displays of the American Presidency.  (Her choice.)  Today it was hot, hot, hot.  We walked briefly through an art museum on our way to the National Museum of the American Indian.  It was a refreshing way to cool off from the heat, but I would have loved to explore this museum.  A FREE art museum!  Amazing.  After an interesting lunch of Native American food, we realized our time in D.C. was about up.  No time to see this beautiful museum.  That was a disappointment, but next time, hopefully.

We endured another long harrowing drive on 95, this time with car trouble!  Fortunately, at one point our GPS took us on a different route and we could avoid the high speeds of the highway and we made it safely home.  

The girls are full of information and images and impressions of their trip to the big city.  This is real education, the kind that is long remembered.  Most of all they will remember the love of family and the good times we shared and the stories that will be told long into the future.  We'll think about the rain and the hot food.  We'll tell about sitting in the dark with Stacia waiting for our guys to come for us, discussing how crazy it was that four responsible adults forgot parking tickets. I'll remember cooking hash browns with Dominic on Sunday morning and the thrill of seeing opals on display in the gem exhibit--glowing bright lights that gave my heart a lurch.  We'll think about eating ripe cherries on the streets as we walked to the museums, our hands all sticky.  Fred and the girls, I'm sure, have their own special moments. 

Thank you, Dominic and Stacia, for a wonderful vacation!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Arielle is troubled by what happened in Colorado.  I've spent all these years warning the girls about risky choices and avoiding disaster.  But going to the movies?  How dangerous is that?  How do you explain to your children that sometimes bad things just happen and it is not your fault?  Arielle is a girl who wants answers in black and white.

Her first question to me--why did a mother take a six-year-old to a PG-13 movie at midnight?  Oh, how often I do this when I hear of tragedies that happen!  I want to assign blame. Someone must be at fault.  And if I can avoid those same mistakes, then I will be safe.  But we can't always count on our wise decisions.  Sometimes bad things happen anyway, so do you just give up in hopelessness thinking the whole world is in chaos?  But we need to trust the One who holds it all together.  He is there, even in the midst of the horror.

Is there anyone to blame?  Well, the shooter, of course.  But then is he just another lost soul?  (With a lost mind?)  But what made him that way?  What facilitated his behavior?  Why did he have such easy access to all those weapons and ammunition?  The movie itself, some say, is dark and violent.  Did that contribute?  But it's more than that.  I read an interesting analysis in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Robert Jensen, professor of journalism at the University of Texas said this:  

"Did this movie cause this crime?  The answer is obviously no. Is this part of a culture that makes acts of violence more inviting?  Why, after all, are there so many images around us of violent behavior?  Violence in pop culture is something like porn. It doesn't cause behavior, but it may help create a setting in which certain behaviors are more common.  We don't ask such nuanced, complex questions because they lead to disturbing conclusions about our society."

So I ask, who is society?  We are.  Who is ultimately to blame?  We are--we who condone,  celebrate, laugh about, enjoy, or ignore those things in our culture that promote violence and death. Some say God is to blame.  The God who allowed this has disallowed many other things that might have tragically affected our lives.  The cancer you didn't get, the car crash you didn't have, the evil person who passed you by.  I should have been dead by now. But God in his mercy has granted me life all these years.  Who knows what disasters have been averted in our lives?

We live in a broken, violent world.  There is no explaining evil.  The Christian hope is that one day we will have a redeemed world, absent of evil.  In the meantime, God has given us another day of life.  Celebrate that.

So what should our response be to this horror? God says, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."  II Chronicles 7:13, 14.

I think of Jesus' words at the end of his life. "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not."  Matthew 23:37.


Friday, July 13, 2012

The Package

My step-mother called and said she mailed a package for me.  She was going through my father's possessions and was clearing out what she didn't want anymore.  She said anything he had that came before her has no meaning for her.  But she was very excited to tell me that she found pictures of my grandmother and grandfather from long ago.  She had some things of my father too that she wanted me to have.  Curiously, she said she had some pictures of me.  I wasn't sure what that was about.  But I wanted to see these things!  Oh, I couldn't wait to get this package, a link to my mysterious past.

It seemed like I should have received the package at the time of our conversation.  It had been 10 days!  I know it had to travel across the country, but that seemed too long.  I asked for specifics.  Where did she mail it?  Did she include a return address?  (She didn't remember.)  Did she take it into the post office?  (No, she dropped it in a box.  So it hadn't been weighed for postage.)  Oh, no.  This wasn't looking good.  I actually called the Nevada post office near her house to ask about it.  The woman was not helpful.  She said if it was not addressed properly or had insufficient postage it might be sent to "Dead Letter" in Kentucky and then there would be no way to find it.  What a disappointment.  Then I stopped by our post office and the man told me no way they just send it off to nowhere-land for not having enough postage.  He said I would be notified.  He said don't worry.  Okay, so I waited longer.

My son Nick was here and I was telling him the story.  The mailman pulled up and Nick looked outside.  He said, "You have two packages!"  I rushed to the window and the mailman was bringing two Amazon boxes to the door.  For the first time ever I was not happy to get Amazon boxes.  Then Nick said, "He is stuffing something in the mailbox!"  I raced out the door and yes, there it was!  A white padded envelope, stained like it had been on a long journey, the front scribbled with shaky writing.  My package!

Carefully, I opened the envelope.  A multitude of artifacts spilled out.  There were many, many pictures, most carefully labeled, going as far back as my grandmother as a baby.  A group shot of three generations of women, and then one of the men.  Childhood pictures of my father with his parents and sister.  A studio picture of my father as a young man and also a formal picture of my great-grandfather when he was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.  There were several photos of a lookout station where my father lived temporarily to watch for forest fires.  Football letters from high school, athletic awards, and ribbons my father won for pigeon racing! I never knew about that.  

The pictures of me were most intriguing.  The backs were carefully documented with time and place, and they were pictures I recognized!  My mother has these same pictures.  But the handwriting on the back I recognized as my grandmother's.   She was the one sending my father pictures of me.  But he did save them all these years.  Arielle, intuitive daughter that she is, reminded me of that fact.  

What a treasure!  I am so grateful to my step-mother for giving them to me.  She could have just tossed them out.  But now I have a few bits and pieces of my history to be passed down to my children.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Monday, July 09, 2012


My son Jon asked us if we wanted to go geocaching with him.  I had heard about this, but I couldn't figure it out exactly.  I knew Jon had some handheld GPS device and that he searched for hidden treasure in the woods.  It sounded like a good opportunity to be outdoors with him and my granddaughter and daughter-in-law.  So we headed to the river trail on a hot, sultry day and Jon taught us how to find treasure.

From his device, Jon located the first cache.  At least we knew it was in the general vicinity of where we were standing. You can go to a website and find all kinds of hints.  We were on a little sandy beach, and that matched up with one of the clues.  We knew it was a tiny treasure, so that meant it would be hard to find.  We all searched around in the trash left behind by maybe teenagers partying on this beach. We couldn't find it.  Okay, on to the next one.  We walked down a narrow path, me trying hard to avoid the knee-high poison ivy and the girls stopping to watch a little turtle sunning himself in a pond and a multitude of butterflies fluttering around us.  The next cache was supposedly dangling from a tree above the river.  That we figured out from the hints.  We stood on the bank of the river looking down.  We were high above it.  Jon first climbed out on a tree branch hanging over the river and then decided to slide down the steep embankment.  Mother instinct took over.  I said, "Jon, get back up here!"  It looked too dangerous.  But Jon didn't listen to me, of course, nor to the admonitions of his wife to be careful.  My son is very persistent.  It really bugged him that he couldn't find this cache either.  We left to find the next one.

We were standing in front of it.  This we knew.  But the woods were dense and overgrown.  A big tree stood before us, and Jon seemed to know that it was the most likely place for the cache.  He fearlessly tore through the brush and leaves (and snakes, surely) and scrambled around in the foliage.  This was supposed to be a large cache.  Chrissy and the girls and I stood safely on the path.  I tend to get poison ivy just by looking at it, so no way was I going into the weeds.  Poor Jon.  This didn't seem like much of a sport if he was doing all the work. Finally, finally!  He found it!  He brought over a large metal ammo box and opened it.  The treasure!  The idea is, you take a treasure and leave behind a treasure for the next person.  This box had an odd assortment of a little stuffed animal, cassette tapes, balls, a sticker book, and a shark tooth.  Lana grabbed the little animal as her mother cringed.  (Who knows who touched it?)  Jon left behind marbles. Okay, now I see why this could be  fun.  You never know what you will find.  Encouraged by success, we went back to the sandy beach and finally found that first one.  All this cache contained was a teeny slip of paper rolled into a very small canister hidden in a minuscule hole in a tree.  The paper was simply a log of those who had come before.  Jon signed his name.  

On to the last one.  We were on a sunny bridge over a little stream of water flowing into the river.  We all searched with our eyes to find the cache, but no luck.  Jon once again trampled into the weeds, lifting rocks and boldly putting his hand into small, dark openings.  He searched a long time while the rest of us began to melt in the heat.  Lana's face was flushed red and I was getting dizzy.  We retreated to some shade.  Jon could not find this one.  To him, this was a bad geocaching day.  But for the rest of us, it was a fun day in the park.  I enjoyed sharing an adventure with family, and we're all up for trying again on a cooler day.

Friday, July 06, 2012

New Flower

What is this?  I was delighted to find a new flower that I have never seen in my life!  Can you guess what it is?  Look beyond the flower to the shoots behind it.  I wish I could show this to my mother.  She loves this vegetable--OKRA!  We never grew it before and it appears to be doing quite well in this oppressive heat.

Can vegetables be beautiful?  I think so.  The cabbage is almost ready for harvest but we have to wait a little longer for eggplant and peppers.  Green beans that have been a summer staple for years are not nearly ready and quite sparse this year.  We finally found out why.  Despite all the fencing that keeps out deer and groundhogs, Fred found a cute, little brown bunny munching away on our vegetables this morning.  We've seen him in the yard before, but didn't know he was able to get through the fence into the garden. He prefers to eat the tops off the emerging bean plants.  Now we are like the mean, old Mr. McGregor.  This rabbit is not so cute anymore.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


I don't like competition.  Somehow it seems ungodly.  If someone wins, someone else has to lose. The girls participated in the six-county regional fashion revue this week.  They look forward to it every year because of the activities they do with other girls.  This year they made jewelry and accessories and attended an etiquette class.  But looming heavily (for some) over all the fun is the COMPETITION.  I always try to prepare the girls.  They might not win.  They need to be gracious losers as well as gracious winners.  In the big picture of life, this is not all that important.  Every girl has already won because she has learned useful skills and created a beautiful garment.  Arielle and Liana always say, "We know; we know."  This year I told them the most important thing is to let their lights shine.  They have gentle, sweet spirits.  And if by chance they win, they should remember it is a God-given talent they have.  They cannot be boastful about it.

I was asked to work at this event for the first time.  I was a Timer, one who calls the girls in to see the judges, timing their meeting, and keeping the schedule moving.  It was an exhausting job!  I was on my feet (in new shoes) for about five hours without a break. But I was glad to do it.  I was able to personally talk to the girls as they waited in the hall before going in to see the  judges, and I could admire up-close the outfits they had sewn, which was very exciting.  I made some observations.  Many girls were nervous and timid about speaking to the judges and presenting their designs.  It was nice to be in a position to encourage them to smile and to tell them what a good job they had done.  Some girls were arrogant and condescending to the others, and this, above all, was most unbecoming, no matter how exquisite their outfits were.  And some of the clothing was definitely gorgeous!  Many girls made prom gowns, each more beautiful than the next.  I'm glad I didn't have to judge them.  They all worked so hard, and there it is again.  The COMPETITION.  All the girls deserved to win.

After modeling before a crowded auditorium, the winners were announced.  In the junior division, Liana's name was called!  Then the seniors.  Arielle's name was called!  The joy on their faces!  Arielle now has the opportunity to compete at the state level.  Later one of the junior judges came looking for Fred and me.  She wanted to tell us to encourage Liana in her sewing because she is so creative. (No need. She sews all the time.)  The judge was especially impressed with Liana's hand-embroidery with black stones that she incorporated into her jacket and purse.  She said Liana had the highest junior score of all.  Arielle told me later the judges were most interested in the patchwork design she used for her shirt pattern.  But it isn't just creativity that gave them points.  Expert construction and fit are very important, as I learned by being an "insider" to this event.  These things they learned from their very competent teachers in 4-H.

So now I had the opportunity to be a gracious mother of winners and not be lifted in pride because I really had nothing to do with it.  I remembered to thank the teachers who have bestowed their gifts on these girls.  Several sacrificed a great amount of time to encourage and teach and inspire them to do their very best.  One teacher taught Liana how to embroider, and then another helped Arielle alter the neckline of her patchwork shirt--not a simple task!  I am grateful these giving, kind women are part of my daughters' lives.