Monday, December 23, 2013

Looking for Christmas

"Where are you, Christmas, why can't I find you?" Faith Hill laments on the radio.  As if Christmas were a person.  Christmas IS a person, but I don't think that's what those lyrics mean.

But I understand the sentiment.  I have been so overwhelmed with life that I feel like I'm going through the motions and each thing I do is just another chore to check off.  Go to tree farm, check.  Decorate house, check. Order gifts, check.  Mail gifts, check.  Then came the snow, snow and more snow.  Shovel, shovel, shovel.  When we can't find Christmas, what exactly are we looking for?  The magic of childhood fantasies?  I have wonderful memories of Christmas.  My mother made sure we were happy at Christmas, no matter what else was going on in our family. 

The girls were doing their school work in front of the blazing woodstove and I wanted them to finish so I let them off the hook and went out alone to clear snow once more.  My car had ice all over it, so I started it up to warm it and the radio was on.  Celine Dion was singing "O Holy Night."  I turned the music up very loud and grabbed the shovel and got busy on the driveway.  It was a divine moment.  I found HIM in the unexpected--in the peace of the silent, beautiful snow, in ordinary work.  He took the world by surprise when he came long ago.

Last night the girls had their Christmas program at school.  I got to see all my students perform--singing, dancing, and doing skits, each talent reflecting their personalities.  Such great kids.  I thought about the opportunity the girls have here in this safe environment with other kids that I know well because I spend so much time with them.  How blessed we are to be here, so be doing this.  This is Christmas, gifts to us.

Fred comes home from work joyful.  He still has his tough job.  He still has to be on call for snow and often suffers from sleep deprivation.  But he came home with a gift card for hoagies (his favorite meal) and he'd found an old radio that he wasn't sure worked.  He set it up on the counter and fiddled around with it.  It did work, so he was singing and dancing around the kitchen. I wrapped some gifts for our loved ones and wondered if they will like them, anticipating their faces on Christmas morning.  Santa Clause 2 is on TV.  It's so familiar we can jump in anytime and know what happens next.  In the movie, Santa Claus knows the deepest longings of each person.  We are each a child at heart, aren't we?  The tree lights sparkle tonight and our house is warm.  What more could we ask for?

Saturday we have a long-awaited family night.  We go out to dinner--what a treat!  Again, another gift card.  Fred is much appreciated at work.  We go to Walmart afterwards and I find the perfect gift I'd been searching for--on sale!  We drive around the neighborhood and look at the fantastic light displays and listen to Christmas music in the car.  It's tradition!  We end up in my old neighborhood.  We notice a man walking alone in the dark and realize we know him.  Fred stops the car and I roll down the window.  His wife, my old friend, has cancer.  She is on a course of surgery and chemo.  Where are you, Christmas, in this family?  We come home and I go to the computer and see the girl in Colorado, shot by a fellow student, has died.  No Christmas magic for these families.  How can these people walk through the darkness of their lives and find light at the end of the road?

Lord willing, we will have our Christmas in a  couple of days.  Christmas is surely not about the tasks we do or the gifts we buy.  We celebrate our lives, grateful for another year together.  We are thankful to God for loving us so much that he provided hope in this painful, sad world by sending us Jesus.  

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  (John 1)  "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in the land of deep darkness, on them has light shined...for to us a child is born, to us a son is given..."  (Isaiah 9)  Jesus is God's gift to the world!

Jesus is called Immanuel, "God with us."  He promised, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."  His last words in Matthew say, "I am with you always, to the end of the age."  Our circumstances don't change the fact that he came.  Christmas happened.  He's here.  He is with us.  That is why we always have hope.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (Romans 15)  No matter your circumstances.


Monday, December 09, 2013

Crazy Sunday

The snow wasn't supposed to start until afternoon and then it would only be an inch or two, those TV weather people said.  Fred was ushering at church and left early in the morning.  The girls and I planned to go at our regular time, but for some reason we were running a little late.  I'm rarely late!  So I was rushing.  The last thing I did before going out the door was to put in my one contact lens.  I have only one good eye--the one that has a lens implant.  The other needs help.

We backed out of the driveway and I saw that my neighbor had parked his car in the middle of the street and was blocking the whole road.  Frustrated, I had to turn around and then go the other way, still rushing.  I got out on the main road and couldn't figure out why I couldn't see!  My vision was so blurry! Then I realized my contact was not on my eye.  I cannot drive with one eye, so we headed back home.  The girls were disappointed and I was even more frustrated. But I reminded them (and myself) that we just needed to go with the flow.  Things happen for a reason.  Inside the house I searched with a flashlight to try to find my contact lens.  Finally, I saw something shiny on the carpet and reached out to pick up my lens.  Only it wasn't my lens.  It was a piece of glass!  I remembered an ornament had broken yesterday while we were decorating the tree.  So now I sliced up my thumb.  What was going on today?  But good thing it was my thumb and not baby Jordan walking on the broken glass with her bare feet.  If I hadn't lost my lens, I might not have found that glass today.

Fred called from church and said it was snowing heavily.  Not a flake was in sight at our house. I was so glad we stayed home.   My car is not a vehicle you want to be driving on bad roads.  Fred said he was coming home to change clothes and then he had to go back out to plow the parking lot at church.  About the same time, the snow began falling here.  Fred called me several times on the way home and said traffic was very bad.  He called the last time when he was only about a mile away.  I went downstairs to watch for him.  He didn't come, and I started getting worried.  A half hour passed.  His cell phone was going right to voice mail.  Forty-five minutes passed.  No Fred.  I hadn't heard any sirens.  He was close enough that I I think I would have heard something if there had been an accident, right?  I considered putting on boots and walking out to look for him.  But the snow kept falling faster.  Finally, he pulled into the driveway.  He said cars were all over the road and couldn't make it up the hill.  They were all stacked up at the bottom and he couldn't go around.  That would have been us in my little car--stuck--if we'd gone to church this morning.

I heated up Tommy's Soup that I put in the freezer last summer after our bountiful harvest.  It's tradition that we eat it at the first snowfall.  So we all warmed ourselves, bodies and souls, with the hot soup.  All was well in the world.  Then the best news--the evening service would be cancelled, so we would all be home together the rest of the day!  Fred got out his trains to arrange around the Christmas tree.  A fire blazed in the woodstove as the snow fell outside the window. Liana worked on her knitting.  Arielle and I did school work.  We all enjoyed chili for dinner.  It's beginning to look a lot like winter!  The returning seasons, the familiar routines, the traditions we find comfort in--I am grateful for all these little things.  And the big things: we are safe in the storm; we have another Christmas to celebrate; we have peace in our home.  When our plans go awry and anxious thoughts consume us, we're reminded to "cast all our cares on him, for he cares for us."   I'm like a high-strung child, always worrying about something. But I've had high-strung children of my own.  They need to be reassured that their parents are in control and everything will be okay.  My assurance comes from my Father in heaven.  His word is full of his promises.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stop a Moment

We've lost something along the way.  Fred is stressed about his job; I'm stressed about mine.  There is never enough time to get everything done. The girls are always busy with their school work, and since they work independently a good part of the time, we all go our separate ways. We don't play Wizard anymore and we don't have movie night and eat popcorn together. 

The other night I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner.  The girls were in their rooms and Fred was on the couch watching TV.  Then I heard it--these pure, beautiful voices singing Amazing Grace.  I dried my hands and went to see who it was.  Celtic Thunder!  Our old favorite group!  Forget the dishes.  I sat down with Fred.  It was a PBS fundraising special, but the featured performers were Celtic Thunder doing a Christmas program.  We called  the girls and they ran in when they heard the music.  Then there we were, all four of us cuddled together, enjoying the singing just like we used to do.  This was such a gift.  We've missed these times.  We can't let them go by the wayside again.  In fact, in another hour we're going to pile on the quilts on this cold night and watch the old Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon once again--all together. 

Now stop and listen to the video I found on youtube.  You will be blessed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Celebration of Family

Thanksgiving is fast approaching; more birthdays have come and gone as the children are now another year older.  Arielle will soon be sixteen.  People always say, "Where did the time go?"  Regrettably, I must say, much of it has been squandered and wasted or else I have rushed through the days with the only goal of completing all I had to do.  I've lost many years that way, longing for the day to end just so I could go to bed.  We'll soon be gone, all of us.  We'll be just a memory for a couple of generations and then we'll be gone forever as if we'd never lived.  There won't be anyone left who even knew us!  I leave behind these words that may never be read, and I leave my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  I hope a few will carry into the future the hope of the gospel.  The word of the Lord and the souls of people--those are the only things that last forever.

I'm ever reminded to hold on to these days, somehow, and treasure them.  When you almost lose a beloved family member, every day is a celebration.  We had a party for Lana on her 10th birthday.  Our precious Lana reminds us how fragile and fleeting life is.  The cousins all had a grand old time running around the yard and enjoying each other. Our house just gets smaller as more babies are born into the family, so we were thankful for a warm day to be outside. Liana did a photo shoot of Lana.  I think the pictures will make a great gift for Lana for Christmas.  And Liana is becoming quite a photographer.  I seldom take pictures anymore because hers are always better than mine.  

The girls had been cleaning our their closets and found a bunch of fancy dresses they wore when they were young.  So at Lana's party, Liana helped the little girls put on a fashion show with the dresses, even styling their hair for the occasion.  All the adults sat in the living room as they strolled in and modeled their outfits. To their great delight, we told them they could KEEP the dresses, so they wore them home! 

I loved watching the kids interact with each other.  They don't get together too often, so it is exciting and fun for them to play together.  Arielle and Liana are so good with the babies, and I love seeing my daughters nurturing and caring for the little ones.  How blessed we are to have this family!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Winter Wood

Fred and Damien are always on the lookout for wood and spend a tremendous amount of time chopping, splitting and stacking their wood in order to save money on winter heating.  In fact, they have this Saturday set aside for taking down some cherry trees they found.  Last night my brother Jim posted this story as a comment, but I wanted to put it up front so more can read it.  Jim is a thoughtful guy, a great writer, and a good family man.  But he is also a real man's man and a tough, hard worker.  Love you and miss you, Brother!

Today has been special, Deborah. We built our first fire of the season. I have never had so much firewood going into winter! As I waded into our substantial firewood pile at the bottom of the yard this morning I remember every "workin party" that we had in the last year. I can tell you, if you have time to listen, where every batch came from, separated by the species. As I throw the wild cherry chunks into the trailer I can still feel the sharp stings of the yellow jackets that lit up my ankle after I stepped on their nest on the first cut of the of the downed tree. They did not appreciate the change in lifestyle that I had initiated by slicing through their nest. The locust wood reminds me of a very special day that I enjoyed in the woods with Rory, Landon and Sara. Rory is my scout as he drives his daily route through five counties of Western North Carolina delivering propane, always vigilant and alert for free firewood to keep his Dad warm through these long, cold, mountain winters. He had called me the day before to tell me that he had spotted a huge yellow locust tree that had been blown down by a recent windstorm. Rory doesn't burn wood but he is always right there with me ready to go to work to help me stock my firewood pile. The tree was in the creek, covered by poison ivy, and twenty feet down a steep bank. I'll never forget Landon's face as I sawed into the trunk and found a large mama copperhead and three baby snakes curled up in a rotten pocket on the tree.
I load some sycamore sticks and they remind me of a rainy day in June, when a friend had called on Friday afternoon to tell me that he had a tree down. It had to be gone before sundown. I looked at Angela, she looked at me. We were both tired after working long hours all week. She said, "let's gear up. We need to strike while the iron is hot". I have taught her well!
So, on this day, as the sun drops below the cold November horizon, the firewood is up to the house, the house is warm and smells wonderful! I lift the lid off the pot on the stove. I recognize immediately that Angela has cooked my favorite soup of all time.
She giggles behind me. She is pleased with my pleasure as I taste the soup!
Thank you Deb for your Butternut Squash Soup recipe! Even more important, thank you for showing me how important it is to appreciate and enjoy our families and all the small things that come our way every day and can bring us so much joy if we are receptive.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Tears for a Guinea Pig

It's been a sad week at our house.  We lost our dear little Poppy.  On Sunday she became lethargic and by the end of the day she was unable to walk or eat or drink.  I woke early Monday morning and fearfully peeked in on her.  She was lying motionless but when I called her name, she raised her head.  I made a little nest for her in a box and carefully picked up her frail, soft body so she could lie down in peace.  I covered her with a little blanket Liana made for her long ago. I told her what a good little animal she was and thanked her for being such a precious pet for Liana.  Then I woke Liana to tell her Poppy didn't have much time. 

Liana went downstairs and sat next to Poppy for an hour and a half.  Liana stroked her and talked to her until Poppy was gone.  All of us shed tears for Poppy.  Liana loved her so much.  I used to say God made guinea pigs just for little girls.  What docile animals they are, and so responsive to tender care.  And Poppy was a one-girl pig.  She loved Liana.

Some people would say, "But it's only a guinea pig!"  Poppy was much more than just a rodent.  She brought out Liana's best.  Liana is such a nurturing child.  She used to carry Poppy around in a basket lined with fleece.  When Liana sat with Poppy in her lap, Poppy would nestle in against her.  I would sometimes try to put Poppy back in her cage and Poppy would resist me and snuggle closer to Liana. I still remember the day the girls got their guinea pigs.  What joy these two animals brought to our household!  And poor Sunshine, Arielle's pig.  She wanders around the cage confused, looking for Poppy.

Poppy was buried in a shoebox among the Rose of Sharon and azalea in the backyard.  Her headstone is a beautiful rock we carried back from North Carolina several years ago.  We can see it from the kitchen window.  Liana is hurting.  I realize this is the end of childhood.  Little girls and little animals.  Gone with the years. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013


We needed to get away.  Fred's job is so stressful and people are so demanding that the only way to have some peace and quiet is to leave town.  (He still got four phone calls--I counted.  But at least he didn't have to directly deal with the problems.)  I needed a break too.  I love teaching, but the pace of preparing lessons each week for my classes on top of my ordinary work is leaving me exhausted.  So we headed to our favorite place--Gettysburg!  Every time we go there, the personality of the town is different.  It changes with the seasons and with the weather.  We've been there when it rained all weekend and when it was stifling hot.  This time it was beautiful autumn, but packed full with people. 

I had never seen it so crowded.  Maybe that was due to the government shut-down that closed the park before we arrived, or maybe because Gettysburg has special events for its 150th anniversary.  But we found own special escape by hiking up Big Round Top.  It was quiet and beautiful.  It's October and the trees are full of glory, their last hurrah before winter arrives.

"Everywhere she walked the color shouted and sang around her…
In October any wonderful unexpected thing might be possible.
― Elizabeth George Speare



We did a lot of nothing.  Listened to some of the battlefield tape.  Walked around our favorite sites with the girls taking turns doing photo shoots.  It was too cold and windy for me to climb the observation towers, but the girls did.  Marveled that we ever played hide-n-seek at Devils' Den years ago.  It's so dangerous on those rocks that I can't believe people aren't injured daily.  Looked for books in the Visitor's Center that we might want to read.  Arielle and I are both reading Killer Angels right now.  She has to read it for a class but it looked good to me so we are sharing her copy.  Had a wonderful Thai dinner at our favorite restaurant.  We bought bags of beautiful local apples, butternut and spaghetti squash, and a huge pumpkin on the way home.  Precious family time together once again.  I am grateful.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Peace by the Sea

After Lana's diagnosis, we went to the shore for a couple of days.  We tried to re-create the excitement of years past.  Nothing seems to be the same.  The ocean is the same, and the boardwalk is still there--maybe a couple of new shops have replaced old ones.  But we have changed.  No more shovels and pails and chubby legs running for water at the edge of the ocean.  No more drippy ice cream faces smiling in the hot sun.  No more pulling our little girls in the wagon up and down the boardwalk in the chilly evening, excitement in their eyes as we approach the carnival rides with the flashy lights.  This day, fear of the unknown crowds out the fun.  Sadness about my granddaughter burdens my heart.  I grieve for her and the journey ahead for her family.  Their lives have changed forever.

But the monkeys in the helicopter still sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".  (If you've been to our shore, you know what I'm talking about!)  Arielle and Liana still want to play Goofy Golf and we still drive the surrey while the morning sunlight glints off the ocean--although now we need the big surrey and all four of us can power it.  The girls ride the carousel again.  Arielle says she did it for me.  Fred and I watch and wave at them as they go around, like we've always done. This is our special place.  We have so many memories of our precious daughters here.  Everything we see before us has a story of times past.  Good memories.  There is nothing sad anywhere in this place.

We take a long walk along the shoreline with only a bucket and a camera.  The girls are looking for treasures in the sand, and I'm looking for peace.  Arielle walks into the deep water and I watch her carefully.  It was so much easier when my little girls would dip their toes in the cold water and then run back to me.  I think how beautiful the ocean is this day.  But as I look across its depths, I know how frightening it is.  There are sharks and jellyfish, and the riptide can pull you away until you drown fighting it.  The tide can destroy homes and lives.  The ocean is so unpredictable.  Yet we are drawn to it, its vastness and its mysteries.

I notice big waves are breaking far from the shore.  Just before they crash, they shimmer in a dazzling light.  In the deep, God shines even brighter.  He is there when life is uncertain.  He is there in the despair of our days.  And today, he gives us all this beauty!  A walk with my beloved family gathering seashells while the ocean roars alongside us.

A very old woman is adrift in an inner tube.  She comes in with the waves and then goes back out to sea.  She appears to be asleep, her eyes closed, and she is slumped over with her head on her chest.  Her hands hang limply, trailing through the water.  We walk past her, but I keep looking back.  Is she okay?  Now she is bobbing up and down where the waves are breaking so far out.  There are no lifeguards here.  Another wave comes in and she is back on the sand, still asleep.  I point her out to Fred and he walks back and calls out to her.  Her eyes open and her arms began to gently paddle the water.  The waves retreat and she goes back out to the deep.  I'm amazed at her lack of fear!  Imagine sleeping on the ocean while you float in a tube!  She is an experienced life live-er.  I so admire her courage.

We walk on, leaving her behind.  I let go of the worry and enjoy the hours we have left beside the sea.  A verse comes to mind, one of my favorites:

"Do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not look anxiously about you, 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)   Surely he will.  He is our God.  He loves us.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

Two Mondays

This is a difficult post to write.  I just don't want to think about the details of Labor Day 2013.  But my purpose in blogging is to record our family's lives here together.  When I am long gone, maybe someone would read this and ask, "Why didn't she write about Lana?"

I'll start with the day after Labor Day.  Fred, the girls and I are traveling through rolling farmland under bright blue skies.  The weather is balmy and the white puffy clouds are too perfect to even seem real.  But then this day doesn't seem real.  Today we had planned to go to the shore.  But we are heading in the opposite direction--to Children's Hospital near our state capital.  Sometimes life does that to us.  We must go where we did not plan to go and did not want to go. 

But we are filled with hope!  I had talked to my son earlier that morning.  He said my granddaughter was stable and doing better after her midnight transfer by ambulance from their local hospital.

Labor Day.  I had talked to Jon and Chrissy several times.  Jon was at work, Chrissy at home.  They were both concerned about Lana.  At first it was because she hadn't eaten over the weekend.  Yes, that was troubling.  But school had just started.  Maybe she was stressed?  Or maybe she had a stomach virus.  Ordinary stuff.  Then Chrissy told me a more troubling symptom.  She said the last couple of weeks Lana has been extremely thirsty.  She was constantly asking for drinks.  This is a child who seldom finishes her glass of milk or juice at mealtime.   Lana was also very, very tired.  She'd already had a nap that day and now she was lying on the couch half asleep.  During one phone call Chrissy told me she had done some research on-line and she thought Lana might have diabetes.  She had called the family doctor and Lana was scheduled for morning.  I was very frightened.  I believed Chrissy was right.

A little bit later Chrissy said Lana wouldn't wake up.  Jon was on his way home.  They were taking her to the ER.  Panicked, I tried to hold it together.  Then Chrissy cut me off.  The doctor was on the line.  Relief, they will find out what is wrong. Lana will get treatment. I worried about Chrissy too.  She is pregnant, due October 5th.  This could send her into labor. And then that was the last I heard.  Neither of them have a cell phone.

We waited.  And waited.  No word.  I thought they would come home after their trip to the hospital and call me.  And everything would be fine.  Lana would have been cared for and she would be okay.  I didn't even know which hospital they had gone to.  Finally, a couple of hours later, I called our area hospitals.  Jon would be more familiar with them and Lana might be there.  No, she was not.  Fear, prayer.  Lots of prayer.  I prayed Psalm 91 for Lana, pleading with God, holding him to his promises for the life of my granddaughter. "She who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark...You will not be afraid of the terror by night...He will give his angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways...Because she has loved me, I will deliver her, I will set her securely on high because she has known my name.  She will call upon me and I will answer her.  I will be with her in trouble. I will rescue her and honor her.  With a long life I will satisfy her and show her my salvation."   I'm getting shaky again just writing this.  I don't want to relive this night.

Finally I found the right hospital.  All they could tell me was Lana was there in the ER.  No one was at the nurses' station when I called, so I couldn't get any news.  More waiting.  Hours?  I lost all sense of time.  Then Jon called.

This was the call you never want to receive from one of your children.  Jon was back home and my initial relief was instantly dashed.  Jon's voice still haunts me.  "Mom, it's really, really bad!  It's so bad!"  What? What?  The terror in my voice brought Fred and the girls into the kitchen.  I was on the floor and shaking so hard I could hardly hold the phone.  Jon said Lana almost died.  But she didn't?  She's alive?  Yes!  I clung to that to reassure my son.  Lana was nearly in a diabetic coma.  She had been given IVs and was awake now.  She was to be transferred to a children's hospital.  Jon was gathering things at home and was rushing to get back.  The hospital was about an hour away.  I was so scared for him driving alone.

Pray.  Pray. I hung on God's word like a lifeline.  A refrain that has come up recently in my readings--God's steadfast love and faithfulness.  God's steadfast love and faithfulness....I said it over and over.  I didn't know how to pray--just to cry out.  "God, you love Lana.  God, you are faithful to your people." 

It was very long night.  I didn't hear from Jon or Chrissy again.  In the morning I called the hospital and got a room number.  Lana made it there.  She was admitted.  I finally called the room about 8:15.  Jon's voice was filled with relief.  He put Lana on the phone!  Her precious, tiny voice saying she feels fine!  Jon told me the crisis was past.  Lana's blood sugar was constantly being monitored but she was somewhat stabilized.  For those to know anything about blood sugar, normal is 100 to 120.  Lana's was over 1,000 when she first arrived in the ER.  It was in the 300's now, so far from normal. But she was alive! This little girl had such a long way to go.  But the good news was that she had eaten and her IVs were being discontinued.  Lana has Type 1 diabetes, or what we used to call juvenile diabetes.  Her pancreas is not producing any insulin.  It is an autoimmune disease.

So we arrive at the hospital.  Lana is back asleep.  She is gaunt and pale.  Almost 10 years old yet her tiny body barely lifts the blanket over her.  She is a wisp of a girl.  How could we not have seen this coming?  We just saw her a week or two earlier.  But she's always been small and thin. 

We spend the rest of the day there.  Lana awakes and she is our Lana again.  Her body is ravished but her spirit is revived.  We watch as her blood is tested and Jon injects her with insulin.  Every day, 4 times a day, and once in the middle of the night, for now.  All day we joke and laugh-- unbelievably, I think now.  How could we have been in such jolly moods after the course of the night before?  Because we are so thrilled that Lana is alive!  Jon gives us testimony about how he saw God's hand every step of the way.  How did Chrissy find that particular website that brought them to the hospital?  (I read it just a couple of days ago.  It is a blog post by a mother whose daughter had a similar crisis.  But the details were so eerie because they were almost identical to Lana's.)  Then Jon tells me when they first arrived at the ER, the nurse introduced himself.  "I am Gabriel.  I'm here to help you." 

The next day Jon, Chrissy and Lana will attend an 8 hour seminar on diabetic care.  Then she will be released to go home.  I call again in the evening.  Lana is doing well.  Jon is asleep in the hospital room, exhausted with the weight of the world on his shoulders.  Chrissy is at peace.  It seems the baby has suffered no harm from the stress.  All is well in the world.  But so many "could have beens..."  This night we are all grateful for God's unending, steadfast love and his great faithfulness.  For his presence when we are afraid.  For giving us all hope.

The title of this post was Two Mondays.  So what happened the very next Monday?  New life!  Lana's baby sister Eva is born!  I called this picture "Two Miracles."


Friday, August 30, 2013

Last Days of Summer

I'm grieving the end of summer.  It was too short!  There were so many things I wanted to do but didn't.  What seemed to overshadow the summer was my surgery and the doctor visits afterwards and then all the work we did for 4-H.  That's what stands out.  I'm feeling deprived.  I think I'm forgetting the good things.  And I'm forgetting that my life is not my own.  It's about doing what needs to be done.  It's about people and giving.  I need to let go of my plans, my control, my perceived needs. 

Once school starts life is all about the girls and my job that will help pay the bills.  I've been called to homeschool.  It's my God-given task right now, so I have to make that my priority.  My teaching job at the co-op is God's provision for our family and I take that very seriously.  But sometimes when I try to do all the other things--be a good wife, a good mother to my other kids, a good grandmother, I often get overwhelmed.  I get tired.  How about some peace and quiet!  How about some alone time?  I need that.  And summer was supposed to provide that and didn't.  So here we go again into a new school year.

So now I am "alone" while the girls sleep, as I am almost every morning.  What do I do with that time?  Do I read the tempting headlines on yahoo?  Do I peruse Facebook?  What a waste of time the internet can be.  A young man we know wrote a great blog post about his smart phone.  See it here:

Instead of playing around on the computer, I could go downstairs and watch the birds leave the bamboo grove and center myself with prayer and God's word--communion with the Creator of the Universe!  Do we realize what a privilege that is?  Sometimes life's best gifts are left unwrapped and unnoticed because we don't stop our busyness to see them and open them.

So I will spend that treasured time with God and he will give me peace, contentment, purpose, vision, clarity, gratitude, strength and joy.  NOW I'm ready for the day!  NOW I'm ready for a new school year!  Now I can set aside my regret over a lost summer and remember what made it good.  I think of...

Adirondack chairs on the deck made with my own husband's hands, watching the sun set with cricket song.  Fred's good grilled meats and watermelon and ice cream and lush tomatoes on my countertop.  Flip-flops on our feet and sunshine on our skin.  Bluebirds on the wire and a cloud of butterflies around the butterfly bush and Liana running for her camera.  Our okra forest--what a funny plant--and noticing for the first time that bees are doing all the pollination that produce those beautiful flowers.  We harvested a bounty from our garden.  I think of Arielle delighting in new friendships and teenage girls giggling around our table.  We witnessed baptisms and changed lives.  We had barefooted babies to love and hold, babies that will be running  around next summer, struggling to be free of our arms.  Then there were bike rides along the rivers and cold water that refreshes us and laughter with the wind in our ears.  I'm grateful for it all.  It's been a great summer! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

End of August

Our summer is ending with lots of activity!  More on that later.  Here are some photos that capture our laughter, our joy, and our chaos.  Family and friends--what could be better than this?

Caden, Lana and Laci--cousins!

Cousins at Chrissy's shower
Laci, Lana, Joey, Jordan, and Caden

Julia and her niece Skylar
Liana and Arielle with Joey and Jordan

Two seconds later--babies say, "Let us go!"

Precious!  Arielle's shirt says it all

Friday, August 16, 2013


"Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide."—Genesis 24:63.
Very admirable was his occupation. If those who spend so many hours in idle company, light reading, and useless pastimes, could learn wisdom, they would find more profitable society and more interesting engagements in meditation than in the vanities which now have such charms for them. We should all know more, live nearer to God, and grow in grace, if we were more alone. Meditation chews the cud and extracts the real nutriment from the mental food gathered elsewhere. When Jesus is the theme, meditation is sweet indeed. Isaac found Rebecca while engaged in private musings; many others have found their best beloved there.

Very admirable was the choice of place. In the field we have a study hung round with texts for thought. From the cedar to the hyssop, from the soaring eagle down to the chirping grasshopper, from the blue expanse of heaven to a drop of dew, all things are full of teaching, and when the eye is divinely opened, that teaching flashes upon the mind far more vividly than from written books. Our little rooms are neither so healthy, so suggestive, so agreeable, or so inspiring as the fields. Let us count nothing common or unclean, but feel that all created things point to their Maker, and the field will at once be hallowed.

Very admirable was the season. The season of sunset as it draws a veil over the day, befits that repose of the soul when earthborn cares yield to the joys of heavenly communion. The glory of the setting sun excites our wonder, and the solemnity of approaching night awakens our awe. If the business of this day will permit it, it will be well, dear reader, if you can spare an hour to walk in the field at eventide, but if not, the Lord is in the town too, and will meet with thee in thy chamber or in the crowded street. Let thy heart go forth to meet Him.

Charles Spurgeon

Monday, August 12, 2013

Historical Fabric

Here is the fabric I got at the fair.  My niece wanted to see a picture.  I thought at first it looked like cotton and that maybe it was from a southern design.  But after doing some research I found out it came from a quilt made in York County, Pennsylvania in the early 1800's.  I read that the fabric was mostly likely bought in Philadelphia and had been imported from England.  Of course, it came from a reproduction of an antique quilt and is not the original fabric.  Now I am interested in finding the rest of the fabrics that were in this quilt.   And who has all the reproductions that were made?  There is a museum in York that I believe has the quilt and a store in Gettysburg might have some of the fabric.  It will be an interesting search.

Friday, August 09, 2013

New Friends

It's fair time again!  We love the 4-H fair.  It's the same old fair but each year we have new experiences and meet new people and new animals.  Nick, Kristina and the kids all came today and we got to share the fun with them.  But unfortunately, they left before we met these new friends.

The reptile club gave a demonstration and people were invited to touch the animals.  The goal is education--to end the "Ugh!" factor and appreciate each animal for its special characteristics.  We met this beautiful tarantula and were encouraged to pet her back if we wanted.  Okay, I did it.  Then her owner said we could hold her.  Why not?  I let her walk back and forth between my hands.  The owner retrieved her when she started climbing up my arm.  I know, a tarantula is not a reptile, but this guy had one.

Then we met a ball python.  He is a beautiful snake.  Guess what his name is?  No, really, try guessing.  What would you name a python?  I'll tell you at the end of this post.  The young man asked if I would like to hold him.  Why not?  My age and I've never held a snake!  He was heavy and it was fascinating to feel him move.  Arielle held him also to my amazement!  Not Liana though.

We also interacted with some cute goats, soft bunnies, amazing alpacas, and our favorites--guinea pigs!  All you old people like me--go to a petting zoo and enjoy the animals!  They aren't just for kids.

We spent most of our time in the fabric sale room.  It was very hectic on opening night with everyone looking for a bargain.  We're always looking for our own treasures that we get for free because we're working.  This year I got 8 and a half yards of a historical fabric.  It is a replica of a design taken from an antique quilt.  I love it.  It's enough for a quilt backing and someday I will do something with it. Too many other projects going on right now though.
Okay, did you guess the python's name?  Monty, of course!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Still Counting

"Do all things without grumbling or disputing..."  (Philippians 2:14) 
"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you..."  (I Thessalonians 5:17)

When we are grateful for the gifts, complaining fades away.  When we are thankful for the small things, we don't covet the big things. 

1,290.  Special time spent with Liana while her sister is away
1,291.  Provision from our garden to nourish us this winter
1,292.  Seeing Arielle's face after a week apart from her
1,293.  The gift of a song

I heard this song for the first time Sunday.  It's not new, but new to me. It's called "10,000 Reasons".  Such beautiful music!  Lyrics that are so meaningful to me.  It reminds me of Psalm 103, read by my son at my wedding.

 Bless the lord, oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I worship your holy name

The sun comes up
It's a new day dawning
It's time to sing your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

You're rich in love and you're slow to anger
Your name is great and your heart is kind
For all your goodness I will keep on singing
10,000 reasons for my heart to find

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Soon my soul will sing your praise unending
10,000 years and then forever more.

Listen and be blessed!  I hope I live long enough to count 10,000 gifts.  God gives them everyday, but sometimes I don't recognize them or thank him.  I'm too busy complaining.

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."  (Psalm 103)

(photo by Liana)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More Baptisms

After being inspired by seeing strangers baptized at Damien's church a week ago, we were even more excited about Jon and Chrissy's baptisms planned for Sunday.  Once a year their church hosts a big picnic in a park and afterwards people are baptized in the nearby creek.  Jon and Chrissy had been planning this for awhile.

It was another sweltering day with high heat and humidity.  When we arrived, a huge banquet was awaiting us under a pavilion.  Jon's church family was sitting all around on blankets and lawn chairs.  Because Dominic and Stacia came for the weekend, they were able to come and support Jon and Chrissy too, and of course Damien and Gretchen were there.  Jon and Chrissy's lives were changed several years ago when they dedicated themselves to serving God but now they were making a public profession of faith by their baptisms. 

After our meal we all trekked down to a muddy, shallow stream.  The seven people waded into the water with their pastor. One by one, each came forward and the pastor read a verse he had chosen for that person.  After affirming their faith in salvation by Jesus Christ alone, they each were baptized.  Jon and Chrissy were last.  My heart was beating fast when it was my son's turn.  My little boy, now a man, strong in his commitment to his family and his Lord. I am so proud of him. Jon was so serious.  I know how much this meant to him.  The pastor read Jon's verse and Jon proclaimed his faith.  He was lowered into the water to represent death to his old life and he arose out of the water to symbolize new life in Christ.  And not only that, but to proclaim that just as we will one day die, we will be raised to eternal life. 

The crowd cheered and Fred boldly shouted, "Praise God!"  Chrissy was last.  She was teary-eyed and I was too.  The pastor affirmed her heart for the unborn and her relentless zeal to save babies.  He read verses from Psalm 139.  I thought about all Jon and Chrissy have been through, their turbulent childhoods and their difficult lives together when they were younger.  So much heartache and struggle.  Yet here they were, healed and restored.  God is so good. This was a profound moment in time. 

The crowd was in a celebratory mood after the baptisms.  Children waded into the creek to play, along with Lana and her friend.  Suddenly Lana was crying and running out of the water.  She had a huge crayfish attached to her hand!  Jon was so good with her.  He calmly removed the crayfish and together he and Lana returned it to the stream.  This day of baptism will always include the crayfish story!   

We headed home, our hearts filled with memories of good family time.
Dominic and his family left to go home to D.C..  Our whirlwind weekend closed out and we are grateful for it all.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Big Surprise!

Dominic and Stacia had planned to visit last weekend but they canceled due to work obligations.  We were disappointed.  I was longing to hold my little grandson again.

On Saturday the girls and I went to 4-H as we always do.  Fred called once to see when we'd be home but we were in no hurry.  We came back in the afternoon with no plans for the rest of the day.  I dropped off bags and stuff on my dining room table and suddenly from around the half wall in my living room, I saw baby Caden suspended in the air!  Dominic and Stacia were hiding behind the wall, holding the baby out for me to see.  What a wonderful surprise!  I grabbed Caden and held him tight--totally forgetting my eye surgery and the rules about lifting.  What a joyous reunion that afternoon! 

Now what do you think my next thought was after seeing my family here?  The house!  Nothing prepared, nothing cleaned up, no meals planned!  Shock and horror!  But, after all, this is family and they know me, that I barely keep up with daily chores.  So we did what we could to make their stay pleasant.

That afternoon we had another sweet reunion.  We knew Kelsey and Seth had traveled here from Minnesota for a funeral but we didn't know if or when we would see them.  They would only be in town a short time.  But Damien arranged for them to come to his house and we were invited to be there too.  My oldest grandchildren are 18 and 16 years old!  It's hard to believe.  So here we were all crowded into Damien's house--my grown boys, my daughters-in-law, big grandchildren and the baby cousins together with my two daughters in between.  We are so blessed. 

Soon Kelsey and Seth had to leave, and Fred and I left too.  Arielle and Liana stayed behind to have dinner with Damien and Dominic's families.  This is how it should be.  As Fred and I grow older and the girls grow up, they will become closer to their older siblings.  Those relationships will become more and more important.  I know they will always be loved and cared for and that gives me great peace.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Worship in the Corn Field

Damien invited us to an event with his church.  We would have a cook-out and a service outdoors and Damien would be playing the drums with his band.  It sounded like fun.  I always love hearing my son play.  He has such natural talent and has never had a lesson in his life.  And I love that he is using his gift to worship the Lord and inspire others also.

Tents were set up on the blacktop of the church parking lot.  It was a HOT, HOT day!  Because of the angle of the sun, even under the tent we had to arrange ourselves carefully to claim a scrap of shade.  And Damien!  He'd arrived hours earlier to set-up, working with the sun bearing down on him.  Still, he was grilling meat and serving us all.  Despite the heat we enjoyed good family time together.  The kids were sweaty but no one complained. Gretchen had refreshing salads, and with beach chairs and cold drinks, what more could we want?  I only wish all my kids were here.  These girls so much enjoy their family.  I love this picture of Arielle, listening to her brothers discuss serious topics--as always. 

After we ate, we moved to the former corn field for music and worship.  The sun had shifted and shadows protected us from the brutal sun.  Families arranged their chairs and spread out blankets.  Kids played on the swings behind us.  Liana with her camera, as usual, recorded the event.  The beat of Damien's drums pounded in our chests, rising to the sky.  Our hearts were lifted in praise.
We unwind.  The heat passes away along with the concerns of the day.  Fred takes my hand and we close our eyes out here in the middle of the corn field and we let the music wash over us.  Peace descends.  We are grateful for it all.  Baptisms in a hot tub begin in front of the stage.  Some people had planned to be baptized, but anyone is invited.  We all walk up closer to watch what God has done.  Everyone cheers and celebrates the ones who have chosen to follow Jesus.  Young and old and everyone in between.  The music plays on, Damien working hard on the drums, wiping the sweat from his face between songs.  Fred says, "Did you ever imagine your son doing this?"  Changed lives, the real miracles of our time.

Deep dusk envelops us and lights come on the stage.  We hug our beloved people good-bye and head home, reflecting on the day.  This worship was so different from ours, yet we felt quite at home.  Jesus is building his church with all kinds of people.  He said, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it."