Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back--2014

My neglected blog.  Life is too hectic for contemplation.  That's not good.  We need to always be looking back to see where we've come from and to decide where we are going from here.  And to remember blessings and grace that God has bestowed on us so we can be grateful.

In looking back on this year, I realized it began and ended with a healing.  God granted me the gift of more time.  I had been sick for a couple of months back in January, a potentially serious health concern.  Then in the fall my asthma became worse and worse and I realized it was time to go back to the specialist.  He is a gift too, a caring doctor.  Now my lungs are clear, my allergies gone.  For now.  More time.  

We had losses.  Two little ones who never had a chance to take a breath.  An old friend busy with work and grandkids, much loved by her family, suddenly got sick and passed away.  We grieve and remember to be grateful for each day.

I think about this year and realize it was a time of transitions.  My girls growing up and me needing to let go.  We had our close family times--school work in the winter beside the fire, summer with AGT and ice cream, board game nights and movie nights.  Just the four of us.  Those times will always be precious to me because the time is coming when the four of us won't be together.  My daughters' horizons have expanded.  They want to be out with friends having new experiences.  Arielle is driving all over the place.  The girls don't need mom clinging to them all the time.  We shopped for ball gowns and talked late into the night about boys and friends and school and growing up.  I drove them to dances and skating rinks and parks and parties.  Yes, I still miss my baby girls, but I wouldn't want to pass through this stage too quickly.  My girls are delightful and we have so much fun. 

This year brought new friends.  Liana has a best friend Carina who is a delightful girl.  She is smart and independent and godly and sweet.  I am so glad to have her influence on my daughter's life.  Arielle has Steven who has opened up her world to new places and events and even food--raw oysters and lobster!  I am pleased with this considerate boy always thinking of her and what he might do to make her happy.  His birthday surprise for her was over the top.  I have a new friend too and I don't believe I have ever laughed so much in all my life.  We just seem to find life silly and fun.  The kids get a kick out of us two bumbling old ladies too.  They keep score on who is the most awkward.  Friends are a gift.  I have had many good ones through the years, different ones for different seasons of my life.  I am thankful for each and every one.

I am grateful for my husband.  I think of our difficult winter with all that snow and Fred always out working.  Such hard work, he is always on the go, never neglecting us, always providing for us.  I am grateful for my boys and all my grandchildren.  So many!  How blessed we are!  Then the Thanksgiving surprise--we will have THREE new babies in 2015!  Oh, my!  Just a couple of days ago I had lunch with my two oldest grandchildren, back from Minnesota.  What great kids!  Nearly grown now.  All the memories with those two.  

We had two weddings this year.  We visited our favorite places--Lancaster and Gettysburg and Ocean City.  We spent time with extended family in North Carolina and Georgia.  We started new traditions in Cape May.  

God provided for us.  Fred opened up a new practice, still keeping his full-time job and still doing side electrical jobs.  That man works so hard.  A door opened for me to teach even more classes at another co-op.  God has given us much. 

Here are some pictures from our last couple of months.  Arielle's birthday.  The tree farm.  Christmas.

So what will the new year bring?  Maybe losses.  Surely good surprises and new experiences.  Hopefully the gift of more time for all of us.  May you have many joys and lots of laughter
in the new year.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Best Birthday Ever

I realized I wrote another blog post years ago with the same title.  Okay, two best birthdays ever.  I am blessed.

A wonderful gift came Friday night.  Damien and Gretchen graciously hosted everyone for a birthday celebration for Lana.  Lana knew it was my birthday too.  She told me she wanted to sing "Happy Birthday" to me but she was a little embarrassed, so could we go into Jordan's bedroom?  We did.  But she was still a little shy about it, so she decided to get under the blanket on the bed so she could sing.  She wrapped the covers over her face and then said, "I'm going to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner"!  So she did, the whole song.  Her beautiful voice rang out while Jordan tried hard to pull the blanket off her head.  We laughed, we clapped, and it was a moment to treasure forever.

At midnight on the day of my birthday, Arielle and Liana jumped up on the bed and shouted "Happy Birthday!" Fred gave me a sentimental card with pink hearts and just the right words.  He told me he and Arielle had arranged a special day. We would go to an orchard to pick apples and then walk around a quaint town nearby and then go out to dinner.  The weather was perfect, sunny and warm.  October--it's the best, isn't it?  The glorious colors, the tilt of the sun that makes the earth glow with that golden light.  The orchard was near Steven's house so Arielle invited him to come along.  He said he had yard work to do but would meet up with us later.

The girls, Fred, and I rode out to the orchard in a truck packed tight with others enjoying this gorgeous day.  The trees were loaded with fruit, Fuji and Pink Lady apples.  We were allowed to sample first and stood among the trees eating, juice dripping off our hands.  We filled our bag and then waited for the truck to return, the girls taking the opportunity for a photo shoot.  Of course.

After returning to pay for the pumpkin we chose in the field next to the apples, there was Steven with two bouquets of flowers in his hands.  Yellow roses for Arielle and a colorful orange fall mix for me--some kind of daisies, sunflowers and mums.  Chocolates too!  I was stunned.  Arielle was delighted.  I carried my flowers around feeling like a homecoming queen.  A clerk asked what was the occasion?  My birthday! 

We headed to town, explored the old record store again, and just enjoyed the beautiful late afternoon.  Time for dinner.  We decided to head back to our area and discovered a new Mexican restaurant that serves the best tacos--my favorite food!  Could this day be any better?  We laughed all evening and enjoyed these kids.  At home Liana gave me a pencil sketch with a Bible verse and Arielle wrote me the loveliest of notes.  Who told me years ago that I would have so much trouble with teenage girls?  My daughters are an absolute joy!  

My mother called and sent great books to read, as she always does.  My boys remembered me with gifts and calls.  My heart is full.  What did I do to deserve this?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  God's grace--it's the only way to explain it.  He has given me this wonderful family and I am forever grateful.  I'm thankful for another year of life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gift upon Gift

Autumn half over, rushing through our days, I need to take time to give thanks.  With the start of classes, our lives have been in a happy turmoil and I have neglected to quietly contemplate this wild, wonderful era we are in now.  Teenage daughters!  What a delight they are!  We have so much fun.

I'm still counting blessings and this morning took some time to add them to my list.  God is so good and so faithful to us despite my many shortcomings.  What a glorious October weekend he gave us!

2,097.  Damien's house bursting with joyful little ones as we celebrated Jordan's birthday.
2,098.  My four boys all together!  My precious grandchildren!
2,099.  Lots of laughter with two dads and three kids playing video games.
2,100.  New church with worshipful music as we give thanks to our God.
2,101.  My hard-working son takes time early morning to buy us coffee and bagels for breakfast
2,102.  Impromptu trip to West Chester with my hubby to meet Arielle and Steven at a vintage record store.
2,103.  Fred and I go back in time as we search for old albums--great finds!
2,104.  Trip back home listening to Marc Cohn's "True Companion" with my true companion.
2,105.   Family dinner with my daughter-in-law and precious grandson.
2,106.   Dark chilly night at Barnes and Noble with three teenagers blasting music as they sing "You're So Classic" while I chat with my friend, a sleeping dog on my lap. Crazy times!
2,107.  On the carpet playing 10 Days in Europe (trying hard to beat Arielle) while we watch "The Flash" on TV. Silly times.
2,108.  My biology class scaling a mountain on our fungus hunting field trip while I pray they don't fall off the cliff.
2,109.  My daughters hemming their masquerade gowns, the serger whirring away.
2,110.  Arielle and her special guy all dressed up for a big occasion.
2,111.  Reminders that life is short and will one day come to an end, more reason to capture the memories and hold them close.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


The day was perfect.  Perfect means nothing more could be added to make it better.  There is no such thing as "more perfect."  The weather, the beach, our friendships--all perfect.  Just for today anyway.

Eight of us in a big Suburban on a glorious sunny day headed to Cape May.  The endless sea spread before us, sparkling and inviting.  The water was warm and clear, the deep sand soft on our feet.  The kids reveled in the waves, delighting in the sudden strong surf that tossed them about.  Liana and Carina took photos all day so we can always remember this.  My new friend Cindy and I relaxed, mindless of time, talking, sharing, and enjoying our kids while they dug a great hole, sunbathed, and laughed.  We stayed late, no one wanting to end this day. The best hours on the beach are when the crowds leave and the setting sun glows golden across the sand.

An hour wait for dinner?  No problem.  No rushing.  We ate at George's Place--the best meal I've had in a long time.  A Greek dinner of salmon and a huge fresh salad with feta, grape leaves and chick peas.  On the long drive home we were quiet as we relived the day.  I was wedged in the back with Arielle and Steven, fast asleep, my sandy daughter heavy against me.  We listened to oldies--those special ones attached to memories.  I am giving thanks.  We're sun-baked and content. 

Monday, August 11, 2014


At my age, is there anything new under the sun to get excited about?  I never want to be an old lady who is cynical and bored with life, to be weighed down with the mundane. But in the daily grind, sometimes I feel like I've seen it all and done it all.

Not so!  This past week we went to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey.  We were celebrating Steven's birthday and Arielle planned a surprise for this boy who loves fish.  The two of them ran off to explore on their own and Liana and I had precious hours together to discover the wonder of God's glorious creation.  Are you curious about life in the ocean?  What amazing creatures we found, each more awesome than the next.  Beautiful dangerous jellyfish, sea dragons, sea horses, vivid marine fish, a sea turtle with wise and knowing eyes. Sharks!  Lobsters!  Stingrays, sea stars, and sea cucumbers we could touch!  What a thrilling day!  Our brains are full of these images and Liana captured some of them here.  But photos are not enough.  Be filled with wonder yourself.  Get outdoors, get to an aquarium or a zoo.  The earth is teeming with life and beauty. 

"Oh, Lord, how many are your works!  In wisdom you have made them all.  The earth is full of your possessions.  There is the sea, great and broad, in which are swarms without number, animals both great and small."  Psalm 104.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Down South

 We had a wedding to attend in Georgia and planned to spend a week down South.  It's been over a year since we've seen our family, so we anticipated great times together.  I wanted to pay attention to capture those special moments.  I knew we would be astonished by God's gracious gifts and now I will tell about them so we never forget.

The night before our trip we drove Arielle home from Boy Scout Camp.  She had been visiting Steven on Family Day.  On the way we were treated to a gorgeous super moon glowing low in the sky, following us all the way home.  It set the tone for a week of wonder.

The next morning we packed up the car and headed down the familiar highways we've traveled so many times before--over the rivers and through the mountains to Grandma's house we go.  We cheered each state line we crossed and counted license plates and ate junk food.  In southern Virginia we tried to find that great Mexican restaurant we visited twice last year, but we couldn't remember the exit.  

Monday morning we drove into Grandma's mountains and there she was, as always, opening up the door to her little house, welcoming us with hugs and exclamations of how big the girls were and how handsome Fred was.  Then we enjoyed a grand spread of delicious food for lunch--ham and cheeses, fresh vegetables and fruit.  And of course, lots of talk to accompany the feast.  We're home!

I'm now reflecting back on precious family time as we look at all the pictures and remember what we did.  I think of Arielle and my little niece Kaneya swimming at the hotel pool, both of them bronzed dark brown by the sunlight.  We took our annual trip to Walmart with Grandma (always a tradition), wandering the aisles and picking up goodies.  Then we stuffed ourselves at Ryan's bufffet.  My sister Kelly invited us to chicken barbeque at her house--three varieties of legs! The men of the family grilled and us women folk talked and laughed the night away.  Kelly's husband, a well-known Cherokee sculptor, gave us a gift--an exquisite vase designed with hummingbirds and turquoise.  What is the occasion for this?  Kelly says because they love us.  I am overwhelmed with such a gift!  

My mom and I share an evening making pasta salad and ironing wedding clothes--treasured mother-daughter time.  Ordinary, yet extraordinary.  We exchange stories, remembering our lives together.  I am so grateful to have so many years with the person who loved me first.  Liana didn't want to stay at the hotel with us, so she alone stayed with her Grandma, making their own special memories.  Liana felt so loved and accepted, just like I always did as a child.

Fred, the girls, and I also spent time together as a family.  We strolled through the souvenir shops of Cherokee.  My generous daughters bought me a beautiful wooden bird that caught my eye. It will be a reminder of that day.  Fred bought the girls knives despite my disapproval.  If you're in the South, you just have to get a knife, I guess.  We got postcards and Native medicinal teas and herbs.  These were relaxing days with no agenda.  We often didn't even know what time it was.

One morning we drove across the mountains into Tennessee.  Fred sampled moonshine and we listened to a band playing mountain music with the audience rocking back and forth in wooden rocking chairs.  Arielle said she could have stayed all day.  She felt quite at home there.  On the way back to Cherokee we decided to drive up to Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the Great Smokies.  It's another 7 mile steep drive off the main mountainous road and then a 30 minute hike on foot to the top.  Elevation 6,644 feet.  A sign at the bottom warns of thin mountain air.  The path is steep and my asthma-compromised lungs wouldn't allow me to walk the whole way.  Liana said she would stay back with me and we watched the other pilgrims huffing and puffing their way up.  Fred and Arielle went all the way.  When I see the pictures, I regret I couldn't make the climb. But even at our resting stop on the path, I felt like we were on top of the world.  The air was crisp and cool, and clouds touched the mountain peaks.  The grandeur of it all was overwhelming.  We were in awe of God's creation and felt privileged to witness it.  Check out the color of the sky at this elevation!

One of the highlights of the trip was doing a little genealogy research for a friend of mine.  Amazingly, her mother and my mother lived in the same small town outside of Cherokee.  I did a little investigating on-line before we left home and knew the address of a cousin she had lost touch with through the years.  I thought I would just take some pictures of the area.  But when we found the actual house where the cousin lived, I thought, why not take a chance and knock on the door.  We met a delightful older woman who was so willing to talk.  She wants my friend to call and I was so glad to help them connect.

At the end of the week we left the mountains to go to the wedding in Atlanta.  Georgia greeted us with crepe myrtle blooming in shades of pink and violet all along the highway.  But the awful traffic was a reminder of my one summer there.  So many people in one area!  We dropped the girls off at the wedding venue to get ready and visit with their cousins.  Arielle and Liana were both bridesmaids.  Then Fred and I had time to kill.  (What an expression!  Let's not kill time but make the most of it-- and we did.)  We splurged on a good lunch and then later stopped at Starbucks for vanilla lattes.  We had a "moment" sitting there sipping our coffees, remembering ourselves as a couple and not just mom and dad.  George Harrison sang "If Not for You."  

The wedding was beautiful, worshipful, and sacred.  We enjoyed good food and time with family.  Then came the sad good-byes and a long, long drive home.  We started out with pounding rain and heavy traffic, but soon the sun was shining and the roads clear.  We stopped for the best-ever peaches in South Carolina.  Fred asked where would we put them with our car so loaded.  I said if I have to hold them on my lap the whole way, we still needed these peaches. We stopped for lunch at a crowded Cracker Barrel on our way north through North Carolina and I tried to be positive during the stifling boredom of sitting so long in the car for 15 hours.  (Yes, it really took 15 hours.)  I was thankful for my tireless husband who continued to drive on and on.  We washed and ate peaches at a nice rest stop in Virginia.  But then we had to get back in that car.

We were on the home stretch--the GPS said only 15 more minutes!  Suddenly there were flashing lights in our rear view mirror.  No!  Yes, Fred was being pulled over.  We were defeated.  What a way to end our lovely week.  And would this drive home never end?  The policeman said it was 68 in a 45 mph work zone.  Fines are doubled in work zones. But it was midnight and there was not a worker in sight!  That doesn't matter apparently.  After a long delay the officer gave us just a warning!  Maybe we looked pitiful--two tired girls in the backseat, piled with junk from this long road trip, mom and dad up front exhausted.  We praised God this man had mercy on us!

Home finally!  I almost wanted to kiss the driveway.  We stumbled inside.  Vacation was over, but we have lots of memories and lots of blessings to be thankful for.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Monday, July 07, 2014

Summer Gifts

There has been sadness, worry, and conflict, but blessings abound!  Life goes on, kids grow up, friends see us through, family stays true, little ones bring joy to our lives, new plans are made.  There is always hope.  God reminds us time and again how much he loves us and how he has it all under control.  Amazing grace.

The first week of July is already gone and summer will soon be a memory.  I try to live in the now and be there in the moments that are good and precious. Our little Joey comes for a sleepover and has special Grandpop time.  These two have a special bond.

I haul four kids back from 4-H on a dark night and Arielle puts on a Casting Crowns CD.  I say, "Play the bones song."  And she does, the one about Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones coming to life. 

"And the Lord sent his wind into the valley and breathed the breath of life into their souls..."  And the Holy Spirit passes through our little red car winding its way home as the kids softly sing.

Our township's fireworks were rained out but we had new friends over for dinner and my son manned the grill before the storm came.  Good conversations over dinner enriched our lives and later the kids played board games in the basement and lit sparklers in the backyard with lots of laughter. 

And the holiday celebration wasn't lost.  Damien invited us to dinner and fireworks in his township the next night.  During the absolutely gorgeous day before we leave, Liana helps lay the new deck boards with Fred, sawing and drilling and having great Dad and Daughter time. I pick blueberries from the bushes my sons gave me and eat a lot of berries before I even go back in the house, just standing there in the sunshine.  Arielle and Steven give us a pre-fireworks duet on the piano playing a song Arielle has been working on for awhile.  

I'm not counting stars but gifts.  

Jordan's joy is contagious.  Damien cooks us chicken once again and we sit under the trees in his yard.  It's such a beautiful night.  Gretchen loads the table with good food and we feast.

 We carry our blankets out to the field as darkness descends.  It is so cool we need jackets.  I get hugs from Lana to warm me up.  Our littlest one Eva crawls across the blanket and then into her daddy's lap.  We hear the first boom and the sky fills with lights. Jordan alternates between being frightened to fascinated.  Granddaughters!  How blessed I am.  It takes an hour to get home because of the crowds but I don't mind because it just prolongs our best-ever 4th of July.

"As grace extends to more and more people, it increases thanksgiving to the glory of God.  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."  But as we wait for that, God fills us with good things. Jesus tells us we ought always to pray and not lose heart. 

Photo credits: Liana

Thursday, June 19, 2014


A friend died this week.  Our family is also dealing with a personal sadness.  We're scared of tragedy and death, but it's part of life in this broken world.  We're scared of change.  There is an actual reason for this.  Quote from a medical doctor, "The brain is always trying to automate things and to create habits, which it imbues with feelings of pleasure.  Holding to the tried and true gives us a feeling of security, safety and competence while at the same time reducing our fear of the future and of failure."  That's me.  I love security, safety and competence.  I find peace in rituals and "sameness" and family and my "stuff."  But if we're counting on these things, are we failing to trust the only one who can give us real security?

With our church leadership in chaos, I've been hungry for the Word--for truth, for substance, for nourishment, for answers to questions.  And I've found some great spiritual food from Matt Chandler.  (Search youtube for his sermons.  Great guy, great wisdom.)  I recently listened to "Examining Fear and Anxiety."  This from a man diagnosed with brain cancer.  Now that would produce some fear. I am listening to this because I have been so anxious lately.

Jesus had a lot to say about anxiety.  It seems to be a common human ailment.  Am I the only one?  Jesus says in Matthew 6, "Do not be anxious about your life."  He says it over and over!  Why don't we pay attention?  Jesus says worry will not give us anything that we need.  But he says God knows what we need.  He tells us to look around at birds and flowers of the field.  The whole world is in his control.  God does not promise bliss and a perfect life. But he promises to take care of us and give us what we need.  

So how do we address our fears?  Jesus says to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things (we need and stress about) will be given to us. He says, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."  So Jesus is saying we will have trouble?  I think so.  But not to worry about it?  Matt says deal with TODAY.  God is with us to get us through with all the strength and wisdom we need TODAY.  Ask him for it.  Do we have all we need to get through tomorrow?  Well, not right now we don't.  But God will give us what we need each and every day.  "Give us this day our daily bread..."  It's in this same chapter of Matthew.  Another interesting passage in this same chapter is about laying up treasures on earth.  Jesus says, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  The more value we place on something, the more anxiety we'll have about that thing.  We need to watch our priorities. 

Faith is our weapon to fight anxiety.  "Seek first his kingdom..."  Matt says, "You will get God and he will be enough.  Win the day!" "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  Lamentations 3:22, 23.  If we fear tomorrow, we won't enjoy today.  Be grateful for what you have today.  

Let's quit pretending we're not scared.  Give it over to God.  Talk to him.  Trust him.  We are not in control--never have been, never will be.  Our lives are in his hands.  Remember all he's already done for us.  Trust him for the future.  Why would he stop caring for us now?  God wants us to get out of the boat and get in the water so we will grow in faith and grow in our dependence on him.  Life changes help us grow.  And yes, bad things happen sometimes.  But we have a God who loves us and will see us through the hard times.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Another Milestone

My little girl is driving!  I can hardly believe it!  She passed her permit test--no questions wrong--and I took her out driving the same day.  It's a little scary.  But Arielle is a cautious person and I know she will be a good driver once she has some experience.  Since she plans on doing dual enrollment at our community college senior year, this is the first step in that direction.  Independence, freedom, growing up.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Always a Princess

 My daughters were everything a mother of four boys could hope for--they were girly, they liked to dress-up, they liked nail polish and hair bows, and they liked dancing!  Oh, how we enjoyed them when they were little!  The singing and spinning and tutus and princess gowns.  That's why Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Cinderella" always made me smile.  (And cry.)  Listen here if you don't know it.


The first part of his song:  
She spins and she sways to whatever song plays
Without a care in the world
And I'm sitting here wearing
The weight of the world on my shoulders
It's been a long day and there's still work to do
She's pulling at me saying, "Dad, I need you
There's a ball at the castle and I've been invited
And I need to practice my dancing, oh please, daddy, please..."
So I will dance with Cinderella while she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella, I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight and she'll be gone...

We had plenty of Daddy-Daughter dances at our house, and plenty with Mom too.  And ballet recitals?  Oh, what fun we all had.  But now we come to the second part of the song:
She says he's a nice guy and I'd be impressed
She wants to know if I approve of the dress
She says, "Dad the prom is just one week away
And I need to practice my dancing, oh please, daddy, please..."

My little princess is transformed into a beautiful young woman and she's off with her nice guy and it's sad but it's wonderful.  What a day it was!  Since the prom was near Steven's house, Fred and I drove her there.  We'll never forget that ride.  A sudden storm blew in and we were in the hardest rain I've ever seen in our area.  The roads flooded and then the hail come--pounding hard and fast.  Arielle calmly put on her make-up in the car while Fred and I worried our windshield would be shattered.  Once we got to Steven's house, the sun was bright and warm and we were able to get our treasured pictures.  Then we said good-bye to our princess daughter as Cinderella went off to the ball, stars in her eyes.

Arielle is planning her future.  She'll be a junior this fall and we are forced to think about the next step in life.  She already has one foot out the door and so much wants to be independent.  

But she came home today with a ring on her hand
Just glowing and telling us all they had planned
She says, "Dad, the wedding's still six months away
And I need to practice my dancing, oh please, daddy, please..."

Okay, that part is long way off but time flies and that time will come.  
So I will dance with Cinderella while she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella, I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight and she'll be gone
She will be gone...
I don't want to miss anything.  Our joyous, precious daughter will soon be dancing out of our lives to make her own way.  What a privilege it's been to raise our daughters!  We have been so blessed.