Thursday, May 30, 2013

As my son is about to graduate 8th grade, I'm thinking about buying my soon-to-be high schooler gang clothes for next year.  If you are in a gang, you automatically belong.  They've got your back.  So, I'm thinking Duck Dynasty T-shirts are in order.  He'll proudly wear that gang's signature.   I'll admit, I'm a fan.  It ain't Downton Abbey, but it's a real family that has united more Americans since 911.   They work, play, fight, eat, and pray together as a family.  The patriarch is a preacher, and they all respect their dad.  Where else do you hear the younger generation say, "Yessir."  I'm good with that.  Like Uncle Si would say, "We got your back, Jack."  This reality show is a show of reality that we can all use to remember,

"How good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard,
Even Aaron's beard,
Coming down upon the edge of his robes."
Psalm 133:1-2
Leaving our first church was hard.  Unfortunately, young preachers were advised not to stay in their first church longer than a couple of years.  We had far exceeded that.  As we prayerfully considered our next church which was largely made up of an extended family, this verse was an assurance to me.  As we ministered over the next few years, our admiration for their godliness grew, and with sorrow we buried their patriarch.    If cloning was possible, we would have taken them with us to every new congregation because of their faithfulness.  Yet, we walked with them through dark valleys as well and faced church crisis together.  It wasn't all good and pleasant, yet we know it is God's ideal for brothers to dwell together in unity.  Some people stay in your heart with good and pleasant memories.
My son in law joined the Fear the Beard club, even before this trend was popularized with this  TV family. Back in the day, my husband grew a few himself, a Grizzly Adams look, but I never once noticed when he shaved them off leaving his vanity on the vanity.  It isn't the beard I respect, it's the man; but, I still am fond of whiskers.  When my brother was away at college and shaved his first moustache, he stuck them to scotch tape in a letter to "Mom," as a funny proof.  We've complemented and allowed our fifteen year old's faintly visable moustache to be sported all year hinting that when he's ready, we'll give him a razor lesson. He's got a ways to go before he can join the Fear the Beard club, but it's a start.
(I'm worried they're nibbling their crackers into the shape of guns.)

Moms are creative, occasionally grandmas too..  Hurrying to babysit my little twins, I ran out of the house with no make-up and wet hair.  It wouldn't have been so bad, but I had an appointment with my son's first-time-to-meet-ya-next year's high school counselor immediately after watching the toddlers.  So I decided to just curl my hair with one of Ezra's cylinder blocks and a hair tie and paint my face with a smile.    When I was the age of the toddlers back in the fifties, many women wouldn't leave the house, even to go to the grocery store, without hat and gloves and matching purse and shoes, and if you were a Baptist, earrings and red lipstick.  My loose (as in be as comfortable as possible with shingles neuralgia) cotton dress and flip flops are as dressed up as I've been in a week.  At least my hair was curled.  Addie & Ezra thought I looked nice enough to draw several "grandma" portraits.  They were good, if you like 2 year old abstract art.

"And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good."
Genesis 1:31
God, this is very good, this is great!

Tonight is the boys' school's art exhibit.  I'll try to remember to put make-up on before I go to that.  Hank's worried somebody is going to try to buy his picture, 'cause he wants to bring it home.  I guess I'll have to hang a NFS sign on it before it goes into a bidding war.

If God can take a rib out of man and make a woman while the guy was sleeping, maybe a little of His creativity has rubbed off on us.  Now if He had tried to take a BBQ rib out of Adam's hand, the guy would have woken up immediately and yelled, "Hey, who do you think you are!  Oh, yeah."  And by the way, the Scriptures said, "And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man..."  This is probably the root of the whole "fashion" industry right there, though Adam delayed it for a bit since he liked Eve just the way God made her.  And I'll bet when Adam woke up and saw the woman for the first time, he quoted God and said, 'This is VERY good!"


I'm looking forward to my soon to be high schooler taking ceramics next year, and a little jealous.  I hope to do a few art projects with the boys and grandkids this summer.  Have you done anything creative lately?  If you're too tired, hang your head off the side of the couch where you are laying and look at the world upside down.  Sometimes artists do that to sharpen their focus and get a fresh perspective.  If you say you're not artistic, take a camera and go explore the art that God has surrounded us with and point and shoot.    At least stir up art appreciation this summer. You don't have to go to art galleries to do that, but enjoy what God  has made.  It is very good.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


FEAR: We don't always recognize this emotion when it doesn't come from being chased by a grizzy bear that brings the cold stab in the stomach, hair raising reaction - oh yeah, and how often does that happen?  Sometimes fear comes as an angst, more of a feeling waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under us, wondering if the chair will hold us up kind of everyday living, knot in the stomach.  It could be crossing a bridge of worry into tomorrow wondering if the job will be lost, the money will be in the bank, the health will hold, the relationships will survive, the children will make the right choices.  Ann VosKamp of "One Thousand Gifts," writes...

"Then there's this fear beast I thought I'd already wrestled down,
skinned, hung, and mounted--
and it's the thing that breathes again
ugly and too close."
Fear can become a constant companion, a control issue we can be come comfortable with.  Since we fear, we make choices based on fear, and instead fear letting go of the driving force of fear.  Huh? Let's make it sound nicer and call it worry or anxiety.  That's the everyday kind of living with fear we become used to. 
"A day of worry is more exhausting
than a day of work."
Sir John Lubbock
"Worry is a misuse of the imagination."
Fear is a control issue, because it is wanting to know the future, which only God knows.  It is the opposite of trust.  We may say we want to give God our whole heart, we just want to dictate how fast, how slow, how long our heart will beat. Fear is saying we know better how to control our lives and those of others. We become like Atlas holding up the world on our back. Our days are already written in His book, so all our worry will be wasted effort.  Our life may be a roller coaster which is truly scary, but a whole industry is built on the millions who enjoy the thrill of the ride.  Buckle up, throw your hands in the air, scream, and laugh yourself silly and get back in line to do it again tomorrow. 
"Blessed is everyone who feareth the Lord;
that walketh in His ways...
Happy shalt thou be,
And it will be well with thee."
"The one misery of man is self-will, the one secret of blessedness is the conquest over our own wills.  To yield them up to God is rest and peace.  What disturbs us in this world is not "trouble," but our opposition to trouble.  The true source of all that frets and irritates, and wears away our lives, is not in external things, but in the resistance of our wills to the will of God expressed by external things."
Alexander MacLaren
"For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life as to what you shall eat; nor for your body as to what you shall put on.  For life is more than food, and the body than clothing.  Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap and they have no storeroom nor barn and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?  If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why are you anxious about other matters?  Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory did not clothes himself like one of these.  But if God so arrays the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He
clothe you, O men of little faith!  And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying. (PERIOD!) For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you.  Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom."
Luke 12:22-32
"Do not be afraid, little flock." Read this passage over and over until you know Jesus is saying this to your heart.  
"Be anxious for nothing (or do not be anxious about anything), but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7
Talk to God, give it to God, thank God, and He will give you inexplicable, ridiculous peace to guard your heart from fear.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding,
in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3:9 & 10
Bottom line: trust
Tame your fear.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"A party without cake is just a meeting."
Julia Child

We arrived late for the birthday party parking clear across the park from the gathering.  Zane was the first to see us running to leap into my arms.  There's nothing sweeter to a grandmother than this.  His faith was that I could catch him.  Not many years left for that as he grows.  I cherish the moment just as I cherish the birthday girl's unfeigned laughter of delight as she opened her gifts.  What a surprise that the birthday girl and her closest cousin and best friend both wore the exact same dress to celebrate the day: twins of the heart!

How God treasures the times we leap into His arms or laugh with delight at His good gifts. 

"A truly rich man
is one whose children
run into his arms
even when his
hands are empty."
 "Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish
he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?
Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?"
This follows the teaching of the Lord's prayer: we are to ask for the Holy Spirit. It is God's best gift for us.  Asking for the Holy Spirit is a leap of faith, but trust God can and will catch you.

Monday, May 27, 2013 is a like walking through a grave yard reading names and dates and laughing at the funny ones of which we have too many to list, like Cinderella and Drusilla.  I thought Unk was a strange name that kept popping up until I realized it was short for "unknown."  Occasionally, you find a little more personal history left behind like a diary left open before your eyes.  Sometimes it's like being a peeping Tom into the past.
For our fortieth wedding anniversary we promised ourselves a cruise to Alaska.  Now that has turned into a trip to Virginia this June to stay with retired aunts and an uncle who want to be our tour guides along that part of the east coast, parts unknown to us.  It will be a blast from the past as we are going back to our roots. Like Uncle Si says in Duck Dynasty, "It's just the icing on the tip of the iceberg."

As part of my preparation, I've joined for a 2 week trial.  Nearby Alexandria, Virginia, holds great interest for me because of family roots.  There were Harpers there, as in the Sea Captain's Row of houses still standing after two hundred years (my mother's, mother's mother's family); there are Wises, my maternal grandfather's side, who built several of the buildings still standing there; and Merediths from my father's side including a Reese Meredith who wrote as a friend of George Washington an introductory letter for Captain Harper to meet the man at Mount Vernon.  His son Samuel Meredith became the head of the U.S. Treasury and in fact loaned-still unpaid-$100,000 to the fledging country.  (My great grandfather tried to find the missing link so we could claim it!)  Another Meredith was a partner of Ben Franklin in the printing business: his reputation was of being a drunk.  I'm thinking I know which line of Merediths we are more closely connected with.

Researching family I found a Benjamin Sharp, my great, great, great, great grandfather who came down from Virginia to fight along with Gov. Sevier of Tennessee in the important Revolutionary War Battle of Kings Mountain. I have very early photos of some of these kin, including him.  I found beautifully done watercolors of him and his wife Hannah online that are archived in Missouri.
However, his sister and her family had gone to Kentucky, where the British and the Cherokees attacked their fort, Martin's Fort, scalping many and worse, and marched over 400 of them clear to Canada as prisoners until after the war.  I never learned that in history books.  There was another Sharp- I'm not so sure I want to find her connection-who was executed for killing her child.  So from heroes to zeros, the family tree is fascinating. 

My book "Nest" has the characters of Gov. Sevier and his son who fought in that Revolutionary War battle, and I had no idea when I researched and wrote it that my great  4 X  great grandfather was also there.  Online I found he had published several articles documenting  battles, including Kings Mt. Battle and  fighting against the British and Cherokee raids.  He was there at an important treaty with Raven, a Cherokee chief I wrote about in my book. 

The book "Nest" also reveals the Welsh who came to America in the 1100's, coming up the Mississippi from Alabama, and fought the Cherokee to find a home. (They made a treaty after a ferocious battle and left to join the Mandan tribe in the Dakotas.) The remnants of their fortresses are still there in Tennessee.  In my research this past few weeks, I found out that relatives owned a farm that included the cave rooms above a falls that was one of these fortresses.  In my story, Nest and her family camped and explored this same place: who knew!  It is still in private hands not open to exploration.

Memorial Day began after the Civil War.  Recent investigations count the dead at 750,000, which is more than in all other American wars combined.  So many were split in the community and the nation over the Revolutionary War, such as George Washington and his best friends the Fairfax's.  Even Martha Washington had to flee Mt. Vernon, the British coming as close as Alexandria: the rumor was that the British hoped to take her captive.  Then, the Civil War was fought not only on the battle field but in every community as the sides were drawn, sometimes even in families.  I have read letters of my Texas relatives begging their Missouri kin to be reconciled after the War.

Some of my relatives lost their homes to War and had to begin again.  One "cousin" who married into the family committed suicide, never adjusting to losing his plantation, and his young wife and child dying of TB.  I did not realize that my great grandmother had helped to raise the other children who were left as orphans.  He and his faithful black slave turned servant are buried together along with his wife and child in our families' little cemetery in Texas that's out in a cow pasture. 


Unfortunately, most of the relatives I researched were slave owners.  Wills would disperse their slaves to their children.  It is so bizarre to read that to one daughter is given a child of eight, another daughter, a child of three, and so on.  How can you give someone another's child?  How many lies Satan told even good people for them to accept slavery.   Hearts were not left unexamined as George Washington came to realize how wrong it was and planned to emancipate his slaves, though leaving Martha's to her.  Jefferson made plans as well.  One relative's will kept being redone in order to allow his slaves one after another to be allowed freedom only letting them go slowly. 

History gives perspective.  It is fascinating what little has been preserved, lives distilled, to be passed down to the ages.  Like one woman who was know as strong-minded and told her husband that if he ever thought that she'd agreed to something or another, she'd jump out the window.  He said, "Wump, Martha, Wump," never looking up from his book.  Nothing else is left to remember her by than that.  Hmm.  What will be said of us?

"But of Zion it shall be said,
'This one and that one were born in her';
...The Lord shall count when He registers the peoples,
'This one was born there.' 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Shepherding is sometimes more like herding cats...

After losing so many to cats vs cars, we try to keep ours as an indoor pet.  When there are terrible cat fights in the middle of the night, I can roll over and go back to sleep because I know my kitty is safe inside. But sometimes she escapes.  Last night my sleep was interrupted by her crying to be let in at 3AM.  My big dog tries his paw at herding cats: usually if she sneaks out, I'll tell him to "find the kitty," and he does.  Last night she streaked past him, like the bad kitty she was, and ran inside.  The naughty thing is sleeping it off on the rocker getting more sleep than we did.

Pastors are called to be shepherds of their flocks.  Sometimes it's more like herding cats.  He wants to keep them in the fold for their safety.  He knows the enemy is out there.  However, sometimes there are ones who leave his watchful care to wander.  He is like the anxious parent whose teenager is out of sight, but not out of mind, waiting up or going out to search.

Rescued from death row at the pound.
The strays don't realize or care how much their dabbling with danger costs those who have been entrusted with the care of their souls.  When they are injured from their fall or mauled by the wolf, he can't fix them but carries them on his shoulders to take them to the One who can.  His heart is forever wounded by the sorrow of those who are lost, who refuse to come back to the fold of God.

"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock..." Acts 20:28-29

This is one of the ones we lost who left the safety of our care to wander on the streets.  Hearts hurt for a lifetime for those beloved pets who have died.  How much more a shepherd mourns for a lost sheep.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The heaviness of beauty, the groanings of creation...

The frail arch that held our wisteria has bent and broken.  The small vine flourished and spread overwhelming its support.  The wind sways it as it is bent to the ground bowing.  Its dignity and stately beauty has become a wild thing with a hang over.  A new stronger trellis will lift it back up so it can once again be the safe trysting place that birds enjoy and where blooms prepare to shock with their beauty.  Sometimes creation groans for perfection instead of atrophy. 

"For the anxious longing of the creation
waits eagerly for the revealing...
For creation was subjected to futility,
not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it,
in hope
that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption
into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation groans
and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now...
even we ourselves groan within ourselves,
waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons,
the redemption of our body.
For in hope we have been saved,
but hope that is seen is not hope...
But if we hope for what we do not see,
with perseverance
we wait eagerly for it."
Romans 8:19-25
Do you hear the groaning in the wind?
Keep hope in your heart, even when buffeted, bent, and groaning.
This trellis was sufficient when it was just a wisteria with a little "w."
Now it has tendrils that reach across the yard grasping for the fence around the deck.
It is a capital "W" Wisteria now. 

You are His beauty.  He longs to lift the wild thing that is bent to the ground,
blown about, without support.  My prayer is for you, to place your burdens too
heavy for your limbs upon His shoulders that He may lift you up, that you may become
a shelter and refuge for others, like the singing birds which will  nest in your shade.
We must teach the young ones the songs of joy,
which can drown out the groanings.
"How lovely are Thy dwelling places,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even Thine altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.
How blessed are those who dwell in Thy house!
Psalm 84:1-4
The wisteria grows stronger and flourishes when its roots are disturbed.  Buffeting makes it go deeper shaking it to its very toes.  This time of heaviness and bending will produce a tree like strength.  Do not despair in the hard times, but go deep to find strength.  Lift up your head...
"Lift up your heads, O gates,
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,

 That the King of glory may come!
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty...
Psalm 24:7-8
This is a psalm I learned as a child where it rooted in my soul. I wish I could lift others' burdens for them, but I can't heal what is broken, or even bring repentance for a sin that has weighed them down.  I can pray for them and wait and hope,
hope for them to turn to the One who can lift them up,
to be the beauty that He intended.

Friday, May 24, 2013

If you lived in Salem in the early days of our country, a little slander and gossip could go a long way.
Loose tongues could light the fires that burned "witches."  It turns out one of my relatives was accused of being a witch by a Mrs. Godbey.  In court they found her not guilty and concluded: "Concerning some slander and scandals contemptuously acted in abusing and taking ye good name and credit of Nicholas Robinson's wife terming her a witche, fined Mrs. Godbey 300 lbs of tobo (tobacco) for contempt of ye mentioned order."  It seems this busy body had already been fined and flogged for another slander.  Mrs. Robinson only used her broom to sweep with and not ride. 
"The old broom knows where the dirt is," is a dangerous thing for a gossip to get her hands on. "Pick a little, peck a little, talk, talk, talk," is how the song goes.

At our house, the worst name calling is "Liar!"  It's a low blow that can not go unanswered, and it takes a judge and a jury to get to the bottom of it.  Our tongue has tripped up all of us: 


"He who is without fault should sell his pet parrot to the town gossip."  But it's not like we should walk around limply without forming any opinions, wishy-washy without a backbone.  However, we should be slow to judge and ask for the Spirit's discernment.  "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."  We are not the Holy Spirit and more often than not, need to keep our mouths shut and live a godly example.  But there are times to speak up unashamedly.  When the Holy Spirit comes and fills, there is no room for "man fear."  Be bold.
"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

 Ephesians 4:29-31
"The tongue has no bones
but it is strong enough to break a heart,
so be careful of your words."
"If only tongues were made of glass,
how much more careful we would be."


Thursday, May 23, 2013

I have a Family Practice that's grown since this picture.
When a child is sick, I become an M.D., a Mother Despot, absolute ruler.  Put this under your tongue,
swallow that, take a cool bath, keep your foot in the hot water, keep the ice on your forehead, stay in bed... Dr. Who?  Dr. Mom.  It is the mother who determines if a child is truly sick or playing hooky, if they only need home care or a trip to the doctor or ER.  I used to be able to predict a fever's temperature with great accuracy by just using my hand even though  I always backed it up with an official reading of a thermometer.  I have crouched under the glove box holding up a broken ankle of one child being rushed to the hospital arriving with only one flip flop on my feet.   Other broken bones have also been mended, from shoulder surgeries to broken fingers.  We've weathered cases of concussions and appendicitis: even I, at my sedate age, had a brush up on the symptoms having mine own taken out.  I've had four preschoolers on asthma breathing machines at one time as a daily ritual sometimes  rushing them to the hospital for extra needed care for asthma, croup, bronchitis, pneumonia. I think I hold the record for children with the most ear infections,  some needing their tonsils removed. While one child would run 105 temperature, another would not have any symptom but biting their siblings, and this Mama knew it was time to go to the doctor for a rip roaring ear infection. Babies and grandbabies have randomly eaten poisonous things and have had their stomachs pumped.  One of mine swallowed a quarter.  One granddaughter was air-flighted after aspirating a bite of carrot into her lungs: being forewarned, I beat the helicopter to the big city hospital to be there when she arrived.  A couple of them required four nurses, a doctor, and this mother to hold them down for shots with another nurse blocking the doorway. A session at the nic unit left us in awe.  Wisdom teeth taken out always came with painful complications, and allergic reactions to antibiotics became the norm.

Now, one of my boys has had a rare case of EXTREME pain only relieved by a stay at Stanford and a nerve block for a condition which I diagnosed after searching the internet after multiple doctors gave up writing him off as a head case.  The other has heart arrhythmia and pain with more heart monitors than baby monitors.  I learned their constachondritis was more painful than a heart attack and could drop them to their knees screaming.  We are thankful Shriners is only an hour away for braces, casts, and crutches.  I've been to more trips to the E.R. than field trips.

We've added four grandchildren since this picture.
As for viruses, we keep stacks of plastic "throw up cups" under the sink I've saved from 7Eleven sodas.  You know it's bad if you've had a siege of sickness when you run out of cups; or, if they exceed the cup's capacity, they are truly one sick puppy. 

Sometimes, I think I might be slipping.  Now we demand proof of lower and upper GI symptoms shouting "don't flush," in order for our boys to be excused from school barring a temperature spike.
But this morning Hank begged to stay home from school properly documenting evidence.  However, soon he was bored and begged to be taken to school feeling better.  I was five minutes from taking him  when he suddenly erupted like a volcano.  I didn't need that much evidence, poor puppy.

After working in a preschool and having a bevy of grandchildren, I've built up my defenses against bad germs (except shingles).  However, if I catch the bug, I'll consider it a crash diet hopefully losing weight.   Even plastic 7Eleven cups have silver linings.
I usually skim over this verse since it addresses thieves: "Let him who steals steal no longer; but..."
Now it gets to me, "rather let him (her) labor, performing with his (her) own hands what is good, in order that he (she) may have something to share with him who has need."(Ephesian 4:8)  Be ready to help with the plastic cup and Lysol in your hand.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Our room from our stay last year at Genesee Pastor's Retreat
I ate the first blueberry of the season. 
 Even more pleasurable is watching a grandchild
picking and eating a strawberry fresh from the patch.
There's something special in lifting a green leaf
and plucking a red jewel from the dirt for a juicy bite.
The grandchild now has a sweet grin with
strawberry remains telling on the teeth.
It's part of what this blog is about whether it is savoring an experience, a memory, a taste, a sight, a sweet song, even a smell.  It is using the five senses added to our memory-the sixth sense-to enjoy, cherish, relish a moment.  Studies show that this accentuates happiness.  I believe it puts treasures in our joy vault.  It is "Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8)  That is a life lesson I have tried to learn up front, that the Lord is good.  "Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights, in whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." (James 1:17)  He can be trusted.

God is not a shifty character waiting to pull the rug out from under us.  I'm ashamed to say that I gave into a sudden impulse in circle time in kindergarten and pulled a chair out from under the poor child next to me.  Instead of a good laugh, I got a lecture on how dangerous it was.  I pretty much was on a good behavior roll the rest of my school days, lesson learned.  God is not like us with sudden impulses to make us fall  only to laugh at us.  He is a giver of good gifts.  What about the hard knocks of life?  He is not the author, but the redeemer of those times "causing all things to work together for good."  He knows what it is like to lose a child to brutality under dark skies.  He also has prepared a place for us where there is no darkness at all, no night, no pain, nor tears.

A single Bible verse can be savored.  I love indepth Bible study, but that is not what is done here.  I unapologetically offer a small portion highlighting a petit bon mot, a good word, to enhance our daily discourse.  I would only offer a bite of what is on my plate to someone close to me.  Bon appetite, dear one!

"It's the little things that save us.
The sound of someone's voice;
a cool breeze on a hot day;
Our favorite song on the radio;
It's the little things that matter."
"Faith is seeing light with your heart
when all your eyes see is darkness."
"And this, our life...finds
tongues in trees,
books in the running brooks,
sermon in stone,
and good in everything."
"I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth..."
(Psalm 34:1)
Praise, is sweet to the soul.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Routines are the comfortable ruts of life, like a favorite pair of old shoes, or a chair which holds you up faithfully when you sink into it, or a pillow indented or fluffed just right with its cooled cotton on your cheek.  What is greeting the morning without a cup of coffee?  Pausing the spinning world on a regular basis to check in on the news with a paper even if its old news after reading it on the internet first, is a habitual routine.  Facebooking with friends to see how their day is going or reading favorite blogs is becoming more of a regular habit.  The dog certainly knows the routine of when the food bowl will be filled and the tennis ball thrown.  A summer routine is watering the garden and picking its produce.  Hopefully a time set apart with the Word and the One who spoke the Word is a regular routine.

Routines are comfortable, but breaking out once in a while is the spice of life.  What are your routines and what do you do to break from your routines?  When routines become ruts that you are stuck in, it's time to pull yourself up and do something new and unexpected or ruts become graves.  But today I feel like sitting back in my comfortable chair wearing the same pair of sandals I wear everyday, after having my usual coffee and waffle, having read my paper and facebooks, and the Word and enjoying my routine until the urgent or necessary obligations call.  It's usually the dust bunnies that need a trip to the groomers who demand attention or the mountain of laundry.  That's routine too.

I have a friend, a neighbor, whose routine is going to dialysis three times a week, or calling the ambulance when her blood pressure sky rockets leaving her passing out or throwing up or having seizures. This vivacious young woman doesn't have any kidneys and her body doesn't cooperate well without them.  Her routine is laying in the hospital while they try to find the reason for her long lasting fever which won't give up its spiking routinely or try to get her blood pressure back under control.   Life doesn't allow the easy chair rut.  She's young enough to be my daughter, and fortunately she is a daughter of the King and doesn't fear going to be with Him.  However, her wonderful husband will be deployed next month, and she will be left here in frail health unable to drive with family far away across the country.  She would love to break routine but her need for health care on stand-by keeps her tied down.  I try to keep her in my prayers routinely and help when I can.

"In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35 

Make it part of routine to help the weak and you will be blessed.
Our community rose up and blessed a family with $20,000 raised at a benefit dinner for the Sorensons whose young mother is at Stanford, without insurance, after a brain aneurism and complications like meningitis while her husband tries to be by her side, come home and work and take care of his three year old twins and nine year old daughter.  Bless the hands that bring healing in the hospital and the ones who help with the children here at home so Scott can go be with Susan.
This generositiy has brought a glow like the angels who are ministering spirits.
Since I wrote this, the horrible tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma.  There is no such thing as routine anymore there.  Sometimes all we can do is pray but that is the power of the most high being used to redeem out of the horror.  Imagine prayer like a mighty wind funneling down upon this town bringing healing instead of destruction. 
Pray with me,
Dear Lord, please help the hurting, the devastated, the overwhelmed, those experiencing the worst sorrow possible in the loss of an innocent child.  Please help the helpers. Only you can go where no one else can go into the deep wounds to comfort and heal.  We are small swallowed by this great need, but you are great and can see even the smallest brokenness.
in the name of Jesus,
"Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants."
Esther De Waal
Did you ever have a kitchen pantry like the show "Chopped," where you have to be creative with what you have before you?  We used to live on $25 that stretched to two weeks worth of groceries.  When we ran out, we did without.  Now instead of going to the grocery store twice a month, it's almost a daily excursion.  Eating out was a rare date.  I used to be a creative cook, but I don't have too many memories of awful cuisine.  I'm so glad I don't have to cut apart raw chicken anymore though.  The comfort foods of memory are not expensive, things like tapioca, popcorn, cinnamon toast and cocoa, macaroni and cheese, or grilled cheese and tomato soup.  What was your favorite?
"So many people spend their health
gaining wealth, and then
 spend their wealth
to regain their health."
A.J. R. Materi
Back to the simpler things like...
A boy, a dog...
and a salamander.
I remember my earliest memories playing with my siblings under a big umbrella like this...
and this...
or the simple pleasure of picking a dandelion bouquet for your mother like this..
or this...

My twin grandbabies think a hose with a dribbling stream of water outside is the greatest!  Any running water is an instant lure for kids as well as adults.
Nature's faucets are the best.
What are your simple pleasures?
"He shall be...a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge;
The fear of the Lord is his treasure."
Isaiah 33:5
What are your treasures?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Happy, Happy, Happy
There's nothing cuter than a kindergartener in a cowgirl hat and boots and pink too-too country dancing in a school talent show or better than getting the heart pounding to a loud drummer's solo of an old favorite, "Wipe out," or having your heart swell to your boy's electric guitar solo booming with huge amps up on stage with his classmates acting like he's a rock star.  A school talent show on a perfect spring evening outside was happy, happy, happy.
In an excerpt from, "The How of Happiness," by Sonja Lyubomirsky, she says, "The less happy among us tend to share traits like frequently comparing themselves to others, rationalizing often, and dwelling on unhappy events.  Happy folks, meanwhile, have a greater tendency to store up positive moments in their memory..." Happiness boosters include...
1. random acts of kindness
2. counting your blessings
3. thrift, rather than materialism, over consumption and overspending
4. parenting
5. savoring positive experiences
6. taking steps toward reaching life goals

I'm pretty sure that the Duck Dynasty family expression, "Happy, happy, happy," started before they became a hit for millions of viewers with the money that followed.  They had modest beginnings and, with God, were happy.  I'm not talking about pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, and be happy or else, but a lifestyle of choosing joy. I've tried the other route and it's not worth the trip.

A quick happiness personal inventory: I can hit two birds with one stone by gratitude  #1 our friend did a random act of kindness by mowing our lawn (my turn to be "random" next) and #2 it made me count our blessings for having friends like that.  #3 I wore a designer label dress with a thrift store price tag Sunday and was well complimented.  #4  and #5, I savor the precious time with our boys and grandchildren as well as watching what good parents our grown children have become.  #6 has been being able to write my blog and books and having one published and the others up on kindle.  This has been a lifetime goal.  My next step is to get my illustrated children's story printed. Even baby steps toward a goal are helpful, like collecting one stamp towards a stamp collection or a solitary tomato plant in a pot on your way to gardening.

"Live so deep that life
takes your breath away."

Random Acts of Kindness

"Never get tired of doing little things for others. 
Sometimes those little things occupy the biggest part of their lives."
Life Goals
"Never give up on something
you can't go a day without thinking about."
Happy, Happy, Happy!
"How blessed (happy) are the people whose God is the Lord!"
Psalm 144:15

Saturday, May 18, 2013

"The Lethality of Loneliness."  This was an article I came upon written by Judith Shulevitz, published this month in The New Republic."  She writes of Fromm-Reichmann who came to the United States to escape Hitler, who wrote an essay in 1959 "On Loneliness."   Now Brain science is the new frontier.  Shulevitz writes, "Over the past half-century, academic psychologists have largely abandoned psychoanalysis and made themselves over as biologists.  And as they delve deeper into the workings of cells and nerves, they are confirming that loneliness is as monstrous as Fromm-Reichmann said it was.  It has now been linked with a wide array of bodily ailments as well as the old mental ones."

"Psychobiologists can show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack.  They have proved that  long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you.  Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking."

"'Real loneliness' not what the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard characterized as the 'shut-upness'...'Nor is real loneliness' the happy solitude of the productive artist or the passing irritation of being cooped up with the flu while your friends go off on some adventure.  It's not being dissatisfied with your companion of the moment...Fromm-Reichmann even distinguished 'real loneliness' from mourning, since the well-adjusted eventually get over that, and from depression which may be a symptom of loneliness but is rarely the cause  Loneliness, she the want of intimacy."  "Loneliness is not synonymous with being alone, nor does being with others guarantee protection from feelings of loneliness," writes John Cacioppo, the leading psychologist on the subject.  "As W.H. Auden put it, "We must love one another or die."

"Who are the lonely?  They're the outsiders: not just the elderly, but also the poor, the bullied, the different...A key part of feeling lonely is feeling rejected, and that, it turns out, is the most damaging."  Think back to the Garden when God said, "It is not good for man to be alone." (Genesis 2:18)  "...Magnetic resonance imaging scans showed that the experience of being snubbed lit up a part of the subjects' brains that also lights up when the body feels physical pain."

"And yet loneliness is made as well as given, and at a very early age.  Derive us of the attention of a loving, reliable parent, and if nothing happens to make up for that lack, we'll tend toward loneliness for the rest of our lives.  Not only that, but our loneliness will probably make us moody, self-doubting, angry, pessimistic, shy, and hypersensitive to criticism.  

"Recently, it has become clear that some of these problems reflect how our brains are shaped from our first moments of life...In the age of the brain scan, we now know that those institutionalized (Romanian orphans) children's brains developed less 'gray matter'--that is, fewer of the neurons that make up the bulk of the brain--and that, if those children never went on to be adopted, they'd sprout less 'white matter,' too.  White matter helps send signals from one part of the brain to another; think of it as the mind's internal Internet.  In the orphans' case, the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex--which are involved in memory, emotions, decision-making and social interaction--just weren't connecting." This is what happened to my boys.

"For the first time in 30 years (this was in the news this week), mental health disabilities such as ADHD outrank physical ones among American children...Heckman doesn't think that's only because parents seek out attention-deficit diagnoses when their children don't come home with As.  He thinks it's also because emotional impoverishment embeds itself in the body.  'MOTHERS MATTER,' he says, 'AND MOTHERING IS IN SHORT SUPPLY.'" (my capitalizations)

"Put an orphan in foster care, and his brain will repair its missing connections.  Teach a lonely person to respond to others without fear and paranoia, and over time, her body will make fewer stress hormones, and get less sick from them.  care for a pet or start believing in a supernatural being and your score on the UCLA Loneliness Scale will go down.  Even an act as simple as joining an athletic team or a church can lead to what Cole calls 'molecular remodeling.'"

As a mother of foster children whom we adopted, boys with special needs who were neglected in their early forming years, who have learning struggles as a result of this, I found this fascinating.  Brain research is in its infancy and with much more coming on the horizon according to our boys' child psychiatrist.  There isn't a lot of curriculum out there which will address our youngest needs.  One teacher who was just credentialed in special education said that curriculum was never addressed in their preparation. 

It was affirming to know how mothers matter and that God made us for fellowship with each other and with Him.  "It's elementary, my dear Watson," as Sherlock Holmes would say. What do you think?


Friday, May 17, 2013

Songs in the night...
A regret: I was unable to take an ornithology class in college.  I jealously watched students spread nets between trees on campus, then gently untangled the ensnared birds and mark them before releasing them to fly away.  It looked like a much more fascinating way to fulfill a science requirement than Biology 101, the one I had taken. 

Waiting for the boys after school one day, I turned off the radio and listened to a concert by a mockingbird.  It's repertoire was amazing!  My current awe-obsession is with these creatures.  How do their little bird brains learn so many songs that mimic their feathered friends?  How fun would it be to take an ornithology course, "Name that tune" learning to quickly identify the musical selections before it switches to the next bird melody.

The author Harper says, "It's a sin to kill a mockingbird," (as in the book of that name.)  They are the state bird of several states, and their scientific name involves the Latin for the word "mimic."  I thought perhaps they came pre-programed from the egg, but not so.  Being one of the more intelligent birds, they are capable of imitating up to 400 bird songs.  The females are attracted to the seasoned male who has learned the most scores.  The bird can also imitate other sounds of nature, amphibian or even mechanical sounds.  One five year old who was pestered by the birds territorially protecting their nest complained the birds were making fun of her.  Sure enough, they had copied the sound of her crying and commenced whenever she stepped outside.  Another found her cat curled up under attack with two mockingbirds pulling its hair out.  I was amazed once to hear a mockingbird imitating a bobwhite's distinct song since I'm not aware of any in our neck of the woods, it being a bird of the Midwest.

After I wrote the above, my daughter dropped by and said her baby was terrified of a mockingbird who sat on their chimney last evening using it like a megaphone.  They thought at first the bird was in the house, but went outside and saw it perched on the roof singing its heart out with a song list that included street sounds of a car-screeching.

Next time you hear a Mockingbird, pause as if it were a contestant on The Voice and be amazed...  just hope it isn't a lonely male singing the blues all night.  In that case, listen awhile then insert ear plugs or shut the window and repeat, "It's just a lullaby..."

""But no one says, 'Where is God my Maker,
Who gives songs in the night,
Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth,
And makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?'"
Job 35:10-11

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Andrew and Laura took their family on a drive to the country.  They all wished aloud for a life there.  When they got home, three year old Jane refused to get out of the car.  "This is not my home!  Take me to my horsie home.  I want my horse!  Get me my hat!  I'm a cowgirl!"  A girl after her grandma's own heart.  Though never promised a horse, Janie's heart had found a  deep longing.  There is a divine discontent, that this is not our home.  Something better is waiting for us, greener pastures.
"I go to prepare a place for you..."
John 14:2
At Grandma's house, she had to settle wearing cowboy boots that came up to her knees and a felt cowboy hat and a wooden glider horse that inspired her to sing an original cowboy song:
"Cowboys love babies..."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Adults have a little more trouble keeping fresh a childlike hope.
 For that we must resort to reading to take us there.
"If you find a girl who reads, keep her close.  When you find her up at 2 am  clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her,  You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you.  She'll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for awhile, they always are...You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable.  If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads."
Rosemarie Urquinco
Al came home once to find me crying.  Upon asking what was wrong, I answered, "George died."
I just finished reading a biography of George Washington.
Imagination has a passport to the future as well as to the past.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My husband was a long distance runner in high school but I'm not athletic.  However, I'm not a quitter.  In school I ran more than once past what my body could handle, nearly blacking out and having to be taken home seeing stars: I was in bed, a week, very weak.   I guess I'm worse than unathletic, I'm a wimp, a weakling.  I kept hoping for a second wind that never came.  "Now my favorite exercises are diddly squats."  I think all the grandkids are faster than me, probably even little Elizabeth.  But there is one race I've entered and hope for the prize. 

Life is one long race.  Some of it is pleasant. Sometimes it's run in  agreeable company, though sometimes it's run alone.    It can be grueling.  Our friends are recovering from brain surgeries and babies from heart surgeries, another young friend in dialysis suffering many dire consequences after losing both kidneys.  They are in a pit stop that feels more like a deep pit.  It's hard, but quitting is not an alternative.

Some give up because they don't want to give up.........................., sin.

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus..."
Hebrews 12:1-2
Some keep trying to run the race loaded down with sin.  They want to get to the goal, receive the prize, but they are so wrapped up, clinging to heavy sins, that it keeps entangling and tripping them up. They drop out.  The world is full of spiritual dropouts.  They give up because they don't want to give up sin.  Lay it aside.  Get rid of it.  Like Christian in Pilgrim's Progress, take it off your back and lay it at the cross.  You can't take sin with you to heaven, so why such a tight grip on it now?  They grow weary and lose heart thinking it's too hard.  Is Jesus asking too much?  "For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart."  Hebrews 12:3  Sin is hostility to God.  Your sin.  My sin.  It is what nailed Him to a cross, that sin that you cherish.  Give it up.  Repent.  Get back in the race with a second wind. 
"Do not grow weary..."
"The tendency is strong to say...
'God won't be so stern as to
expect me to give up that!'
But He will;
'He won't expect me to walk in
the light so that I have nothing to hide,'
but He will;
'He won't expect me to draw on His grace for everything,'
but He will."
Oswald Chambers
"The reason why many are still troubled, till seeking,
still making little forward progress
is because they have not yet come to the end of themselves. 
We are still giving some of the orders,
 and are still interfering with God's working with us."
A.W. Tozer
"We don't make demands of God.
If we could, He would be too small.
He would be our size."
Roger Palms
"When everything feels like an uphill struggle,
just think of the view from the top."


"A mother's
labor and delivery
never ends,
and you never stop
having to remember
Ann Voskamp
Sunday morning my husband asked my fifteen year old if he knew what holiday it was.  The boy, still under the influence of sleep, said, "I don't know, Easter?"  Nevertheless, I was spoiled by my family and enjoyed a lovely Mother's Day.  Once a mother, you are always a mother as they never leave your heart.  But there was a fly in the ointment.  Pain.  My shingles pain is unrelenting.  Life is like that.  We live in these jars of clay.  I think mine has a few too many chips and some would even say, I'm a cracked pot.  I'm not as concerned with the outside as long as the inside is cleansed and full of oil waiting for the bridegroom.  Matthew 25:1-13 
"Five were prudent...
but the prudent took oil in their flasks along with their lamps...
and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast."
A regular at local thrift stores, I once bought a large, very old, chipped clay olive oil jar that I thought a charming object while the cashier loudly proclaimed, "People will buy anything, even something as ugly as this.  To each their own."  I was still proud to own it.  Mothers are like that.  If your child is hurting, you are hurting.  If your child's world is cracking, you want to fix them, but you can't.  Breathe.  Be in prayer asking the breath of God, the Holy Spirit to go where you can not go and do what you can not do.  Breathe.  Exhale the worry; inhale the trust.  Their Father knows.  He hears the cry of His children and their mothers'.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Be happy for no reason, like a child.  If you are happy for a reason,
you're in trouble, because that reason can be taken from you."
"Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God."
"Thou dost make him joyful with gladness in Thy presence."
Psalm 21:6
Happy and joy are two different animals, like a zebra and a horse.
One is easier to put a saddle on and off than the other.
Happy is on the surface, while joy is what settles deep in the soul.
Joy is the understanding that God is faithful and true,
 and the waiting, expectation is always on tiptoe for
what the lover of our soul brings.
Happy is looking for what is in His hand.
Joy is looking at what is in His heart for us.
I blew it big time.  The one who has walked in the valley of the shadow of depression, who understands its depths, did not recognize it in another.  We were so lost in the hurt of the circumstances, that we missed the obvious.  There are times when a soul is in so much pain from the past, from a weak body that has been drained of the ability to cope, that the present overwhelms, happiness has vanished, and joy seems a cruel joke, out there teasingly out of reach.  We are not just a spiritual and emotional body, but obviously a physical one as well which needs to be addressed  If we are depleted, chemically unbalanced, no matter what the cause, we may need medicine as much as the diabetic needs insulin.  There are helpful changes that can be made, but in a crisis, more is needed to function for optimum health and even survival. We may also need proper counsel to let go of the past that tries to imprison the present.
I did find joy even in the valley, "For Thou art with me."  When it all boiled down and I wanted to forget God,  I could not deny the basic truth I knew to be true, "Jesus loves me, this I know..."  I knew.  I had experienced His love before.  It was undeniable, and I would have to wait on Him even in the darkness.  I would have to reach out my hand and wait for Him to clasp it.  It was in the dark ages, before medicine and knowledge, and even appropriate spiritual counseling were available to help, so it was a long walk before doctors were able to properly treat me.  I even found I could be happy in my circumstances and be depressed at the same time.  It wasn't circumstantial.  It was physical.  It was deeper, down where joy was my only anchor.  Now I feel like I am my true self again.  Has any one else been on such a journey?  God uses our experiences to help others.  I'm ashamed to say that I did not recognize it in a sufferer recently.  I never want to add that straw that breaks a camels back.
Often the depressed have common descriptions of their emotions, "like a dark cloud constantly over me," or "living in the basement, unable to go upstairs."  These terms might help you in understanding another in need of help.  I found great happiness in motherhood, yet was depressed at the same time. I wish my body could have caught up with my emotions for better well being in those early, sleep-deprived years.  I clung to joy.
"Faith is deliberate confidence
in the character of God
whose ways you may not understand
at the time."
Oswald Chambers

Mothers need rest for their souls.
"Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord...
If Thou shouldst mark iniquities,
O Lord who could stand?...
But there is forgiveness with Thee...
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning...
O Israel, hope in the Lord..."
Psalm 130