Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving and Joy

My thoughts today are focused on a devotional by Edward T. Welch in Heart of the Matter. I've read it over and over because it explains joy so simply and so well.
     Thanksgiving is gratitude for a benefit we have received. Joy includes gratitude, but it's true delight is in the beauty of God and the deep goodness in all the things that come from him. Joy draws attention outward with a non-possessive appreciation for something that is good.
     For example, you are in a boat and about to die. The winds have whipped the waters in to a maelstrom that will engulf you within minutes. Jesus speaks a word and the waters are still. No one, however thanks him. They are all too amazed (Matthew 8:23-27). This amazement at Jesus' power is the beginning of joy. It is not primarily self-referential. It is more than satisfied to contemplate the majesty of the One who just spoke.
     Another example: You are blind. Jesus is coming and you call out for mercy. When he stops, he asks what you want. You ask for sight. When he gives it to you, you don't simply thank him, you follow him. This too, is the beginning of joy. Your attention is captured by the Giver more than the benefit received (Matthew 20:29-34).
     The word thanks and thanksgiving can be found dozens of times in Scripture. The words joy, gladness, rejoice, and enjoy can be found hundreds of times.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Gang's (Almost) All Here

    I shouted with joy when Chelsea and Simon walked into the house. They caught me by surprise when they arrived much earlier than I expected. We haven't seen them since June- too long ago! Everyone has a full week of 'togetherness' planned- the four sisters, niece and nephews (grandchildren ), and sons-in-law.
     It troubles me that we are down to floor space for the grandchildren's sleeping arrangements, but no one is complaining. Our house was ample when we built it thirteen years ago and now we are filled to the brim. There were six of us then and now we are twelve. It's all very, very good.
     In between satisfying meals and baked treats, the young folks have been active. They had a nice tramp in the woods this afternoon and came back with stories, photos, and a big rock. One photo was of a large bear print in the mud. The attention, however, was on the rock that Simon found. It appeared to be a Geode and everyone was eager to cut it open. When Steve suggested they set up the saw with the diamond blade, the excitement was just like Christmas morning with a gift to be opened. Everyone quickly bundled up before it got too dark to work outside and Ian and Simon donned safety goggles and took charge. It was a very hard rock! It was more solid than hollow, but it had many little pockets filled with crystals making it fit the definition of a Geode. I don't know all the technical terms of rocks in geology, but it was pretty inside. The guys sliced it up into large and small chunks and everyone had a piece to call their own.
     After dinner, we played Apples to Apples. That gave us a wonderful dose of laughter to end the day.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


We've had some beautiful sunsets and sunrises lately. I love the brushstrokes in this sky.

It's been a week of ups and downs. I drank too much coffee on Wednesday and had a rant on fakebook. I was inundated with one too many political re-posts from 'friends' and I flipped out. On one hand, I'm still trying to deal with my embarrassment for hurting people's feelings with my bluntness. On the other hand, I'm tired of feeling used by 'Friends' and their political propaganda agendas, both left and right. I know all about the little arrows to hide this and block that, but seriously...? The bottom line is; I'm not on fakebook to talk politics. I just want to see posts of rainbows and puppies... and photos of grandchildren.

Yesterday was half a day spent cleaning up after someone who wasn't feeling too well. I won't say any more on that subject.

On a happy note, the kids are all coming home for Thanksgiving! They'll begin to arrive this weekend and trickle in through Wednesday. Our texts this week all began with, "I'm so excited!!"

We will have as many as five different countries and four faiths represented by the guests at our table this year, including Muslim and Hindu. We will celebrate our commonalities and ignore our differences. If only the world could do the same. Our Christianity is something we must live. It is should be evidenced in our every inhale and exhale. It is a gift we've been given to be able to live this way; it's for anyone who desires it. Sure, we fall short (and offend people on fakebook) but we have such a forgiving God! Every single day I am thankful I am forgiven through Christ on the Cross, once and for all eternity.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Parsley, Sage, Terrorism, and Thyme

The post title sums up the wanderings of my thoughts and the invasive attributes of terrorism.

I went to the garden to clip herbs for the meal I was preparing. The act of gathering growing things to flavor our food is one of my favorite elements of cooking. Its simplicity reminds me that our sustenance is reduced to surviving off the earth and all God has provided us. We have the freedom to make as much or as little of that as we like.

Terrorism violently removes humanity's freedom of life. We have all been raised to firmly believe and embrace the fact that every person has the right to, ", liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

That might seem like an obvious, trite statement to make. But, considering both the base element at terrorism's core and the scope of its reach in current history, we see evil incarnate standing at our very door.

Some time in the early 1970's I was searching my high school library for a research paper topic. I ran across a singular book on terrorism. The book discussed the handful of terrorist attacks at that point in history, which were very few. I remember thinking they were far away from U.S. soil and it was hard to connect with a topic that seemed irrelevant to my life. There was also very little research material in the library system to which I had access.* It's hard to believe how much this has dramatically changed during my lifetime.

Granted, terrorism has existed throughout history and the multitude of factors contributing to the form of modern terrorism we see today are too many to get into here. But, in general, something changed in the late 1960's and terror became internationalized. From media attention, to weapons and bomb capabilities, to social media; terror attacks have greatly increased in scope and magnitude. One thing has not changed though and that is the core of terrorism. It is evil, it is blood lust and it is cult mentality.

So, as I walk in my fields and in my little garden, I pray for France and her suffering. I pray for my children and grandchildren, for the world they inherit and for whatever their future may hold. My Christian faith tells me that evil has already been defeated by Christ crucified on the cross. Good has triumphed over evil, forever and ever. Amen! I embrace that fully. But, it doesn't take away the suffering and heartbreak we must endure on earth. Nor does it take away the goodwill we have toward mankind and my sincere prayer for everyone to know Peace.

* These were the days of card files in drawers, no internet, and very limited access to libraries for a teenager who didn't drive yet.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Treasure Hunting


I am forever, hopelessly bringing things into the house. Finding beautiful castoffs in nature is like finding treasure. Last week I found the pine cone branch on a hike and the week before I found the two Black Walnut shells in our field. A imagine a little animal, probably a squirrel, cleaned the nutmeat out of the shells and there they were. They are the prettiest works of art!

Acorns are a perennial favorite.  I've saved baggies full. Each fall I pick out a few favorites for the windowsill. Audrey gave me the biggest acorn several years ago when she found it and thought of me. These are at my kitchen sink window where I see them every day. On the right, there's a hickory nut that I found buried in the dirt when we were clearing branches in the field last weekend. We don't have any hickory trees on our property, so I imagine a little squirrel must have carried it here, buried it and forgot about it. That endeared it to me and I gave it to little Schleich squirrel. It reminds me of the children's story, Miss Hickory which Steve read to the girls when they were little. It's an imaginative, classic story with Squirrel always trying to steal Miss Hickory's head.

Bird's nests, a dove's egg, rocks, a peacock feather from Russell Crowe-the-peacock, more pine cones - I set things everywhere on the bookshelves.

Ian brought an edible fungus to show us over the summer. I can't remember its name, but he said they are a delicacy. They grow on dead oak trees and smell extremely pungent. Judging by smell alone, I couldn't have eaten it. It was too pretty to throw away, so I kept it around until it dried out. Now that it's dried, the smell has faded so I cloched it. (made up term) I found the Blue Jay feather in the yard this summer.

It wouldn't be autumn without Bittersweet around the house. It grows wild along the hedgerows and it's hard to take a walk without stopping to admire the Bittersweet vines. I set sprigs of it everywhere, on windowsills, in bouquets. The berries smell like honey, but they are poisonous.  Be cautious with this if little children are around the house. (Many years ago a certain daughter chewed a bittersweet berry or two on a wreath we had hanging on the wall. She climbed up on the sofa to reach it- the little monkey. We immediately called poison control and since the berries were over a year old and hard, they said we needn't worry. It was still a scare.)

I have sticks with bug galleries, junk found in barns, and don't even get me started on rocks. I recall driving home from a camping trip with rocks under all the kids' feet on the floor of our car. This reminds me of the movie, The Long, Long Trailer. Haha! Lucy and I have a lot in common.

One thing I have always wanted to do, but never really got started on, was to carry a small sketch book and take the time to sketch things out in nature. We did a few of these when we home schooled and I saved the drawings of seeds pods, honeysuckle, and a bird one of the girls drew. I tend to carry my camera nowadays, but sketching is a rewarding pastime and it slows a person down considerably, which is a good thing.

The fun with treasure is in the hunt or in the surprise of finding. The enjoyment of recalling a particular walk or the moment when a child handed you a treasure lasts a long time when the object sits on the shelf. Some treasures are fleeting and disintegrate over time, but no matter. It a good excuse to take another walk and perhaps, if we're lucky, we'll find more treasure.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Vineyard Dressed in Gold

A transparent community is not simply one where we talk about what God did yesterday and how we came to enlightenment and grew and how today will be different. A transparent culture of confession is one where we say, “Here is where I am today and I am afraid I will always be like this and my inclination is to hide it away.” That is true transparency. That is true confession. - See more at:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost
A transparent community is not simply one where we talk about what God did yesterday and how we came to enlightenment and grew and how today will be different. A transparent culture of confession is one where we say, “Here is where I am today and I am afraid I will always be like this and my inclination is to hide it away.” That is true transparency. That is true confession. - See more at:
A transparent community is not simply one where we talk about what God did yesterday and how we came to enlightenment and grew and how today will be different. A transparent culture of confession is one where we say, “Here is where I am today and I am afraid I will always be like this and my inclination is to hide it away.” That is true transparency. That is true confession. - See more at:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Roaring Run, A Walk in the Woods

     Autumn is by far my favorite season for hiking in the woods. The temperatures are comfortable, there are no bugs, and the fallen leaves smell incredibly good. It's an entirely different landscape with bare trees and no undergrowth. The mountainsides are visible rising up behind the woods and there's a better sense of the terrain.
     The aid was with my mom this morning, so when B. suggested a hike, I happily agreed! Roaring Run is a popular local trail that follows a stream and several cascades leading up to a waterfall. It's a super easy hike, perhaps a mile and a half round trip, and only a twenty minute drive from home. The creek dominates the landscape with the trail hugging its banks and crisscrossing it with bridges. Its rushing water guides hikers upward toward the falls. Henri was our little trailblazer and energetically scampered up and over rocks. Considering his age of ten years, he was quite limber. Lindy, who is years older than Henri enjoyed the trail as well and was a sweet girl to oblige the climb in her gentle way. We tackled the trail at a comfortable pace, stopping now and then to sit on boulders and enjoy the beauty of the woods. Bits of color still dot some trees while leaves cascaded down in slow motion all around us as we hiked.We passed not a soul on the entire way up. We chose an alternate trail on the way down and by that time, we spotted several other hikers on their way in. Although everyone was friendly, I'm glad we had the woods to ourselves for a while. There were a few men trout fishing where the creek widens into large pools at the trail head.
     Afterwards, we rewarded our appetites with coffee and biscuits on B.'s porch. Yes, it was mild enough to dine outside! These are fleeting opportunities as evidenced by the rain that began to fall on my way home. The air remains mild, but the chilly nights and cool breezes have soaked into the rocks and ground so nothing emanates warmth anymore. If you sit down on a rock or the ground, it will seep with cold! November sets in with its inevitable gray dampness.  It's still beautiful, though and it's a good thing I like rainy days.

Henri the Trailblazer

Henri keeps watch while we sit near the stream below him.

My prize find; a fallen branch of perfect pine cones

Monday, November 2, 2015

With a Little Help From My friends

     This beautiful scene is our neighbor's yard. It sits up the hill behind our house where I like to walk. This weekend proved to be an emotionally difficult one in caring for my mom. Not for any reason in particular, but for just feeling discouraged in general. We both had those colds and as minor as that may seem, it's still very disruptive to a ninety-three year old and her caregiver. Steve's extensive travel schedule has become wearying as well and we both simply crave "normal"... whatever that is. But, the walks I take with Henri are good medicine! Even if I can only circle the property, that's something I cherish. On better days I can wander two to three miles and return home feeling very refreshed in my attitude. There have been many little things that have proven to be big encouragements. Here are a few:

1. Neighbor W. regularly phones when he's going to the farm market to see if we want any produce. A little thoughtfulness from a neighbor is no small thing. Pass it along!
1a. He asked if I'd spoken to the new neighbors and I had not. I told W. that they don't wave back to me in passing on the road. He said they don't wave back at him either. We both felt better knowing that it wasn't anything personal. Haha!
2. Tess saw my discouragement yesterday afternoon when I shed a few tears while I was washing dishes at the kitchen sink. She made me take off my rubber gloves in order to give me a proper hug.
3. An invitation out for coffee. Best diversion ever!
4. A friend phoned with recommendations for two potential granny-sitters. (I don't know what else to call it, so I've come up with that title.) I'm hoping Steve and I can begin to go out on a date once or twice per month.
5. Mom said she wants to go out to lunch later this week. We can most definitely do that!- as long as her cough subsides.
6. L. gave me a daily devotional and it's wonderful for two reasons. First, the book is well made. I have an appreciation for a well bound book with quality paper and a good feel to it. It's a neat, tidy book printed on smooth, pure white paper. It's just a really nice book to hold. Secondly, the internet devotionals weren't doing it for me. I prefer to read in a chair with a book. I'm old fashioned that way. So, here I am, set for three hundred and sixty-five days. I just thought of reason number three: L. gave it to me : )
7. There is a monster-big Praying Mantis on the window screen for the second day in a row. It is fascinating to observe in a creepy-fascinating kind of way. It actually turned its head to look at me when I walked up to the window. That ET shaped head on that little neck tilts and turns just like a human head. Tess saw it grab a ladybug and we watched it eat for a minute. Every time I glance at the window, it's still there like a familiar companion.