Fall Frolic Full of Remembering ~ Part 1

 My Garden Forever

Last night after work, Edster and I (and yes, my stepdog, Bruno) took advantage of a cool, mid-September evening.  We strolled around the Brandywine Falls area…part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park about 15 miles away.  It is full of sentiment for both of us.  Photos will be coming soon…promise!

But it amazes me how something so simple like being quiet and outdoors and slowing down and be so refreshing!  I knew rain was coming for the next day or so — so I wanted to bank on this opportunity.

As I strolled along, I thought about God’s mercies…his daily gifts…and added them to my list:

 October Canopy

  • The comfort of predictability and routine – seeing the leaves start to tire and lose there green-ness, without yet turning into vivid color, knowing that life is as it should be and that some things are always dependable.

A Man and His Dog

  • The ability to have the health and stamina to stroll through God’s wonder.  Four years ago at this time, we were not sure if Ed would be able to keep his leg.

 Found a Peanut...Found a Peanut

  • The subtle orchestra of quieter birds than in the spring, with the backdrop of dancing water.

 Lasting Love

  • Having a hand to hold.

 Laughter in the Rain

  • The gift of remembering and someone to remember with.

 Quarrel

  • The comedy of “smellies” that wanted to play with Bruno near the fence…aka  chickens.  Edster and I call them “smellies” from a line in The War Bride, a great movie on Netflix.

 Richness

  • Quiet.  (I have a great article about the Gift of Quiet I must share sometime…)

 God is Not Neutral

  • The freedom from fear.  Between what we see on computer screens or television screens with 24-hour news, there is a lot of fear fueled in our society.  It reaches into our homes and grabs us by the throats.  But I’m grateful that during these moments fear was gone, and there is no fear in love, so we are free as we trust the One who loves us.  We have so much.

 Friends

  • My camera. 

Mercies are all around..you just have to look!  All is grace ~

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When You Run Out of Fantastic…

We just started a series in the book of Hebrews at church…whoa, heavy duty…and definitely NOT a fast read…kind of like mining for precious treasures…or coal with a three-foot ceiling with a pick axe.  Not easy, but the effort is worth it! 

Actually, Hebrews is one of my FAVORITE books…partly because of what I read long ago.  I remember a book I read as a young adult attending Mount Vernon Nazarene University

When You Run Out of Fantastic…Persevere! by Reuben Welch…the best down-to-earth book on Hebrews I’ve ever read.   I had no idea Hebrews was so challenging…as this was my first real exposure.  But Reuben is down to earth…having heard him speak multiple times, one of his Reuben-isms he used often was, “I think I think…” and then would go on with his point.  But I digress…

Another way of saying the theme of Hebrews is:   when you run out of FANTASTIC…HANG ON!

 You Just Keep Me Hangin' On
I need to get that book out as we are going through this series and I’ll be writing about it more about my journey on this blog.

About ten years ago, I worked for the vice president of manufacturing for a major printing company (before I changed careers).  When he walked enthusiastically around the plant and the corporate offices, people would say, “Hi Bob…how are you?”  His response was always, “FANTASTIC!”  He wanted to project a good attitude to those he led, whether he felt it or not.

Sometimes you do run out of FANTASTIC…and I’m sure that it’s important to continue to show gratitude and praise to God before the world.

My fear is that we lose our authenticity, at least among each other in Christ, if we do not openly share about waning level of FANTASTIC, so we can encourage each other and lift each other up. 

Reuben once wrote in his best-selling book, We Really Do Need Each Other,

We Christians can be awfully hard on each other,” said my friend Reuben Welch once. “We are especially hard on each other when it comes to the things that matter the most. And we can be just as hard on each other about the things that matter the least.”

….My friend Reuben once said that “Sure, people need Jesus, but most of the time, what they really need is for someone to be Jesus to them.”

Regardless…I know I have a High Priest with whom I can be authentic…without shame…without hesitancy…because of one of my favorite verses that just happens to be in Hebrews 4:15-16:

15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

So when I run out of FANTASTIC, I go to the throne…He understands…He’s been there…and He’s the road underneath my feet.  But sometimes we need to be Jesus with skin on to each other…isn’t that what the Body is for?

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5 Fact Friday ~ On Friday!

It’s that time again…and I’m actually posting it on Friday!

Well, as the summer ebbs away…and the autumn winds seems much more apparent…there’s a bittersweet feeling, a touch of melancholy, in my anticipation of the season of colored leaves, the smell of apples, the glory of the mum, and the glow of spiced candles.

So today…my 5 Facts are about what is disappearing by October.

 You Just Keep Me Hangin' On

1.  One of my favorite things to witness in September is “whirling birdies”…a fun way to say goodbye til spring to these flying cigars.

2.  Bees, bugs, and dragonflies will no longer be found in my favorite bog.

  Thief

3.  The blooming sunny sunflowers are now seeded heads, bowed over with frequent goldfinch visitors or headless, as the squirrels have chewed them off, scurrying off with their spoils, gleaning the seeds as they sit on the backyard fence.

4.  The butterflies are no longer frequenting my frontyard butterfly bush.

5.  I’m no longer hearing the sweet song of the brilliant Indigo Bunting.

But it is as it should be…all things are beautiful in God’s time.

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Compassion for the Compassionate

 Never Forget...(the fabric under the book is the skirt I had on that morning.)

I took this still photo last year on the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001.  The plaid under the book is the skirt I wore on that day, as mentioned in an earlier post.  No matter how many times I revisit this day, it continues to bring immense hurt and sorrow that I cannot put into words.  It’s as if no time has even passed.

 One Light - One Life

Last week I attended a conference in town…Compassion for the Compassionate:  Supporting Those Serving Others.   It addressed the long-term emotional cost of being able to perform in high-demand, caregiving situations.  There were 550 of us there…those of us who daily go places in our work that most of the world will never see.

The keynote speaker was Father Lyndon Harris, who was the Episcopal priest at St. Paul’s Chapel, opposite of the East side of the World Trade Center, which became a hub of compassion for nearly 9 months to those who were in crisis in the aftermath of the terrorists attacks.  Many of those served were the first responders who remained at Ground Zero for months as part of the recovery.  No words can say it better than Lyndon in this 12-minute video I strongly urge you to take the time to view.

 The Light Remains - September 11, 2011

And as I reflected today about all of those directly impacted…I reached out to a firefighter who was in Tower One whom I am honored to know.  I offered words of healing for which he was grateful.  But those of us who give compassion in crisis, he, like many of us, carry a heavy burden.  Though it does not seem rational, there is a haunting, excruciating pain of self-criticism that we could have done more.  He told me, “the pain never goes away.”

Life is a gift with multiple blessings…but today I honor those who go in the thick of the fight, lay their emotions elsewhere, to provide compassion to others, despite the high emotional cost to the deepest part of oneself.

 God bless America again...

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Little Did We Know ~

As I walked out the door after work today, my first impulse was to look up at the sky.  The weather was pristine, September sun lower in the sky than this time two months’ earlier, and refreshing air, distinctively void of any saturation of humidity.  I got in our Honda Odyssey, and I looked up at the sky once again…a comtrail behind a silver reflection of a commercial airliner was in view.  How innocent…how naive we were on this night 11 years ago.  Eleven years ago this sighting was commonplace.  Little did I know…

 Remembering 9-11

In the documentary made by Jules and Gideon Naudet, as well as NYFD firefighter, James Hanlon, covering the journey of a “probie” in the New York City Fire Department, they show the firefighters on September 10, 2001 eating chow, bustin’ chops, putting in the flag after nightfall, and you hear the voice of the documentarian, Jules Naudet say, “little did we know…” 

It’s as if the whole world would be different in a matter of hours…little did we know.

I don’t know if I remember the night before.  I did not notice the weather.  I did not notice comtrails in the sky behind gleaming airliners.  I knew my mother was working the election polls in the morning…but I did not know that this was also the waning of my relationship with my mother B. A. (before Alzheimer’s).  I knew in three weeks I’d be flying to San Diego from Cleveland…no biggie…I had made the trip without a hitch that July.  Little did I know…

And here we are, eleven years later, and I ask myself,

“What am I taking for granted today?  What do I need to do or say today, as I have no idea if tomorrow will afford me the opportunity?  What are my eyes not seeing today in the frantic pace of life?  What different decisions and choices would I make today…if I knew?”

Haunting questions.

On the eve of September 11, I am solemn and thoughtful, as I realize how fragile the life and freedom we have at this moment truly is…and how it is but a whisper. 

 Remembering...

More to come…check in tomorrow as I reflect on the day…be thinking about where you were on September 11, 2001.

We must embrace the pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.

-Kenji Miyazawa

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Autumn in Appalachia

I received some wonderful feedback on my post yesterday, I thought I would post some photos from our trip to “Almost Heaven” last autumn…especially anticipating our return for two weeks at the end of this month.

 Autumn in West Virginia

Independent film director, John Sayles, known for critically acclaimed movies such as Passion Fish and Matewan, describes West Virginia this way in his book, Thinking in Pictures:

There’s no place in America like the hills of West Virginia.  There’ll be a river, usually fast running and not too wide, and on the flatland along its banks a railroad track and maybe a little town, only two or three streets before the land starts rising up steep all around you.  You’ve got to look straight up to see the sky and often there’s a soft mist shrouding the holler.  The hills hug around you — stay in side of them for a while and a flat horizon seems cold and unwelcoming.  It’s always been a hard life there, with not enough bottomland to farm and no easy way to get manufactured good out of the area.  The cash crops had to be torn out from the ground, first timber and then coal.  It’s a land that doesn’t yield anything easily.

In the late sixties I hitchhiked through the area several times and most of the people who gave me rides were coal miners or people with mining in their families.  They spoke with a mixture of pride and resignation about the mining — resignation about how dark and dirty and cold and wet and dangerous it was and pride that they were the people to do it.

 Bloody Mingo

Another literary work is the autobiographical book by John O’Brien, At Home in the Heart of Appalachia, which he talks about in this intriguing video ~ he nails it with regard to the people, relationships, and this continual web of connection.  I’ve experienced it in my genealogical work meeting my relatives out on the branches of my Family Tree.

And who does not remember John Denver’s beloved song

embraced by The Pride of West Virginia, The West Virginia University Marching Band (I apologize for the quality but you have to see what they do at the end of this…give me chills)

and did I ever tell you that after Edster and I said “I do.” we marched to it down the aisle as we left the front of our church on our Wedding Day?

Thank you for indulging me.  It is an astounding heritage!

For my readers, the next few posts will focus on remembering the impact of September 11, 2001, as we draw close to that anniversary.

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5 Fact Friday ~ on Saturday

I can’t explain it…but this 5 Fact Friday creeps up on me every time!

This week, in our Beyond Layers class, Kim had us think about travel and our favorite places.  So, I want to share 5 facts about one of my favorite places because it is in my blood:  my Appalachian West Virginia roots.  My ancestry goes back to the mid-1700s in West Virginia…prior to that they were from Ulster, Ireland, having been transplanted from the lowlands of Scotland, given the name Scots-Irish.  The Scots-Irish were the backbone of the American Revolution.

 West Virginia Collage

1.  West Virginia is the love-child of America’s Civil War.

2.  Outdoor advertising had its origin in Wheeling, West Virginia, about 1908, when the Block Brothers Tobacco Company painted bridges and barns with the wording: “Treat Yourself to the Best, Chew Mail Pouch.”

3.  The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, built prior to the Civil War, in Weston, West Virginia, is the largest hand-cut stone building in North America, and is believed to be the second largest in the world, next to the Kremlin in Russia.

4.  West Virginia is the only state that lies completely within the Mountains and valleys of the Appalachian region.

and last…but in no way the least…

5.  West Virginia University’s football team is ranked in the top 10 this year among NCAA college football teams.  Let’s Goooooooooooooooooooooooooo…Mountaineeeeeeeeeeeeeers!

I’m grateful today for the gift of West Virginia and the place it has in my heart!

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Gift of Goldfinches on Labor Day

Labor Day 2012…

Hot, humid, and I was working at the table in the air conditioning…lots of computer work today.  I looked out the sliding glass doors viewing the deck.  The sunflowers that were blazing just a week or so ago,  now had their heads bowed as their golden petals withered in the waning summer on its last holiday.

Rather than mourn my loss, I looked for God’s gifts…the mercies we fail to see when we are forced to face change.  And with my camera and my 300mm zoom, I saw.  I saw and captured His faithfulness.  My heart repeated Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:26 once again, “Look at the birds…”  (If you have read earlier posts, you know that birds hold a special place with me…)

 Gift of Goldfinches on Labor Day
These winged marvels reminded me of God’s provision and care…how His timing is always perfect (never early/never late)…and how He makes all things beautiful in His time.

These sunflowers were not purposefully planted…they were volunteers from bird feeders filled until early summer.  God wastes nothing.  And uses all for our good.

I finished up  my coursework on the computer…but most of the day I was mesmerized by the gift of the Goldfinches that God sent my way.

With gratitude,

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Making Memories

Today was a wonderful day…Sunday morning at Maranatha…then Edster, me, and Noah (my oldest grandson) left there and succumbed to a donut stop at Jubilee’s (Hey…it’s a holiday weekend, okay?).

Noah had been with us since Saturday and we were going to live in the moment!

I know these look like donuts…but they are really hips in the larva stage.

But we had to stop at Jubilee’s

And Noah had to have chocolate sprinkles…

Once at Mamaw’s, he said, “Mamaw, NOW may I please have a donut?”

Obviously, Mamaw said yes…

And he was in heaven…

Savoring each bite…

Your humble correspondent (aka Mamaw) broke down and ate this big old gut log…Edster ate apple fritters.

And then Noah was on #2…

And milk was Noah’s drink of choice!

Then it was down to business.  Time to roll up our sleeves and make Acorn Cookies.

Melting the bottom of a plain Hershey’s kiss on our pizza stone that had been heated…

And pressing it on top of a mini nutter butter peanut butter cookie…

Like this…

Noah was great at unwrapping the kisses…

He had it down to a science…

Then you do the same with a milk chocolate chip for the other end…

And wallah…(as Kim would say) there you have it…

Over and over again…

Good enough to eat…

Two with a cuppa coffee…MY drink of choice…

Oh…from hearing Pastor Craig preach from Hebrews to Jubilee donuts to time with Noah making memories and an extra day at home with my Edster this weekend….how God’s mercies were flowing today!

With gratitude,

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Shapes and 5 Fact Friday ~

This week flew…but I figured better late than never with my 5 Fact Friday.

Elijah, my 4-year-old grandson, and I went to a local park, The Seiberling Nature Realm, which is a metropark and arboretum.  Edster and Bruno came along, as well.  Elijah’s job was to help Mamaw find some shapes to photograph.  In his honor, my 5 facts this week will center around him.

1.  Elijah LOVES green!  Green has been his favorite color since he was 2 and first recognized colors.

 Elijah Loves GREEN!

2.  Elijah won’t sit in chairs that have flowers in them.  When I asked him to sit in this chair, he said he couldn’t without hurting the flowers.

 Bloowm Where You Are Planted>

3.  Elijah  notices the little things.

 Notice the Little Things

4.  Elijah cannot pass up a drinking fountain.  He thought there were three circles in this photograph, but he forgot to count his mouth and ear.

 Ordinary Moments

5.  Elijah always has fun with Mamaw.

 Elijah Examining his "Potato"

And so this week in my Beyond Layers e-course, I did the assignment looking for circles and squares.  Here are the results (thanks, Elijah!):

 Circles

 Squares

I’ve noticed this week that there is merit in paying attention to the ordinary, every day things.  Elijah notices everything and an ordinary walk brought so many gifts and so much joy.  It was a thrill to walk through the paths on an evening of the waning summer.  The glory of God was everywhere!

With gratitude,

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