I woke this morning full of anxiety. We have so much to do. So many fun events on the schedule and so much planning to make them happen. I tried to rest my mind and journal, read, and meditate, but my mind kept speeding along and always returning to the stress involved in preparing to go to Creation Festival Northeast. I have never attended this festival and camping with 70,000 people could prove to be a big stretch for me. I don’t camp. We have a house on the river and sometimes we refer to it as “going to camp,” but the truth is it is carpeted and has all the modern conveniences necessary. Not truly a “camp.” So, I’m planning on going camping. I need to pack sunscreen, rain gear and …even forks?! So much to think about.
I don’t think I worry much about my appearance and the fact that I will probably camp sans makeup is not a concern, but this morning while trying to quiet my soul to pray, I remembered that I won’t have a hair dryer. My hair is a mess without a hair dryer. I won’t need to curl it or straighten it, but I do need a hair dryer. OK, so that is another challenge I will have to face. In addition to remembering to pack toilet paper, bug spray and a pan to boil water for my morning cup of tea, I now have to consider a hat!
Oh Lord, how can I focus on my devotions with all of this reeling through my mind?! Because of the habit of rising each morning and doing it, I sit at the table and begin. My heart’s not in it, but I will be disciplined and seek peace through scripture. Today I am on Day #22 of a Summer Bible Reading Challenge and I am reading through the New Testament in 3 months. It is scheduled and each day I know which chapters to read. Today’s selection was Luke 22, 23 and 24. As I mentioned, I wasn’t really in a very good place to be comprehending, but I kept reading. I laughed out loud when I got to Luke 22:35:
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered.
Oh Lord, what a sense of humor you have! So, if you sent them out without purse, bag or sandals, I guess I can go without a hair dryer!
Four-year-old Kevin was fascinated with a dead fish floating in the river. After studying it for hours, he asked his mother, “Will the fish go to heaven?”
Knowing she was out of her theological league, she said, ‘We’ll ask Pastor Dave on Sunday when we get to church.”
“Why? Does he know lots about fish?”
Originally published in Nov/Dec 1994 issue of The Christian Reader.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad. –Psalm 126:2-3
I got a message yesterday that my Dutch son lost his mom. Kalle is a friend that my daughter met on the internet years ago. She started writing to him while she was in high school and always referred to him as a penpal so that I wouldn’t keep referring to him as some “creep she met online.” After months of her getting to know him online, we had the opportunity to meet him while we were traveling to London. When she asked if she might be able to meet him while we were there, I said she could as long as she was handcuffed to her dad the entire time. We kept our travel plans very vague with her in case we were still dealing with a creep who wanted to abduct her and we finally gave her a meeting spot. She was to meet him standing under a clock in the train station. He was to be wearing one green sock and one red sock. We were pleasantly surprised when we saw Kalle and not a creep under the clock. Before we allowed my daughter to approach him, we allowed him to meet her older 6’4″ brother and her dad. Finally, he got to meet his penpal and we had a wonderful day touring the city. It amazed me how similar he was to her friends from home. Just a typical teenage boy, it seemed that we had known him forever. Since she often wrote of her family, he knew a lot about us and asked us questions. It was hard to remember that he was from a foreign country so far away. We genuinely liked him from the time we met him.
He later came to visit us and spent a few weeks in our basement touring our neighborhood and then we went to visit him in Delft, Netherlands. He was a gracious host as he showed us his beautiful country and reintroduced me to bike riding. Now, this “penpalship” has branched beyond our daughter and has included the entire family.
Though I’ve never met his mom, we communicated online a few times. I knew of her courageous battle with cancer and I knew of her sons’ attention to her. Kalle talked of her often and I kept her in my prayers . I mentioned her to friends and shared stories of her battle with others. Yesterday she lost her battle with cancer. Now, this friend of mine, who lives 3,852 miles from me is hurting and all I can do is send a facebook message and a prayer. I wish my favorite “Netherlandian” could get a big hug from me, his “American Mom.” But, for now, we’ll just shed tears together yet apart for his loss. My daughter sent me a text yesterday that said, “Sorry for your loss” and I replied “Sorry for your loss.” It is amazing that we truly feel a real loss for a woman that we had only got to know through stories told by her son. That truly says something for the power of the written word. I hope she knows how much I cared about her and how much I will continue to care for her son in her absence. Kalle, I am sending you all my thoughts and prayers. May your Mom rest in peace. God Bless You All.
Count your sharks’ teeth name them one by one. Can you sing along? I am currently on vacation on the Gulf Coast of Florida. (I can admit to readers that I am away from home because my home is protected by my prank-pulling sister in law. Burglars wouldn’t be safe to enter. View previous posts for more details!) Anyhow, where we vacation each year is a beach blessed with Sharks’ Teeth. Fossilized shark teeth are strewn across the beach by waves and mix in nicely with the small shells. We spend much of our vacation looking at the little black triangles. Some large, some small, some sharp, some worn smooth to an almost boomerang shape & some even have an orange tint to them. But, they are all sharks’ teeth from many years ago.
This year, as I was looking down and picking up these teeth on my walk down the beach, I thought of the hymn, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings, see what God has done. Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings see what God has done.” I started to see a correlation between these sharks’ teeth and the blessings God sends me each day.
- There are lots of blessings there. You just have to bend over, look for them and pick them up. Some are small and you may not deem them worth the effort, but if you collect enough of the wee ones, you will end up with a nice, interesting selection to study at the end of the day.
- Sometimes you may overlook many of the little blessings (teeth) that are there as you seek and concentrate on trying to find the big one. Your eyes are focused and you are intent on getting that one big blessing that you will be able to talk about for years. You step on all the other ones as you walk on by.
- You may be so busy gathering all the little ones that you never even notice an unexpected blessing that is near. Yesterday, as my head was down and my back was bent picking up many little sharks teeth, a sunbather up the beach was yelling at me. I ignored her a bit not sure she was speaking to me, but after she insisted, I raised my head to see her pointing. She was sharing a sighting of porpoises playing in the surf. I almost missed that blessing as I gathered up my little ones.
- Kaylee was with me gathering sharks teeth one morning and we found ourselves standing in a spot that had lots of shells. I told her to just stay put and see how many sharks teeth she could find by not moving. It donned on me then that maybe sometimes God says the same thing to me. “Look for the blessings where you are now. Stay put. Wait.” The blessings may arrive with the next gentle wave.
The comparison between gathering sharks’ teeth and gathering blessings can go on and on. And, as I type, I realize that many people will never get the opportunity to hunt sharks’ teeth on the beach….but everyone can count their many blessings to see what God has done!
Simple Definition of blessing
: approval that allows or helps you to do something
: help and approval from God
: something that helps you or brings happiness
Since I have a travel category on this blog, I figure I better add some “travel” blog posts. And, sometimes we don’t travel very far, but the destination turns out to be a bit nicer than we expect. Parker, PA is one of those travel adventures.
In September, I had the opportunity to visit Parker, Pennsylvania…the “Smallest City in the USA.” Along the Allegheny River, it sits unassuming and would appear to have nothing to offer as a destination. But, when you take the time to park the car & get out you realize that there is more than just the road that you drive on as you pass through.
We attended a ceremony as Parker, PA became a Trail Town for the North Country Trails. A Trail Town is a community that sits along the North Country Trail that supports hikers with services. (aka Food & Bathrooms & signage so you can find said food and bathrooms.)
The ceremony (full details in October 6 issue) which took place along the beautiful river took only about 15 minutes and then attendees had the opportunity to hike the trail at various spots and various challenge levels. We chose a rather simple hike across the bridge and on the North Country Trail to the Clarion River. The most challenging part of our hike was crossing the Allegheny River on the historic truss bridge. This bridge built in 1934 is one of the longest in the area and crosses the river at a wide spot and crosses an abandoned rail line (now know as the North Country Trail.) The bridge has a unique appearance as it has a rather steep grade(slope) of 6.32%…in novice hiker terms means that you may get winded walking across it. After the up”hill” climb on the bridge, we enjoyed a level walk along the river. The trail is paved and we were greeted by bicyclist and other walkers/hikers.
We finished our morning out by having lunch at the Riverstone Lounge & Grille. A fun surprise to find an extensive menu and good food. (Right in my own back yard!)
So my point to this post is to tell you to view your activities as if you are on vacation….even if you are only in a neighboring town. You may find all sorts of treasures if you are open to exploring a little bit.
This weekend, my kids are coming home. For a precious 36 hours I should have all 5 of my kids in the same place at the same time. I cannot wait. I doubt they can understand my anticipation because I can barely understand it myself. What exactly will it look like for them to be all here? Something special? No, not really. Actually, I hope it looks very normal. I expect to see unpacked bags in the living room, bagels left out on the counter and wet towels on the floor of the bathroom. I will be barely able to follow a conversation as each one speaks over the other and their volume has to increase with each story told. I see the TV on, the iPhones in their hands demanding their attention and they will try to scramble out of here to meet friends, not holding the visit sacred.
But it isn’t really sacred. It is home. It is supposed to be comfortable, casual and feel just like a warm fleece bathrobe after a bubble bath. I hope they walk into this house and breathe a sigh of relief. Not noticing anything special, but just noticing home.
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.–Isaiah 32:18
Today my husband and I traveled to Foxburg, PA. It’s a 24 minute trip by car over beautiful green rolling hills. You pass farms bright with red barns, tulips blooming in yards and trillium that God planted years ago blooming white on the hillsides. Even yards full of golden yellow dandelions brighten the spirits as the sun shines down on this gorgeous day. When we arrived at Foxburg, a small town labeled as placid on it’s own website, it felt like we were on vacation.
We rode our bikes on the paved bike trail to Parker, PA and then returned to Foxburg for a lunch of Taco Pizza at Foxburg Pizza. Driving along the Allegheny River and over the Clarion River on this beautiful day was a real treat. God outdid himself in this section of the country! Splendorous! (Isn’t that a fun word?) On our ride we saw flowers of yellow, red, purple and white, and birds of blue, red and shades of brown, We stopped and took a couple of photos of the calm river and a Canadian Goose swimming by. These are things we take photos of while on vacation, but rarely recognize the value of them on a random Friday morning. Today, I paused to see them. We have all heard to take time to smell the roses, and yet we rarely do it.
Last September we had the pleasure of entertaining our friends from Ipswich, England for a week. We celebrated a Stay-cation with them here. In that week, we celebrated all sorts of day trips. One day we drove to Foxburg, and had lunch outside on the deck at the Allegheny Grille, we bought a bottle of wine at the Foxburg Wine Cellars and sat under the grape arbor to enjoy a glass. The day was wonderful. I looked over at my husband, George, and said (while twirling my stemware in my hand,) “This is so nearby for us, why don’t we do this more often?” To which he replied, “Because, it’s Tuesday!” So true. What is there to celebrate on a Tuesday (surviving Monday perhaps?) The point I’m trying to make is that we often have treasures in our own back yard that we don’t take the time to enjoy. I challenge you to take a look at your hometown and see what it has to offer that might give you the respite from routine that you need.
I came home from my morning refreshed and renewed and excited about discovering the joy of a morning of relaxation. Now it’s time for me to close. I am going to make myself a frozen lemonade and sit on the deck in the sun, read a book and pretend I’m on vacation until the school bus brings my kiddos home!
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow? They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. –Matthew 6:28