Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Harriette Austin Writer's Conference

I’m humbled and honored that once more I’ll be teaching a class on writing in the inspirational market at this year’s Harriette Austin Writer’s Conference.

Harriette Austin and Bev
Harriette Austin is legendary in this area as a writing instructor, and encourager extraordinaire. I’d read about Austin and her writing classes for years, always intending to go, but my children’s soccer games, and ballet classes conflicted with the evening sessions she held.

In my fiction manuscript and screenplay, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, there’s a character, Aunt Laney, who mentors a young girl toward her aspiration of writing. One night, I had a dream, and in it, I saw a picture of Harriette Austin like one I’d recently seen in a newspaper, and heard someone say, “She’s the real Aunt Laney.” Shortly, after that, I saw a way that I could take one of her classes, and what I found is that Harriette Austin is indeed the real Aunt Laney. She’s all about planting seeds of hope and encouragement in those who are struggling to believe in their own ability. Those of us who’ve attended her classes adore her. Her knowledge, wisdom, and insight in the area of creative writing are almost unparalleled.

This is a wonderfully affordable general market conference, and features many gifted presenters. If you have a manuscript you’d like to pitch, there’ll be an opportunity to do so at this conference as well as to receive feedback on your work. Whether you've been writing many years, or  just starting a writing journey, this conference is a perfect place to learn and grow in your craft.

I'll have some great book giveaways and handouts in my class, and would love to see you in July, so register early for this exciting conference.

"May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us--yes, establish the work of our hands" (Psalm 90:17)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Graduating

We’re in the home stretch.


The senior just graduated.


The husband with only eight more radiation treatments.

The incredible high tech environs of proton radiation
I’m kind of exhausted myself, and I’m not even the one on the receiving end of two hundred rads drilling my body everyday Monday through Friday. Jerry’s beginning to feel the cumulative effect of the treatment, but still pushing forward.

Because the treatment process is taking place in another state, by the time we’re finished, we will have driven over 7,000 miles across a nine-week period. And that at almost four dollars a gallon for gas. We’re thankful for God’s often-amazing provision.

One of our favorite Oswald Chambers quotes is “God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome.”

In many ways, it seems my daughter is not the only one graduating around here. In two weeks my husband will finish this treatment regiment, and we're praying that afterward he'll receive a certificate for a clean bill of health. And me, well, I'm getting a diploma, out of all this, too. I’ve found I’m going to some new level of trust, to another measure of his grace, to an increase in faith. I’ve found we don’t get what we need as we’re sitting on the patio in the sunshine (although it does have its benefits). We get the power to persevere as we’re in the thick of things.

I’m looking forward to the next chapter, but I’m also thankful for the sweet things God is doing right now through these challenges. I'm grateful for the life he's imparting to us and through us. We may never know on this earth all that God has accomplished through this time, but we trust He is ever at work. And really the only diploma that really matters is the one we get from him which we hope will say, "Well done."

“…but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love in to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has give us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wanted, A One Ringing Bell News Update

If you'd like to read more about Belle and her brood, just click on the One Ringing Bell News Update label below this post.

ONE RINGING BELL HEADQUARTERS—Late this evening the staff at HQ released this bulletin:


WANTED –FAMILIES FOR FOUR KITTENS
(Think nanny letter from Mary Poppins)

If you would aspire to this undertaking

Have a kind heart, please no faking.

Fancy Feast, many cases.

Scratching posts, lots of places.

You have to hold, you must caress;

If in your bed, it would so bless.

Keep in house, not ever outside.

For love, we’ll ride.

Never take us to the pound,

Make us live with hamsters or ten hounds.

Treat us as a member of the family,

And we will always love you unabashedly.

Please don’t yell or subjugate us,

And we won’t give you reason to crate us.

Your turkey legs at Thanksgiving, we won’t steal.

Your packages at Christmastime, we won’t peel.

Don’t delay,

From the triplets and tuxedo,

Eloise, Carl, Sara, and Wilbur Varnado.


The Lord is faithfuyl to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. Psalm 145:13

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jan Karon and Inspiration

Been on the road a lot, so we’re listening to an audio version of Jan Karon’s In the Company of Others.

Love her. Love her writing.

In fact, I’d have to say she’s one of the top three writing influences in my life.


Her story, which I’m cobbling together from numerous sources over the years, continues to inspire me. In mid-life, she left a prestigious job in the advertising world and moved to Blowing Rock, North Carolina to try her hand at fiction writing. Things did not happen as quickly as she thought they might (do they ever?), and as resources dwindled, she subsisted on chicken soup and used Vaseline for night cream.

The editor of the local newspaper, The Blowing Rocket, serially published her first fiction manuscript to good response, and this would became the New York Times Best Seller, At Home in Mitford.

I came to know about Jan Karon when a dear friend, Becky, gave me Karon’s book, A Light in the Window. I enjoyed it so much, I’ve since purchased and read every book she’s ever written.

During the awful period in my life when I suffered from posttraumatic stress followed by cancer, I wrote a long letter to Karon to tell her how much her writing meant to me. When the pain would almost swallow me, I’d go to Mitford and find much consolation.

You can imagine my surprise when a few weeks later, I received a handwritten note from her, thanking me for the letter. And in her P.S., she suggested that perhaps I should write a book. That P.S. served to confirm something God was already speaking to my heart. So, I worked hard, and later sent her a couple of devotional manuscripts I’d put together.

A pastor’s wife approached me at one of our district meetings one evening some time later and said, “Oh, I saw you in Jan Karon’s newsletter.”

I immediately turned over my tea.

“What do you mean?”

“I picked up her newsletter at the book store and you’re in it.”

I couldn’t wait to get home and find the newsletter on line. Sure enough, there I was, her congratulting me for getting the manuscripts written and believing Phillipians 4:13, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

So, you see, though I may never meet her in person, she’s like family to me. Her note from years ago hangs over my desk, and when I grow discouraged, I think about her thin soup days, and shiny face, and I draw strength to continue on this writing journey.




Monday, May 23, 2011

Carried

I’ve often been accused of saying that every verse I quote is my favorite.


But really, this one is in my top ten.

Of course, my friend Amy says I have more than ten in my top ten of scriptures and songs.

What can I say?

The Lord brought this passage round again this morning.

“…so he became their Savior. In all their distress, he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and Mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:8-9)

Two dates are scribbled in the margin by these verses—May 22, 2000, four days after I was diagnosed with cancer. The other date: April 2002—the epicenter of healing from a trauma.

This passage is about Israel. But it seemed the Lord was saying he would do these things for me as well.

The message puts it this way: “So he became their Savior. In all their troubles, he was troubled, too. He didn’t send someone else to help them. He did it himself, in person. Out of his own love and pity he redeemed them. He rescued them and carried them along for a long, long time.”

For a long, long time now, God has carried me. In this present difficult season, the evidence is abundant of his continued deliverance and support. I’ve been cancer free for over eleven years, and the difficult spring and summer of 2002 has been reframed in the context of God’s powerful healing touch.

When my children were little, they used to go limp in my arms as I carried them. They trusted completely that my hold on them was firm. My prayer is that my faith would be such that I too, could ever rest limp in the Father’s arms, completely trusting his care.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Telephone Call From God?

Our family has a very serious need. I do not share the details, because it betrays another’s confidence. But, I’ve been praying and fasting about it, not to hold God over a barrel in some way, but so that I might be strengthened to persevere, to have hope, and to believe for God’s answer. During the fast, which ended about a week ago, I prayed Isaiah 58:6 repeatedly, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”



I wanted to DO something to solve this problem, but as I prayed, I kept getting scriptures that had to do with rest. It’s as if God said, “Trust me in this. Don’t act, just trust and rest.”

I’ll explain it by using a white horse as a symbol of the need. Our family needs a very special white horse. In addition, we need it to be somewhere other than the town we live in, somewhere like Bonner Springs, Kansas. We don’t know anyone there, much less anyone that owns one, and even if we did, there are so many white horses, how would we find the one animal suitable for us. It has seemed an overwhelming, impossible thing.

Here’s what happened. On Wednesday, I was outside, and when I came in there was a message on the answering machine. “Hello, this is Andrea Rain, and this message is for Jill. I received a message that you were looking for a white horse, and I have many. I’m sure that one will be suitable for you. Just give me a call. And by the way, I live in Bonner Springs, Kansas.”

No one named Jill lives at our house. It was a wrong number. But a wrong number with the message about the very thing we were looking for in the very place we wanted it to be. I played the message over and over and over, then I called Andrea and left a request that she call me. Let me reiterate that we have not shared this with anyone outside our immediate family.

When she telephoned, and I relayed my story, she was amazed. It’s as if God dialed the number for her.

The wrong number for her.

The right number for God.

The right number for us.

This horse represents one of the most critical needs our family has ever had, but we sense the God of the universe is moving on our behalf in a remarkable way. We stand in AWE.

“…are you fainting in prayer? Look up. Your blessed Advocate has already claimed your answer, and you would grieve and disappoint Him if you were to give up the conflict in the very moment when victory is on its way to meet you. He has gone in for you into the inner chamber, and already holds up your name upon the palms of His hands; and the messenger, which is to bring you your blessing, is now on his way, and the Spirit is only waiting your trust to whisper in your heart the echo of the answer from the throne, “It is done.” A. B. Simpson

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him!

How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er!

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!

O for grace to trust him more!

Louisa M.R. Stead



Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chipmunk Massacre, a One Ringing Bell News Update

This is a continuing series, click on the One Ringing Bell News Update label below to read other posts or check out several in the favorites to the right.

This report contains information which may be shocking to some readers.


RINGING BELL HEADQUARTERS -- Here at One Ringing Bell, the staff is recovering from news, which has dealt a blow to many at headquarters.

Suspects have been apprehended in the death of a local chipmunk. A mug shot was taken early Thursday morning.


Or, at least, a mug shot was attempted.

When interviewed Belle had this to say, “In Mama Cat’s Survival Training for Dummies: everything a Mama cat needs to train her kittens, the book suggests live prey be brought inside for house kitties to learn hunting techniques. Someone, I'm not saying who,  may have released a chipmunk for the brood to learn how to catch their own food.”

A younger staff member initially reeled when she discovered the deceased animal, but quickly responded by scooping it up with a barbecue spatula, digging a hole by the pear tree, and burying it. A large stone was placed on top of the chipmunk's last home as a memorial (as well as to keep Aunt Lucy from disinterring it). May the chipmunk rest in peace.

Although caught with the victim, Belle and her brood were released from custody on a technicality. Evidently, the chipmunk in question had a history of heart issues, and may have died of natural causes. There were no witnesses as to whether the chipmunk was already dead or still alive when Belle snatched him (Although, the staff has a pretty good idea he was still switching his tail when last seen).

In other news, Wilbur and Eloise are perfecting their technique in Synchronized Sleeping for an upcoming competition. Everyone at HQ is confident they’ll bring home the gold medal.


Carl became interested while watching Eloise and Wilbur and has begun practicing with Eloise for next year’s competition.


The resident poodle, Charles Varnado Esq., has requested a transfer of quarters.



“I really think I’ve reached my limit. That young whippersnapper, Wilbur, has literally moved in with me. How much should a poodle have to endure?”

Well, that’s it for this week’s report. Join us next week as the triplets and tuxedo celebrate their eight-week birthdays and make their plans for the future.

Staff has ordered a large supply of tissues.

"The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God" (Psalm 104:21 NRSV)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Unforseen

It ought not to happen, especially in my yard. But here for the second year in a row, an amaryllis blooms. And not just one, but two.




You’re supposed to winter over the bulbs, not bury them in the ground, and forget about them as I’ve done. But, given my life, I know that if I put them somewhere over the winter, I’ll likely forget where they are. So for several years now, I’ve taken the bulbs forced into bloom at Christmas, planted them in the spring and only hoped for future blooms. Last year, when bright red petals unfurled, I thought that was it. A onetime only thing.

Now, two Christmases of bulbs are bursting with color and life, loaded with blooms.

And Lucy hasn’t done anything to them but break a few leaves.

The word grace comes to mind.

I’ve spent a lot of time gardening only to have a drought hit and suck the life out of my plants or worse yet have them suffer from that killer disease, Labrador-itis. These unexpected gorgeous blooms make up for the Lucy eaten tulip bulbs, the wilt blighted peonies, and the giant hole where the butterfly attracting lantana used to be.

In life, we invest ourselves in some area, and after a time, there may seem to be no fruit. Then seemingly, out of nowhere we find the return in an unexpected place just like the amaryllis.

It’s all grace.

I sometimes think that God allows these kinds of things to remind us to be faithful, but also to remember it’s only God who brings the increase.

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (I Corinthians 3:7)

I’m going out to the patio now to enjoy these trumpeting blossoms. I can almost hear them announcing, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song…” (Psalm 98:4).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Sheep Story

“We are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3).


This little Italian figurine was originally  part of an old crèche set. Long seperated from its counterparts, it was given to me some time ago by a precious friend. Intended to be used at Christmas, I leave it out all year because as God’s lamb, it makes me think of my Good Shepherd.

The first year we home schooled, we read Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates, which became one of my all time favorites. In home school, the world seemed to open up not only for my children, but for me as well. I can only pray my children have learned even half as much as I have. Mountain Born was but one example of many books through which God spoke.

A Newbery honor book for 1944, Mountain Born is the story of Peter, a young boy who grows up on a mountain sheep farm learning to be a shepherd. Benji, a wise old shepherd and Peter’s best friend, teaches him.

Elizabeth Yates was raised on a farm and knows her subject well. This book evoked the response from my kids that became all too common when reading a sweet book like this one.

“Oh, Mama’s going to cry again.”

In the story, when the sheep had been attacked by wolves, “Benji moved in among the flock, talking to them, reaching out his hands on either side to comfort and allay. Benji’s slow tones spread assurance to the flock and gradually they became calm.”

I thought of Jesus as He comes to us extending His hand in comfort.

Peter had a coat made for himself from the wool of His cosset, then after her death, her lamb became lost on the mountain. Yet, when she caught the scent of her mother’s wool in Peter’s coat, she found her way back to him and home.

Jesus took the coat of humanity so that we might be found, so that we might come home to Him.

The only thing I know about raising sheep is what I’ve learned from people like Elizabeth Yates. But, the more I learn, the more I realize the weight of the scriptural symbolism of sheep.

And the more I appreciate, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Seashell and You



I have this fascination with seashells.


I think it started when I learned many years ago while teaching a class on baptism that the shell is a symbol of baptism--perhaps taken from pictures of John the Baptist pouring water over Jesus from a scallop shell. The evening I taught the class, I placed in each attendees hand a thin ridged still sandy crater to carry home as reminder that in baptism, they were claimed by God.

But there is this other thing that draws me to shells: It’s that each is like a snowflake, one of a kind. As I scoop them up from an encroaching tide, I study their various colors, and markings. None are alike. Even shells from the same kind of mollusks are singular in appearance.Though some might be tempted to throw back the ones with obvious flaws, I like them better. One with broken edges, another with weather worn creases, and still another with mottled color all scream imperfection, but they are still beautiful. For all their blemishes, they have endured to wash up on this shore.

I spot only a fragment of a much larger shell, broken and etched by a thousand high tides, and I think I like it best. A thousand ups and downs, ins and outs, suns and moons, and yet it has persisted to takes its place in my sack of treasures.

Shells remind me that God sees our imperfection, our flaws, our brokenness, our holes clean through, and yet He has claimed us in baptism. We are his. Shells teach me of the great beauty in persisting, and enduring through many changing seasons. Shells speak of our unique place in God’s purposes. “If you don’t do you, God’s plan is incomplete, because you’re the only one who can do you,” McNair Wilson says.

If I could, I’d send each of you a cockle shell from my bounty. You could place it on your nightstand, and every morning when you got up, you could remember that in all the fragmentation of your life, you are claimed by God. He has created you uniquely. He knows. He sees. He loves. You are His beautiful child.

“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel. ‘ Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you…For I am the lord, your God, the holy One of Israel, your Savior…” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blessed

200 rads of radiation then this:



Another 200 flesh piercing rads and this:



After still more of the cell annihilating beam, an afternoon here:


In between the hardness of the treatment is the beauty of his hand.

We’ve been in awe of God’s provision to us during this difficult time. What loomed on the horizon as bleakness and desolation, God has turned into blessing as we absorb the balm of his beauteous handiwork.

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed” (Isaiah 55:12-13).

We braced ourselves for the thornbush, but God has given us the evergreen pines. We stocked up with tweezers, antiseptic, and bandages for all the briers coming our way, but instead the myrtle bloomed at our front door and we’ve collected bouquets, which have filled our lives with the fragrance of his love.

And in this moment, we acknowledge that it all flows from his hand. His gracious, caring hand.

We give thanks in the midst of this fight with cancer for God’s grace to us.

We are blessed.

And just for a laugh, as I went to take a couple of these pictures, God sent this fellow to amble all the way to the beach with me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hope On


Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all

And sweetest in the gale is heard.

Emily Dickinson

I love this quote

I think of it when I’ve interceded long, and there’s still no change. Not even a small one.

“…never stops at all.”

I think of it when winds are howling, and shutters are flapping against the windows.

“…sweetest in the gale is heard.”

St. Paul said in Romans 5:5: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

If we cling to hope, we will not be disappointed, for hope is the thing that carries us, keeps our eyes lifted up, and propels us into the future. The gentle Holy Spirit instills hope, resilient and strong born of the Father's great love.

“Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:12)”

I am a prisoner of hope. Thankful to be walled in by its bright constraints and protected by walls formed of God’s promises. Blessed by its feathered comfort, I rest. I am still in hope.

May Hope be yours today.

Friday, May 6, 2011

On Being a Mom and a Few Tears

I’ve been raking through dozens of family photo albums looking for pictures to include in my daughter’s senior collage.

I look wistfully at the four by six memories in my hand—a happy faced, blond girl as she peeks out of a pink slide tunnel, sniffs a peony, sits in her desk on the first day of home school, models her first ballet leotard, and looks angelic in her costume for a Christmas pageant. And of course, the one that really gets me—the baby in the lamb suit.




So many images, which take me back to days that I’d like to step into a time machine and relive.

So many.

But, alas, I cannot.

This mothering thing is hard. Holding on. Letting go. Holding on. Letting go. Letting go.

Tomorrow she has her final ballet recital. She’ll slip on those Pointe shoes and fly across the stage right into the dreams of tomorrow. And I’ll be there to savor every microsecond of time I still have with her.

Then in a couple of weeks, the really big event. The mortarboard, the diploma, and a ticket to a school where she’ll pursue a degree in psychology.

Letting go.

When she was younger, I thought myself so wise in keeping this day in mind. I knew it would come. If I was aware, I thought, it wouldn’t take me by surprise.

Silly me.

I don’t know how any mother prepares to send off the ones she’s brought into the world except to lay them in the arms of Jesus. And I do.

So with one already flown the nest last year, and this one right behind him, I’m getting ready for a big cry.

In fact, I’m crying a little now. But it’s okay. This is what’s supposed to happen. This is the order. This is what God had in mind when he entrusted these precious ones to us.

Years ago, before I married my husband, God gave me this verse: “He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children”(Psalm 113:9). Such a far off dream at the time. And even after we were married, much stood in the way of ever having children. But thanks to God, many prayers, and skilled doctors, God fulfilled his promise to me.

For only a few moments longer now, I have her here with me, and though the tears may course down my cheeks, the joy will be in my heart, because I am so blessed.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

Photo Stylized Portraiture

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May 5

The word of God that came to Jehoshaphat seemed almost unbelievable. Israel was to march out to meet the expansive looming enemy and God would fight the battle for them. “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s" (2 Chronicles 20:15).


After hearing this word from God, Jehoshaphat fell on his face before the Lord and as the people of Israel joined him, a few Levites began to rise up in song, their voices ever increasing in strength and volume.

When the time came to march, Jehoshaphat selected those who would praise and sing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever (2 Chronicles 20:21). And as the sound of their thunderous praise resounded in the heavens, the Lord did exactly what he said he would do. “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes…” When the Israelites arrived at the Desert of Tekoa, “…they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.”

In my copy of Streams in the Desert, I have a note by the May 5th devotional, which focuses on a verse from 2 Chronicles. The note simply says, “8 weeks, 3 days, Michelle prays.”

In early 1999, I’d been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress for several months because of a trauma in my life. At one point, I’d almost stopped eating. My sister who had of course been very concerned about me had a dream one night. In it, I came to her and said, “I’ve had a talk with Jesus, and in about eight weeks I’m going to be all right.”

My sister relayed the dream to me, and I looked at my calendar. In about eight weeks from the time she had the dream, I was going to be at a conference associated with a remarkable move of God in this country. I believed with all my heart that God was speaking through the dream.

I kept a countdown calendar, as I looked forward to whatever it was God would do.

To shorten this story, on May 5, eight weeks and three days from the date of the dream, I attended a meeting where a woman named Michelle who had no knowledge of my circumstances, stepped forward and began to pray over me. Her prayer had nothing to do with the trauma I’d suffered, the fears I faced, or the despair that lurked. Her prayer called me forward--forward into my future with God. Forward into new areas of ministry. Forward into hope. And, just like the Levites, I began to praise him in a LOUD voice for all that he was doing and would do. I didn’t feel any different, but I knew in my heart that things were different.

I will always remember the line in the sand God drew that day. Sure enough, time would tell that the worst was already behind me. And all of what was prayed over me came to pass. In fact, the writing I do now is in part due to the prayers offered that day.

So every year, as I read the devotion on May 5, I remember how God rescued me from what was one of the fiercest battles of my life. And just like Jehoshaphat and the children of Israel, he fought the battle for me.

I remember the battle is won in praise.

“Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever.”

If you’re facing a battle today, you might take the time to read all of 2 Chronicles 20. I believe you’ll find powerful encouragement and instruction.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Stormy Night with the Kittens, a One Ringing Bell News Update

This is a continuing series. If you're just joining us, you may click on the One Ringing Bell News Update tab in the labels and find the other posts, or read several listed in the favorites to the right.

RINGING BELL HEADQUARTERS—Just like many who live in the South, earlier this week we here at Headquarters had to flee to a safe refuge as approaching storms threatened. Ringing Bell Headquarters is located in a community almost leveled by tornados several decades ago, so warning sirens dot the landscape throughout our town.

As warning horns blasted, staff members scurried to assemble kittens.

“Where’s Eloise?” one crew person cried with head stuck under the sofa.

“Here she is,” another replied grabbing her from behind the woodstove.

Finally, when all kittens were collected and canines retrieved, the entire group made tracks to a downstairs hall and bathroom to await the all clear signal.

Lucy immediately made herself at home on a staff member’s palette.

“This is nice,” she said. “Are we sleeping like this every night?”

Belle chimed in, “Yeah, the brood and I like the coziness of these arrangements.”


“This is an emergency relocation, only,” a staff member instructed.

“Too bad,” Lucy said longingly as she rested her head on someone’s foot.

Kittens scampered unaware of any problem.

Charles Varnado, Esq. spent most of his time underneath the covers as he still suffers the effects of a traumatic thunderstorm he endured in his puppyhood.

Misty and Isabelle, in an adjacent room, pounded on the door. “Why does SHE get to be with staff members, and we’re stuck in the bedroom?”

“Kittens need her,” a staff member yelled back. Misty and Isabelle still nurse a grudge against Belle and their loud grumbling was heard the entire duration of the evening.

The threat lasted over an hour, but finally all emerged unharmed.

However, all of us here at Ringing Bell are mindful of the heartache suffered elsewhere in our land and remember them in our prayers.

To add to this week’s drama, Staff members arose one morning and were unable to locate the kittens. Every possible kitten hiding place was checked to no avail. It seemed they’d vanished. As fears rose about the little ones, and all sat pondering what could have happened, a staff member asked, “Could they possibly be inside the sofa?”

The sofa in question is a sleeper with no access from underneath. “How?” Another member asked.

Very, very carefully, Staff disassembled the couch, took off slipcover and pillows, and then slowly pulled the sleeper bed out. They were ever alert for even one mew in case they needed to stop so as not to injure the kittens in the sofa mechanism. When the sofa bed was almost extended, kitten feet were spotted hanging from inside the back of the sofa. Evidently, Carl, Eloise, and Sara had followed Wilbur, who all staff members agree is the mastermind of this little escapade and made a nest inside the sofa back. Since then, we’ve noticed an increasing frequency of mews emanating from the interior of the sofa bed.

“Be careful,” everyone says when anyone takes a seat.

The scampering of kitten feet fills the office at Headquarters these days, and we can’t even think of the quickly approaching time when these little boys and girls will head off to their own homes. We’ll need buckets to hold the tears when they go. However, rest assured anyone who takes these little ones home will be fully vetted by the staff here at Headquarters.
kitten tails

under his mama's wing

Belle on one foot and Wilbur on the other
green eyed Belle
a familiar sight at HQ
Looking Up
God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1)

Monday, May 2, 2011

God is With Us


A memorable scene high in the mountains of Montana
Several have contacted me to check on Jerry’s status. He’s now one-third of the way through his cancer treatment plan--thirteen radiation treatments down and twenty-six to go. He’s doing well except for the expected weariness which accompanies this kind of therapy and of course the strain of travel because of the distant location of the medical center.


The theme for this week in the devotional guide I use is, “God is with us.” We have found that to be true. God is with us in the same way Jesus was with Peter when he encouraged him to step out onto the liquid deep and come to him. As long as Peter kept his eyes set on Jesus, he was fine. But the moment he opened the door for fear, well…you know what happened.

Bubble, bubble.

This morning I awoke ruminating on a situation in our family, which seems to have no answer. Don’t’ you just love an irresolvable riddle? When I let this kind of thing take hold of my thoughts, I almost instantaneously start gulping seawater and gasping for air.

I turned to my devotional guide and the Psalm for the week is 121.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber…The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life…

This does not mean that it’s going to be smooth sailing. It means I’m going to have the opportunity as John Greenleaf Whittier said to find “The steps of faith fall on the seeming void and find the rock beneath.”

I must trust for all the painful puzzles in my life.

So, I’m not looking at my feet. I’m not looking at how deep the water is or how far I have to go. I’m not wondering if he’ll catch me if I fall, because I know he will. I’m looking up. I’m keeping my gaze firmly on the One who “watches over my life.” And I trust him not only for my life but for that of my precious husband and all the others whom I love most.

I remember Beth Moore saying in one of her studies something like “If God doesn’t give you what you want, he gives you something better.”

And he does. It may take a while, and it may not look just like we thought it would, but He does.

God is with us.

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