Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dream Summer: Corn

After we left the Gateway Arch, we tried to cover too much ground. Usually we can’t drive the three minutes from our house to the YMCA without our kids getting into some sort of tussle. But, we’d tried to prepare them for a very long trip, and they’d managed their behavior pretty well. Only, we’d pushed them too far. Their little backsides had taken all they could take today, and they were growing more and more like caged animals. We finally landed in Colombia, Missouri much later than we hoped. 

“We want to go swimming,” they cried in unison when they saw the hotel swimming pool. Jerry and I looked at our watches and then at each other. It was 10:00, but it would probably be an easier bedtime all around if these kids got their energy out. So we hit the pool and wound up with a late bedtime.

Bleary eyed, I wandered down to the hotel’s continental breakfast the next morning. As I sipped coffee, I watched several families parade through the hotel lobby to continue their own travels. Every child held a stuffed animal. My kids showed up in the lobby with their own furry companions, Bethany had Daisy, a giant (and I do mean giant) stuffed Labrador and Aaron had Rocky, a black Rottweiler. 

I kind of resented these stuffed dogs. They made me think of a man back home who’d had his pink plastic flamingo stolen from his yard. He began to receive letters from around the country, which included pictures of the flamingo by the Grand Canyon, the flamingo in the Redwood Forest, the flamingo at the Pacific Ocean, etc. You get the picture. The man said he wasn’t mad about his flamingo being stolen; he just didn’t like it the flamingo had been more places than he had. Ditto for me. Stuffed dogs traveled more places in one summer than I’d seen in forty years. Oh, well.

In Kansas City, we made a right turn toward all things north: North Dakota, the North Pole, and the North Star. None of those was on our itinerary that day, or any day. It was just interesting to think about where we’d wind up if we kept passing mile markers.

Aaron and Bethany bored through library books, wild life cards, and Legos. My only hope was the stash would outlast the trip. The scenery north of Kansas City held no interest for them, but Jerry and I –we were mesmerized.




 “Bread Basket,” Jerry said drop jawed.

I eyed the tassels that seemed to go on forever. “Bread Basket,” I echoed as we drove and watched corn.

“Who’d know our entertainment threshold could be this low?” he said.

“Captivated by corn,” I answered.

A farm in North Georgia might be forty hilly acres. Why, that’d be one small patch of the green quilt boasting thousands of acres of corn and other crops in the Missouri River basin. In the Midwest, the table is set for the entire world to come and dine. Farms are like the sea, stretching to the horizon and at the horizon stand the bluffs of the Missouri. It felt at times we were sitting in a trough—a trough of corn.

We wandered into Council Bluffs, Iowa where we’d planned to visit the Western Historic Trails Center. The center featured topographical maps of the Lewis and Clark, California and Oregon Trails. I loved they’d left the prairie around the museum in a natural state then sown it with native wildflowers. The butterflies swarmed almost magically. The museum backed up to the Missouri River at a site where it’s thought Lewis and Clark made a stop. Just a short hike to the location, my brochure said. We were up for it.

No we weren’t.

“I’m hot,” sweaty faced Bethany whined. 

“Me, too,” Aaron said for once agreeing with his sister. 

“I thought you could get your energy out on the hike,” I said checking a sign to see how far we still had to go.

“My legs are prickly,” Bethany continued.

“Let’s go to the pool,” Aaron added.

We never made it to the Missouri. We turned back to the museum, and scanned the exhibits a little too quickly for my taste, but our expiration dates were approaching at lightning speed. When I filled out the field trip form later, I asked what the kids' favorite things were.

"The light up map,” Aaron said. 

“The gift shop,” Bethany added. She’d shown strong shopping tendencies since an early age.    

“And put down there we didn’t like that walk to the river,” Aaron said.

Yeah, I got that part.

I did leave the center with one astounding revelation—the quick and steep rise in elevation from where we were standing then to the top of the Rockies. I still marvel at how the ancient Appalachian mountains of my childhood are mere steppingstones compared to the relatively new Rockies. 

Council Bluffs is so named because of the meeting Lewis and Clark had with the Oto and Missouri people there. Clark wrote their mission was, “to let them know of the change of government, the wishes of our government to cultivate friendship with them, the objects of our journey and to present them with a flag and some small presents.” It was a friendly meeting. 

Also, in Council Bluffs they saw their first badger. In order to share their unusual discovery with President Jefferson, the badger met its demise. It was stuffed, and sent along to the White House with other first time encounters on the exhibition. 

We were about to have a first time encounter ourselves.

“What’s wrong with your swimsuit?” Jerry later questioned.

Most hotels in this part of the country only had indoor pools to accommodate the more inclement winter weather they had most of the year. This particular hotel pool smelled strongly of chlorine and the heating system seemed to be working overtime. Granted, it wasn’t the Ritz, but we thought it’d be fine.

I blinked my chlorine sensitive watering eyes and looked down at my favorite swimsuit, blue with yellow flowers. I’d bought it the summer before when I had cancer. Its color and beauty had cheered me then. Now, the flowers seemed to be losing some of their vigor. 

“Do you think this hot chlorinated water is bleaching our suits?” I asked Jerry.

We discovered when we returned to our room the answer was a resounding yes. All of us were a bleached out, red-eyed sight in the fluorescent bathroom light. Aaron’s red suit was now pink, Jerry’s black a light grey, and Bethany’s plaid had dimmed significantly. I feared if Lewis and Clark had encountered us, they might have thought us anomalies too, and had us stuffed and sent to President Jefferson.

“Ruined,” I said running my hands over the wilted flowers.

“But, it was worth it,” Jerry replied smiling.

I followed his eyes to the kids climbing into bed. They dropped off to sleep in record time.

I made a note in my journal that night of a quote I read earlier in the day from C.S. Lewis’ mentor, George McDonald. “He is not a God that hides himself, but a God who made all that He might reveal himself.”

As I reflected back on the day, I realized that even in the vastness and beauty of corn, God had indeed revealed himself.

From the American King James Version, "The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys also are covered over with corn, they shout for joy, they also sing" (Psalm 65:13).

Lewis and Clark for Kids by Janis Herbert was used as a source for this post.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Glad Reunions

I pause in the journey to reflect a moment more on my last post.

For me, the reading of the story of Sacagawea and her brother’s reunion always evokes wonder.

The image of her dancing when the first of the Shoshones arrive shines in my mind’s eye , then I imagine the awe on her face as she, after such a long separation, encounters her brother, Cameahwait, the Chief.

Glad reunion.

A full hundred years before Sacagawea and Cameahwait reunited, Isaac Watts wrote:
The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets
 Before we reach the heavenly fields, before we reach the heavenly fields,
 Or walk the golden streets, or walk the golden streets. 

Might glad reunion be one of those “sacred sweets”? A foretaste of “heavenly fields.”
 
I remember a couple of my own reunions:

Clutching a bag with one hand and my daughter with the other in a SaƵ Paulo airport, a rain forest away from home, I tried to keep the longing for my husband and son from sending me charging past the Delta sign and dashing onto the plane. Then many hours later riding up that long elevator from the Atlanta terminals into the baggage claim area and seeing my precious ones standing right at the top, waiting…for us.

Then there’s the story of a ruptured friendship of many years healed in moments of tears, apology and forgiveness. Restored. Renewed. Reunion.

I long for other reunions, but some will not be on this earth. Even the anticipation of them, though, is something of a “sacred sweet.” When I meet my mother in heaven, she will be healed of a lifetime of afflictions, and I’ll know her as I've never known her before. I’ll see two babies I’ve lost, one which I held in my hand. How I yearn to hold them again.

Glad reunion.

Two more memorable meetings:

The prodigal and his father, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

 Joseph and his father Jacob, who thought he was long dead, “As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time” (Genesis 46:29).

Laughter and tears all at the same time.

I resume the journey now, but pray the “sacred sweets” of glad reunions for you all in the days ahead, and if you don’t already know it, the joyous embrace of the Father.





Monday, June 27, 2011

Dream Summer: The Gateway

After traveling through miles and miles of farmland in western Kentucky and Southern Illinois, and crossing both the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, we arrived at St. Louis, our first real stop other than just spending the night in a hotel. The gleaming Gateway Arch welcomed us as we drove into the city.


I looked forward to visiting the
Museum of Westward Expansion at the base of the Arch, which features life-sized exhibits of early explorers and pioneers, and various collections related to the early exploration of the west. I’d done a little research on the museum and armed with what I considered to be compelling historical knowledge, I gladly anticipated sharing it with Aaron and Bethany.


But after they ‘d done a little research themselves and discovered a tram would take them to the top of the 630 foot arch, they wanted to go right then.


They always wanted to go.


I, on the other hand, did not. The idea of being in a space no bigger than a closet, called a “capsule,” creeping up the incline to the dizzying arch summit evoked in me both nausea and claustrophobia.


That only left one person to accompany them. “Why don’t you go?” I asked Jerry using my meek voice.


He raised his eyebrows. “You don’t want to go?”


I spoke the truth, as I knew it. “I’ll die if I go.”


He lowered his eyebrows. “I guess that settles it, then.” He looked toward the children. “Come on kids, we’re going to the top.”


The kids bounced “Tigger” style all the way to the ticket counter.


Adoration welled in me for my good sport husband whom I guessed I took advantage of occasionally. On the other hand, if I had to go, I didn’t think my fellow passengers would be too thrilled when my nausea evidenced itself. It really was better this way. As they went off to get in line, I bought postcards in the gift shop, and found a bench outside the museum to sit and wait for my family.


I looked up from some reading and caught the eyes of an elderly man striding toward me. His appearance conveyed country gentlemen--graying hair, mustache, glasses, and clothing from a back issue Orvis catalog. He appeared to be coming for me.


He was.


He eased down in the seat to my right and said, “How are you?”


“I’m fine, just waiting for my family. I’m not much into capsule rides.”


“Me neither,” he said. “Where you headed?”


Man, I wondered as I checked my clothing, what was it about me that spelled tourist? “Montana, but we’re making some detours to cover a Little of the
Lewis and Clark Expedition.”


“Lewis and Clark,” he said looking off into the distance and shaking his head. “Of course,” he pontificated, “Now that was a grand thing.”


I discovered this retired country doctor knew quite a lot about the expedition. We passed the time talking about what I think is the most touching moment accounted for in the whole of Lewis and Clark’s journey.


In November of l804, a man named Toussaint Charbonneau came to the expedition camp at Fort Mandan in what is now North Dakota. Charbonneau, who spoke no English, offered his services. He had two Shoshone wives he thought might be helpful through interpretation to the expedition in future trading. It turned out only one of his wives,
Sacagawea, would travel with them in the spring. Sadly, the Hidatsas had taken her from her tribe in what is now Montana five years before, and Charbonneau had purchased her from them in the early part of l804.


There is some question as to Sacagawea’s role on the expedition. Traditionally it’s been taught she served as guide to the Corp of Discovery, but evidence does not support the idea as much as I’d like. Nevertheless, I still hold to it.


In August of that same year Lewis, who had gone ahead of the rest of the expedition to seek information as to a pass through the Rocky Mountains to the west, brought the Chief of the Shoshones named Cameahwait back to meet Clark. When the first of the Shoshones arrived at the camp, Sacagawea recognized them as her nation and in Lewis’ words “danced for the joyful sight . . .”


But the best was yet to come.


“Did you know,” the doctor said, “Chief Cameahwait was actually the brother of Sacagawea?”


“I know,” I replied. “I read about it this past year. Who could have imagined such a thing?”


His sister, cruelly kidnapped so many years before, reunited with her brother and him the chief of her tribe. Lewis wrote, “...the meeting of those people was really affecting . . .” In that vast country those two people found each other again.



“Amazing, isn’t it?” my companion said.


“I’ll say.” As we talked of a reunion that happened almost 200 years ago, my children and husband were, I later learned, standing at the top of the arch taking in the vistas of twenty first century St. Louis—busy docks along the Mississippi and the sparkling skyline of the city.



When they returned, the doctor and I reluctantly parted, he to his family, and I to mine to make our way through the Westward Expansion Museum. My kids each chose their favorite exhibit with which to have a picture: Aaron posed in front of the St. Louis made Hawken rifle, Bethany grimaced in front of the stuffed muskrat exhibit. Jerry and I chose the very touristy stuffed buffalo. Eager to get a glimpse of a buffalo, this was as good as it got this early in the trip. When we’d finally seen enough, we went outside to stroll along the Mississippi.



On May l4, l804, William Clark and the forty-five man Corp of Discovery set out from Camp Dubois, not too far from where we were standing. In a keelboat and two pirogues they began what is still one of the most daunting adventures ever attempted. Standing by the Mississippi as the last of the sun’s rays fell that evening, I felt something of their excitement, and turned west once more with great anticipation to other rendezvous God might have for us.


In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:7).


Lewis and Clark for Kids by Janis Herbert and
http://lewis-clark.org were used as sources in this post.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dream Summer: Setting Forth

A young man in an SUV gave me a big grin and a thumbs up sign as he pulled up on the passenger side of our converted van.
“What?” I thought.
Then I remembered. It probably wasn’t everyday an Atlanta driver saw a giant “Montana or bust” sign in the rear window of a recreational vehicle just outside the 285 perimeter. I waved and settled back in my seat.
A Handcrafted Mardon Originals Lewis and Clark Trail Map
“We set forth under a gentle breeze . . .,” William Clark penned to describe the beginning of the Lewis and Clark expedition. For me, my husband, Jerry, children Aaron, and Bethany, our expedition began under a hot Georgia sun.
No breeze, but plenty of anticipation to carry us along.
We’d left in the early afternoon. It would have been sooner, but I bet Lewis and Clark didn’t have to turn back three times to make sure they didn’t forget to take out the trash, leave the iron on or the sink faucet dripping. Then there was the matter of seven-year-old Bethany’s flip-flops, or should I say one of her flip-flops.
“Where did you last have it?” I asked her as I rummaged through the laundry room.
She shrugged.
We could never find her footwear mostly because she rarely wore shoes and didn’t ever know where she’d last taken them off. Now we had one flip-flop and not the other—not an uncommon occurrence. I turned to see if it was under the mop bucket as she headed for the den.
“I found it,” Bethany called.
Under the sofa, of course. Why hadn’t I searched there first?
At last, we’d loaded into the bulging van, and backed out of the driveway. The June sun bore down on us as we turned west. I knew we’d be chasing the setting sun for days before we reached our destination.
This trip would be a dream come true for Jerry and me. I seem to remember Dick and Jane doing this, or maybe it was the Ricardos and the Mertzs. Somewhere in my life and Jerry’s life, the seed had been planted to see the country by automobile. A preaching engagement in Montana for my pastor husband had the potential to be the open door for us to realize this dream. Both of us also had ministry opportunities this summer in a small town north of Boston, Massachusetts. As these invitations presented themselves over the past year, our hopes began to rise that we might really be able to make this trip.
But, as arrangements started coming together, there’d been a problem—a big one.
My mother had a fall in February and decided to move to a rehabilitation center in my town. The original expectation for eight weeks in the rehab center had now stretched to months. My sister had cared for my mom for many years when she’d lived in her town, but now was more than sixty miles away. I didn’t want her to take on the task again especially from such a distance. Mom had not made much progress in the five months she’d been in the rehab center, for it seemed just as she neared going home there was another setback, which had included several weeklong hospital stays. We’d visited her every day since she’d moved to the center, but I struggled as she struggled knowing she longed for normalcy again in her life. Her life was anything but normal. I wondered how we could leave her.
I shared my concern with others, and soon an army of kind friends and church members came forth to see to my mother’s care during our absence. My sister graciously declared one hundred and twenty mile round trips were no problem. Following much prayer and discussion, we dared to start making plans.
 So, after days of packing, here we were, in the van, rolling toward weeks of we didn’t know exactly what—the unknown. Hadn’t the mystery of the unknown lured countless others toward adventure? Now we followed in their footsteps, wagon wheels, and canoe wakes.
I turned and scanned the back of the van where books were crammed into every possible crevice and shelf. We opted not to have electronics entertain the kids, and to that end, we ransacked garage sales and the local library to fill our book coffers. To supplement his wide array of reptile and wildlife books, nine-year-old Aaron also brought Legos and his animal fact cards to sort and study. Bethany loaded up on books about babysitters and children who’d lived in boxcars.
We were smack in the middle of two years of American history in home school, so we looked to include historical sites that might be of interest, especially the Lewis and Clark expedition, as it approached its two hundredth anniversary. Having the ability to plan the trip to the mile thanks to computer technology, we still wanted to allow for deviation if we saw something interesting.
Only a year earlier I was diagnosed with breast cancer for which I’d had multiple tests and surgeries. Added to the physical challenges was the emotional trauma of processing the turmoil that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Then even before I was released from the doctors, my mother fell.
 Out of the blender of difficulty, we’d emerged to stand on the brink of this dream. I felt like a drowning person who’d been rescued, but after I’d started breathing again, I wondered for what I’d been saved. I had the distinct impression several years earlier that God was calling me to write. I’d always written. Since I was eight, I filled up journals with my musings. But this was something different and in response to it, I’d written two manuscripts of devotional books and some other creative nonfiction. But so far, not much had happened with it. No one but a few friends and family had ever even seen these writings. I wondered if God might use this trip to clarify this calling.
As best I could tell, God had provided all we needed to take this trip as a family: the vehicle on loan from my dad, the financial resources, and so many folks to take care of my mom. I knew this could potentially be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I knew this because Aaron and Bethany were seeing as children what I was about to see for the first time as an adult. I wanted every minute to count.
These would be treasured days.
From The Message:
And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel; They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain! God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and at the last turn—Zion! God in full view! (Psalm 84:5-7)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dream Summer

Ten years ago tomorrow, in 2001, our home schooling family set forth on a six-week journey by car which took us over 7,000 miles across this country. We couldn’t have known at the outset that in just a few short weeks on September 11, our world would change forever, and that we were seeing this country through a lens in which it would never be seen again. We embarked with a joyous abandon and freedom, which would soon be challenged when four aeronautical spears pierced the heart of America.

In the years since, I’ve written and rewritten a narrative of that journey called “Dream Summer.” Over the course of the next few months, I hope to share excerpts with One Ringing Bell Readers several days a week as well as continue posting on other matters God may place on my heart.

Come with our family and rediscover the beauty of America. Meet her people, explore her land, and gain new historical insight. Experience how God speaks his dreams into our lives through everyday circumstances. My prayer is that as you read this travel memoir, you’ll find joy even in the midst of the serious threats and complexities of living in twenty-first century America, and that you’ll find renewed hope for family and country. 


As we observe the ten-year marker of the event that left an indelible stain which remains a backdrop to our lives today, join us as we remember the dreams God planted in our hearts during those precious days on the eve of 911--what will forever be our “Dream Summer.”

I invite you to share this with others by passing along the URL on social networking sites or email. Look for the “Dream Summer” label to follow the series.

I have my bag packed, and I’m ready to go.


“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5).



Thursday, June 23, 2011

Love Covers

I learned of a conversation recently where a parent was engaging a teenager about an issue in the teen’s life on which they held differing opinions. The child who’d struggled with faith issues said to the parent, “I want to be very angry with you, and push you away, but I can’t. You’ve been good parents, and I know you love me so much.”

When I heard this, a Bible verse, which appears twice in different forms, came to mind.

First from Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs,” and from I Peter 4:8,”Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

To make sure I understood this, I looked up the word cover from the Proverbs text in the Hebrew. It means clothe, conceal, hide, overwhelm. For the I Peter text, I sought out the Greek word, which also means cover or hide.

Eugene Peterson translates the Proverbs verse this way, “Hatred starts fights, but love pulls a quilt over the bickering.”

A wedding ring quilt made by Mr. Joe Sanders for Jerry and me when we were married
And when I turned to I Peter, I found these words in The Message, “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.”

It bears repeating, “Love makes up for practically anything.”

In matters of the heart, when the rift runs deep, love on. Despite the heartache, despite the differences and the seemingly impossible to resolve dispute, keep loving. Love “…always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” I Corinthians 13:7-8).

Of course, our love can fail, but God’s love never does.

One dark Friday, on a Judean hillside, God overwhelmed our sins through the death of his Son. On that day love didn’t just make up “…for practically anything,” it made up for everything.

Once and for all, love covered.

If you’re in the middle of dissension today, love on, for through you God wants to overwhelm, cover, and hide whatever it is that’s causing the trouble.

Repeat often, “Love covers.”

I do.

(I feel I need to add a disclaimer here, loving doesn't mean staying in abusive situations)

Monday, June 20, 2011

A One Ringing Bell News Update: Sara's New Home

RINGING BELL HEADQUARTERS—With the final adoption papers signed, sweet Sara became the first kitten to launch on Saturday. The animals at her new home include another kitten and a cat friendly golden retriever. Ron and Judy, her staff, have a full complement of associates to assist them with Sara’s adjustment this summer as they have their daughter Leicia's family visiting from afar. A news blurb just in reports her doing well and enjoying her circumstances. Though many tears were shed at HQ, especially by one senior staff member, we all (with the notable exception of upstairs cats, Isabelle and Misty) wish her well, and rejoice over her newfound nest. We look forward to progress reports, which we’ll pass along to our readers.


Upon Sara’s leaving, Aunt Lucy the lab became grief struck and consoled herself by chewing up the bed of Charles the poodle.

“Why can’t you chew up your own bed?” Charles asked.

“Then I wouldn’t have any place to sleep,” Lucy responded in a matter-of-fact way.

Parched from the oppressing heat we’ve had here at headquarters, Lucy has found a new spring of refreshment. The backyard birds were unavailable for comment, but traces of a white substance were found on Lucy’s favorite chew toy. We can only conjecture what the message might be.

In other news, staff reports indicate that Carl is having quite a problem in dealing with tension. One of our crew indicated Carl is ripe for stress management classes and the sooner the better. Though unsettling, we pass along recent photos.

Actually, Wilbur appears a little undone as well.


That’s it for this update, but check in with us often for more on the triplets and tuxedo you’ve come to know and love.

Have a Great Life Sara!!

“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my Kind and my God “(Psalm 84:3).
Senior staff member with kittens before Sara's departure

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Father's Gift

This little boy in chalk dusted overalls was born just months before the event we historically see as the beginning of the Great Depression.

His early childhood bridged some of the darkest years our nation has ever known. His mother gave birth to seven children before his arrival, and buried four of them at various ages.

The son of a sharecropper, this boy’s meals often consisted of a biscuit for breakfast, a biscuit for lunch and whatever the family’s farming provided for supper (as Southerners have called the evening meal).

He’d attend a schoolhouse with several grades in one room and drew close to a pot-bellied stove to keep warm in the winter.

Just out of high school, he imagined his life would be spent working in the local textile mill, but circumstances led to his joining the Air Force during the Korean Conflict. Later offered officer’s training, he declined because he was home sick.

On his homecoming, he learned about the GI Bill. It’d be hard with a family to support, but for years he worked full time at the textile mill and went to college.

 
I’d be there to stand with my dad as we had our picture made just after he received his college diploma. I was four, and it is one of my few early memories, but I recall a sunny day and the green, grassy slopes surrounding the community college nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

My dad eventually became a business man and provided the financial resources for both my sister and me to attend college. I am grateful for the sacrifices he made and the example of perseverance in the midst of hardship he has established.

A Sunday school teacher for dozens of years, he has now retired and handed the torch to someone else. Sometimes the memories grow as faded as the photographs, but on my last birthday, I discovered some precious ones remain, as my dad passed another lesson on to me.

 
I knew it would be an uneventful birthday, because I was out of state with Jerry while he was having his radiation treatment. We’d already planned to celebrate as a family when we returned, so, Jerry and I tried to make the best of an odd sort of day. As we sat down for lunch, I noticed a cell phone message from my dad. I pressed play:

“Beverly, it’s ten o’clock on a Sunday morning. And so many years ago, you were born on a Sunday morning about six-thirty. And I called to wish you a Happy Birthday, today.”

As the tears rolled, I pressed play again and let Jerry listen.

“How many Dads remember which day of the week their children are born?” Jerry asked.

“I’d almost forgotten I was born on a Sunday.” The only reason I ever remember at all is the little poem about birthdays. I liked my day. “Sunday’s child is full of grace…”

How many Dads would remember? I don’t know, but mine does. He remembers a Sunday morning baby just stirring to the world, and that she weighed ten pounds and eight ounces and dwarfed all the other infants in the nursery. He remembers and that gift makes my birthday so many years later a very special one.

I’m making a note to remember for my own children’s sake—to tell them the stories that have shaped their lives. The details matter, even when they grow older and have children of their own.

His caring gives me a greater understanding of my Heavenly Father, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:17-18).

God remembers and unlike our finite earthly fathers are able to do, he is always thinking of us. Nonstop. And for those who are without Fathers for some reason, that is good news.

And with that in mind, no matter the circumstances concerning your earthly father, remember God the Father has his eye on you. May your Father’s Day be blessed.

And, Happy Father’s Day Dad!!



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Sweetest Thing

Former Atlantan Elizabeth Musser, one of my favorite authors, is back in the States from France for two weeks to launch her new novel The Sweetest Thing. Elizabeth and her husband who have been missionaries in France for many years are currently on assignment overseeing missionaries throughout Europe.

I first met Elizabeth a couple of years ago in Minneapolis at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference and once more had the privilege of hearing her speak last night at The Atlanta History Center.

Though I’ve just purchased her newest novel, I understand it’s a friendship story set in the Great Depression of two girls who are opposite in almost every way. From the back cover copy, “With her endearing characters and poignant storytelling, Atlanta native Elizabeth Musser vividly re-creates the charm of her beloved city amid the poverty and plenty that shaped the 1930s.” Elizabeth incorporates some of her personal family history by using her just discovered grandmother’s journals from the 1930’s to help tell the story.

Event attendees were just beginning to trickle in last night when I arrived in order to purchase a book. Always gracious, Elizabeth answered several writing questions I had. I was glad for the few moments alone with her early on, because later after her speech before a full house, the book signing line wended long.

I’m always impressed by Elizabeth’s ability to walk between two worlds. God uses her to encourage those who are ministering to prostitutes and refugees in cities throughout Europe and also to speak eloquently before an audience in the elite Buckhead area of Atlanta. Always faithful to spread the word, she concluded with a question last night drawn from her story of “poverty and plenty.”

“What fills you up?” she asked.

Then she read a few verses from Matthew 6:24-35, which includes, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Can’t wait to read The Sweetest Thing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Clouds are Dust

The other evening Jerry and I went walking on the beach as the golden orb dropped to the west. The clouds piled high in front of us reflected on the glistening sand left from an ebbing tide.



I snapped and snapped in the few minutes we had before the pinks, purples, blues and grays faded to black.

How many elements had to come together to create this momentary spectacle of beauty?

The sun setting at just the right time, the clouds in the just-so position, the tide out at such a level as to serve as a mirror.

A lot.

In a sermon by C. H. Spurgeon on a text from Nahum 1:3, “…the clouds are the dust of his feet,” he points out that “Great things with us are little things with God.”

All this magnificent beauty is but a little thing for God to perform. Translated to my life, the seemingly huge irresolvable conflicts, and giant what-ifs are no big deal for God.

Clouds are dust. A little bit louder. CLOUDS ARE DUST.

I may wallpaper my office with these photos.

Thank you God for choreographing this glorious moment.


When my friend and extraordinary photographer, Bunny, saw these photos, she tweaked the exposure on the one above. I share her rendition below. Love it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

From the Water's Edge

A few days ago, Jerry and I had the opportunity to worship with other believers on the beach. As the group sang praises to God, I was aware of how the music drifted out in all directions.

A few coast visitors passing by stopped and joined us. But as Pastors Brett and Hollie prayed and brought a meaningful devotion from John 21, I have to admit, I was a little distracted. Right in front of me, several little fellows ages three and up were busy building something.


I couldn’t figure out what, though.


They gathered sticks from the shore and thoughtfully arranged them by plunging them deep into the sand. When they depleted their driftwood supply, one of them would run back to the water’s edge and fetch back more of the broken reeds. The formation became quite large in its breadth nearly touching the feet and rears of those sitting around. Still, I didn’t know what they were doing.

After the service concluded, I couldn’t stand it. I had to ask.

“You've worked so hard, and I love your creation here, but what are you making?” I asked one of the construction foremen.

He peered at me as if the answer was the most obvious thing in the world and said with great sincerity, “We’re building a family.”

As I surveyed the group gathered by the ocean, I knew he was right. We were building a family. For the church we were with had drawn several members into their fold through these beach outreaches over the past year. Just as the tribe of stick figures harvested from the waters’ border ever increased, so had the number of believers gathered from the fringes of the sea.

Words read from John 21 just moments earlier came to mind. Jesus had asked the disciples if they’d caught any fish. They hadn’t and he instructed them to, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish’” (John 21:6).

With bare feet and windblown hair, this precious group of believers was casting their nets and building a family.

I promised one of the little guys, I’d send him a picture of his work. So here it is, for him and the entire world to see.

I wonder if we all might ask ourselves how we, too, might help build God’s family.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Beauty Break

I've been endlessly editing my manuscript, "Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees" trying to get it back to the publisher in a timely way. I thought like me, you might could use a beauty break. So, today I share some scriptures and a few photos I made on a camera safari.


He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11


And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. Psalm 90:17


Honor and majesty are before Him. Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Psalm 96:6


May his beauty be upon you today as you walk with God. Many Blessings to you, Bev

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Postcard from the Last Treatments


Greetings from this Sunny Clime!
Here we are counting down 4-3-2-1 and then we’re finished with radiation! Jerry and I often discuss how at times it seemed like we’d never be done, and yet in another way, the time has flown. Oh, how grateful we are.

We pause now to give thanks for God’s abundant provision, the use of a friend’s condominium in the treatment center area, unexpected gift cards in the mail, another friend who provided many meals and for much love and encouragement from our church and family.

We’re just days away now from turning a page.

Yet we linger here for we’re so aware of the silver lining in what have seemed almost constant storm clouds for almost a year. God’s love and mercy seem to envelop us, and we stand in his presence full of gratitude for his Grace. We’re thankful for some very special relationships we’ve developed because of Jerry having this treatment, which I hope, will continue past the duration of the treatment.

When we’re finished, there will be other challenges. But we rest confident in the words he gave us when we started this journey, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And remain confident that God is using and will use this time in ways we cannot even imagine.

P.S. If it seems like I just wrote something like this a few days ago, I did. I just can't stop expressing my thanks to God for all he's doing.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Not Good Enough and Grace

The email has rested lonely, ignored in my inbox for several days now. My excuses have been myriad.


“I’ve got the graduation to get ready for.”

“I have company coming.”

“I’m distracted.”

But the real reason I wouldn’t open the edits sent to me for review by the publisher is that if I deal with them, it moves the book forward. And I’m terrified of moving the project forward, of getting it out there, of people actually reading it.

The words, Not. Good. Enough. cycle in my brain as they often have before. I wish it were not so, but this is the Achilles heel. One of the things I battle.

Then yesterday, I happened to see an archived post with an intriguing lead, “when you wonder if what you create is any good” show up on Ann Voskamp’s most recent post. I took the bait and clicked.

“…it’s His Grace that makes Good and Right and yes, makes Perfect,” she writes.

Yes, his Grace.

I read and reread.

Another author has penned, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

And so trusting not in what I can do by myself, but trusting His Word and embracing His Grace, I gathered my courage yesterday, opened the email and began to work through the changes. Quite by accident, I scrolled to the end of the manuscript and happened to catch a note left there by the editor.

I found an affirming, uplifting, validating message.

I press on now, thankful for the gracious words from the editor, but clinging to the Word of God.

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