Tuesday, May 26, 2015

One Ringing Bell Top Posts: On the prairie with Laura Ingalls Wilder

As promised, we begin a recap of One Ringing Bell top posts. This piece is from a series entitled Dream Summer from our family's pre 911 trip across this country (7,000 miles covered). For more click on the Dream Summers label.

I kept noticing on the South Dakota map a notation that read, “Little Town on the Prairie.” It was in De Smet, and I remembered that as being the setting for several of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. So we made an unplanned detour, which turned out to be a real jackpot.

 The people of De Smet take pride in this piece of their history. On Charles and Caroline Ingalls' homestead where Laura spent a portion of her childhood, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society has recreated an authentic homestead, barn, and schoolhouse. Our family was up for wagon rides, playing in the barn, and running through the prairie. Bethany, our gift shop queen, bought a bonnet and apron hand made by the women in De Smet.

We boarded one of the wagons for a  ride through the prairie to the school house moved there to mimic the one Laura taught in when just a teenager. Written on the chalkboard was a quote from Laura, “It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with the simple pleasures and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.”

I’ve often thought of that line and the story of the winter the Ingalls spent in town which Laura captured in the book The Long Winter. Snow upon snow kept the train from getting through to De Smet with supplies and the family lived off brown bread alone for nearly two months. Along with the rest of the town, they were close to starving, but thankfully the train made it just in time.

I looked out over the homestead and imagined myself Laura, a tiny girl in a vast prairie. I could see how she could love it. The prairie, just as all God has made, has its own charm. 

Charles and Caroline spent their latter years in town at a house, which Charles built in l887. Laura, of course, met and married Almanzo Wilder and moved to Mansfield, Missouri. All this talk of the Little House adventures made me want to know and see more. I looked at the map to see how far out of the way Mansfield, Missouri was. Not too far. So for our final stop on the way home, we plotted the path from De Smet to Mansfield. On our way, the children and I tried to imagine making this trip in a covered wagon with a little girl.

It was in Mansfield that Laura began to put down her experiences growing up. Laura’s first Little House book, Little House in the Big Woods, was published in 1932, and followed by many others in the series, all written in Mansfield. In the museum adjacent to the house I found it fascinating that they have original manuscripts for some of the books, written long hand in pencil on nickel tablets. Also in the museum are items that traveled from De Smet to Mansfield: the writing desk, which for all of Laura’s readers is so familiar as the place where she temporarily lost her precious money for the house in Mansfield. Also, a quilt, a cupboard and of course, Pa’s fiddle. Her house is so beautifully preserved, I felt almost like an intruder as it seemed that at any moment she might come through a doorway.

As much as I love home and longed to return there, I wanted to linger in Mansfield and savor this time--remember the way the rooms looked and the grain of the wood on the writing desk. Over the next year in homeschool, we’d try to read all of the Little House Books set in the places where we’d been.

We recalled what it felt like to run through the prairie, to ride in the wagon, to play in the barn and  just  how far it was from De Smet To Mansfield. We’d remember what it was like to sit on the porch of the Little House on Rocky Ridge and we’d often thank God for the life of a brave little girl named Laura.

Laura made a note in her Bible of several Bible chapters which were especially meaningful to her. 

From Psalm 48, "Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise..."

RELATED: If you need a word of encouragement in your wilderness

ALSO, other Dream Summer posts

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

One Ringing Bell News Update, MISSING

Just when we were about to begin posting a recap of our top posts, we had a little drama. So by popular demand, we decided to write a long over due One Ringing Bell news update.
RINGING BELL HEADQUARTERS – A shock surged through HQ Friday night when around twenty three hundred hours, Isabelle (AKA Izzer),the ragdoll, escaped. A senior staff member, who had sole duty for Ringing Bell creatures due to another staff member’s travel plans, had inadvertently left a door open.

Lucy, the Labrador, conducted a quick perimeter search but found no evidence of the cat. The lone staff member searched for hours and finally retired in the wee hours of the morning. On his rising, the renegade ragdoll was still in abstentia, and several consultation calls were made to ascertain the next course of action.

This incident brought a somber tone to headquarters.

When interviewed, Lucy said, “We all knew this could happen. I’ve tried to tell everyone here, it’s not as exciting as an animal might think out there. It’s a dangerous world.”
The tuxedo, Wilbur, who had been swinging on a chair chimed in.

“Isabelle has always been a little stuck-up with us kittens. You know she called us the street gang, and all that, but no one would wish this on her. It’s been nearly twelve hours, and we haven’t even heard a twitch of the tail from her.” Wilbur jumped up on the food table and crunched down on a little turkey and potato. He swallowed and mused, “You know, now that she’s gone, I kind of miss her.”

Carl, the strong silent type, who was queuing up for food said, “What he said.”

Mama Kitty took on a maternal tone as she left her velour blanket and stood to be interviewed. “It’s like I told the kittens, you need a plan. You can’t just dash out in the back yard and expect everything to go your way. You need to think. I mean, you haveto have a plan A and a plan B.” With that, she blinked her eyes, and sauntered off to find her son, Carl.

The alpha grey tabby, Misty, lumbered over from her post in the window. “I remember when I was just a young tiger, I had a few escapades.” Misty’s yellow eyes grew distant. “Those were the good old days. Ah, that Isabelle, she was probably hankering for a little adventure.”
Wilbur cruised by Misty, ignoring the fact he had evilly pounced Misty earlier in the day. Misty gave him a proactive swat and called, “Just cause you’re a young whippersnapper doesn’t mean you’re wiser. I still have top billing around here and don’t you forget it.”

Wilbur glared at her and headed off to take a nap on Lucy’s bed. Probably to plan his next move.

Misty jumped up on the sofa and pawed the velour blanker. “Anyone using this?” She then curled up and fell asleep.

Meanwhile, the search continued for a few more hours, then lights went out, and another night passed with no Isabelle.

The next day, the second staff member returned home and things kicked into high gear―color ink cartridges were bought, flyers made, signposts covered, neighbors badgered, strangers stopped, roads walked, and prayers prayed.

One staff member even went through the neighborhood standing on her head and calling into storm drains, in the event Isabelle had joined a band of underground cats living in the sewer system.

And well after midnight, with hoarse voices, the call went out, “Isabelle come home, girl.”

Reluctantly, weary and sad staff members turned out the lights at Ringing Bell headquarters. Isabelle how now been gone more than forty-eight hours. They tried not to think of comments made through the years about her not being the brightest bulb in the box. What she had lacked in brilliance, though, she made up for in devotion, but the truth remained, Isabelle was not street savvy. And so more prayers went up that she wouldn’t encounter coyotes or raccoons.

Another night passed.

In the early morning, just after five hundred hours, Lucy sent out a five-alarm bark. Staff members bounded down the stairs to a hysterical Lucy speaking in monosyllables. “Out. Out,” she barked.

They followed her into the backyard where her nose immediately hit the ground, and as they followed her, they heard her muttering, “Fresh tracks. Fresh tracks.” Lucy made another perimeter search and concluded. “She’s definitely been here.”

So, the staff members renewed their calls, “Here Isabelle. Here girl.”

And in the dim light, a furry figure slowly emerged from the far reaches of Headquarters property. Isabelle had come home.

A staff member scooped her up, and though her fur was matted and full of burrs, she had never looked more beautiful.

Lucy almost wagged her tail off at the sight of the prodigal, and inside, all cats, even the street gang, greeted her with a warm sniff.
Lucy accompanied staff members on a victory lap as they circled the still sleepy neighborhood taking down signs.

As of yet, Isabelle has been quite tight lipped about her two day, three night adventure. Maybe it’s too soon, or maybe we’ll never hear what actually happened. But all that matters, is she is home at Ringing Bell Headquarters, once more.

What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries” (Matthew 10:29 The Message).

 More One Ringing Bell News Updates HERE

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What are you swimming in?

Hallelujah, I’m a little over 32,000 words into my next novel manuscript. Somehow, when I get to this point, I can see a slight flickering light at the end of a very long road. When I’m sitting at about 15,000 words, it feels like an insurmountable, impossible, overwhelming, falling-from-the-sky-with-no-parachute endeavor.

Now, at 32,000 words, it still feels impossible, but my hope level goes up a notch. I’ve written before how writing fiction feels like walking on the water, as if I might fall right into the blank page, but somehow as I pray my way through every word, I find the strength to face another white chasm.

 I already have a highly edited manuscript entitled, The General’s Legacy, which has found favor with a couple of publishing house editorial committees, but as yet, no one has offered me a contract. Sigh. And here I am writing another spec script. This is definitely a journey of faith.

I’d like to finish this new book this summer, but I’ll need to be focused.

A couple of years ago, as I approached 400 posts, I recapped the best of One Ringing Bell. Now, I’m approaching 600 posts, and five years of blogging. So to free up a little time over the next few weeks, I’m going to once more intermittently recap the best of One Ringing Bell.

It has been my privilege to find dear friends in my readers. Some of you have been with me since the beginning. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’ll look forward to hearing from you as we revisit some of my most read posts.

As I did before, I’ll be offering updates on each piece, and also as before, I’ll still be interjecting new material.

I’m rambling, but I wanted to leave you with a word that has been rolling around in my head for a couple of days. A word that hit me as if I’d never read it before, “. . . though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being” (Act’s 17:27-28).

It’s almost as if we’re swimming in this Presence, swimming in Him.

Even as I interject this picture from the swimming portion of a triathlon, in which a friend participated, I’m reminded that as I face my own kind of triathlon―coming up with thousands of more words on blank pages, I remember He is not far. I am living in Him. And so are you.

And that, my friend, is a very big Hallelujah.        

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Finding hope in the middle of the battle

We grabbed the overhead bar and held on as the University of Georgia bus lurched from the curb to carry us to our next destination. We were there for UGA orientation our son’s freshman year.

Jerry elbowed me in the side and pointed to a man up ahead. “Is that who I think it is?”

I studied the profile. “Maybe.”

When we exited at our next stop, sure enough, the man Jerry pointed to turned out to have the same face as one we’d often seen in a tiny newspaper photo.

Among the parents of almost 5,000 incoming freshmen, we ran into a man whose writing we’d long admired, who also had a daughter entering UGA―syndicated columnist and southern writer, Darrell Huckaby.

We introduced ourselves, and I took a picture with Huckaby and his wife, which I used for a piece in my just started blog. We also had a moment of bonding over the fact my husband played football for the University of Georgia (more here at One Old Dawg), and Huckaby is one of the biggest UGA football fans ever.

Amidst the high hopes we all had for our children that bright summer morning, none of us could have imagined what lay ahead a short time later.

In December of that year, my husband would be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and face months of out of state treatment.

Darrell Huckaby would also be diagnosed with prostate cancer just a few months after my husband in the spring of the next year. Although my husband’s cancer hit the top of the scale in terms of aggressiveness, it appeared to be contained. Doctor’s didn’t give Darrell that same outlook. In fact, doctor after doctor, offered him only a dire prognosis.

 After exhausting options locally, he felt led to go to M.D. Anderson, where through innovative treatment, he found hope and eventually regained stability in his health.

Our paths continued to intersect with Huckaby. My husband invited him to speak at our church one Sunday morning. And Huckaby wrote a wonderful article about it. I ran into him while holding a book signing in a neighboring town where he was also signing books.

Huckaby has since written a memoir, entitled, Yea Though I Walk, chronicling his fight against prostate cancer and the work God did in his heart through it. He sent us a copy, and my husband latched on to it. He deliberately didn’t share what he read with me, so as not to spoil my reading experience. It took a while to wrestle the book from his hands, but when I did and came to page 209, I was honored and surprised to find us mentioned.

All this and more from a seemingly random meeting.

I am celebrating my fifteenth year as a cancer survivor this year. I am most encouraged through the testimonies of those who have persevered in the face of overwhelming odds. Huckaby’s story is one that gives me hope to keep on no matter what I face.

Continuing in his role as a lifelong educator, today Darrell Huckaby is leading educational tours around the world―a life far from the one predicted for him before he went to M.D. Anderson. I’m hoping we get to go with him sometime.

If you have sagging hope, read Yea Though I Walk. You will laugh and you will cry, but most of all you will be encouraged. If you've already read it, give a copy to someone else who may need a boost.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).
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