We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Mixed-up Christmas

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Every once in a while, Christmas seems a little mixed up. A couple years ago, some of our family came days before the 25th, opened gifts well before Christmas Eve, and said good-bye before the countdown closed shop doors at the mall. We had to use our daytimers to keep our comings and goings straight, complete with flight numbers, train schedules, and baby routines.

But we came. We came to be together, mixed-up notwithstanding.

The first Christmas was a little mixed-up, too. It all started with an angel, a misunderstanding smoothed over by a dream, and a compulsory road trip. Perhaps Joseph tried to remember the mid-wife’s instructions as he half-carried Mary into an innkeeper’s barn ninety long miles from home. It seemed an invisible hand guided them to this unlikely place. What thoughts raced through Joseph’s mind as he tried to comfort and care for Mary? He couldn’t—no, he wouldn’t—let anything happen to her. Did his hands tremble when the time came to deliver her baby boy?
 
Angel wings from the throne room of heaven brushed against an earthy night sky. These eager celestials lit up the hillside as they sang to startled sheep and shepherds . . . shepherds who, in turn, traipsed into town peering into every barn they passed—searching for a very special baby! The eastern horizon saw camels carry gift-laden kings west.

Far away, a lone star slipped out of orbit to chase a child.

Nothing happened the way Joseph and Mary thought it would. An impromptu wedding instead of a traditional ceremony. Bethlehem instead of Nazareth. A cold stable instead of a warm home. Strangers, in the form of shepherds and wise men, instead of family and friends. An undercover detour to Egypt instead of a celebratory homecoming. God ordained this mixed-up plan. Heaven came to Earth, and Earth has never been the same.

Immanuel came. He came to be with us, mixed-up notwithstanding.

The ultimate mix-up took place thirty-three years later when the perfect Son of God . . . died . . . instead of us. His resurrection makes it possible for mortals to live . . . forever . . . with Him.

We made the best of our mixed–up Christmas that year. But the ultimate mix-up is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. “Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

 
First published in www.christiandevotions.us, December 26, 2013.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Stories

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There's something about Christmas that makes me want to enjoy a warm, wonderful story. Down through the years I have collected a file folder full of Christmas stories from magazines and newsletters along with a stack of holiday books. Every day during the month of December I would read to our daughters by tree light. Every year we looked forward to the stories, stories that became more and more dear.

My parents began our story-telling tradition. Down through the years, they read the same stories to my sister and me--and then to our children. A tradition, just like our roast beef dinners, our singing of carols, and our one-at-a-time opening of gifts. A timeless tradition for multiple generations.

Here's a list of a few of the stories we've come to enjoy. Maybe you have some you'd like to add!

The Christmas Story written by New Testament authors Matthew and Luke
"Christmas Lost and Found" by Danae Dobson (from the book Christmas by the Hearth)
"Charlie's Blanket" by Wendy Miller (from a book compiled by Dr. Joe Wheeler: Christmas in My Heart: A Timeless Treasury of Heartwarming Stories)
"The Good Things in Life" by Arthur Gordon (from a book compiled by Dr. Joe Wheeler: The Best of Christmas in My Heart, Vol. 2)
"Out of the Ivory Palaces" by Dr. James A. Hunter
"Why the Chimes Rang" by Raymond MacDonald Alden
"The Shoemaker's Christmas" by Corrie ten Boom (from her book Christmas Memories)
"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
"The Night Before Christmas" by Clement Clarke Moore
"The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss

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The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
Punchinello and the Most Marvelous Gift by Max Lucado
The Candle in the Window by Grace Johnson
The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell (This title is linked to an edition like my parents owned!)

What Christmas stories can you add to the list?


Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Homespun Christmas

A friend popped in the other day. "Oh, your tree looks beautiful," she exclaimed.

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My eyes swept the room. The tree, artificial and dotted with a variety of lights, ornaments, and memories, stands not-so-tall by the piano. The mantel houses a simple manger scene with figures my dad cut from wood and painted. On the opposite end, the small watercolor  created by a daughter in junior high stands propped in its traditional place. A ceramic Christmas village  graces the top of the china cabinet. A garland dresses the piano along with a few candles here and there. Hand-knit stockings hang from the  chimney with care . . .

"Thanks," I replied, meeting my friend's eyes with a smile. "Rather homespun . . ."

Our Christmas d├ęcor would never win an award or be featured in a magazine. But, to me, it feels comfortable. My friend understood. She talked about the history of handmade ornaments on her tree, too. Each one telling a story.

I suppose a family's Christmas decorations and traditions tell a bit about them. Guess we're the homespun type. Simple and unsophisticated, by definition.

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With only one teenager left at home now, we've developed the habit of filling our dinner plates in the kitchen and eating by tree light, holiday music playing in the background. Somehow the lights and the candles have a way of easing away the cares of the day. We're surrounded by memories of Christmases gone by. And we remember the birth of a special baby, who began his earthly life simply and without sophistication -  tucked in a manger and wrapped in homespun strips of cloth. Our Savior, Christ the Lord.

What story do your Christmas decorations tell?


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Belated "Thank You"

I wish I had expressed my gratefulness in the moment. Maybe I didn't understand the value of those treasures until now. Maybe I didn't know I would carry them with me from junior high school all the way to fifty-something. But this week, I want to say "Thank you."

The year I had Miss Latta as a school teacher in fourth grade, we began attending Winchester Community Church. Five blocks from our home, it offered family-friendly programs of which we soon became a part.

I remember singing "O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end . . ." in children's church and "Dare to be a Daniel" in the Junior Department Sunday School opening exercises. In Pioneer Girls, we learned to change a tire (on the pastor's car!), build teepee campfires, and layer lasagna. Our leaders, "Phoebe" and "Chips," not only planned fun overnights and taught us silly songs (that I now sing to my grandson) but  held up God's Word as a "lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). 

I loved Sunday evening services. Mr. Holland led the singing like no other. I learned to sing alto by sitting next to Mrs. Davis. The pastor's wife encouraged me to play my flute. Sometimes we played a duet. They even let the young girls take the offering once in a while. In the summers, we enjoyed singspirations at the homes of various church members and sang till we were hoarse. There were always refreshments afterwards.

During Easter week, we came to church almost every night, as I recall. After the sermon, the pastor, also an artist, did a chalk drawing to illustrate his message while the organ played. Then he'd shine different colored lights his picture. Easter Sunday brought us to church early for a sunrise service and breakfast. My mom always made plum and apple raisin kuchens.

Vacation Bible School was the best. For two weeks, every summer, we lined up by departments in the parking lot to say the three pledges. We listened to Bible lessons and missionary stories, learned our verses, and created crafts. Before going home, we gathered in the auditorium and sat on the edge of our seats to find out which team was winning the contest. We sang "We can know that Jesus saves us. We can know. Be assured each moment, everywhere we go . . ."

This past summer, we drove past where the church building used to be. It burned down a while back. The congregation has moved to another location. But the memories live on, memories I cherish.

Thank you to the people from Winchester who invested in a young girl's story. Thank you for giving me the gift of God's Word, the gift of positive spiritual expressions . . . the gift of belonging. 

It's the time to give thanks. What belated thank-yous come to your mind?


Monday, November 17, 2014

Peace on Earth?

The summer before last, I met a new friend at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. Cheryl and I attended some of the same classes and workshops and enjoyed a few meals together. Since then, we've kept in touch. Emails, phone calls, and prayer have linked us together, along with our love for writing. This past summer, we attended the Montrose Christian Writers Conference. Throughout this time, she put the finishing touches on her book, one I think you'll enjoy. It's about peace. A relevant topic on the brink of a season when we talk about "peace on earth" but most often fail to achieve it.
 
So . . .why do so many Christians still lack peace? Is it possible to experience God's peace all the time?

Pathway of Peace: Living in a Growing Relationship with Christ by Cheryl Elton is a book which explores key areas of life that help cultivate enduring peace, including handling stress, quieting the mind, prayer, and forgiveness. It is rich with insights into relevant Scriptures and full of inspiring stories to encourage you and help you develop a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

The book's back cover concludes: "As we learn to partner with Christ and live in His presence, we will not only experience His peace in our hearts but also find freedom from the worries and fears that so often plague us."

For more on Pathway of Peace, visit Cheryl's website or find her book on Amazon.com. 

I know you'll be blessed!

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Measure of a Woman . . .

I discovered these words posted on the bulletin board in a local gynecologist's office:

A woman is often measured by the things she cannot control. She is measured by the way her body curves or doesn't curve, by where she is flat or straight or round. She is measured by 36-24-36 and inches and ages and numbers, all by the outside things that don't ever add up to who she is on the inside. And so if a woman is to be measured, let her be measured by the things she can control, by who she is and who she is trying to become . . .

Reminds me of a parallel idea penned by Robert S. McGee. "If we know who we are, we will not try to become someone else in order to have value and meaning in our lives. . . . God has given us a secure self-worth totally apart from our ability to perform. We have been justified and placed in right standing before God through Christ's death on the cross . . ."*

Who we are and who we are becoming goes far beyond statistics or performance. God's measure of a woman--or a man or a teen or a child--is based on the love, acceptance, and forgiveness of Christ.

Your thoughts?

 *The Search for Significance, pages 44, 46

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Still Kickin' Through the Leaves . . .

Autumn Walk

I walk
around the block, dwarfed
among balding maple giants
whose hair, crinkled and withered
tops rough and knotty skin.

I kick up
dusty piles and a smell
that makes me a little girl again . . .
with hand-me-down jacket and homemade scarf,
raking leaves into rows, neat and square
to build yet another leaf house
in the back yard after school.

What fall memories make you smile?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Truth About Trouble . . . Part Two

So, how has your week been? Have you been pursuing truth? Seeking a sense of joy? Even when trouble chases you down and you feel surrounded by unknowns and what ifs? 

Robert J. Morgan, in his book, The Red Sea Rules, writes, "We don't always know why God allows problems, but we know He intends to use them to heighten our maturity and deepen our faith. Trials and troubles are dumbbells and treadmills for the soul. They develop strength and stamina" (page 96). 

The way we handle trouble follows us. Elisabeth Elliot mentioned this in her book, Secure in the Everlasting Arms. "Faithfulness today is the best preparation for the demands of tomorrow" (page 39). God's invitation to ask Him for wisdom in James 1:5 encourages me. We're not alone in our trials.

I've found gratefulness to be a joy-giver. Rather than dwell on the negatives (which seem to multiply at times), we can choose to look for the grace-moments in the midst of hard times. Jotting down what we are thanking God for cements those blessings in our minds - and helps us remember what may too easily be overlooked.

Finding a broader perspective also helps us navigate hard times. Grace Fabian's book, Outrageous Grace: A Story of Tragedy and Forgiveness, recently gave me perspective. Stories of heroes of faith down through the centuries give us courage in adversity. They help us see a bigger picture.

What trials are you facing today?

James wrote, "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has passed the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."

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The truth about trouble? "This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison . . . " Someday, God Himself will dwell with us. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things . . . the earthly things . . . the trials of this life . . . will pass away (2 Corinthians 4:14-16; Revelation 21:4).

Now, here's something to be joyful about!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Truth About Trouble . . . Part One

A very special group of ladies and teens gathered at Calvary Baptist Church in Bloomsburg this past weekend. The Fall Seminar brought us together for a few hours away from our regular routines, a time to relax and connect. The theme of the event was "Count it all joy . . ." taken from a letter written by James, the first words of the New Testament.

New Testament Manuscript
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We talked about the Jewish men and women in the first century who remembered the stories of Jesus, His miracles, His death, and His resurrection. Gradually, they began to understand the good news of salvation and placed their trust in Him for eternal life. But opposition and persecution drove them far from Jerusalem, far from their beloved homeland, far from all things familiar. But they took the good news with them and shared it with their new neighbors.

And then, one day, these scattered believers received a letter from James, their pastor back home. They gathered around with excitement to hear his words read aloud.

"My brothers and sisters, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith works patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

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Much like our first-century friends, we experience trouble, trials, suffering. Little troubles and big troubles . . . all a part of life but never easy. James suggests a joyful response because we know God is weaving patience and maturity into our character. We chatted about our natural reactions to adversity and our beliefs driving those reactions. The thinking behind these "joy stealers," like chronic complaining , worry, or blame, needs to be replaced with the truth about who God is and what He is doing. This brings us to a place of trust in the midst of hard times.

So, what's the truth about trouble? I've jotted down a few references from God's Word to consider, truths to help us think about  our trials differently. I hope you'll take some time to look them up this week, maybe just a few each day.

Psalm 23
Psalm 119:30, 50, 67, 71, 75, 92, 93
1 Corinthians 10:13
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
1 Peter 1:3-9; 3:17; 4:12-16, 19, 5:10, 11
2 Peter 1:3-8

Warren Wiersbe writes, "In the Bible, patience is not a passive acceptance of circumstances. It is a courageous perseverance in the face of suffering and difficulty."

"The only way the Lord can develop patience and character in our lives is through trials. Endurance cannot be attained by reading a book, . . . listening to a sermon, or even praying a prayer. We must go through the difficulties of life, trust God, and obey Him. The result will be patience and character."

Whatever the week ahead brings, let's remember to hold on to the truth of the promises of God. He's trustworthy, no matter what happens.

Choose joy!



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ten Books

Are you one of those people who likes a list? I am.

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Besides my ever-present to-do list, I have lists of potential writing topics, books I hope to read, gift ideas, and even people I pray for. What lists do you keep handy to help you stay on track?

One task that finds itself on my list three times a year is to put together the next issue of The Women's LINK. Its logo reads, "Linking Women to One Another and to the Word." Fitting for a church newsletter, don't you think? We try to cover a variety of topics to encourage the women (and men) who read it. Last winter, our theme was "Ten Things." Yep! A newsletter full of lists. These lists were not intended to keep readers up late or bog them down. Instead, we hoped they would encourage them, spark some fresh ideas, and even make them smile.

This coming weekend, the fall issue of the LINK will be distributed. Our theme? Books! Seems to me this is the time of year when we find ourselves reaching for something to anchor our routines and stimulate our minds, something to read.

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"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers" (Charles W. Eliot).

So, here's a list of ten books. Perhaps one or two will be the right read for you.

 1. Pathway of Peace: Living in a Growing Relationship with Christ by Cheryl Elton
 2. The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-given Strategies for Difficult Times by Robert J. Morgan
 3. Switch on Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health by Dr. Caroline Leaf
 4. Windows of the Soul: Hearing God in the Everyday Moments of Your Life by Ken Gire
 5. Pictures Your Heart Remembers: Building Lasting Memories of Love and Acceptance in Your Family by John Trent, Ph.D.
 6. Acts of Faith Trilogy: The Centurion's Wife, The Hidden Flame, The Damascus Way by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke
 7. Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment by Linda Dillow
 8. Ruth Bell Graham's Collected Poems
 9. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young
10. Secure in the Everlasting Arms by Elisabeth Elliot 

What books have you enjoyed? Please . . . add them to the list!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Great Story: Dark Enough to See the Stars

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I love a great story, don't you? Few pastimes offer more pleasure than a mug of hot tea, a cozy blanket, and a riveting story while the wind whooshes through the trees outside and rain pelts shivering windows. There's something special about cuddling a sleepy child in a rocking chair for a bedtime story or reading aloud to the kids under the backyard maple tree on an Indian summer day. "Please, Mom, just one more chapter? Please?"

I'm one of those parents who took my girls to the library and surrounded them with books. Seems we always had a book going. All three of them are still readers.

Stories have the potential to give us new ideas . . . and perspective. Like a magic carpet, they bring us to another time and place, yet we often learn about our present lives and take away courage and inspiration.

Award-winning author, Cindy Noonan, has written a wonderful novel for children, ages 10 to 13. "Dark Enough to See the Stars tells the fictional account of twelve-year-old Moses, who runs away on the Underground Railroad. Bloodhounds chase him as he follows the North Star to Pennsylvania. Before his mother was sold to a plantation in the Deep South, she had taught him to find the star. She had told him, “Never forget, Mose, you is named after Moses in the Bible. Someday you is goin’ to the Promised Land, just like he did.” Fueled by his mother’s hopes for his freedom, Moses is determined to reach Canada." Read more about the book from Cindy's website.

Cindy and I belong to the same writers' group. Our circle of writers read this story chapter by chapter. At every meeting, we couldn't wait to read the next "installment." Cindy has researched the Underground Railroad thoroughly and brought a story to life that any middle grader will love. He or she will take away an appreciation for freedom and for the sacrifices of many good people along the way. 

So, if you're looking for a good read for the family that offers history with a heartbeat, take a look. Dark Enough to See the Stars is available on Amazon.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Making Waves

Dune grasses against a blue sky, kites flapping in the breeze, sand between our toes, and the ever constant waves. Last month we headed up to our favorite vacation spot. "Up North," on the shores of Lake Michigan, we enjoyed wonderful times with family: catching up, reminiscing, taking turns reading stories to the kids, and breathing the fresh air.

One day, all of us struck out for the beach. We slathered on sunscreen, took turns zipping around on the jet ski, and watched the little ones play. Boats of all shapes and sizes glided to and from the marina. I found myself mesmerized by the waves, sometimes gentle, sometimes strong, but ever constant. I discovered that a boat can be gone a long time before its wake splashes up on the beach. And this made me think about influence . . . our influence on others and their influence on us.

We all make waves as we move ahead in our life stories. Those closest to us feel the effects in the moment or soon after. Yet, actions and attitudes cause a ripple effect. Long after, our choices still make waves. Often our waves bring a positive effect. And sometimes our wake, even after many years, brings waves of disappointment and pain.

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Makes me wonder what we're leaving behind in our quest for a fulfilling life. Maybe it's a good idea to look behind us once in a while, to pay attention to the influence we have, and to do all we can to make sure we're leaving the right kind of wake . . . waves that bless others . . . for a long, long time.




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back Seat Driver

Saturday became a big day at our house. Our youngest daughter came home with a drivers' license in her hand and a smile on her face. She passed the test after 65 plus hours of practice. Tears came to my eyes as I gave her a congratulatory hug. Her license represented not only a victory for her but also for me.

A 2003 car crash has colored my view of traveling. Getting in the car isn't easy for me, especially for a road trip of any length. And I'll admit, the prospect of teaching an inexperienced new driver caused me a bit of apprehension. Not that she drove differently than any other learner. She actually has done quite well. But for me, I made a conscience choice to accept my responsibility to help her reach this milestone.

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This past summer on family outings, I spent many hours in the back seat with our sixteen-year-old at the wheel and my husband coaching from the front passenger seat. There's something unnerving about the back seat. I couldn't see much, but sometimes what I could see resulted in my giving my two cents--not such a great idea . . .

One night, as Elisabeth cruised along the freeway at 65 mph, I felt a little on edge in my back-seat position. As darkness fell, I prayed for peace and safety, but couldn't shake the feeling. Finally, I turned on my kindle and found my place in Grace Fabian's book, Outrageous Grace: A Story of Tragedy and Forgiveness. A couple pages in, I read:
". . . I knew whatever happened, it was God who had the final say. Prayers ascended. It's okay to be in the dark with God. His presence makes all the difference" (page 76).
These words relayed Grace's trust when she didn't know if she would live or die due to medical complications. She lay stretched out in the back of a van while the driver navigated 75 miles of dark, foggy, pot-holed, winding New Guinea roads to get to the nearest hospital.

Sometimes a story gives us perspective. It quiets fears that hover in the shadows. I will always remember God's reassurance in the back seat that night.

Now we're on a new journey. On the very day the shiny new license came home, I read these words by Sarah Young. "Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands. . . . My presence will go with them wherever they go . . ." (Jesus Calling, page 246).

Congratulations, Elisabeth. You've worked hard. And I've learned a few things, too.

So, what stories have encouraged you along the way? 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

God's Perspective When Life Hurts


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Fall is coming. There's something appealing about having a predictable routine again. In many ways, fall represents a new beginning. If you're like me, you may be looking for a new Bible study. I'd like to recommend God's Perspective When Life Hurts.

Last spring I had the privilege of hearing Darlene Kordic speak. She shared her story and spoke about her Bible study, God's Perspective When Life Hurts. Several others gave testimonies of how this study changed their lives in the midst of hardship and suffering. Tears slipped down my cheeks as I listened to their stories. God and His Word, through Darlene's study, made a difference in the way they lived out their faith in the worst of times.

Whether you plan to do this study in the comfort of your home or in a group setting, join Darlene Kordic in the 12-lesson DVD Bible study exploring God's plan and purposes for suffering. Learn what it means to trust in Him with all of your heart because you've come to understand from the study that an all-loving, all-wise, and all-sovereign God has ordered the moments of your life with intricate care and precision. Learn how to resist the temptation to rely on your ever-changing feelings and perceptions when life hurts. Instead learn what it means to rest in His promises and find shelter in the shadow of His wings. 

For more information about the study and how to order, Darlene has a helpful website: www.wordofgodspeakministries.org


Darlene Kordic and her husband, Craig, have been career missionaries for over 25 years. During that time, Darlene has had the privilege of teaching God’s Word in many venues and places around the world. The Kordics currently reside in Colorado Springs where they continue to take ministry trips into restricted countries to train church leaders. They have two adult children, Amber and Seth, and one teenager, Paul.



Monday, August 11, 2014

Faces of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls. Every second, 3,160 tons of water thunder over and down into the swirling whirlpools below. Mist rises high and rains on umbrella'd and camera'd visitors, all awed by the power of the mighty Niagara, a natural wonder that draws visitors from all over the world.
Mist Rising from the Canadian Falls

As part of our vacation this year, we crossed the Peace Bridge from Buffalo to Fort Erie and meandered up the Niagara Parkway. Everything about our trip brought back childhood memories: meatloaf-potato salad-blueberry pie family picnics along the river, youth group banquets at the Victoria Park Restaurant, daring Maid-of-the-Mist voyages, and quiet strolls amidst a plethora of colorful blooms at the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture.

I grew up less than fifteen minutes from the Peace Bridge. Although respectful at the border, we came and went without a thought of terrorists or bombings. Life seemed simpler back then.

Something else connects me to this place. My grandfather, an artist and musician born in 1895, painted souvenirs for the shops in Niagara Falls: mugs, ashtrays, lighters, bread trays, knives, and other memorabilia--all with his signature painting of the falls. 

As young girls, my sister and I traipsed behind him to the barn to watch his steady hand at work. The barn always smelled the same: oil paint, turpentine, natural gas, and old dusty beams all together. First, he lit the small gas heater. He always put on a tinted green visor. Then he sat down at his table, mixed just the right shades of paint, arranged his brushes carefully, and set to work, mug after mug, ashtray after ashtray, large boxes of them. He had an assembly line of sorts. One part of each small painting must dry before the next could be applied.

I've often wondered where all those souvenirs ended up. Attics? Basements? Estate and antique sales? Out of the thousands of souvenirs Grandpa painted, our family now has only a few. Perhaps just old souvenirs to many but to me, priceless treasures, telling a bit of the story of the man behind the paintings. The gentle man with snowy white hair who we knew as "Grandpa Ewert."

For me, Niagara Falls means much more than its mighty, thunderous presence. It reminds me of home and family, both gifts from a God who is faithful to every generation.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90:1,2).
So, what landmark means more to you because of a special memory or unique connection?


An Old Barge Stuck in the Rapids

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rolling With Our Roles


The other day when I weeded the garden beds along one side of the house, I happened to look up--and froze.
 
Tucked between a petunia plant and the house, all curled up, lay a tiny baby deer. I stared in awe. So perfect . . . so miniature . . . so helpless. I drew back a step when it briefly opened its eyes. By this time, the sun's heat beat down on the little creature. Was it thirsty? How long had it been here? And where was the mama?

A quick call to the Game Commission assured me that the doe would be back. After giving birth, rather than draw attention to her vulnerable baby, Mama finds a safe place for it to rest, then later comes back, feeds it, and together they find food and safety.


And so, we kept our distance while the baby lay sleeping in the sun. An hour and a half later, it was gone.

Reflecting back on this experience, we could not do one thing to help our tiny friend. We could not touch it, give it food and water, or find its mother. It wasn't our role.

In our life stories, we often wrestle with our roles. We want to help, lend a hand, or even rescue. Yet, it may not always be in the best interest of those we wish to assist. As with the deer, we have the potential to do more harm than good.

A friend once suggested we ask three questions:
What is my role?
What role do others play?
What is God's role?

These questions have been a most helpful tool to discern when to help and how. And when to do nothing more than watch and pray. God, in His infinite wisdom, has a plan in place. We only need to discern our role and carry it out. 

What's your role today?  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Thirty-five Years . . . Together

Thirty-five years ago today, Barry and I began our lives together promising to love each other for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Thirty-five years is a long time, yet it slipped through our fingers so quickly. Through it all, we've seen God's faithfulness over and over. Happy Anniversary, hon. I love you!
Together
We dance together, you and I, in step to life's music.

Sometimes the sound of trumpets and flutes
Twirls us around dizzy, back and forth.

The driving bass and roll of drums
Bring matching steps of duty.

And when the soft whisper of violins catches us close and slow,
I look into your eyes
And know, whatever the orchestra plays,
We will always dance . . . together.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

An American Tradition: "Take Me Out to the Ballgame!"

Photo by Elisabeth Phillips
We joined nearly ten thousand people gathered at PNC Field to support the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders. Had a great time - despite the breezy cool temperatures. 

Besides keeping an eye on the game, I found myself doing a fair share of people-watching. The kids with Mohawk haircuts, the chummy couple sitting in front of us, the man whose wife made sure we knew he served in the military, the dancers who jived to the music, the constant parade of junk food addicts stepping up and down stadium stairways . . . . Americans, young and old, came out to celebrate Independence Day with a ballgame and fireworks.

Our time at the stadium represented more than a ball game. A young boy sang "The Star-Spangled Banner." Half-way through the game, we again stood to sing "God Bless America." We acknowledged veterans medaled with purple hearts and years of service. Old Glory blew in the breeze. Several times, the loud speaker blared Lee Greenwood's lyrics:

Photo courtesy of bing.com
And I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the ones who died
Who gave that right to me
And I gladly stand up next to you
And defend her still today
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God bless the U.S.A.


And there I stood, wiping my eyes, indeed proud to be an American, grateful for freedom's ring.

America's traditions . . . her melodies of patriotism . . . her symbols and all they stand for . . . . Somehow they've reached deep into the hearts of ordinary citizens like me. 


By the way, the Rail Riders won the game with a walk-off home run on the last hit, a memorable take-me-out-to-the-ballgame moment! 


Which country claims you as a citizen? What do you treasure about being a part of this tradition?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Are You Picking White Strawberries?

The end of June marks the time of strawberry season here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The local strawberry farm takes loads of us locals to the fields in a wagon pulled by a huge tractor. We come back with heaping containers of red, luscious strawberries along with red tongues and a few stains on our shoes and shorts. After the workers weigh up our bounty (and accept our carefully-saved cash for this very occasion), off we go to make jam, pies, and shortcake. Yummy!

Last night as I was making jam, I remembered a story my mother used to tell. One warm June day, she took my sister and me to pick strawberries. We must've been in the lower elementary grades. Crouched in my row, I suddenly heard Mom say to me, "Sarah, why are you picking white strawberries?"

"So everyone else can have the red ones," I answered. Needless to say, after a mild scolding, I have not picked a white strawberry since . . . at least not in a strawberry patch. 

But there have been occasions I have been guilty of picking white strawberries over the years. Times when perhaps I didn't feel worthy or deserving. Times when I purposely took the short end of the stick, hung back, or allowed other people to determine what should have been my choices to make. Times when I needed to speak up, ask questions, and hold my ground.

Maybe you've picked a few white strawberries, yourself?

I'm learning that although compliance, humility, and service have their place, strength of character also includes backbone, holding your chin up, and choosing what's best for you, too. Always balanced with kindness and grace.

So, come. Take my hand. Let's pick strawberries together. 

Red ones!


*Photos courtesy of bing.com