The PA Grand Canyon, Family History, and Bald Eagles: 2019 Family Vacation

It was that time of year again. Family vacation time!  This year I had rented a place for an entire week plus a day.  We hadn’t been able to do that since 2011.  I spent months searching for the perfect house, making lists and comparing pros and cons.  I interviewed each child and found that they didn’t care as much about the house as they did about the land. 

They wanted to be far enough away from other people that they could shoot BB guns and have camp fires.

                We finally settled on a farmhouse in Liberty, PA.  It had 6 bedrooms and 130 acres.  I was hoping it would provide the perfect peaceful retreat.

                The week preceding our vacation, Chris had transferred to a new building at work.  He is a UPS driver, and they had moved a lot of the routes to this new building.  His 10 minute commute became 30.  Not too bad especially since he had gotten his own regular route for the first time since he started 4 years ago.  However, the days proved to be much longer, threatening to overtake his 14 hour limit.

                “Did I tell you I saw an eagle at work the other day?” he asked me at the end of the very long week. “It was right there, flying over the Target parking lot.”

                I marveled at that!  Chris had gotten a very busy route in the heart of retail businesses.  Not a place you would expect to see an eagle.  Eagle sightings had become a sign of God encounters to me.  I have written about it in many articles starting with A Hawk, a Vulture, and an Eagle and continuing with Part 2, This is a New Season, and A Surprise Visit from my Marine.  Wow! I really have seen a lot of eagles! I took this fresh eagle sighting as a sign that this new position for Chris was part of God’s plan. 

Though it seemed that it would require endurance and long hours, God would meet him there.

                I was also fully expecting God to encounter us on our vacation, and I was not disappointed!

Saturday

                It sure took a long time to get 10 people packed up and ready to go.  We filled a rental trailer with all of our essentials.  Half of it was food!  By the time we were ready for the long drive, the rain had cleared away.  The journey toward northern Pennsylvania was beautiful, the golden sun playing on the autumn leaves, weaving in and out of the rolling hills.  We listened to the CDs I had checked out of the library, The Penderwicks in Spring. It was the fourth book in the series that we had come to adore, and it seemed just perfect for our family right now.  The oldest girl was away at college (just as our oldest daughter is away at missionary school), the neighbor boy was away in the army (as our oldest boy is away in the Marines) and the other Penderwicks were of many different ages, just as our children are.

                We finally arrived!  It was quite remote and the land was beautiful.  The house was very interesting with an old, quirky charm.  Everyone got unpacked in their new rooms.  Then we cooked hotdogs and s’mores over the fire outside. Such a lovely evening.

Sunday

                Chris drove most of the children to the PA Lumber Museum and they enjoyed the antique vendors, the demonstrations, and the exhibits. 

Chris purchased a book published in 1901 titled The Life of William McKinely.  Many times in the next week I would see Cadin enjoying the solitude of his own room and reading this book. 

Since the Lumber Museum wasn’t handicap accessible, I stayed home with Ashlyn and Aria.  They were so sweet and we spent a happy morning outside in the sunshine.

                That evening Chris grilled hamburgers and we all ate outside.  It was cold!  Chris decided to zip Aria into his jacket.  He still was able pass the football with his boys.

I wanted to hold these family moments forever in my memory!

Monday

                We drove to the Lenard Harrison State Park.  They had a beautiful overlook to view the PA Grand Canyon. 

Soon however, we encountered stairs and Ashlyn could go no further.  We found an employee who showed us on a map the two Handicap Accessible trails.  We stopped for lunch first at the playground.

                Then we drove to the Pine Creek Trail which was at the bottom of the canyon.  The path was wide and flat, good for bikers and horses.  It was gorgeous!  We saw a covered wagon tour pass by.

                We continued the adventure by driving to the other side of the gorge to access the Barbour Rock Trail.  Most of the children were tired of walking and just wanted to stay in the van. 

                “We came this far, I am going to walk to the vista!” I announced.

                Chris came with me along with three of the children.  Chai stayed with the rest in the van.  It was only .7 miles to the Vista and what a lovely walk.  All of a sudden we came upon the vista and it was breath taking. 

I wanted to linger there just a little longer than the boys would have liked.  My patience was rewarded as Chris and I got to see a large bird circling over the gorge.  When the sunlight flashed on the white tail feathers, I knew we had seen a bald eagle! 

Oh to be an eagle and to soar over such a sight!

                The entire day felt like a gift from a loving Father.

Tuesday

                We took the morning and drove to Mansfield, my father’s hometown.  First we visited the house where he had grown up.

The last time I had been there was for my father’s internment in 2013.  The home had looked small and barren, stripped of the magic it had possessed when I was a child.  The current owners must have poured a lot of love into the property, because it looked so charming again.  What relief that brought me!

                Right down the street was Oakwood Cemetery.  I couldn’t remember where the family grave-site was, so we just got out and started looking.  After a few minutes I caught sight of two stones decorated with flowers and birds, the prettiest in the cemetery.  They belonged to my Grandmother and Grandfather! 

And right behind them was my Dad’s and a stone for my mom, ready for her but not yet needed (thank goodness!)  As a child, I had always been very bored when my relatives took me to pay respects in a cemetery.  Now it was a very meaningful part of my family history.

                We drove to the History Center on Main St. and were greeted by the woman who runs it.  She talked to us and showed us around. 

She showed me a picture of my Dad in her Mansfield High School display.  She remembered him!  She said that if I donated something of his, she would put it in her display.  I loved seeing the history of the small town and felt honored that my Dad had been a part of it.  The children mostly just loved the little dog Amos who considered the museum his home away from home.

                We ate lunch at a park that had a swing just perfect for Ashlyn.  It sat in the shadow of Mansfield University where my grandfather had been a professor.  Grandmother and Grandfather had passed away when I was still in elementary school.  Before they died, we would travel to Mansfield only once or twice a year.  We always came for Thanksgiving, and it was always cold, wet, and dreary. 

But on this sunny fall day as I watched my children play at the park, my view of Mansfield was being redeemed.  It was a gorgeous little town!  I felt the sunshine make its way into my memories and brighten up my view of my father’s side of the family.

Wednesday

                Being the first rainy day, we decided to stay at the farmhouse.  There were so many books and games in the library and a large collection of toys and coloring materials in the loft room. 

As Chris was reading about the nearby Penn Wells hotel, he decided that he should take me there on a date that night.  I was actually hoping to return, since it had been the place that my grandparents would take us for Thanksgiving once Grandmother decided that she was too old to cook.

                We drove through the hills and low lying clouds to get to the charming town of Wellsboro.  I recognized so much about the Penn Wells, and I enjoyed being there again.  Memories of my grandparents warmed my heart; Grandmother asking me to sit by her at the meal because she wanted to get to know me better, Grandfather insisting that I turn in the $2.75 in quarters that I had found in one of the payphones in the lobby. 

                After we finished the meal, we walked up and down the main street and took in the display windows of all the little shops.  Dark had fallen and nothing was open, but it was still fun!

Thursday

                The children were so anxious to get out of the house and use some of their spending money, that Chris took most of them to Wellsboro that morning.  I stayed home again with the girls and enjoyed the relative quiet of the house.

                That evening we took a walk and gathered wild flowers for the table.  We listened to Frank Sinatra on the CD player while we made supper.

Friday

                The children had taken every opportunity this week to play outside and explore the woods, the fields, and the 5 tree stands.  They had conducted target practice with BB guns. They had honed their skill with the bow and arrows.  They waged laser tag battles.  This day they decided to craft a tepee/ wigwam!

Saturday

                The week had come to an end.  We had to get packed up and set all things back in their proper places; no small feat with many small hands constantly grabbing and relocating!  We pulled away at 11 am and told the children that we had two surprises for them.  The first came after an hour of driving.  We stopped at the Country Cupboard to partake of their lunch buffet. This was a special place because we had spent two Thanksgivings there.  I groaned inwardly when I saw that most of my children’s idea of enjoying an all-you-can-eat-buffet meant getting a plate of rolls and mac and cheese followed by two plates of dessert.  Finally we issued the proclamation: a meat and a vegetable must be eaten before dessert is consumed.

                After the meal we had fun walking around their large greenhouse and gift shop. The second surprise was just 20 minutes away. We drove along the river to find our way to the Joseph Priestley House.  I looked up and saw two large birds circling directly above the street. 

A pair of bald eagles!   

                We arrived at the lovely house built in the 1700s.  A tour guide was just starting the tour, and we learned all about Joseph Priestley.  He is famous now for discovering oxygen.  He also discovered many other gases and created carbonated water.  First and foremost he was a man of faith and believed that science both confirmed and validated his faith.

                After we departed the historic site, all that was left to do was drive home.  Such a stunning drive!  I pondered why God had allowed me to see three eagles on this trip. What was His message to me?  I think I simply saw them because I was always watching for them.  I expected to see them.  Most of the rest of the family hadn’t spotted them because they just weren’t looking. 

I think that God encounters are around us all the time, we just need the eyes to recognize them! 

And of course, God is just so very, very GOOD!

The Glorious Now

It was a lovely Sunday in August.  A perfect day!  It felt like the kind of day that would be wasted if not spent out of doors.  We decided to be spontaneous and head out for a picnic at Gifford Pinchot State Park rather than go to church. 

It is so hard to be spontaneous with 8 children!  We had to think about clothes and swim suits and towels, diaper bags and nursing pillows and bibs, strollers and chairs and food.  The children were all excited to help, so the preparations went quickly.  Probably the biggest hurdle was myself.  My very non-spontaneous self.  I fretted about this and that, what I would wear that I wouldn’t feel ugly in at the “beach”, what I would feed the baby, how much of the day we had already wasted by sleeping in and taking our time. 

Chris took me and looked me in the eyes, “You don’t need to stress.  Just enjoy this day.”

I was determined to put all worries out of my mind and sincerely try.

The drive felt incredibly long because of closed roads, a crying baby, and a screaming teenage girl (who acts more like a three year old with her special needs).  Chris and I decided to laugh through it, hoping it wasn’t an indication of what to expect on this outing.

The park was beautiful!  We found a half circle of picnic tables under a tree and staked our claim.  Then we went down to the lake to watch the children swim in the murky water.  They had a wonderful time!  I stuck my feet in but didn’t relish the slimy feeling of the bottom.  We took a break and ate our lunch.  Everyone was still happy, so we went back to the water. This time we took camping chairs and sat under the shade of a tree.

I looked out on the lake, full of joyful children. The sounds of laughter and splashing floated through the air. The sky was blue. The sun was shining. The trees surrounding the lake were beautiful. 

A cool breeze kissed my face, and I felt the presence of God.

“He is right here, right now,” I thought to myself. “He is filling me, surrounding me.”

Then it struck me – THIS IS IT! 

This is what I had been longing for all spring and summer.  I had hoped for a getaway to the ocean.  True, this was no ocean with pounding waves and sandy beaches. There was only a small cement embankment to separate the grass from the water. But it was perfect! 

THIS WAS IT!

This was the rest.

This was the vacation I had been envisioning, praying for, hoping would come.  I didn’t have to wait for a perfect moment in the future.  I had my heart’s desire RIGHT NOW! I wanted to just sit in the peace, to enjoy it as long as I could. I sent up a quick prayer that none of my children would get hurt and come running to me with shrieks and bloody appendages.  A few more minutes passed and the peace remained.  The park was crowded with people on such a lovely day, but everyone was friendly and having fun.

Then a new group arrived and set up a very large speaker which began blasting hip-hop music.  “No big deal, it is still a perfect day,” I tried to tell myself even as my annoyance grew.

“Why do these people think that everyone here wants to listen to their music,” I thought to myself. “I would be so embarrassed to intrude on everyone’s gorgeous day like that!”

Just then a new sound came through the speaker. A ukulele.  The sweet and soothing ukulele version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” which had always been a favorite of mine.  It brings the joy of dreaming and the contentment of dreams come true.  In a season of broken dreams, I had avoided the song, as it had become very melancholy to me. 

But today it was the finishing touch on this “dream come true moment” that God had orchestrated for me.

No, I wasn’t at the beach.  I didn’t have all my goals accomplished or all of my concerns taken care of.  It was simply…

THE GLORIOUS NOW!

I was present.

I was content.

I was deeply blessed.

He Will Satisfy My Desires with Good Things

I looked up from cooking in the kitchen and caught a glimpse of something that made my heart swell with an unfamiliar joy.  What was I feeling?  A thrill? A wave of delight?  It happened a few more times that day as I gazed across my home to see the view past the dining room, past the sitting room, and through the large front window to the porch. This strange sensation reminded me of Is 60:5 (NIV), “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy…”

                What was causing this unexpected joy?  I could see four hanging baskets overflowing with pink and yellow flowers on my porch.  MY PORCH!! I had dreamed of having hanging baskets for as long as we had had a porch.  Every spring I thought, “This might just be the year!”  Then every spring reality hit.  Food was more important that hanging baskets, which at their cheapest were $20 a pop.  Yet now I was beholding them in all their horticultural glory, and they made me so happy!

                It seemed rather silly to get so excited about plants. I had just seen them at Sharp Shopper, a little past their prime and disheveled.  I got the lot of them for $24.  Once we hung them up outside, they had bloomed all over again.  It almost felt like a miracle. 

Then I remembered something I had written in my journal last year.  I looked it up and found an entry from 2/2/18.  I had been feeling horrible for about a month and a half with my pregnancy.  It had been just long enough to convince me that I would always feel this way and would never enjoy life again.  I would sit on the sofa trying to be still, taking peaceful cleansing breaths to keep the nausea away.  I found that it helped to close my eyes and picture things that made me happy.  I pictured Chris and me on a Baby-moon to Cape May, sun on our faces, and sand in our toes. 

I also pictured our front yard, landscaped and beautiful.  There would be a raised bed in front of the porch where I could plant veggies and herbs.  There would be planters overflowing with flowers on the concrete blocks next to the steps up to the porch. More planters would grace either side of our lovely front door.  Most importantly there would be hanging baskets all around the porch.  Just thinking of springtime and the beauty and aroma of flowers made me feel better. In fact, I drew a picture of it in my journal and wrote, “Flowers are a sign of prosperity to me, to have the extra time and money to have flowers.” I didn’t expect to see this dream realized for a few years yet.  But it helped me to imagine.

                That is why I felt my heart thrill and rejoice when I saw those flowers hanging outside.  It was a desired fulfilled, a dream realized, a sign of God’s faithfulness to bring prosperity into my life before I thought that He would.

After coming out of a season of disappointment, over and over again disappointment, the thrill that went through my heart felt foreign. I almost wanted to dismiss it as unimportant.  No need to get crazy and all bent out of shape over flowers!  I didn’t want to rush in and think that all my desires would be fulfilled.  I didn’t want to really start to dream very much again.

                Thankfully God showed me scriptures that allowed me to savor this joy, rather than toss it aside. One had been up on my mirror for months.

Ps 103:5 “…who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Others He gave me in the next week.

Pr. 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desired fulfilled is a tree of life.

Pr. 13:19 A desire realized is sweet to the soul…

                I sat down and wrote down all my desires that had been fulfilled lately. I came up with 14 of them.  Things I had been thinking about, researching, longing for, and praying for. 

                FOURTEEN OF MY DESIRES HAD BEEN FULFILLED!

Just to look at them all in a list lifted my spirit and caused me to praise God.  I was no longer in a season of disappointment. 

I was in a season of desires and promises being fulfilled.

                Yet I almost MISSED IT!  I was so used to being disappointed that it was easy to continue to be.  If I thought of all the challenges that lay ahead, all the prayers that had not yet been answered, I would feel like a victim.  If I thought of my dream journal sitting up in my closet for over 4 years, untouched because I didn’t want to open old wounds, I felt tired and washed out.  Dreaming like that was for the young who have extra time and energy to invest in their dreams. I need to just be happy with my lot and make it through the day.

                NO WAIT! God said that He is satisfying my desires so that my youth is being renewed!

                I am not a victim!

                I am not in a season of disappointment!

                I can look at my world with eyes wide open.  When I see the flowers overflowing – I can let my heart thrill!

                When I see the butterflies and the hummingbirds flock to the beauty – I can be radiant!

I know that God cares about what we care about.  I know that He loves beauty. I know He delights to see His children rejoice because they have received their heart’s desire. I love it when I can give my children a gift that awakens wonder and excitement in them. How much more does God feel that way?

                If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He WILL give us the desires of our hearts.  He is doing it right now, every day.  Let’s open our eyes and notice it.  Let’s make a big fuss over it! Let’s put a smile on our Father’s face when we realize how very good He is!

Candy Wrappers and Fuzzy Tongues: the Influence of an Older Brother

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Having six boys, we have quite a culture of testosterone in our home.  Wrestle first, ask questions later.  As my older boys grow into men, I hope that they will be a good influence on the younger ones.  Teach them to respect their mom, stand up for their brothers, and protect their sisters…stuff like that!

However I have noticed a different type of influence that is not always good.  The oldest boy would relentlessly pick on the second to youngest one.  I would explain to the Oldest that I understand that the Second Youngest can be very annoying at times, BUT the truth of the matter is, “You were very much like him at his age.  You looked very similar and had very similar behaviors.  Your Dad and I didn’t call you mean names or criticize you did we?” I ask.

“No,” the Oldest answers.

“So give him the same courtesy,” I say.

My logical explanation seems to have little effect on his behavior as the bullying continues.  I begin to notice that the Third and Fourth Oldest are learning the fine art of bullying.  I am distressed.

Other behaviors trickle down the line such as writing on clothing or sneaking candy and stashing the empty wrappers behind the washing machine.  A love for fishing, violent video games, and BB guns flourish.  When the Oldest joins the delayed entry program of the Marines, the other boys pick a branch of the military that they will join someday.  Even the Youngest is being encouraged to follow his dream of being a paratrooper.

“I don’t want ALL my sons to be in the military,” I yell out. What is a mother to do?

As the Oldest spends more and more time with his Marine recruiters, training physically and mentally for boot camp, I notice a change in him.  He is maturing.  He is becoming more honorable and more truthful.  He is becoming more respectful…most of the time.

Dental Health has never been very important to the Oldest Brother.  Dental Health is very important to me.  I used to brush each child’s teeth after each meal.  As they get older, they must brush their teeth themselves of course, but I still remind them quite often.

“Have you brushed your teeth?” I call out to the Second Youngest who is rushing out the door for school.

“Yeah, Yeah,” he answers.

I suspect that he didn’t.  I suspect that he hasn’t brushed at all in the past week.  I need to pry open his mouth and check for myself but there he goes…halfway to school already.

One day I witnessed firsthand the power of the influence of the Oldest Brother.  We were all sitting at the dining room table eating a meal.  When we are done I try again to preserve the teeth of my children.

“Everyone, brush your teeth!” I call out.

No effect.  No indication that anyone has heard me speak.

Then a new voice declares, “You should really brush your teeth, you know.”

It is the knowable voice of the Oldest Brother.

“I didn’t used to brush my teeth at all,” he continues, “but then I saw this picture of what happens to your tongue when you never brush. I almost puked right there!  The back of the tongue was growing mold, fuzzy mold!”

“Really?” the younger brothers are very interested, “Show us!  Show us!” they beg.

He whips out his phone, finds the picture and shows them all.

The younger boys do not walk, they RUN to the bathroom to brush their teeth.  In all my years of mothering, I don’t think I have ever elicited such immediate and wholehearted compliance to one of my instructions.

The cool Oldest Brother has a power that even he doesn’t totally understand. May it always be a force for good!  Now that the Oldest Brother is in boot camp, may the core values of the Marines be the driving force behind his awesome power of influence.

HONOR

COURAGE

COMMITMENT

And just a little bit of good housekeeping and proper dental hygiene.

 

 

My Son Just Graduated from High School! But what do the Marines have to do with this Rite of Passage?

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Cole graduated with his class from Dauphin County Technical School at the Forum in Harrisburg last night.  His father graduated at the very same place 25 years ago.  Excitement was in the air as all the students were decked out in their sashes and cords, representing their accomplishments.

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Cole was the most proud of his black and red United States Marine Corps sash.  We as his family thought that it was by far the finest piece of his outfit, representing months of hard work, representing his future.

 

                As the students got ready for the ceremony, the woman in charge told Cole and two other students that they could NOT wear their Marine sashes during the ceremony under any circumstance.

If they did, they would be denied their diplomas.  The reason?  The students who had enlisted in the other branches of the military did not have similar sashes.  Their red, white, and blue cords would be decoration enough.

Cole was quite angry with this decision.  We as his family were pretty upset as well, wishing there was a way this decision could be overturned.  However, as the seniors marched into the auditorium, no red and black sashes were visible.

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The time came for each cord to be identified and each group of students to rise to receive recognition for the corresponding achievement.  So many fine students!  So many accolades for certifications, test scores, and memberships in honor societies!  Cole rose for many of them, including most outstanding Senior in his technical area.  Finally the students wearing the red, white, and blue cords were asked to stand for their commitment to the armed forces.  Applause and clapping erupted!  Many people stood to their feet!  Our family was up, cheering our hearts out.

Soon almost the entire auditorium rose to honor these courageous young people with thunderous applause. The cheering seemed to last forever.

Although the roaring applause did last four times as long as the applause for any of the other cords, it did not last forever.  Still it was a moment in time that will live in my heart for eternity. A defining moment.

Patriotism is not dead!

Commitment and sacrifice for your country means something! Something that our lives and freedoms depend on.  We feel that gratitude in our very bones.

My son was the recipient of that gratitude in that moment.  I hope he remembers that moment when it feels as if the entire world is against him.  I hope he remembers that his choice means something that I can barely express, but feel so deeply.

I hope he always remembers that we are so, so proud!

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Discouraged Much? Me Too!

I was looking forward to 2018 with great expectations.  This is what I wrote in my journal about the coming year.

The Best is Yet to Come

Best Year Yet

Open Doors

God Encounters

Becoming Eagles

When the New Year arrived, it came in a way that I didn’t expect.  During January and February I became very discouraged. Three major sorrows had come upon me.

Sorrow #1 – I felt sicker than I ever had in my life

I discovered that I was carrying a new child of destiny in my womb. It was a dream come true, and I was elated!  I felt wonderful with my last pregnancy, so I thought this one would be even better.  Wrong!  I had never felt so weird and nauseous before.  I had never thrown up so much before!  I have never had hot flashes and cold chills before.

When I believed that 2018 would be the year that I would become an eagle, I imagined writing more.  So many beautiful God stories were in my heart, crying out to be crafted into words.  Maybe I would even put together a manuscript and work on a book!  For Christmas my husband and children surprised me with a new laptop…OF MY VERY OWN!  I was so surprised and excited!

I also thought I would be able to be more involved at church.  Oh, all the beautiful times of prayer and worship and God encounters that awaited me!

Yet January and February found me sitting on the sofa or sleeping in my bed with a weak body and a fuzzy brain.  It was hard to think about anything except how to avoid throwing up again. I tried to write, but I couldn’t.  Sitting at the computer even for a few minutes made me feel even sicker!  (It still does so this article was a bit of a struggle to produce.)  I didn’t go to church at all.

Sorrow #2 – Finances

God was going do wonderful things in our finances this year.  I was sure of it!  Early in the New Year Chris got promoted to full-time at UPS.  This was amazing, happening more quickly than usual.  However, it didn’t play out so well in real life.  First of all, peak was over, so his hours went from 70 hrs to 50-55 hrs a week.  That is normal, just life at UPS.  However, because of a rule that says all full-time employees have to be paid for at least 8 hours each day they are called in to work, Chris lost the opportunity to pick up 4 hours of air-rate overtime on Saturdays.  This had a significant impact on each paycheck.  In addition, full-time employees have to pay more union dues.  We had less instead of more, and it was feeling like a struggle again.

Sorrow #3 – Lack of Healing

It has been difficult for me to believe in miraculous healing.  I do believe theoretically, but I just haven’t had much experience in my own life.  This year I felt faith arising!  Perhaps this was the time that I would see healing with my own eyes!  We were planning a double foot surgery for Ashlyn, but what if God would heal her first?

I took Ashlyn to a healing room.  It was lovely, and the people were beautiful, and I felt the goodness of God.  Prayers were prayed, but nothing happened with Ashlyn that I could see.

They also prayed for me for two specific health problems.  The following week those two issues became significantly worse. Talk about being discouraged!

One of those issues was varicose veins.  I had bad veins in my right leg since my 4th pregnancy which was 14 years ago.  14 years of no shorts, no dresses.  14 years of feeling rather ugly and old.  Last June I had the worst vein removed and the faulty vein repaired.  It took three days of surgery with local anesthesia.  It required one incision and 58 small holes.  The recovery was more painful than I had expected, and I wondered if it was really worth it.

It was supposed to heal and leave me with a normal looking leg.  Yet I had to attend my daughter’s High School Graduation in baggy, frumpy pants to accommodate the bandages.  I developed a dream in my heart that encouraged me greatly.  My son’s graduation would be next June.  I would attend that important event in a pretty summer dress!

In this New Year, I was so excited to be pregnant without those horrible veins!  No pain, no awful compression stockings!  As this pregnancy progressed, I noticed pain in my leg again.  It was awhile before I realized that it was new veins popping out on the back of my leg.  The leg that still bore 59 little scars.  Slowly the veins traveled down my entire leg.  After receiving prayer, they began to hurt so much that I had to wear a compression stocking.

My beautiful dream had officially died a pathetic and mournful death!

The Sorrows are so small

Now that I am in my second trimester, I can look at my life and see a hundred joys outnumbering those three little sorrows.  I can give thanks for a thousand different blessings each day!!!

Still, I feel discouraged.  If only things were a little different in certain areas.  If only I didn’t feel my faith slipping away.

One Sunday morning during worship I gave my discouragement to God.  Still I wished for my sorrows to be gone.  Then God helped me to realize.

There is something Deeper (than my reality).

There is something more Real (than my circumstances).

There is something more Important (than my discouragement).

Like this baby growing healthy and strong.  Like the delight that God has when He looks at me.  Like the fact that this suffering is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in me, the glory that will be revealed in my daughter.  Like my character being formed into the character of Christ.

Like Becoming An Eagle!

I had asked God to transform me into an eagle this year.  To help me to worship Him until the wind of His presence surrounded me.  To help me to stretch out my wings in faith.  To teach me to fly.  To teach me to see EVERYTHING from His higher perspective.

He has been answering my prayer this whole time.  No one ever learns to do something new without practice.  All these sorrows are training me to rise above and SEE!

Your eyes will see the King in his beauty, and the highlands of heaven far away.” Is 33:17 Living Bible

This has been His promise to me.  I have asked Him to help me live in it.  I have asked for a difficult thing…

But it is worth it!

 

P.S. Just a note to all of my followers.  I am so delighted that you enjoy my writing! I probably will not be posting much until August or September when I hope that I will be reconciled to my laptop.  Praying you will bask in all the joys!

P.P.S. Ashlyn’s surgery well very well!  She has been recovering beautifully and I am so thankful.

How to Rise Above the Vultures

We all have them.  Bad days, bad weeks, even bad months…when it feels like we are living under a dark cloud of depression.  All circumstances seem to agree with the discouraging thoughts inside our heads.  Yet if we know Jesus, we understand that this is not the abundant life that Jesus promised.  We realize something is wrong, but exactly what and how to fix it is a little fuzzy.  Fuzzy because the vultures are circling overhead, creating a dark atmosphere that blocks out the light of the Son.

                How can we live a life without those pesky vultures bothering us?

For me, they speak a language that I readily understand.  A language of condemnation, self-doubt, and self-pity.  Whenever I fall short (which is every day), my perfectionist nature can hear the toxic voices of the vultures.  I agree all too often and lose sight of God’s truth.  How do I stay out of their reach?

The book, The Final Quest offers a clue.  In Rick Joyner’s vision, he was fighting in the Lord’s Army.  He saw many Christians in the enemy’s camp being held captive by weak little demons of fear and being oppressed by the vultures of depression.  They could have easily fought off these puny creatures with their glorious swords, but chose not to.

Even the Christians who were not prisoners but were mighty warriors on the mountain of the Lord, were still vulnerable to the vultures. If they drifted too close to the edge, they could slip on the condemnation vomited on the rocky cliffs by the vultures.  Once they had fallen off the mountain, they were easily carried off by the enemy.  Rick avoided this fate by spending his free time driving his sword (the Word of God) deep into the side of the mountain and tying himself to it.  He finally climbed to a level that was above the reach of the vultures.  This level was called, “Galatians Two Twenty.”

                “…and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NRSV)

This scripture speaks of a life I have not yet learned how to live, but I want to.  I want to climb up that level where I dwell in the reality, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

My life is no longer about me.  My life is about Jesus!  No one (not even myself) has any grounds to judge me.  My value doesn’t come from being good, or perfect, or hard-working, or talented.  My value comes from the value God puts on me.  He knew me before the world began.  He made me.  He knows who I am in the depths of my being.  He knows who I will become.  He knows that His word is powerful to enable me to do anything He tells me to do.  He knows His finished work in me.  He says that I am worth His Son – His Life, His Death, His Resurrection.

                It is no longer about me!

                It is Christ living in me!

 My past mistakes – Jesus has signed his name to those and claimed them as His own.

My victories – I win them in His power.

My weaknesses – He is turning them into strengths.

My Strengths – It is His likeness in me.

My embarrassments…

My insecurities…

My shame – They no longer apply to me!

My condemnation – I say to those vultures, “Take it up with Jesus!  This life belongs to Him!”

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It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me!

When I start to get discouraged, when I tumble down the slippery slope to depression, I am focusing on myself.

My failures

My faults

Why I am to blame for all the imperfect circumstances.

Why other people don’t like me.

How I could never become the person God wants me to be.

Why all His goodness doesn’t apply to Me!

 I AM SO TIRED OF FOCUSING ON ME!!!!

Even Bill Johnson said that no one comes out of a time of deep introspection encouraged.  There are times that the Holy Spirit will lead us to look into our past or look into our hearts, and shine His Light and Love on whatever we find there. But looking inward all the time with our own understanding makes our world smaller and smaller, darker and darker.

“Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.” Romans 8:6 (MSG)

I want that spacious, free life!  I want to soar above the circumstances, soar above the vultures.  I want to mount up on wings like an eagle and rise above the grey clouds, to see the sun paint glorious colors on the sky.

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When I am being bothered by those vultures and thinking all sorts of disparaging thoughts about myself…

I turn my gaze to Jesus!  I start to worship Him for all of His excellent attributes.  I rehearse all of His goodness to me.  I see how beautiful and powerful He is.  I give Him His job back, being the King of the Universe.  My burdens become light.  He becomes so big.  My problems become so small.  I lift my arms in surrender and I feel faith arise within me.

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                I feel my wings unfold.  I feel the wind of His presence lift me high.  High above the vultures. High above everything…

except HIM.

 

 

Have Patience!

 

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I love shopping at Costco! It is usually a lovely experience…usually…

At first I was nervous about paying for a Costco membership, because I didn’t think we would get our money’s worth out of it.  Now I shop there twice a month.  It really has become inconvenient to NOT buy in bulk.

Frequently I shop with some of the children with me.  This particular Saturday morning Chris was able to come along too.  What a treat!  We had a delightful time trying all the samples, browsing the aisles, and filling our cart to overflowing.  We finally paid and pushed our heavy load out to the exit.  We found the place packed with shoppers with their carts, watching the torrential downpour happening just outside the large open doors.  We tried to maneuver our cart close enough to the exit to see what was actually happening outside.

A perfect summer storm!  Sheets of rain pelted down, unrelenting.  No one was willing to go out into it, yet new shoppers with full carts kept pushing towards the doors from the checkout lines.  A few people rushed in from the parking lot, wanting to start their shopping, only to find an almost impenetrable wall of people just inside.  With grumpy, disgruntled faces they tried to wiggle their way out of the rain.  I felt very in the way.

Chris decided that he would make a dash for it.  He was going to get the van and pull up to the entrance.  A good start to a plan.  Without discussing the details any further, he plunged out into the rain with his phone in his pocket.

I waited and waited with two very antsy boys and an ever increasing mob of people.  We were lined up by the door, but no one was going out.  Where was Chris?  I couldn’t see him through the rain.

“Do you have the big van out there?” a nice woman asked.  “I see it back there behind my daughter.”

I inched my head around the corner and saw our van sitting behind a rather long line of vehicles.  Yet no one was moving, no one was loading up their groceries.

“What is happening?” I thought?  “Should I wait for Chris to get to the entrance?  But no one is moving.  Is he waiting for me to come out to him?  He is always accusing me of being slow.  Maybe he is wondering where I am.”

Cooper and Chai were urging me to go out to the van.

“Come on, mom! Let’s go!!!”  they kept saying.

After several more annoyed looks from incoming shoppers, I decided to risk it.  It could rain like this for the rest of the day, and we couldn’t stay here forever.

“OK guys, we are going to run as fast as we can to Daddy.  Stay with me!  Ready?”  I said.  I was no wimp!  What is a little rain?

As soon as we left the building I realized what a mistake I had made!  The “little rain” soaked us to the bone in one millisecond.  It was too late to go back inside so I plowed on, pushing my load up the sidewalk which had been transformed into a river.  The water covered my shoes and was soaking my pants.

Through the sheets of water pelting me, I caught a glimpse of Chris’ face in the front seat of the van.  The van that was so close yet so…far…away.  He was shaking his head with a look of bewilderment that said, “What in the world are you doing, woman?!”

I knew that I had made a very bad decision, yet I had to keep going.

“Boys, help me push!” I yelled.

They tried to help until we came to the place where a drain pipe exited the side of the building.  Water from the roof was shooting out of the pipe like a fire hose.  The boys stopped moving forward and began to play in the water!

“This is the life!”  I heard Cooper say happily as I was still struggling to get our very soggy groceries upriver to the van.  I finally get there and Chris jumped out.

“What are you doing?”  He yelled with a crazy kind of laugh and immediately started loading groceries in the back.  The boys began to help, although it pained them to leave their fun.  We all threw ourselves into the van in a matter of minutes, dripping and soaking the seats.

“Cutie, I wanted you to wait for me.  I could see on the radar that this storm is about to pass, but I couldn’t call you because you left your phone at home.”

I was trying my best not to sink into a disgusted, self-loathing depression for all the groceries that I had just ruined.  I was thinking about all of us having to change all our clothes – more laundry! Arghh!  I was thinking about having to dry out the van.  I was thinking about my sopping wet hair matted to my head.  When it finally dried, the humidity was going to make it poof into a frizzy mess.

The words of Bishop Joseph Garlington came to my mind.

“If it’s funny later, it’s funny now,” Chris said as though he was reading my mind!  I was trying to see the humor in it, but I was just feeling foolish and oh so very wet!

Chris began to maneuver the van out of the parking lot.  Before we even turned out onto the street, the clouds cleared.  The sun came out and painted the most beautiful pinks onto the now blue sky.

“See, if you would have just waited a few more minutes!”  the sun seemed to say, as if to mock me!

What have I learned from this unfortunate event?  Clear communication is very important.  Discuss a plan thoroughly and understand what the other person is thinking.  If you are unable to obtain the needed clarification…simply wait!  Have patience!  Wait on the Lord and listen to His wisdom.  His radar is perfect and He knows exactly when those storms are going to clear.

I have gleaned a few more pearls of wisdom:

Don’t take advice from impatient pre-teen boys.

Don’t worry about the rude looks of other people or what they might be thinking.

Almost all of Costco’s products are wrapped in plastic so you don’t have to worry about a little rain.

Even a wrong choice is not the end of the world and can make a pretty good story.

 

Will I See My Papa Again?

50th anniversary

It was a warm summer night and the sun had not yet set.  My brother and I were hanging out with our friends at the close of our youth group meeting.  Our youth pastor, Bryan, came up to us and said, “Your mom is in the office and wants to see you.”

That was very unusual.  My mom didn’t attend our church and she never came on a Wednesday night.  When we entered Bryan’s office, Mom told us that we had to call our grandfather, “Papa” as we called him.  He lived in Wisconsin and we only saw him and our Grammy twice a year; at Christmas and during summer vacation.  We loved them dearly, yet I didn’t understand why mom had driven all the way into the city to make sure that we called him on the church telephone.

“Your Papa is going into surgery early tomorrow morning, and I wanted you to talk to him before that,” Mom explained.

With the excitement of the approaching summer vacation and my graduation from High School, I had completely forgotten that Papa was scheduled to get a hip replacement.  He was in his eighties but still seemed fairly young to me.  He and Grammy loved to go hiking, yet in recent years his hip pain had made even walking very difficult for him.  The past summer, Papa didn’t breathe a word about his pain, yet I saw him trembling and breathing with slow, shaky breaths whenever he sat down or got up again.  Grammy was anxious to get back to their active lifestyle and urged him to get the hip replaced.

I wasn’t worried about his surgery.  He had gotten his other hip done a few years back, and it seemed rather routine.  I took the phone and told him that I loved him and hoped his surgery went well.  I thought my mom had been silly to insist upon this call. After all, we would see him in person soon.

That was the last time I ever had the opportunity to talk to my Papa, and how thankful I am now for that phone conversation and my mom’s intuition.  Days later we learned that something had gone wrong after the surgery, a nasty infection.  Papa’s vital signs went haywire, and he was about to die.  The doctors were doing everything they could to stabilize him.  In the scary chaos, they asked Grammy if they should put Papa on life support.  She looked at the love of her life, the man she adored, her partner for more than 63 years.  She saw him dying and thought the doctors were asking her if they should save his life or let him die.  Of course she chose to save his life.

She told me later that she didn’t understand what life support really meant.  If she had known at the time that it meant hooking her beloved husband up to all sorts of tubes and equipment, keeping his body alive in a sort of artificial limbo state; she never would have agreed to it.

Yet there he was, in the hospital bed, being sustained by machines.  Grammy’s heart was broken and so were ours.  Everything had changed.  No more hiking trips.  No more happy summer vacations listening to Papa’s funny stories.  No more Christmases with my grandfather and his white hair all mussed up from getting out of bed so early in the morning.

There could be a miracle.  I believed in miracles and I prayed for a miracle for Papa.  I thought about what a precious man he was.  He had met Grammy when he was 21 and Grammy was only 16.  He walked her home from the ice skating rink and never had eyes for another girl.  They waited 10 years to get married so they could save money to build a house.

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Harold and La Vera Gisselman on their wedding day

That adorable house was still their home and one of my favorite places in the world.  To read more about my memories, read my article, “The Term is Over” and “Happy 100th Birthday Grammy.”

He was called into the army during WWII, but never left the United States thanks to his excellent typing skills. That was a very good thing, because during that time, my mother was conceived!

Harold and Dana

After the war, he began working at a bank as a teller and worked his way to becoming the bank president.  He was known by many of the people in the small city of Wausau, and was affectionately called “Chick” even though his name was Harold.  He was always easy with conversation and jokes and was great fun to be around.

He was a very honorable man and attended a Methodist church.  He didn’t talk much about his faith.  In fact, when I had a life-altering salvation experience at the age of 14 and started attending a Charismatic church, he didn’t seem that interesting in talking about it.  I wondered if he really had a relationship with Jesus.  Had he ever asked Jesus to forgive his sins and take him to heaven?  I didn’t know.  The thought of never seeing my Papa again terrified me.

That week I graduated from High School.  The graduation ceremony was lovely.  I had some of my closest friends back to my house afterwards to celebrate.  We stayed up most of the night, talking.  There is so much to talk about when you are on the verge of the rest of your life; with missions trips, college, and careers all on the horizon.

Then we got into a circle, grabbed hands, and began to pray.  We prayed for each other, prayed for our futures.  Then I began to pray for my Papa.

“God, I ask that you would do a miracle and heal Papa.  If he doesn’t know you, Jesus, DON’T LET HIM DIE!  Heal him and speak to him and let him know your love.  If he does know you, if he is going to heaven, then let him die.  I don’t want him to have to suffer indefinitely, unable to talk or really live.  If he is saved, please take him to heaven,” I prayed.

I looked up at the clock and it said 2:30am.  It was time to wrap up this party.  My friends returned home and I fell asleep in my living room, curled up on the recliner.

In the morning my mom gently shook my shoulder.  “Last night your Papa died,” she said.

I was so sleepy, that I didn’t respond except to let out a sad, “Ohhhhhh.” Then I rolled over and went back to sleep.  I couldn’t explain the peace that I felt.  My mom expected me to be quite distraught, and she hated to give me the news on the day after I graduated.

Later, when I was fully awake, I asked my mom, “What time did Papa die?”

“It was 1:30am,” she answered.

My heart sank.  He died before I had prayed that prayer.  I didn’t have any assurance that I would see my Papa again.

Then I remembered.  Papa had passed away at 1:30am Wisconsin time.  That was 2:30am our time here in Pennsylvania, the exact time that I had asked Jesus to carry him to heaven!

 

The Wonder of a Little Girl

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My Annalise is quite a special little girl.  She has bright blue eyes that sparkle with life.  She has cute little dimples in the corners of her mouth when she smiles and one on her right cheek as well.

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She loves to run around the house in bouncy, toddler circles.  She loves to run on the sidewalk outside our home, her small arms pumping with the joy of childhood.

I am certain that she must be one of the most beautiful creatures in the universe.  There is no sound more beautiful than her high-pitched voice exclaiming, “Mama!”  when she sees me.  There is no feeling more wonderful than when she puts her chubby, little arms around my neck and rubs her soft cheek against my cheek, slowly and lovingly.  I can feel her long, dark eyelashes brush my skin.  She snuggles in and expresses her joy by sighing, “Ohhhh, ohhhh,” like we do when we hug her.

Throughout the day, I will call out to her for fun, “Lisie, Lisie!” which is her nickname.  She responds, “Mommy, Ahmmy!”  I can’t hide my absolute delight in her.  I smile wide and my eyes tell her that she is the light of my life.  She smiles back with those dimples and a look that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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Recently I gathered some pictures to decorate my mother’s new room.  She just moved to an assisted living home in March.  Now when I visit my mom, my attention is always drawn to a particular picture on her bookshelf.  It is an old photo of me.  I look to be about three, just a little older than Annalise.  I have noticed that I have the same bright blue eyes.  I have those cute mouth dimples.  And there it is, the smile that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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My mom had told me many times that Annalise looks very much like I did at her age.  Mom also says that she acts a lot like me, sweet and kind but also feisty.  I wanted to believe it, but it wasn’t until I saw that picture did I begin to think, “I was just as precious and marvelous as Annalise.  I was loved and cherished just as Annalise is.”

I don’t know why I had forgotten that.  Somehow the years and my life experiences had told me a different story; that I wasn’t that special, that I had to work really hard to get people to like me, and that I had to worry about losing that approval.

God is taking me back to that little girl.  The one who was the most beautiful creature in the universe.  The one who captured her Father’s heart with one glance of her eyes.

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The one who already had the perfect love that could never be earned, the love that could never be diminished, the love that could never be lost.  That little girl is me… and I really AM something, aren’t I?