Our 21st Honeymoon: A Moonrise, A Sunset, and a Sunrise

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Chris and I celebrated our 21st anniversary on August 3rd.  It is always so hot in August, and we are not fans of heat and humidity.  Why did we pick August to get married, we ask ourselves?  Last year we celebrated our 20th on the hottest day of the entire year!  This year we decided to wait until October.  God provided a beautiful beach getaway at Ocean City, Maryland, and it was lovely!!

I have only been to the beach a handful of times in my life.  Florida when I was a preschooler.  Ocean City, New Jersey when I was in Elementary School.  The beautiful white sand beaches of Belize after I graduated from High School.  Brigantine Island for our honey moon.  Duck, North Carolina with the family 6 years ago.  This time I think I really understood why people return again and again.

First we decided to walk on the beach and then the boardwalk to see what we could see.  We ended up walking 68 blocks that day and night, because we didn’t know much about Ocean City.

Finally we found a beautiful restaurant with great Italian food.  We could sit outside and watch the full moon rise over the ocean.  My first moon rise over the ocean!

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The next day we decided to drive rather than walk.  We drove to the very end of the board walk which was the most exciting part.

 

We saw lots of little shops.  We saw hundreds of fancy cars in a car show.  Chris got some Boardwalk fries and frozen custard.  We went to the Life Saving Station Museum.  It was amazing to learn about the men who would patrol the beaches at night, looking for ships in distress.  The accounts of rescues touched me deeply.  The men would risk their own lives, work for hours in freezing temperatures and horrible weather, and think of nothing else except the person they were trying to save.

“That is like you, Jesus.” I prayed. “Give me your heart for your people in distress.  But how do I save them if they don’t even know that they are dying?”

You don’t have to do my job.  You don’t have to save them, heal them, know everything about them, or make everything right for them.  Just love them and obey Me,” I heard Him answer.

Later we ate a delicious meal on our balcony overlooking the bay.  Then we walked on the bay as the sun began to set.

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It was my first sunset on the bay…

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Night falls.

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The next morning we woke up early and walked to the beach one last time.  The sun was about to rise.

I was surprised by all the other people gathered, watching the horizon.

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There is the first bit of sun peeking over the ocean!  My first sunrise on the beach.  We watched as it rose quickly into the sky.

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We shared the beach with the trucks and the morning fishermen.

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And a woman doing acrobatics.

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And two pelicans.

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I could feel His presence in the wind that carried the birds.  As we walked along the edge of the water, I could hear God’s voice in the waves.  They were unrelenting and drowning out all other sounds.  I can see why people love it here.  Away from the rest of the world.  Encounters with God come loud and clear.

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I am struck by how God reveals himself in His creation.  He is like the ocean.  Unpredictable.  Just when you think you have figured out where to walk to just get your feet wet, a large wave comes and gives you more seawater than you had bargained for. Uncontrollable.  The waves push and pull and can’t be stopped.

Unimaginably beautiful.

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Family History is Full of Blessings!

I have been taking a journey through the annals of time, through photocopies and photographs hidden in dusty filing cabinets, almost forgotten.  I have delved into old family papers to try and answer the questions: Where did I come from?  Who were my ancestors?  Who am I?  I have just scratched the surface, but I found some pretty great stuff!

My Mother’s Family

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My mother’s father (Harold Gisselman) was born to Erik and Anna Gisselman in Iowa after they immigrated from Sweden.  They later settled in Wisconsin.  I wrote about Harold in “Will I See My Papa Again?”  Harold was such a wonderful story teller and I wish he was still here to tell me all about his wonderful family and what his parents remembered about their lives in Sweden.

My mother’s mother’s side of the family holds a rare treasure called “Shilling Genealogy and History” by Anna Schilling Wichman.  She tells the story of her grandparents, Johann and Justina Schilling.  Johann was born in Brandenburg, Germany.  I was very excited to learn that fact since that is my husband’s family name and now my name as well!   He was a wine maker and barrel maker. That fact also excited me since we have a son named “Cooper” which means “barrel maker!”

They immigrated to Wisconsin in 1858 where he became a farmer.  When wheat raising declined, “With the help of his son, Frank, driving teams hitched to sleighs loaded with the family belongings, they came north through the state which at that time was almost unbroken wilderness, with only a few rough roads blazed through the jack pine and scrub oak.”

Johann purchased an 80 acre tract of land in the vast forests of Marathon County and built a farm that was sold to his son, Frank in 1894 for $1.00.  Frank Shilling was described by the author (who was also his daughter) as, “Always an industrious farmer and always a humble, faithful Christian.”  His wife, Anna, was “one of the sweetest, noblest women whose life has ever brightened this earth.”

This lovely couple had 8 children, one of whom was my great-grandmother Amelia.  Amelia was, “an industrious woman, strong in character, had an unwavering trust in God, which was her strength and shield, and enabled her to meet the adversities of life with calmness and fortitude.”  She became Amelia Seipp and had two children, the firstborn being my grandmother LaVera, “a woman of grace and dignity.”  I wrote about LeVera in “Happy 100th Birthday Grammy!”  LaVera married Harold Gisselman and had one child, Dana.  Dana married George Beyer and had two children.  That is me and my brother!

I am very thankful to know of my trailblazing, hardworking, God-fearing ancestors from Sweden and Germany who settled in Wisconsin.

My Father’s Family

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My father’s side of the family is more of a mystery to me.  My father was a historian and a writer, but he never compiled a history of his own family. How I wish that I could talk with Dad again about all that he knew of his past.  How I wish that I had more interesting questions to ask of his parents (Leonard and Edna Beyer) back when they were alive, more important than, “Where are Dad’s old Lincoln Logs?” or  “Can I watch TV now?”

I have to piece together their lives with the papers and photographs that my dad had saved.  A pile of matted photos, faded and yellowed with age, taken by Leonard Beyer tell me that he was an amazing photographer.  His photos of plants, animals, and landscapes were taken in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, England and Italy.  My daughter Areli has inherited his love of both traveling and photography (and his talent as well)!

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Leonard’s father was Andrew Jackson Beyer, who I know nothing about except that he perhaps owned an ice cream shop and possibly served as a judge.

His mother was Virginia Keyser.  I have extensive paperwork on the Keyser family, generated when they held a Bicentennial Family Reunion.  It was Dirck Keyser of Amsterdam, a prominent dealer of silk goods, who first immigrated to what is now Pennsylvania in 1688.  He responded to an invitation from William Penn because he was, “desiring to worship God in all freedom.”

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The Keyser family was quite proud of their earliest known predecessor, Leonhard Keyser of Bavaria.  He broke from the Catholic Church, of which he had been a priest, to become an Anabaptist.  The Reunion states that “he put aside the mystery and absurdity of the Latin tongue, and went among the people talking to them in their own language…what they should do to be saved.”

An account of his martyrdom was recorded in Martyrs Mirrors from two separate but very similar reports. “…in the year 1525, and forthwith continued his ministry with great power and zeal, undaunted by all the tyranny which arose over the believers, in the way of drowning, burning and putting to death.  Acts 9:20 In the second year of his ministry, Leonhard Keyser was apprehended at Scharding, in Bavaria, and condemned by the bishop of Passau…to be burned…When he came out into the field, and was approaching the fire, he, bound, as he was, leaned down at the side of the cart, and plucked a flower with his hand, saying to the judge, who rode on horseback alongside of the cart: ‘Lord judge, here I pluck a flower; if you can burn this flower and me, you have justly condemned me; but, on the other hand, if you cannot burn me and this flower in my hand, consider what you have done and repent.’  Thereupon the judge and the three executioners threw an extraordinary quantity of wood into the fire, in order to burn him immediately to ashes by the great fire.  But when the wood was entirely burned up, his body was taken from the fire uninjured.  Then the three executioners and their assistants built another great fire of wood, which when it was consumed, his body still remained uninjured…and the flower in his hand, not withered, or burnt in the least, the executioners then cut his body into pieces, which they threw into a new fire.  When the wood was burned up, the pieces lay unconsumed in the fire.  Finally they took the pieces and threw them into the river Inn.”

I cannot even comprehend what a legacy of devotion to God and courage I have inherited from Leonhard!

My father’s mother, Edna Specht Beyer, I also know very little about.  A few stories written by Edna give a peek into their lives.  “Something Very Personal” was an article about how they met and married.  “My Grandfather’s Place” was written about her paternal Grandparents who came from Germany.  Something wonderful happened to me as I read my grandmothers recollections.  Previously I had only ever seen her as a very proper, old woman.  As I read her writing, I realized that she wasn’t always old.  She was actually once a young woman very much like me, with a love for reading, writing, and teaching. The way she viewed her grandparents and their home was very similar to how I had always seen her and her home.  In fact, I had written sentiments so similar to her own, years prior in my article, “The Term is Over.”   She describes her grandparent’s house as a special place where nothing ever changed.  Her grandparents’ yards was like a magical fairy land to her as a child.

Edna and I also shared the same sorrow when we returned years later to see the place very much changed by new ownership and the wonder stripped to the barren look of any, common subdivision.  I feel so much closer to Grandmother Beyer now and want to know more about her heritage.  She actually felt that same way about her grandparents.

In fact she wrote, “It seems strange to me now that I remember Grandfather’s place so well but know so little about my grandparents.  How I would love to visit them again and get them to talk of their childhood in Europe, of their parents’ decision to come to America, of the long trip over in a sailing vessel, of the hard years in a new country… But of important things about their lives, I know very little except that they had always been honest, hardworking, God-fearing.”

It is a shame that neither Edna nor I thought to ask the really interesting questions while our grandparents were still alive.  Yet God holds all our past in His hands, and will reveal what is important in His good time.

It is also true that written accounts usually highlight the good and minimize the bad.  Exodus 20: 5b-6 (NLT) says, “I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”  We have all observed how the bad decisions and weaknesses of the grandparents and parents have a negative impact on the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of the children.  We all have those negative influences in our families. Yet Jesus died to set us free from every curse!  His blood brings healing from every destructive thing in our family lines.

God is such a loving Father that His blessings extend down family lines, not just for three or four generations, but for a THOUSAND GENERATIONS!

I have been asking for all those blessings to fall on my generation, on my children, and on my grandchildren.  I think God loves those kind of prayers, because He carefully chose the specific details of my lineage, and He would delight if I lived in the fullness of all that He had placed there!  I can also feel His joy as I discover those blessings, one by one.  May my children also experience that joy as they read my writing, years from now, when they remember all that they wished they had asked me.

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?

A Photo Shoot with All Boys

I had gotten a lovely picture of my girls for our Christmas card.  Each girl had a sweet, picture-perfect smile.  All I needed was an equally good picture of my six boys.  I could imagine the stunning photo in my mind.  Six fine boys, all with distinct features yet all with the similar Brandenburg look – a winning smile and handsome eyes.  They would look like an ad for some designer label.

I put my daughter, Areli, on the job with high expectations.  Then  reality hit!  Here is the adventure that she had, trying to get that perfect shot.

“Ok, let’s get all the boys into bright, simple shirts and line them up together on the porch.”

“Boys, you have to get closer together.  Smoosh!  Good, now smile!”

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“Boys, nice smiles!!!”

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“Look at the camera BOYS!!”

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“I see that your collective attention span has reached its limit.  Let’s take a walk in the woods and look for a scenic spot to take a picture.”

“Alright, this place is nice.  Now all get together and smile.  Look handsome! “

(You think you have the perfect shot and then, in the blink of an eye – a squirrel up in a tree becomes quite fascinating!)

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“Look at the camera boys!”

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Well, this is getting better!  This is a good one…wait…where is the little cutie?  The star of any photo shoot is always the littlest one with the cubby cheeks, but WHERE IS HE?

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Courage was mad that he couldn’t have a “nola” bar, and decided that he was done with pictures.

“Courage, Come Back Here!!!”

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There it is, little Courage making his way in the lonely wilderness.

We might as well take a break for a little fun.

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That photo shoot turned out to be less than what I was envisioning and the boys gave Areli such a hard time!  I was not yet defeated, so I got the boys dressed up again in special, matching outfits.  We all tromped outside to try again.

“Ok, boys.  Lay down in the grass and put your heads together in the middle.”

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Pandemonium ensued.  Apparently boys consider it very uncool to lay down in the grass, especially with EACH OTHER.

Areli and I tried to get some pictures amidst the arguing, complaining, rough housing, and shrieking…but alas.  Every single picture showed Courage’s once handsome face contoured into a grimace.  He cried the entire photo shoot.

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That was the end!  The boys were free from their torture and I was mad!  Where was my perfect picture of my dashing young men for my epic Christmas card?

This is a lot like life.  We have expectations of perfection. We make excellent plans.  Give straightforward instructions. Yet everything happens except perfection.  Disappointment is guaranteed. What is a mom to do?

I looked through the photos to see what I could salvage.  I actually found a few good ones mixed in.

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This photo was my favorite.  They don’t all have perfect smiles but I can appreciate each boy in his uniqueness and I LOVE them each so much!

Life never gives us what we expect and it is never our version of perfect.  But if you pay attention and look closely enough, you can find the gems hidden in the dirt.

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Or in this case, the little boy smiling in the tree. (Smiling because the photo shoot was over and he was free to climb!)

Sweet and patient Areli has become quite the photographer! She has just launched her own website and offers photo shoots and prints for sale.  Please check it out!

Areli Endura Photography