If a tree could talk, the stories it could tell…

The trees in the backyard were “clapping.” It was a very icy morning in December, when all the branches on the trees were swaying back and forth in the breeze. It was making a sound akin to someone haphazardly playing the chimes on a drum set.

Several months before that, a bible verse was brought to my mind. Still having a hard time with the impending move and my emotions going in every direction, the verse was a hard one to swallow.

The verse was,

Isaiah 55:12

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (N.I.V.)

 

Having dismissed the part about “going out in joy” and hoping the house wouldn’t sell, I put it into the back of my mind for some time. My husband and I had the house for sale off and on for a couple years. We had just decided to take it off the market again until at least Spring. Whew. I was off the hook again for a while.

In the meantime, before we took it off the market, one last couple looked at the house, made an offer, and ended up buying it. I was suddenly in a mad scramble of packing, giving, and throwing away for the next five weeks.

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The trees were “clapping their hands”

 

That December morning, when I opened the back door to take pictures and a video, the verse popped back into my mind.

Ok, God…I will be going out in peace-not so much joy, unless you provide a miracle…and we don’t have mountains, but we definitely have a hill, and the trees are obviously “clapping their hands.” I get it. You’re trying to tell me something here. 

God repeated himself, as he often does, to get our attention. We had not one ice storm, but two within a few days…right in the middle of trying to move. The second time, I opened the back door again, and heard the same type of noise. The hills were clapping their hands again.

It was a beautiful sight, as the sun was glistening like diamonds on the trees. The icy branches were clacking together and chunks of ice would drop down, knocking many other branches on the way down. The ice chunks were shattering into a million tiny pieces as they reached the ground.

Leaving the house on that last afternoon, I hugged Cliff in the garage before we each got into our cars. All the emotions of the preceding months came crashing in. I had asked him to wait for me, although he had errands and things to do. I didn’t want to leave the house the last time all by myself. The moment was short. I wanted to linger but didn’t.

God was faithful. He had Cliff lead me forth in peace. He drove out of the driveway ahead of me. We had peace, although I carried sadness. Part of my heart stayed there as I drove out for the last time. The future was uncertain, but I knew this was the right thing to do.

The hills were going to “burst forth in song” as they again would observe another young family enjoying the acreage and home.

Bursting forth in song on an October day…

 

My thoughts have gone to trees quite often lately. There’s been reminders about how significant they are. Yes, we see hundreds, maybe thousands of them in a days’ time, depending on where you live. Often I don’t give them a second thought. Trees can teach, evoke memories, and give us gifts. They are a wonderful creation.

 

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Going against the flow…

I didn’t think it was a big deal. I just didn’t want to pour ice water over my head. I’ve always hated to be cold. At first, it was as simple as that.

As friends would post the “Ice Bucket Challenge” on Facebook, I was never “liking” or posting, hoping that I wouldn’t get noticed. Well…of course, finally I did. At first, I was like “oh crum, I don’t want to do that! I’ll just donate to ALS. I know friends who have lost a son to the dreaded disease, and I will just get it over with.” I mean, for heaven’s sakes, celebrities, church leaders, a past conservative president, sports stars, news and radio hosts, friends all over were doing it. What could it hurt? I’ll just have my husband video tape me tomorrow, and get it over with.

Well, I began thinking about it. I thought if I didn’t do it, then I would look like the “wet blanket” who doesn’t care about people who have ALS. Out of curiosity, I began looking up how much has been given and how the money gets spent. I really wondered if people who are nominated actually gave money, or if it was just fun to do, because of our recent heat wave. Did most people give, or just do the bucket challenge out of peer pressure? I looked it up. As of last night, 70.2 MILLION dollars had been given to the ALS foundation, in a month! YES, you read that right. In a month. This began July 27, 2014…

I began searching further. I found the video of the first man who did the bucket challenge in July, who has ALS himself. (see below) It was very touching. But later in the article, I began discovering some truths which bothered me.

 

Here is a link and a quote from a blog by Sunny Shell…

http://www.sunnyshell.org/2014/08/als-ice-bucket-challenge-is-not-pro.html

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) commonly known as Lou Gherig’s Disease, is a fatal neuromuscular disease that presently has no cure. No ALS patient is alike. Some people experience a slow degeneration, while others experience a more rapid degeneration of the motor neurons in their brain and spinal cord that disperse messages to allow voluntary muscle function throughout their body. Variant rates of motor neuron degeneration allows for patients diagnosed with ALS to live anywhere from three to five years after diagnoses.

The “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” campaign began with “SC Featured: Pete’s Challenge” shown in the video below.

Many people are taking the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. I think this is a fun and fantastic way to promote awareness and garner financial support to help people afflicted with ALS, as well as finance research to find a cure.

A good way to accomplish this is to support organizations like Team Gleason. This organization was founded by Steve Gleason, former NFL player and current ALS braveheart. Their mission is to “Help provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries with leading edge technology, equipment and services. Create a global conversation about ALS to ultimately find solutions and an end to the disease. Raise public awareness toward ALS by providing and documenting extraordinary life adventures for individuals with muscular diseases or injuries.”

Team Gleason partners with many organizations to accomplish their mission and one of them is Cord Blood Registry (CBR). Organizations like CBR only collect, store and use stem cells from the umbilical cords of newborn babies rather than harvest them from the helpless bodies of aborted, unborn babies.

A not so good way to promote awareness and support for ALS is to donate to the ALS Association. Though ALS Association promotes the betterment of current ALS patients and research to help find a cure, they do not promote or encourage the betterment of all life; specifically, precious and innocent unborn babies.

The ALS Association offers grants to many research organizations and one of them is the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS).

On the NEALS website, they state, “These stem cells have been engineered from the spinal cord of a single fetus electively aborted after eight weeks of gestation. The tissue was obtained with the mother’s consent.”

The extraction of stem cells from unborn babies is completely unnecessary for this or any research. There are many other options for stem cell research where the opportunity to live is not callously stripped away from a precious innocent baby.

I wholeheartedly support and encourage more prayer and awareness for ALS patients and their families to: acquire expensive equipment, obtain exemplary medical care and look forward to research that may discover a cure for this fatal disease. As a Christian, I unashamedly stand for life…all life. Because I am an image-bearer of the Creator and because He so graciously granted me the gift of repentance that leads to life-giving faith in Jesus Christ, I desire nothing less for any other human being—whether they reside inside or outside the womb. All life is precious and all life should be protected, supported and allowed to maintain the quality of life we all desire.”
End quote by Sunny Shell.
A few other links which I found, were interesting. I just ask that people educate themselves. I am not trying to shame the friends who have participated in this challenge. They were acting out of good faith, and having fun. I have had many beloved friends do this. There are NO hard feelings whatsoever.
See other links below.
I really do not like to be divisive and controversial. It scares me! But there are ways to give to fight ALS, without using embryonic stem cells. There are ways to research this and many awful diseases by using adult stem cells. So make sure where your money is going. I’m just asking you to educate yourselves instead of blindly giving to the ALS Association, which definitely admits to using the embryonic cells.
Yes, it is an awful disease. Yes, it would be horrendous if I had to see my dear family or friends go through this. But there are alternatives. I’m not an expert at this kind of thing in any way. That’s why I’ve looked up so many links. Please read the articles, and don’t get caught up in the comments from angry people or those who are not educated in the topic. They just pull you this way, and that way.  Just read the information from experts who have studied the topic. Let’s learn together. I’m just beginning to understand all this.
If you have no problem with using cells from unborn babies, then that is your moral choice. It is not mine. I believe God wants us to value ALL human life. And I believe that the moment a sperm cell and an egg are put together, it is human life.
 
If you have comments, I welcome them. I ask that you please keep them civil, polite, on topic, and that you use G-rated language, or they will be deleted. This is my blog. You may put nasty comments on your own platforms. This is not meant to create arguments. It is meant to create a different kind of awareness. Do your homework.
Please give. Give to those who need help. Give to those missions and charities which are dear to your heart. Give to your next door neighbor. Help and love on the family who is going through ALS, or any disease or tough time. Give and love some more. It makes the world a better place to live.
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A Vigil

A dimly lit room at 2:23 a.m. One tiny lamp on the night stand. A fine-boned beautiful woman is lying comfortably on her bed. Her white hair is tousled, her face and neck wrinkled. She’s in that special place that none of us know. What is she seeing? What is she thinking? There’s been no response for days.

 

The clunk of the oxygen tank beats in a slow rhythm. Slight odors of a damp cloth on her forehead, the lotion standing on the bed stand, the half-eaten bucket of cookies, and the coffee pot on the cart.

 

As I look around the room, I notice things. I’m curious to get a glimpse of what her life was like on this earth during her active days.

 

One of the first objects that popped out at me, was the little orange devotional book sitting on a far table on the other side of the dear lady. Someone “calling” must be a comfort to her or her family members.

There’s a banner on the wall, that says,

“Happy moments, praise God.

Difficult moments, seek God.

Quiet moments, worship God.

Painful moments, trust God.

Every moment, Thank God.”

 

There on the shelf, sits a shiny mother-of-pearl praying hands, behind that peeks a black and white picture of a smiling young lady and handsome man. They’re looking at each other with shy excited smiles. The man has a corsage on his suit and she has a nice dress, a fancy hat, and a bouquet in her hand with streamers flowing down. There are rows of unlit candles behind them cascading in a diagonal line. It could have been the “going away” picture after their wedding. That young couple might have skipped to their shiny car, only to be chased by their friends, and a “shivaree” may have followed.

 

A vase of purple and white flowers a little past their prime, stand right in front of the black TV screen. She liked flowers…there are several baskets of them scattered around the room. Silk, plastic, and even a bright pink one hanging near her bed.

 

Slightly behind me to my left, is a huge tack board full of pictures. I imagine they’re pictures with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It is plastered with smiling people. Some seem to be her, holding her treasured little ones on her lap. A proud granddaughter donning a cap and gown, as she pulls her grandma close. Boys with soccer balls, football outfits; girls with pink bows, cute hats. A birth announcement of a baby boy. Even a yellow Labrador dog gave his unconditional love. A beautiful young gal recently married, with a huge handful of red roses. One appears to be a four-generation picture; a mother, with her son, granddaughter, and a great-granddaughter. Many happy occasions captured on one bulletin board. Snapshots of a life with loving family members.

 

A picture of a uniformed woman in her early twenties, and an award on the board indicate her service in WWII. My mind goes to her possible age…has to be in her late eighties. What a brave woman. I silently thank her for serving. It was a much more rare thing for a woman to give herself to the country in the 1940’s in this way than it is now days.

 

 

Oh, the stories this dear woman could tell. I sure hope she lived life to the fullest, laughed often, and told many.

 

 

Occasionally, I set the keyboard to the side to gently touch her shoulder, and speak some words of comfort to her. Her chest still rises and lowers. Her pattern of breathing is not even, but not labored. Two family members have gone to try to sleep a few hours. They knew that volunteers would be by her side through the night. I wonder if they are able to rest. They left their names and numbers on the nightstand. This grand woman is very treasured.

 

If this night is her journey’s end, may peace and joy await her. It looks like she had a full life. Death is a strange and mysterious time.

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Every Summer Has A Story…

This summer has been such a whirlwind.

As I was sitting for a short break on a street in Chicago back in June, a saying on a shop window was suddenly staring right back at me. Thinking it was so fitting, I snapped a picture of it. Knowing that summer has always been my favorite season of the year, and hoping quite a few adventures were ahead of me, it soon became my “cover photo” on my facebook page.

Every Summer Has A Story

Every Summer Has A Story

 

It certainly has been true again! But this particular one has had so much going on, that I’ve been zipping from here to there and not even taking the time to write those stories.

Many times I’ve sat down to journal with a calendar next to me, so that I could catch up on what has happened during all this busyness. What was I even doing? The calendar often didn’t have that much on it, but the days always filled up with life.

One year ago today, I would have never dreamed I would be sitting in this town, in this house, in this living room, writing this story. My own dog is a visitor tonight, and is sleeping near my feet.

So much has changed in just one year. It’s amazing how God has woven all the intricate details together, to have me in this place at this time. My life has taken so many turns and here I am. My God has been faithful, as always.

Since I was a small child, I knew God was with me. I could feel Him in the breeze as I took those walks to the gullies. I saw Him in nature’s ever-changing, never out of order seasons. I heard Him in the birds. Felt Him through the soft hair of my much-loved cats. Knew His power through the thunderstorms that would shake that farmhouse during the night. Glimpses of Him were everywhere, in everything. Through the good and the bad.

He was there.

Many adventures have unfolded again this year. Some difficult, some mundane, some full of laughter and memories. Moving from the country to the city. Surviving the worst winter in 35 years. Moving twice during the worst winter in 35 years. Finding this home. Going on a cruise to celebrate 30 years of marriage. The second son’s graduation from college. Enjoyable times with friends. A trip out west to research ancestry and meet relatives. So many more to list…  Each of these small sentences could be broken up into thousands of little pieces to tell intricate details. They’re each stories that can be told.

He is here.

My God who has been faithful in the past, will be faithful in the future. It is His character.

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He will be here. He has promised.

What is something that is keeping you very busy this summer?

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A Summer’s Day which burned

Another mundane morning of driver’s training. Three kids. An instructor who said, “go 40 on 40.” His way of attempting to be funny. Long story. Along with many other sayings he used. You would only understand if you grew up in our two-bit town.

So glad to be out of that car. I was leaning against the bars, in front of my high school, waiting for one of my parents to take me home. My shirt and shorts stuck to me and I shifted uncomfortably. My hands had taken on that smell of the iron bars, and they began turning red. I brushed the flecks of silver off onto my shorts.

Just another summer day.  June 23.

Fifteen years old and very self-conscious, I was sure hoping someone would come soon. Often the last one snatched up from every school event. Some kids were laughing nearby.

Audrey and I had gone down the country road the night before. She was riding bike alongside me, as I jogged. We talked and laughed, mocked a few people going by. Normal teenage sister things.

Not far down the road, we decided to come back and listen to some of Audrey’s albums on the record player. She had all these “78” records of new bands. We danced and ate snacks. The daylight lingered and twilight shone into the living room long.

She had gone off to college and left me home that year. In our tumultuous household. So many letters written back and forth. How I longed for that summer of catching up with her. The M.S.U little sister weekend was in the distant past. Now she was here with me- to play tennis, talk about boys, take me out to the movies. Four weeks of idolizing her.

She was my big sister. Only mine.

Plans for the summer. Telling secrets about silly boyfriends I had crushes on. Being eighteen already, made her an expert in my eyes. Many slumber parties in her room. Talking and giggling until my dad’s deep voice would echo up the stairs, with a warning to quiet down. Then we’d giggle some more with our mouths covered, biting our fingers to stifle the noise. What was so funny?

I thought the sun rose and set on her.

 

Fleeting thoughts of the night before ran through my mind again.  I wondered what Audrey and I could do that day, when she got out of work. Maybe we would go to the beach.

Instead of one of my parents driving up, I saw my Aunt and Uncle. They were elderly and never came into my school yard. My Aunt walked straight to me, moving faster than I had ever seen her move. She uttered words that burned deep and changed my life in drastic ways.

Have you had times which are etched so deeply into your mind? Why do you think that happens?

 

 

 

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A flashback to the seven year old…

“In the farmhouse tree swing, I was gently pushing myself forward and backward in a mindless way with my toe, which could barely touch the ground. There was a creaking noise above me, just as my heart was ripping apart in my chest. The rope emitted a faint straw-like smell that wafted through the air. Tiny particles of dust shone through the sunlight as they drifted slowly to the ground. The air was unusually warm for a mid-March day in Michigan. My mouth tasted like a dried up piece of bread.  I was trying to make any sense of the morning’s events. A panicky feeling went through my bones.

 

The sun shone brightly, with barely a cloud in the sky, which seemed like such a mockery of my mood. I wondered why other people in the world would be going by on the road at a high rate of speed, totally oblivious to what had just happened. I was appalled at the birds singing so cheerfully.”

 

Do certain sounds, smells, tastes or sights make you remember things? Do they trigger something for you?

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My dear sons–A Father’s day story

My dear sons, you are young men now.

Working your way through the “puzzles of life”

A few days after Father’s day, your dad will be turning that age. The age of his own dad’s passing-at 51 years young. That big “C” word. The one none of us ever wants to hear.

It seems to be a very significant year. The empty nest. A smaller home. The move into the city…well more like a large town. But it’s all different for us this year. For him.

My young men, please always know that your dad and I are very proud of you. We love you more than you can ever imagine. You will only experience that deep kind of love when you have your own children. The only one who loves you more fiercely than us, is your Heavenly Father.

It’s such a different kind of love than a marriage. It’s a “part of me” love. So rich that it’s ingrained like part of your skin.

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 The day you each were born…

My strong silent man just gazed at his boys with a tear in the corner of his eye. He held you tight. 

Miracles. Dreams. Many years of throwing baseballs, kicking soccer balls, swimming and boating, working, playing and laughing. He tossed you up high in the sky. There were dark and angry days-sad days. Not all perfect, that’s for sure.

Gifts and cards are not on his radar. Calls and visits are treasures.

Time.

Knowing in his heart that he did his best. He was a quiet dad, but tried to express more than his predecessors did. Believe me, that was a big obstacle to work around. Prayers that you have a deep rock solid faith in God as he does. But he’s too humble to say much about that.

He lives it.

The kind of faith that weathers storms in life– They will come. The kind of faith that clings to the Father of Life when it rains hard and cold.

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Giving a hand to a friend. Putting yourself aside. Giving generously and anonymously. Using your gifts to the glory of God. Keep promises. Listen. Stay awhile with someone. That you will be husbands and fathers who love the Lord.

Integrity in your life, marriage and work. Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord.

Friendly wrestling between father and two sons…

We will be here for you. We will always love you. Listen to you. We will love you when we see you taking left turns in life.

His “quiver” was two boys. He is watching to see how far, strong and straight those arrows will fly. (Ref. to Ps. 127:5)

Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. (Ref. to Micah 6:8)

At the end of your life, what else really matters?

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