Friday, November 25, 2016

Mia - My Gift

Tonight I asked Mia, my 6-month-old kitten, “Why are you here?” 

She’s in the place she’s chosen to be “her space” since coming to us back in June.  I kid you not…she lays with her hind end on my left arm and her body stretched across my chest…her heart beating next to my heart.  If I lay down in my bed, and she finds me there, that’s where she will lie.  If I try to move my arm out from under her, she waits till I put my arm back in place…and immediately moves to lie on top of me.  It is "her spot", and she is there as often as she can be.

She does this to no one else in the family.  She may lay on top of their stomach for a few minutes and let them pet her…but it won’t be for long.  She’s a “momma’s girl” of a cat.  But what she really makes me aware of is my missing breasts.  Is it my imagination, or is she really trying to make up for what’s missing?  Is she comforting me?  How could she even know…she wasn’t here when they were taken six years ago?  Why does she only lie on my left side… where the tumors were?

These are some of the “strange” questions that slide through my mind.  And I thank God for gifting me with a precious, beautiful, soft cat that seems to “know” somehow that six years later I still struggle with the fact that I stared death in the face…that it was growing only a few inches from my heart…that a doctor, with the wisdom of God, was able to remove three tumors…that medicine that kills cells was able to do battle inside my body and restore only the healthy, strong cells so I could continue to live.  And after a day of thanksgiving for all I’ve my blessings, I hurt for the mother that was taken from me by the very same disease.  And I remember her beautiful cat, Callie, who lay on her hospital bed in her living room…lay at her feet…growled at me when I’d try to move her to change the bedding. 

Cats!  I know there are some people that detest them.  I also know some people that go a little overboard and love as many of them as possible (I remember reading of a woman in California who moved out of her house so it could house more cats…and she has hundreds of cats on her property that she’s caring for). 

I have been blessed to love many cats in my lifetime.  I can remember my first cat.  I was eight…living in Canada…when we got “Angel”.  I remember the box with her litter of six kittens…black and gold and cream-colored babies that were the tiniest, cutest things I’d ever seen.  I remember Hai-Ki…my dad’s 40th birthday present…a Siamese that played hide-and-seek and walked with us whenever we walked our dog.  I remember the brother and sister cats I had from the same litter when I lived in an apartment during my college days…one solid black and the other solid white…named Ebony and Ivory!!!  Ebony once rode in a luggage carrier on top of a car from Ruston to New Orleans, Louisiana for the Thanksgiving holiday.  You can imagine my surprise when my next-door neighbor called from N.O. to let me know she’d be taking care of Ebony for the week.  I remember a tiny deaf kitten we brought home to care for…removed by a landlord that had a “no pets” policy (ouch).

I’ve loved kitties for over 50 years!!!  Not sure why I felt compelled to share this tonight except that Mia (short for MacadaMIA…because she’s a “nut”) once again plopped down on my chest…purring…invading my space…healing my heart…just being herself.  There’s a lot to learn from this kitten who is being just what she was created to be…who is doing just what she was created to do…and brings purr joy (pun intended) to my heart.  May your life be blessed by a furry “critter” who may just be an angel in disguise (personal opinion…there are no Scriptures to back up the idea that angels ever visit us in fur – weak smile).

Thank You, Lord, for furry friendships that somehow still draw attention to You and the comfort You offer.  And thank you, Mia…just for being you!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I Choose Love

With snow on the way this weekend, it seemed appropriate to start prepping the porch for winter…and Christmas.  Thanksgiving will come and go quickly in a week…and this year we get an extra week to enjoy all that Christmas brings.

The Christmas season has somber moments now that I’ve reached the “Afternoon of Life”.  I’ve said good-bye temporarily to people that were part of my Christmas for over fifty years.  Now they celebrate the season in the Presence of the One Who made letting them go less painful…but not without pain.  There’s that moment when I hear Dad’s laughter in my sons’ voices…when I see Mom’s beauty in my daughter’s eyes.  There’s the wish that my grandchildren could have known the extraordinary love and wisdom my parents imparted while here on earth.  I know that they see Dan and me in the same way my children saw Dad and Mom…and I know that I just never feel like I measure up to her.  It’s not for not trying, though.

I sat for a few minutes on my porch swing tonight as the temperature seemed to plunge with the sun.  I watched the “evening star”, Venus, shining spectacularly over the mountaintop across town and wondered if my fascination with that star compares at all with the purpose of the wise men from the east that followed the star to Bethlehem.

And for a few minutes, I felt it…that “peace that passes understanding”.  In a world that appears to have gone berserk with anger…with filth…with hate…with lies…with misunderstanding…with fear…I felt peace.  That same star that guided the wise men to the One angels proclaimed would bring “Peace on earth, goodwill to men” became the focus of my heart.  And I was overcome with pure peace…that the world I live in does not have any of those horrible things in it.  My neighbors wave and say hello.  The clerk at the store smiles and wishes me well.  My millennial children have been raised with a foundation of values that helps them to recognize truth from satan’s lies.  My grandchildren will grow up loved, cared for, taught well and blessed because in my lineage were men and women who have trusted God’s truths through the years…and been found faithful to the end.

I have fretted and worried and grown angry at the pettiness of men when the one I should be angry with is the enemy of God who has lied and deceived and continues to divide and destroy.  But I was reminded tonight that God works in mysterious ways.  And no one would have believed that a baby born in a stable and laid in a manger would become the focal point for measuring time…would grow up to perform miracles…healing the lame…helping the blind to see.  No one could have known that night the baby would be worshipped by shepherds who would spread the news and light a fire that would continue to burn over 2,000 years later.  And no one had a clue that night the baby would one day lay down His life…so that I could have eternal life with God!!!

God works in mysterious ways.  If He can work with a baby born of “insignificant” parents in the history of men and women…if He could draw three “wise” men from afar to recognize His significance…if He could make twelve weak, every day men turn into bold disciples and witnesses that could grow a church that spans the globe today…I suspect he can use a man with funny hair and a foul mouth and a strange mind and a caring heart to do whatever God wants to do with this land.  We wait to see if God is saving our land…or judging our land.  But this I know…

I am praying for Donald Trump.  I am praying for Mike Pence.  I am praying for the men and women of the Senate and Congress.  I am praying for the members of the Supreme Court. 

And I am praying for my neighbors...especially the ones who live far away and continue to act out.  I choose to love despite their actions.  I choose to love despite their opinions of me and my faith.  I choose to love…and my world will continue to be a world full of “peace that passes understanding” amid the hatred and turmoil and sinful actions of those who feel differently.  May God bless America!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lots of Blessings in 58 Years

Today I’m ending my 57th year on earth and beginning my 58th.  I thought it would be fun to see if I can list 29 BLESSINGS…one for every other year of my life.  I actually have so many more than that…but this seemed like a challenging number…and I’m sharing my blessings with you as a gift to say thank you for your friendships…you’ll see that FRIENDSHIPS are high on my list of blessings!  You’ll also see that my 29 are not “single” blessings…so there’s way more than 58 blessings listed here!

#1   God…my Savior…my Lord…my Everything

#2   My wonderful Dan…a husband…a friend…a gift from God

#3   My beautiful children…Andy, my hero…LeeAnne, my joy…Stephen, my blessing

#4   My grandchildren…Holden, Orlando, Roman, Shannon, Devlyn and Erienelis…they make life better than I deserve for it to be.

#5   My extended family:  I’ve said goodbye on this side of heaven to Dad and Mom and I look forward to seeing them again someday.  I want to believe that my brother will have made things right with God before they met and that I’ll see him again too.  My “baby” brother, David, is a unique gift all on his own and I dearly love him.  I’ve also been blessed with aunts and uncles and cousins galore!  Special blessings Sharen and Robin because they are the kinds of cousin people write about…loving, caring, staying in touch, funny, sharing…they just make my life rich.

#6   Friends out the whazoo!!!  If I tried to list all the friends I’ve been blessed to know, there just wouldn’t be enough room.  Some of you are closer than others…but all of you have made my life better!  Thank you for that.

#7   My church family (families).  I don’t like to think I’m a “church-hopper” … but many moves (physically and spiritually) have placed me in several churches where God has given me brothers and sisters that I look forward to spending eternity with.  At times, these church family members have been closer than blood family members…they’ve loved me unconditionally … they’ve held me accountable … they’ve prayed for me … they’ve forgiven me … they’ve restored me and built me up.  Thank you for being who God intended you to be in my life.

#8   Music…music has played a special role in my life.  For as far back as I can remember, I’ve sung every day (I can remember as a 4- or 5-year-old being told it’s time to stop singing and go to sleep).  My piano has given me great comfort and joy.

#9  The Bible…I could not function without my instruction manual…and I’m grateful to God every day that He chooses to speak to me and help me live here on earth!

#10   Nature…every day I see God because He has made His Presence known through all that He created.  I’m always amazed when people say they can’t “see” God…because I can’t “not see” God!!!

#11   Other children…they don’t even have to be my own for me to love and appreciate their purity…their innocence…their joy…their zest for life…their incredible curiosity…their unquenchable thirst for knowledge (as in the 478 times a day my granddaughter asks “Why?”)

#12   Words.  Stop laughing!  Words have been my friend since I could first utter them.  I love that I can communicate…that I can put my thoughts and feelings into words.  I know many who wish I used less of them (and I do too) … but I just love the way the feel on my tongue and in my mind…and I love sharing them.  Sorry if you’re not as blessed by them as I am (embarrassed grin).

#13   Books…along with my love for words, I’ve long loved the many adventures I’ve enjoyed while reading for pleasure.  I’ve also been thrilled with the knowledge I’ve gained.  I’m grateful for everything that’s come to me through books!

#14   School…I don’t remember much about elementary school…but I do remember Jr. High, High School, 3 different colleges … and work with special people on my Master’s degree!  Each gave me experiences that increased my knowledge AND wisdom!  I’ll be forever grateful.

#15   Food…I know; I know…everyone can tell this is something I’m grateful for.  My favorite is chicken…I’m not really grateful for Brussel Sprouts or really many green veges.  But overall, enjoying food has been a pleasurable experience and a blessing.

#16  My home…I’ve lived in a lot of different houses in my lifetime, but no home has been filled with as much love as my “Little House on the Mountain”!  By American standards, it’s nothing…but world standards, I’m rich and abundantly blessed!

#17  My vehicle…we went a whole year without a vehicle a few years ago…it can be done.  What it taught me was that I should never take transportation for granted!!!

#18  My travel experience…I’ve visited 39 of the lower 48 states…lived in Canada for 3 years of my life…and visited South Africa TWICE in my lifetime.  I know some people here who have never lived anywhere else.  I can’t even imagine that.  I’ve been blessed to see what I consider a big portion of “my land”…and I’m so grateful for this beautiful country.

#19  America…yep…I’m a died-in-the-wool, patriotic, country-loving kind of girl who knows that life could have had a totally different outcome had I been born anywhere else in the world.  I don’t think America is the best country in the world…I don’t know what would make one country “greater” than another.  But I know America has granted me the ability to worship without fear…to vote in a democratic society…to be part of a solution in a world full of problems…and I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else.  She may have her flaws…but they’re nothing compared to the blessing of being a part of this wonderful country!

#20  South Africa…while I love America, a big chunk of my heart resides in Durban, South Africa…in the memories of loving men and women of God who are changing the heart of a country in the only way a heart can be changed…by the Word of God being shared.  I love the diversity of the people and the languages…the beauty of the India Ocean…the smiles…the incredible landscape…the animals we saw at Kruger Park…the people…the people…the people.  Will always consider my interactions in South Africa a big blessing in my life!

#21   Community…living in a small community can be trying sometimes (gossip, backbiting, too many people knowing everyone else’s business) but this small community also gives a sense of security…love…concern…and joy!  Sometimes the people of Salamanca are unaware of the true beauty of their community because they’ve lived here too long and take so much for granted…but this town is a wonderful town!

#22   Crafting…in my lifetime I’ve enjoyed cross-stitching…scrapbooking…card-making…homemade gift making…coloring …music making…book making…writing poetry…so many creative outlets!

#23   Teaching…teaching is a “gift” and I was blessed with two wonderful teachers who raised me and gifted me with a love for learning…and a love for sharing all that I’ve learned.  I especially enjoy the “Ohhhhhh!!!” moments of teaching… when they “get it” and learning has taken place.  I hope to continue teaching in one form or another till the day I die.

#24   Facebook … okay, you can stop groaning.  But for this stay-at-home grandma, Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with people from my past…with friends all over the world … with family.  It’s given me new knowledge.  It’s provided laughs…and lots of animal videos (grin)

#25  Four seasons … yes, I realize this counts as part of nature, but having lived in Louisiana for the greater portion of my life, where there are only two seasons (hot and hotter), it’s been a joy to have four distinct weather seasons in my life since moving to western New York.

#26  Talent – I’ve been blessed to know and work with many talented people in my life.  I could not write a list of blessings and not especially include the friends of Enchante Cabaret who filled about a fourth of my lifetime with incredible talent…lots of laughter…a few tears…and wonderful memories.

#27  Speaking of memories … I know that people lose the ability to remember, and I pray that never happens to me because I so enjoy walking down memory lane and remembering all the blessings of my life.

#28  Adversity … I know this seems like a strange thing to be thankful for, but life has been full of adversity.  Failures…divorce…miscarriage…sins…troubles…heartbreak...cancer…death!!!  You name it…I’ve experienced it!  But through every adversity I’ve grown into a stronger, more capable, more loving woman of God.

#29  GOD AGAIN … Everything in my life begins and ends with God.  I love that I can love Him (since He loved me first)… I love that I can talk about Him.  I love that I can testify to His goodness and greatness.  I love that everything about Him is personal with me.  I cannot thank Him enough for being the blessing in my life that gives and gives and gives and I can only pray that He knows how much I love Him!

So I’ll stop here with a half a lifetime of blessings because, technically, if I listed all the parts of each of these, there’d be way more than 58 blessings here.  I just know that my birthdays ARE happy because I know who I’ve believed in and have been persuaded that He is able to take care of everything in my life.  Thank You, Lord, for 58 years of Your faithfulness and greatness in my life.  Amen!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

My "Rainbow" Days

Recently I helped someone I love dearly as she started to "journal".  She wants to get to know herself better...which I think might be a challenge for all of us...I know it is for me.  I gave her a "starter question":  What color would you use to describe your life?  From her description, I challenged her to dig deeper into the color she'd chosen...and that got me to thinking.

There's just no way one color would do for me...and because her heart is so like mine, she'd actually used one color as a blend of two.  But even two aren't enough for me.  So I took the colors of God's rainbow to describe my days, knowing that there's even more depth to my days because of all the hues and shades and depths of each color that make up my life.  I see my life in colors and hear my life in tones...I suspect that's why music and beauty take my breath away.

I've x'd out names for privacy reasons...and I've also x'd out my list of sins that you'll see, because that's pretty much between God and me.  But I challenge would you color your life if it was a coloring page?

Red  -  A red day is an angry day to me.  It’s a day when I let people’s actions get to me.  Usually it’s a day of unfulfilled promises or unrealistic expectations that aren’t met.  Once a day starts red, it seems hard to get it to change colors.  I have to let the night come and sleep on it and move away from it to get a grip on it.  But falling asleep on a red day often proves difficult, because red days tend to make me focus on the problems instead of the solutions…and I mull things over in my brain too much…causing me to have difficulty drifting off to sleep.  Even my sleep will be restless…full of troubling dreams.  I do not like red days.
However, occasionally, when the grandchildren come calling late in the day my red can fade to a beautiful pink … usually because their silliness and laughter helps to mute the red.  Falling asleep after a pink evening is usually pleasant and I find myself smiling as I drift off to sleep.  Dreams consist of “visits” with people from my past who made my life better.

Orange – An orange day is usually a “happy” day.  When I think of orange days I think of activity.  Some “event” happens that gives the day a different flavor.  It can be something as simple as a ride through the countryside…a field trip with a grandchild’s class…a doctor’s visit.  Somehow orange days feel more purposeful…as if there’s a reason for my being here.  I like orange days.

Yellow A yellow day is a day or productivity and accomplishment.  It’s a day I can check things off my “to do” list because they’re finally done.  I always feel better when I can “see” that I’m not just floating through senselessness and laziness…but that I am accomplishing something and making    my mark on this world.

Green – A green day is a day of peace and rest.  It’s a day I’ve paid more attention to creation and all the beautiful things around me.  It might be a squirrel at play in a tree…a cat on the prowl…the way the wind sounds blowing through the dry leaves of the trees…the sparkle of the sun or moon on the river. It’s letting my spirit connect with God’s creative Spirit and appreciating how blessed l am to be a child of His.

Blue A blue day is a usually a day of thought for me.  There are days I find myself digging deeper in my Bible…thinking deeper…dreaming bigger.  Blue days are the days my thoughts try to work out any problems…restore any relationships…renew my energy…spend more time writing.  They are my planning days,    my organizing and preparation days.   These are probably my most common days…they appear to be get-nothing-done days…but they’re probably the days the most gets done!

IndigoAn indigo day is a dark day for me.  These days will probably have tears in them.  These are the days I choose to allow myself to grieve.  I grieve for the loss of life and love:  xx, xxx, xxxxxxx, xxxxxxx and many friends who already gone to be with the Lord.  These are the days I grieve for lost relationships that still hurt:  xxxxxxx, xxxxx, xxxxxx, xxxxx and any friend I may have lost out of hurt or misunderstandings that I might have been able to control.  These are the days I grieve for the painful places in my past:  miscarriage, divorce, cancer…things I could not stop from happening in my life.  These are the day I grieve for my many sins that have hurt God:  xxxxxxx, xxxx, xxxxxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxxxxx xx xxxxxxx, xxxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx, xxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxx xxxxx, xxxxxxxxxx and xxxxxxxxx…the list is long.  Because this description is longer, it may look like I have a lot of indigo days, but these days are under my control most of the time and I allow them and dwell in them only when necessary…and when possible, I never have two of them in a row.

Violet Like the seventh day, the seventh color, violet, is my color of rest.  It’s the day I rest in the beauty of my life.  I rest in the grace and forgiveness I don’t deserve but that God has given            because He chooses to love me so.  I rest in the love that surrounds me from xxx, from xxx, from xxxx, xxxxxxx and xxxxxxx xxx xxxxx, from xxxxxx, xxxxxxx, xxxxx, xxxxxxx, xxxxxx and xxxxxxxxx, from extended family, especially xxxxxx...and from my friends and the kids’ friends who have chosen to love me (and allowed me to love them in my lifetime).  I bask in friendships too numerous to count.  I dwell in the beauty of nature and all that makes life gorgeous.  I thrill to music that touches me in places nothing else can.  I like indigo days and I don’t just do them once a week…there are times I have weeklong indigo days!
God has colored my world in such a way that if I named every color that exists I could match it to a feeling...because I have so many feelings that rise from the heights of glory to the depths of despair.  I challenge you to look at God's colors in your world and enjoy knowing that He did that all for you...and me...and everyone He loves!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Original Sin: Pride

What was the sin that caused satan to be dispelled from heaven?  It was his pride!  He thought, “‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:13-14).  Since that day, it is the sin of “pride” that has caused most to fall away from truly knowing and loving the Lord.
“Like the Most High”???  What was it that satan really wanted.  He wanted to escape from the authority of God.  He wanted to run his own life.  He wanted to make his own rules.  He wanted to assert his own rights.  For in his time, God was the Only Authority and everything was run through the RIGHTEOUS mind and hand of God.  There was “no freedom” to do one’s own thing. 
What did that wish and assertion bring satan?  HE WAS CAST OUT OF HEAVEN FOREVER.  There were consequences to deciding to be his own self…to make his own decisions…to run his own life…to do things his own way. 
And let’s watch satan’s first move here on the earth…created in perfection by God.  Satan immediately attaches himself to God’s perfect creation…and goes prowling about to find the very good part of that creation…man!  And the first “temptation” satan uses to get to the man (and woman)???  “…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5b)  The very thing that satan wanted is what he used to tempt Adam and Eve…and they succumbed to the temptation.  It’s a heady thing to be promised an opportunity to be “like God”.  Self-authority… anything goes…whatever *I* want.  When we look at our opportunity to be like God, we never look at the rest of the picture…responsible for all mankind… responsible for maintaining the universe…responsible for loving the unlovely… responsible for fulfilling a covenant when all other parties refuse to hold up their end.  Adam and Eve fell to the sin of pride.
What’s happening in our world thousands of years later?  Have we yet learned the consequences of capitulating to the sin of pride? 
We no longer have respect for authority, provoking retribution for the failures of a few on the many who have respected and fulfilled their responsibilities has authority figures.  No longer are the “criminal” or “lawbreakers” held accountable for their actions but are instead “exonerated” because someone else failed to act appropriately.
This is not to say that human authority is perfect.  It most certainly is not.  I’ve had personal experience at the hands of those who have misused their authority… authority granted them by God but instead distorted for personal purposes. 
Now we are taught “you can be anything YOU want to be” instead of being encouraged to seek for and accept graciously God’s plan for our lives.  Now we are taught that “whatever’s right for you is right for you” instead of being taught the righteousness of God that exceeds anything righteous we can do.  Now we are taught “look out for #1” instead of “love your neighbors as yourself.”
Consequencess???  A society that now demands to be allowed to do whatever they want to do…freedom to live however depraved they want to live…and an inability to understand that there IS A GOD and HE HAS STANDARDS for our “protection”.  Satan has convinced the world that God only wants to ruin your life…and many have bought into this lie.  Satan has convinced the world that “being like God” is still possible…and it’s not.  Satan has convinced the world that what “looks good” IS good for you…and it’s really just an opportunity to die to all that God had planned for you.
We have no forgiveness…we have no understanding…we have no moral compass…we have no hope!  All of those can be found only in Christ Jesus and the restoration with God that comes through His shed blood on the cross…the ONLY payment that take away the debt we owe for our sins.
I, like Paul, am the worst of sinners.  I cringe when I think of all the ways I’ve failed God during my life.  I don’t pretend to be better than any sinner.  But my joy and hope comes in knowing that I will be held in the arms of my Savior one day…the same Savior who will stand before God and say, “She’s ours!”  And a God and Savior Who can love me like that deserves my love…my honor…my respect…and my loyalty.  I will not keep silent in the midst of chaos.  I will call satan the enemy that he is…but also remember that he is DEFEATED ALREADY.  He’s growing desperate because he knows his opportunities to steal what isn’t his are coming to an end.  He has looted from God’s kingdom with the promise of riches…and comfort…and notoriety…and fame…………all empty promises that will end in eternal death and separation from God.
If you choose to continue to turn God away, He will give you what you want.  You’ve never lived completely separated from God because there has always been a remnant of believers on this earth.  But when God’s people are taken away to heaven, and you truly feel the results of your allegiance to satan and all his broken promises, you will remember that you were told the truth and given an opportunity to make things right with God and you chose to ignore the truth.
Who do YOU say Jesus is…and what are you going to do with your knowledge of Him?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Relatives and NYC

Last August, Dan and I were blessed to cross the state and visit with my dad's sisters and their daughters for a long weekend in "the city".  I wrote my thoughts down as each day passed...I thought I'd posted this as a blog.  If you've read it before, I apologize...I'm not sure how I sent it out.  But I did want to post it so it's "safe" from disappearing some day if my computer goes down (sigh).  Here are my impressions of that visit:

New York City…the city that never sleeps…The Big Apple!  Not my cup of tea!
Impressions of city life…noisy…smelly…bright…dark…masses of humanity…foreign country…windy…sirens…signs, signs and more signs…homelessness…opportunity.
I remember visiting the city when I was 22 and sitting on a window sill three stories up amazed at the number of people passing on the sidewalk below.  Again it was the number of people that almost numbed me.  How can so many people be in one small space?  We learned that 8,000,000 people live on the island of Manhattan alone and another 7,000,000 commute in each week for work…mingling with the 1,000,000 tourists who visit EACH WEEK.  At any given point there are over 15,000,000 people in Manhattan on any business day!  Most of Manhattan is built up…so any building three or less stories seems so out of place.  There are only 10 gas stations on the island of Manhattan…servicing 15,000,000 people!  How in the heck does that work?  Amazingly there seemed to be a small park of some sort every other corner.  Statues, art, “scra-ffiti”, graffiti, architecture, trees, flowers…they were everywhere.  I remember wondering how many different nations of people had crossed my path as we walked four city blocks.
Grand Central Station was a bit of a disappointment.  We got off the train in a hot and sticky underground tunnel and emerged into the “big room” that seemed remarkably small in reality.  We stepped out the door onto Broadway and just ten feet from the door aman lay against the building whose face was swollen and stitched up and looked like he’d been through a bar brawl.  He was unresponsive to those trying to talk to him.  Only a few minutes later the first of many, many, many emergency vehicles showed up to treat him.  Some Hassidic Jews were handing out literature on the street.  I’m not sure how they picked the people they wanted to share with.  There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to their choices. 
We were going to take a cab the four blocks to the area where we would wait for our double-decker bus tour…but the policeman at the taxi stand explained that there was at least a twenty-five minute wait for something we could walk in twenty minutes…so we made the decision to start walking.  Dan’s knees and my back are not conducive to walking for more than two minutes without extreme pain setting in.  There are no benches to rest on…I was told because they’d become beds for the homeless.  We did stop in the Avenue of Americas building to sit for a few minutes.  We walked from Broadway and 7th to Broadway and 4th…stopping to pose with a costumed Statue of Liberty.  I was so far outside my comfort zone…masses of people everywhere (I don’t like to be in crowds) and buildings that soared to dizzying heights from below.  I discovered that when you’re afraid of heights, looking up can be almost as disconcerting as looking down.
Cousin Sharen helped us navigate the four blocks where we reconnected with Aunts Lynn and Sandy (80 and 77 years old).  These beautiful women are UNSTOPPABLE.  They had more energy in their little fingers than I’ve had in my lifetime.  Standing on the street afforded us another opportunity to meet the city.  Street vendors abound…soft pretzels…cotton candy…hot dogs…snacks…drinks… souvenirs…you name it, it will eventually walk right in front of you!  Restaurants will not allow the use of their facilities unless you buy something.  We were later informed by our bus tour guide that the best place to use public restrooms is in the hotels…especially the ritzier hotels.  We were warned against using the facilities in any fast food joints.  Cabs were not as expensive as I thought they’d be…we were later able to get a ride back to Grand Central Station of several blocks for less than $10.  BUT…there were “rickshaw” style rides with drivers on bicycles that charged $3.99 a MINUTE.  My aunt told me that she and a friend took one once and traveled three blocks for $58.  Ouch!
The double-decker bus tour truly was the best way to see the city up close and personal.  We learned that street signs are brown in the “districts” and green if the street is “normal”.  We saw Soho (and Noho), the Garment District, the Diamond District, the Iron District Chinatown, Little Italy and part of Greenwich Village.  We saw architectural features that we don’t normally see.  We saw historical buildings (where cables for cable cars were invented).  We learned unusual details…like the bust of John Seward that sits atop Abraham Lincoln’s body…and that the “Dodgers” got their name dodging cable cars.  We learned that Wall Street WAS a walled street…but within four years the wall was destroyed because New Yorkers needed the wood for fires.  We heard that the ferry to Staten Island was free…free…free… and that it can hold 6,000 passengers for each ride!  We saw the beautiful new “Freedom Tower” reflecting all that surrounds it.  We saw the “real” Statue of Liberty waving folks into the city.  We rode in a topless bus across the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn and got beautiful pictures of lower Manhattan as the sun was just starting to set.  I laughed when we came back into Manhattan and at the bottom of the bridge was a Popeye’s Chicken from Louisiana.  We saw “Bubba Gump’s Shrimp” restaurant.  We saw two places where filming was taking place.  Seeing all the trucks and lighting, one begins to understand why movie tickets are so pricey.  Our tour guide was well-informed, funny and quite personable and really made the trip special...and reminded me so much of Kevin Spacey.  Our ride back to the station in a cab was equally nice with a very friendly driver from Nigeria who’d lived in America for fifteen years. 
The trip was also eye-opening because I spent it with three of my father’s sisters and a couple of my cousins.  I had never realized that when my brother David dies, the Paige name dies.  He is the only male relative left that carries the name.  It was interesting to spend time with family members who are a different “denomination” and realize the misconceptions they had about our “denomination”.  My dad’s family are givers, and laughers, and lovers of life.  They are close and connected to each other.  They share with others.  They treat the world with respect.  I’m so grateful that even though they were not a part of my growing-up years, they are a wonderful part of my adult life and I’m now getting to discover the “roots” from Dad’s side of the family.  I’m especially grateful that they are loving and accepting … there is something to be said for “family bonds”.
It was a whirlwind trip with lots of joy packed in.  There were unexpected puppy kisses and cat purrs.  There was the beautiful scenery between here and there and back again.  There were a couple of side trips that were unplanned but added something special to the trip.  And I cannot leave out the very friendly visit at a McDonald’s near Goshen…a stop that showed us that customer service CAN be done with a smile and make a McDs stop something special.  We saw clouds hanging below the mountaintops.  We only turned the windshield wipers on for about two minutes of traveling.  I’ll forever hear a train whistle now and think of my ride into the city.  I saw Dad in his sisters’ laughter…I learned stories about Dad I’d not heard before….stories that only sisters can tell.  It was a short but totally delightful visit and we’re so glad we took the time to see everyone.  We won’t wait four years to do it again…there’s too many fun people on the other side of the state and we’re going to visit more often.
I did learn that I need to laugh more.  I have “laughing muscles” that aren’t getting used.  I know because they got used last weekend and I was in so much pain!!!  Laughter…the best pain one can suffer.
Thank you to Aunts Lynn, Sandy and Casey and cousins Sharen and Cheryl for making sure we had a great time.  We are blessed to know and love you and call you family!  Thank you for the laughs, smiles and memories.  Now to get you to visit our side of the state!

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Psalm to the Lord

You, Abba, are the Father of our hearts.
You created us because You loved us,
and we -- in return (more specifically, “I”) --
have failed You.
You have loved me with a never-ending love
and I have thrown it back in Your face at times
because “I” wanted what “I” wanted when “I” wanted it.
How sinful could I be against You, O Lord?
I’ve used Your Name in vain,
calling on You to grant “my” wishes
instead of bowing to Your plans for my life
and moving into the center of Your will in obedience.
I’ve claimed Your name while acting in the darkness of my sin.
I’ve told you, “No” in childish, immature, disobedient, willful sinfulness!
I am ashamed.

Yet, You, Father…
Father of the broken…
Father full of loving-kindness…
Father Who does not give up on me…
You have loved me with a never-ending love.
How I’ve hurt You…
and You’ve returned that hurt with Your patience and mercy and love…
I am not deserving.

I’m tired, Lord, of sinning against You.
You must be tired of my sin, too.
More than that, I know that You hate my sin.
But I thank You for loving me, a sinner above all sinners.
I ask You, Father, to forgive my sin.

Forgive me for being lazy,
when You’ve called me to live a life of abundance and joy.
Forgive me for being selfish,
when You taught the greatest example of selflessness
by sending Your Son.
Forgive me for whining to You
when “I” didn’t have what “I” wanted.
Thank You for loving me enough to not give into my selfish cries.
Forgive me for doubting Your tender mercies.
Thank You for demonstrating them through Dan.
Forgive me for not loving Dan
in the way You intended me to love Him
and help my heart to break for my selfishness with him.
Protect him, Father, with Your love and strength.
Heal his body, Lord, so that he can serve you as his heart desires.

You have surrounded me, Lord,
with friends who lift my spirits and love me in my weaknesses.
I am also surrounded, Lord, by enemies
who You have protected me from…
mostly the enemy of myself and my self-destructive ways.
It is You, Lord, that I want people to see in me.
Help me to die to my selfishness.
Help me to die to my destructiveness.
Help me to live for others, Lord,
and be willing to give up my life for those I love…
You love...
Your children…
Your creation.

Praise be to You, God, my Father and Lord.
I do not understand the plans You have for my life,
but I do understand that they are not what I thought they were.
Help me to patiently live each day,
serving You in faithful ways
that will bring glory to Your Name.
“I love you, Lord…and I lift my voice…
to worship You…let my heart rejoice!
Take joy, my King…in what You hear…
may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear!”