Friday, June 27, 2008

Midwest Flooding

The impact of the flood of
'93 is still very fresh and vivid in my mind. The devastation was beyond imagining for those who only watched it through the media. For those who lived through it or were close to those affected by it, it was life changing. The flood waters at that time did not recede for weeks upon weeks. By the time they did recede, irreparable damage had been done. That was supposed to be the "500" year flood. Fast forward to 2008 and we are looking at floods of major proportion yet again, with the only saving grace being that it wasn't from all the rivers that had been inundated before - just a select few. Levee after levee has given way. Every time one gives way, a town or farms are demolished and yet it relieves the pressure for those on down the line. One has to wonder -- the levees that were built in reaction to the results of the flood of 1993 are numerous - how much have those levees impacted the newly flooding areas? Everyone from the top of the map to the bottom tries to protect their own individual areas, but each area that man protects causes the force of nature to move on down with even greater velocity.

I am not an engineer by any means, but it doesn't take a brain scientist to understand that when you try to adjust the boundaries of the mighty rivers, the water will win every time. The water is where it is for a reason. God's plan is not faulty. When civilization encroaches upon areas that are in the path of nature, nature is going to win every time. Living, working, and enjoying the water is second nature to those of us who live close by it, but underlying the daily life has to be the understanding that we humans are no match for the forces of nature that God laid the pattern for.

The devastation these people are suffering is heartbreaking. The endless work to try to save home and local economy is enough to break the spirit, but because Americans are generally a hearty people, they pick up the pieces and go on. It is after the waters recede, the cameras and reporters are packed up and gone home that the reality of the damage soaks in to those who must shovel the muck that is covering what was once their dream.

As our population continues to grow and we go into every corner of what used to be wilderness and carve out our spots, we can't help but realize that we are living on borrowed time before nature claims it back. Engineers, bulldozers and contractors may plan, scheme and promise miracles in "conservation management", but the end result is always going to be the same. No plan of a man here on earth is foolproof. There is nothing in this world that cannot be destroyed should God choose not to change the outcome. God doesn't bring this devastation upon us, but sometimes He chooses not to stop it and allows us to be reminded that we puny humans are not in control.

My heart bleeds for those in not only my own area, but those in all other areas who are being affected by the raging, angry, muddy waters of the Mississippi. I pray that God gives them grace to endure and strength for the battle ahead. The river is in the blood of so many who love it and all that it represents. For thousands of years, people have been drawn to the water for all things that support our lives. It has only been in the last few hundred years that man has presumed to have the audacity to try to control the waters. Obviously, they are not learning their lesson very quickly. The Native Americans and the settlers who originally lived by the water's shores respected the danger and were prepared to flee when necessary. It has only been in the last few hundred years with the industrial revolution and technology industries booming they have come up with myriad ways and trial balloons of controlling God's plan, to no avail. We must return to the former days of respect for the powers of nature and not put ourselves in harms way expecting that the worst won't happen, because invariably it does. For those who live in the tornado belt, we know that we'd better have a safety plan. Those of us who live in fault zones better have emergency supplies. There is danger from nature everywhere and one cannot avoid building or settling where there isn't something possible that can happen, but be aware of the danger and trying to control nature are two different things. Perhaps eventually we will stop trying stop that which is mightier than us.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Creepin' Crud of the Chest and Cranial Cavities!!

My brother Michael - who sees beauty in everything - - and I do mean EVERYTHING took this picture of fungus on a tree limb. I think that fungus is amongus!! Yikes! I have had the creepin' crud for a week now!! I am sick of being sick! I am 43 years old and I have a stupid ear infection! ARGH!!!!! I sound like someone who just spent three days straight in a bar. I cough 'till I gag. Whine, whine, whine. Puny. That's me! I should be outside working in my garden, not sitting on the couch holding my head to keep it from falling off! haha. I must admit, though, having ear infection makes you remember how badly they hurt so you can have more sympathy and pray harder for the little ones who have them!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Babies that Grow Up

Today I have been thinking about my babies. The baby to the left is my brother's youngest (isn't the photo Michael took great?!), not mine. Mine are old. They are 12 and 16. It happened last night. They used to be babies that loved nothing more than to spend time with mom and dad. J used to sit on our laps and snuggle while he observed the world - while playing with our ears. S, well she was a puzzle for a while. She didn't even walk until she was 15 months old. Finally, the Dr. told J to stop carrying her every where she wanted to go or she would never be able to walk! She spoke a language that only J understood. He would constantly have to come and interpret for her because we couldn't understand her. The first day she was born he wouldn't let anyone hold her. She was HIS baby.
NOBODY, but NOBODY adored J more than S.

That was then. Now they hate each other. I tell them all the time that whether they like it or not, God ordered this family and we are all together and sorry about that if they don't care for how it came together.

I live in high hopes that someday they will be devoted to one another again. My great-grandmother used to tell my mom and my aunt that "someday it would be just them, and they needed to be good to one another and love each other". Now they are seeing that come to fruition and they understand the importance of it at this time in their lives. I find myself telling my babies the same thing. Someday we will be gone, and they will have their own families, but nobody loves you quite like a brother and sister can!

I am sure it is just the stage they are in, but I pray that God softens their hearts towards each other and this nonsense of infighting, bickering and one-upmanship STOPS! They are breaking my heart!

I, of course, NEVER fought with my siblings or called them names or waited until Dad or Mom wasn't looking to do my best to physically SMASH them. I ALWAYS sat with pleasant smile and hugged and loved on them and wiped their tears - I NEVER caused their tears.

Buawahha!! Yeah Right. Paybacks. That must be what this season for my life is!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Long Range Goals

This morning as I was thinking about some of work that I still have ahead of me in both my spiritual and my natural life, I was reminded of this picture I took of one of my favorite places -The Smokies in Tennessee. As far as the eye could see, there were tops of the ranges showing occasionally through the fog. The fog would shift and move, revealing yet another crest. I thought of the original settlers and how daunting it must have been to reach the top of a range only to find yet another one waiting - and then the fog would shift and they would see that their journey had barely even begun.

My spiritual journey has been like that. For a long, long while, I was content to dwell in a little comfortable place that I had created for myself in my spiritual life. Same routine, same work, same relationships, same end results with no surprises. Suddenly, without warning, life slapped me upside the head one more time and I realized that too much of my spiritual well-being was wrapped up in the people around me. My relationship with my God was far too dependent upon my relationship with other people. When those relationships became changed in some way, it was apparent to me that I had become too comfortable in the world I had created through habit and comfort. I have always tried to challenge myself to be nicer today than I was yesterday, do one more good deed, and on and on. However, I failed to take my progress in stride with a long-range view of the future. Now, looking back, I can see that the occasional shake-up must be necessary for your natural and spiritual health so that you can reshape your goals and your life plans to accommodate the changes that we all must face.

Since then, I have removed myself to a certain extent from the emotional view of things to take a long-term logical view. What lies before me is much like what the settlers faced in the early days before planes, trains and automobiles. There is one mountain range after another ahead of me. Mountains with nasty names like criticism, snide thoughts, judging others, failure to be a good steward, hateful words, temptation, and all the others that you probably face in your own life just like I do. Sometimes the fog shifts and a mountain pops out that I didn't even know was there. The fog is beautiful and it protects me from the unpleasantness of knowing exactly what is ahead, but at times it needs to be swept aside by the wind of His spirit so that I may see the truth and the way. Even though the wind carries with it the scent of rain with the acrid bite of thunder and lightening in the air, I have learned when the way is rough and hard to traverse, the wind is howling and there seems to be no shelter to be found, God will see to it that if I just keep walking, there will be reward at the end of the journey. Even when the storms are so thick and strong I have no idea where my feet are taking me, as long as I keep my mind upon Him, He has been leading my steps.

I am not completely through this rough time of my life. Even if I were, I am sure that the next set of mountains is just over the horizon. For now, that is okay. I know that He loves me and mine and really that is all that matters. I don't like climbing and I definitely don't like constantly walking uphill, but if that is what it takes to burn out the dross in my life, then it is all worthwhile. I would that I were the type of person that would be able to show His love no matter what the conditions or what type of person I was dealing with. I would that I was not apt to judge by outward appearances since I know how it feels to be falsely judged. I would that I would have such peace in my heart that nothing but Him would shine through to others in need.

Lofty goals, but without goals nothing can be new. Without goals everything stays the same and becomes stagnant like a pool of undisturbed water - dark and nasty with bad little bugs swarming.

I would not, however, be adverse to the occasional rest area with a nice little picnic table and some pretty views. ;-) Hint, hint, God - - a little bit of rest for the wicked would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Of Tomatoes and People

This year we planted our garden so extremely early (like barely done snowing early) that we had ripe tomatoes on June 10. Not very many, mind you, but delicious little red tomatoes regardless. I picked the few that were ready the other day and something about those little tomatoes taught me a lesson.

The first tomato I reached for was luscious, red and ripe. It looked like if you squeezed it too hard that the yummy interior would just pop right into your mouth all by itself! The other one that I picked was barely "red" around the body of it, definitely just a little pink at the top by the stem. I felt I was probably rushing it a little but just couldn't withstand the temptation.

Rather than save the best for last as I am normally wont to do, I popped that little red guy right in my mouth when "pthew, yack, spit, pthew". . . I had to spit it out! I wanted to wipe off my tongue right then and there! Even though the outside had looked so scrumpdillyiscious, the inside was nothing but brownish and green something. Don't really care to know what that something was, but it was definitely NOT what my taste buds were set on! The only one left was the little guy that wasn't even hardly past pink yet. When I ate that one it was absolutely like enjoying a warm summer breeze! Does anything taste more like summer than a good home-grown tomato? I don't think so. . . unless it is corn on the cob!

The more I thought about those tomatoes, the more I realized they were like people. So often in this world we are cultured and trained by society to believe that what is seen at first glance is a measure of the person rather than taking the time to look more deeply into the depths to be had in each individual.

Take for instance two elderly sisters that I was acquainted with, Dolores and Sandra (Sandra because I honestly can't remember her name). They were roughly the same age, however, Sandra looked a good 10-15 years younger. When I would see Sandra she was always groomed to perfection, with nails and hair courtesy of the latest salon, clothes just so and she literally reeked of money - expensive perfumes followed her like a cloud. Dolores, on the other hand, well, her hair was obviously courtesy of Miss Clairol's home visit, her fingernails were those of an earth-lover. Her clothes were often stained with whatever project she was working on and seldom matched. Her one concession to vanity was a slash of red lipstick, usually applied with generosity and little thought to the borders of her smile (often times passing the edge of her smile entirely).

Only one time in all the years that I observed Sandra did I see her smile. That was when she was involved in a juicy discussion with group of ladies about some marital issues that someone was having. When I would speak to her, she only acknowledged me with a slight nod of her head, if at all. Dolores on the other hand could barely finish greeting you with effusive happy hello's before she would be greeting someone else who walked by. Dolores was often prone to grabbing your hand or arm to further express her gladness at seeing you while looking straight into your eyes and saying "Have a good day, honey! Isn't it beautiful?". . . this being whether it was 102 degrees in the shade or not. Her hands on yours felt like a man's. They were rough, cut up and weathered to a dark brown. They were the hands of a working woman who was not accustomed to pampering of any sort.

I never met Sandra's husband. Word has it that he made a lot of money during his years, multiplying that which made him a "good catch" to start with. Dolores's husband, on the other hand. . . well, some said he was an alcoholic. I'm not sure about that. Dolores and her husband toiled on their farm together every day. When they would come to town it would often be right beside each other, or if not, the one that came to town was always in a hurry to "get back home to get such and such done". In the later years of Dolores's life, she had a massive stroke. Her husband often would come by on his way to the nursing home. He would get all misty eyed and sort of half-happy, half-sad when he spoke of her. He would mention taking her some of her favorite foods in to her because "She just won't eat! She's getting too skinny!" (she had always been a rather generously proportioned woman). Finally, upon her death, it took him months and months to lose that devastated expression that he wore like a cloak of grief. You didn't have to know him well to know that he had loved her more than himself.

It struck me that when I first met them, I had thought that Sandra was the more "successful" sister. By the standards of the world, probably so. I don't think Dolores had much to her name when she died. Her husband would not have been considered by many to be the man of their dreams, but he loved her. She was never well-groomed and was usually loud and boisterous in her ways. But her laugh. Oh, her laugh! It rang off the walls and whether you had a clue what she was talking about, you couldn't help but find yourself smiling as well!

Maybe often times, we judge people like we do fruit. We knock on the melons, we see if the bananas are overly ripe. We go for the fruit with the least bruises and faulty spots. But think about it! Sometimes the strawberries that are just on the verge of going bad are the sweetest. You have to cut around the bad spots, but they make the BEST treat on ice cream! Isn't that the way we treat people sometimes? Just because someone doesn't LOOK good to us, we often turn our heads or simply just don't acknowledge their presence. It is a researched fact that we as humans are drawn to outward beauty and symmetrical features. We are repulsed by that which we find "different".

I hope that God doesn't judge me the way I have His other children. I hope He looks past all this nonsense on the outside to the person I am in my dreams. I pray that He lets me see with X-ray vision through to the souls of those that He loves. After all, we are ALL His children, are we not?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bear Bait

As people just trying to live a daily life in this world we are so often attacked from within and without. I think sometimes even if we were a single family of Eskimos living on an ice field in Alaska with no outside contact we would still find something to complain, criticize and condemn about. Or one of us would be whining about melting snow for water. Or one of us would be mad because nobody filled up the ice trays. Sometimes I think a spirit of discord and wickedness comes about when we are tired and out of sorts, and then - -so quickly and sneakily - - it becomes a habit. A habit that can quickly tear a rent in the fabric of the peace in our homes. It made me think of this picture of a trip we made to Tennessee some years ago. We stayed in a cabin in the woods behind a little old lady's house. The kids were wanting to see a bear in the worst way. Bear (oops, bad pun!) in mind that there was a special little shed that was locked up like Fort Knox in which you had to take your precisely closed, precisely tied trash to. So. . . being the indulgent, sometimes foolish parents that we are, we said. . . oh, what harm can a little bear do?! We proceeded to lay out lunch meat on the stoop to try to attract a bear! Duh! Okay, so you lay the meat on the stoop to attract a bear! A BEAR!!!?!! What in name of Pete would we have done if a BEAR had come through the screen door to see what the next course was?? Oh. My. Word. I cannot believe how stupid we are sometimes.

But isn't that how we are with each other?? Laying our words and deeds out in front of our loved ones like bear bait? And then we have the nerve to act surprised and hurt when someone comes snarling back at us? Good Grief. I hope God has mercy on us some day and helps us see our own behaviors BEFORE we lay out the bait for one another. I am sure He is getting tired of waiting for us to grow up!

Days of Rubber Boots and Dirt

Here in the midwest we have had more rainy days than not so far and when you have to take three dogs to potty you can imagine the tracking in that happens! Our dogs are our family too, so you can't help the situation as there would be mutiny if I were to bow to my inner demons and throw the critters outside! Recently some unfeeling, hard-hearted friends have told me that the oldest one, Punkin (a pound-found mix of retriever/shepherd) has gotten FAT!! Can you imagine someone being that cruel and viscious as to say that? My mother said if she were any calmer she would be dead. At any rate, Punkin is obviously very content in her new home. The other two are Suzie (beagle) and Nijia (yorkie). At the back door there is always an assortment of rubber boots because we have so many kids going in and out all the time. We would slip on the boots and walk the dogs and then come back to the sunroom with about enough dirt to plant at least a little herb garden on our feet! I told hubby that I wished we could leave the boots just outside the door upside down so they wouldn't get rained in. I came home from work, and wa-la! There is my new boot rack! Fantastic! Once less mess to clean up - 95 more to go! haha.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Our Tombstone!

Alrighty then. Here's the story on this rock that we have determined will be our tombstone! Years ago, my father lived in a house here in town that dated from the 1860's. Out front by the street there sat the rock you now see. It was a carriage rock! In the days of the carriages they would have to have something to step out of the carriage onto because it sat so high, and in front of most of the larger homes there would be a permanent rock to step out onto rather than someone having to get a stool. So. . . years later when we lived there my dad got tired of mowing around the carriage rock out front so he moved it back into a landscaped area around the house. (Actually, my dad got tired of mowing around a LOT of things. . . like the three foot deep circular tulip bed around the birdbath that he mowed down - and moved the birdbath against the house in the landscaped area, the sugar maple that was a good four inches around that he chopped down. . . he just likes to mow in a straight line!). When Tim asked me to go out with him on a more steady basis, we were sitting on the carriage rock. . . . three and 1/2 years later when he asked me to marry him we were sitting on the carriage rock. When the sad day came that my dad moved away 14 years ago and had to sell his house we took the carriage rock to our house and put it in my rose garden. Last year when we moved they used a lawn tractor with a trailer to move it to our current home where it will sit until we die. We decided that since it has been the symbol of such big happenings in our lives, it will be the symbol of our final happening! hahaha! What a hoot! We will have to have something really great carved into it. I want something funny that when someone walks by in a hundred years and reads it they bust out laughing. We haven't decided what that might be, but maybe we have a while to think about it! (Hopefully, anyway!) Right now it is sitting in our front yard with peonies on each side. I think I might plant a garden around it. But then again one of us would have to ruin the garden to pull the stone out when we die. Maybe we will just be cremated and sit on the stone in a pretty little jar! That's much less work!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Heaven Wafting by Like Smoke From the Fire

This evening we are having some friends over to sit beside the fire and roast weinies and marshmallows. I have a dirty house, a yard that needs mown (again), laundry piled, ceilings to paint, our bedroom to paint (we moved in over a year ago and I still don't have it done), and a multitude of other things that are calling my name. However, just for today, I am going to stop and enjoy the evening with people who are crucial to my well-being. I am beginning to learn that all of the chores in life are not as important as seeking contentment and satisfaction in the perfection of small moments. . . . like sitting and staring into the flames of the fire in our backyard while listening to a friend talk about something that is important to them. The kids laughing in the background as they chase lightening bugs. The dogs sitting and staring with an intensity that is scary hoping that you will notice that they would really LOVE a bite of marshmallow. Laying in the hammock watching the martins scope out dinner . . . watching them soar and float just like an eagle even though they are just little birds. Heaven is a good goal to seek and strive for, but I must confess that there is enough heaven in these little moments to fill my soul with a smile.

I hope all of you feel a little touch of Jesus in the wind tonight.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Trying out a blog!

I am trying out a blog! I think it will be a great way to keep in touch with everyone, but I am a real dummy at all of this, so please be patient.

Hope you will all give me pointers and participate in my venture!