Friday, May 17, 2013

Wash It Away

A sudden rain came down a few days ago, that for all its brevity could be called a gully washer.  I was inside, and though I paused to admire the actual sheeting of rain that blocked my view to see across the street, I did not really think much about the outside effects.  Later that day, I walked to my car to head home.  The rain had stopped and it was nicely cool and fresh outside.  I noticed that there were brown lines around cars, where the rain had washed cars and removed the layers of dirt.  Outlines now existed around cars, and in parking spots where cars were once parked.  My car shined quite nicely in the sun, looking clean and sparkly.  The remnants the rain left were not on my car, but in a car sized dirt outline

As I got in the car, and headed home, it struck me that the car could not wash itself.  There had to be an outside source to remove the dirt.  In much the same way, the sins that accumulate on, around, and in me are also something I cannot remove.  Jesus, in much the same way, performed an act that worked like that gully washer.  He shed his blood and died for my sins, in essence removing them by the sacrifice of love.  What left was a bright and shiny forgiveness of my sins and your sins in the person of me and other followers of Christ, and that human size dirt outline you see there on the ground, that is the sin that is no longer mine to pick-up. 

Why? That is one of my favorite questions.  I think it is important to understand why things happen or don’t happen certain ways.  Why would a perfect God do something to even bother with the messiness of people?  Love.  God loves us so much that He gave us his one and only Son.  We in turn, if we believe in him, we are given eternal life.  Because, the Son (Jesus) did not come to condemn the messy structure we call humanity, but to save us instead.  I accepted that Love.  I hope you do too.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Neighbors in Perspective

I have wonderful neighbors.  I’m not just saying that, I have the best neighbors.  They are kind, caring, and help to look out for each other, and us.  And, we in return get to help and look out for them.  I hopped on facebook this morning, just part of my normal morning routine, to check in on some virtual neighbors.  Two happily celebrated anniversaries, one birthday, and a heartfelt prayer request later, I want to celebrate the happy news of those who have shared their pictures and joys and pray for peace and comfort for those grieving. 

Neighbors are so much more than the people living in the house to the either side of us, or an electronic “friends” list.  They are people who when we reach out and get to know a bit, become a neighborhood.   A neighborhood that works to remain solidly in support of each other becomes a community.  Cities made of communities are going to function better.  They are more peaceful, cohesive, and are able to do more for each other and neighboring communities.

How do we get there?  We start taking care to keep our neighbors in our perspective.  It doesn’t have to be anything terribly complex.  Simply keep it in mind enough to think through possible needs.  If there is a heavy snow, catch them with a happy surprise by snow blowing the driveway just because.  If there is an illness, grab a meal and drop it off.  Extra produce from the garden that cannot be eaten, drop off a bag of the fresh goodies just because.  Meet at the fence, laugh and talk over those daily neighborhood things – the children jumping on the trampoline, the dog in the yard, the gardens, and the weather. 

Nothing too difficult.  Nothing that requires a committee or a huge plan.  Just keep the perspective wide enough to include the neighbors.  It can make your perspective grow tremendously.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

By Many Titles

They may be called mom, momma, grandma, mee-maw, granny, gran, gram, auntie or various other names that can mean mentor, teacher, protector, guider, and matriarch.  Known by many titles, women can form solid bedrock of strength in our life through their efforts and energies.  Though it is not a guarantee that all women will nurture those around them, there are many that expend their energies to do so. 

Today is the recognized Mother’s Day holiday and I enjoyed recognizing my own mom and her role in my life today.  She is such a tremendous example of love and wisdom.  We have shared tears through laughter and over difficulties.  We have challenged each other to learn different skills and shared many adventures.  Girls trips, prayer times, history discussions, faith building, baking bread, singing songs, book reading, and confidence building are just a few of the things she has brought into my life.  I thank her for being a mother who has parented passionately and intentionally, wanting to be the best mother possible.

There are also other women who have instilled good things into me.  So many strong and vibrant women flash through my mind, who “mothered” me even though not my birth mother.  Beyond women in my family who have also been an example, I wanted to mention a few others.  My dear sisters who mother their own children and are a source of joy to watch, especially as I get to be an aunt!  My Ohio mom who has been a voice of comfort in times when the world was falling down, and also lets me be silly and relax in my skin.  A Kentucky Sunday School teacher provided me with a place to feel accepted when I felt so very out of my comfort zone.  My dear Ena who passed away not terribly long ago, she was my baby sitter when I was a baby and a little girl.  She kept me busy, loved, prayed over, and gave southern sweet tea as a treat.  My eighth grade science teacher helped me bridge the move to Florida while being someone who could talk about NASA and explain math.  We shared a common love of space and she is still so dear to me.  Student teaching with two lovely ladies taught me about loving students and also maintaining energetic professionalism in a classroom.  Challenged to think, laugh, explore, love, and grow – these women and so many more have been enormous influences in my life.  I thank them and wish them Happy Mother’s Day! 

You may or may not have children.  You may have experienced the loss of a mom or a child.  So many women suffer through this day instead of celebrating it, and to them I say let’s celebrate your influence in “momming” others around you!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Aunt Ruby’s Lasagna

On one of our girls road trips, my mom and I had the chance to visit my great aunt and uncle.  My Great Aunt Ruby served the most wonderful lasagna when we had the chance to visit her several years ago.  Placing the lasagna on the table, she put together an entirely lovely dinner with ease and grace.  “Aunt Ruby, can I have your lasagna recipe?  This is so good!”  She chuckled and told us of course.  Dinner passed and we were led into the kitchen.  I’m going to get the recipe – awesome!  Served with great love, I thought for certain that there would be some recipe card, stained with flour and tomato sauce, tucked in a recipe box on a shelf.  Instead, we were led to the trash bin and with great flair, Aunt Ruby pulled out the Stouffer’s lasagna box.  
Aunt Ruby taught me about some easy ways to serve a great meal and also be able to relax and enjoy the visit.    

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Being Still When the Lights Go Out

It was a dark and stormy night when the lightning flashed, the thunder clapped, and the lights flickered twice before fading into a vacuum of darkness…

Okay, that didn’t actually happen.  It is cloudy, and the evening is late and becoming dim.  But the night has not really settled in yet, and there were no dramatic moments – the lights went out in the blink of an eye.  The why and how long of the power outage is still to be determined; in the meanwhile sitting in a quiet and darkening house surrounded by wonderful smelling candles and sleeping dogs is not a terrible interruption to the constantly connected electrical world we live in.  This gives me a chance to put pen to paper, sit in the glow of a pine candle (my favorite scent), and write on what paper I could find using my phone as a flash light.  The paper could be gray or maybe lavender, it’s hard to tell with the low light fading the colors out.  But, in the midst of this outage, I think it would be an ideal time to be still. 

When I have an opportunity to be still, I realize afresh how I crave this more than my routine indicates.  After coming back from a time that involved stillness, I find myself wanting this more frequently.  In the presence of everyday life, my sense of mental equilibrium can apparently settle into something not entirely good because stillness tends to leave me falling into an exhausted sleep.  When I do get a period of quiet, enforced by a power outage though it may be, it can draw attention to the need to be still and regain balance.

“Be still and know that I am God” you say.  Be still.  Still. Still.  Still moving.  Still squirming.  Still yacking about irrelevant things.  Still having conversations in my head.  Still not focused.  Still not listening.  Still not having a mental slow down.  Still trying.  Still straining to listen.  Still settling.  Still need to add that last item to my list.  Still, be still. That is generally when the phone rings, the e-mail arrives, the dog barks, the calendared event starts, or I just fall asleep.  Be still I say to myself!  You are supposed to be still and know.  Can’t I know that God is God while moving about?  This still thing is awfully difficult.  I tend toward curiosity and I wonder why be still?  Why not be quiet and know or be noisy and know – I could probably accomplish that a lot better than being still. 

The lights just came back on.  My thanks to the power crew that is working tonight.  I do like our electrical conveniences.  In the growing darkness though, I did have a moment when stillness started.  After one of the moments the dogs of insisted we go out, I tried to be still.  When I’m still, I don’t hear myself moving about.  I hear the patter of a gentle rain starting to fall.  I hear night sounds as frogs and crickets perform virtuoso lullabies.  I smell the awakening smell of spring warmed earth, new leaves, and the beginnings of spring blooms.  Be still and know. 

Be still is not the easiest thing for me, but I can understand why I need to be still.  I need to hear God and readjust my direction to move forward.  My direction right now is to be still a little more often – it’s like a vacation for the soul.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Getting Back into the New Groove

Vacation is over.  Wow, those are not happy words!  As glad as I am to see my pups, sleep in my own bed, and see all my friends, I’m still lingering over thoughts of vacation.  After clearing through e-mails, paper mail, and voice mails, I had my list of things to get done written out and am ready to start crossing things off of it.  I guess it’s time to get back in the groove of things.  Or, perhaps is it time to start a new groove? 

        Groove:  a : a fixed routine : rut; b : a situation suited to one's abilities or interests : niche      
        (according to a quick definition from Merriam-Webster).

As I look back at that definition and compare the provided words of rut and niche; I’m thinking niche sounds so much nicer.  If I am honest though, it is easy to slip into a rut of a groove, a fixed routine that is tough to break out of; even though it is a nice routine.  Doing the same thing over and over can lead to stagnation; when I think of stagnation, I think of a pond that is all green goo covered, not what I would like to describe my groove(a.k.a. routine)  as – yuck! 

So, I go on a trip and break out of my groove for a short time.  I have experienced new things, met new people, seen new sights, and had a new refreshing of my heart and mind.  Why should I take these new things and try to stuff them back into the same old groove?  I shouldn’t!  I need to get back into a new groove, one a little different for the experiences I bring with me.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Taking It All With Me

The trip is winding down, and here at about a half-way point between the Black Hills and home in Iowa, it’s time to get some sleep.  Packing up this morning, rarely my favorite thing to do, I was consoling myself that even though I was leaving a beautiful place, I was going to take many things back with me. 

The buffalo herd moves across the grasses, mostly in a slow and loose conglomeration of shaggy creatures.  Babies test out their legs, and discover hopping and running to their great joy.  The mamas look as if they hope the babies will do several more laps to be naptime ready sooner rather than later.  The herd sentries grunt back and forth; passing along directional, pace, and herd behavior instructions.  Rolling in the dust, sturdy buffalo legs stretch in wallowing holes to take dust baths.  Tiny cow birds gather around the buffalo, partners in their environment.  The calves stretch out next to their mommas, soak in the sun, and wake recharged and hungry.  They try to add their own grunts, with baby voices that are much higher than the adults surrounding them.  I will take them with me.

Antelope, elegant creatures of patterned colors, perch high on hills and low in the gullies.  They tend to pretend that human viewers are simply not there, conspicuously ignoring the person within view.  Watching the antelope, quietly munching the grasses and moving along the hill lines, I love their patterned looks and the sounds of their quiet grass clipping.  I will take them with me.

Sylvan Lake, Legion Lake, Stockade Lake, and several other lake spots reflect the pines, snow, and rock formation.  The ducks and geese that make their homes in the waters take turns honking and quacking at each other, flapping around in a merry chase of territorial nesting crankiness.  The air is full of pine smell, clean and sweet.  The water, still frozen in some places, is cold with spring snow melt.  Little fish dart in and out of the cattails.  Tiny birds played as they move in and out of the reeds.  An osprey dipped and dove into the waters.  The trails around the ponds and lakes are each different.  The Sylvan Lake path leads past the waters framed in low rocks to a path sided by tall rock walls.  The pines and birch trees close to the rocks are still encased in thick snows.  Higher up, where the sun is hitting, the snow has melted to form icicles that glow in the sunshine like jewels.  I will take them with me.

Blue birds perch on the fences and bird houses.  Tiny spots of sky blue, they are like little sky streaks that dart around.  The females are toned in browns, like little paintings that reflect the good soils and stones around them, delicate in coloring and well disguised in their environment.  The meadow lark sings the most beautiful song, loudly and joyfully from tree branches, fence posts, and anywhere else they can find.  Yellow, with a swirl of black on their chest, these birds are as beautiful to see as they are to hear.  Magpies, white
and dark blue, dart about as if they are the supermodels and everyone else should pause to watch.  They are beautiful, and I do pause.  A strutting turkey, fluffed up and gliding over pine needle covered ground attempting, all in the attempt to impress a hen was a beautiful sight.  She was even chasing him for a few minutes, so apparently it was working.  The gobble gobble and cluck cluck of the turkey was fun to hear.  The pheasants, hawks, burrowing owls, and noisy crows were all there and all so wonderful to see.  I will take them with me.

I have met wonderful people.  A woman on an adventure who displays warmth and caring in her work, will have a collection of stories that is worthy of writing in a much shared book.  A local small store owner brings Bob the Manager to the store each day to “work” as a greeter.  Bob is a liver colored lab who likes belly rubs and to show off his big blue toy bone.  The Custer Chamber of Commerce awarded Bob as having friendliest customer service; all because his person brought him to work and let those who visit the store enjoy that personality.  Another woman has picked up the pieces of her life and found a passion for photography that has inspired her to make more than a so-so existence, but to enrich the lives of others around her.  I felt as if she was looking to share, as one who cares about an art wants to share it with another.   A gentleman is warmly greeting guests, even as he is a guest here.  I hope that he feels as welcome
in the Custer area as he made us feel.  A retired rancher, working at the Wild Horse Sanctuary, let me see the plains through his eyes.  Grasses, sustainability, the balance cycle of predator and prey, water conservation, and the joy of spring’s arrival from the presence of a burrowing owl were only the frosting on the cupcake.  His love of the horses and caring for them and their preservation was something that could be described more as a passion than a job.  People who have greeted, smiled, welcomed, and been kind – I will take them with me.

Snow falling so gently while enveloped in the heat of the steam and water of a hot tub, watching deer eat their dinner just beyond the pines from the same hot tub, and the sound of migratory ducks and geese as they fly over - they are all cabin memories.  Tucked near an outcropping of rock, the cabin was a quiet landing place at the end of a day.  With a gas stove fire started, the living room was toasty and the perfect place to end a day flipping through pictures.  A kind hearted woman owns the cabins and so wants to share her joy of the cabins with those who stay there.  I will take these with me.

These are just a few of the things I will take home with me.  I packed them all so gently in my luggage and have them with me even now.  They are many more, and those also I will take with me.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dream, Reach, Share & Fuzzy Faces

Prairie Lonesome with her friendship group

The last couple days have been busy, trying to see what we can in the Black Hills area of South Dakota.  A cabin that is charming, but without internet access, is a nice break and it’s a great excuse to go to Legion Lake Lodge where they have Wi-Fi, the staff is welcoming, and the Kansas City chef is turning out awesome food.  So, over a lunch of a fabulous chicken noodle soup and a chicken salad sandwich, it’s a great time to post a little update.  

Tuesday was a day of dream sharing at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary.  You can read the more detailed account of the Sanctuary at, but I want to provide a short version of what this place is and how it got started.  Twenty five years ago, a rancher was out looking for cattle when he saw wild horses gathered into feed lots.  These horses, built to run in wide pastures, were hemmed into very tight spots and were being maintained but no more.  These native horses are rare and protected by federal law.  But, what do you do with them?  Most towns can’t handle a herd of wild horses running down the street; instead they were gathered into feed lots to be maintained – a sight that broke this rancher’s heart.  He had a dream of seeing the horses run free; able to be wild and living healthy lives out in the open.  Dayton Hyde, the rancher, did not leave this at a dream.  Instead, he engaged in a fight with the government to be able to open a sanctuary for the horses.  It took three years of work to make this dream come alive, many battles with naysayers and doubters, and many months of fence building to hold the original herd.  After the first four miles of fence were up, the first herd of horses arrived.  Some new horses are still arriving today.  Now, the sanctuary is spread out over several thousand acres, and provides homes to mustangs, paints, quarter horses, a retired Marine horse, and a few of the extremely rare Choctaw horses.  Dayton Hyde had a dream, reached for it, and then shared with others.  Today, a staff works to maintain this place for the horses and to share the stories and the horses with visitors.
Painted Desert's blue eyes

On a tour with a "retired" rancher, Mark, to see the horses, the view of the ranch included wonderful views, turkey, meadow larks, a burrowing owl, and of course the beautiful horses.  Out enjoying their morning breakfast, tails and manes were blowing in the wind, a welcome relief to blow off the flies.  The buffalo grass is stubby and looks like it would be a thin meal.  Mark assured me that it actually contains a lot of nutrition for the animals eating off of the land.  Loving the horses and the land as he does, it was a great chance to see this special place through a rancher’s eyes.  Small white Easter lilies and bright yellow pea pod flowers are starting to bloom on the grasses, lending polka dot patches of color to the grass and sandy soil.  The horses roam in their pastures, beautiful and able to run as they would like within their sanctuary area.

It is such a beautiful spot, but even more of a landmark to me as this was a dream that was given life and took off, through hard work and hard times, good work and good times.  It is the belief of a dream that is reached for and shared with others, a very powerful thing.
Black Bear on the logs
The fuzzy faces of bears were a highlight yesterday.  Bear USA is home to dozens of beautiful black bears.  Round bellies, shiny coats, and stretching off the long winter’s sleep, the bears are roaming in their habitat.  One splashed in a pool, especially when another bear offered to get in.  Another found a spot that would be the perfect nap spot in the sun, tucked into the intersection of a few large logs and snoozing happily away.  I had to share just a quick photo because even though these are extremely powerful animals and quite wild, they look just adorable with their fuzzy faces.  Just like great big teddy bears....
Tank the Grizzly Bear