Monday, December 19, 2011

He Is Real! ~ Part 2

Continued from last post; my written piece about how the Lord has recently made Himself real to me in unique ways. In reference to my sharing about the rain shower "vision": 

A Growing Intimacy Through Solitude, Silence And Journaling (Continued)

A little later that morning, my devotional had this to say:

I Shall Rejoice In My People

“...They who desire Me, I will surely reward: I will not fail. I will fill every longing heart
and satisfy every craving soul. The next sentence jumped off of the page at me. 
My grace will pour out as a tumbling waterfall  (emphasis mine). I shall be glorified, I shall be magnified, and I will rejoice in My people when they yield themselves fully and freely to Me and cut themselves free from everything else. Then I shall cast My love about them as a cloak, and 
I will whisper My words in their ears.”
(From the classic devotional: Come Away My Beloved)

Ten days later, after my few minutes of silence, I asked the Lord if there
was anything He wanted to communicate to me. I have done this on several
occasions, and although I don’t always “hear” His voice echo in my
heart, sometimes the Lord blesses me with simple, but profound words
that drench me with His Love! As I waited and listened, wondering if the
Lord might respond this time; the sweet message that flooded my soul
was simply this: “You are Mine!”

I share these special moments with the desire to remind all of us that these messages were not meant just for me, but for all who desire to commune with Him and long to hear His whispers in our
hearts. May He be glorified and magnified by our desire to grow in intimacy with Him, as we draw closer. Thank You, Lord, for Your “waterfall of grace” and for helping us to be still long enough to experience Your still, small voice in our noisy world.

Haiku Inspired By Solitude, Silence And Journaling

Come be with me, Lord
I am Your beloved child
Whisper to my heart

I seek Your presence
Waterfalls of blessings come
You are real to me

In silent moments
I asked: “A message for me?”
You said, “You are mine!"

How can it be, Lord?
You are mine and I am Yours
You even said so!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

He Is Real! ~ Part 1

I recently wrote a piece to submit to Inklings, the in-house publication at my church. In it I described some of the subjects we have been sharing in my ladies Bible study. It also includes some personal encounters with the Lord that have taken place in the last few weeks; some precious ways He has made Himself very real to me! Here is what I wrote:

A Growing  Intimacy Through Solitude, Silence And Journaling

In my ladies Bible Study, we have been encouraged to consider making
journaling a part of our spiritual discipline. I thought I had been
doing this for the past several years, but now realize that what I was
doing instead, was just keeping a diary. Keeping a spiritual journal has
helped me to connect with God in a new and fresh way.

We were inspired to seek solitude for these personal meetings with our Savior.
Solitude is already a constant in my life, and being hearing impaired offers many
quiet moments, as I often chose silence over music. It just agrees with my desire
for simplicity and tranquility and I am blessed to be surrounded by its’ addictive sense of
peace and lack of distraction on a regular basis.  

Another practice, we were encouraged to try, was taking a couple minutes of
silence before we begin to journal. Even though I live in a very quiet
environment, I still struggle to quiet my mind, in preparation for
journaling and communicating with God. I wonder why this is so difficult
to maintain. I have found that the only way I can push out the
unwelcome chatter in my mind is to simply repeat over and over: “BE
STILL. BE STILL”. This helps me to focus, and quiet my heart and mind
enough that I can hear God’s voice, if He has something to whisper into
my soul.

Face of beautiful dark haired woman lifted up  with eyes closed and rain drops hitting face.One morning, as I closed my eyes and endeavored to open myself to the Lord, I had a unique experience that I had never encountered before. I had
the vivid, visual sensation (with my eyes still closed) of rainfall
directly in front of my face,  and although I didn’t get wet, I sensed
the water droplets bouncing onto the front of my body...a tiny, gentle,
personal shower, splashing onto me. I was surprised by the momentary
“vision” and asked God what this was all about. I didn’t get my answer
right away, but rather, I just received it as a reminder of the shower
of blessings that cover me each and every day.

To be continued.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finally! Buck's Grave Marker Is In Place!

Buck's long-awaited Memorial is finally in place

When Buck was called home in April, 2009, his body was laid to rest, next to his dad in their family burial plot in West Virginia. Initially, I did not plan to install a grave marker, because I had a very strong conviction about doing so, as I knew the essence of who my husband was, was not present there where his remains were buried. I really struggled with the decision to order a marker because in my mind and heart, my husband was not there. Only his shell still remained at the top of that West Virginia hillside.  I was (and still am) convinced that Buck's soul, personality and everything that was special and unique about him were in heaven enjoying the presence of his Lord.

For many months I agonized about what I should do.  What I really wanted was to invest the funds for the marker, into something of eternal value, such as supporting one of our favorite charities; something that would make a difference in people's lives. As I examined my options, I just couldn't settle on a final decision, and it was an ongoing battle in my mind for month after painful month.  This was terribly disturbing to me. Finally, I came to the conclusion that placing a marker on Buck's grave was something I needed to do for Buck's family. It would be my gift to them. It was at this point  that I finally had peace about my decision.

I wanted Buck's marker to be symbolic of the man he was and I wanted to be certain that anyone, who visited his grave-site either in person or virtually through a photograph, would understand what was most important to him. Buck’s given name was Denvil, after his dad, but he wasn’t a junior. Since no one ever called him by his first name, not even his mom, it was important to me to have his nickname included on his marker.

I choose carnelian granite for the foundation, as I thought it was beautiful, unique, manly looking and the perfect compliment for the rich, dark brown tone of the bronze plaque. Just this week, I was very blessed to learn that carnelian is mentioned in the Bible as the sixth foundation stone of the celestial city. I love the design on the bronze that depicts his love of the outdoors, with the evergreens and the mountains in the background. I chose the wood-grained frame because it reminded me of Buck’s sturdiness and it looked like oak which was a wood that we both loved. It seemed a fitting frame to encase what was most important to the love of my life.

Under his name is an emblem that captures Buck’s favorite verse from Psalm 23: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. (Psalm 23:4) The other emblem was my choice to depict Buck’s life as a Christ-follower, and also the example he set, as he stayed steady in his faith during his illness. I felt it exemplified how he
remained sweet with all his caretakers during those last four, grueling months, as he fought for his life: I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Even though I was eagerly watching and waiting for the photo of the finished memorial; it was very painful to see it for the first time on my computer screen. It was another huge step of closure and acceptance of the reality that my best friend is no longer here to share my life. 

I am so thankful that Buck’s grave-marker is finally in place! I think Buck would like it. I hope his family likes it as much as I do! My goal was to bless Buck’s family, but more importantly, I wanted to honor the precious man God gave me to be my husband for eleven and a half wonderful years! All that was required to make his memorial a reality was so worth it in the end!

Friday, November 25, 2011

God Showed Me A Better Way

I’m a by-the-book, follow-the-directions, kinda girl, so I was inclined to want to do it the right way, when I set out to prepare a plot of bare ground for planting grass seed. This was the area, where the camper that Buck and I lived in for 8 months, once sat. The camper was "Home Sweet Home", while we built our new home on our little piece of rural heaven. I was blessed to have sold it this summer.

When the buyer removed the camper from my property, the ground underneath was exposed for the first time in nearly three years. There were a group of very large rocks on top of the bare soil and I made a mental note to move them as soon as possible. I made the mistake of procrastinating and created a lot of unnecessary work for myself! Because I didn’t make the rock moving chore, the priority that I should have, the weeds quickly took over; and, of course, I couldn’t mow that good sized area because of the rocks hiding in the mini-jungle! The weeds had rapidly gotten out of control and the only way to deal with them was to manually remove them, pulling them out by the roots. I’m embarrassed to admit; they were waist high by this point, well-rooted and lots of hard work to make them disappear. After many wheelbarrows of weeds were removed, I finally unearthed the large heavy rocks and wrestled them into the cart. I decided to fashion them into a fire-pit on the rear of my property.

The grass seed bag recommended tilling the soil then raking it level. I don’t have a tiller, so, I thought turning the soil over with a shovel would suffice. I got through about a quarter of the plot and realized that this was going to take way longer than anticipated! I was tired and frustrated!

I don’t remember why, but I made a trip to my garage and was startled by the loud, unexpected crash as I entered! Some might scoff, but I am convinced that it was the hand of God, or my guardian angel, at the very least, that got my attention! At the very moment when I entered the side door of the garage, the antique cultivator that Buck had purchased at an auction, fell off of it’s resting place, knocking over two rolls of tar paper as it came crashing down. This happened on the opposite side of the garage, with nothing around to have started the noisy chain reaction.

Buck's antique cultivator made my life a lot easier that day
I had completely forgotten about the wonderful garden tool! How kind of God to remind me in such a dramatic way! After all the noise, it seemed that God was whispering, " My dear daughter, you are making this a lot harder than need be. Do yourself a favor and use this tool that Buck bought to decorate his antique room". I used it to break up the ground, finishing my project a lot sooner, now that I was using a proper tool. After I raked the loosened soil to level it out, I decided that I had too much time and hard work invested in this plot for just a carpet of grass, and instead, will use it for something better when spring arrives. On Saturday, I spent the afternoon shoveling many wheelbarrows of manure and relocating the rich composted material to my new future garden site.  Tomorrow, I will spread it over the garden, providing a warm blanket and a winter’s worth of resting, enriching and my contemplation to figure out what WON’T be enticing for the herd of groundhogs that are napping in their underground network right now.

I was so thankful that God so graciously showed me a better way! It’s situations like these that make God very personal to me! Thank You, Lord, for stepping in and teaching me. Your personal touch made me feel very loved that day! I will be certain to make good use of Buck’s auction treasure in the future. Although it won't be a wall ornament, I’m sure he would approve!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Difference A Day Can Make

Picture taken the day before the unusual snow storm
Here on the east coast, we had a history-making weather event at the end of October! Midweek, I began to hear that nasty S word mentioned on the radio, but was relieved when I heard: “No significant accumulation”. It’s October ... of course it wasn’t going to amount to anything... flurries, maybe! Then on Friday... could it be? I thought I heard the word inches and out of curiosity looked up the forecast on and there it was...six to ten inches expected. I really hoped the weather people were wrong on this one, as, forgive me, but they often are. I prepared myself by parking my car at the end of my driveway and filling up the bathtub and gathering some drinking water, just in case the power might go out, as a heavy wet snow on leaf covered trees held the potential for lots of tree damage and hence downed power lines. My preparation wasn’t in vain, as we got about six to seven inches in my area and my electricity disappeared shortly after noon and was restored eight hours later; a little inconvenient, but no big deal.

The weather made me think about the fact that just the day before, in my desire to be intentional in searching for the beauty and joy of the season, I had taken pictures of the colorful surrounding landscape to capture autumn at its’ peak. I had to take another picture on Sunday to show the contrast! Wow, the difference a day can make!

During the storm

It occurred to me that this surprising, unseasonable snow storm was symbolic of our lives sometimes. Just moving along life’s path and out of nowhere a life-threatening storm moves in... blinding, incapacitating, immobilizing and scary: the test results, an accident, the lost job, the divorce, a troubled or wayward  child, or the broken heart...all world stoppers! This brings me back to the beginning of my world stopping journey on January 1, 2009, when my husband, Buck, had his devastating heart attack. Just hours before, we were enjoying a party with close friends and just a few weeks before, found Buck deer hunting in the rugged mountains of West Virginia. From that New Year’s moment on, our lives as we knew them were forever changed.

I can still recall the amazing Peace I experienced as I rode in the front seat of the ambulance en-route to York Hospital. That was the beginning of my awareness of the Lord’s presence as I had never encountered before. There is no doubt in my mind that the strength we needed during those exhausting, stressful four months was provided to prove that God’s promises are true and in answer to all the multitude of prayers that were lifted on our behalf. Of course the end result did not produce the outcome we anticipated, but I can testify to the fact that God even gave me the Peace I needed to accept His will when He called my sweetheart home.

I have many “before pictures" and memories to remind me of how blessed I was in that “before the storm” season, similar to the colorful photo taken from my front porch the day before the unusual, unseasonable snow storm arrived.  The gray, blustery, snowy picture helps me remember how I was carried through those four grueling, turbulent months during Buck’s illness and on into my first year of widowhood. And lastly, the last photo brings to mind, how in spite of the pain and heartache of

Surrounded by beauty after the storm

dealing with the harsh reality that the love of my life would no longer share my future, there was still wondrous beauty all around me, if I was willing to just open the eyes of my awareness. In this season of thankfulness, I have more blessings than I am able to count, namely in my faith, family, friends and home! Lord, please never let the pain of grief overshadow Your Goodness in my life, for You have been more than Faithful to me!

Romans 1:8

The Message
I thank God through Jesus for every one of you.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Good Investment

Home Sweet Temporary Home
 In mid-summer, I was blessed to find a buyer for the camper that Buck and I lived in for eight months (end of January through the end of September, 2008) while we built our new home. Moving into our humble abode on our wide open acre, in the coldest part of winter, made it quite the adventure! If you know anything about campers, you realize that they are not designed for year round living, unless, you are located in an area with moderate temperatures. That certainly doesn’t describe winter in southeastern Pennsylvania.  

Although our small, interim home was modern and cozy, winter dictated that we had no indoor plumbing as long as there was the possibility of freezing conditions. So, that meant no running water until May and yes, we had a rented outhouse! We had the luxury of access to water in a neighbor’s barn and that was our source for filling and toting our water jugs. We heated water on our three burner propane cook-top, for washing dishes and for our “bird baths”, as I lovingly referred to them. We made weekly trips to my daughter and son-in-laws home to shower and do our laundry. My daughter, Sarah, used to joke about our visits being like your kids coming home from college, only we would usually show up with food as well as bags of dirty clothes.  

Our temporary home was quite comfy for the two of us. Although we didn't have running water for three and a half months; we did have electricity, a propane furnace, small oven, tiny microwave and a compact, but adequate frig and mini-freezer. Much to Buck's delight, we were able to have cable and I was thrilled to have internet access and high speed at that, which I had never had before! We never felt deprived in any way! Except for the inconvenience of our water situation, for us, it was cushy camping at it's best and we both were so happy and excited to be there on our little piece of heaven! I'm so thankful that we had those eight months to enjoy together and to build sweet memories that I will always cherish!

Our hilltop location meant exposure to high gusty winds and on one blustery February day my absentmindedness got me in trouble. It was so windy that I was frightened by the way the camper was rocking and I decided it would be better to pull in our slide outs, providing less area for the winds to push against. It would have been a better idea, if I would have remembered that we had hay bales stacked around the perimeter to block the cold air and better insulate the floor. By the time I realized why there was resistance to pulling in our bedroom slide out, it was too late. I was sickened when I comprehended what I had done! I ran outside to access the damage and found the side panel grossly altered. I was beside myself and called Buck to confess my stupidity. When he got home from his workday, he reassured me that it was no big deal and he could make it like new again. How blessed I was to have such an easy going, forgiving husband!

It didn't take long for us to understand just how poorly insulated campers really are. Being fashioned for three season habitation at best, our fuel dollars didn't go very far as we tried to stay warm during the bitterness of that winter. We were shocked when we figured out that it cost more to heat our 30 foot camper when compared to heating our three bedroom A-Frame style home! We had to be resourceful to create a comfortable sleeping environment, as some nights literally felt like we were sleeping in a tent! We were thrilled when spring finally arrived!

When I sold the camper, I was disappointed by how much value was lost in those two years of ownership. It was a temptation to think we had made a bad investment, only getting a return of half of our purchase price. But as I look back, I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to live on and enjoy our property for those eight months while our dream home was coming together. Living there made Buck's role as general contractor so much easier as we went through the stressful home-building process and we made so many sweet memories there as we "roughed it" in our small, comfortable residence . Those precious memories made it worth every penny and I have no regrets about our decision to make the camper our temporary home. They are a treasure I will forever hold in my heart!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Searching For Joy In The Midst Of Melancholy

In my last post, I shared that I was working on a writing assignment for my church's writer's group. I really struggled in putting it together since the timing coincided with our wedding anniversary and I was in the throws of a new wave of grief. I wanted my composition to be positive and uplifting, painting a picture of this colorful season with words, but I found it very difficult to do so and to be honest at the same time.  The end result feels disconnected to me. Perhaps this is what happens when a writer just goes through the motions. I compromised by sandwiching the sights and sounds of a picturesque fall season with the bookends of my genuine endeavor to appreciate this most beautiful time of year.
                                                               Autumn Melancholy

Autumn at Muddy Run
Autumn, a much loved and favorite season for so many, stirs mixed emotions inside of me every year and even more so since my sweetheart no longer shares my life. Even though I am surrounded by so much beauty, I have to be intentional to search for the joys of the season. There is so much to be appreciated, especially being so blessed to live in the beautiful rolling hills of rural, southeastern Pennsylvania. With a prominent population of deciduous trees, I am treated to a feast of colorful progression that includes all the warm colors of the rainbow.

Thoughts of autumn engage my senses as I think about my favorite apple festival that takes place on the first Saturday in October, each year in Darlington, Md. Vendors line the small town’s streets with canopies, tents and farm wagons bulging with baskets of apples of every color and variety and heavy laden tables filled with pies and dumplings. The air is filled with the intoxicating fragrance of cinnamon,  caramel sauce and kettle corn. Everywhere you look is an explosion of color with lavender asters and mums of white, yellow, purple, rusty orange and my 
personal favorite, burgundy, providing a sea of color for the throng of festival goers to wade through as they pick out the perfect ones to take home . Many playful scarecrows are created that day as families have fun stuffing plaid flannels shirts and old worn out blue jeans to make whimsical characters to decorate their front porches along with their pumpkins, hay bales and colorful Indian corn.

How to Make a Scarecrow BodythumbnailThe fall season beckons campers to the outdoors to enjoy the last of the favorable weather. They are wooed by the joys of crackling campfires, cooking outside and hikes on rugged trails, strewn with noisy, crispy leaves. I can almost smell the bacon and camp-stove coffee when I close my eyes.

Now is the season when we will see deer more frequently, since the monstrous combines have recently harvested the cornfields, exposing their secret hiding places. Of course, this also means we will notice camo-clad hunters as they enter and exit wooded areas at dusk and dawn in pursuit of meat for their tables.

Scott Shephard Photogra

Autumn conjures thoughts of honking, south bound, flocks of geese in v-formation under a perfect deep blue canopy with billowy, cotton-like white clouds. I think of long lines of yellow school buses, football games, homecoming dances and chilly days that encourage me to dig out my favorite, warm, comfy sweaters and cozy blankets and throws. In my imagination I can smell the fragrance of crayons, earthy leaves, wood smoke and simmering pots of soup. 
Autumn sunset view from my front porch
Often, my favorite part of an autumn day is a gorgeous sunset when the Creator of all things bright and beautiful does His most amazing artistry, painting the sky with passion and indescribable beauty in shades of breathtaking pink, coral and purple. It is my desire to be diligent in savoring all that this season has to offer, in order to overcome the melancholy that wants to rob me of the joy and beauty of this most colorful season. I can only accomplish that commitment by depending on the daily strength that the Lord provides for me...Grace For Today.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:8 


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Anniversary Melancholy

Sunset glow at Muddy Run Recreation Park

Autumn beauty At Muddy Run
Today would have been our fourteenth wedding anniversary. I was hopeful that maybe it would be easier this year, but last week was emotion-filled and made it pretty clear that this third time of facing this date on the calendar was not going to be any less painful. Autumn has always been challenging  for me because it is that time of transition, forcing me to say goodbye to my best-loved season of summer and facing the reality of another approaching winter, my least favorite season of the year.

So many memories come to mind in October. I have been seeing deer pretty regularly lately, since the cornfields have been cut by the monster combines, exposing all their secret hiding places. I am always thrilled to see them, but they always make me think of Buck, my late husband, who was an avid hunter and gifted marksman, both with bow and gun alike, although he much preferred the challenge of bow hunting.

I had a writing assignment to complete this week for my writer’s group at my church. We were encouraged to write about autumn, bringing in all our senses to paint a picture with words. I was not prepared for the difficulty this little project would present. I decided to visit Muddy Run Recreation Park, a picturesque area surrounding a man-made reservoir. I thought the beautiful outdoor environment would inspire me, but the setting was not at all conducive to creativity, and instead hit me with a crushing wave of grief! 

I suppose I should have known better, since it was our favorite local place to hike during all the seasons and we had spent so many fun-filled hours there through the years. I thought I had dealt with the memories during prior visits over the past two years, but visiting in the fall and expecting to compose my thoughts in a creative way, while surrounded by so many happy memories was just too much for me. It made me wonder if I will ever again, be able to enjoy the places that we once shared and enjoyed together. I look forward to the day when the memories will bring smiles instead of tears! I trust it will happen as my heart heals. In the meantime I hold on to God’s promises during the ups and downs. I continue to understand that the journey of grief will always be unpredictable but doable as we trust the Lord to accompany us whether we are in the valley or on the mountaintop. He is Faithful every step of the way!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Navigator On The Way

This is a repost of one of my first blog entries, when I began publishing my journal here on Blogspot as well as at my Carepage location, in October of last year. I learned the hard way that I can not edit an entry once it has been published. To do so makes it disappear from the archives. So please forgive me for posting this again.

I attended the Pages (writers group) meeting at my new church this week.  I have been so blessed and inspired there! One of the exercises we did was to explore the new art exhibit in The Gallery@ Common Grounds Coffee Bar: "the gathering place, where emerging and established artists share their creative expressions". We were instructed to choose a piece of artwork and write about it. I chose a photograph titled: The Way. I would like to share what flowed out through the inspiration from the photo.

Cairns on the trail leading to the summit at Mount Washington in New Hampshire

This photograph depicts the path stretching from the Lake Of The Clouds, to the summit of Mount Washington, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It is the highest point on the east coast and has a reputation for having the worst weather in the world. My late husband and I hiked that path one summer day and saw the piles of rocks called cairns, pictured in the foreground and along the length of the trail.

I'm sure the stony stacks have guided many a weary traveler and thru-hiker who needed a sense of direction across the sea of boulders. These beacons will always be of critical significance,  just as importantly as a lighthouse on a rocky shore; especially if a fog would move in suddenly and the way wouldn't be obvious. Confusion would be life-threatening in that hostile setting! Certainly, if a fog or cover of snow would arrive suddenly, the hiker would have no way to get their bearings without the assistance of the trail marking rock pillars jutting out of the ocean of rocky obstacles.

Cairns are critical to navigate the trail in foggy conditions such as this!

There is a warning sign posted at the beginning of the most treacherous part of the trail that cautions the traveler to turn back now if the weather is bad. It also explained that many people had lost their lives because they weren't adequately prepared for their journey. We traveled to the highest point via the cograil on our honeymoon in mid-October, 13 years ago and encountered blinding horizontal snow and had to make a run for the observation building. Survival hinges on careful planning and preparation, as unforeseen, forbidding weather is always a threat at that elevation.

Warning posted on the trail. Weather is a very serious matter at this elevation!

Sometimes, the way feels uncertain as we journey through life, not just in widowhood, but in any personal circumstances. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:6). Drawing a parallel between these photos and Jesus being "The Way" are welcome reminders that listening to the wisdom that Jesus offers us in His Word is the "only Way" to get to our desired destination safely. That being: spending all of eternity with Him, because we placed our Faith and Trust in Him. We can be confident that He will guide and help navigate as we journey through our lives, if we take the warnings in His Word seriously and if we remember His unconditional love for each of us.  I am so thankful that I have that assurance that God's Word is Truth for my future as well as the gift of Peace for each new day!


Friday, September 2, 2011

Hey Honey, I'm Home!

A favorite photo of Buck and I

As the first day of September came to a close, I felt compelled to put my thoughts into words; as keeping a journal of my journey of grief continues to be cleansing and therapeutic for me. September 1st is a significant day because it is/was my sweetheart’s birthday. Those days don’t pass by without deep emotion. I anticipated that yesterday would be difficult, and I was right!

It was a beautiful day here in Pennsylvania when I woke, but clouds started to gather as the afternoon approached. I had decided a few days ago, to do something to commemorate the day of my husbands birth. For some time now, I have had it in mind to start walking again. Buck’s birthday just seemed a fitting day to make a commitment to take better care of myself. I’m sure my plan would please Buck, because we had planned to utilize the nearby walking trail as soon as we got settled in our new home.  

I was glad I brought my umbrella; determined that I was going to get an hour’s worth of walking in, rain or shine. It was a pleasant light shower and I prayed on and off as I walked. A flood of memories interrupted and I welcomed the distraction with free-flowing tears as I reminisced about the times Buck and I walked hand in hand, side by side. I have come to accept tears as my friend and a necessary component of the healing process.

On occasion, I have asked God to deliver messages to Buck for me. As I walked, the thought came to me to have a conversation with the birthday boy. I had never done that before and I was comforted by the experience. I was surprised by how quickly the time went! An hour felt like fifteen minutes! I can’t say that I sensed his presence in any way, but I enjoyed the one-sided chat just the same, confident that my words would be shared with him! While I walked, I couldn't help but notice the intoxicating fragrance from the new rain! I think I mentioned it in my chat with Buck.

Yesterday, I was thinking about some of the things I miss about my man. I could go on and on about that subject, but what came to mind on Buck’s birthday was his husky voice as he came in from his workday and cheerfully announced, “Hey Honey, I’m hoo-ome! I can hear the echo of his voice in my heart! And the tears come again as I visualize his warm smile, twinkling eyes, and best of all: his unforgettable hugs that made everything right in my world!

As the memory of Buck’s voice made my heart pound; the realization dawned on me again that his words are truer now, than ever before! Buck is indeed HOME; where he often spoke of going to claim his mansion someday! He looked forward to that day with great anticipation, even when we were in the emergency room the night of his heart attack! In the big picture of his life, he was heaven bound and he couldn’t wait to meet Jesus, face to face! If God was calling him, he was ready to go HOME!

Happy Birthday Bofren!
So, my precious husband - yesterday, on your birthday, I put a large candle in a brownie and sang Happy Birthday to you. I thanked God again for the precious gift I had in you and for all the wondrous memories I have to cherish! I enjoyed the brownie. Well, okay, so I had two! One for each of us. We’ll just have to walk and talk longer today! Happy Birthday, Bofren! Your Girfren will always love you and is missing you everyday, but I’m moving ahead one day at a time with the Lord’s help and the support of all our loved ones! I like to think you are proud of me as I search for joy in the gift of each new day and journey on with the Lord by my side. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Whirlwind Weekend~Part 2

After not having flown in forty years, I was so excited to fly again. I was anxious about the whole security process though, not wanting to do anything wrong that would slow us down in any way. I think my family thought my anxiety was comical. I was relieved to get through with no problem.

Sculpture in lobby of The Omni at Los Angeles
Beautifully decorated hotel lobby
After arrival in Los Angeles, we took a shuttle to our beautiful hotel. The lobby was lovely with its' unique architecture, decorating and artwork, including sculpture and the impressive live flower arrangements and abundance of brass and marble. I had to touch the roses to confirm that they were indeed real! When we entered our luxuriously appointed rooms we were greeted with a welcome basket from Coca Cola, full of snacks, Coke products and bottled water. I had never been surrounded by such accommodations.
The amazing live flower arrangement in the lobby, comprised of roses and orchids.
After we unpacked and got settled, we set out on foot to find a restaurant and get acquainted with our new surroundings. For the most part, we were delighted with our cuisine and I found it interesting that two of the places we visited had exposed kitchens that operated like clockwork and sparkled with glass surrounds, ornate woodwork and cabinetry and shiny stainless steel. However, one fine dining restaurant had much to learn about angel food cake, as there was no similarity to what we were familiar with and was very disappointing for Justin and Bob. Sarah and I loved our chocolate molten! Without a doubt, my favorite food served all weekend was an outstanding fried portabella mushroom appetizer served with avocado ranch dipping sauce. Our waiter knew what he was talking about, when he highly recommended it!

We didn't rent a car, but thanks to Bob's excellent navigation skills, we got around easily as we used many of the available means of public transportation. Our subway experiences turned out to be interesting as we encountered several very vocal, unique personalities in our excursions to and from Hollywood. We were all glad when these "characters" would make their way off the subway car. We all learned that we preferred peaceful, uneventful travels.

On our first visit to Hollywood, we visited the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater, where we saw the hand and footprints of many famous entertainers. There were many street people dressed in costumes, like Batman, Darth Vader and Snow White to name a few, who would pose for phtographs with tourists and added an interesting element to the Hollywood atmosphere. We visited at night, so we didn't get to see the famous Hollywood sign, as it was not lit after dark as we anticipated.

Justin found the perfect hat to compliment his mom's.

Trying on hats at Santa Monica Pier.
 On Sunday, we visited the Santa Monica Pier, boardwalk and beach. We had a fun photo opportunity, as we all tried on hats. We enjoyed walking on the beach, and a brief time of sticking our toes in the very chilly Pacific Ocean. There was an impressive solar operated Ferris Wheel and we watched a sculptor, who made three dimensional likenesses of his customers from a soft clay. We also saw a sobering display of a great number of crosses on the beach that represented our troops that sacrificed their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sarah and Bob, our awesome navigator!

Justin and the gold guy have a stare-down. Justin won!
The silver and gold street entertainers
 A favorite memory from that day was a performance by two interesting street entertainers. It was a warm day, but these two gentlemen were dressed in long sleeved shirts and long pants. One was a very large man and his outfit and skin were painted silver. His partner was all dressed in gold. They had a little routine they did to music, that was comical and fun to watch. The large man's contribution to the act was robot-like movements and he made his big belly jump up and down at will.  His partner moved about with jerky motions and he could move his jaw sideways to the beat of the music. At one point, the gold guy and Justin had a stare down that was amusing to all the crowd that had gathered. After they finished their performance, I had to ask the gold guy if his jaw hurt from the way he contorted his face. He assured me, "Not at all, my jaw is double-jointed and I've been doing this for thirty years!" Sarah interacted with the big silver dude to let him know she enjoyed their show. He responded by trying to steal a kiss, but Sarah was quick to offer him her cheek instead. She sported a small set of silver lips on her cheek as a souvenir. The time went quickly and soon it was time to return to the hotel to get dressed for our evening at the BET Awards. More details about our L.A. weekend in a future post. Thanks for dropping by and I hope you are having a pleasant summer!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Whirlwind Weekend~Part 1

The Coca Cola Corp. provided a memory-packed weekend that my family and I will long remember!

 It's not everyday that you get a once in a lifetime opportunity like I enjoyed several weeks ago. I was with my daughter, Sarah, when she got the call from her sister-in-law, offering her an all expenses paid trip for four to Los Angeles for the last weekend in June. This sweepstakes prize was sponsored by Coca Cola and included airfare and accommodations at a luxury hotel. Originally, this was going to be a surprise for my 15 year old grandson, Justin, and his best friend, Joey. That same day, Sarah was thinking out loud and asked my son-in-law, Bob, if they would still go if Joey couldn't go for some reason. I timidly raised my hand to indicate that I would like to be that fourth recipient if Joey didn't get permission to join them. Sarah was shocked that I would want to go, knowing full well what a country girl homebody I am! Also, the weekend revolved around attendance at the BET (Black Entertainment TV) Awards and it never occurred to her that I would have any interest. Since I almost never watch television, I didn't even know what the BET was. I just knew it sounded like it would be a great get-away!

Sadly (for Joey), although his parents gave permission for him to go, the prize people said he would have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian in order to go along. So Nana was going to L.A. with the family! At first, I wasn't planning on going to the BET Awards, thinking that it wouldn't be something I would enjoy. But that changed when I went to lunch with my Bible study girlfriends and they all encouraged me to go just for the experience. I was very excited about this trip, as I hadn't flown in a jet in forty years and I had never been any farther west than Ohio! I went having no expectations; just a desire to spend the weekend with my family, going somewhere none of us had ever been and doing something I most likely will never have the opportunity to do again.

I assumed that we would need to get very dressed up to attend the Awards, and was planning on wearing my mother of the bride dress, or another long dressy outfit I had in my closet. I thought I was set. Bob kept asking the prize counselors about appropriate attire, but it wasn't until the last minute that we learned that the expected attire was not formal, but rather something called cocktail chic. I had to look it up online because I had no idea what that meant. So I spent the day before our trip in a frantic search for something to wear. Thankfully, Sarah and the boys had something in their wardrobes that would work. I was blessed to find my little black dress at the eleventh hour!

I loved every minute of our little adventure! We had such a good time; the most fun I have had since my sweetheart was called home over two years ago. The flight to L.A. was emotion-filled for me though, as I couldn't help but think of Buck, when I saw the mountains, especially when the pilot pointed out the Grand Canyon. This was hard for me because it was a powerful reminder of the trip we had looked forward to for so long. As soon as we got settled into our new home, we were going to make a month long cross-country driving journey exploring the west. I wasn't able to hide my tears. Having fun always makes me think of my man, because Buck was such a fun-loving person and he made sure that we carved out time to make memories during our camping trips and summer and autumn getaways. He brought so much fun and joy into my life and I am so thankful for all the wonderful memories that I now cherish! I don't miss him any less, but much healing has taken place and I'm coping with my new reality a lot better.  I so appreciate my family's willingness to share their prize package with me, giving us the opportunity to build new and wonderful memories!