Monday, December 31, 2007

Countless blessings

In my time zone, 2008 is two hours and 14 minutes away. 2007 is quickly slipping through my fingers and all that I planned to do this past year has either been accomplished or it's on the list for next year. Regardless of my victories or failures in that area, I've had a good year.

Two grandsons were born--Cannon Dennis Hedges and Tyler Henry Gordon. One lives with his brothers Dustin and Hunter in Kentucky; the other lives in Michigan by himself (well, as far as kids go, that is). I traveled a lot this year--to Michigan, Kentucky and Florida; we enjoyed reciprocal visits from loved ones from all of those states, as well. I got a new kitty, Maple, and she's brought untold joy to this household. All in all, it was a great year for our family and I look prayerfully forward to another healthy and happy twelve months in 2008.

I accomplished some things with my writing, although not nearly as much as I should have or that I am capable of doing. That will change in 2008. I was diagnosed with yet another ailment, but I've chosen to look at this new medical problem as a way to become healthier in all other aspects of my life. We will be moving to another base (as yet unknown) this coming summer and we're happily anticipating a new state, home, and community in which to live and prosper.

I've stayed in touch with a couple of cherished old friends; hopefully, we'll have a chance to visit one another this coming year. We've made new friends on this base and are thankful for their company, support, and friendliness. Nothing makes the military life easier than making friends around the world.

God has been extraordinarily kind, generous and loving with my family this year. I praise Him for His power, glory and everlasting love and thank Him endlessly for the many blessings He bestows upon me and my loved ones every minute of the day. I thank Him for my loved ones, for their guidance and love, their humor and support. Without them and our Heavenly Father, I would be less than nothing. And of course, none of the above-mentioned wonderful events and/or people and relationships during this past year (or any of the fifty plus before that) would have been possible without His constant presence in my life.

I can hardly wait for 2008 and the glorious things the Lord has in store for me! Opportunities abound and I know that God has countless blessings ready to pour upon me and those I love. Thank you, Heavenly Father!

Until the next time...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Glutton-free at last!

The Christmas season--for those of us in this household, at least--is over for another year. Yes, the New Year's activities are still looming, but we don't do much to mark that holiday, preferring instead to take it easy, catch up on things, and look forward to starting anew. Besides, it's time for me to begin my yearly ritual--planning, designing, beginning, and ultimately abandoning my latest diet. Celebrating on New Year's Eve would only serve to pile on another pound or two!

This year, though, I believe the Lord has taken that out of my hands. About two weeks before Christmas, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, which means I'll be eating a gluten-free diet for the remainder of my days. Although I missed eating all the luscious holiday goodies, knowing that I would have been desperately ill during the entire holiday season makes me realize that finding out beforehand was indeed a blessing. Yes, it will be a challenge to eat without consuming any wheat, rye, barley or oat products ever again, but the benefits far outweigh any disadvantages. As soon as I began my gluten-free diet, I noticed immediate results. Besides the obvious advantage of feeling better, my body can now heal from the ravages of consuming gluten all these years and I'll no doubt be a healthier person all around. Who knows, I might even lose a few pounds in the process.

The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways!

Until the next time...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Over the river and through the woods...

The autumn season is quickly fading as the swirl of Christmas celebrations, decorating, shopping, and hopefully, worshipping, surrounds us full force. Our combined Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration with my youngest daughter, Dennae, and her husband, Richie, and their three boys (Dustin, 6, Hunter, 4, and Cannon, 9 months) was held this past weekend. They drove 400 miles from Kentucky to be with us and could stay for only 36 hours. But we made the most of those hours and created yet another wonderful set of memories.

I cherish the times I have with my family members, as we're scattered all over the place now. Michigan, Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi--all hold loved ones and each one is quite a distance from the others. It's a long trip, no matter who's doing the traveling or which direction we're heading. In our case, it's literally "over the river and through the woods," to get to grandmother's house (that would be me). In fact, there are many rivers and many forested highways between me and the ones I love, but the Lord continues to provide the ways and means for us to be together.

I often remind myself that it wasn't so long ago that families were separated by the westward movement and many never saw their loved ones again. Traveling by covered wagon or overland by train or stagecoach was a whole lot different from today's transportation methods. Not only was it time-consuming, but the dangers along the way were daunting. Today's transportation, though frustrating, time-consuming (in our eyes, at least) and often expensive, does afford us the opportunity to visit our loved ones frequently. I'll take that over waving goodbye to the back end of a covered wagon any day of the week!

The Lord has been generous, as always, with His bounty during the past twelve months. Our family has been mightily blessed with the addition of two little boys--that makes four grandsons now--and my brother was married earlier this year. Our collective health continues to be good and our lives continue to be filled with the good things our Heavenly Father provides. I look forward to what He has in mind for us next year.

Thank You, Father, for giving us hope for the future, for all You have done for me and my loved ones this year, and for all that You will do for us this coming year. May we continue to be aware of Your unmnatched power, glory, kindness, and love, and live our lives accordingly. Thank You for giving us the means and the time to spend precious occasions with each other. In Your glorious Son's name, I pray. Amen.

Until the next time...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Looking up

We're barely into the holiday season and although I hate to admit it, I'm no better than the folks I complain about who force the season upon us by advertising, displaying goods, and decorating their stores far too early. We too have "hurried up" the season this year by putting up the tree and decorating the house before the month of December (or even the last week in November, for that matter) has arrived.

Our purpose is noble: my daughter, Dennae, and her husband Richie, and their three little boys will be arriving for our Christmas celebration at the end of next weekend, during what is traditionally known as the Thanksgiving weekend. Due to conflicting work and college schedules, the only time we could get together as a family to celebrate Christmas was during the 4th weekend of November, so that necessitated the early decorating. To further mess up our holidays, we had our Thanksgiving meal yesterday with friends here on base, a full week before the actual holiday. Again, the demands of life forced us to celebrate early, so I'm a week closer to Christmas (mentally, that is) than I would be if things were moving along in a normal manner.

Thankfully, though, there are other things going on at the moment to keep my attention focused on what's really important about this time of year. The big news in the world of astronomy lately is the presence of Comet 17P/Holmes and I've had a great time watching for it on several clear nights here in Mississippi. Although my interest in astronomy has been lifelong, I haven't done much about it until lately and even now, I haven't even reached what could be termed amateur level. What I can't see with the naked eye or through my son-in-law's binoculars doesn't get seen, but thanks be to our Heavenly Father, there's plenty up there to be admired even with no equipment.

Although I know there's no connection between the two events, knowing that shepherds in the field and wise men from the East witnessed a bright star glowing in the nighttime sky over two millenia ago, and that millions of star-watchers across the world are watching the progress of a glowing Comet Holmes today, makes me wonder if God isn't trying to get our collective attention. The earth is so full of breathtaking scenery, countless species of life, and untold mysteries that it boggles my mind. To know that the sky above (of which our planet is merely a pinprick in the vastness of the space) is filled with millions of galaxies and billions upon trillions of stars, planets, moons and other celestial glories is beyond my comprehension. Exploring the beauty of our tiny home in the Milky Way would be enough to keep a human being busy for countless lifetimes. The wonders of our universe, which we're learning about at a faster pace than ever due to our modern technology and voyages into space, will keep us busy for an eternity.

I look forward to learning all there is to know about our lovely world and the breathtaking heavens above while I'm still here on earth. But all that pales in comparison to what I will undoubtedly encounter during eternity when I compare notes with my fellow stargazers--the shepherds of the field and the wise men from the East. All that and Jesus too.

Until the next time...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A holiday mourned

Halloween has come and gone for another year, and before the candy wrappers hit the ground, the stores had their Christmas decorations up. They had long since displayed their Christmas ornaments, trees, wreathes, paper and ribbons for sale and their Halloween decorations were priced at 50% off six weeks before October 31st! We literally had no time to catch our collective breath before we were swept away into the mad commercial tide of the holiday season.

I remember when the Christmas season began the day after Thanksgiving, which was a holiday in and of itself. Nowadays, Thanksgiving is sandwiched in-between Halloween and Christmas with no importance attached to it whatsoever. The Christmas season, now a full two months long, takes up a full one-sixth of our calendar year! No wonder we don't feel any excitement when we see the stores decked out in holiday sparkles. No wonder we're sick to death of the decorations, the music, the food, and the ever-invasive commercialism long before we ever celebrate the day itself.

And when I say "celebrate," I'm using the word loosely. For far too many Americans, Christmas season means gifts, parties, alcohol, an excuse to eat sweets, and a chance to buy a refrigerator, car, or other ridiculously-non-Christmas-related item as a gift. Everything from plumbing supplies to cruises to appliances, cars, and life insurance are all touted as the perfect Christmas gift, the ultimate expression of love.

Bah humbug!

I want to revisit the past; I want to see our country treat Christmas as it should--a celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I want us to marvel at the love of our Heavenly Father in sending His Son to us as a man; a Man Who experienced life as we do, Who can relate to everything we feel, do, worry about, love or hate. I want to hear "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" as often as I do "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." I want to revel in the promise of peace on earth, good will toward man.

I want Christmas back.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Long distance love

It's Halloween and once again, I'm going to miss watching my grandsons trick-or-treat. Living 400 miles from them (and their parents) is at once a blessing and a problem. Certainly, it's much easier to visit them now than it was when we lived in Alaska. Yet driving eight hours for a visit and then driving another eight hours to return home takes a chunk out of a weekend! So pictures and phone calls will have to do in the meantime.

That's not such a bad thing, though, when you think about it. Just think what the homesteaders traveling west or the pilgrims crossing the ocean to America's shores would have given to have email, telephones, cell phones, digital cameras, video capabilities on their phones, cameras and computers--let alone the much more efficient postal service we have today! Millions of families are spread from one side of this country to the other, or even across the world, for that matter, and yet, thanks to today's technology we can stay in touch daily.

No, I wouldn't trade a real hug for a picture or a phone call. Never have, never will. But I will be grateful for the many blessings with which God has seen fit to bless us. He knew that families would start to move away from one another and in His great love, He provided for that by giving us the technology and the products to help us stay in touch.

So I'll be tickled the next time I hear "Hi Grandma" on the phone or open some pictures on my computer or read a letter from one of my loved ones, because I'll know they're not the only ones saying "I love you." If I listen carefully and pay close attention, I'll also hear the quiet voice of God saying, "I've always loved you."

Until the next time...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Time to leash up

Fall has definitely arrived! After several days of relentless rain, overcast skies, and cool days and nights, we're back on track with sunny, blue skies and slightly warmer temperatures. Don't get me wrong--the rain was welcome and so were the cool days and downright chilly nights. They made "being inside looking out" just that much more enjoyable--I always think it's cozy to look outdoors at the rainy (or snowy) weather and be glad I can be inside where it's warm and welcoming. But crisp days and clear skies make walking around the base just that much easier (and drier) and that's exactly what I should start doing.

Down here, I put on the extra pounds during the summer months, not the winter, as do most people. The reason for that turnaround is that during the summer it's too hot and humid down here for me to get outside and do any walking; it's all I can do to gasp and grunt to and from the car once or twice a day. But when the nicer weather comes along--and we're definitely there now--I can walk with ease and breathe in the cool, crisp October air. That's when I get in my much-needed exercise--when I can breathe easily and walk with the newfound confidence that I won't embarrass myself by fainting dead away!

So after I do my computer work, I'll be leashing up Maestro, our black lab, and taking a walk around the streets of our neighborhood. Maestro will appreciate the added exercise--and so will my hips!

Until the next time...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Boo!

The suffocating heat and humidity just might be behind us for a while down here in Mississippi. We're looking at a high of 64 today--a cold snap in these parts--and not much higher for the next few days. It rained yesterday and it's been drizzling off and on out there today. It's a much-appreciated rainfall, however, as the streams, lakes, rivers and ponds are very low and the vegetation in dire need of moisture, so I'm sure there'll be no complaining. Besides, it's great fall and Halloween weather, all the more reason to stay warm and cozy.

Speaking of Halloween, we were "boo'ed" last night! The doorbell rang, but when Ron went to the door, no one was there. Instead, a Halloween-stickered gift bag was sitting on the porch and when we examined its contents, we learned we'd been "tagged" by a mystery friend. The enclosed poem told us that we were to spread the fun by "booing" two more families, anonymously and under the cover of darkness. Another piece of paper with "We've been boo'ed!" printed on it was to be attached to our front door, so would-be booers wouldn't inadvertently boo us a second time. The bag contained candy and Halloween-themed items--a kitchen towel, one of those long-handled candle lighters (and candles), stickers, and decorations. Since we had only 24 hours in which to spread the "boo," Ron and I jumped into the van and drove into town to buy our surprises while Darice continued to study for her exam today. (She pouted, but decided she couldn't take the time away from her studying to do the shopping. She'd help with the actual booing.)

An hour later, Darice, Ron and I were all in the van, driving around in the dark. After making sure our intended booees hadn't already been tagged, they sneaked up to their front porches, rang the doorbell, dropped the bag, and ran like crazy to the van which was parked a block over. Ron and Darice did the "sneaking, ringing, dropping and running like crazy" part (in the rain, no less), while I kept watch in the van. It was exhilarating and great fun for all of us; the difference was that they were soaking wet when we returned home and I was dry as a bone!

If all goes as intended, our two victims will each boo two more families and on and on and on, until theoretically, at least, the entire base will have been booed by Halloween! What a wonderful (and non-threatening) way to celebrate a time of year that's morphed in recent years into a season that's far from child-friendly. We can all have innocent fun without calling up demons or spreading the worship of anyone other than our Heavenly Father.

Thank You, Father, for neighbors and friends who think enough of us to sneak up in the dark, drop a bag of goodies, and include us in an innocent game of "Boo! You're it!" during this time of year. Please help us to celebrate Halloween with appropriate fun and festivities. In Your Precious Son's name, I pray. Amen.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dance of the trees

We had some scary weather yesterday, particularly deep into the night. After an afternoon and evening spent watching the skies for signs of severe thunderstorms and tornadic activity, we went to bed wondering if anything would materialize while we were away from the Weather Channel. I slept fitfully and with my windows open just a crack so I could hear the wind if it started up. And later that night, it did.

I stood in my bedroom in the dark and watched the trees bow and sway like multi-armed dancers in a ballet of gigantic proportions. No sheets of rain barred my view from the window, no lightning filled the sky, no thunder bellowed overhead. It was just me, the wind, and the dancing trees. I didn't know whether to be enthralled or terrified.

I tore myself away from the performance and went downstairs to turn on the television. No warnings, no watches; only storms to the east of us that marched in a northeasterly direction. They seemed to be dwindling in strength and I hope they were; I pray I wasn't watching the progress of destructive winds and flooding waters that would envelop other innocents as they slept.

Please, Lord, watch over Your children night and day as they weather the mighty forces of nature that could destroy them or their property. Be with those who have lost loved ones and homes in storms that we are helpless to stop or turn. Thank You, God, for your loving protection in times of peril. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The speed of love

It's been a week since I've written anything here and in that time, I've hugged, cuddled, kissed, scolded, chased and bathed my two wiggly grandsons countless times. We also giggled, horsed around, cooked, cleaned, wrestled, ran, played games, baked cookies, drew pictures, colored masterpieces, rode bikes, splashed in the pool and made up stories. Needless to say, I'm sore and exhausted. And then, very early this morning, as Dustin and Hunter (along with their parents and little brother Cannon) left our house to return to their home in Kentucky, we hugged one another and cried.

We packed a lot of different activities into those two weeks--some of them fun, some of them drudgery (lots of laundry, for instance), and some of them nothing more than the ordinary events of day-to-day living. Mostly, though, we spent our time making memories.

Now that they're all home safely, I can look back on our visit with clearer (although puffy and red-rimmed) eyes, rather than through my emotional "grandma vision." I realized this afternoon, after drying my eyes and blowing my nose for the tenth time in as many minutes, that there's nothing to be sad about. The past two weeks comprised just one visit in a long string of happy times to come. I've tried hard to be a hands-on grandma since Dustin arrived six years ago and I think I've done a good job so far. Even though I feel a terrible emptiness whenever we say goodbye, I know it's only for a short time and that we'll be together again soon. Although Dustin, Hunter and Cannon have lived in Kentucky since birth, I've lived either in Michigan, Alaska or Mississippi during that time. It's always been a long haul to get to them (or vice-versa) and as a result, our visits are fewer than I would like. But we do the best we can with the circumstances under which we live and I think we're doing a pretty darned good job of maintaining a loving, close and vibrant relationship despite the distances we must travel to do so.

Now I have a fourth grandson and he lives back in Michigan. Once more, I'll find ways to be as close to him as I can possibly be. I'll visit and he'll visit and one way or another, there will always be a way to love one another, even if it's from many miles away.

Michigan, Mississippi or Kentucky--what difference does it make when hearts travel at the speed of love?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Two kids and a kitten

It's been a busy week. With two little boys (and a new kitten) residing with us at the moment, the pace has picked up considerably from what this 3-adult family is accustomed to! But it's a wonderful busyness and a precious time for all of us.

Dustin and Hunter will be going home to Mom and Dad and baby brother Cannon next weekend, but Maple the kitten will be staying here with us. By the time the boys return to Mississipi to visit Grandma (me), Aunt Darice and Uncle Ron around Christmas time, she'll still be a kitten, but a longer, heavier and more cat-like kitten. Right now, she's a tornado with fur--a kitten phase I remember well when all our other cats were in the "I'm brand new to this exciting world and I can't wait to discover every little thing about it" stage. They're fun to watch, but coupled with the boys' rambunctious ways, we've been (oddly enough) completely exhausted when we go to bed each night.

We've divided our time between indoor and outdoor pursuits--playing with toys, games, cats (2 adults, plus the little one), a dog and a bunny indoors, and playing in the pool, on the playground and riding bikes outdoors. Why those two have not fallen in a heap and taken a nap right on the pavement is beyond me--it's certainly something I've considered doing! But God has graciously given me healthy, happy grandsons (and a kitten with equal energies) and I wouldn't trade a moment of the time we're able to spend with them for a good night's sleep or a quiet day. I can sleep any old time, but trading hugs and listening to "Grandmaw, Grandmaw" (they've got a wonderful southern drawl) a thousand times a day is something I won't be able to do once they're gone.

That is... until the next time!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Back home in Mississippi

I'm back in Mississippi now. I left my newest grandchild behind in Michigan in the capable hands of his parents and upon my return, rejoined my daughter and son-in-law here on Columbus Air Force Base. Less than 24 hours later, Darice and I were on our way to Owensboro, Kentucky (400 miles to our north) to visit my middle child and her family. We squeezed in all the love and laughter we could for the next twelve hours and then returned with Dustin, 6, and Hunter, 4, for a two-week visit. Baby Cannon, now a little over 7 months old, is too young to spend any length of time away from mom and dad, but his big brothers will be with us for a total of two weeks while their school is on fall break. We're enjoying every single minute with them.

It was a bittersweet departure from Michigan, as I had a wonderful time with both my son's family and my sister and her husband. The memories will last a lifetime and I'm grateful for all their gracious hospitality while I was visiting. I'm looking forward to the next visit and I've barely unpacked my bags! Somehow, during the past thirty days, I've managed to visit my sister and her husband and four of their children, my brother and his wife, all three of my grown children, their spouses and all my grandchildren! That's not bad, considering we're scattered from Michigan to Mississippi via Kentucky.

Mississipppi is still hotter than the dickens and believe me, I'm more than ready for a change in the weather. When I left Michigan, the temps had cooled delightfully and the colors were already appearing in the woods and alongside the road. Here, fall takes its time coming, stays only a short while and disappears into a rather dull, albeit mild, winter. I must admit that I enjoy the warmer winters and early springtime weather here in Mississippi, but long for the colorful fall weather and the crisp, cold winters of Michigan. I never thought I'd hear myself say this but I even miss the snow! Perhaps Mississippi will break its no-snow streak and give us a few inches this year--preferably around Christmas time!

Until the next time...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Baby kisses

My very thoughtful sister drove me to Howell this afternoon for one last visit with my son Derek, daughter-in-law Renee, and month-old (today!) grandson, Tyler. I fly back to Mississippi this Saturday and there just wasn't enough leeway in Derek's work schedule to permit a visit up here to Mt. Pleasant from their place. So Shelley offered to drive me back there again (a four-hour round trip) so we could visit again (and take pictures).

It was a wonderful day for driving. The sun peeked out from behind low-hanging dark clouds, making it look colder than it really was. Although the temperatures probably reached 70 today, it felt and looked more like a late fall day. The trees are definitely turning shades of gold, bronze, and red--the treelines along the newly-cut cornfields will soon be fully ablaze with color. At the moment, they're an interesting blend of what I call "old green" and "new autumn."

Seeing Tyler and his parents again was a bittersweet occasion. I held him for a long time and watched him alternately smile and grimace as he dreamed his way through the afternoon. When he awoke, it was with a mighty howl. He continued howling until his mama got that bottle ready and I managed to get him calmed down enough to take it in his yowling little mouth. Halfway through, partially sated and sleepy once more, he threatened to nod off again. I struggled to keep him awake long enough to finish the bottle. Together, we finished the task, traded a few baby kisses, and then Tyler--safe and warm and with a full tummy--drifted off once more in his grateful grandma's arms.

A little while later, we said our goodbyes. Even though I know Derek and Renee will stay in close touch with me, as they always do, and keep me stocked with pictures of their little pride and joy, I will miss knowing I am only two hours away from him. Mississippi seems a long way away when I realize that I'm not only leaving my sister and her husband and my son and daughter-in-law behind, but the newest member of our family, my beloved little Tyler, as well. There will be many, many other times, of course, to visit and spend time together and I know that I can always fly up here (or drive) and be here again in a matter of hours.

But I'm already missing those precious baby kisses.

Until the next time...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Falling leaves and football

Michigan is known for a lot of things--the manufacturing of cars and furniture, growing cherries, apples, corn and a multitude of other crops, the Great Lakes, the Mackinac Bridge and Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel, the Detroit Tigers and Lions, Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Kendall School of Art and Design, Western, Eastern and Central Michigan Universities. I could go on and on.

But what I will take away from this most recent visit with my sister and her husband, at least from the standpoint of revisiting Michigan, is the weather.

Anybody who knows me knows I hate humidity and high heat. That's not unique, I know; millions of people dislike uncomfortably high temperatures and the inevitable stickiness and heavy air. Michigan has its share of those days and I remember them well. But one of the things I had forgotten (and I do this time after time after time, even though I grew up and spent over a half century in this state) is the indecribably beautiful weather during the fall months.

Today is one of those picture-perfect days for which Michigan is justifiably well-known. The trees are now changing colors in earnest, seemingly overnight, and the mellow yellows, reds and oranges are growing brighter and more distinct by the hour. Today's mild and sunny temps, cool breezes, and azure skies overhead are perfect for just about anything kind of outdoor activity. We just came from Mt. Pleasant after a foray into town for some groceries and it's abuzz with college students and other Central Michigan University fans who are gathering in great hordes for the football game this afternoon.

They couldn't ask for a better day to cheer on their team. I wouldn't want to be one of the football players, weighed down with padding and covered from head to toe in skin-tight, hot uniforms, but hey, I wouldn't want to be a football player under any circumstances whatsoever. I'm sure they've played in more uncomfortable conditions and there are many reasons and rewards that spur them on. I just know that the fans in the stands are in for a gorgeous day to sit, stand, cheer, eat, drink, sing, and enjoy another of God's generous creations--a perfect Michigan fall day.

I'm glad I was here to revisit the grandeur of a Michigan autumn. I'm sure I'll enjoy the cooler days and nights in Mississippi when I return home; the residents of that deep southern state certainly deserve a break after the unrelenting summer months. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I will tuck away the exhilaration of a late September day in Michigan: leaves drifting downward on the lilting breeze, acorns pelting us from swaying branches towering overhead, the chittering of squirrels, the gobble of wild turkeys, and a doe, elegant in her tan coat and long legs munching her way through the forest of falling leaves. There are the pungent smells of marigolds and mums, damp earth and ripe apples, pine trees and yes, even the last rose of summer--all vivid reminders that even in the waning days of life, there is great beauty and an abundance of natural pleasures to be savored.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Starry, starry night

I visited the universe last night.

It was late and I was already sitting in bed in my pajamas, reading, when my sister came downstairs and said she had a surprise for me. And did she ever!

We walked outside and were greeted by the rush of wind dancing through the canopy of trees lining their driveway and the road that runs past their house. As we walked beyond the decorative lighting placed discreetly in and around the gardens and forest that surround their home, we were soon in a tunnel of trees. The darkness enveloped us completely as we continued our nocturnal jaunt.

We wandered slowly, our hushed voices accompanied only by the whispering wind above us. We traveled deeper into the Michigan forest, cocooned by the blackness until we reached the cul-de-sac where the road widened out and circled back upon itself.

My sister said, "Look up," and I did. The trees had receded and the skies opened up before me and the glory of billions upon billions of stars glittered above me. I had traveled in a matter of minutes from the common and familiar comfort of my bed to the spectacular and humbling showcase of God's handiwork. I was mesmerized. I slowly turned around and around, my head thrown back, my arms extended outward for balance, and gazed at the panorama of endless inky black heavens punctuated by uncounted stars that shimmered and reflected the light of the half moon.

It is a memory I will never forget--my sister and I, enjoying the wind and the dark and the quiet stillness of a star-filled night--together.

Thank You, Lord, for creating the earth and the heavens and all they contain. Thank you, Shel, for loving me enough to make a memory with me that I will treasure forever.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Staying in touch

My time in Michigan is waning. I arrived on Friday, August 31st and will depart on Saturday, September 29th. I've been here 19 days and have 11 days remaining. It's true that time flies when you're having fun--or visiting a generous, loving, and hilarious sister and her handsome (and equally generous, loving and hilarious) husband, along with other precious relatives, namely my brother, and my son, his wife and their new son, Tyler. I can't believe that it's almost time to climb aboard that plane and head for home.

While I will miss my loved ones here in Michigan, I have others waiting for me in Mississippi, as well as grandsons in Kentucky (along with their parents, another daughter of mine and her husband) who will be visiting me down there soon. I am blessed beyond words to have loved ones surrounding me. They don't all live next door, as I would obviously prefer, but they do live within flying or driving distance. It's not as though they have disappeared under the canvas dome of a covered wagon and are driving off into the dusty distance, their fate to be determined by the perils they meet along the way. Those days, fortunately, are in the past and for the most part, we are able to stay in touch even over vast oceans and long distances.

Today's communication methods allow us numerous ways to stay in touch with our families and friends and I'm tickled pink to take part in every one that I'm able to. Handwritten letters are, of course, the very best (I'm old-fashioned in that way), but email, phones, cellphones, instant messaging and even computer videos and digital cameras give us ways to stay in touch with loved ones as never before. Yes, in-person visits are always best and a handwritten letter is something that can never be replaced by an email, but today's relentless, often vicious pace doesn't always give us the time to do either one as much as we'd like. In the meantime, communicating in any way possible is certainly better than nothing and the importance of staying in touch with loved ones and friends has never been more critical. Even while we are busy with the tasks at hand, with taking care of our immediate family or making a living, our need to "be" with those who love and understand us grows more intense.

I, for one, will never give up staying in touch with my family. I might not be able to visit them as often as I'd like (or have them visit me), but just knowing that they want to is enough. When times allows and as God ordains, it will happen. In the meantime, I will be content with the many and varied ways I can keep them in my life.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Joyful Commission!

I'm back in Mt. Pleasant with my sister and her husband after a 4-day visit with my son and his wife and their first child, Tyler. I spent hours holding, feeding, changing and just watching my newest (and fourth) grandchild as he lay in my arms. We had a few heart-to-hearts during his alert times and I think a little of my wisdom sank in. After all, what better way to learn about life than in the arms of a grandmother who thinks you're one of the four sweetest, most incredible, and handsomest grandchildren in the history of all humanity?

Tyler may not know at the moment just how much I love him, but that will come in time, just as he'll eventually understand how much his parents adore him and what they would (and ultimately, will) sacrifice for his well-being. He and my other grandsons are fortunate, as they were all born to parents with good sense, a sincere work ethic and values beyond reproach. They have supportive grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins to love and guide them, to help provide them with the many things, both tangible and intangible, that children born in this day and age so desperately need to succeed as healthy individuals.

Someone has said that babies are God's way of saying the world should go on. True, but I also believe that the each new child born into this life is a declaration of God's clear expectation that we, His children, will graciously accept this most precious of all blessings; that we will take this tiny soul, this wondrously intricate being that He has gloriously housed in the most delicate of bodies, and raise him in the ways of the Lord.

What a commission! What a wonderful responsibility! What a joyful duty! Thank You, Lord, for sending Tyler into this world and for making him a part of our lives.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Golden Days

My sister is an artist--and an excellent one at that. Her workplace, Golden Apple Studio, is bright, airy, and stuffed to the gills with impressive (and huge) canvasses displayed on the walls, leaning along the perimeter of the room and standing on gigantic easels that flank the windows. Many of these same paintings have spent considerable time on display in art galleries and exhibits, garnering several awards and bringing her much-deserved recognition. She is well-respected in her profession and devoted to her passion, that of expressing important, often hidden truths of the human experience through fine art. Although she is skilled in photography, drawing, watercolors and other artistic mediums, her favorite (at the moment, at least) is oil painting. She spent eight years preparing herself, earning two associate's degrees, a bachelor's degree, and ultimately, a Masters of Fine Arts degree from one of the nation's most prestigious colleges of art and design. During those busy years, she worked full-time, raised three children and still managed to achieve the rank of Valedictorian of her graduating class. She's quite a woman.

Before I arrived for my visit up here, I told her that one of my goals was to spend time writing in her studio while she worked on the second painting in her latest series. We're doing that now. I can smell her oil paints, hear the background music she plays to keep her company, and furtively watch her from the corner of my eye as she creates another impressive piece of work. To me, the images she painstakingly creates on canvas appear as if by magic. But I know her method is far from magical. There's an incredible amount of preparatory work that goes into each painting (which is always part of a far larger series of paintings) before she ever paints a stroke. From her carefully crafted "thoughts statement," a precursor to her final "artist's statement," to the dozens of reference photographs she takes of her subjects (her beautiful daughters often pose for her), to stretching and building her own canvases and preparing the surfaces, to mixing the oils and the many other things in-between (of which I have no knowledge), Shelley creates deeply-moving, provocative, insightful, and beautifully-wrought images. Her use of color is outstanding; her skill in painting the human figure is almost eery in its perceptiveness. I love the eyes of her subjects--so expressive, such windows to the often walled-off interiors within. Just beautiful.

My sister and I both love to create; I write, she paints. We both express ourselves in the ways we know best and use the methods with which we are most comfortable. But as I sit here at my computer, fumbling for words, I can't help but be amazed that the little girl who once smacked me right between the eyes with one of those thick, kindergarten-sized crayons while we were supposed to be napping, would someday master the use of those crayons (and charcoal and pencils and pens and film and watercolors and oils) in much more productive, beautiful and useful (not to mention less violent) ways.

I honestly don't know how she does it; I'm just glad she does. And it's funny how her work still hits me right between the eyes... only now it doesn't leave a black and blue mark and I don't have to tattle on her.

Until the next time...

Monday, September 3, 2007

Transitions

I'm in Michigan! My flights to Lansing were uneventful, aside from the sad fact that traveling by air these days no longer affords us even the tiniest measure of convenience, let alone pampering. If simply getting on board isn't enough to wear you out, the small quarters and lack of food (aside from what they offer to sell us at exorbitant prices) will certainly do you in.

I had three flights in all--one short one from Tupelo to Memphis, a longer one from Memphis to Detroit, and a final short hop from Detroit to Lansing. I received nothing on either of the short flights and had one cup of coffee on the longer flight (no refills), but managed to talk the flight attendant into a cup of ginger ale to drink with the cookies I bought at the airport.

Needless to say, I was starving by day's end and arrived in Lansing ready to eat the first piece of roadkill we came across. Luckily, the highways were clear of rotting raccoons and putrid possums, so I was spared that humiliation. My sister and I had a wonderful meal at Cracker Barrel later that night and since then, I've been fed like a queen. And while I'm not exactly salivating at the thought of retracing my air miles on the way home, I'll stock up on snacks. I'll survive.

The weather in Michigan is superb this time of year. Late summer days are giving way to the cooler temperatuares and lower humidities so typical of autumn in the north. Although the trees have not yet begun to change colors, there are signs everywhere that summer is packing up her colors and waving goodbye, and that fall is marching toward us at a good clip, bringing along her own version of nature's palette. My sister and husband have an incredible garden in their front yard, one that rivals any garden I've ever seen, including those featured in magazines. Even in its last days, the muted colors of fading summer flowers and the bright tangerine-hued marigolds and ruby red mums transform the garden from a riot of color to a graceful display of subtle, earthy hues.

The change of seasons does a lot for me in terms of creativity, as well. The crisp fall days are my favorite time of year--and my muse's chosen time to visit. Perhaps my head is cleared by the seasons' beauty and the change in temperatures, etc. Whatever the reason, I feel more inspired in the fall, much like a child returning to school after summer break. In any event, I will embrace my newfound enthusiasm for writing and try to put it to good use. I think our Lord would want it that way. I thank Him every day for a new chance to do His work and every night I apologize for not living up to His expectations. But inevitably, I wake up the next morning with a clean slate spread out before me; another day in which to do the work He wants me to do and to live my life in a manner that will glorify Him.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me a new opportunity every morning to use the gift You have granted me for the purpose of completing the work You have assigned to me. I pray that my personal transition from summer to fall, and eventually to winter, will be as beautiful as the changing of the seasons. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sweet Maple

Life just keeps getting better and better! In addition to the birth of my latest grandson Tyler this past Sunday, I also have a new kitten to call my very own. Maple (a gift from my daughter and son-in-law with whom I live) joined our family just a couple of days prior to Tyler's arrival and has adjusted very well to the tempo of her new home.

Maple, who is a beautiful 3-month-old calico, is a graduate of the local humane society and spent a couple of days at the vet's office getting checked out before we introduced her into our household. We have other pets and as committed owners, we feel it's in everybody's best interests to keep our pets healthy. She received a clean bill of health and is now home, making her presence known as the new kid on the block. The other pets, while a little leery of the unrelenting energy and spirit of this newest arrival, are nevertheless accepting her with good grace. Maple will have a very happy and, hopefully, long life with us.

The very special events of the past few days remind me that God's presence can be seen in all things--from the tiniest of kittens to the miracle of a child's birth; from the sparkle and spunk in a little cat's eyes to the wonder and glory of seeing your child for the first time. He is the Creator of all that we see, hear, feel, taste, smell, love, hope for, marvel over, and dream of. He is our beginning and our end. He is all that we as individuals need to survive and humanity's only hope of becoming anything worthwhile. He is the Father of all creation--from shining seas to sapphire skies, from valley floors to snowcapped peaks, from desert blooms to grassy plains, from the middle of the earth to the far reaches of Heaven.

And of course, last--but certainly not least--from kittens to kids.

Until the next time...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Welcome, Tyler!

Hallejulah! My fourth grandson (and the first child of my son and his wife) arrived today at 7:45 a.m.! He weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces and was 22 inches long, has a lot of brown hair, and according to Derek (his proud father), looks like his mother, Renee. Tyler Henry and his mom are both doing well, although there were some tense moments as his heartrate lowered alarmingly and then rose quickly as both he and his mom developed a fever. But all seems to be well now--of course the hospital personnel are keeping a close eye on him--and although Renee is tired and in some residual pain, she, too, is on the way to recovery.

There's no real way to describe my joy, so I won't try. Anyone who's had a child or grandchild understands how I'm feeling and those of you who are still waiting for that joyous moment have something magnificent to look forward to. I am in awe of the great love our Father has for His children and the countless and wonderful ways in which He expresses that love. A new grandchild--in fact, any new child--is a blessing beyond compare and one of His most precious gifts.

I can't wait to meet Tyler. I'll be leaving for Michigan this coming Friday, so I'll be holding my fourth grandson and congratulating his proud, but exhausted parents in person very soon. Thank You, Lord, for Your many blessings, for Tyler's safe delivery, and for the continued recovery of both baby and mom.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Providence

It's 94 degrees out there today, according to my online weather site. But with the air so thick I could snip it into little pieces with a pair of scissors, I beg to differ. (Must have been a typo--someone forgot to put the "1" in front of the "94". There, that's more like it!) The air's so heavy that the fumes from the jet fuel don't seem to have anywhere to go, so they're hanging around my back door--well, probably everyone else's, as well--burning my eyes and stinging my nose. I'm afraid to light the stove for fear of setting off a base-wide explosion!

As much as I complain about the heat and humidity here in Mississippi (and believe me, I complain a LOT), there are billions of people in the world with far more serious concerns with which they must deal day in and day out. Deadly concerns. Matters of life and death; dreadful occurrences like hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, cave-ins, disease, accidents and the ever-present wars around the world--civil, national, religious, cultural and racial. If all those people had to worry about was some uncomfortable heat, oppressive humidity, and unpleasant odors, they'd be out of their minds with relief and joy.

I have no idea why the Lord allowed me and mine to live in this free country, to enjoy a life of comparative ease. Yes, we've seen our share of heartache; disease has taken its toll and death has visited far more often than we want. We've gone through family strife, job loss, divorce, financial problems, health problems, miscarriages, and many other types of upheaval. But even at their worst, our lives are still better than the majority of human beings on this earth. I thank God every day for His Providence.

I hope I never become so accustomed to my wonderful life that I forget those who are suffering every minute of every day, that I remain acutely aware of my daily blessings, and those of my family members, and that I never forget those in need. My relative prosperity and easy life are not rewards that God has given me, but rather a responsibility to pass along the wealth and my knowledge of His Word and His Plan for my life and for the lives of every other human being on this planet.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I'm on baby watch!

It's another glorious late summer day in Mississippi, but it's supposed to reach 100 degrees and it's only 8:30 a.m., so it's anybody's guess as to how long I'll maintain this cheery outlook. We'll see. Hopefully, I'll be able to see past the heat and humidity and appreciate the wonderful things that happen today simply because God wills them into existence.

My fourth grandson is getting ready to make his debut! My daughter-in-law's doctor noticed early signs of labor at yesterday's appointment and has, tentatively, set one week from today as the target date to induce labor if the baby doesn't come on his own before that. He's going to be a big one--ultrasound tests measured him at 7 lbs, 14 oz. a week ago and he still has a few days for a growth spurt.

I won't make it in time to be there for the birth, but I'll be arriving shortly thereafter and I can hardly wait to meet the newest member of our family. It will be wonderful enough just to be able to spend time with Derek and Renee, but to also have a new baby to hold and cuddle and love--well, that's pure joy! Add to that the excitement of spending a month in the company of my fabulously-talented artist sister and her handsome husband and you've got a recipe for blessing after blessing after blessing!

Until the next time...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bugged

I spent today catching up on things I've been unable to do for the last few days. A vicious stomach bug sent me to the doctor late last week and I've yet to conquer the little creature completely, but I'm getting closer! I imagine I'll be feeling fine in a matter of days.

In the meantime, I've had plenty of time to write lists (one of my specialties), prioritize my objectives and consider which things in my life are most important to me. Some things--God, my children, their spouses and children and my other family members--are no-brainers. That will never change. My love for Him and for them never waivers, only grows stronger with each passing day.

There are other things, however, that flit in and out of my life with the regularity of the sun's rising and setting each day. One day I'm completely committed, gung-ho and wildly exuberant about a project (generally a writing project); the next I'm discouraged, disgruntled and just plain disinterested. Part of this is normal behavior during the creative process, I'm sure. Some of it can be explained by the horrible heat and humidity, as well as my unexpected stomach blues, both of which have forced me to stay inside the house for days on end.

But some of it is just plain laziness on my part. When a project reaches the part I call my "trudge through times," my interest wanes and I look for something new and exciting to occupy my mind. I want the fun of coming up with ideas, developing characters and dreaming up plot lines, but I balk at the hard work of actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and getting the job done. It doesn't help matters any that I'm a perfectionist and will edit 'til the cows come home. At the very least, that tendency to go over and over my work slows me down and sometimes even stalls my creative engine entirely. Not good.

It's surprising how often my daily Bible reading addresses a problem I'm having at the time, and this situation is no different. I see His Word on the topic of perseverance wherever I turn. But that's the way God works and I don't know why I am continually amazed when I see my situation spelled out in front me as I read His Word or click on an email or newsletter to which I subscribe. He wants me to know these things; He wants to communicate His love to me. He wants me to know which way to go, when to persevere, when to turn in a new direction. Although it's amazing to me that He takes the time to place His Word in my path at just the right time, He nevertheless does.

I don't have to understand this happy circumstance to appreciate it, though. I just need to pay attention.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The countdown begins

Two weeks from this Friday, I'll be flying to Michigan for the birth of my fourth grandson and an extended visit with my sister and her husband. I've already begun writing lists of things to do before I leave (finish a couple of assignments, doublecheck my prescriptions), clothes to pack (September in Michigan will, thankfully, be cooler than September in Mississippi), and which toiletries I absolutely MUST bring with me and those that can be bought once I arrive. By the time my plane leaves on Friday, August 31st, I should be in good shape. It might take until three seconds before take-off, but I'll accomplish everything I need to do to make this a successful trip.

Too bad I can't say the same about my final trip. Although I putter around making plans, deciding again and again and again that I need to give more to the church, send donations to worthy charities and start being the Christian I profess (and really want) to be, far too often I fall short of my good intentions. Because I have no itinerary for this final trip--no schedule to let me know how much longer I have until I leave, no estimated time of arrival or flight numbers to commit to memory--I must make plans as if I'm going to leave moments from now. And who knows? I just might.

There is a travel guide available to me, however. It might not tell me just when I'm leaving on this trip, but it DOES tell me what I can do to make sure I'm properly prepared for my final destination. It's my Bible and even though I read it every night, if I don't pay attention to what I'm reading, I'm as clueless as I would be if I forgot to print off my flight itinerary and found myself wandering around the airport asking uniformed attendants, "Which way to Lansing, Michigan?" Because I never know when I'm going to take off on this final journey, it behooves me to start paying closer attention to my guidebook. If I have questions, I can always ask God, or His Son, or the Holy Spirit. They're always ready and willing to listen to a lost traveler, to give precise, heartfelt directions. Unlike the airlines, They're foolproof, They never lie, and They'll be there to meet me at the gate.

And maybe best of all, there'll be no need to make those pesky return trip reservations. My final journey will be one-way.

Until the next time...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Missing a great lady

My mother would have been 81 years old tomorrow. She died five years ago this month--on August 11th, just one day after her 76th birthday. At the time, she and my dad lived in Florida and all of us children still lived in Michigan. One by one, we called her on the 10th to wish her a happy birthday, none of us realizing it would be the last time we would ever speak to her. The following morning, she became ill; she died later that evening in the hospital where she'd been taken by ambulance earlier in the day.

As was my custom when we talked on the phone, I closed the conversation that last time by saying, "I love you." She always responded in kind, but this time, I remember being a little surprised by her response. She said, "No, I love YOU." They were the last words she ever spoke to me.

Would I have remembered that inflection in her voice, that emphasis on "you" if she had not died the next day? I like to think so. After all, I took mental note of it at the time it happened. But had she not died, there would have been other conversations, other words and thoughts and laughter to dilute the impact of what turned out to be the last thing she said to me. They may have been lost forever, drowned in a sea of conversation that, although still precious to me, may have stolen the specialness of that moment from me forever.

I like to think that God, Who knew this was the last time I would ever speak to my mother, put those words in her mouth and opened my ears and mind to make special note of them. So frequently in this frantic society in which we live, our busyness prevents us from remembering the important things. I thank God that He guides us in watching for those special times, listening for those precious words, and noting those special acts of love that could otherwise be swept away by life's swift current.

I love you, Mother. And I miss you terribly.

Until the next time...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Middle of the night blues

It's 4:15 a.m. on Monday morning. For some reason, I awoke about 90 minutes ago and have been unable to get back to sleep. It wouldn't matter so much except I have an 8:15 a.m. doctor's appointment and must get up by 6:30 in order to get there on time. I went to bed knowing I had to get up early and I think I got myself all frazzled just worrying about missing the alarm clock. When I was working, I arose early every weekday morning and I never had any problems. I'll no doubt fall asleep thirty minutes before the alarm goes off.

It's lonely in the middle of the night. Even though I know that my daughter and her husband are across the hall sleeping in their bedroom, I feel all alone. It's a strange, sad feeling to be awake when others, even those who are close by, are fast asleep. It takes me back to being a young child--around 7th grade, I believe--when I had panic attacks. They happened on Sunday nights, in particular, probably brought on by a dread of Monday mornings, a malady from which many people suffer. If I wasn't asleep by 9:00 p.m. and I heard the theme song from Bonanza drift in to my bedroom from the living room, it would literally take my breath away. If I was still awake by 10:00 p.m. when I heard the refrains of the next television show (I can't remember just what it was at the moment), or Heaven forbid, hear my parents switch the television off and get ready for bed themselves--well, by then I was in a full-blown attack and there was NO way I was going to get to sleep that night. Inevitably, I awoke the next morning, signaling to me that I had indeed finally slept.

But that was no comfort to a young girl lying in the dark feeling all alone and scared of something that had no face, no form. In fact, there was nothing in particular that I was afraid of. It was just not being asleep like the rest of the world was, of being wide-awake in a fast-asleep world. Scary stuff for an 11-year-old.

Not much better at this age.

Until the next time...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Good news travels fast!

My oldest grandson, now six years old, went back to school last week. "My teacher's a first grade teacher," he said to me that evening. His days of being a lowly kindergartner are behind him now. His younger brother will be starting his second year of pre-school this week, and their baby brother, a little over five months old, is mastering the skills of sitting up, drooling, and stuffing things--anything--into his mouth. Their uncle and aunt (my son and his wife) are expecting their first, another boy, at the beginning of September. If and when a baby girl is ever born into this wild bunch of little critters, I hope she's a strong one!

It seems like just yesterday that I dashed from mid-Michigan to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on the day of Dustin's birth. I found out at an Indiana rest stop that I could slow down my pace; I wasn't going to make it in time for his birth. In the middle of my frantic "Are you okay? How are the pains?" at the payphone just outside the restrooms, I heard my daughter's quiet, tired voice say to me, "He's here, Mom. He's born. He's beautiful." I walked on air back to my car. I was a grandmother! The goofy grin on my face and the wild whooping and hollering I did after I heard her words kept the other reststoppers at their distance, but I didn't care. I was finally a grandma. I had a grandchild. My daughter had a son. Life was good. God was great. No, God was stupendous!

I'll be on my way north soon--hopefully, in time for my fourth grandson's arrival. I'll be flying this time, so there won't be a repeat of my interstate indoctrination to grandparenthood. Still, I have a cellphone now, so if you happen to be in an airport on the way to Michigan in about a month, listen for a wild cry of happiness. It might just be me.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Seeing the light

When I went out to check the mail a few minutes ago, the light from the sun reflecting off the concrete driveway nearly blinded me. How on earth can the pilots stand it? I wondered, as I listened to the roar of aircraft overhead. Well, for one thing, Deb, they're not standing down here in front of a mass of white cement, dumb enough to come out into a hot (and I mean HOT) Mississippi afternoon without sunglasses. No doubt they are prepared for all eventualities. They train for their jobs and they learn from their mistakes.

Apparently I don't. I've lived here long enough to know that you don't walk barefoot on cement during the day down here, nor do you venture outdoors on a sunny day without sunglasses. Yet I did both. By the time I trotted to the end of the driveway to the mailbox, the soles of my feet were scalded and I was navigating by memory alone. I trekked back to the front door through the crunchy grass--which was cooler, but no more comfortable than the driveway that paralled it--hoping the spider I'd spied (and said nasty things about in my one of my posts) hadn't decided to follow me home and lurk about waiting for The Dummy to come outside.

On my dash to the door, I noticed the herbs my daughter and I planted this spring. Even though they're planted in pots and displayed on our potting bench in the shade, most of them are shrivelled and hurting. Looking back on it, it probably would have been kinder if we'd put our tiny, fresh, and fragrant plants--straight from the loving arms of the local Lowe's gardening section--directly into the oven to broil for... oh, say eight or ten hours, rather than submit them to the burning rays of the mid-summer Mississippi sun. What flourishes in someone else's garden in some other state will not necessarily do as well in conditions similar to the inside of an industrial-grade furnace. I hope, for their sake, that I have learned my lesson.

No one--plant, animal or human--likes to live in conditions that don't allow them to flourish. The difference between plants and animals and us humans is that we get to choose, for the most part, the environment in which we exist. If we aren't comfortable, we do something about it. They, on the other hand, are dependent upon us to do whatever is best for them.

I'll try to do better next year.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Creepy crawlies

My daughter and I took the dog for a walk around the housing area here on base last night. Even though it was past 10:00 p.m., the humidity, along with alternating chorus of tree frogs, bull frogs and cicadas, made it sound and feel like a rain forest.

Five minutes into our walk, we came across an armadillo ravaging the front yard of one of our friends; we chased it and it skedaddled out of there. But thirty seconds later, it was joined by two others who came charging out of the darkness. "It's a herd!" I cried to Darice. We quickly walked the other direction, but they weren't interested in us. They just wanted to cross the street without getting smashed to smithereens and get back to the safety of wherever it is they live. From the look of things along the highways in Mississippi, not many armadillos make it across the road down here. I'm proud of our three. They made it home without a scratch and are free to destroy and plunder another yard tonight.

Two blocks over we ran across a spider roughly the size of New Jersey, followed a few feet later by a huge cockroach skittering across the pavement. I told my daughter to walk quickly. I didn't want them picking up our scent and following us home. If they did, I was dutybound to grind them into dust. For their sakes, I hoped they would continue to do whatever it is they do out there in the wild and leave the human beings alone. So far, so good.

My daughter turned to me and said, "This hasn't been a 'warm and fuzzy' walk, has it?" She was right. Most of our lives we've had to look out for something covered in fur, not scales; four-legged, not eight; and small, like a June bug, not a giant crustacean-like creature that crunches when you run over and over and over him with the car. (Not that I'd do that, mind you.) In Alaska, where we lived prior to being assigned to this base, we had to constantly be on the lookout for moose. In Michigan, where I grew up and where my children were raised, it was the deer, racoons and possums. I guess every state has its natural hazards, but dodging creepy-crawlies is a new one for me. I'll have to get used to it.

But when it comes with its own armor--well, you've got to wonder what its intentions are.

Until the next time...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Looking forward

It's Monday again and I have high hopes for this week. I'm meeting a new friend for an early dinner tonight and my daughter and I are going to finish wrapping up baby gifts for her brother (my son) and his wife and get those sent out. They're expecting their first baby soon. Even though this will make my fourth grandson (the three others belong to my youngest daughter and her husband), I am no less thrilled at the arrival of the fourth than I was at the birth of the first three. No child's birth is any less special than any other's; they just arrive at different times.

Any grandparent will tell you that. The thrill of welcoming a brand new life, a living, breathing little human being, into this world is exhilarating beyond words and never fades, no matter how many grandchildren are born into the family. Add to that the fact that my blood, and that of my children and their father, runs through the veins of that tiny blessing, and you've got a recipe for great joy. Even though we know this child is a boy, there is still the wonder of speculating whose ears or nose or eyes or hair he will inherit. But despite any similarities to others, this child will be a precious individual. He may share his family members' physical characteristics, but his personality, his very being, will be his and his alone.

I can hardly wait to meet him!

Until the next time...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

God is in His heaven

Sometimes I need reminding that God is in His heaven and He knows precisely what He's doing. I'm ashamed of that; I should, by now, be perfectly aware of His presence, love and power. But when things go wrong, when I don't see things happening the way I think they should--even after I pray about them--sometimes I lose my way.

That happened this past week. It was a rough one, filled with disappointment and heartbreak. But time passed, as it has a way of doing, and this morning I am filled anew with the glory of God's presence. All the while I was moaning and groaning about things not "working out" as I thought they should, He was making things happen in the manner and along the timeline He decided on long ago. He had things in control all along. He knew what was best, despite my helpful suggestions, and thankfully, answered my prayers in a way I not only didn't expect, but never in my wildest dreams would have thought of on my own.

God is in control of our world and our lives--and I'm not. If anyone is reading this, those are two things for which you can be very, very grateful!

Until the next time...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Techno-dummy

I finally got my picture posted near my name, even though the world isn't holding its breath, I'm sure, to catch a glimpse of me. To my knowledge, not a single soul has even glanced at this blog, let alone yearned for a photo of me. But still, I thought it would look more professional.

I don't think I'm adequately wired to handle technology problems, but I hate giving in to my ineptitude, so I work at it until I finally get something accomplished--even when it's not exactly what I wanted in the first place. At least it's better than nothing! When I worked in the superintendent's office of a mid-Michigan school district, we had a fully-staffed, highly-qualified team of IT staffers. They knew what they were doing and made me look good in the process of updating, backing up, and neutralizing all the messes I inadvertently created. Now that I'm on my own, the truth has reared its ugly little head--and it's busy blabbing that I don't know a thing about technology. Without FAQs, site help lines and relatives who know what they're doing, I'd still be scratching messages on cave walls.

Until the next time...

The sounds of silence

It's Saturday and the base is quiet today. No planes taking off, landing or zooming over our homes and streets. It's almost eerie. Living on an active military base means becoming accustomed to the ebb and flow of the business of training pilots. Of course, not everyone on this base is a pilot--far from it. My son-in-law is a fireman, others work for security or at the clinic or in dozens of other capacities that keep this base up and running efficiently. We are, in fact, a small city, complete with bowling alley, theater, library, child development center, clinic, commissary (grocery store), BX (base exchange), post office, gas station, convenience store, church, fire station, flight line, control tower, playgrounds, gym, vet clinic and many more buildings, offices and departments that I can't think of at the moment.

The real difference is that we are a truly "gated community". Valid military or approved identification is required to enter the base at all times. Not just anyone can get in. That gives me a real sense of comfort--after all, important work is going on behind these gates and it behooves our government to make sure that the people assigned to that work can carry on in safety.

I will accept the silence of today and tomorrow with gratitude. But when the roar and rush of planes starts up bright and early Monday morning, I'll smile and be thankful for all the hard work everyone on this base is doing to keep our country free.

Until the next time...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sticky times in Mississippi

It's another beautiful day here in Mississippi--hot, but then it IS July, and hot and humid is what I should expect. The other eight or nine months of the year down here more than make up for the miserably sticky summers we endure. I haven't been here very long--it'll be two years this October--but having spent decades in Michigan and a year in central Alaska prior to my Mississippi move... well, I know winters. And believe me, winters in Mississippi are far milder than they are in the other places I've lived.

I've had far, far better weeks than the one I'm having currently. But then, we humans take the good with the bad, making the most of the blessings we are given and muddling through the bad times in whatever ways we find work best for us. For me, it's leaning on the Lord. Yes, He sometimes seems distant and this week is a prime example of my not being able to connect with Him the way I usually do. I know it's me, not Him. He's right where He always is--beside me, with His hand in mind, guiding me through the minefield of life, telling me where I can step safely and where I should avoid putting my feet.

But I'm not listening the way I should be. He's speaking, but in a soft voice; He's not lecturing, haranguing or scolding me. Rather, He's encouraging me with His love, showering me with His neverending affection and His abundant blessings, and staying beside me every step of the way. I'm distracted by my pain, however, and instead of concentrating on getting past it, I'm focusing on wallowing in it. I'm not looking in the right direction, nor listening with an ear toward understanding. In my very human way, I'm thrashing around in this pool of despair, drowning in my sadness and not paying attention to the strong hand He's extending toward me. I'm not hearing His gentle voice telling me that all will be well; that He has everything under control and that I should not fear. I'm bent on doing it all alone--and that's so sad. For if I continued in this manner, I would surely drown.

But I won't. Even the simple act of putting my thoughts down in this blog helps me to see Him and His glory in the words. Praising Him never fails to lift my spirits, even as I lift my eyes to the skies and see the vast evidence of His power and love. I will recover, as I always do, but it won't be because of anything I do. It will be because He never blinked, nor abandoned me. He never stopped watching over me. He knew, long before this miserable week happened, that I'd be hitting a rough patch and He knew that I'd need His love and guidance more than ever. He also knew that I would look away and try to forge my own path through the pain. Still, He did not give up. He knows that my way is not the right way, but when I come to my senses, I won't hear "I told you so". Instead, I'll hear Him say, "Next time, lean on me, because I love you and I'll never let you down."

Until the next time...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Finally!

At long last, I am finally blogging! As usual, I was trying too hard. Once I settled down and let things happen the way they were supposed to, they did.

I find that life is often that way. Once we get out of our own way and let God take control and nudge us back on to the path He has chosen for us, life unfolds as it is meant to. Only our Heavenly Father know what lies before us; only He can see the obstacles that will block our way in the future. And only He can help us over, around or through them.

Until the next time...