Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Nothing in My Hand

When I have nothing in my hand
Where with to serve my King,
When Thy commandments find me weak,
And wanting everything,
My soul, upon Thy greatness cast,
Shall rise divinely free;
Then will I serve with what Thou hast,
And gird myself with Thee.

~Anna L. Waring

I was reading my little Joy and Strength devotional book today, as I have done for many years. Occasionally I make a note when something has been significant in my life related to what I've read. I noted that eight years ago today I read this and it was a sort of epiphany for me in a decision I was making. I was sorting out if I had the courage and "where-with-all" to co-lead a team of teenage girls to Romania, where we would work with orphans. I wasn't sure I could relate well with the girls, be away from home for over two weeks, and many other concerns that forced their way into my mind. I had been praying, yet fearful, and I still remember the morning I read this. Sun was shining into the blue room where I sat spending time with God. It was as if this huge confidence in God rose from my being and I knew without a doubt I should go, and yes, I would be able to manage with God's help. It was all about realizing I have "nothing in my hand" to serve Him with, and realizing HE would do the serving through me.

Of course it turned out to be a wonderful time. I had no trouble relating to the
 girls, and the joy of sharing the love of God with so many orphans there was 
simply a lifetime high point. I could write a book about the babies confined all day to their cribs, and how we saw them become more lively through our care of them. God certainly proved His power in my life those weeks as He filled my empty hands. It is one of those stories in my life that I look back on and smile.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Touch of A Hand

I could tell "Baby Boy A" had Down Syndrome just seeing him from across the room. For many newborns, it is not so obvious. But this baby had classic symptoms: slanted eyes, rounded face, thrusting tongue, fragile skin, erratic breathing difficulties (he had heart trouble) and blue hands and feet (due to poor circulation, or all the needle pokes he'd already experienced in his young life). I am partial to Down's babies so was delighted to be caring for him. I like to tell the mamas, when they are ready to hear it, about all the Down kids I know who are making a difference in the world.

He was so quiet. It was almost as if he wanted to be as good as he could. He rarely cried. He got jaundiced so had to have photo therapy. His home became an isolette filled with bright lights. His only garb was a bikini and shades over his eyes. I left him that way and the next day when I returned I could tell he had had his fill of the "box," as we call it. He wanted out. Plus I knew he missed his mama who had had to go home the day before. I got him out of the box, cleaned him up, bundled him snugly in a blanket, and held him tight. His big brown eyes looked deep into my heart, and he stopped crying. I held him as long as I could before my other babies demanded attention.

Back in the box his breathing went funky so we did more tests on the poor little fella. He passed them all, but still didn't look right. Just a nursing instinct. So the docs decided to keep him another day just to watch. After all he had the big heart problem.

His parents came to visit. They don't speak English. The day before, soon after they were told by interpreter the definitive diagnosis, I went into mama's room. She was crying and dad looked bewildered. My limited knowledge of their language failed me at that moment. I had no words to comfort them in their grief and fear. So I went to mama and put my hand on to her shoulder and held it there while I looked into her eyes and shared her sorrow for that brief moment. I tried to communicate hope. Just a touch of my hand, but it seemed to bring some comfort.

How frustrated I felt not to be able to talk to her as I would if we shared the same language. The next day when it became apparent that their baby had to stay yet another day, I told her best I could in her language and her tears burst forth again. Imagine--not understanding everything, having a sick baby, and not being able to take the baby home to care for. Again I reached for her––what else could I do? I tried to let her know it would be okay as I rested my hand on her arm. I wish it could have been more, but that was all I had. And, of course, "Baby Boy A" will be on my mind for a long time to come.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Life Well Lived

An encourager of ours died this week ... he was relatively young. Older than us, at a different life stage, but Dan and Betsey always befriended us and encouraged us as we started out our married life and had kids. They were an example in so many ways as they raised their kids, gave generously, and looked out for others.

When we left for Africa Betsey sewed us beautiful slip covers for our couch, and did many other things to provide for our home there and help us get ready to go. She is beautiful, and reminds me of a butterfly...not in a flighty way, but because she was quietly here, there, and everywhere, always knowing where to land--who needed a helping hand, who needed an encouraging note, who needed a hug. Dan was a counselor by profession, and by nature. He knew just the questions to ask, and before you knew it, out poured your heart.

They graciously gave us their home to live in for a week one time--their house by a lake. What fun to "play house" in such a beautiful home with Betsey's tasteful decorating. We never saw them after they moved out to California a few years ago ... to begin a new life with old friends and family already living there. They dove right in from all we heard and connected with a church and ministry. Thus when Dan got cancer, they had many around them. About 18 months ago he wrote a beautiful good-bye letter, thinking he had only weeks to live. He wrote another one a year later. Then Betsey wrote two months ago. My heart went out to her as she shared the same fears I would have, thinking about what the future held for her. Then a Christmas card with a gorgeous photo of them ... looking older, but still looking good. It talked about how they enjoyed quiet days together--good days, and not so good days, but accepting of them all and thankful for every moment together. (They were so in love.) And then, finally, two days ago, an email floated in, forwarded many times, with the simple words, "Dan is home." Family and friends around him, singing songs of the faith, and then he slipped away into his beloved Savior's presence.

What a life well lived. A life of giving to others of time, wisdom, and resources. Dan thoroughly enjoyed life, but how much more he loved his Lord and wanted to be in heaven with him. I know Betsey is thrilled he is free from pain and at peace. I know that same peace fills her. We are so thankful that we had the privilege of a friendship with them––a true gift from God.

photo by lulu

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Theater of His Glory

Walking on the track today, I thanked God for His glory in all creation. It came to me that the very dull, indoor track I was walking on, was held together by God's will. That indoor track, buildings, bridges, medical discoveries, surgeries, and on I could go ... are all because of God's design, power, and infinite glory. Just as all of nature shows off His handiwork, so does the plain, ordinary stuff (that is, ordinary until you start thinking about it.) This quote from Eric Alexander in a speech at Urbana in 1981 includes a sentence that says it so beautifully. It's all worth reading.

"True worship is rendering to God the glory which is due his holy name. And this is the great end and purpose for which all things exist. God created the world as a theater in which to display His glory. He created man and woman in order that they might reflect the image of his glory. He sent Jesus in order that the glory of God might be seen in the face of Jesus Christ. He redeemed sinners in order that they may be changed into the image of his glory."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

nuts on soup

Originally uploaded by podso
I'm wondering why the older I get the more I enjoy a cold, cloudy, rainy day. I always think, "This is an English kind of day," and remember our visits there. Maybe it's because I always long to slow down and it's much easier to stay home in bad weather. I'm all for coziness, too, which comes more easily on such days. And then there's soup. Always better on a day like today with cold rain and even some sleet earlier on. Love it! Tonight I started our soup with a tuscan white bean soup from a package and then added all kinds of things. I was intrigued by what was written on the label of the package, and I must credit the brand: *lessi. It said, among other beautiful comments about soup, "There is a saying in Southern Italy that ... translates to 'Soup does seven things. It relieves your hunger, quenches your thirst, fills your stomach, cleans your teeth, makes you sleep, helps you digest, and colors your cheeks.'" Spouse and I added: "And makes your nose run!" (great decongestant).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Snow Day Corn Chowder

Chop fine and boil until tender in small amount of water:

3-4 medium potatoes
3-4 carrots
2-3 stalks celery

Add salt and pepper to taste--and/or, chicken bullion

1 C milk
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can corn

Heat and enjoy!
(can add more vegetables, a can of creamed corn, cheese, white wine--whatever suits your fancy)
Optional: bacon bits (I've never tried this)

Thanks, Lillian, for a wonderful recipe used many times over 30 years! Now, where's the snow?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bread and Milk

I needed groceries today so decided to adapt to the culture and join the bread and milk gang at the local grocery. You see, snow is predicted for tomorrow––yes, just after yesterday's light dusting (I heard a weather person say snow breeds more snow ...) And when that "s" word gets out, here in the sunny south there's a mad dash for "bread and milk" at the shops. Snow here does not usually last on the ground more than a few hours, so one can wonder why all this bread and milk is needed, but it's a fact. Just look at the shop shelves toward evening when a storm is predicted. Empty in the bread section, and the milk has gone missing.

I decided today just to enjoy the crowd and to check out what everyone had in their carts. I determined to make it a major shopping and so, apparently, did everyone else. Would I feel like corn chowder tomorrow? Or spaghetti at night? Or maybe pizza with a dvd ... I better be prepared for whatever. The lines were long as people unloaded their full grocery carts, but like most times when something like this is brewing, everyone was in good spirits and friendly. It made for an actually pleasant experience. And now for the snow. The sky looks like it and I'm ready. Snow is definitely an "event" here. I'm glad this time I'll be at home for the show.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Her Preciousness

Good friend Boniface sent me a card with this sweet girl on the front. She was congratulating me on the news of the baby girl grandchild coming. She thought ours would be a "towhead," not a brunette, but I loved these words of hers (Boniface always has a way with words): "It's her preciousness I send you!"

what are little girls made of?

I'm thinking a lot about little girls now. When baby girls at work have pretty outfits, I take special note. Like little Sophie yesterday who was sporting a bow like this one!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bread from Heaven

I came home pretty tired from a busy day at work. Winter weather is on the horizon, so babies have decided to be born. They were wheeled in the door almost non stop. So I was wearily thinking about what to make for supper. We had some left overs. Should I develop them into a major meal (sigh), or turn them into a big pot of soup? "If only I had some good bread to go with it, soup would be the ticket," I said to Spouse. Went on up to my little office in my ivory tower to check email. I figured somehow by the time I finished up, I would know what to do about supper. Just as I turned off the computer, the doorbell rang. It was Jack's mom from across the street, armed with a loaf of cool rise French bread (, JUST out of the oven (and some brownies on the side!) She had been baking!

The aroma of warm bread filled the house as I pulled out a pot and began the soup. Hmmm ... just right for a cold night with a storm in the air. And since I always make soup on "snow days" (should the snow or ice actually come), but will be at work tomorrow, Spouse will have his snow soup. For certainly there will be some leftovers. At least of soup!

Thank you, Lord, and thank you, "Jack Mommy" (as mothers are called in West Africa ---the oldest child's name attached to "mommy").

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shared Stories

I feel connected to many people. Of course I've lived a long time and in many places, and have had intense experiences with a wide variety of people through the years. Sometimes I just pause and ponder the wonder of that for awhile. For instance, the college buddy that recently got in touch with me––if we saw each other in person, we would pick up where we left off––no doubt about it. The things that connect us--primarily shared experiences--are forever branded into our hearts and memories. I saw cousins at our family reunion that I hadn't seen in decades. But because we shared something together, we instantly felt connected and had memories to talk about. There are a couple of families in this fair city––our paths rarely cross––but we're connected. We have shared experiences from growing up, and an intertwining of old friends we keep up on. When we run into each other at the dentist's office or Walmart, we chat at a level deeper than newer friendships.

I think it's partly about the intensity of what we experienced together––all these people in Spouse's and my past––high school youth group (we were tight!), college life, camps, nurses' training, seminary, house church, sponsoring refugee families together, missionary life in Africa, having babies and raising kids, mission trips––I guess these are all what you could call "bonding" experiences. And probably the strongest bonds come from hard times we went through together. That's a big "weave together," as well as our lives together in Christ.

I love the stories I share with others. For me its like a special collection I own ... my own personal heirlooms. I must be feeling sentimental tonight. Anything to avoid studying!

Photos: Spouse and I in skits while we were summer day camp counselors at our college. You can probably guess who is who!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Eating Elephants

 This is going to be a tough week.  Already I feel overwhelmed.  A lot going on, extra stuff, ending with a recertification test at work on Friday (I would be happy to never take a test again ... I get very stressed over any little or big test). My other work feels like a blank page, though it really isn't ... it just seems that way. And no "home time" visible on the immediate horizon, which I need so badly to keep me sane! 

So I need to remember how to eat an elephant. One bite at a time. And that's how I'll face this week. One step at a time, first things first.  God in charge of course, and providing the strength and grace to get through. Here I go!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

small moments in ordinary days

I'm giving an early second read to our Christmas cards this year. Sometimes I wait months. Maybe I'm just ready to get on with January. It's always a joy to read and absorb all the news a second time. ...One of my best friends in college and nursing school found my email address, wrote me the other day, and we reconnected after 18 years. So much to catch up on and what a great photo of her family! Our long emails back and forth have taken me back to another time. ... I fell the other day, face-down on the cement while rushing into a store. I'm still finding body parts hurting that I wasn't aware existed. Eldest son lectured me on my age, how I needed to think "old" a bit more, since I still act like I am young (proof: the neighborhood kids begged me to ride bikes with them). I smiled at his wisdom, but even more, his concern. ...The next day at work, God was gracious in giving me a manageable assignment, as my body was aching ... and for my messed up face, some explaining had to be done to my babies' parents. ... Since it's been raining and the sun is in full swing today, I hope to see Jack out across the street so we can look at our teeth collections (he has only one in his so far.) By the way, he told me that he and his sister were considering waiting until all their baby teeth were out, and putting them in a massive pile under their pillows, hoping for something like a million dollars from the tooth fairy. 

... Stopped by a friend's house yesterday on the way home from work after stopping at my mom's (she's the kind of friend you can drop in on unannounced.)  She had been out of town for weeks, and it was great to see her. Walking into her home was like entering a haven of rest. Calm, peaceful, a hot cup of tea already in the kettle ... good rest for a weary soul. ...My husband's basketball coach (now age 81 he tells us) loves to forward us emails. Usually they are funny and they always are just a reminder he is thinking of us and is alive and well. Today he sent us a picture of this ... wow did it fly me right back to my childhood! ...

...But most exciting, and not a small moment at all, was the phone call yesterday telling us that our grandbaby- in-the-womb is doing very, very well, and is a "she!" Now that is a change for this family of boys! We are excited and most of all, thankful to God!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

a good rain check

We attempted to do some business at the motor vehicle place last week, but after the line had not moved once in  20 minutes, we decided to take a rain check. This morning we went early and once inside the door it did not take too long. There were two women "manning" the desks.  The younger one spent most of her time frustrated while studying overly large manuals, trying to help a man with an estate problem. We got the older, calmer, very together woman who obviously knew what she was doing. She was cheerful too (such demeanor is not always found at the DMV). We walked out smiling. Spouse said, "Can you imagine if we had gotten the other woman?" We thanked God that we got her!

We have a car belonging to the dean of our college overnighting in our garage (no place for it where they are visiting). We have not seen this gentleman since graduation day many, many years ago. He also taught us psych very well.  He happens to be a friend with friends of ours here in town. I could not get over the fact that we were visiting with Dr. B. in the front of our house last night. He didn't look any older, but he must have been in his 30s back then (though I probably thought he was at least 50.) How surreal.

One further note on today. Driving into our cul de sac from the grocery store, little Jack across the street motioned for me to stop as he had some news to share. He had lost his first tooth. Helped it out with his wash cloth. When I came back from another errand, he called me over, asking if I wouldn't like a closer look at the gaping hole. He just made my day! I told him tomorrow I would bring over my collection of my two boys' baby teeth. I am wondering why I still have them, and now what I should do with them. 

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hope Springs

Spouse got a little hope ornament from a friend when he was going through a hard time of illness. Since I love the word hope, and think of it especially when entering a new year, I decided to move "hope" from his office to my kitchen window. And, I decided to do some research on the word. The usual definitions appeared: "a feeling of expectation or desire for a certain thing to happen" or, "grounds for believing that something good may happen." But imagine my surprise at finding that this dictionary termed
archaic the definition "a feeling of trust." To me, that's what it's all about. Trust, or faith––in Someone, of course.

Somewhere else I read, "Hope is often the result of faith, in that while hope is an emotion, faith carries a divinely inspired and informed form of positive belief. Hope is typically contrasted with despair [see photo of hope visiting despair], but despair may also refer to a crisis of faith. Hence, when used in a religious context, hope carries a connotation of being aware of spiritual truth."

Personally I can't imagine life without hope. In my mind, all hope is really spiritual,  for God is the one who controls the results of hope.  And God puts hope into our hearts by faith. I have known times of despair, and I know it doesn't honor God, for it shows a lack of trust in what God's plan is for my every moment. But "hope springs eternal" and I cannot despair for long when I am thinking clearly. When I bring hope back into the picture, sun seems to arrive too, just as it will shine through the hope hanging at my window! From Psalm 39:  For now Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You!
Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:24-25

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Decisively Cold

It's nice to have really cold weather stay here for a time. In the teens this morning. I call it a "decisive cold" -- when it is cold in earnest. Reminds me of my childhood up north when our mom made us wear "leggings" under our skirts to school. How we hated them! 

But right now I'm thinking of nephew farmer who probably stayed up all night watching out for  his tender young blueberry plants. And will again tonight undoubtedly.

This photo, the banner, and little blondie photo are all credited to my sister who has a way with her camera!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

stewed tomatoes on a second date

Last night we had supper with friends and then went bowling. At their house. Really. They had gotten a new Nintendo  game for Christmas called Wii ... or something like that. All kinds of sports games to be played on the TV. You actually physically play the game.  We did a whole game of bowling. It was so real (sounds of the bowling alley, etc.) that one could easily think they were bowling. What amused us was how much we bowled like we used to.  Spouse took that long sweep of his arm and the curve always came down towards the end of the long lane. I messed up a lot, dropping the ball behind me (and saw bystanders jumping out of the way), and almost falling into the lane as I would drop the ball for the trip down the lane. How did these characteristics come through with just a virtual electronic game? 

The echo of the bowling alley remained with us as we drove home and we felt like we had really bowled--we were actually a little tired! It all reminded us of our second date so many years ago. Yep, we went bowling with another couple. I wore a red shirt dress, quite commonly worn in those days, striped with small flowers.  It was affectionately known by many on our small campus as my "stewed tomatoes dress." And yes, I probably fell into the bowling alley a few times too! Never mind, if it makes people laugh, it's okay!
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