Mountaintops and Valleys

I was reminded today, reading blog posts,  that not everyone is celebrating something fun, exciting and wonderful. Some are grieving and remembering a last year that has been filled with pain and sadness. My heart goes out to those living in the valley.

I am not sure what I can do to help. Sometimes there are no words to share…..nothing one can do to ease the hurt. I think at those times a hug, an acknowledgement that we don’t have the answers, and a big sigh might be all we can offer….and it will be enough.

The song that I posted above is one of my all time favorites. The first time I heard it was at a Christian Women’s Retreat at Inspiration Hills. It stuck in my head and took root in my heart.

The words are amazing and provide a wonderful sense of hope. They give strength to get through the tough times because of the hope of what is to come. There is great hope in the promise of eternal life.

The story behind this song is as follows:

“I lost one of my best friends over the weekend, to cancer.  Pastor Mark Steele was a man who absolutely poured his life into loving God and shepherding people.  We will miss him beyond words.  Corinne’s and my heart are with his family and his church.  I’m posting this lyric from a song I wrote years ago, as a tribute to Mark, as he moves from life to Life, and as a reminder to all of us of the hope we can hold.” ~ Greg Ferguson (author of this song)

 

what a day it will be


what a day it’s gonna be
when as last your captive heart beats free
and all that is within you sings
in heaven’s own harmony
sweet release from all your darkest fears
the sound of laughter that’s been lost for years
you’ll never cry another lonely tear
as your sad heart finally
finally sings

hallelujah
what a day it will be

all those angels that you’ve never seen
watching over you behind the scenes
will at last have reached their goal
presenting you restored and whole
just watch the Father laugh and smile
lifting up His joyful child
and hear the host of heaven sing
in a sweet and soulful angel choir singing

hallelujah

what a day it will be
 
hallelujah
what a day it will be

even now in the in between
we could write it off as an impossible dream
but it’s more than a dream to me
’cause even now i can see
enough to believe

So for those of you who are finding life to be a tough place to be. May you be comforted by the lyrics. May you feel the grace of the Father as He places His arms around you and may there be friends and family who will be Jesus “with skin on” to you” this weekend.

For those of us who have been celebrating. May we open our eyes to those around us. May we open our arms to those who need that hug and may we be a blessing to someone who needs to feel blessed.

Your life is made up of two dates and a dash.
Make the most of the dash.
Unknown

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Strawberry Pie and Fellowship

IMG_4017 Fresh Strawberry Pie.JPG

Our weather has been absolutely beautiful lately. The rains have missed us, which is not good,but temperature-wise we are cooler than normal for this time of year. That is a welcome relief after the hot, sweltering weeks we have just had.

The weather was also perfect for a picnic the other night! Our care group in church was invited by another care group from church to come to a picnic…..all we had to do was bring our own lawn chairs, make a treat to share and show up.

I decided to make a fresh strawberry pie to take along for our treat. This decision was made easy by the fact that our local grocery stores had an amazing sale of fresh strawberries.

When I told my husband that I was making pie he got kind of a hang-dog look on his face. He then questioned me why I was making pie to bring somewhere else. I assured him I had planned to make two so one could stay home for him!

The recipe I used comes from a cookbook I received as a bridal shower gift over 37 years ago. I am pretty sure it was also the one my mom-in-law always used and her Strawberry Pies were always the best!

I will share the recipe with you and I think you will find it very easy to make and pretty much no-fail….which is the best kind of recipe.

Fresh Strawberry Pie
Crust:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oleo or butter
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Mix and pat into pie plate.
Brown at 350º  for 20 minutes.
Filling:
2 1/2 cup strawberries (about 1 pound)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 heaping Tablespoon cornstarch
3 Tablespoon Jello(not sugar-free)
Blend sugar, cornstarch, and jello in saucepan.
Slowly add water while using whisk.
Boil till clear, stirring continually.
Let cool.
Mix well with strawberries and pour into baked pie shell.
Refrigerate till firmly set.
NOTE: If you want Fresh Peach Pie; you can use about 7 fresh peaches and 3 Tablespoons peach jello.   I have done this and it is also amazing.

 

The pie was a hit at the picnic and was just one of the many tasty treats that were available that night. The food was great, but the evening of games and fellowship was truly a gift.  It was a blessing to visit with fellow church members of all ages. It was fun to see everyone, young and old, enjoying themselves on a beautiful summer evening.

One of the games we played was a lawn game called Kubb (or Viking Chess). It was a lot of fun and challenging. It is kind of hard to explain so I am posting a link where it not only tells you how to play, but how to make your own set!  This Old House   (I am thinking I need to try make one of these.)

I have decided I will never be a tournament quality player of that game ( I would actually say my level of playing is substandard!), but it didn’t really matter…..fortunately.  I think my skills are probably more in the pie and food making category.

When it comes to food and food making….I love to use the old cookbooks that I have used for years. I love the fact that those old recipes have been tested by time and were used years ago by women who wanted to feed their families and others with wonderful tasty food.

There is something comforting about using an old cookbook.  The pages are tattered around the edges (at least mine are), there are spots on those pages from splatters while mixing a recipe and there is writing by the really good recipes so you know which ones to use and how you should maybe alter it.

Life can be the same way…..there is comfort in the familiar even though it is tattered and worn. Our lives can be splattered with the things that have happened to us. We show that we have been used by life and made it through. We are a testimony to faithfulness and a richness of the blessing that becomes more valuable with the passing of time.

May you live your life in such a way that your life is a “recipe” for others to follow…..perhaps a little frayed….a little splattered….but still blessed.


Your lives are a letter written in our hearts;
everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.
2 Corinthians 3:2b
New Living Translation

 

 


 

 

 

 

Old Barns and Grace

 

IMG_3967 Old Barn

The other Sunday afternoon my husband and I went for a little motorcycle ride through the countryside. We love to take the back roads and just see what there is to look at.

This particular Sunday afternoon found us on a gravel road, which I am pretty sure I would not be able to find again! We happened upon a barn in the middle of a growing field of corn and bordered with soybeans.

Against the odds this barn remains standing. I have no idea when this barn was built but I have a feeling it has survived and withstood years of storms, high winds, burning sun, gnawing animals and anything else that time has thrown it’s way.

IMG_3955 The Vulture Leaves

As we looked at the front of the barn we noticed a vulture roosting in the open door of the haymow. As we ventured closer the vulture decided we were just too scary and decided to fly away.

IMG_3963 Barn Doors

The open door just seemed to beckon us to come in…..so we did. Inside it looked as if time had stood still.  The wood stanchions were still in place as if they were patiently waiting for those cows to come home for milking time. It looked as if this barn was in use when cows were milked by hand.

IMG_3964 Still Waiting for the Cows to Come Home

There was still some type of gear hanging by a window in the barn. The animals that it was needed for are long gone and the gear itself probably long forgotten by it’s owners.

IMG_3960 Old Gear

For some reason there was a tea cup standing on a shelf. It made me wonder if the farmer brought his tea or coffee out to the barn with him on those cold mornings. It would have been a great way to warm his hands before picking up cold galvanized pails and milking stools.IMG_3965 Cups from the Past

There was still hay up in the haymow. If you shut your eyes you could almost hear the excitement of children as they crawled through that hay in search of a batch of newborn kittens. The faint sound of laughter echoed through the years as those same kids must have swung from the haymow rope, let go and landed in the mounds of new straw.

That barn brought back memories for my husband of growing up and making tunnels with the bales of hay and straw. As an adult the thought of that, kind of makes me cringe and worry about those tunnels collapsing. Children definitely don’t let fear rule their fun!

The barn stood like a testament to perseverance. A silent witness to the changing landscape of farming. I was glad to see it standing as so many barns are being burned, leveled and disappearing from our countryside.

The barn was beautiful in it’s disrepair. It was beautiful with it’s siding turned to gray. It was beautiful just because it was there.  The old barn was a good reminder of grace.

It was good to be reminded that we are beautiful with our imperfections. We are beautiful even though we no longer feel useful. When it comes to grace…….. just being is enough.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

 

Celebrations and Community

IMG_3928 Golden Anniversary Cake

Last week was a week that was extremely busy with a variety of things to do. My husband and I walked beans, I washed a lot (did I say a lot?) of old pop bottles, we brewed a batch of homemade root beer and I had to make 7 sheet cakes for an anniversary.

The sheet cakes take time and by the end of the day I am tired…but they are kind of fun to make.  There is a lot of satisfaction in seeing them all lined up when they have been baked, frosted and decorated.

These cakes were for a couple in our church who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They had decided to celebrate by serving cake to the congregation after the morning service. The last couple years, people in our church are starting to do more of this rather than the traditional open house.

I think it is a really neat idea when someone decides to celebrate their major life events by sharing that special time with the church community. In our area that always includes food of some type. I am not sure if it is a Dutch heritage type of thing or just something we do in the Midwest.

Sharing with the church family creates such an atmosphere of community and fellowship. It is a blessing to watch people in our church basement, eating cake, drinking coffee and juice, and visiting together. The laughter and hugs of people reconnecting is something to see and even better to be a part of.

Watching Psalm 133:1 (How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!) play out before your eyes is truly a wondrous thing. People talking and children running around their parents and grandparents is a beautiful sight.

I think that often we don’t realize how much a smile or hug can impact someone else.  We don’t always see that there are lots of lonely people in the middle of a crowd. It is good to draw others in and encourage them…it is good to make sure everyone feels like they have a part to play in community. Relationships can be messy….but so rewarding.

I have a friend, Jackie, who once told us, “Be the pebble.” I would encourage you to all be the pebble. Toss yourself into the pond of someone’s life. Create some ripples in the lives of those around you. When you do…..watch for the blessing.

 

“I alone cannot change the world,
but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” 

― Mother Teresa

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” 
― Dorothy DayThe Long Loneliness:
The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drumstick

IMG_3909

Every so often you end up with a chicken who can be defined by the word ….. moxie.  I don’t typically name my girls but I may have to name this one. A couple weeks ago (the night of July 4th to be exact) this Rhode Island Red came close to being a late evening snack for a raccoon.

We had spent the day with family at Lake Okoboji and by the time we got home, after the fireworks display, the evening had cooled off nicely. We opened the windows to let some of the cool air in and headed for bed.

We woke, from a deep sleep, to the sound of a chicken squawking in terror. My husband grabbed a flashlight and saw the glowing eyes of a raccoon, who had decided our chicken was extremely edible. He (my husband….not the raccoon) grabbed the gun and headed outdoors.

It didn’t take long and I heard a lot more squawking. My husband came back in the house and told me that, that chicken was one lucky bird. He had found her and put her in the coop with the rest of the girls.  He also told me he wasn’t sure what shape she was in, as it was dark and he could see, by the flashlight, there were lots of feathers in the back yard.

When morning came and I went to let the girls out of their coop, I could see red feathers strewn across the yard. I reluctantly opened the door of the coop, dreading what I would see. I was sure I was going to find a dead or half-dead, bloody chicken.

When I did open the door, the flock of hens blew past me like nothing had happened during the night. I peered in the coop and the only girls still in it were the broody ones that will not leave the nesting boxes.

I started hunting my chicken down, as I was curious to see where all those feathers had actually come from.  I discovered that she had been plucked on her back and on one of her legs. Amazingly, there wasn’t any broken skin!

IMG_3913

My husband has actually started calling this girl, “Drumstick” and I have to agree she kind of looks like a walking drumstick!

I cannot believe she escaped from a raccoon with only losing feathers! I also cannot believe that it has not seemed to slow her down at all. She doesn’t seem in the least traumatized by the whole event. She is living life, like any normal chicken and has her feathers have even started growing back in.

The only difference in her behavior is that she no longer hides outside at night anymore. She now makes it a point to be one of the first girls in the coop when evening comes. Somewhere in her little brain she has figured out that following the rules equals safety.

I have a feeling that we, as people, are often like Drumstick.  We like to live on the edge….go where it isn’t safe….and hope for the best. We tend to think that bad stuff will only happen to someone else and we will be okay.  Every so often, that bubble is shattered and if we are fortunate, we will make it safely back in the coop.

I am thinking Drumstick, might end up being an awesome object lesson for my grandkids (and for me!). A lesson that there are rules for a reason. A lesson that when bad things happen to you….don’t let it take over your life. Drumstick is a good reminder that one should live, really live, as long as you are alive.

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.
– Henry Ellis

 

 

Not So Lazy Days of Summer

IMG_3921 Soybeans and Fireflies

I am quickly discovering that summer is a hard time to keep current with a blog. For some reason the days are spent outdoors trying to maintain the lawn, garden, soybean fields and a bunch of other important things.  So I will apologize, up front, for not keeping up with your blogs!

It makes me wonder about that saying….the lazy days of summer.  I keep waiting for those to show up. I have discovered things during these not so lazy days. I discovered it is really hard to try photograph lightening bugs over the bean field….so all you really are getting with this post’s photo is soybeans!  Those little flying lights are there…you just can’t see them! Though I do think all those little white dots are actually the bugs…..

I am also discovering that heat and humidity will sap any creative writing thoughts that one might have. (I would hate to admit it might be age and just being really tired at the end of the day!) I headed over to the daily prompt site for some words that might generate an idea for a riveting post……(I am still wondering and searching for a marvelous idea.)

My husband and I were sitting in the house after another morning spent walking the beans. (See prior post for what that is …. in case you are wondering.) He made the comment that it is “hotter than a banshee outside”.

Once he made that comment, we both wondered what that really meant! How hot is a banshee? And what is a banshee? Perhaps my friends from over the pond have that answer?

It also caused me to wonder about other “hotter than” statements……”hotter than Dutch love.” (Hmmmm, I am mainly dutch ancestry and think I will just let that one totally alone!)  “hotter than a pistol” (?????)…….. “hotter than a cat on a hot tin roof”(why is that cat on a tin roof anyway?) ……”hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk” (pretty sure I will stick to using my fry pan.)…..  Any other “hotter than” comments out there?

It is one of those “hotter than” days where there will be no scampering about.  It would get entirely too hot and sweaty. It is hard enough to kind of slog through a day like this; without trying to look perky and alert! One weatherman said it exactly right…..”the next few days will have air you can wear.”

The only thing that seems to be full of life is the bugs.  The monarchs float effortlessly on the breeze. I always wonder if they are drawn by the delightful scent the milkweed blooms send out. Bumble bees and honey bees are busy gathering pollen from my flowers and typically leave us alone….as long as we leave them alone. The fireflies are like twinkling little stars stretched out over the bean field at night.

It is good to see that this type of weather is at least good for all of them. It has been so droughty here that we don’t seem to have nearly the mosquito population that we usually do….that is one upside to our lack or rain.

Maybe this weather is really given to us so that we can truly appreciate when a cool front comes through? Maybe it teaches us perseverance? Maybe, just maybe, we can be grateful it is this humid in our area. If it wasn’t so muggy, our corn fields would begin to shrivel and burn up, rather than flourish as well as they do, even without rainfall.

I guess this is when I must learn to be “content in all things” (Philippians 4:12-13)  and not just when life is exactly as I would like it to be. Maybe it is time to be happy to just enjoy the butterflies and lightening bugs.

It is good to acknowledge that God is God and I am not. He knows what I need, when I need it. His timing for my life and for the world I live in; is perfect. And for that…..I am indeed grateful!

I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times,
what is still to come.
I say,
‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
Isaiah 46:10
New International Version

 

Pictures of the Day

Old Glory

I had planned to get a post out much sooner that this! Sometimes, life just gets really busy….in a very good way. Family and special days like the 4th of July come along and blogging gets put on the back burner. Throw a wedding in the mix and the weekend gets very busy!

I thought I would share some of the photos that make up our annual 4th of July celebration. I come from a family that is very solid in their American values….God, Family and Country. Freedom is a concept that is firmly embraced and celebrated with everything from bubbles to fireworks.

Time to Blow a Few Bubbles for the Dog to Chase

My granddaughter found a great way to pass the time while the adults visited and caught up with each others’ lives. There is always lots of laughter, good-natured teasing and hugs when this bunch of people get together. This is a holiday that is a bridge that draws our groups of family and friends together….it is a meeting place that we can count on at least once a year.

Building Sand Castles on the Beach

We also found that spending time on the small beach was so much fun. The water was so cold, the day was hot; so it was a great mix.  Whenever you mingle sand, sunny days, water and kids you have a sure winner for a great morning.

Walking Past Arnold’s Park With Grandpa

Time To Imitate The Statues

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day is filled with eating, boat rides, swimming, eating some more, sharing recipes, laughing, eating again, walking to the Emporium for snacks, and of course the fireworks display at the end of the day. They have one of the best firework shows in our area and it has become a family ritual.

My grandkids thought the bottom photo looked like a firework rainbow. They were in awe of the loud booms that sounded like cannons echoing across the lake. The shore line was alive with people sending up bottle rockets and patriotic music was piped through local radio stations. The songs were synchronized with the fireworks.

We did have to sit through a drizzle type rain but it was well worth it and most people stayed for the entire show. I think it was because we knew when the Grand Finale was over…..so was our holiday with family and friends.

Arnold’s Park at Night

The day ended as it had begun…..hugs, smiles, and seeing our flag waving  in the breeze. It was an amazing day (as always) and was even better because of who we spent it with. I hope you enjoyed a day that was fulfilling and fun all rolled into one!

 

 

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle,
but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees,
the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.
You may think you have overeaten,
but it is patriotism.
~Erma Bombeck