Monday, November 26, 2012

GOBBLES of GRATITUDE

OK, I know that title sounds like it belongs on an elementary school bulletin board but sometimes that's just the way my mind works. : ) And can't you just see all the little handprint construction paper cut out turkeys modeling  phrases all carefully scripted or hastily scrawled attached to a board of orange or gold. (Actually red or green would be better, so as to be ready for next month's Christmas bulletin board!) I wish I had a good picture of my favorite Thanksgiving bulletin board with a wonderful cartoon style bird of the season in the center and the phrase, "Don't be a turkey, Be Thankful!" swirled around it. I know you can picture that too!

The other day in a moment of lightheartedness, I said I was thankful for a new dryer when asked to say what I was thankful for. And after hanging laundry for a period of time during both colder and warmer months, I really am thankful for a new dryer. I'm thankful I didn't grow up during the colonial times or the pioneer times or the Victorian times, as interesting as they are to study and as much as I think I'd like to be a "Williamsburg lady/tourguide" one of these days.  Daily life was pretty hard then and I'm thankful for electricity and indoor plumbing and as annoying as all the technology of today can be, I'm thankful for all the connections and reconnections it's given us. If you lost power during Hurricane Sandy, I'm thinking you're nodding your head in appreciation of those things too! Our house was built in 1740 and I often sit and look at the beams or the deep windowsills or the hearth and try to imagine what life was like for all those who lived in this house throughout the many seasons it has stood here. And I wonder what their Thanksgivings looked like and if they nabbed their turkey as he sauntered through what is now our backyard! : )

For me, there's just so much and I know I don't stop and express my gratitude often enough. I have a wonderful husband who works so hard and always loves me. I know he must have days when he simply shakes his head in an attempt to figure out once again who in the world did he end up marrying? : ) But he hangs in there with me and we laugh and we cry and we'd say "I do" all over again if we had to. Commitment in today's world is priceless and I'm thankful for him. God's blessed us with two great kids who have grown up entirely too fast (I kept pushing down on the tops of their heads but it just didn't seem to work) but I'm excited to see where God is going to take them and use them. My parents are both still alive and I'm thankful for them, to still have them with us, and for all they gave and continue to give with love. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with Shellenbergers and I'm looking forward to some great Christmas time with Kaisers - having family all within driving range for the holidays and not having to go near an airport for those get togethers is a gift as well!

And please don't groan, but I am thankful for Facebook. It has given me the opportunity to reconnect with friends and students and colleagues and campmates and people from all the different seasons of my life and I truly am thankful for that! It brings me great joy to have those connections again - some of them after as many as 30 plus years since we've been together! I love chatting with and seeing the pictures of colleagues I taught with both near and afar and of students who tucked their 5th grade knees under desks in PA and P.I. (the Philippines!), and hearing what they now doing in their adult lives, many who are now raising their own families with 5th graders of their own! (Not sure how that happens when I'm still 19 in my head!) Fellow "Chiefs" who I spent such memorable summers at camp with as well 'my girls' who I helped learn how to be good "Chiefs" themselves are scattered from Africa to Arizona, yet we've been given the gift of reconnecting all these many years later. A summer spent in Belgium as a summer missionary can be remembered with old pictures and stories brought back to life on Facebook so vividly I can almost still taste the Chocopasta! : ) From classmates from as far back as elementary school days to new friends just met at a church - each one is treasured and has been used by God to leave their handprint on my heart as He continues to weave throughout my life what I can learn from each one.

And for that, and so much more, I am truly thankful.











Tuesday, November 6, 2012

ELECTION DAY


     I just got back from voting. Expecting an incredibly long line similar to the Presidential Election four years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see a short, more manageable line. The temps were rather chilly this morning (I think it was just at 39 degrees when I got out of the car) so I was thankful I wouldn't be standing out in the cold for too long. I'd brought the new John Grisham novel I started this weekend, but left it in the car, knowing I'd not become that restless in this line.

     Kudos to all you early bird voters who start your day by making your voice officially heard but I wasn't going to get up at o'dark thirty this morning when I could sleep in a bit, so I'd decided to go around eleven to beat the lunch bunch. It wasn't long before I noticed a trend. There was a significant number of older citizens coming and going. Lots of canes and walkers and sensible shoes. One lady had this nifty little device that she was using as a cane but it was actually a fold up three legged seat in case she had to wait longer in line than she could stand. I heard very little complaining. This generation gets how important the right to vote is and they were mostly all smiling and many called out to greet others they knew from their neighborhood or church community. Two gentlemen who were both wearing their Navy hats greeted one another as fellow seamen and thanked each other for their service to our country. It was a heartwarming, slice of "this is America" that I loved watching unroll before my eyes.

    Then there were the young mothers. Any of us who raised children can remember those days when it was a major feat to get an infant and a toddler out the door for anything - errands, grocery shopping, visiting a friend. But I took note of several young Moms, most with a toddler by the hand and an infant hanging from a crooked elbow in a car seat/carrier. Ugh, my back hurts just remember hauling one of those things around! (The carrier, not the child!!) It would clang into your legs or the legs of the person you pass or the door you tried to gracefully pass through or the toddler clinging to your kneecaps. Remember Moms? But these young mothers made that extra effort to bundle everyone up on this chilly PA day so they could vote.

 So they could model for their children how important it is to not take voting for granted.

 So when they are older they could talk with them about the people in other countries who might dream of a land where voting isn't dangerous or rigged or only for certain portions of the population.

So when their children complain about having to study for a history test, they could remind them of those who gave their lives so we could live in a free country.

Yes, we've probably all moaned and groaned about what 'the other candidate' will do if he wins this election. Yes, there are plenty of legitimate concerns about the condition of our beloved United States of America.
Yes, this is going to be an extremely close Presidential race and half of the country is going to be upset and distressed that their candidate of choice lost, deciding that the country is now going to head in an even worse downward spiral.

The up side is that we still live in a republic where we have a voice, the opportunity to exercise our freedom and vote. There were free citizens using walkers and canes and the helping hand of a neighbor or friend to make their voice heard. There were weary young mothers who loaded up the mini van in the hopes of seeing a better tomorrow for their children.

Will it be better? Only time will tell. But that slice of America at the polls today reminded me that while our positions and preferences and politics will vary, we still treasure our freedom and value the liberty we enjoy. Now we sit back and wait for the results. Only God knows at this point who our next President will be.

Thankfully no matter who that is and what the next four years will bring, He will still be the King of Kings.




   

   

Friday, November 2, 2012

THANKFUL

      I'm so thankful. Somehow, in the midst of all those crazy winds that swept through Pennsylvania thanks to Hurricane Sandy, we never lost power. Amazing, especially when I see how many still are without it and continue to pray for them. We've not had school all week for there is still widespread damage, power outages and still so many impassable roads from downed trees holding potentially live power lines captive. The beloved Jersey Shore is devastated. The vibrant, never sleeping NYC has had an incredibly difficult week. So all of us who are in the pockets of safety with  power are so very, very thankful for the little things like being able to walk into a room and turn on a light switch, make a cup of tea in the morning, or take a hot shower.

    We came through the storm relatively unscathed . . . although we had a bit of a narrow escape from disaster Monday night. Our home is surrounded by some very tall, very old trees and we've been keeping an eye on several of them, wondering if the next storm might bring one of them down.




When we'd watched the news all day long, we finally decided to pull out a movie and had settled in for another viewing of the last Harry Potter. The wind was quite intense and quite fitting for the movie's sweeping saga. I don't remember having winds whip around our home like that before for an extended time. It really was scary. Our candles and flashlights were ready. But suddenly, we heard a crash outside - actually it was rather muffled from the volume of the wind! We peered through the front door, fully expecting to see our dear old maple but were greeted by evergreen branches. It was rather Narnia like.


     Now remember I'd been claiming those promises in Psalm 91, especially the one that says, "If you make the Most High your dwelling, then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent."

     Hmmm . . . . so, what's your definition of "near"???

    That tree was stretched out across the entire length of our house, branches reaching out menacingly for windows and gutters and doors, coming about as close, wait no, as near, to our house as it could come, but without actually bringing any disaster upon it!! OK, it brought down a good chunk of our gutter, wiped out a few solar lights in the front flower bed and blocked any easy exit. But had it fallen in a southwest to northeast direction instead of east to west, it would have landed right, smack, dab ON our house, crashing right through the roof and who knows how many windows? And that would certainly have been classified as closer to a disaster!

   Who can say why we were spared? I'm certainly not the only one who was praying, believing, trusting that God would protect us. I even remember thinking when I posted my last blog entry that perhaps I was asking for trouble, making such a public pronouncement of trust. Would God test my faith during the storm?


     Even after a bunch of the offending branches had been pruned back, it's still easy to see that this tree could have brought plenty of disaster near our tent. One friend commented on Facebook, "It's as if a hand guided it down . . . " and I agree. And we are so humbly thankful.
     I don't have easy answers for the big and agonizing questions about why God allows some to suffer and others to be spared. There's plenty of truth to be studied in His Word about it but I don't think the answers are simple or easy.  He is God and He is almighty and sometimes His ways are hard to understand.  My heart aches for those who have lost everything in flood or fire or wind. For those of us who came through the storm safely, it seems like an opportune time to count our blessings and open our hearts and hands to help as we are able.
     It also seems like a good time to remember that all that we are, all that have, all that we are blessed with are from His Hands. And maybe times like these are perfect times to make sure we don't ever take any of it for granted.