Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's's pouring....

 Today is finally a quiet day, and a good one for just rambling on about the weather and a bit of thinking I have been doing. First, we have had the driest fall/winter season ever recorded. It's been a bit of a drought actually. We have had warmer, dryer weather than I can ever remember. We have our yard sprinkler system blown out each year in mid-October. Since then there has been no measurable precipitation for my poor plants and trees. I actually got out our hoses, and spent two days watering our 3/4 of an acre a few weeks ago. The number one killer of plants/trees in a Central Oregon winter is dehydration, especially with no snow for insulation. So, just when I was beginning to think that I would have to drag out the hoses again....a storm finally came. And it pushed out the ridge of high pressure that has been moving all the moisture down south. For two days now, we have had some good rainy, puddle inducing rain. It's 60 degrees (really weird) but WET!

 The plants and trees are so very happy, as well as the birds. They are busy taking baths in every puddle they can find. Everything is dripping, dark, moist and just wonderful.

The second thing I have been thinking about is Christmas. I had so many people tell me this year that Christmas is no longer fun, but disappointing. I think they mean as adults, but they were each in different stages of adult life. I think we have all learned to adjust our expectations as the holidays approach. But somehow people are not finding what they are seeking in Christmas. Is Christmas supposed to be fun? I don't think so. At least not in the cultural way we have of thinking of fun. I don't think Mary was having fun giving birth to Jesus in an animal stall. I don't think Joseph was having fun trying to find an adequate warm, dry space for Mary to give birth, after walking and traveling all day. To say nothing of food, or a way to cook food. How has it all come down to everyone craving fun? (Including me) More and more each year I think., I see people all around me who are hurting, alone and lonely, isolated, sick or discouraged. Christmas is the last thing they want to experience and most want it just to be over with so they won't have to deal with more loneliness and pain. This is a area of our culture that we have fostered with all the talk and songs of : I'll be home for Christmas, there's no place like home for the holidays, Grandma's cooking, keep the lights on for me etc. I suspect most of this is idealistic nonsense today. Families are split, and the vast majority of Americans around here have no families to go home to. Older folks are in assisted living facilities, not in their own homes waiting for all the crowd to come home in the swirling snow, with the scents of a huge home-cooked dinner on the crisp air. I too love the idea, but I don't think it has helped us face realities of the limits of our humanity. This is something from a century ago, not today. And the gift buying, giving, and paying for it. I saw somewhere on an old movie where the people said " You don't have to bring me a gift, just your presence is gift enough for us". What a wonderful sentiment, and how I wish it would be true for us. I think a lot of us as adults look for our fun in whatever gift(s) we hope to find under our tree. But it is always disappointing, because we are not children anymore, and we hang so much expectation on it. We need bigger, more exciting, more expensive things each year and it still does not satisfy. We give lip-service to the real meaning of Christmas, but yet we still want to revel in the cultural the destruction of the message we are wanting to share. In reality there is very little of the original 'Christmas' in the way we celebrate. Don't get me wrong, I do think we should celebrate, feast and make merry. We do have a tree, with presents and lots of good food. But yet, many if not most of the people I know, who call themselves followers of Christ, have been left afterwards with a haunting sense of emptiness and disappointment. Partially this may be caused by tiredness and exhaustion, participating in all the events and paraphernalia. Through the years I have heard many talk about this subject, and various possible remedies. But it just seems to be getting bigger, more wide-spread than ever. If we as believing mothers provide a 'wonderful' American cultural Christmas for our children, are we setting them up for disappointment in their adult years? (Along with shallowness and lack of true understanding.) 
I tried an alternative this year. My insurance guy and I decided to spend the holidays in serving others. After all didn't Mary serve all of us by her willingness to become the mother of Jesus? And didn't Joseph serve his family that first Christmas night? And most of all didn't Jesus serve us in His most amazing incarnation? This worked out for us in many forms; some out in the community, some in our home and neighborhood, among strangers, family and friends. I am still digesting this, and will continue to process what went right, and what didn't. It was a beginning however, and the disappointment and emptiness were not a part of it or the after effects. I am not seeking to change things for 'next year', to make me or my family happier, or for us to have more fun. That I think is progress.     

Friday, December 23, 2011

Blessings to You and Yours

I was just talking with my good friend Nancy on the phone, and we enjoyed a much anticipated Christmas chat. We have been friends for many years, and some of that comes from enjoying many of the same things. I found out that we both crave a little romance along with our Christmas, and time alone with our husbands (even after 40 years of marriage!) Lately there has been a literal parade of people through our house. All welcome, and helping to make December a special time. But tonight we were both planning on having a Christmas Eve alone, the Christmas Eve before Christmas Eve, and I had to smile thinking that we both had planned that. I will be making a savory casserole to enjoy before the fire along with some good wheat french bread and a raspberry jello salad. For dessert we will enjoy a few chocolates from a local candy store, the kind gift from a friend. We will then be reading and taking the time to be still and focusing on the ever-true reason we are celebrating. And then tomorrow...let the festivities begin! I am always happy when Christmas falls on a Sunday and we are celebrating with our Church family as well. A very happy week-end to all.

Merry Christmas Nancy, and to everyone else who happens to read this!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Gift of Music

 On Saturday evening we were privileged to attend a full concert of Handel's Messiah. The insurance man and our daughter JoAnn both sang with the Central Oregon Mastersingers, in presenting this wonderful work.

They performed in our renovated Tower Theatre downtown, with a small orchestra and harpsichord. The backdrop was lovely without being distracting.

Here are my two favorite singers. They sang three performances and a dress rehearsal in four days, quite an accomplishment.

The insurance man was fortunate enough to have his family come over from Burns on Saturday night, along with our friend Doris. It was a wonderful experience, and a true gift to our community. What a statement Handel made of the whole of  'Messiah', His coming, His work, and His redemption. Praise God!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Path of the Just

This is not a usual Christmas post. But I wanted to make mention today, that Denise Sproul, wife of RC Sproul Jr, passed into the presence of our Lord yesterday morning. I not only wanted to take the time to mention this here in memoriam to her, and to the lives of women she touched with her life and writing, but because she lived and died well. Julie and I were discussing this morning what a wonderful testimony to our life of faith it is, when as believers we can find the strength and faith to die well. She leaves behind her a family of 8 children, which is testimony of her life well lived. But many have said she died strong in the Lord and looking forward to her 'perfect day'. As a Steve Green song has said: "May all who come behind us find us faithful." May each of us be blessed of God to finish our race well. We do want to remember her husband and children in prayer, as they continue on without her presence.
On one of the blog posts in her memory, this verse was used, and I want to pass it on again...
"The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Proverbs 4:18

Friday, December 16, 2011

Making Ready for the Christ Child

A dear missionary friend in Ireland sent a few words this week that helped me rethink a few things, and are worth passing on. He mentioned that it was/still is customary in Ireland to thoroughly clean a cottage inside and out in December. Part of that cleaning can be a new coat of whitewash on both interior and/or exterior walls. The reason for all this work? Not for comfort, not for pride, partly for cultural tradition I suppose, but the main reason is to 'make ready for the Christ Child', that all should be in readiness for His appearing.

That gave me a new perspective as I ready my house, my food, my gifts and my heart...may we all make ready in the week to come for the coming of the Christ child.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A New Home!


Julie and her family have been gone on a short vacation to Mississippi to visit her in-laws, and I have been gone to Woodland, to help Joy and her family celebrate Kory's 18th birthday (more on that later).
Now we are back, and on the blog once again. However, you will have to put up with just me, as Julie will be very busy over the rest of this month. Shortly, as in the next few days, they will sign papers to purchase a home of their own just outside the city of  Morgantown, and then spend the rest of the month moving, fitting in Christmas at their new residence.

The new house is built onto the side of one of West Virginia's famous hills, and has a main floor and also a daylight basement. It is rural, including a total of 7 wooded acres with the house. A very great place to raise 5 boys and 2 girls, wouldn't you agree?

 The hillside has two level spots, one for the house and one here that will make a great garden area, firepit, and play place.

Beautiful deciduous trees will make for wonderful tree forts, caves and places to run. It will also help them to heat their house in the winter. At the bottom of the long hill is a creek, and that eventually runs into the Monagehelia River so there should be some good fishing for the older boys.

I will let Julie post photos of the interior as they move in, and she gets time to share. We all rejoice with them as the Lord has provided so bountifully!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Technology...Bane or Blessing?

I hear so many people of my generation continually complaining about the rise of all the new technology. There are many sides, opinions and discussions of this topic. Most negative opinions have to do with the fact that it is harder for us to learn how to operate all the new systems and programs. Instead of just acknowledging that, we somehow find a way to blame technology for much that is around us in our culture. I have to admit that I too sometimes fall into this category. But as I was thinking this over recently, I did take the time to think about all that is good with our new technology. As with anything, the sinful aspect of technology usually has to do with the character of the 'operator', more than with any one piece of the equipment. A couple of cases in point:
  • Last week I noticed I had a stye developing in my right eye. I went to the Internet and found several easy, natural home remedies. The one I used (and is pictured above) was to boil 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds in a little water. I then used it as an eye wash several times a day for 2 days, and it was a natural way to fight the bacteria, and cure my symptoms. It worked like a charm, and cost me nothing. Lacking my own Chinese herbalist to consult, the Internet provided me with a great solution.
  • Facebook has a bad reputation among people my age and older. Just last night I was at a dinner with other believers, and soon the conversation got around to Facebook bashing. Again, I do think it is all in how you use it. Last week I celebrated my 61st birthday. I knew that of the close to 100 'friends' I have on FB, many would write me and congratulate me on my birthday. Sure enough, many did when I went in to check. Some were rather silly (as in my cousin's cousin's cousin, that I don't know) but most were close friends and family and FB provided just the means to reach out and touch me with a sincere and genuine birthday wish, and comment, quickly and easily. These people were from all different time periods of my 61 years, and FB has provided a way that we could find each other, connect and occasionally catch up. In our busy culture, FB is a way to keep in touch. Granted, some use it foolishly, but again it is all in the hands of the operator. I would also add that 'texting' is in this same category, along with smart phones and other devices.
  • I have an IPOD, and enjoy it with all my heart. It has caused me some hours of frustration at times, but having the music I love at my fingertips and in my ears is a wonderful luxury. I even walked around my grocery store with my earphones in this past week, so that I wouldn't have to endure the silly holiday music they were piping over their in Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer! No, I don't have them in all the time and I do try to be polite and courteous, but I think most would be a little jealous that they didn't have a way to eliminate the 'system music'.
The next time you are in a technology discussion, try and think of the good things it has done for you. No, it isn't the same world. It never will be again. Technology is here to stay, and will keep on changing and evolving. Let's embrace the good, while rejecting the bad, and being cautious about how, when and where it is used in our lives.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Recipe for Cabbage

Cooked Cabbage

Chop 1 onion and 2 slices of bacon. Put this in a large fry pan with a little olive oil heated in the bottom. Saute until they are started well, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile roughly chop 1 small-medium head cabbage (with stem cut out) then add to the fry pan. Stir together with 2 T sugar and 2 T vinegar, then cover and cook on med/low to low for 40-45 minutes, or until nice and tender. Serves 4-6 people nicely, and oh-so-yummy on a winter's night.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Good-Bye to Fall


 Wild geese are flying overhead;
The air is crisp and clear,
The last bright leaves are tumbling down,
For it's that time of year.

The pungent smell of woodsmoke drifts
From bonfires everywhere,
And squirrels darting to and fro
Hide nuts in ample share.

Wagons filled with happy children
Are seen on country lanes;
Older folk, in sweet nostalgia,
Live childhood days again.

The flower beds now look forlorn;
Jack Frost has passed our way.
With icy breath he seared the blooms
That once were bright and gay.

A cozy fire is on the hearth;
Dear friends have come to call.
Come let us share a cup of tea
And say good-bye to Fall.

Kay Hoffman

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Thanksgiving Meditations

  • An acknowledgement of something done for you, as in a thank-you note, email or phone call.
  • An emotional response for something good, a warm fuzzy feeling, as in the 'what are you thankful for?' responses around a Thanksgiving dinner table.
  • An outlook on life as in finding the good in everything, 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • Encouraging to those around you, as in the motivational stories and movies and how they touch you as you see of people struggling and yet finding reasons for thanks.
  • The path to contentment, as in focusing on what you have to give thanks for as opposed to what you don't.
  • A tangible note or verbal message to someone, which in turn encourages them. As in Jesus healing 10 lepers and only one returning to verbally thank him. The others may have been heart thankful but in the expression of it, thankfulness became stronger and blessed both Jesus and the healed man.
  • A soul-soaked attitude, as in an 80-something woman I know who worked through ovarian cancer this year with thanksgiving in her heart.
  • The outpouring of your heart in response to mercy shown you. As in someone who loves you unconditionally, or someone who loved you enough to die for you to redeem you.
  • Tied with an invisible string to Peace. As in both tied back to contentment.
  • A choice, as opposed to bitterness, striving and grasping.
  • The opposite of expectation. Expecting nothing paves the way to be surprised by God, opens our eyes and promotes great thankfulness.
  • An expression of hope, wrenched from and through pain. A different way of looking through physical or emotional pain to be offered up as our service of worship.
  • A commandment of God, for our own best interests.
  • A positive trait, as in a reflection of God and light.
May we all be people with a heart of Thanksgiving, Amen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Best For Last

I've been putting off this blog post long today is the day. The reason I have put it off consists of trying to choose which photos to include that would show even a little of the beauty that is Bryce. This was the last canyon we visited, and to my way of thinking, the best. I visited all these canyons as a child and Bryce was my favorite then. I was anxious to come back and see if it would still be my favorite, and joyfully it was. However, the depth of my appreciation of the other canyons had greatly increased. They are all marvelous, jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring. But still, Bryce is unique, and mystical and blossoming with the creativity of the Creator. These 56 acres were designated a National Park in 1928.

 I am going to include here some description I found on the Internet of these formations that says it so much better than I could.
"Colorful sandstone, limestone and mud stone has been shaped by erosion into a fantastical array of spires, fins and pinnacles known as 'hoodoos'. The canyon is a gorgeous chasm of lace and filigree work in stone, colored with the white of frost and the pinks of glowing embers.To those who have not forgotten the storybooks of childhood, it suggests a playground for fairies. Surrounded by the beauty of Utah and the panoramic views of three states, these hoodoos cast their spell on all who visit."

It certainly has cast a spell on me. I could have spent an entire week in just one spot I think. I have never stood in such a place that touched me as deeply.
Bryce is mainly one large bowl filled with hoodoos, as opposed to a long winding canyon with a river running through it. There are walking/hiking paths all along the rim, and down and through the hoodoos.

 The colors are beyond description, and almost beyond imagination.

There were lots of erosion holes to see through, and with each step the light would change and illuminate tips and spires behind. We walked and walked and walked. We studied some of the history of the place, and took pictures, and laughed and pointed and sat and absorbed and in general had the most wonderful time.

 There were lots of people, and everyone was helping everyone else take photos of themselves with the canyon. What a view!

A peek-a-boo view that showcases the stunning colors and shapes.

 Layers of beauty and fantastical shapes. The day this National Park opened the President came for the ceremonies. As his car drove up to the entrance they found long streamers across the opening held by little girls dressed as fairies, and 'fairies' dancing all around. As the streamers were cut the words were proclaimed "Welcome to Fairy Land!"

 As was said in the above description, many of the shapes resemble people, animals, objects and even famous sites. The insurance guy and I had much fun pointing out to each other all the things and shapes we named or recognized. Above is a family shown through a heart.

This one we called the Grammy with her grandchildren.
 Some fall color to add to the evening.
and a mountain bluebird.

 The following morning we got there at sunrise and took the Queen's Garden hike down to the bottom. Good thing the path went from side to side!
 As the morning sun struck the hoodoos they became such vibrant, shimmering colors.

 At the bottom our trail led us through 'Wall Street'.
 A sentinel was posted to guard the way...

and there were many arches to pass through. The way down was easier than the way back up, although the
climb wasn't too bad, the heat of the day had come. It was so worth it though, and I think it lived up to the title 'the greatest two mile hike in the world'.

One last view of this magnificent National treasure. I hope you enjoyed your tour. We reluctantly left that day, so very thankful for the opportunity of having seen this.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A bit of Christmas Thinking

I am actually going to do a post without any photos...very rare. Someone passed along to me a wonderful article that I decided was worth sharing here, and with everyone I know. It speaks for itself and so I am just going to copy it here for you. Please do take the time to read it.

The New American Christmas Tradition
"As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods -- merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is! It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper? Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber? Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement. Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates. Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamins on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course. There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town. Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open. How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy? Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day. My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running. OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes. Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre. Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands. Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip. You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about your neighbors, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine. This is the new American Christmas tradition."

The author had made it simple for us. No reading of labels, or researching to try and figure out if the product was actually produced in the U.S. This has made me rethink things, and I for one am going to try and do things differently this year. Local, community beauty for the holidays, hooray!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Happy November Birthday, Aunt Joyce!

 Another special birthday needs to be slipped in-between our National Parks visit. Yesterday was my Aunt Joyce's 92nd birthday (Happy Birthday Aunt Joyce). She was born:
Joyce Mabel Erskine
on November 7, 1919
at Sylvan Lake, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

The above photo shows Joyce as she and her mother Mabel were ready for haircuts in 1923. They lived on a farm near Lebanon, Oregon, and I'm not really sure who cut their hair, but they both got it cut short.

 She was 4th born in a family of eight children, and she and my mother were the only daughters. She married Roy Lambert on October 19, 1940 at age 20, and they were married for 65 years until he passed away in 2005. The photo above was taken on the porch of her Dad's farm in Waterloo, Oregon with an 'unknown' farm dog, and back of a piggy bank??

Our two families were very close. This photo was taken in Lebanon, and shows Aunt Joyce with her first child, my cousin Bill, and me in the backyard of our house. She had waited several years to have a child, and upon finally finding out she would never be able to, adopted Bill, and then a daughter, Beckie. She loved her children, and she and my Mom had children so close in age, that we were all one big happy family. Although she lived in Oregon all her life, and we moved to Seattle, the families traveled back and forth a lot, and we took vacations together every year.  

This fall, Beckie brought Aunt Joyce up for lunch at my daughter's house in Woodland. Aunt Joyce happily lives with her grandson Matt in Vancouver, and so I get to see her regularly. Although she suffers from Alzheimer's, she is one very happy and cheerful lady, that we all adore.

Monday, October 31, 2011

On to the the next National Park...

"Our National Parks do not belong to one state or one section....they are national properties, in which every citizen has a vested interest. A visit inspires a love of country, begets contentment, and contains the antidote for national restlessness....He is a better citizen, with a keener appreciation of the privilege of living here who has toured the National Parks."  Stephen Mather  NPS Director 1917-1929

 The next park we visited on our NP loop was Zion canyon.

It is incredibly amazing how much each canyon is completely different from the others. Zion Canyon has the Virgin River running through the bottom, and carving out the massive stones. The colors here are so very strong, vibrant and beautiful.

The entrance into the canyon runs through an amazing mile-long tunnel, that was carved out of this huge mountain of rock. The builders thoughtfully included small openings in the tunnel wall for 'viewpoints' out on the incredible scenery. In the photo above, look above the parked car and you will see one of those openings in the tunnel. Imagine the tunnel at that level running through those rocks, and what a feat that was. The sheer size in overwhelming and awe-inspiring.
This canyon is in Utah, and so the formations have very biblical names, thanks to our Mormon neighbors, including the name of the canyon itself. The above photo shows the '3 Patriarchs', and the one below the 'Great White Throne'. Appropriate, wouldn't you say? 
In this canyon we did a lot of walking at the bottom, instead of along the rim like at the Grand Canyon. We took a 2 mile hike along the Virgin River to the spot below. At this point the trail crosses the river and keeps on going. You can see people doing just that, however it was at this point that we stopped for a rest and turned and headed back. Each canyon boasts that it has the most beautiful hike in the world, and while you are on it I think you agree with each one. This was so very beautiful, and I'm so glad I live in an era of cameras, so that we could bring home our photos to remember this place.
 This is some of what it looked like on our way back up the trail. It was the perfect time of day, for shadows and light (late afternoon) and for pure enjoyment. (Do click on the bottom photo, for the beauty of what we saw, and you can see the train we were walking on.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Welcome to the Grand Canyon

 I was more than a little intimidated to post on this most auspicious National Monument. It is so wonderful and magnificent, that no photos of ours could ever, ever communicate it adequately. However, it was the reason for this particular vacation...and we enjoyed our two days there immensely. In the photos below, be sure and click on them to enlarge. They are worth seeing much bigger!

 We enjoyed the best weather and therefore light for viewing the Canyon. We drove from Flagstaff, and entered the south rim park from the east on our first day. We managed to get the the center of the south rim by evening. We walked a lot between view points, and enjoyed the relative quiet this provided.

 What amazing colors and formations.

 Our next visit, we arrived at daybreak and parked in the large parking lot in the center of the south rim, and headed west walking and using the park shuttle. We got the two photos of the canyon in early light with a canyon raven included, surveying the majestic scene. There are two posted scriptures along the south rim, with psalms inscribed. It just added to the wonder. When we got home I looked them up and found that the original brass scripture plaques were removed in 2003, but thankfully two have been posted again in wood.

 Here is one of the most famous of spots along the south rim...the Bright Angel Trail. This is where the infamous mule rides go down to the bottom of the canyon. We walked down the trail about 1/4 of a mile until we passed through a stone arch (along with hundreds of other tourists).

 We eventually reached the western-most point of the south rim at Hermit's Rest, and did just We each got an ice cream bar and sat and drank in the beauty as we ate.

The Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon doesn't look big enough to have have carved out all this, does it? From the bottom though, the river looks a lot bigger.
What a great experience it was, and will long be remembered.