Monday, December 24, 2012

The Wonder of Waiting and Watching...Silently

Borrowing from my son, Aaron's message a week ago, a quote from Mother Teresa. "We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature -- trees, flowers, grass -- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.

Earlier this month friends bundled up their children and came over to watch the meteor shower. We sat in lawn chairs with our heads tilted upward, eyes wide open, ooohing and aaahing at each brilliant streak. It was a spectacular show, but you had to be watching. Each shooting star zipped silently across the dark sky. No fanfare announced we should get ready. No sound alerted us to look over here, or watch this. There was no swooshing sound like when you send an email. If you were looking at a different part of the sky, if you dropped your eyes to take a sip of hot cocoa, if you turned to a friend to share a thought -- no telling what you'd miss. Each star shot by without a sound. Only afore mentioned ooohs and aaahs, gasps, and "Did-you-see-that?!?" told of having missed a good one. The children chattered, sang out and danced with glee. Good memories in the making! Their mom reminisced -- when she was a little girl her family gathered outside in the dark to watch falling stars. And, I can attest, she still gets just as excited as she must have way back when.

All sounds made that evening came from us, but the stars moved in silence. The light show was astounding, astonishing, absolutely beautiful. And all of  heaven was silent.

Here's to silence! Here's to being quiet as I wait, watch, prepare my heart to celebrate the coming of the Christ child. Christmas -- except for Easter -- is the holiest of the holidays for me. No words can adequately describe, and perhaps I would do well to be quiet, speachless in anticipation and wonder. Starting now, but first...

May God be with you and me exactly as he intends to be.
May you be blessed with a very happy holiday.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Greeting

My Christmas letter for those who didn't receive it via U.S.P.S. To you, my faithful blog followers and dear facebook friends, an e-greeting with sincere wishes to you and yours for a splendid Christmas holiday.

Merry Christmas
December 2012

I wish I had written the Christmas letter before the recent, unimaginable tragedy. My heart is heavy for all of the families who will be grieving in a way that I can’t even imagine…at Christmas. This is the most celebrated season of the year, and not only for Christians. Tom and I celebrate the coming of Jesus as a baby, the savior of the world.  One sister’s family celebrates Hanukkah, the festival of lights. A brother’s family celebrates the wonder of Christmas through the magic of Santa. Some of our family, some of mine and some of Tom’s, pull from the long list of holiday traditions and just celebrate. I love that my sis-in-law has carried on her family’s tradition and puts up a tree on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t stand to wait that long, but how special it would be! I remember when I was a little girl, a Christmas morning where we woke up to see a dazzling decorated tree that hadn’t been there the night before. Oh the wonder of it all, pure magic.
In so many ways people across the nation and around the world celebrate a season of joy and hope, love and peace. Though our reasons for the season vary, on this we agree: what the world needs now is more joy and hope, love and peace. My joy and hope spring from faith in a God who would come to earth as a tiny baby. He lived with people and experienced joy and sorrow, delight and pain. My peace comes in knowing he understands grief and temptation.  He was and is good and kind and without sin, yet he gives us every opportunity to be free from our sin, to be like him – good, kind, and compassionate – because he loves us. That’s why Tom and I celebrate Christmas. It’s a time to rejoice and revel in knowing a way has been made. Our hearts have seen the Lord’s salvation, a light for revelation to every one of all nations and for the glory of God’s people, Israel.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

This has been a milestone year for me. I turned 60 in October, and Tom is staring down 60 (Jan. 2nd). We are counting down to his retirement! (18 months or so) And with that comes a dream of a little retirement home just across the field, overlooking French Creek. And we are hoping against hope that one of our sons will move into this old farmhouse and fill it up with children. (wink, wink).
Our boys – grown and gone— are all doing well. Nathan in California is furthering his education and serving in a Baptist church as worship leader. Aaron and Amy are still in State College. He has a new position at the State College Christian and Missionary Alliance Church as lead pastor; Amy serves alongside him and keeps very busy nurturing their little boys. Grant 5 (almost 6!) and Max 2 ½ are the light of our lives. It can’t be helped, they are remarkable children, and we love them so. Adam and Alicia live in Butler, PA – and in light of everyone else being so far away, they faithfully make sure we have family to be with for all the little holidays, birthdays, and other significant events. It helps that Alicia’s parents are in Edinboro, which is less than 10 miles away. David and Melanie are in Colorado, but we’re hoping and praying that they’ll be back to PA soon, possibly living right here in this big rambling house. Those plans are in God’s hands…which is to say, totally up, up, up in the air.
And a big change that came to our lives this year – we’ve found ourselves attending a new church, St. Paul’s Lutheran. Being Lutheran brings us full-circle in a sense. We were married in a Lutheran church 41 years ago. The liturgy is soothing, meaningful, and most importantly, worshipful. And I don’t mind at all the nostalgia invoked, reminding me not only of our early married life, but my Catholic roots as well. It’s all good. Life is full of learning, growing, changing – not always in that order and not always in equal measure, which reminds me of what my dad says, oh so often, too soon old, too late smart.
Merry Christmas dear friends and family! And Happy Holiday, whatever your holiday may be! Let there be joy, love, hope and peace on earth, and let it begin with us.
Love, Tom and Betsy




Friday, December 21, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Inside...the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

Outside... the fluffy snow is falling fast. Accumulation so far, about 8 inches. There's a good chance we'll be having a white Christmas...hip, hip hooray!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Be Still And Know

I've been busy trying to... be still and know that the Lord is God. (But it's the holidays, you know.) My sister gave me a footstool which reminds me...I need the reminder (because it's the holidays, you know.) And here's another reminder, something that can stop a person in his (or her) tracks. A spectacularly glorious, brilliantly colored, beautifully quiet... sunrise.

When morning gilds the skies, like this, 
it's just another reminder to
be still and know,
there is a God. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wow! Thanks!

Anne Lamott's newest book Help! Thanks! Wow! is a treatise on the three essentials of prayer. In Aaron Henning's latest sermon "Beyond Thanksgiving" he doesn't quote Anne Lamott, but he does quote Ravi Zacharias who wrote a book about rediscovering wonder in our lives. So, in the title of this post, I summed up Aaron's message, borrowing from Anne, and juxtapositioning her words to Wow! Thanks! We pray: help, thanks, wow, and we should live: wow, thanks! Thanks for everything all the, thanks!

 At least if we're in Christ that's how we should live. He's done something matchless for us in saving us, giving us a hope and a future. Borrowing from Aaron -- If God never answers one more of my prayers in the way I hope that he will, still I have so much to be thankful for. This life is not the only one we've got. This world isn't the be all and end all. There is heaven to come!

The message "Beyond Thanksgiving" ended with something like this: For those who are in Christ this world is the closest you will ever get to hell. (To which I shout -- Hallelujah!) But for those who are not in Christ, this world is the closest one will ever get to heaven.

That puts my suffering -- all the sorrows I have ever experienced as well as the ones I have yet to experience -- in perspective. And my sufferings are exponentially better or worse in conjunction with my attitude of gratitude. When I'm thankful for all the good things in life the hardships pale. And in light of that, I want to make a conscious effort to live in awe. I don't want to lose the wonder.

How wonerful it would be to live a life of gratitude with a heart full of thanksgiving always, all the time, giving thanks to God without ceasing.  

...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus
1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Precious in His Sight

We attended a funeral on Friday...a friend's mother passed away. She lived a life of service to her family, her church and in her neighborhood, teaching, serving, and being hospitable. Her work is over. Her days on earth are done. She has gone to the heavenly home and heavenly rest promised.

One scripture the pastor used at her service was Psalm 116:15 "Precious in the sight of The Lord is the death of his saints." Another version says "When they arrive at the gates of death, God welcomes those who love him." And yet another, "The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die."

I don't understand the whole life and death thing... I'm grateful for the first, for life and living it abundantly, for new life, for babies. And yet I know there is a season for everything and a necessary life cycle. I imagine there is coming a day when I'll be grateful for the latter. When, as it says in Eccesiastes 12, I am stooped over and my grinders cease because they are few. When my eyes see dimly and my hearing fails. When I rise up early in the morning with birds but can't enjoy their singing for diminished aural abilities. That'll be the time I'll be grateful for a home going, for opportunity to enter into a final rest. I hope God will welcome me at the gates of death. I pray my passing will be precious in his sight.

There is a beautiful hymn we sang in my old church...Does Jesus Care? It brought tears every time it was sung. And yet it is oh so comforting, especially the chorus:
Oh yes he cares, I know he cares,
His heart is touched by my grief;
When the days are weary,
And the long nights dreary,
I know my savior cares.
(from I Peter 5:7 the cast-all-your-cares verse)

But I'm not sad. The funeral wasn't a sad service. It was a celebration of a life well lived and a joyous send-off. Most all of Mrs. Shaffer's great-grandchildren, led by their cousin the youngest Shaffer granddaughter, stood up front and sang "Jesus Loves Me". How proud she must have been, watching down and whispering her prayer that each of them would know in their heart the truth of that simple song. Jesus loves us. And he wants us to love him back. The Bible tells me so.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Getting Ready

It's the first week of Advent... the beginning of the season of great expectation... the first candle is lit.

A candle representing the prophecy, a candle of hope.

And here I am hoping I can accomplish all there is to do; there is so much to do. Friends are posting notes on facebook, their shopping is all done. Mine is begun, not nearly done. People have houses decorated to the hilt, while mine is meagerly adorned. Presents all wrapped? Not mine. Not even the few I've already bought are done up in pretty paper with bows yet.

Two trees are up and decorated. 

This little Frasier fir inside, and a much bigger one outside.

I have plans to run off to Philly for the first Christmas party of the season. Every year my Aunt Roselyn has a party to kick off the holiday. It used to be all of her sisters and, of course, Gram. When we were youngsters we called it the "Aunts' Party", but as we came of age it was a right of passage to be included too. Some of the aunts are gone as far away as Texas and Florida. Gram and Aunt Florence as far away as heaven. There's room at the party for the next generation and for the next after that. Still, it's the Aunts' Party, and my cousins and I are privileged to attend.

I'll do my best to take the spirit of advent -- anticipation and expectation -- with me. While away I'll miss the lighting of the second advent candle, the candle of preparation. Hours with loved ones, laughing, catching up, telling stories will get me ready for the season. Hours alone in the car will afford time to reflect. This getaway will be my time of preparation. First of all preparing the way...for the my heart. And then I'll get on with those celebratory preparations, setting the scene for Christmas in my home.

As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.'" (Luke 3:4-6)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks with a Grateful Heart

Our Thanksgiving Day was relaxed, unhurried, happy, and full of love. We only had one of our sons, Aaron, here for the holiday along with Amy and their terrific kids -- our two grandsons. Amy brought craft materials to make these cute turkeys. On the tail feathers are things each of the boys is thankful for. Pretty special, huh? As for me, I'm just grateful for the time we had together. How could I not be thankful? Here's all the fun stuff we did: played Lego's, colored, watched a little Macy's Parade, sneaked through the secret passage way, and played in the secret room, "the ack," which is what our two-year-old calls the attic. Outside with Papa and Daddy they played on the swings, had a tractor wagon ride, climbed up in a tree stand out in the woods, and each of them had a turn driving the Kubota tractor...with a little help from Papa. Oh, and Grant played the piano for us...a darling two-handed piece of music. Those kids (and their parents) make us proud!

We spoke to Nathan and David who celebrated this special day of thanks and the days surrounding it, together in California. They are busy touring San Francisco and San Jose -- David posted some great pictures on facebook. Our Adam checked in to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving from New Orleans where he and Alica are taking in the sights of that fabulous city with Alicia's family. David's Melanie who is here (PA) while he is there (CA) came and spent a good part of today with us. She got to visit with Aaron and Amy and Grant and Max before they headed home.

While Melanie was here, she, Tom and I took a short walk over to the possible new house site. We came back and sat by the fire and chatted about all our plans and dreams. Just having a dream is good for the soul, good for the psyche; dreams give us hope and energy. I can't wait to see how David and Melanie's plans unfold. Everything is in God's hands, which is Christianese for up in the air.

I can't wait to see what God has for all of us in the future. The future which is always just beyond our sight and reach. Yesteryear's future is the life we're living today. We dreamed dreams, and now some of them are coming true, the rest are dreams we never knew.  And I trust it's all been part of the grand plan for our lives.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

For family and friends, my home and my life...I'm giving thanks with a grateful heart. It's all good. I wouldn't change a thing.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Frosty, Sunny Morning

Clear skies make for cold nights and mornings, but the effect on the landscape is stunning.

Tom's got some projects going. I'm putting in my two-cents when asked; otherwise I have nose to the grindstone, fingers to the keyboard, racing the Nano clock. I can do this. I've passed the half-way mark of 25,000 words -- barely. The half-way mark on the calendar has come (and gone) as well, and it got there first. But that's no never mind, I'll catch up this weekend. I will if I stop with the facebook, the email, the housekeeping, and the kibitzing on Tom's projects.

Still, I just had to take time for a quick short blog. I love that a few of my friends and family check in and see how we're doing via this little hobby, outlet of mine. Thank you.

And speaking of gratitude...Thanksgiving Day is less than a week off. I have so much that I'm thankful for. Many of my facebook friends list their thanks everyday on facebook in the month of November. It blesses me to read all that others are grateful for...many of the same things between them -- things that I too am grateful for -- family, friends, health, all of our needs met and many of our wants as well. I am thankful to the God who provides. Others are thankful to the fates, appreciating when the stars align. It's really one in the same. Without the finger of God those stars won't line themselves up. And so, on the top of my list, I'm grateful for faith to know this.

photo credit: lambertwm">lambertwm
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Monday, November 12, 2012

Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us

A friend passed away unexpectedly this week. Chris Massung was a couple of years younger, two years shy of 60. Too soon to go, but she was ready...not wishing for it, but ready. A couple of weeks ago she came over for coffee, which turned into lunch and our spending most of the day together. I'll cherish that visit forever. I have that good memory and no regrets; I'm so lucky in that. During our visit we talked and laughed at the trauma of me turning 60. Shaking our heads and wondering how and when this happened. We were young moms with school age children just the other...?...decade or two! But it didn't seem that long, it really doesn't seem that long ago.

The day Chris passed and for days after we had glorious sunny weather. A blessing after a long stretch of rain and cloudy, dreary days. The sunshine reminded me...she is not here, she's with Jesus, the love of her life. And we are left to mourn our loss. Her husband is beside himself with grief, as are her children and grandchildren. May they find solace in The Lord of Glory.

We sang this beautiful hymn at church on Sunday. The tune is fabulous, if you're inclined Google the title and have a listen on You Tube and read these words along. When we sang the first verse in church I caught my breath at this -- He has freely given countless blessings --not only to the good, but to those who are unthankful and evil as well. And I was ever so grateful upon reading/singing those words, knowing that sometimes I am among the unthankful, and fearing that possibly I am sometimes one of the evil ones. Perish the thought!

Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us By: Eliza S. Alderson
Lord of glory, you have bought us with your lifeblood as the price,
Never grudging for the lost ones, that tremendous sacrifice;
And with that have freely given blessings countless as the sand
To the unthankful and the evil with your own unsparing hand.

Grant us hearts, dear Lord, to give you gladly, freely of your own.
With the sunshine of our goodness melt our thankless hearts of stone
Till our cold and selfish natures, warmed by you, at length believe
That more happy and more blessed ‘tis to give than to receive.

Wondrous honor you have given to our humblest charity
In your own mysterious sentence, "You have done it all to me."
Can it be, O gracious Master, that you deign for alms to sue,
Saying by your poor and needy, "Give as I have given to you"?
Yes, the sorrow and the sufferings which on every hand we view
Channels are for gifts and offerings due by solemn right to your;
Right of which we may not rob you, debt we may not choose by pay
Lest that face of love and pity turn from us another day.  
Lord of glory, you have bought us with your lifeblood as the price,
Never grudging for the lost ones that tremendous sacrifice.
Give us faith to trust you boldly, hope, to stay our souls on you;
But, oh, best of all your graces, with your love our love renew.
I'm looking forward to seeing my friend, Chris, and all my other loved ones who have gone on where Jesus has prepared a place for us. That hope is the essense of my faith.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Little Bit of Inconvenience

Our furnace is on the fritz. We woke up yesterday morning to a pungent burning smell wafting through the heating vents. Barely wafting, nothing like forced air blowing warmth into the rooms. Tom shut off the hot furnace and called our trusty heating man...leaving a message since it was well before business hours. Then he built me a fire in the fireplace, charged up the supplemental gas heater in the kitchen, and went off to work.

The furnace fix-it guy came about mid day. It took him two minutes to diagnose the problem, but he had to order a part...a motor for the blower fan. He thinks it'll be delivered today and he'll come install it.

We live in big, drafty, old farmhouse. Brrrr. This is remeniscent of our early days, back when there was no furnace at all, no insulation, no storm windows. But here I am reasonably cozy, nestled in front of the fireplace. I closed off all the other rooms, stairway, family room, guest bedroom, and it's amazing the warmth that's built up if I stay in this room. We pulled out the sofa bed to sleep on last night and I'm not intending to fold it away until the furnace is humming along once again. (I'd like the comfort and convenience of heat, but I'm kind of hoping to sleep in front of the fire again tonight.)

Our situation is nothing compared to those who were ravaged by the superstorm, Sandy. My troubles are just enough to remind me to be grateful for all of the good things in life -- my easy, comfortably rich, blessed life. I have hardly any troubles, just enough to remind me to be kind and compassionate to others.
And the sun is shining beautifully and brightly today. Haven't seen it for days...but it's here now!

Click above and you can choose a sample of David Henning's CD
The line above is from the first song, Castles which was and still is very meaningful to me and Tom. Just when Dave's CD came out we experienced a shake up that brought us to our knees. What a blessing to have David sing to us...
"Even if my castles fall, and I'm brought to my knees
Even if I lose it all,
I believe.
Even if my skies are dark, and I can't see the truth
Even with a broken heart,
I believe.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

National Novel Writing Month

One year ago today I embarked on a writing challenge. The project -- write a novel of  50,000 words in 30 days. That's 1,667 words a day, every single day of November. I did it and got the badge to prove it. Where is that novel? In a manilla folder in the bottom drawer of my desk, of course. That's what they say happens to first novels. I don't know for sure who they, and I said it wouldn't happen to my novel, but it did.

No worries. This month I'll be writing my 2nd novel and it won't end up in a folder in the bottom desk drawer. It can't, that spot's already taken.

Anyone who wants to cheer me on is welcome to ask how I'm doing and how it's coming. You are welcome to prod me, cajole, scold, tease, even belittle me if I'm falling behind. And then if I don't catch up, kick my behind.  And if there is anyone out there reading this that is doing Nano this year, let me know and we can link up.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Time Flies

Whether you're having fun or not, time flies! But I am having fun, and I hope you are too. This week I read a delightful book, Maria, My Own Story, by Maria Von Trapp. Did you know she had a very difficult childhood? Neither did I. It's such a good story, I highly recommend you order up a copy. She wrote several other books, but this one is copywrited early 1970. The book that the famous Sound of Music was taken from was penned in 1949. Other books were written by her and published more recently, early this millenium. I'd like to read another when I find make the time.

The problem with me and reading is I get totally absorbed. I don't do anything else but read. I don't clean house or make meals, I don't talk, I don't listen. This can be very frustrating to my family...ask my boy, Adam, about that. He was the first to notice this character flaw of mine. Tom, on the other hand, never complains. Just the other day he told me he was going somewhere to do something, and he'd be back sometime. "Uh-huh," I said, nose to book. The door shut, the car started, I heard the crunch of gravel under car tires and glanced out the window.  I wonder where he's going? I thought. I knew he told me, but try as I might...nope, I had no idea. So I kept on reading, and in a little while he came back. Bless his heart.

I wish I were that kind of all in about more important things in my life. I wish for instance that I could love God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, without even thinking about it...(or wait, is that an oxymoron? Forget that without even thinking part.) And, I wish that I would put other's interests, needs, and desires before my own -- and do that without even thinking. You know, love my neighbor as myself. Sadly I'm far too selfsh, too self-centered most of the time, to be good at pleasing God by obeying those two most important commandments. But I try. When I'm not absorbed in a book or some other selfish ambition, I try. And whether I succeed or fail, He patiently waits for my undivided attention.

If I've been otherwise occupied for too long He does something like my Adam used to do when he was a little boy. He taps me on the shoulder to remind me that he's waiting for a response. Adam's tap was light, his voice pitifully hopeful, "Mom?" he'd say. God's tap is light, it comes as sunshine streaming through the window, a brilliant sunset, a person laughing, a baby's babble. And I am reminded that my God is right by my side, waiting (patiently) for my response to who He is.

This is the response of my heart
Recognizing who You are
My God is faithful to amaze and powerful to save
He is unfailing, the everlasting God.
My God is worthy to be praised
So I will glorify His name
He is unchanging, the everlasting God...
click to listen to David's beautiful music (Beautiful in my slightly biased opinion) 

Monday, October 22, 2012

New Every Morning...

I highly recommend a balance between taking life seriously and just plain having fun. So many gifts surround us. But life is ever changing, and some of the best gifts just don't keep. Nature, for instance, is ever changing. I'm not sure if it's memory that fails or mental image that fades, but each fall seems more beautiful than the last. Even when the weather is cold and rainy, golden leaves, crimson, orange, russet, and rust colored leaves, remain spectacular. But they won't keep! Too soon they cover our lawns and forest floors. Bare tree branches tell the next season will be upon us in no time. So seize the day! Don't let today pass without a sense of wonder over something. Quick, before it gets away. And yet, have no fear, tomorrow God's blessings and mercies will be new again. They are new every morning.

You know what else doesn't keep? Babies don't keep. A swaddled newborn becomes a kicking, cooing, month old baby. Her new-ness wears off. His personality emerges. They roll over, they sit, they crawl, they pull themselves up to stand on their own tiny feet, babbling "mama" or "dada". So quick. It happens in the blink of an eye! Babies sure don't keep.

I enjoyed a blessed baby fix this weekend. Company, campers of the indoor and outdoor variety, graced us with their presence. Look at us trying to line up the babies: eleven months, 13 months, 15 months, 17 months, and a big sister (3 years).
Missing are a two-year-old and the two big kids (5 and 7) who are probably too grown up for footie pajamas. The 3-year-old was a big help, because it turns out, lining up one year olds is a little bit like herding cats.
Documenting, men working in the kitchen!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hallylooyer! It's Harvest Time

It is truly a glorious day in Pennsylvania. From my loft window I'm looking down on our frost covered cars, frosty white grass, and a frosted cornfield. But it won't last long. Mr. Sunshine is up and doing his thing, kissing the earth so all things glisten. Patches of steam rise, fog hovers above the browned out cornstalks. And the frost melts away, making for a fabulous day.

Why am I trying to wax eloquent when that's already been done by James Whitcomb Riley, back at the turn of the past century.  Here are the first and last verses of his frosty pumpkin poem. I love the hallelujah of the rooster, and Riley's farmer's wanting to play host to angels. Eloquent I tell you.

When the Frost is on the Punkin

WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then the time a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.
Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...
I don't know how to tell it-but ef such a thing could be
As the angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me-
I'd want to 'commodate 'em-all the whole-indurin' flock-
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.
Riley's poem speaks of early morning calls, clucks, and carrying on of farm stock. I, on the other hand, woke to bam, bams of rifles popping off geese and small game, as well as big booms -- muzzle loaders trying for deer. With each bang I hope the critter gets away, at the same time hoping hunters get meat for their family. These are sounds of harvest.
Less gruesome though, a massive cornpicker rumbles through our field, and tractors clatter back and forth, up and down our driveway pulling first empty then full wagons of chopped corn home to their own barns. Sounds of harvest. Farmers reaping what they've sown. 
They reap what they sow, as do we all. 
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
And sometimes: Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5 Hallelujah!
Hallelujah says the rooster, and me,
 on this glorious fall day 
with frost on pumpkins, and fields and wild game ready for harvest.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

With These Rings...

Just over 41years ago Tom put a dainty size 3 1/2 gold wedding band on my finger and I put a more stout gold ring on his. We both promised to love and to cherish, and for the most part we have. You know, except for that day when he was being so selfish, a complete jerk...or wait, was that me? Yeah, pretty sure that was me. Whoever it was on which ever day(s) we got over it and still to this day love and cherish one another almost all the time. And speaking of time -- as the years passed, that size 3 1/2 ring got a little difficult to remove over my, say, 4 1/2 size knuckle. The last time I took my wedding band off, a year or so ago, I did the wise thing and didn't put it back on.

For my birthday, my 60th birthday, (still getting used to that) I got a new wedding band and had my diamond reset. There were so many choices, a wrap, nesting rings, diamond chips in the band or alongside the diamond, white gold, which seems to be more fashionable these days, two bands, one on either side of the diamond ring. I tried on some exquisite looking rings and then asked for something almost just like what I already had. The bands are a bit thicker and the diamond placed in a magical setting that makes it look bigger, but not too big.
When I went to pick up my rings, days before my birthday, I loved them. They are just what I wanted, only perhaps more beautiful than I imagined. I was overwhelmed to the point of tears. Yep, I cried. Those poor jewelers, but I'll bet in their line of work, they're used to tears.
This lovely, lovely birthday gift is a reminder of a promise two kids made more than 40 years ago. A reminder of promises kept, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.
I Corinthians 13:7-8
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cards, Gifts, Flowers...

Either somebody died, sombody is ill, or somebody has a BIG birthday coming up. It's the latter and it's me. 60...oof. Really? There I said it. I've been anticipating this since July when my family had a party for me, which was very kind of them. It sort of helped, being eased into it. They could razz me, and I could laugh, because I knew it wasn't happening...yet. I wasn't 60...yet. We could joke about it as if it weren't a reality, because it wasn't...yet. Still isn't. Two more days to be 59, and then, oh no, oh yes. Please don't...

“Remind me that my days are numbered.” Psalm 39:4

There is only one alternative to turning 60 and that's to not. So you see, birthdays are GOOD for you. The more you have, the longer you live. And it isn't me who calls the shots. It is not me who tells the creator the number of days I wish for my life. My calling and privilege is to praise him for what I have, honor him with who I am, and bring glory to him all the days of my life.

It's a tall order, and I fall short. But as long as he gives me more days I'll keep trying to get it right. Oh how I relate with my boy David's song, Unafraid.

Yes, there are times when I've wanted to be someone else, or just a better version of myself. I've prayed for second chances, and gotten some. I've learned too many things the hard way. And, I am frequently distracted by the part of me that never got it right. But...

I don't want to look back on my life and wish that it was different...
I just want to give all that I am
To the One who gave
All that he was
All for us.
I'm not gonna be scared of what may come
Or what may not
I'm gonna be unafraid.
Unafraid of turning 60. Unafraid of the unknowns. Unafraid of what's been done, what's been overlooked, left undone, all that is yet to be done. Well aware that my days are numbered, I want what I do to count...but I don't have to live this life like it's the only one I've got.

The song says, "I wanna go dancing in the rain." I'm not much of a dancer, but the other morning I went swimming in the rain...about 55 degrees outside, 82 in the water, raindrops making bubbles all around me. I'm not sure there is anything more delightful.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

Psalm 71:14
As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.
Along with beautiful rainbows (see previous post) I have some other favorite things...
Fall flowers (especially bouquets from my hubby), colorful leaves,  kitty cats, babies, children, sunny days, my home, family, friends, good husbands (I only have one, but I know there are other good husbands out there...not as good as mine, but still), green grass, my pool, friends to share the pool with, walks, a cozy bed, a cup of coffee (first thing in the morning, or later in the day while talking on the phone with a good friend, a sister, a daughter-in-law, or over dessert with company), books, music, the Bible (as I read it and hear God's voice, not necessarily the way others interpret it), people, and the Creator of all -- these, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite things.
At this moment they are. 
 Then I look at this picture and I'm reminded -- my bright dining room with big windows, an abstract painting from an artist friend, a dry sink (that belonged to my husband's mother) laden with sentimental gifts from friends and family, an antique butter churn (always loved that butter churn), and through the windows I see my big back porch -- these are all high on the list, just a few of my favorite things.
Looking outside to see deer browsing in the front field, squirrels chasing, rabbits hopping -- those too, are a few of my favorite things.
I haven't scratched the surface, but this list did the trick. As long as I have breath to praise God, I will always have hope. And, as long as I have hope, I will praise Him... more and more.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hope and a Promise


Rainbows paint the sky beautiful in the midst or aftermath of storms. Don't you just love those colorful arcs? Signs of hope and a promise since the days of Noah:

"I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life." Genesis 9:13-15

Hope. To look forward to with confidence, great expectation. If we lose hope we've lost our way. So don't lose hope. Hang on to hope. There is... Always Hope

To the beaten and broken, to the callused and bruised,
To the one who's crying silently inside,
To the helpless and hurting, to the lost and confused,
To the one who's searching for the meaning of life...
There is an answer. There is a Father, a love like no other. There is a God...
...There is hope in the One who promises, we are never alone.
I play that song over and over again when I need a reminder. There are challenges, upheavals, difficult circumstances and difficult people in everyone's life at one time or another. But, until we take our last breath, there is always hope.
I'm taking this as our very own sign of promise...
And guess what? The sun will probably come out tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

No Rest for the...

Uncle Billy from Jan Karon's Mitford Series says, "No rest for the wicked, and the righteous don't need none." Not sure which category I fall under, but we've been busy here at the farm. And I'm not one to deprive myself of rest, a quick power nap or a refreshing swim.

Saturday Tom and I stormed the barn, working alongside a fellow who is going to paint the inside of the lower level. First the old (perhaps 75 year old!) whitewashing has to be scraped off and the clutter has to be busted. Leaving him to the paint prep, we pitched junk, organized, cleaned up and cleared out all day long. Meanwhile a mason is patching and pointing up the stone foundation -- another huge project.

The rush of accomplishing so much on Saturday inspired me to clutter bust the house with gusto on Monday and Tuesday. Closets, pantry, cupboards...whew... I've got a big collection for Salvation Army.

But it's not that much fun to be indoors while these last days of summer (less than 20 by the calendar) wane.  From where I sit typing I see the shadows growing long, dahlias, mums, and black-eyed susans dot the landscape with color, lush grass, vibrant in the sunshine, and I can tell by the leaves of the trees there is a slight breeze. I need to get out there...

Still to do... the pool will have to be closed, but not just yet. Christmas tree fields need more attention, a bit more shearing, mowing, weeding, and fertilizing. When the leaves fall, oh dear, there's another big job. Other jobs I can't wait to tear into: the upper level of the barn, the old milkhouse that I want to turn into a bathhouse for pool guests, and the old cow barn, which is begging for a makeover. Wicked or righteous, I'm making myself weary just thinking about all there is to do. So I'm off right now to simply do the next thing. There will be a reward in it -- a canoe ride on the creek this evening to help a good friend celebrate her birthday.

Later that day...
You know you're getting old when -- we were all too tired for the effort of a canoe ride. The birthday girl opted for dinner out at the lovely Riverside Inn of Cambridge Springs instead. Followed by an evening swim. Ahhhhh, restful, refreshing and ready to face another day.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lord, Make Us Intsruments of Your Peace

A prayer by Jena Lee Nardella, of the Blood Water Mission:
God, I stand before You and ask that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing unto You.

I pray for our President, Barack Obama. May he know Your presence, oh God, as he continues to serve as a leader of this nation, as a husband to Michelle, and as father to his daughters. Help him to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you.

I pray as well for Governor Mitt Romney. May he know Your presence, oh God, as he continues to serve as a leader, as a husband to Ann, and as a father to his sons and their families. Help him to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you.

I pray for our country in the next nine weeks leading up to this election – for those of us meeting here and for our fellow citizens who met last week. May we make our children proud of how we conduct ourselves. We know our human tendencies toward finger-pointing and frivolousness. Our better selves want this race to be honest and edifying rather than fabricated and self-serving.

Give us, oh Lord, humility to listen to our sisters and brothers across the political spectrum, because your kingdom is not divided into Red States and Blue States. Equip us with moral imagination to have real discourse. Knit us, oh God, as one country even as we wrestle over the complexity of how we ought to live and govern. Give us gratitude for our right to dissent and disagree. For we know that we are bound up in one another and have been given the tremendous opportunity to extend humanity and grace when others voice their deeply held convictions even when they differ from our own.

And give us wisdom, God, to discover honest solutions for we know it will take all of us to care for the widow and the orphan, the sick and the lonely, the downtrodden and the unemployed, the prisoner and the homeless, the stranger and the enemy, the thirsty and the powerless. In rural Africa, I am witness to thousands of HIV positive mothers, fathers and children who are alive today because Democrats and Republicans put justice and mercy above partisanship. Help us keep that perspective even as we debate one another.

God, I thank you for the saving grace of Jesus and for the saints who have humbly gone before us. I thank you for the words of St. Francis of Assisi whose prayer I carry with me both in my home in East Nashville and in my work across rural Africa.

As we enter this election season, I pray St. Francis’ words for us all.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

This was recited at the Democratic National Convention. It is beautiful, just beautiful.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gotta Love Erma Bombeck

Keeping with the theme of my previous post on writing, really, you've got to love Erma Bombeck, gone from this world way too soon. She entertained, enlightened, and exhorted. She made us laugh and cry, knowingly nod, and then sheepishly hanging our head in shame. And gosh, she handed out some valuable advice. It was the very wise and witty Erma who said, "There's nothing to writing. You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

That thought affirms what the wise guy said, whoever he or she be, which I posted last week: Writing is easy. All you have to do is just start writing, finish writing, and make sure it's good.

What the reader, and wannabe writer, needs to extrapolate here is the sarcasm. There is nothing easy about writing. First of all, you have to do it. That entails this: sit down, tune out the rest of the world, turn a deaf ear to all of your obligations and responsibilities for hours upon hours, focus, focus, focus, and let your life blood flow. Then, after making a mess -- what with blood everywhere -- you have to clean it up, hide most of it away where no eye will ever see. Then, hope against hope for a little leftover, publishable snippet, which will look to the reader like it took 15 minutes to produce. Yeah, it's easy, simple as that.

Writing is fun and oh, so rewarding. After all that work, I'm talking blood, sweat and tears, you have something you're pleased to have someone else read. If that someone laughs or cries or is moved in an intended way, you did your job and you did it well. There in lies the reward. And getting paid real money makes it all the better, wink, wink.

Writing is not all torture. Occasionally I laugh. I laugh at myself and I laugh at my own jokes, because yes, you can tell yourself a joke you never heard before. Ask my brother, Scott Bruce, the comedian, his livelihood depends on it. And he's done the Bruce name proud. He has even given me some opportunity for success in the writing field. All sibling rivalry aside, bless his heart.

It looks to me like I began, and this is a fine place to end. Whether the writing is good or not is yet to be determined. However, this is not at all what I was going to blog about today. I was going to tell of how lucky and blessed my life is. The 28th day of August marked our 41st wedding anniversary. Tom and I have a lovely home (albeit, it's been years getting that way -- which only adds to the richness of our relationship and the wonder of its survival), an idyllic and private space, green in spring and summer, mulitcolored in fall, which is fast approaching and pure white in winter on days the snow isn't dirty, opportunities for wildlife viewing abound, and French Creek runs through it. This is our sanctuary these days, and we are more than grateful for all we have. If I have no inspiration for writing it can not be blamed on location, location, location.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Yeah, I know!

Writing is easy: All you have to do is start writing,
finish writing,
and make sure it's good.
Yeah, I know. So why do I make a big deal out of it? That's all I have to say... today.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Snapshots of Summer

As if there aren't enough...

In July, Aaron's installation service at the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in State College

At the end of July, the Henning reunion here at the farm
Flowers just past their peak...
And the people...
shucking corn
Eating inside and on the porch in light of the drizzle/downpour

And of course there were tractor rides and fishing, campfire times and all manner of fun!
And finally the cleaning up and relaxing...and watching olympics. Yay team USA!



Saturday, August 18, 2012

PostSecrets, Facebook, and God

All the things I forgot to post this summer, things I've done, seen, and have been inspired by, come to me when I put my head on the pillow at night, while driving the car, pushing little girls on swings, languishing in a Calgon-take-me-away moment, pulling weeds, or running the sweeper. Then in the busy-ness of life those thoughts are slept away, swept away and in other ways slip away, never making it to paper, screen, or cyber space. They just loll around in my head for awhile and then roll out...spinning, floating, falling to nowhere land.

I click the link to my blog and check. Didn't I write about (any number of things)? No, I guess I didn't. So when are the techies going to come up with a mind reading program? They've already got voice recognition keyboarding apps. And who would have believed there'd be devices taking commands, answering questions, typing and texting our words? It really can't be too big a leap to creating technology that reads our minds and types up our thoughts. How awesome that would be! Or wait, how awful that would be. If my thoughts magically appeared on a computer screen I would be by turns delighted and devastated -- most often the latter. It's in the writing down, the organizing of thoughts that I understand what I think I'm thinking. And that's when I catch myself saying, "Oh dear, that's not what I mean, or meant." I can rewrite or rephrase it after I've rethought it.

So do I want technology that records my thoughts? I don't think so; unless it would just go out to PostSecret. And even then? Scripture says that only God knows our hearts. He knows our secret thoughts and deeds done in secret too. I believe I'd like to keep it that way. Please techy people, don't invent a device to read my thoughts. Some of them are bad and I'd just as soon those not be made public, not even as a PostSecret. Some of them are experimental. They are me, growing, learning, perfecting -- not ready for sharing. But God, you go right ahead and search me, point out my wicked or foolish ways, create in me a good, pure heart, and help me have only good pure thoughts. (In this lifetime? What are the chances?)

I read something on facebook that tickled my funny bone. Facebook. You know. The social network forum where lots of thoughts are shared that never ever should have been written down. Trust me, there are some things only God should know you are thinking. But for everything else...go ahead...put it on facebook. Like this post: A writer is someone for whom writing is much more difficult than it is for other people.

And there's my out. That's why I don't write as often or as well as I wish. It's difficult for me. I'm a writer.

Friday, August 3, 2012

To Blog or Not to Blog

Summer is wonderfully...lots of things come to mind, but mostly... exhausting. There's visiting, traveling, swimming, entertaining (preparing for company and recouping after), playing, working, landscaping, planning, dreaming, reading, not writing. Three blogs in the month of July. Seriously? Although I did whip off those devotions for Camp Venango in July. Nevermind that my goal was to have those finished by mid-June. Nevermind that I put so much into them I had to redo and make them more kid friendly and age appropriate and all that. The redo took 1 and 1/2 hours -- the originals took 3 months. But wait, in my defense, they were 3 really bad months in my life. The badness isn't over yet, but I have put it aside. You know the cliche; give it to God. Yeah. I know it too. Easier said than done. But dad-gum-it, I done it.

Tom and I have totally ignored our Christmas tree fields since April -- we must have done a little work out in the fields in April because I blogged about it -- but since then, nada. Now we pay. I only worked two 2-hour shifts yesterday and then moaned all evening long. Tom worked the same (well actually more) but he didn't moan as much, and not until this morning. Our hands hurt! His from wrestling with a rented monster mowing machine, trying to keep the dang thing on track, out of holes, away from trees that we're trying to rescue from weeds, not hack off with a mower. Mine hurt from pulling well-rooted weeds away from little tree trunks to find and snip lower branches. This job is done on one's hands and knees. My knees hurt too.

There will be no pulling of weeds today -- too ouchie. There will be no muscling a mowing machine -- it was returned to the rental place, Lloyds Rental in Meadville. Instead I'll spray the rows with a generic form of Round-Up. Tom will start the shearing. Hey...we'll have the small tree field done in no time -- if our nearly 60 year old bodies can handle it. And did I mention the thermometer is supposed to hit 92 today? Yep. We'll have to work, swim, swim, work and drink lots of water.

Yesterday, before starting my day, I prayed Psalm 90:17  "Lord pour your favor on us, and establish the work of our hands for us, yes, establish the work of our hands." He did. Yesterday is done. I didn't pray that today.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Beating the Heat...

with little friends in their new swimsuits (or swimming soup as the little one says).

and a few bigger friends

I'd like to stay and type some little profound ditty, but the girls aren't having it.

It's so hard for them to wait, and how can I resist these smiles? (And you're not hearing the, "Please, Betsy, come swim with us, pleeeeeeeze.
 How many more minutes?"

No more minutes. I'm coming right now...promise.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Celebrating Birthdays

My sister and her husband share their birthday with the United States of America...July 4th. It was my privilege to have them here for an Independence Day picnic and birthday celebration.

A few days later my side of the family had a reunion...the annual Bruce reunion in Johnstown, PA. I've been attending that reunion for most of my 59 years. I may have missed a few of those family gatherings throughout all those years, but truly, not many...two maybe three. Family gatherings were so important to my Grandma Bruce, so her kids made family reunions happen. The venue, always the same. Dad's brother, Uncle Jim had a cottage with a picnic pavillion and pool. Perfect.

Years later, the cottage is now a big house where my cousin, Jimmy lives and where he raised his family. The pool has been rebuilt over the years. Long ago it was converted from cement to a more climate tolerant vinyl-lined pool. The pavillion still serves us well and has picnic tables to seat 70 people or so. Grandma has been gone since 1972, Pap passed in 1975. Aunt Carol and my dad are the only ones remaining of Gram and Pap's six children. We still say we're to going to Uncle Jim's when we talk about and head for the reunion. In reality, it's Aunt Marion's or cousin Jim's place, but no, it was and always will be (at least until our generation passes) Uncle Jim's.

The reunion is a great time to catch up with aunts and uncles and cousins and cousin's kids. My cousins and I -- we used to be the kids. Then we were the parents. Now, we're the one's answering to "Grandma, Pappy, watch this!" And time marches on.

The following day the Dick Bruce family met in Bedford at the "Nancy House". I don't know if Nancy is a sur name or a first's the house where my Grandma (Ruth Allison) Bruce was born back in...let's see, real close to 1900 (it may have been 1898 or 1899). The log cabin home is still used as a hunting camp. It's rustic. It's off the beaten path.

The afternoon was spent reminiscing about family roots and trying to figure out the extended family tree, a delightful day long history session.

Oh, and my dear family tried to make me turn 60! Three full months before my 60th birthday is here. I'm smiling, but I'm not having it. Still, thank you Mom and Dad and all my sibs and their families, for making my 59 and 3/4 birthday celebration so very special. I love you all!!!

Just the girls. (back)Anne, Joan, Ali, Kathy, Chloe, (front) Rebecca, Luann, Mom/Oma/Glor, and me, with the birthday tiara. Four sisters, one sis-in-law, 3 granddaughters and the matriarch. (I hope you laughed, Mom!)

And Dad/Pop/Dick -- Thanks for a great pre-birthday event chock full of family past and present!

My funniest birthday gift was a check for $59.75. My brother the comedian says he'll mail me a quarter on October 4th. Gotta love this family.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Family Fun on French Creek

A couple of days with family from as far away as Paris, France: Kathy, Bernard, and Pierre, and as close by as Cleveland, Ohio: Luann, Jerry, and Rebecca and our own Adam and Alica from Butler, Pennsylvania. Yesterday... tractor riding, canoeing, skipping stones off the creek bank.

It seemed appropriate for the visiting French boy to have a canoe ride on French Creek. And as it turns out, he's quite good at skipping stones.

Not everyone made the trip to the creek and back.

But to clarify... everyone who went to the creek, did come back.

Home again, home again jiggety jog. And then they were off to Cleveland. All but Adam and Alica who were off to Butler. And we had our home to ourselves again. Peaceful and serene...our sanctuary.

And that calls for a swim by the light of the moon.

Good night friends. Good night moon.