Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Almost Not Quite Enough Snow

Cross country skiing in Central New York is a challenge at times. Winter doesn’t seem as cold or snowy as I recall from my youth when it seemed like the snow fell near Thanksgiving time and remained until spring brought relief. I’ve learned these last few years, that you need to take your opportunities when they come, since if you wait until the weekend, say, the snow might be gone, melted away by winter rains.

Yesterday morning Heather and I dressed in layers of outdoor clothing, loaded the skis in the back of the Subaru and drove to the nature trail behind the college. We strapped on our skis and optimistically set out. Quickly we realized two things. 1) There’s almost not quite enough snow for cross country skiing. 2) They’ve added gravel to the trails instead of more small cinders, making for some stony places where the snow is especially thin. Put the two things together, and it was not the best skiing experience. We’d be striding along, then abruptly, though briefly, be halted by a rock hitting one ski. Almost enough to make your forward momentum tumble you over, but not quite.  (Well, Heather fell once going down a slope, but the camera was in the case so I didn't capture that on film!  And I went a different way - there's a benefit to following in someone else's ski tracks.)

Nonetheless, it is lovely in that oasis of nature just off the bustle of the commerce of Grant Avenue. The shrubs were covered in layers of snow where they are protected from the wind. We saw deer tracks and bird tracks amid the human and dog prints. We seemed to be the first skiers, and didn’t see snowshoe tracks, as I’ve noticed in years past. We looked for dried milkweed to pick for craft projects; I had a plastic bag in my pocket and a small knife in case they were resistant to hand picking. No luck – makes me think I should have picked some when I was at the wildlife refuge a month ago, but I hesitated to “take anything but pictures” in that protected place. (I guess my rule keeping doesn’t extend to the college property somehow.)

We made our way around the loop a couple times, and returned home,
ready for tea and a Christmas cookie after we changed out of our outdoor clothes. Both of us were a bit warm and had slightly overdressed for the exertion of skiing. Hopefully, we’ve left the skis and poles in the back of the car. I see snowflakes falling right now, so maybe another inch of snow has buried the gravel a bit deeper – making for a more pleasant excursion today and tomorrow before the weatherman’s prediction of rain for Christmas comes true. We’d better get dressed and go out this morning, saving the last of the cookie baking until later. Don’t want to miss the promise of just enough snow for skiing.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blessed to Be a Blessing

Thursday’s blessing was ringing the bell for the Salvation Army with Barb from church. A month ago at the Outreach Committee meeting she offered to arrange a time and we settled on a Thursday night. We didn’t realize it would be 10 degrees and we’d be standing outside – I mean outdoors outside of Bass Pro Shops. I had gathered as much wool clothing as I possessed, and layered it over Cuddle Duds long underwear. It worked, mostly.

Barb’s an assertive Salvation Army bell ringer, cheerily wishing people – arriving or leaving – “Merry Christmas!” That little touch told them they were seen, (hunching their faces down inside their collars for warmth and anonymity didn’t work) and quite often prompted them to dig out some change or even a few dollars. It was bitterly cold and I was amazed by how people – presumably residents of central New York and accustomed to this sort of weather – were dressed. Not only them, but their little children – I saw a lot of mittenless hands, and one guy sauntered up wearing a T Shirt and jeans. Blessedly, there was no wind. A few flakes of snow fell at times and one little tyke stuck out his tongue to catch them.

Many families urged coins on their kids so they could slide them into the famous red kettle. One lady said she had the habit of putting a dollar in every kettle she passed during the holidays, and she’s pleased to see her grown sons do the same. She might have been the woman who went all the way out to her car and returned with money. One woman turned as she left the sidewalk, digging out her purse, pulling out her wallet, and saying, “These days when you pay by debit card, you don’t have change.” Interesting observation on this modern age, I thought. I heard on the radio this month that some Salvation Army kettles in other cities are experimenting with swipe cards for credit or debit donations. Whatever it takes, I guess. As my toes chilled, (despite two layers of wool socks and my felt lined LL Bean boots) and my thumbs got cold, (despite gloves inside a pair of mittens) I thought of the homeless, the hungry, those who can’t heat their homes, and others who will be helped by gifts collected in the red kettle that night. I’m going to write a check and mail it to the Salvation Army. I’m blessed by God – to be a blessing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Choosing an Outfit

A recent blessing was pulling clothes out of my closet, searching for just the right combination for a Christmas outfit.  I was looking for exactly the right mix of clothes that would be a) warm enough, b) not too warm, c) festive, d) comfortable, and d) modest.  I settled on a nearly floor length black skirt and a red jacket over a sleeveless black top.  I'm going to wear a locket with enameled red and green designs that I remember my father-in-law giving to my mother-in-law the year our daughter was born - inside is a sweet picture of our one month old daughter dressed in her first red Christmas dress. Barbara gave the locket to me a few years ago, thinking I might enjoy it.  When I told my coworker about my outfit to wear to the prison for our Christmas celebration next week, we both chuckled.  Who would have thought I'd so carefully pick clothing to wear inside a prison!?!

But seriously - we're going to set aside our typical Bible Study, and celebrate Christmas with the guys.  The volunteers are going to dress up - like we would for Christmas Eve services (no jeans and T-shirts on this night!)  Paul's even searching for just the right Christmas necktie.  We'll be celebrating Holy Commuion, served by our volunteer who was ordained as an Elder in the United Methodist Church this year, and is no longer restricted as to where she can serve Communion.  She's bringing a service of lessons and carols, so we'll read the Christmas story from the Scriptures and sing Christmas carols.  I have some mini candycanes to distribute along with a poem about the symbolism behind the colors and the stripes. 

 Our preparations for celebrating Christmas in the prison make me examine my preparations for celebrating the holy day in my own family.  Will I make careful choices about what to wear, what to eat, what to do?  Those choices determine the blessings I'll receive for Christmas this year.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

He Loves Me

At their 50th wedding anniversary, my father joked that he and Mom had been “happily married for 35 years, and that’s not bad out of 50!” A couple goes through ups and downs in their marriage, and anyone who thinks all the years are going to be happy probably hasn’t made it 50 years. Or 34. Paul and I’ve been married 34 years and to be quite honest, at times I’ve not always been the happiest married person alive. Neither, I’m sure, has he.

Yesterday he bought our Christmas tree from Freedom Recreation Services. We like to support their program and we get a Christmas tree that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg while supporting a good cause. The trees are never perfect and sometimes they more closely resemble a Charlie Brown tree than not. There was the year with the 3 tops – Paul had to clip two of them off so the tree topper could be placed. And the year where it was so tall and spindly that the branches near the trunk created a perfect cat ladder – our kids woke us up one morning yelling, “Sandy’s climbing the Christmas tree!” We raced down the stairs to see the kids bravely hanging on so the tree wouldn’t crash onto the floor, while our cat clung wild-eyed near the top. Paul wired it to the window locks in the bay window so if he made the climb again at least it wouldn’t tip over.

Yesterday I went and took a nap while he hauled the tree inside and put on the strings of tiny white lights. When I got up from napping, he was still working on the lights. Not that they were tangled, or broken or bulbs needed replacing. Patiently, he was wiring each candle of four strings of special candle lights onto individual branches. I had admired these special lights some years ago and one Christmas morning he got up early and secretly added the lights to our already trimmed tree. It was a wonderful surprise and each year since, he’s repeated the process (not early Christmas morning – usually on a Saturday afternoon!) First the regular lights, and next the candle lights. It literally takes him hours. Yesterday I admired the lights he grinned, “And why do I do it?” I smiled and responded, “Because you love me.” Yesterday’s blessing is that through the ups and downs of marriage and life, I have a husband who loves me, and I know it. I am blessed!

Monday, November 30, 2009

This Little Light of Mine

I’ve been blessed these last two years to regularly go into the Auburn Correctional Facility most Tuesday nights to help with a Bible Study called Fully Alive. I serve with a great group of volunteers and during this time I’ve come to realize that this ministry is not at all about what we do for the guys, but everything about what we do with them. I generally take my guitar and help to lead the music during our opening praise and worship time. Often I select a song based on what had been shared in our opening prayers. These guys live at a raw level and their prayers are unlike what I hear at my church on the outside! They pray for themselves, for one another, and for their families on the outside – not many mention friends, who’ve largely deserted them. If we ask for prayers for a family or church member, they’re sure to ask the outcome a few weeks later. Frequently one or two of the men will ask to share a song and it is such a privilege to worship with them – the others listen attentively and respectfully, often beating in time to the music on their knee or the pews.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve been there – the last time was during a four day revival planned by the Protestant Chaplain. Volunteers were invited to attend each night, and Paul and I went on Sunday and heard a powerful message from a young man who just so happens to be the RA for Jason’s dorm at Wells College! Wow! On Tuesday, most of our regular volunteers were there, and two of us exchanged amused looks while the director of the inmate’s choir led the song, “This Little Light of Mine.” The choir uses that typical Black "call and repeat" style of music and while I don’t pretend to be able to do it myself – too much WASP in me – I do enjoy it. This time, Chris called out verses for the church to sing – replacing “Walk it around the neighborhood,” with “All around the yard, I'm going to let it shine!” and “In the mess hall, I'm going to let it shine!” While it struck me in a very funny way, at the same time, it was a strong witness to me.

The guys realize, on a very elementary level, that God has called them to a purpose even while living in a very dark place like a maximum security prison. Do I realize my calling on the same level as they do? It’s easy to be a Christian while doing good works like visiting prisoners. But do I let my light shine at my place of employment? Within my circle of friends and family? At my church? While out and about in my community?Certainly not as much as I could, not as consistently as I should.

Paul attended the closing night of the revival and I was surprised when he arrived home early. They had been told there was a disturbance going on in the yard, and the volunteers were hustled out through the chaplain’s office and back entrance instead of the typical walk through the side of the yard. The next day I had an email from the chaplain saying that due to extreme violence in the yard, the prison was in lock down and programs were cancelled for a week, not to resume until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. My heart sank. We’d miss Bible Study with the guys the next week. They’d be in their cells 24/7, eating bag meals, and not participating in any programs or work. The COs would likely be searching cells for weapons, and tensions on all sides would be high. I wonder how sanity can be maintained in that atmosphere whether one is an inmate or a guard? I also thanked God that “our” guys had been safely inside the chapel during the disturbance, not out in the yard, where it’s all too easy to pulled into the violence. 

So my blessing is being able to serve with these guys and learning with them how to let my light shine.

Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday and Deer Hunting

I generally haven't done much shoping on Black Fridays.  We don't spend a great deal of money for Christmas gifts and often, what we do buy isn't the kind of thing you need to set your alarm for 4 am to get.  I did scan the ads and saw that a couple computer things I had on my wish list were on sale at the local Big Box office supply store.  So I did what any reasonable person would do - slept until I woke up on Friday, ate some breakfast, and ventured out after 7:30 am.  I drove the back way to the store - why drive on Grant Avenue on Black Friday if you don't have to?? I was pleasantly surprised the store was busy but not overly crowded so I easily found the advertised copy of Norton AntiVirus - will need to update mine in January so this is terrific timing and who could pass up such a great deal on something I NEEDED?  ($9.99 after all the various rebates)  I wandered down the aisle and found the deal on Photoshop Elements - something I've WANTED for a while.  I have it on my work computer, but due to my inexperience, took an embrarassingly long time one morning trying to crop a kid's face out of a picture because we don't have a photo release on him and wanted to publish the photograph.  I've wanted a copy of this program for my own use with scrapbooking, and my learning on my own time will be a help next time I have a picture project at work.  The clerk had to ask a runner to get the actual software from some secret storage place as the box on the shelf was a dummy box, but they were well staffed so it took only a couple minutes.  I finished shopping, got back in the car, and since the traffic seemed quite light, returned home by way of Grant Avenue, sitting down to my second cup of coffee within an hour of leaving the house.

This reminds me of the story of my father and deer hunting.  He hunted for years - even went out the day my baby brother came home from the hospital, not earning him any points with Mom - but never got a deer.  When I was a teen we stayed at my aunt and uncle's house in the Catskill Mountains and apparently Dad slept late, had a cup of coffee, took the car out on a back road, got out, shot a deer, and then did whatever you have to do after that, and returned back for a second cup of coffee all within an hour or so. 

Most hunters and Black Friday shoppers would probably disagree with our lackadaisical approach.  But my blessing yesterday was a successful trip, without much stress and without overspending.

Of course I still need to do my Christmas shopping. 
How many days until Christmas??

Monday, November 16, 2009


Last Sunday’s blessing was a trip to Montezuma Wildlife Refuge with Paul. Life’s been busy with frequent evening meetings and weekends filled with yard work and volunteer activities. It had been a while since we’d done anything relaxing, and even longer since we’d been outdoors. The rainy summer precluded many canoe trips. This November day could have been plucked out of September – it was shirt sleeve weather – we quickly shed our fleece jackets and enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon sun. The sky was that blue that is unique to fall, and only a few leaves still clung to bare tree branches, opening up the views.

As we slowly made our way along the driving route, looking at the ducks and geese, I remembered how bored I was as a kid by that same drive. My family took frequent Sunday afternoon drives, and in an act of self-preservation, I usually had my “nose stuck in a book,” to quote my father. This time, though I still had a book open in my lap, I also had my binoculars handy, and once said, “stop the car, I want to get a picture.” So Paul dutifully pulled over while I snapped a picture or two of milkweed pods, bursting with cottony seeds.  We recalled the time I wanted to make  milkweed pod angels, and stripped the seeds, only to have them stick to the wet bumper of the car parked beneath the porch, prompting Paul's grandmother to say, "Did you hit a bird?"  Or the time I hung some to dry out upside down from the basement clothesline, only to open the door to floating fuzz and seeds which I had to pick out of the air for the ensung days.

We parked and walked a mowed path over to the river and back. I saw deer tracks in the muddy ground, and we wondered about the identity of a yellow berry. The grasses were taller than Paul – something you don’t realize when you just drive along the highways.

There’s something about the outdoors that spreads a wave of relaxation over me. I don’t realize until I’m outside how much I miss it day to day. We stopped by the Montezuma Winery and bought a couple bottles of Cranberry Bog wine, then headed back to Auburn for a burger and curly fries at Parker’s Grille. An altogether nice afternoon. This will hold me until the first snowfall deep enough for cross county skiing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thirty-year Friends

I saw the following on a Facebook posting:
“Best Grey’s Anatomy quote: ‘If I killed someone you would be the person I would call to come help me drag the body across the floor.’ ”

Last Thursday’s blessing was dinner with friends –– the kind that fit the Grey’s Anatomy quote. We’ve been friends since our eldest children were born. Most of us first met at baby swim lessons the winter of 1978.

Thursday was one woman’s birthday and our hostess put Care Bear candles on the Weight Watcher’s pie she served, saying her middle son’s birthday was a Care Bears party, “and you were all there.” It made turning 59 just a little easier to take!

We’ve been through amazing joys in thirty-plus years of friendship. We’ve laughed until we’ve cried and sometimes cried until we’ve laughed.

Our children have grown up, and mostly fled the nest – though several of them have boomeranged back and forth between home and independence. All have given us more joy than we ever could have predicted. We’ve praised accomplishments like college graduation, grad school, and even a PhD. And weddings and engagements (she has a website for her wedding!) and the births of grandchildren. We’ve marveled at the adults our children have become and the new relationships we enjoy with them. Some – actually the two most introverted of our children – have moved many states away, prompting smother mother worries about one living in the path of the DC sniper, and another in the path of not one, but three hurricanes, among other things. But there has also been unspeakable sadness, too. One of those babies at swim class was killed in a car accident, accidents and health concerns have troubled several of our children, and “failure to launch” has special meaning for some of us.

Personally, we’ve experienced separation, divorce, and remarriage, times of unemployment, the death of our parents, and breast cancer. We’ve celebrated new jobs, the completion of college degrees, and most recently, retirement. Our conversation has switched from potty training and getting a child to sleep through the night, to menopause and calcium supplements, and bifocals and fears about memory loss.

These are heart friends – we haven’t needed help dragging bodies across the floor – but we know who we’d call if the need arose. I am blessed by these special women friends – sisters of the heart if not by blood.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

An Extra Hour – for Cleaning!

Sunday's Blessing was an extra hour due to the change from Eastern Daylight to Eastern Standard Time. I wish they’d just leave the time alone, but must admit I enjoy the benefit of falling back in the fall – springing ahead just messes with my biorhythms too much.

So I woke up Sunday at the new 6 am and collected the papers from the porch. I set up the coffee pot and sat at the table to start reading the papers while waiting for my first cup of coffee. In retrospect, I’m very glad I didn’t immediately go up to my “office” and my prayer chair for my morning devotions (and writing in my blessings journal) as is my usual routine. After a few minutes, I became aware of a different dripping noise than the coffee pot usually makes – a quick glance brought me dashing across the kitchen – I had forgotten to put the pot into the coffee maker. Coffee was dripping over the grounds basket onto the warming unit. I wasn’t sure what to do first – try to put the pot under the stream of coffee, or wipe the warmer. I did a combination of both, and began a half hour long process of cleaning up 10 cups of coffee (and grounds) that didn’t quite make it into the pot – the top became clogged with the combination of coffee and grounds that continued to overflow the basket until the reservoir was empty. I used two dish cloths and finally resorted to the dish towel before I was finished. I rinsed everything out, threw the cloths into the laundry, and started over again.

Later, I put some soup in my crock pot to take to church for a lunch with members of the Praise Band. I carefully rubber banded the top, and set it into a low square box I keep solely for transporting the crock pot. As I pulled out of the driveway, I saw the level of the soup tilt backwards, and ooze out over the side just a little. As I approached the stop light at the corner (a slightly bigger slope), slightly more soup came out. It wasn’t until I went up the decidedly hilly driveway into the church lot that it came flowing over the side. My great relief was the cardboard box with newspapers in the bottom that caught the overflow. I well recall a college classmate describing her emergency stop by the side of the road to scoop chili out the passenger door of her car on the way to our class – it had been her turn to bring the main course for our shared meal midway through the evening class. So once inside I pulled out the paper towels in the church kitchen and proceeded to clean up the mess before plugging in the soup for later consumption.

I don’t know what the intention of the “extra” hour was originally – more time for farmers to harvest crops or something, I think. But I spent my hour on Sunday cleaning!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

No Chicken Patties

We've learned a couple things about being the parents of a college student since Heather was a freshman.  At her first Parents' Weekend, we registered for brunch and the college president's speech, and dinner that night, only to see her expression when we spoke of dinner in the cafeteria - her face said, "Do you know how many different ways they can fix chicken patties?" So we took her off campus to a local eatery (not many options near Houghton, NY, but they sure beat the cafeteria) and from that point forward, handled campus visits very differently.  By the time she graduated, we brought food from home, used the dorm kitchen to cook, and all her friends piled in, sitting on all available surfaces, and happily eating home cooked food with whatever miss-matched dishes and utensils we could find.

So when the announcement came about Friends and Family Weekend at Wells, we planned to whisk Jason away for dinner, and last night ate and early dinner at the Pumpkin Hill Bistro.  (Aurora, NY has many more fancy eating options than Houghton!) Delicious!  And not a mention of chicken patties on the menu.  Interestingly, he had mentioned being the oldest student living on campus earlier, and ordered a glass of wine with dinner.  We overheard the waitress proofing a young woman sitting near us, who didn't have her wallet, so was denied her beverage of choice.  Jason quietly commented, "See, I told you I'm old" when I said, "She didn't proof YOU!"  We had saved room for dessert - which was described by a decoupaged list on a rolling pin!  Very scrapbookish, I thought!  Jason had something chocolate, I had a frozen mousse with lemon curd, and Paul had an apple thing in fried filo dough.  Yummy.

We're proud of Jason - he's taken the long way to his Bachelor's degree, but may very well value it more than the student who just travels the usual route of hgh school, college, and graduation.  He seems to be working hard, fitting in the quantities of reading and writing required for the philosophy, anthropology and religion courses he's taking.  When I joke that the workload makes a nice Algebra course look appealing, he quickly denies that, so I guess for him, the demands at Wells are worth it!  We're leaving him alone the rest of the weekend as he's working on a paper due Tuesday.  The professor for that course has criticized his use of the passive voice so I offered to read it for him and give suggestions.  MY English professor would be proud of my identification of passive voice - we'll see if I'm able to offer helpful suggestions.

We went back to the campus to see the play Pygmalion.  The cast included students and a long time staff member who reprised his high school role of Eliza's father - I chuckled when he whistled "I'm Getting Married in the Morning" as he left the stage at the end of the show. 

So yesterday's blessing was the avoidance of the dreaded college cafeteria chicken patties, and our enjoyable visit with our Wells College student son. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

99 cent jeans

Yesterday’s blessing was thrift store shopping. I was drawn out by a 50% off sale at Thrifty Shopper, operated by the Rescue Mission. By the time I got there (they opened at 8 am for this special sale and weren’t going to close until 10 pm!) it was mobbed. I’ve never seen so many people at once. They had two cash registers going and a line for both. The lady ahead of me only paid $26 and some change for a huge pile of clothing, and the woman beside me had already been to the Baldwinsville store, which was having a similar sale. I found Jane Eyre (on my list of Books I Should Read) and a brand new flannel bathrobe that ended up costing $3.50. I’m tickled by the robe as the one I’m wearing is ragged beyond description – it too came from the thrift store and now will have a second second life as dust cloths. I’ve been searching for a robe for a while and today my patience paid off. Just last week I had one (for $35) in my hand at the LL Bean outlet store, but I put it back. I'll have to hem the sleeves, but that's a small price to pay.

Before heading home I made the rounds of the other two thrift stores, scoring a cookbook of New Orleans food at the Salvation Army, and my deal of the day, 99 cent jeans at Volunteers of America. Every week they pull clothing with a certain color tag and discount them to 99 cents.  Usually you can understand why those items haven't sold - they're weird colors, old styles, and so forth, but today was my day - the jeans fit perfectly - even the length is right.  A satisfied shopper, I turned the car for home and lunch, smiling about my 99 cent jeans.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mom’s Knitting Bag

I don’t know what prompted me to respond when an announcement was made in church that they need some knitters to make prayer shawls – the last thing I remember knitting was a uterus for my childbirth classes years ago (don’t laugh – it’s a lot like a mitten, but no thumb!) Nonetheless I carried home a sheet of instructions and three skeins of bright blue yarn. I dug out some knitting needles from my mother’s knitting bag – a while ago while cleaning and purging at her house, she gave the bag of needles to me – and started casting on 69 sitches.

So far so good. I know how to knit and I know how to purl – the pattern calls for 3 of each stitch, repeated to the desired length. Well, that’s most of the pattern – there was a curious description of slipping the first stitch in each row as if to do the opposite stitch and then bring the yarn backwards or forwards, etc, etc.  I was lost. Tried to do it, ripped the whole thing out, and cast on 69 stitches again. Dug out two old craft books describing knitting, and made another attempt. Ripped it out again. Gee, I wish my mother lived closer – she could show me in an instant. Got online – did you know YouTube has MANY illustrations of knitting, purling, and increasing and decreasing, etc? A couple hours later, I cast on the 69 stitches again. Still not much progress so I ripped it out again.

The next day during my lunch hour, I called Kathy, the prayer shawl ministry chairperson and described my dilemna. It’s hard to talk someone through a knitting crisis over the phone, I guess (maybe we need a camera and we could Skype!) It seems I was making more of the "slip the first stich" directions than I needed to, so I told Kathy I might need to cut off the first several hundred inches of tattered yarn and start again. She calmly said to do that if I needed to.  I did and cast on 69 stitches again, and started once more.

Progress, maybe. I’ve gotten through the six rows of the pattern and started my second repeat. I have a long ways to go to make it long enough to cover anyone, but if it’s the praying that counts in these shawls, it’s already had its quota. Imagine how many prayers will be knitted into this shawl by the time I’m finished.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Our Daily Bread

Thursday’s blessing was receiving Paul’s paycheck and a commission check. Our cash flow has been a little stressed lately – school taxes paid the end of September, a car repair I forgot I had put on the credit card until the bill arrived, and an upcoming bill for car and house insurance, in addition to the usual bills. For quite a few years, the phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” has been especially meaningful to me, with the emphasis on ‘THIS day.’ God has give our family all the material things we need and much of what we want. We’ve sent our kids to private high school and college, endured times of unemployment, and through those financially challenging times, God’s been faithful to provide for us. Now things are a bit better, though we once again are helping a child in college and are more seriously preparing for retirement. God’s timing is always perfect – Paul’s checks came on Thursday, it was pay day for me, and I’ve mailed the various payments. The checkbook’s a little flat ‘til next week, but once again God has blessed us with the bread needed for this day, plus a little extra.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Blessing of Running Water

On Monday as I placed pictures of the Baez girls on a scrapbook page titled "Carrying Water" I was reminded of the blessing of running water. I took advantage of the Columbus Day holiday to work on pages of the scrapbook about my summer trip to the Dominican Republic to help build a house.

Without any prompting that I could see, the girls in the family picked up buckets and walked the two blocks to the cistern to get water needed to mix concrete for the house our mission group was helping to construct.

The cistern had a metal cover flush with the ground and required bending down, filling a 5 gallon pail, hauling it up, pouring it into buckets for carrying, and walking back to the house to empty it into a 55 gallon drum. The yougest girls had 1 gallon buckets, but the oldest sister at one point carried not only her 3 year old sister on her hip, but a 5 gallon pail of water with the other hand. I struggled, water sloshing, to get my partially filled bucket back to the house. I won’t complain when I pay my city water and swer bill every quarter. It’s a blessing!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yesterday's Blessing

Some years ago, I was very stressed in my job. I spoke with my pastor, telling her when I got in bed at night my mind was a swirl of frustrations about the day and dread for what was to come. She suggested praying about my blessings from the day instead; each time a negative thought crept in, I would focus on a good thing God had given me that day. It made quite a difference in my stress level.

These days I like to scrapbook, and follow several scrapbook blogs and forums. One appealing challenge was to scrapbook your blessings, but getting the page designed and put on paper seemed unmanageable, so I decided to journal each day. Since I generally start my morning with coffee and my devotions, it seemed easy to use a notebook and list the blessings – of the previous day. So most days, my journal entry starts, Yesterday’s blessing…

October 12, 2009
Yesterday’s blessing was making pesto from basil grown in my garden and stirring it into hot pasta to be served with scallops. Other years, my basil has been scraggly and meager. Hardly enough to add a few leaves to a recipe, never mind pulverizing 2 cups in the blender with garlic, olive oil and walnuts. This year it's done well; it's bushy and full - wish I knew why! I trimmed most of the leaves from one plant before transplanting it to the cold frame we built this fall. I wonder if it will winter over or if the snow will kill it?

After we ate dinner, Paul said we’d have garlic breath for sure, but it sure was good!