Tag Archives: gratitude


Yet Another Tweetup

Best news flash ever: I got to meet another imaginary friend last week. Two, actually. They live together. Sara (Gitzengirl) and Riley. I’ve been dying to meet them, and one word says it all: awesomesalsa.

I’ve mentioned before that Sara and I first “met” on Pete Wilson’s blog when we sort of hijacked his comment section with a conversation of our own. Sorry Pete. Then I began following her on Twitter, but after that we started “hanging out” on the internets. We have in common (besides a little sass) the love of Jesus, the Panthers (yes, the ones who out-basketballed Kansas), and food. Well, sort of.

After I tweet a meal she often says “I’ve never even heard of that.” She is a meat-and-potatoes Iowa farm girl, and my mom tried her darnedest to raise me as one. Mom never could talk me into a pork chop, and Sara was raised on them. Despite that minor difference, it took me all of five minutes to feel like I’ve known her all of my life.

The really random but absolute God thing is that we live about 7 miles apart. Really. We virtually travel to Mars and meet in the midst of the Nashville internets only to find we live 7 miles apart?

So when I had the chance to pop in on her last week, I carpe diemed the opportunity.

Probably wasn’t grammatically correct to verb that, huh?

I followed Riley’s “hysterical barking” (Sara’s words) to the door of her condo. Sara’s skin caught my eye right away – smooth as silk. Wow, gorgeous! Almost as great as her smile. Why she’s so camera-shy, I’ll never know. And her warm, loving hugs were just what I needed at the end of a long week. She loves to laugh in spite of having to stare chronic illness in the face every single day. We started talking about a million things in the short time I was there and finished maybe two of them.

I’ll be back. There are stories to finish and stories to start.

And then there’s Riley. He is like this little obedient 4 year old person outfitted in fur. He tells you where to scratch him and he sits and poses for the camera. Seriously, this dog is not normal. Adorable, loving, hyper as all get out (he literally sprouts fur-wings and flies over furniture) and then just sits and admires you (me). He graciously gave me kisses (not sure who made the first move) and let me hold and snuggle him. If you ever need a puppy fix, Riley’s your man. You may have to go through me first though.

That’s two imaginary friends I’ve met now (three, counting Riley), and I feel so blessed that neither was an ax murderer. Whew.

Tea today: Yogi Green “Revive”

EDIT AND UPDATE OF EPI C PROPORTIONS:While in Seattle meeting Annie, you may (or may not) remember that I also met another imaginary friend Wendy of Weight…What?! How I could leave her out of this, I’ll never know. Obviously I should have eaten pork chops as a child. And not tried to write a blog post at bedtime.

Tragedy Averted

It’s been too long since I’ve posted, so knowing we were going to be spending the weekend at the river for my traditional birthday celebration, I figured I’d wait and show some of the traditional birthday festivities.

Mom loves to go all out. Remember when I wrote about the money “shirts” and the gifted cemetary plot at Easter? I knew I’d have another story to tell after the weekend. But never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be this. But let’s start with a picture of the view from Mom’s living room window, because the weekend started out beautifully serene.

he amazing grace of God entered a riverside park in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin as we completed our church service this morning.

It was a beautiful, though unseasonably cool summer Wisconsin morning, and St. Peter Lutheran Church (the one Mom attends while she lives at her trailer on the river summer home in Wisconsin) was having its very first outdoor service. There were about 200 people gathered in the park and under and around the gazebo. The praise band was at one end of the gazebo, their backs to the river, so the congregation watched them and the pastor’s message whilst the Mighty Mississippi lazily flowed and the lush trees on the Iowa side of the river served as a gorgeous backdrop.

My mom, Ron Burgundy, Abby (my new daughter-in-law) and I pondered where to sit. At first we were going off to the right side of the gazebo, then Mom spied some friends off to the left, so she wanted to sit behind them. We parked our lawn chairs and it was a perfect spot. Little did we know at that time how perfect it would be.

About 20 feet of space stood between the band
and the wrought iron fence that served as a guard rail to the river, which was about a 50 foot drop below. The way the river is dredged and the retaining wall is built, there is no shoreline. The river is very deep, probably as deep as the main channel, which is about 9 feet – deep enough to allow for barge traffic.

After the band played their final song, pastor said “Go in Peace, Serve the Lord,” Abby and I got ready to stand and immediately heard a horrible crashing sound. Within seconds, we saw a car quickly heading down the hill on our right toward a crowd of people, crashed into a picnic table next to the gazebo, splintering wood everywhere, swerved and drove behind the band, hit the iron fence leaving an open gap, then quickly turned toward the crowd again, as if going in an out-of-control circle.

And then, just a foot away from another picnic table it stopped. People were running and scattering everywhere. I called 911 on my cell phone, and when the operator answered I told her what had happened. She asked me where we were and I went blank, but I looked up and right in front of me was a sign on the gazebo “Lawler Park Shelter Reserved for St. Peter’s Church…” I don’t remember seeing that sign earlier, but it was obviously there in the picture.

Fortunately, only one person was hurt – an elderly gentleman who had wandered over to the park from the Fireman’s breakfast to visit with friends. He was pretty shocky and was having a lot of pain in his legs and hip. RB sat and held his right leg and others sat there also trying to calm him while we waited for the ambulance. The lady driving the car was very shaken, but apparently not hurt. As expected, she felt horrible about the incident and couldn’t explain what happened.

Had we put our chairs in the initial location we chose, we would have been directly in the path of the runaway car.

And had Floyd, one of Mom’s friends, not spotted Ron Burgundy across the gazebo and was making his way over to greet him, he would have been in the exact spot where the side of the gazebo was smashed.

In no way do I consider this a brush with death. Merely another brush with life.

Oh, the plans God has for us.

When I think of all of the children who were there just seconds before the car went through, the youth group we prayed for as they head out on a mission trip, the elderly who couldn’t move very quickly to get out of the way, and how that lady’s car avoided going straight down that 50 foot rock wall into the river, it’s nothing short of a miracle that only one man was injured.

I’ll leave you with a few more light-hearted birthday memories that pale in comparison to the relief we all felt when the park incident was over.

Mom baked me a birthday pie instead of a cake. I don’t eat cake much. Actually I don’t eat pie either, but the special peach pie was mostly for Ron Burgundy.

Rather than the traditional “
shirt,” Grandma had way too much time on her hands and decided to tape my birthday bills together end-to-end. Abby and I tossed the roll back and forth across the room to see exactly how long a ribbon of 58 bills is. Very. Long.

Ben joined us this afternoon on his way back from a softball tournament. That little boy (I don’t see him as a grown man with a bride just yet) sure loves the river! I still see him toddling down to the dock with Grandpa and his fishing pole. I think he does, too.

And then a final parting shot on the bluff before we hopped in the car and drove safely home.

Tea today: Tazo Zen

I Just Don’t Understand

This little blog post will go buried in the searches on ESPN.com, CNN.com, and FoxNews.com, but I’m feeling a need to let my own heart grieve through my keyboard.

A year ago I posted here and here about a small town just a few miles from us that suffered devastating loss of life and possessions from an F-5 tornado. There were so many hurting people, and the Cedar Valley rallied around them in support.

In the midst of the rebuilding, the local football coach showed his exquisite leadership as he led his team in the reconstruction, vowing to have the football field ready for the first home game, despite the fact his own home and the school had been leveled. Football has been the cornerstone of this small Iowa town, and what better way to acknowledge recovery than to have their champion team back on the field, fondly known as the “Sacred Acre,” with the entire town in the stands on that September Friday night celebrating their survival of a natural disaster.

Today, Coach Ed Thomas was shot and killed by one of his former players.

This man was a legendary football coach, the 2005 NFL High School Coach of the Year, he shepherded 4 players who currently play the NFL, and was above all, a man of God. A deacon in his church and a mentor to thousands over his 34 years of coaching and teaching in Parkersburg, his goal was to make sure his students and athletes were the best young men and women they could be.

It was well known that his priorities were
1. Faith
2. Family
3. Football

He never put those in any other order.

I knew Coach Thomas as “the formidable opposition” when my boys played football. When I took the leap to be a high school tennis coach, he was an encouraging and inspiring teacher in my coaching certification class. Coaching and mentoring young people was his passion. But he was an inspiration to this non-traditional student as well.

Tonight my heart aches in so many directions. Like my daughter told me tonight, God knew this was the plan long before it happened. I know I will find more comfort in those words as time passes.

The father of the young man who shot Coach T serves as a deacon in the same church as Coach and is a friend of the family. He played on Coach’s first football team in Parkersburg in 1975. The accused’s younger brother is a senior on the A-P football team this fall. Coach and the shooter’s father often prayed together for the life of turmoil this young man was leading. The collateral damage of this troubled young man’s actions is unmeasurable – the ripples go far beyond this small Iowa town of 3,000 and extend across our nation because of the number of lives he has touched over the years.

In a news conference today, Coach Thomas’ son Aaron so eloquently asked for prayer for his family, as well as a request to keep the shooter’s family in our prayers. And Ron Burgundy put his whole heart into this tribute to Coach Thomas.

I just don’t understand. But I have faith that someday I will. Tonight I will wrestle with either Jerry Bridges or Harold Kushner as I try to put some perspective on this.

But for now, I just don’t understand. And I think God’s OK with that, because it literally brings me to my knees – again.

Our Waterfront, er, back Property

After many years of family boating and spending day after day on the water, it was always in the back of our mind that someday we wanted some waterfront property. When we built our home back in 1996, it came to pass. Sort of.

All I really wanted was the sound of running water outside our bedroom bay window on a cool evening, relaxing me to slumber. Little did I realize how much that sound conjures up the urge to get up every hour and pee.

With the house, I no longer had the passion for another place to keep up. What about a small pond with maybe a fountain and a couple of fish? Puh-leeez???

We had our landscaper plot out the pond and estimate the cost. Ouch. $4K for the sound of running water in my sleep was a bit too steep. So we borrowed the blueprints and said we’d think about it.

Ron Burgundy doesn’t do anything small. Or easy. Or quickly. Bless his heart. The gradual hill that lingered in our back yard provided a vision that was not to be squelched. “How about we just build it into the hill a little? And have a little waterfall?”

“It’s just a hole in the ground. I can dig it.” Always the optimist, that boy. But dig it, he did.

The curious neighbors would come over and say “You’re digging that with a shovel? Most people use a backhoe! Or at least a bigger shovel!” He’d smile and sweat and say “Almost done” while mumbling “It really needs to be deeper.”

And deeper it got. When one waterfall didn’t seem like it captured the corner of the yard quite right, he decided on two. He went around the neighborhood collecting huge rocks from lots that were being dug for construction. And he made a trip to Stone City for limestone, loading and hauling 2 ton of rock in a 1 ton truck, pulling a trailer.

All. By. Himself.

Our pond as an infant.

And at its midsummer best.

We added lots of plants, including carpet roses that have looked worse each year, I had one little corner for an herb garden (which has moved to patio pots except for the chives and spearmint I can’t kill) and we bought two Koi and a baby fantail goldfish. Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Fish have to have names, and these fish had personalities. You knew who was whom.

It took about 3 weeks for the disciples to follow, and after that, well, you know The Story.
Literally thousands of followers. Including frogs.

Mary, and Joseph made it about 6 years – pretty remarkable considering our -20 degree Iowa winters (the temp below the frost line is a constant 50 degrees – so glad RB kept digging)! Jesus lived on, and after that we went with just fantailed goldfish – they were 19 cents a piece as compared to $30 each for the Koi. Only a few bit the dust by getting sucked up in the pump. But Jesus’ legacy of thousands of fishes prevails. Haven’t seen any loaves, yet.

Last year R
B did a major overhaul when the liner tore and we lost most of our water, but amazingly, very few fish perished. So we he started over. He put in a bottom drain, new liner, new pumps, and restructured all the stone, including adding stone edging. It’s a teenager now (like the bags of mulch?), full of fish (take some, please), thousands of tadpoles, and more chocolate mint than you can shake a weed-whacker at. Whew, that smells so good, especially when grows in the rocks by the falls. You can smell it all over the yard. You can come take all you want of that, too. But like a growing child, this project needs some serious discipline.

My obligatory Lantanas, the unknown plant in Luke’s old football shoe for old times sake, and a new variegated sweet potato vine are about all we added. Other than a truckload of mulch. It will take a few weeks for the switchgrass to grow up, but my favorite part is the thornless hawthorne tree at the top. It has a unique clumped trunk and a perfect shape for shade.

This all puts my salad garden to shame – a simple two-foot strip behind the garage
with mesclun, banana peppers, jalapenos, 2 heirloom tomatoes and one Better Boy.They usually don’t make it to a state of ripeness because of my insatiable passion for fried green tomatoes. But we will have salad all summer for a 59 cent pack of seed. It’s all we need.

Well, other than my herb pots! Can’t live a summer without fresh Italian parsley (half of which I’ve already used so it better grow fast), cilantro (my favorite herb-crack), rosemary, oregano, thyme, chives, and of course basil to help flavor my favorites – wheat berry salad and barley-mushroom salad on grilled asparagus.

Tonight, I’m blessed with the lingering presence of LuckyPuppy, who is probably spending his last summer laying under the crabapple tree. With sweet potato still on his nose from lunch.

He’s a little embarrassed to have his picture taken, b
eing he’s in such a morbid state. But despite the tumor on his schnoz, lack of meat on his bones, spring in his step, and sparkle in his eye, he knows he’s loved. And he knows that once again tonight Mom chopped and peeled and stewed his vegetables for his wonderful homemade chicken soup. He even closes his eyes when you ask him to look at you, because then he thinks you can’t see him.

And no doubt he’s muttering “Why did I have to wait nearly 15 years and be so near death for her to feed me table food?”

And the two of us sit out there, listening to the waterfalls and think there is no more perfect refuge in the world today. There’s no more perfect place to pray. Maybe that’s why he has his eyes closed.

While his veggies were stewing, I slammed down half a Zola acai juice and I took a quick bike ride. On my way home, the sun was slipping behind the clouds, and I caught beautiful reminders of the One who gave me all of this exhilarating place I live. My legs were shot – I had not one smidgen of glycogen left by the time I hit the last hill for home, so it was a quick smoothie made with vanilla yogurt, blackberries, the other half of my Zola and a little ice. I guess that was supper. But these views, and returning to the sound of my running water made it all worth it.

Is this heaven? Pretty darned close. It’s Iowa,

Tea tonight: Jasmine

Not Just Any Old Dog – MY Dog

I am in awe of dogs blogging. Yeah, they really do. And they do a woof woof job of it, too. Ever since Lucky signed up for Doggyspace and joined the Puppy Prayer Chain group, my email has been flooded with good wishes for us. Dog owners are so special. Dogs are so special. There are thousands of poems written about family dogs and their demise. Lucky’s still with us and has good and bad days, but he’s become more “clingy” and I’m fearing he’s starting to tell me things I really am not ready to hear. I will continue to listen attentively.
The Last Battle
If it should be that I grow frail and weak

And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.

You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes,
please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.

Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close — we two — these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

~ Unknown

Tea tonight: Jasmine

Doggone It.

It was, quite simply, only a matter of time.

How many of us live long past 90? (How many of us want to?)

Certainly not dogs who aren’t expected to live past 70. And not our precious Lucky.

We got the news today that our 90+ year old puppy has cancer in the bone above his upper teeth. He has a visible tumor on his schnoz, but we thought it was an abscessed tooth (and so did the vet). When he went to pull the tooth today the bone above it sort of fell apart.

That’s when they realized this was more than a dental problem. It was a large tumor.

Way down deep, where we haven’t hurt in a long time, our hearts ache. A shared family sadness, reminiscent of Buddy and the day we lost him. An end too near to even want to think about. An end that I pray is calm and peaceful for Lucky and for us. A pain-free end. And I hope he tells us when he is ready. I so wish I knew Lucky would be in heaven with me, but I’m not so sure. The scripture has a few things to say about that, but that’s in God’s hands. All I know is that He loved us enough to bless us with Lucky for so many years. God is so good.

“The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.”

~George Graham Vest

No tea tonight – can’t swallow :(

Holy Cow!

In true testament to the popularity of MckMama’s blog, y’all have been so kind to email me with sweet words and blessings! Thanks so much for the visits – I’m honored to be a part of the prayer/blog community that MckMama has created. Isn’t she a trip?? But more awesome than that, isn’t our God HUGE??

Let’s keep those prayers coming for MckFamily. And for those of you who noticed that today is 1 month, 1 week, and 1 day to Stellan’s due date, don’t think I wasn’t reminded of this post!

Peace to you this Sunday,

Tea today: Genmaicha

Fingerprints of God

This song reminds me of someone who warmed my heart this week (it was oh, so cold and spent this week!), because I can see how God has softened her heart. Warmed it. Blessed it.

Put His Fingerprints. All. Over. It.

He has worked through her in the most beautiful ways. I will never doubt that our perspective, heart, or mind can be transformed by His grace. Where there were prolonged whines, there are now simply factual statements that move on. Where there was scowling disagreement when compliments were given, now there is gratitude laced with humility. Where there was sadness and hopelessness, there are now new hopes and “just one more surprise” that push the darkness back to the old places where we refuse to go again. Where there were memories that caused despair and “whys??” there is now an appreciation for growth and understanding and “so whats?” Loneliness morphed into a blessed, prayerful solitude where we are never alone. There are new awakenings to life happenings that are in no way weird or strange or coincidental, but simply a vibrant new awareness to His presence and His plan. Living a life of “me” is gradually pointing toward serving others. “I can’t” is now “I will.” I prayed for this day for so long. I know how sometimes three steps forward means two steps back, but it still means one step ahead. I know. I’ve understood this in my own heart for a very long time. I’m so grateful and blessed with this transformation that oozes the love and mercy of our God who gave everything He had for her, knows her name, and claims her as His own. And everyone else sees it too.

Because that’s just how God rolls.

Had I posted this a year and a half ago, it would have been Casting Crowns singing Does Anybody Hear Her? because she was “running a hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction.” Thank you, Lord. You have rocked my world to tears today. And wow, do I love Colossians 3:15-17 at this moment.
Tea today: Young Hyson