Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Into the New Year

Welcome back to the cottage, my friends.

I am closing in on completing a New Year's resolution that I began January 1. Assuming I continue (2 more days!!), I will have read through the entire Bible in this year. (This is the second time in my 65 years that I will have kept a NY resolution)(Assuming I continue).

It began about this time last year when I clicked the YouVersion Bible app on my phone and pursued the various studies that they make available. There are numerous "read through the Bible" choices and I was drawn to the RED one -- Bible In One Year (BIOY), offered by a bloke named Nikki, a Brit and a founder of something called Alpha. He and his wife Pippa offer commentary throughout the daily reads.

At midnight each day (that would be -- what? -- 6 AM there?) they shoot me the next day's selections. Each day arrived in three parts: something from the Wisdom books (Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon); a portion New Testament (these came in order); and then the ponderous and much longer selections from the Old Testament. Each daily assignment required about 15 minutes of reading.

These come to my BIOY app and also to my email. I had a few days when the app wasn't working. This was about half way through the year. I panicked a tiny bit as I was invested; and then realized I could retrieve somewhere else.

The closest I'll ever come to a marathon, the journey has not always been joyful. Having sat in various church settings during my 65 years on this planet, I found myself running into the familiar, the heard about and the "I never read this is in my life." Boy, did those Old Testament sons of Israel keep copious, detailed records of which of the twelve sons got what and what His sons got and what His sons' sons got. Then, so often, they displeased the Deity, lost it all, suffered tremendously, and were restored eventually.

As my countdown got to 30 days, I began to doubt that Nikki and Pippa would deliver. I sat with my Bible (hard copy) opened to the Table of Contents, looked at what I still had to cover and worried that there was no way we'd get to completion. But here we are, 2 days to go and we're at the end of Revelation and among those little minor prophesy books so we're good.

Sometime during this year, a friend/pastor spoke on Trusting God. He said something about how we trust the stranger in that large moving metal machine next to us but struggle with trusting Our Father, who knows us and loves us. I remember registering that I was trusting two of the Queen's countrymen without ever meeting them. But they came through.

A few revelations of my own: I don't remember reading Lamentations. I know that I did because Nikki and Pippa took me through it; I will probably take some time on New Year's Eve and read it (huh: REREAD it). As for Revelation. My Sunday School class studied it; a Wednesday Bible Study read through it. And Nikki and I have read it together. Triple Crown. There's still so much that I don't get but I know where to go to learn.

I found myself smiling at some of those familiar stories from early Sunday School. Of COURSE, I knew the story of Samson and Delilah.(Judges 16) Samson was one of the judges that God placed over Israel before they insisted on a king. Then, of course, there was the Cecil B. DeMille treatment, starring that 40's hottie, Victor Mature, and Hedy (not "Hedley") LaMarr.

Samson was a man of great strength but, ah, he had a fatal weakness. He was blinded, literally, but long after he was 'blinded' by the temptress who sold him out. She asked him to tell her the secret of his strength and when he finally did, she turned him over to the Philistines who poked out his eyes and put him to work at the grindstone.

Ah the weakness of men! Ah the treachery of women. But in 2015, reading this with adult eyes, I noted that Delilah asked him four times to tell her wherein his strength lay.

Here, I'm not going back to be accurate. You want accurate, YOU go to Judges 16.

Let's say that Samson says, "Wrap those palm leaves around my arms and my strength will be gone." and then Samson takes a snooze, Delilah wraps away and then wakes him up. He snaps the leaves and, well yeah, he still has his strength.

So she asks him again and again he takes a snooze and again awakens to her trap that does not work.

I discovered THIS year that she asked him four times. FOUR times. I can imagine that the first time, he might have thought that is was just a coincidence that he told her palm leaves, she used palm leaves and then got ticked off that he lied to her.

But surely, the second time he told her (tie my wrists with 6 gauge hemp and make a bow), and she tied his wrists with the hemp and finished it off with a bow, and he woke up and it hadn't worked, surely the dawn would hit him and he'd figure it out that she was trying to destroy him. But no. NO. Four times. FOUR times. What a dope.

I read it around midnight and shook my head in bed.

Enough of the resolution. I'm noodling on what I shall try in the new year After Lamentations. Again.

I guess I live in Texas more than I live at the cottage these days. As a Midwestern transplant, I view my current locale with a squint sometimes. I've driving in 8 or so large cities and I vote for San Antonio as having the craziest drivers. I shake my head a lot, stay in the right lane and let them honk away.

It is my privilege and joy to spend much of my time with 3 exceptional children; it keeps me busy and washes me with joy.

I found a great church, a great Bible study group, and now have adult friends who are not my blood relations. And thanks to Facebook, I enjoy the connection to life-long pals.

Way back in Kokomo, Indiana, a new YMCA is almost ready to open. I have been invited to the ribbon cutting and hope to pop up there for a long weekend. My dear was a regular at the Y, especially in the pool. I'm honored they want me to represent him.

Also, my blogging fell off sharply for a while. Into the new year, I plan to visit back here regularly. God taught me a lot during Mike's illness and for a while, it seemed like the blog was complete. However here I am learning to be a whole person by myself and must, MUST, get back to regular writing.

So, I hope you'll drop by.  Happy New Year, y'all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fly Free Faithful Friend

Someone broke her hip before she came into our lives. And someone had hurt her. Hurt her bad. It took a year before she would accept pats. She never squatted right as she favored one leg.

She came to us as a trade. She had nipped at a baby who probably got too close to that hip. We traded a docile golden retriever and this little piece to spunk entered our family.

Because one of us was a dog person and one of us was the maintenance, Ivy soon became Mike’s best girl and from that day on, she lived a golden life. She took priority seating at any guitar concert. She got the best pillows on the bed. She sat with doleful eyes at the side of the master when it was dinner time. He would not resist her pleading eyes. On occasion, the cook received instructions about the level of seasoning: Ivy doesn’t like that. Ivy prefers more of that.

At an infamous veterinarian appointment, when Dr. Bob offered a treat, she snatched it away, not really biting but using certainly teeth to get at the goodie. Dr. drew back and sniffed. “Typical of dogs who get fed from a fork,” he said to non-Mike.

Ah, but is any pet, any fury family member, typical?

Mike loved her: she sat next to him on the seat of his truck. In later years, she was a common sight wherever he would go. Dairy Queen and Wendy’s recognized them in the drive through and would get her goodie going.

She also learned the halls of Oakbrook Church, Hollingsworth lumber and Moody’s Cycle. All the humans there maintained a snack stash for Ivy.

On a sunny day in June, 2013, she climbed up on the bed and said goodbye to her guy. And since then, she had been my companion and reminder of a sweet man.

Today, if you believe as we do, she joins her guy running free. Good girl, Ivy.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Faith grows faith

I don’t know when this dawns on others; I know that at this stage of my life, demonstrations of God’s blessings, protection, and providence are all around me. I don’t have to work hard to see.

Right now via Facebook, I have evidence of miraculous answered prayers as well as the pleas of His people for their needs.  I love how God uses social media to connect His people to His other people.
From my limited viewpoint, I often see just MY world which, this morning, is from a very nice porch that looks out on our tranquil lake. All is peaceful and right with the world. I laze in a white, over-sized rocking chair and move it ever so slightly as to not generate any sweat. The occasional truck rumbles through as it is construction season and my neighbors continue on their titanic project. Really breath-taking.

Having lived some life, I can rock back and view God’s trajectory in the concerns and lives of so many.

As a former problem fixer, how many times have I been on the inside of someone’s problem, noodling how this thing could work out/not work out? And then, how many times have I
1) kept my opinion to myself and
2) experienced ANOTHER breath-taker as the Creator of the Universe has stepped in and made His presence known? 

Not always does His solution make sense; not always does He answer the prayer for healing, health, marital peace, or familial unity. But if I am attentive, I can see His hand, sense His working, and then rest in what He has taught me.  He’s got it.

I can’t offer specifics here as so many of the needs that my friends share are not public. I am honored when they trust me in their prayer chain. Mike and I lived and experienced the power of the prayers of God’s people. I love that they want me in on whatever challenge they face. Praying for others always blesses the pray-er.

The hardest for me involves sick children. When I drive by a children’s hospital, I am so glad we have such specialty places and I’m so sad that we need such specialty places. A sick child does not make sense to me. I don’t think it will ever make sense to me.

Right now, I am joined in prayer for 3 children who are fighting more than anyone should. Healing here? Maybe. Maybe not.  The adults ask for prayers for healing and I am no longer in the advice booth so yes, Dear God, heal this child, this baby.  Let me not read about the disease to the extent that I cannot pray for healing. 

I know that God gifts us with knowledge and that God exists beyond that knowledge. I know that nothing cuts to a parent’s heart deeper than a sick child. So I must include prayers for those parents and family, and for the medical caregivers. God can do. I pray that He will. I also know that sometimes, healing will not come in this plain and I need to stand at the ready to ask God to wrap His arms around those who love that child.

For those outside of faith, this does not make sense I guess. But then, that’s the nature of faith. Faith grows faith. 

In this day when we have short attention spans and are comfortable with bullet points, I cling to God’s bullet points:

God knows
God will
God will not

and my own personal favorite

Fear Not.


Sunday, June 14, 2015


 Two years ago, June 14, 2013, my dear gave up the fight, took a last restful breath, and died. We had invited hospice into our lives 3 weeks before this. 

The first week was heavenly: medicines that relieved pain and gifted us with blessed, deep, restful sleep. The second week, those drugs began to affect thinking and mood. By week 3, Mike lay sedated, no longer moving, no longer communicating. It was the end. They thought he would linger a day or two.

But that turned into a long week. Dear friends came to call and I had to turn them away: I had made a sacred promise to my love that I would protect his last few days and although at that point, he had no vote, a promise is a promise. Those few intimates that sat with me prayed for release. Prayed again. And again.

I found myself ministering to his needs, calling on some sort of inner brain that functioned without thinking too much. And then it was over.

With what seemed like lightning speed, we executed our funeral plans. Several close friends mentioned our speed…viewing in two days, funeral in three. However, we had planned this out almost 5 years ago and most of those arrangements worked.

That day was full of memories: shortly after Mike’s shell took the ride to the mortuary, I ran a few errands. On our local radio, was this tune:

You are good, You are good
When there's nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You're the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life,
In You death has lost its sting

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are Lord, You are Lord
All creation will proclaim
You are here, You are here
In Your presence I'm made whole
You are God, You are God
Of all else I'm letting go

Oh, I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

My heart will sing
no other Name
Jesus, Jesus

Oh, I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

And because we know that Heaven exists and because we know that Mike was now in residence, I could so easily see him, running, RUNNING, into his Saviors arms.

So today as I prepared for church and then the church picnic in Winona Lake Park, I drove across town and this song came on again.

At the end, he ran into the waiting arms of Jesus!
Yes, my love.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Settling in for the Summer

Lovely things happen at the lake.

I have a neighbor connected genetically, I’m sure, to the first lady who strolled in Eden. Where Connie walks, flowers spring up around her feet. Many here are gifted in the floral arts but Connie tops them all. How fortunate I am that (1) she loved Mike and (2) she loves me and (3) she LOVE LOVES our little spot on the end of the island. She hired herself out to mow my grass so when I arrived, it was nice and neat.  And then she took it upon herself to spread a little Connie magic to my otherwise sad flower boxes so they are now smiling and I can enjoy her handiwork up close.

Connie also grows an eating garden so I know I will enjoy tomatoes and green beans later in the summer. But what is THIS? A knock on the door and there she is, smiling with a bowl of the first strawberries of the season. They are (were) perfectly red and plump. My mouth got juiced.

Next to that bowl is a jar of homemade jelly. Just down the street, brother-in-law Jim’s bushes are blooming. This jelly is from last season, with promises for more to come.

Jim’s beehives did not just survive the coldest winter. They thrived. He told me that when he removed the hive lid  (it has a real name), the bees poured out like a waterfall. He’s getting ready to transfer some to a new home, but first, what is THIS? Real honeycomb?  Full, FULL of honey?  Yes. Yum. For the uninformed, honey comb can be (1) drained for its honey or (2) cut up and eaten full of honey or (3) cut and placed in hot drinks or (4) did I mention, EATEN???

So, eating is good right now.

How quickly it goes from this to finished
And outside my window, nephew Caleb is putting the finishing touches on my new pergola. I had told him what I wanted. He wisely knew I wanted more so he just built what I needed.  Soon --- tonight --- I will sit outside with my white wine and watch the sun go down from my deck.

So life is lazy and fine right now. 

My favorite sight, however, does not involve edibles OR me --- down the street, I walked past a front porch swing. On that swing perched a little girl, so little that she had to slump down for her toes to touch the porch. Just enough to get her swing on. She had placed a small packing box over her head. She had cut out a square for her eyes and then places for her shoulders so the box fits down over her chest. She was swinging and singing. And dreaming of great things.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Heading North for the Summer

The cottage voice has been quiet since last fall. Soon, I’ll be back on my pier, nodding at the sunset. As a displaced Hoosier, I will miss some common Texas sights, sounds and such.
This is down south so there are southern habits like saying, “Ma’am” whenever you address a lady. It’s quite nice. I have reasons to venture onto Randolph Air Force base on a regular basis where I get a double whammy “Ma’am” as it were.

You can’t miss the military’s presence about town. Folks in fatigues are a common sight.
Another common sight: most people don’t park their cars inside their garages. This is in spite of a particular automobile injury: paint blisters and curls during the hottest part of the year. It looks to me that garages are standard doubles but most cars are NOT standard issue. We have big cars in keeping with that “Everything is bigger in Texas.” I park my car inside and we could squeeze in one more and the garage would be cozy. However, my car is just average-sized.
The largest auto I’ve seen was: an oversize truck with a back seat and an extended cab. Then, attached to the front bumper was an additional bumper, extending it at least one foot. Then in the back, there’s an attached hitching thing that extends at least 2 feet. So, that’s at least 3 feet longer. But that’s not it. On the sides, this driver installed 3 step-down stairs on each side so the truck width increased 3 or 4 feet. Of course the truck has double wheels so its designed width is more than average. I spied this vehicle in the water utility parking lot where it took up two spaces front to back plus two spaces side to side. Big truck.


The first time I ordered “fresh guacamole made at table side” I didn’t realize that in south Texas, that’s 4 extra words. It’s all fresh; you can find prepared and frozen guac but it’s relegated to the bottom shelf of the freezer, way behind Buffalo wings and frozen taquitos. If dust could settle in a freezer case, the dust would be thick.

Same thing for tortillas. As a friend up north said, “These have never met plastic.” When you walk into the local grocery, you are bathed in the scent of freshly made tortillas. You CAN purchase them uncooked, like brown and serve rolls, but why would you pass on fresh and warm? A side note: from McDonald’s to any pricy restaurant, these folks fold and wrap tortillas like it’s an art.

San Antonio’s major grocery chain is HEB, in business for 100 years. Each store has its own personality but each features a pepper bar in fresh produce. This stretches 15 feet with a visual chart above that spans from “GREEN SWEET” to “BURN ALL THE WAY DOWN.” Around town, each store adjusts to its main demographic so we have “regular HEB,” “granola HEB,” and “Gucci HEB.” In that last one, you trapse through a labyrinth of prepared, gourmet entries, exotic imported cheeses, and many mushrooms. The wine section covers half the store with an on-site sommelier, ready to answer questions even at 8:30 in the morning. And then there’s that mustard aisle. Yes, an aisle. In the photo, all of those jars are different. A rough count is 100+ varieties.

As for eating out, I did spy a Taco Bell although I cannot imagine how it stays open. Authentic Mexican or TexMex (not the same thing) restaurants line most roads. Often they are tucked into strip malls with not enough parking. Occasionally, you pass a house in a residential neighborhood which slipped past city planners and got grandfathered in. Many of these places open at a set time and close when they run out of food. This is especially true if tamales are on the menu. My sense is that they do not make extra tamales. There are no left overs.

San Antonio is a tourist spot so, especially downtown, you can find fine dining but for authentic, you hit the little places.

Pass the Rudy's
Quite a few barbecue places dot the landscape. Of those, Rudy’s may be the best. You enter and stand in line across from the brisket slicer. You order your meat (beef or turkey or beef) and your side (creamed corn) and your dessert (peach cobbler). If you order a dill pickle, an amazing guy with an amazingly shape knife slices it into tiny medallions as you blink. Your order is served on a white paper towel nestled into one of those blue plastic trays that 2 liter bottles come in. You enter the eating place, long picnic tables covered with plastic tablecloths. There are squirt bottles of sauce and stacks of white bread to sop up that sauce.

The lines at Rudy’s are long but they move along.
Also, at Rudy’s as well as many other casual places, you walk past the beer trough. That’s a 20 foot metal tub filled to the top with crushed ice. All you see of the beer in the ice is a bottle cap. You make your choice and slip it out of the ice to a nice swoosh sound.

Alcohol sales are a change from Indiana. Texas’ blue laws are different. You can purchase beer and wine on Sunday. You can sit in a bar with a child. You can take that same child into a liquor store. As for that bar, it’s a challenge to find a Cosmopolitan but there are infinite versions of Margaritas. 

Traffic and such

I’ve driven in about a dozen large cities: they all have their own version of crazy. In my opinion, nobody beats San Antonio for dangerous vehicular exhibition.

The city is laid out like a wagon wheel. Two major highways form the spoke and the tire of a wheel. Like many cities, there are rush hour traffic challenges and for those of us who don’t need to be anywhere on the clock, you plan your route at a good time. However, no matter when you are on the road, it there’s an accident, it stops traffic while police and such move the crashes to the grassy middle. At which time, you’d think that traffic flow would continue. But no. Everybody, or at least enough people to matter, ON BOTH SIDES slow down and stop to watch. Sometimes for 10 minutes or more while the cars behind just pile and pile behind each other.
A common sight: the across-five-lanes-to-turn-left. Picture a 4 lane road with a middle lane for turning. The car in question is in the farthest lane. He decides he wants to turn into a driveway on the other side of the other 4 lanes. He may (but not always) look for an opening as he edges into the next lane and then the center lane and by now, into oncoming traffic which he expects will stop and yield. He expects this because so often those cars DO stop and let the car cross over. WOE unto those who either don’t see him or just don’t think this should happen. Turning car will give you such a look!

Many of the main roads have that middle turn lane. It’s not uncommon for a driver to use it as his own private lane. Also not uncommon, pedestrians will walk in that lane. Sometimes after dark. It’s unnerving to pause in stopped traffic (accident up ahead?) and look to the left at the guy who’s out for a stroll.

Flora and Fauna

It IS lovely that in December, you find planters with petunias and peonies. And even I can coax growth from plants in Texas. They need to be ‘succulents’ meaning that they don’t require a lot of water or care. But they do, occasionally flower. 

The native wildlife is pretty exotic for this Midwestern gal: longhorn steers and oxen are as common as Hoosier moo cows. If you get away from all the traffic, you may see an armadillo, a snake or a scorpion.

And then there are the birds. You may think that ‘Snow Bird” refers to transplanted northerners and it does. However, where do all those migrating birds go? San Antonio, I’m sure. In deep winter at dusk or sunrise, the roadways remind you of those scenes from Hitchcock’s The Birds. Telephone wires which line the roads will be black with birds.

So I’ll be 1350 miles away for the summer when the heat will blister those cars, the birds will be back north and flowers will wilt if they don’t get a drink. But it will be waiting for me in late August.