Monthly Archives: March 2009

You Turkey!

Have you ever heard someone say that? I’ve heard it many times but never truly appreciated what it meant until yesterday. We have a small flock of wild turkeys that commonly roam our woods. Abby patriotically chases them every once in a while, but he mostly prances behind them just to make sure they aren’t too fat to fly. The other morning when Joel and I were leaving home, one of the turkeys was out trying to force her way through our pasture fence. She could have flown over, but that would have been too easy, so she was repeatedly butting her head through the wire at various places to see if she could find a large enough opening to get through. This isn’t totally unusual; I’ve seen deer do the same thing when they’re alarmed by our car approaching. However, when I returned an hour later, Ms. Turkey was still running up and down the road looking for an opening. Weird!  A couple of hours later, I had to go out again, and Ms. Byrd was still ambling along looking for a gate. This time I drove slowly enough for her to think about some options, and she eventually headed off into the woods on the other side of the road. Believe it or not, when I returned an hour later, she was back trying to force her way through the fence. Incredible! Turkeys CAN fly. Alan mentioned when he came home that there was a turkey out trying to bust through the fence. Finally, after dinner Alan and I went out together, and the turkey was still there! Talk about persistence in a useless project. Alan slowly crept along in the car, herding the turkey toward the gate. We thought she might run down the road and through the gate, but at the last minute, she darted off into a thicket on the right hand side of the road just before the gate.

That, my friends, is why if you ever hear anyone saying, “You turkey!” take appropriate offense! It appears that turkeys are extremely dumb.

I’ve decided to take stock of my life this weekend. Is there any area where I’m acting as dumb as a turkey? Spending all my time banging my head when all I have to do is fly over the obstacle in my path? Perhaps I need to ask the Lord for the wisdom to know how to fly and claim that precious promise in Isaiah 40:31 more often: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles…”

A Bit of a Whirling Dirvish

Alan and I have been back from Florida for almost a week, but I’m just now beginning to explore cyberspace again! Our trip was great: a 36th anniversary “retreat” where we spent long hours walking the beaches, listening to tapes, reading to each other, swimming, and relaxing. Lots happened that week! Our grandson Gideon had successful eye surgery to try to correct a lazy lid, although now he’s having trouble getting it all the way closed (instead of open)! We got rear-ended at a stop light by a truck that smashed in half our trunk and the right rear of the car. (We have yet to hear the end of this one!) We also took a trip down to a beach just north of the Kennedy Space Center and got to watch a launch of the Columbia Space Shuttle. We’ve been wishing to see a launch since our first unsuccessful attempt 28 years ago when Jonathan was an infant, so it was a tremendous pleasure to be able to witness this launch, although it was completely unanticipated. Made me think that I need to be more patient about everything! All our dreams and ambitions may…or may not…be realized, but probably most of them—if they’re ever realized—will happen much later than we originally plan, and then, it may be more a result of God’s sovereign grace than our personal planning and effort! Not to say “no use to try,” but to say that my life seems to be about dreaming, working, and then giving up my expectations!

Since coming home, Stephen has won his first music competition with a financial prize, we had a shower for Brianna, and Michael started a two-week intensive emergency field training course where you drag bodies under barbed wire with machine guns blazing overhead and such (I hope they’re using blanks!). Michael’s knees are very sore today, but he passed the first week (only something like 17 out of the 60 in his group did!) and is into the even more challenging second week where you do things like trying to navigate through total darkness and march distances with 50-pound ruck sacks on your back. Meanwhile, Gracie and Eowyn flew home standby to be with her family in Philly, so there a few silver linings in the clouds. (All prayers appreciated on pertinent subjects. Thanks!)

Jon and Gerlinde have set a wedding date for August 1. Just one year ago we had no clue any of our kids would be likely to marry soon, and now—in less than 8 months—we’re experiencing three engagements and three weddings! Besides that, we’ll have two graduations in May and a piano recital for Stephen at MSU. My eyes are wide, but I’m very happy!! Also very busy. If my writing continues to be sporadic, please know it’s not for a lack of desire to communicate, it’s for a lack of time to meditate! Still, Alan and I are meditating on the scriptures together every morning. I think that’s what keeps me from spinning off into oblivion!

Sieze the Initiative

My son Stephen has a wonderful mantra: “Seize the initiatve.” Personally, I find that hard to do unless my focus is firmly set on the Lord, but I am all for going forth “conquering and to conquer.” Alan and I read a great book (Just How Married Do You Want to Be?) on our last “retreat” vacation that pointed out God gave us as humans the charge of  “ruling” over the earth…certainly not as tyrants, but as caretakers to bring beauty from chaos. I am totally taken with that idea. Alan has been envisioning for his hospital the idea of trying to become a national “lighthouse” in the health care field, but he started to worry about, “What if I can’t make it happen?” We were reading from Genesis this morning, and it was reassuring to him to realize that all the promises God made to Abraham were not fulfilled in his life time. God may give us visions and ideals to strive for, but our job is just to be faithful and work toward the goals that we recognize as good. When, how well, or even IF we ultimately succeed is really more the work and grace of God than our own ability to “make it happen,” but God just calls us to be faithful and keep working and trying! We don’t have to “succeed,” we just need to be faithful. Amen?

Thank Heavens for Compassionate Help!

Someone sent me this story, but I just love it, especially because it reminds me of Alan’s office, where every spring a mother duck makes a nest in a totally enclosed courtyard, and when the ducklings all hatch, there is a parade to escort the mother and her ducklings into the hospital building, down the corridor, and out the door to the pond across the road!

Michael R. is now an accounting clerk at Frost Bank and works downtown in a second story office building. Several weeks ago, he watched a mother duck choose the concrete awning outside his window as the unlikely place to build a nest above the sidewalk. The mallard laid ten eggs in a nest in the corner of the planter that is perched over 10 feet in the air. She dutifully kept the eggs warm for weeks, and Monday afternoon all of her ten ducklings hatched.

Michael worried all night how the momma duck was going to get those babies safely off their perch in a busy, downtown, urban environment to take to water, which typically happens in the first 48 hours of a duck hatching. Tuesday morning, Michael watched the mother duck encourage her babies to the edge of the perch with the intent to show them how to jump off!

The mother flew down below and started quacking to her babies above. In his disbelief Michael watched as the first fuzzy newborn toddled to the edge and astonishingly leapt into thin air, crashing onto the cement below. Michael couldn’t stand to watch this risky effort. He dashed out of his office and ran down the stairs to the sidewalk where the first obedient duckling was stuporing near its mother from the near fatal fall.

As the second one took the plunge, Michael jumped forward and caught it with his bare hands before it hit the concrete. safe and sound, he set it by the momma and the other stunned sibling, still recovering from its painful leap.

One by one the babies continued to jump. Each time Michael hid under the awning just to reach out in the nick of time as the duckling made its free fall. The downtown sidewalk came to a standstill. Time after time, Michael was able to catch the remaining 8 and set them by their approving mother.

At this point Michael realized the duck family had only made part of its dangerous journey. They had 2 full blocks to walk across traffic, crosswalks, curbs, and pedestrians to get to the closest open water, the San Antonio River . The on looking office secretaries and several San Antonio police officers joined in. They brought an empty copy paper box to collect the babies. They carefully corralled them, with the mother’s approval, and loaded them in the container. Michael held the box low enough for the mom to see her brood. He then slowly navigated through the downtown streets toward the San Antonio River . The mother waddled behind and kept her babies in sight.

As they reached the river, the mother took over and passed him, jumping into the river and quacking loudly. At the water’s edge, he tipped the box and helped shepherd the babies toward the water and to their mother.

All ten ducklings safely made it into the water and paddled up snugly to momma. Michael said the mom swam in circles, looking back toward the beaming bank bookkeeper, and proudly quacking.

May we all be there to catch one another when we fall, and may we all have friends to help us when we’re about to take a an incredibly difficult leap! Notice that the ducklings were being obedient but still in grave danger! I can’t help but think of my dear children and their spouses, newly married daughter and son-in-law, and engaged children and their fiancees…especially Gerlinde, preparing to leap continents in order to follow her God and soon-to-be-husband! All prayers and care appreciated!

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John4:7).

Did I Say Surprise?

Well, I’ve been informed that it’s okay to tell the world that Jonathan is engaged, and so I thought I just would! Gerlinde wanted it to be a surprise, however he chose to do it! Aaron proposed to Carleen during a pause on a horse-drawn carriage ride around GR on a snowy December night. Michael proposed to Grace after a climb up into our giant tree one starlit night. Carl proposed to Kathy as she returned  from work to find our 1/3 mile lane adorned with “so many lights it looked like an airline runway.” Daniel proposed to Brianna standing on an iceberg along like Michigan. What would Jonathan do?

Jon decided he would have to fly to Germany so he could propose in person, but he didn’t want Gerlinde to know he was coming. How could he make sure she would be available, properly dressed for such an occasion, and still be unsuspecting so as to be totally surprised?  Here are a few quotes from his letter to us this morning:

…Meanwhile, a special team in Germany had been created for the purpose of (1) securing that Gerlinde would be available on the evening of March 10th, (2) escorting Gerlinde to a specific spot at a specific time, and (3) making sure she would be in an appropriate dress and mood to be proposed to. Agents MIQ and Grace pulled out all stops, and their all-out attitude was an irreplaceable factor leading to the outrageous success of Operation Eternity! “Operation Eternity” was the code name we assigned the project in our multiple emails and phone calls in planning out all details! MIQ and Grace deserve enormous thanks for their part (Hip-Hip-HORRAY)!

Over a lunch-break call about three weeks ago, MIQ invited Gerlinde to supper at his and Grace’s place for later on that week, and he also asked if she would be available for to go out with Grace and himself to an Army ball in Rothenburg on the evening of March 10th… Agent MIQ painstakingly copied a real Army protocol and carefully forged an invitation to an event on the evening of March 10th. The event was billed as an Army ball, and MIQ and Grace advised Gerlinde to dress very formally.

I arrived into Nuremberg at 11:00 on the morning of Tuesday, March the 10th, and trained to MIQ and Grace’s, arriving about 1:30pm…[After a long search with Grace for just the right flowers] I dressed quickly in my tuxedo and armed myself with the ring, proposal speech, the gorgeous bouquet, and a whole lot of romantic gear assembled by agent MIQ (including breath mints, black gloves and a scarf, Burt’s Bees lip balm, and a google map detailing the most likely restaurants for that evening in Rothenburg—a map, I should add, that he and Grace had prepared after a personal scouting trip to the site). Grace dropped me off in Rothenburg at about 4:30pm with her cell phone and then zipped back. We planned to rendezvous at 6:30pm.

I walked around Rothenburg checking out the restaurants MIQ and Grace had detailed on the map. Flagging a little and nervous as all get out, I stopped into a quiet coffee shop to warm up and get a little caffeine into my system at about 5:30pm. The lady who ran the coffee shop (the only person in the whole cafe) was sweeping up and asked me with a twinkle in her eye why I was so dressed up. I explained that I was going to ask my love to marry me in about an hour. She asked if I was going to go out to eat and if so where. When I said that I wasn’t quite settled on the choice of restaurant, she told me about this place that she loved (the locals consider it the most romantic restaurant in town; it is also the oldest restaurant in Rothenburg, close to the castle gardens, and overlooks the valley below). I said I thought that that would be a great idea, and she called the restaurant up and made reservations for us!

I spent well over an hour in all that evening pacing around the roofed colonnade of the city hall on the city square. I watched as the sky turned from a luminous grey to the dark of night. Lanterns all around the square turned on one by one as the sunlight faded. A light rain soaked the stone pavement of the city square, making the lantern light reflect beautifully… I had received two calls from Agent MIQ (one immediately before they picked up Gerlinde) and one just as they entered the city wall (MIQ’s second call was just a single ring to my phone as a signal that they would be on the square in about 7 minutes).

I stood amid the pillars of the city hall, eyes starring intently towards where the street along which I knew they would be walking emptied out on to the city square. Because of all the old buildings around the square and the relative quiet of the night, although they were still several hundred yards away, I heard a voice and knew it was Gerlinde’s. Then I heard Grace, and MIQ too. The bells in the clock tower started ringing, announcing that it was exactly seven o’ clock. After about two of the seven big chimes, I saw a threesome enter the square. That was my signal. Agents MIQ and Grace were walking one on each side of Gerlinde, all three with arms interlocked (I asked them if they would walk her out arm in arm to emphasize the guardian angel imagery). We met at the center of the city square, and because it was dark and I had an umbrella, she recognized me only when we were about 15 feet apart. Gerlinde took a few steps back and said in surprise “Was machst du denn hier!” (“What are you doing here!”)? Guardian angels MIQ and Grace vanished without a trace, and… after reading her a short love letter under the porch of the city hall, I asked her the magic question in German on one knee, and she replied: “Ein herzliches Gerne!” (which would translate loosely to “I’d be delighted to”).

Fireproof

Okay, so if you haven’t seen Fireproof, I highly recommend it. In fact, you can borrow our copy if you want. It’s about a couple whose marriage was disintegrating because of the husband’s addiction to pornography and what happened when the husband finally got motivated to try to restore his marriage before it was lost forever. An incredible number of men have gotten sucked into pornography and don’t understand how it destroys that which they want the most: love and intimacy. Interested in building your marriage? Try the “Love Dare.” It’s not never too late to heal your marriage, but there’s always hope as long as you’re both still living and neither partner has entered into another marriage.

Surprise!

birthday-party“So, what lies did you tell her?” a friend asked last night when she saw how totally surprised Cindi was as a group of her friends crashed our tea party. What Cindi thought was just a warm evening for three couples having fun together turned into a great celebration for her 50th birthday!

What lies? Actually, it didn’t even cross my mind to tell her any lies. I just didn’t tell her some additional facts that would make things even more fun for her than she expected. What she did know was that Alan and I were sponsoring another tea party. Last year we’d had a “Victorian Tea Party” about this time of year to add cheer to the bleary end of winter, and we decided to do it again, only this year the theme was going to be 50’s because Ken and Barbie (doll) were turning 50 too. I dug out my collection of ancient 45 rpm records like “Tammy” and “I Wanna be Bobby’s Girl” and Susan provided a record player. Plus! Susan is great with decorations, so she added all the Lincoln Logs and I Love Lucy, etc. memorabilia. We dressed in bulky sweaters, pig tails, pedal pushers, bobby socks, and big, plastic-framed glasses, and were just having a ball sampling our bounty of shared entrees, when who should appear on our doorstep but bunches of our bestest buddies! Cindi was TOTALLY surprised! It was so fun, and I think the very best part was the fact that she was amazed and surprised. She does so many nice things for other people…it was great to do something special to honor her for a change.

Do you ever feel like God has told you lies about your future? I’m sure He never has, although He rarely tells us all the details, and most of the time the future holds more than we anticipated…rather like Cindi’s expectations for our tea party! Sometimes the future holds wonderful surprises that make life even more thrilling than we’d imagined, but other times we are faced with “surprises” that are horrendous tragedies. Today I had over a friend and her young daughter. This  beautiful young lady had to have a kidney replaced ten years ago and last fall was diagnosed with a lymphoma. My friend’s husband was diagnosed with M.S. when they’d only been married a year. Thirty-two years later, he’s in a wheel chair and extremely incapacitated. I don’t know how we’d ever cope with life if we knew everything from the beginning. My heart aches for all the difficulties this family has to face.

Still, like Job we can cling to the Scriptures: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”  We find all we need in the Bible to live a life of love and faith in the present and to be filled with hope for the future, knowing that someday we will be like Christ and with Him forever! We cannot always comfort those we love by always making their pain go away, but we can comfort others by “being there” for them and fellowshipping with them. Jon’s message at our chapel yesterday was on the comfort of God. May we “comfort others with the comfort wherewith we’ve been comforted by God!”