Winter and Spring Butting Heads

In like a lion,
Out like a lamb, but this March
Went out like a Ram!

A few weeks ago, Alan and I enjoyed watching the antics of sheep at the Tullie Smith Farm, which is part of the Atlanta History Center in Georgia. I couldn’t tell that the ram on the left had any reason for beefing, but he was intent on butting heads with the sheep on the right. I suppose he could have blamed it on a bad hair day, but I’m not sure that Madame Sheep’s coiffure was in any way superior. It looked like curls versus dreadlocks to me. At any rate, watching them made me think about how winter seems intent on blocking spring this year, for no good reason that I can see. It will be okay in the end. Spring will come, I know!

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).

Our Quiet Winter Guest

garden-room-2015-winter-copyOur garden room brings a bit of summer into our home even in the winter, but this past winter I discovered we had a quiet little guest who’d taken up residence with us! MandevillaI have no idea how he managed to find his way in, but perhaps he was happily residing in our mandevilla and caught a ride when I brought it in for the winter. Winter HomeHowever he arrived, I never noticed him until snows had covered the ground and it seemed inhospitable to take him outdoors, although I worried that he might not find enough to eat. Frog sleeping on an orchidHowever, every once in a while I would see him hopping across the floor, climbing up a window, or happily curled up, sleeping on a plant, and so I guessed he was managing okay and perhaps even helping me keep down the mealy bug population. Toad in gardenAt any rate, I finally found him again this spring one rainy day and  took him outside to enjoy the bliss of a warm, wet world among the violets and lilies of the valleys unfurling in our garden, and he hopped away, seemingly no worse for the wear and ready to enjoy springtime.Frog on orchid I was relieved that he’d survived, but almost a little sorry to see him go, since although I was concerned about his welfare, I found myself looking forward to seeing him on occasion and always hoped he’d be comfortable enough in his unusual winter retreat.Mandevilla in rainI think animals and flowers are happiest outside in the fresh air and sunshine… and probably people are too, but I’m so thankful for my home as a safe shelter for  sleeping at night and a warm, dry protection against inclement weather! Toad in garden 2And, I was very glad to have been able to provide a little haven for our quiet little guest last winter! May he live to be 100.  🙂

“He prayeth best, who loveth best;
All things great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us;
He made and loveth all.”
(Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)

“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

“He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.”
(Mrs. Cecil Alexander’s Hymns for Little Children, 1848)

Family Portraits of Puppies; Thoughts on Companionship

abby-kwaIt was just about this time last year that our beloved German shepherd died,  and in honor of the first anniversary of his departure, -8 I’m passing along some really darling pictures of “dog family portraits” sent to me as one of those infamous email forwards -9…along with a few thoughts I’ve had on how hard it is to lose companions. German shepherds For months after Abishai died, I couldn’t even tolerate the thought of another dog, since no dog could replace Abby…I mean, not only was it true, but it seemed  disloyal to his memory to even think about it! -6 But, it was a terribly cold winter, and I was glad he didn’t have to withstand the bad weather, old and arthritic as he’d become. -21 With Stephen and Joel home so much, the year passed quickly, and I haven’t felt inordinately lonely,DSC02052 and now, Lord willing, we’re expecting a grandchild next spring here in GR!!!-14 I may become so happily occupied I feel no need to replace our faithful dog at all. -20  Do you have a pet? An old pet? -7 Worried about what will happen after you lose your beloved companion? -4 I just got a letter from my sister lamenting that now, in her 70’s, the majority of her friends are either moving away from Florida, or—much worse—dying!   😦  -19  I’ve concluded that there’s no replacement for the uniqueness of treasured companions—puppy or person! -15 Whether or when we choose to replace them is our own, very personal decision, -11but I know that God created us for communion—to love and be loved— -13…every last one of us! -12
I also know that above all human (or canine, feline, etc.) companionship -3 is the great love of God, who created us for fellowship with Him and longs for us to find our deepest needs met in him. -18 Everything else is just a little bit less. -10 Still wonderful, and still worth pursuing, but just not as perfectly satisfying. -5 Only God can fill that God-sized hole that He created in our hearts! -17“I finally realized that friendship is not a remedy for loneliness. Loneliness is a part of our experience and if we are looking for relief from loneliness in friendship, we are only going to frustrate the friendship. Friendship, camaraderie, intimacy, all those things, and loneliness live together in the same experience…” Rich Mullins -1“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
(1 John 1:3-4)

Paddy Possum’s Pilgrimage

IMG_2880 (1)Theoretically, I’d be reflecting on adventures to far away places for Travel Tues- day, but Stephen’s using my travel computer while he’s waiting for his car to be -1repaired, so I can’t tell you about Aunt Catfish until Thursday…which is the day I usually try to write kid-friendly nature stories. So, I’ve decided to swap around   IMG_1881my stories today & tell you about  Paddy Possum’s pilgrimage. Although I’ve seen pictures of opossums since I was a girl, the only real live possum I’d ever seen IMG_2890outside a zoo (before a few days ago) was a real dead possum by the side of the road. Which is to say, possums are nocturnal…IMG_2011and…being a bird may be tough, but I think being a possum may be tougher. For instance, have you seen your friendly neighborhood possum any time IMG_1944recently? If you live near any wooded area in temperate U.S. or parts south, you very likely do have opossum neighbors, but they’re not the least bit sociable and Wiki Commonsavoid public appearances. If you try to be friendly with them, they’ll hiss at you,* and if that doesn’t drive you away, they’ll faint on the spot.Wiki Commons They are drama queens extraordinaire!*IMG_1901At any rate, the other day I saw this brave little fellow trying to decide whether or IMG_1930not to go from wooded shore to wooded shore across a very intimidating stretch  IMG_1947of waterfront. It’s bad enough to be nocturnal and hate the lime light, but all the IMG_1948animals in our neighborhood have heard rumors of an evil German shepherd who lurks inside a giant doghouse…and eats little possum pilgrims for lunch. IMG_1908On this particular morning, Paddy Possum decided to make a run for it! IMG_1952So, out he came from his snug burrow under the woodpile and into the open!IMG_1879It was really slow going because the snow was so deep, so instead of running, IMG_1942 he had to jump, hop and flop as his paws would sink deep into the snow. IMG_1925Even though he was wading and waddling as fast as his little legs could go, IMG_1928it took him an excruciatingly long time, and he had to pass by many dangers! IMG_1884At long last he made it to the edge of the woods, dragging his cold tail behind! IMG_1934What a scary adventure that must have been for a timid little possum! IMG_1981There were some beautiful bluebirds flitting about the bird feeder that same IMG_1974morning, and I couldn’t help but think about the ease with which they fly across IMG_1992our snowy stretch of waterfront. I wonder if Paddy Possum ever wishes he could IMG_1898 be a bluebird soaring through the air instead of a cat-sized critter working so  IMG_1909hard to make his pilgrimage from thicket to thicket, traveling on stubby legs… IMG_1918 just barely able to keep his little pink nose above snow level. IMG_1940I know there have been plenty of times when I’ve floundered thru deep snows IMG_1973and wished I could soar above it all like a bluebird singing in the treetops. IMG_1943Thankfully, whether we’re up to our neck in trouble and scared to deathIMG_2027or having a relatively easy time of it, we can know that God is with us. IMG_1919He sees us, knows us, understands, and guides us on our pilgrimage thru life. IMG_1922He will keep us thru all the possumbilities and will lead us to a joyful end.

“O LORD, thou has searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downstitting and my uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways…If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me…Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

(Psalm 139:1-3,8-10,23-24).

(* These two pictures, the one with the young possum hissing the other of the possum playing dead, are from Wiki Commons.)

The End of an Era

Abby KWAI know that the loss of a pet pales to near nothingness in comparison to the pain suffered by my loved ones who are struggling with the loss of mates and their own health, loss of children, miscarriages, and more, but still losing a faithful pet who has been a loving part of your family for many years is also sad. When my Nephew Matt’s family lost their beloved cat not long ago, I felt very empathetic, remembering how much it’s pained me to lose pets. And then, my Niece Andrea’s family lost David, their faithful dog that pre-dated all of their six kids, and that was doubly sad for me personally, because our families have been so close, and IMG_5512we’ve all loved David for many years. But, to lose Abishai 10 days later was a shock! (This picture was taken Oct. 2 on my birthday walk with Ab.) Abby had Joel with Abbybeen a part of just about every family activity for nearly 11 years, and I can hardly ever remember a time being outside when Abby wasn’t right beside me, joining in the fun…or trying to. Alan had been warning me for months that Abby was getting old and wouldn’t last forever, and I knew it, but I just didn’t want to think about it! He was starting to develop a bad hip and other old age issues, but…what’s new with that? Don’t we all get old and have health issues Family Walk with Abbyeventually? So, when I took him to the vet for his yearly round of immunizations Monday, I was feeling encouraged that he might make it through the winter, or at least until Christmas to see all our (23) kids and grand kids one last time. Even though he didn’t seem very interested in eating on Friday before Alan and I left to visit with Kathy’s family for the weekend, I never dreamed he’d be gone by the early hours of Sunday morning. Joel and Stephen watched over him Saturday, hand feeding him and bringing him water. Stephen even held Abby for a little while because he seemed weak, but still…I think we all just thought he was sick and would recover. However, during the wee hours of Sunday morning, he passed out of this life in his sleep. Very sad indeed. DSCN8698 After church Sunday, Stephen and Joel dug him a grave, and later they made a delicious supper for Alan and me when we arrived home. After dinner, Alan andIMG_6590 the guys laid him to rest between our lake and our home, which he’d guarded and loved so well. Alan prayed a sweet benediction, and our two sons left to go back to grad school in their respective nearby cities. Bless my precious sons! IMG_6594Saturday night before we went to sleep, for whatever reason, I turned to Psalm 91 and read it through while Alan was in the shower. Five minutes later, Alan came to our bedroom and volunteered to read me a psalm before we went to sleep. I said that would be great! He turned to Psalm 91. After he read it, I asked him why he’d chosen that particular psalm, and he said he didn’t know, it just seemed like the right psalm. Feeling the Lord lead me to hear Psalm 91 twice made me stop and wonder just what He was preparing me for. I think it was to know that God himself is all I need in the way of shelter and protection, and that is true for each of us who put our trust in Him: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God: in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2). The whole psalm is beautiful is you have enough time to read it! IMG_6598I’ve had people ask me if I think “all dogs go to heaven” or “no dogs go to heaven.” Truly, I think that’s one of those many mysteries that aren’t specifically addressed in scripture, but I do believe that Romans 8:19-22 leaves some room for hope that the entire creation will “be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” and seem to be waiting for the redemption of their bodies too. Meanwhile, God calls us to be busy about our Father’s business: the mission of sharing His wonderful love and mercy, His saving forgiveness, and how He’s working our lives—the good news—with a world experiencing so much of sadness and death. IMG_6595

“He shall cover thee with is feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler” (Psalm 91:4).

Grand Girls, Grand Dogs, and the Doggy Elder Board

img_0988Isn’t summertime great? Jon and Linda have been spending some time with Linda’s family in Germany. While our son Jon has been teaching a class for img_0965Moody in Europe, Linda has been able to soak up wonderful times with her parents, family, and friends! There are few things more precious than being able img_0972 to get to know your grandchildren, so I’m sure they are all having a splendid time! One of the special joys has been for Amélie to get acquainted with Linda’s Amelie kissing Mr. Darcymuch loved and very faithful, old dog, named Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy has the Amelie climbing Mr. Darcypatience of Job & apparently almost infinite tolerance for little balls of curiosityimg_1022 and energy! Have you ever seen such a good dog? Meanwhile, our daughter  DSCN3175Kathy and her daughter Iris are visiting us. Our two grand daughters, Amélie DSCN3161and Iris, are just about the same age (as are the two grand dogs), and Iris is also DSCN3178truly delighted with our rather huge German shepherd. Abby is quite a good dog DSCN3155now, but he’s not nearly so laid back and easy to catch! Nevertheless, he is DSCN3151curious too, and so he was happy to make Iris’ acquaintance and didn’t seem to DSCN3154mind if she pet him as he passed by. In fact, she couldn’t kiss his face or climb DSCN3179over the top of him, but he was fine with letting her have a little ride on his back! Grand kids are “the best,” but I think grand dogs are pretty awesome too! As I hear it, Mr. Darby has always been a dog of impeccable character, but Abishai has had a rather checkered past, although he’s reformed nobly. (Praise God for transformation!)  Today, if there were a canine congregation, I think Mr. Darcy and Abishai would both qualify for the doggy elder board. 🙂

“…that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience” (Titus 2:2)

(All the pictures of Jon and Linda’s family were provided by Linda’s mother. Thank you!)

Kevin: The Friendliest Hawaiian I’ve Ever Met

DSCN1998So, yesterday I said I’d tell you about our new friend. Just as we were leaving  DSCN1994Alligator  Rock, we saw a gorgeous parrot sitting in a bush. As we approached, he DSCN1995 climbed  down from his perch with great speed and practically ran to greet us! DSCN1996He reached out a wing stub as if to shake our hands and called out cheerily, DSCN1997“HELLO!!” DSCN1999It was the first time in my entire life that a totally strange bird ever came up and tried to befriend me. I was totally amazed and so pleased. 🙂 DSCN2000

After we chatted for a while, it occurred to me that although I’ve been to Hawaii three times, I’ve never once had a stranger (human or bird brain) approach me out of the clear blue and strike up a conversation! (In truth, he had a very limited vocabulary, but that doesn’t change the point of his extreme friendliness.) DSCN2001Well, the folks at North Shore Christian Fellowship have been super friendly, but we also come with family when we visit there, so it’s not quite the same thing as pursuing a total stranger who’s just walking along the beach by your house.

DSCN2002At any rate, we all had quite a nice chat with him, but then we thought we’d DSCN2003better head on back to the car before the rain hit, so we reluctantly said goodbye. DSCN2005Kevin (the parrot) wasn’t convinced. He wanted to chat some more, and so he   DSCN2006started walking along the edge of his property, talking to us as we went. DSCN2007 When he got to the end of the blocks edging his beachfront yard, DSCN2008Kevin climbed up the side of the fence DSCN2010 and began walking toward us along the top of the wall! DSCN2011He was hurrying so fast I began to fear he’d fall off, and at the end ofDSCN2012the wall I knew there was a very busy highway, so I became concerned for his DSCN2013safety! Besides, he appeared to want to come home with us! Thankfully, just as I  DSCN2014 started wondering  how to get him safely back to his back yard, a young boy came

DSCN2015         out of the house and shared a few more details about this friendly parrot.DSCN2016 As it turns out, Kevin is 20 years old. He was mauled by a dog when he was pretty young. As a result, Kevin lost his entire left wing and much of his right wing, but he survived and now lives a very gregarious life with his family. He isDSCN2017 completely free to roam, although he usually stays close to home and is safe under the watchful care of this young boy and their very large, faithful dog.

Kevin inspired me! Someone small, maimed, very vulnerable, and with an extremely limited vocabulary…but absolutely driven to be friendly! If he can do it, can’t anyone? Next time you’re insecure about reaching out to greet someone, think of Kevin and take heart! Many people are probably a little on the lonely side, and most people would probably appreciate a cheery greeting at any rate. I’m willing to take the risk of being considered a birdbrain to reach out, and I hope you are too!

“Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

[The “gospel” is the good news that Jesus is God made flesh, who came to earth to die for our sins so that by faith in Him we can have eternal life.]