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Archive for May, 2012

This past weekend Rick and I visited a state park in West Virginia and spent a memorable four days at a resort there.  This place had been built in the 1950’s and had not been remodeled since then I do believe.  It was clean and well-groomed, but still was a huge step back in time.  Probably because of that very fact, it was extremely reasonable price-wise, and we had an absolutely delightful time.

My sister had found the place a while back.  She told me about it and that she and another sister of mine were planning to be there for the Memorial Day weekend.  She encouraged us to come also, and Rick and I decided to give it a shot.  Are we glad we did!

My father was born and grew up not far from the state park where we were staying.  We visited the town where he grew up, and took pictures of the church where he and our mother met.

My dad’s side of our family has always (for as long as I can remember) had a reunion of sorts sometime during the Memorial Day weekend.  As a little girl, I remember that we would make the drive back to West Virginia to spend the weekend with my dad’s oldest sister (Aunt Edie) and her family.  Oh, what fun memories I have of all those years and all those trips; time playing with the cousins, of eating at Aunt Edie’s bountiful table, of going across the mountain with my cousin Sammy to bring the cows in at dusk, of trips to the outhouse with Mother to hold onto so I didn’t fall into the stinky hole, of swinging on Aunt Edie’s front porch swing, of watching her separate the milk with the large old separator that resided in her ‘pantry’—a workroom that was actually nearly as large as her kitchen—and then sitting on the bench at the back of her large table eating blueberries smothered in that rich, sweet cream.  As we sat on that same front porch on Sunday, my mind whirled with memories—precious and sweet memories that will always be part of who I am.

On Saturday, my sisters and I climbed into her little SUV and took off for the hills!  We drove over those switchback roads climbing mountains that were actually more steep than we remembered to visit our Aunt Itis who is still going strong.  We spent some sweet time with her—she and our mother are the only two left living of that generation.  And all her children are still living and we enjoyed a precious visit with our cousins and dear aunt.  We had thought we’d be gone for the afternoon, but we actually didn’t get back to the resort until nearly midnight.  Time together with loved ones is just too rare and too sweet to cut short for the sake of sleep!

On Sunday was the actual reunion.  My heart still feels tight in my chest when I think of that blessed time together with so very many cousins and, of course, Aunt Itis—cousins I had not seen in years!  And I met cousins’ children and grandchildren, and even some of their great-grandchildren!  We decorated the graves of our grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who were already gone, and we remembered.  We remembered fun times and ornery times and sad times.  But all of the times made memories that, woven together, make up the tapestry of my life.

As I sat for a long time on Aunt Edie’s front porch in the same old swing with my arm wrapped around Aunt Itis and my sister on the other side of her equally draped over her, listening to the banter of my cousins, I absorbed the richness of it all.  This is my heritage.  This is who I am.  I am not only loved by these dear ones, but my love for them is not only accepted, but cherished as well, and I realized maybe for the first time the strength of that bond.  In spite of allowing the busy-ness of my life to crowd out time with them all for far too long, I was just as accepted and just as loved as though I’d been there just the week before.  We share memories.  We share blood.  I belong.  And I realize today how very much I need to belong to those dear ones.

But once we were home and the sweet weekend is no more than a memory, I realized that the belonging won’t end.  The next time I go I will be just as accepted, just as loved.  And all of that makes this a very memorable Memorial Day!

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Rainy Days

So far this spring has been absolutely spectacular in regard to weather.  We have had many cool mornings and warm afternoons, sunshine for a few days followed by a day or two of welcome showers.

 

I have overworked in the gardens this spring, and now I pay for it, but I’ve lived long enough to know that this soreness and stiffness will only last for a short time while the flowers and vegetables will be here for our enjoyment and the pleasure of others for much longer.

 

Today is overcast, a raining day and I sit here in the still of the morning listening to the gentle rain as it whispers over the yard and gardens.  I watch as the moisture makes it all come alive with intense color.  The birds are energetic and loud with their songs as they flit from one feeder to another, singing in the trees around the yard, making music like no other.

 

Some would call this a gloomy day with the sun hidden entirely in the white and distant sky, but to me it feels cozy and refreshing.  Indeed, I feel enlivened by the freshness and the stillness of it all.  It isn’t Sunday, but it feels like a day of rest, since I can’t be digging new gardens or even dead-heading.  No, today is a day to sit back and enjoy all the work.  Is this how God felt on the seventh day of creation?  Did He smile like I smile today?

 

In my younger years we used to sing hymns from the old hymnals in church.  One of my favorites was written in 1912 by C. Austin Miles and was called “In the Garden” and it had beautiful words and a lovely, lilting tune.  Even though it is really not a song of worship, we often sang it to remind ourselves that God WILL meet us here, when we take the time to get away alone with Him.  These are the words to the song:

 

Verse 1:           I come to the garden alone,

While the dew is still on the roses;

And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,

The Son of God discloses.

 

Chorus:            And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.

 

Verse 2:           He speaks, and the sound of His voice

Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;

And the melody that He gave to me

Within my heart is ringing.

 

Verse 3:           I’d stay in the garden with Him

Though the night around me be falling;

But He bids me go through the voice of woe,

His voice to me is calling.

 

Chorus:            And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.

 

Have you spent time alone with God today?  Where is your ‘garden’, your special place where He speaks to you?  We often call our time alone with God our ‘quiet time’ and I find that it is a very apt title, for we must quiet ourselves and pull away from the noise of the world around us to hear Him speak to us.  After all, how can we get to know someone if we never listen to them?

 

Rainy days, to me, seem quieter than most, and I’m not certain just why that is.  I feel more subdued and there seems to be a quiet hush over the world.  When we’re alone together on days like this, I may not always hear words from His lips, but I always, always feel His presence near.  And that is always a gift.

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I just got home from running an errand and while I was out I saw something that won’t leave my mind.  I’m not a big fan of bumper stickers, but I saw one just now that actually got my attention in a positive way.  It was shaped like an American flag and the words said ‘Freedom isn’t free’.  It was one of those things that I’d read without even thinking about it while sitting at a stoplight, but as soon as the phrase had been formed in my mind it stuck.  Over and over I heard ‘Freedom isn’t free’.

My first thought was to immediately thank God in my heart for all the soldiers throughout the years and throughout the world that have fought to the point of death so that I could be free in this far-from-perfect-but-wonderful-all-the-same country!  I know that is exactly what was intended in the placement and creation of that sticker.

Many of those soldiers were drafted and fought against their better judgment and will.  Many signed up for the paycheck, and many more joined the armed forces for the benefits they anticipated receiving in exchange for their service such as tuition money for college.  There are some that agree to do a stint in the service of our country for how it will benefit them on their resume.  Some of those soldiers were in service because they didn’t know just yet what they wanted to do with their lives.  I wonder sometimes how many actually sign up with the thought that they just might be making the ultimate sacrifice.  How many actually anticipate that they may never come home when our country is supposedly at peace?

Regardless of their motives, some never again see their homes and families.  Some come home but are maimed and will never really enjoy the very freedom for which they were fighting.  But still I think…was there even one of them that said ‘I am willing to lay down my life so that Judi Ehresman can live a good life and enjoy the benefits of the freedom for which I am dying?  No, I think not.  Still, I am totally grateful for all the sacrifices made by our soldiers.

But the more I thought about it, what that bumper sticker really spoke of to me was that my spiritual freedom was bought with a price—a very high price!  The only way for me to have peace with God was for someone to take my punishment, to lay down their life and die in my place.  That freedom was very expensive.  All the soldiers in the world could not purchase it for me, because there is not one that is perfect.  The sacrifice had to be totally without blemish; perfect in every way.  And the only One that qualified for the job was God’s own Son.  Because of many soldiers’ lives through the ages I am somewhat free today.  But because of what Christ did for me, I am spiritually free not only today, but for all of eternity.  And for that I am grateful beyond words.

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Summer has arrived in our small town, and with it has come heat and humidity.  But, early in the morning, just at daybreak, the air is cool and fresh and fragrant.  I have begun to get myself back into my old patterns of walking a couple of miles a day, and early in the morning is the loveliest time of day to do that in my estimation.

I was born a morning person.  My dad used to love telling the story of how I’d wake at daybreak, singing and jabbering in my crib from the very beginning.  There’s just something about the beginning of a fresh new day.  And the older I get, I really appreciate the fictional Anne Shirley’s outlook of a ‘bright new day with no mistakes in it yet.’  It’s a clean slate; a new page; the gate to new pasture; a fresh start, and who among us cannot appreciate that?

One of the things I love most about walking in the early morning is that the world is so quiet and still that I can hear God whispering and can feel Him walking beside me.  He loves to fill my heart with little blessings and gifts along the way, and I gladly receive each one with joy.

Only in the morning, before the air is filled with diesel fuel and the silence is obliterated by motors can you really appreciate the hush and fragrance of spring.  It is a glorious time of hearing birds singing and squirrels chattering, of getting sweet whiffs of honeysuckle and watching the white tails of almost invisible jets streaking across the intensely blue sky.  As I walk I see lovely old houses tucked back between tall hedges, gardens burgeoning with color spilling over their walls.  I see lawns beautifully manicured beside yards that desperately need attention and I grieve for that caring gardener that must live beside such neglect.  I see tidy houses with wreaths on the doors tucked in between unkempt houses with torn blinds and messy carports and I grieve for those tidy folks that must endure neighbors that are lazy and selfish.

And that’s when I realize those unkempt folks are missing so much!  They are missing the joy of discipline in their lives.  When I see those untidy messes I realize they don’t know the peacefulness that order brings.  When I see trash on a floor or on a lawn, I wonder at the kind of people that are too lazy to find a trash can, that are so uncaring for the person that comes behind them.

Yes, as I walk I can solve the world’s problems.  I can think.   I can listen.  I can breathe deeply.  But most of all, I can hear God and feel Him near.  And for me, that’s the best gift of all!

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