Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Two Good Books - and Some Randomness

We interrupt our regularly scheduled travelogue to catch up on some very random "stuff."

It is a gorgeous autumn day in Colorado - so beautiful and warm that I was able to sit in the sun on the patio and finish two books I've been working on.

The first one I finished was 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Life and Death by Don Piper. Rev. Piper was a Baptist pastor who had been at a conference. On his way back to his home in Houston, he was in a horrific accident. He was declared dead and left under a tarp in his mangled car. His account of 90 minutes in heaven, when he then came back to life, is amazing and heart-rending. I could totally understand his frustration at being back on earth after being in the glory of heaven for 90 minutes. As his health improved, he saw some of the reasons he was back on earth.

Then I finished The Shack. Many of you have read this book. I think of it as an allegory in the nature of Pilgrim's Progress.

I found it fascinating. These paragraphs really hit home with me, as we come up to this very crucial election. Mack, the main character of the book "spent a lot of time fretting and worrying about the future, and in his imaginations it was usually pretty gloomy and depressing . . . And Jesus was also correct in saying that in Mack's imaginations of the future, God was always absent."

Jesus then says to him, "It is your desperate attempt to get some control over something you can't. It is impossible for you to take power over the future because it isn't even real, nor will it ever be real. You try and play God, imagining the evil that you fear becoming reality, and then you try and make plans and contingencies to avoid what you fear."

Mack asks Jesus why he has so much fear in his life. Jesus answers, "Because you don't believe. You don't know that we love you. The person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in my love. I am not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers, but imagined fears, and especially the projection of those into the future. To the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it; you talk about it, but you don't know it." (p. 142)

Papa (God) speaking: "Nobody knows what horrors I have saved the world from 'cuz people can't see what never happened. All evil flows from independence, and independence is your choice. If I were to simply revoke all the choices of independence, the world as you know it would cease to exist and love would have no meaning . . . Evil is the chaos of this age that you brought to me, but it will not have the final say. Now it touches everyone that I love, those who follow me and those who don't. If I take away the consequences of people's choices, I destroy the possibility of love. Love that is forced is no love at all." (p. 190)

If you've read the book, you know why forgiveness plays a huge part in the story. I love these quotes:

"Forgiveness is not about forgetting . . . It is about letting go of another person's throat." (p. 224)

Papa (God) talking: "Forgiveness does not establish relationship. In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship. . . don't you see that forgiveness is an incredible power - a power you share with us, a power Jesus gives to all whom he indwells so that reconciliation can grow? . . . Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver, to release you from something that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly." (p. 225)

"Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. . . Forgiveness does not excuse anything." (p. 226)

I wish we could all get together and discuss this book. If you haven't read it, I recommend it highly. Also the first one.

Moving on to something far less important and cerebral - a bit of randomness just for fun. Our town does Trick or Treat at the shopping areas where all the little rugrats run around in their costumes and get a head start on sugar the Saturday before Halloween. This year Care Bear is a cheerleader and Feisty is Ariel, the Little Mermaid.

Care Bear promised Grandpa that she'd bring him back a Snickers bar if she got one.

Feisty wasn't having a great time at first, but she warmed up to the idea after awhile.

The little jack-o-lanterns had their first sugary treat - probably not such a good idea, but simply adorable!

Earlier in the week, Kristen had a really tough couple of days. She needed to be by herself for awhile, so I ended up having the kids for more than 30 hours. It usually goes pretty well - the big girls sleep on couch cushions on the floor of the family room (in spite of the fact that we have two spare beds in Kristen's old room). Don't ask me why. One baby slept in the Pack and Play and the other was snuggled up on the floor of my bedroom (Grandpa does go into the spare room so that he can sleep all night and not hear all the potential commotion). The last few times they've had a sleepover, the big girls have slept through the night with no problem - and at least one of the twins did the same. Not this time!

I had the babes down by 8:00. It was around 9:00 by the time the big ones were settled in. I crashed after a very long day for just a short time before both babies, within a couple minutes of each other, woke up. I replenished their bottles and they went back to sleep. At 1:11, Feisty came charging up the steps - ending up in bed with me. At 1:17, Katie, on the floor, woke up again. I brought her into my little t.v. room so that she wouldn't wake up anyone else. She was very restless, even as I held her and snuggled her. She never did sleep soundly, and when she doesn't, I don't. Suddenly Care Bear appeared, half asleep. I told her to go ahead and crawl into my bed, too, because she didn't want to be alone downstairs. At that point, I realized there was no room for me in my bed - I could have gone into the spare room with Dwight, but instead I snuggled up in my recliner. I had slept about an hour, and it was about 4:00 by this time, when Feisty came stumbling into my room, saying that she was lonesome by herself. I thought Care Bear was with her, but learned later in the morning that she had gone and joined Grandpa in the twin bed. I had no energy to get up from my chair, so I had her snuggle with me for the next couple of hours -- Let me assure you - this did my back NO good!

Fortunately there was no school the next day, so we didn't have to rush in the morning. Care Bear was very helpful with Emma Bemma and took a bath with her.

After breakfast, I could hear all kinds of fun stuff going on in the living room. I finally figured out that Care Bear was teaching school with Feisty as her class. I would love to sit in on her real class someday, because I feel certain that her every word and action was directly from her teacher. I just got such joy out of listening and surreptitously watching.

Katie's newest trick is crossing her leg over her knee as she watches cartoons!

Shifting gears drastically - our church has been badly in need of parking space for years. We have struggled with various solutions, when finally we were able to buy both houses just west of the church. In April, the guy who bought them, did so with the agreement that he would remove them to property he had elsewhere. It is now the end of October - our pastor's blood pressure has been in danger for the past months as he has watched this guy consistently break his verbal promise - that was our first mistake - not getting it in a written contract! Here is the house that has been in process of being "moved" for six months.

This one has gone more quickly. It was supposed to be out last Thursday. You can only do the moving after midnight, and not on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Imagine the problems this caused when everyone came to church on Sunday and found this in the parking lot:

It's supposed to have happened last night - I forgot to drive by there today - I'll believe it when I see it!

PLEASE CONTINUE PRAYING FOR FEISTY. Poor little sweetie - the infection returns about two days after she finishes her last round of meds. She is sick again tonight and has an appointment with the right doctor tomorrow afternoon. She has an appointment with a pediatric urologist in Denver on November 9. Kristen is beside herself with worry that her kidneys have been compromised with all of these infections, and that she will be immune to antibiotics by the time they figure out what is going on. THANK YOU!

On a final note - I am really looking forward to not having to use my "mute button finger" after next Tuesday. I am so sick of these political commercials!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Autumn Vacation 2008, Part II

One of the fun parts of traveling with R&C is that DC and his brother revert to about age 10 or 12 with each other. It is quite entertaining! While C and I sat in the back seats having deep philosophical and spiritual discussions!

After we left Columbia, we headed to Myrtle Beach. I've heard of Myrtle Beach off and on in my life, but never dreamed I'd ever be there.
There seems to be a lot to do in this town, but we didn't have time for too many tourist attractions. One thing that we noticed was a huge miniature golf course on every corner. Not to mention "real" golfing.

We were, as I mentioned in the previous post, blessed with the third floor, far right apartment in this condo for a very, incredibly low cost. We didn't spend a lot of time there, but were very glad to have the kitchen for breakfast, and good beds for rest. The only down thing - it is right on the 9-hole golf course. We had our windows open to let in the nice air and were rudely awakened by the maintenance machines EARLY in the morning. Oh, well.

Our first official act as tourists in this town was, naturally, to find a place for lunch. Very close to our place was Johnny Rocket's. It's a fun place where they give you nickels to play the juke box. We picked out a couple of fun 50's songs to enjoy as we perused the menu. Suddenly, we were startled by these two people giving us a lively rendition of one of the juke box songs - they added a bit of fun to our time there with their clapping, singing, and dancing.

DC ordered a grilled Nate's hot dog - I can't say I've ever heard of Nate's hot dogs, but it was apparently the best hot dog DC had ever eaten - he went on and on and on about it, and brought it up many more times as we would pass by Johnny's place - it became a joke after a while - it must have been really good! We never did make it back there - too many other good places to try.

We wandered around town a bit and had some silly fun --

Myrtle Beach was just a mile from our room, but we headed for Huntington Beach first - we had been told about the wild life preserve and wanted to check that out. It was such a wonderful beach - great sand, just a few people. This was a great time of the year to be there - I can only imagine how crowded it is in the height of tourist season.

This couple was having such a good time trying to get the waves to carry them in to shore --

I couldn't resist shooting some bathing beauties~~

This handsome guy caught my eye ~~

I love to watch the birds - especially this little sandpiper ~~

Then we headed into the preserve. There were many varieties of birds flying and floating and swimming around. These are some of my favorite shots ~~

There were oysters growing on the bridge pilings and on the mud. This sign explains the process.

That night we ate at Captain George's - we were looking for some good seafood. We didn't know it when we picked it, but it turned out to the be the hugest buffet I've ever seen. I can't believe I didn't get a picture. The ambience was very nice for a buffet - it looked like a huge ship. And the food was unusually good for a buffet as well. It was worth the significantly large price (which we didn't know until we got the bill - gulp!) The desserts were so beautifully displayed - I especially loved the look of the rice pudding - it had the logo of the restaurant in cinnamon on each pan of the pudding.

I can't remember the next lunch, but the second evening meal was an adventure. We had been given a recommendation for a very authentic Italian place - the recommendation came from the owner of the condo, from whom we were renting. He had a last name that would make you tend to take his advice. Not our guys! They didn't like the look of the place. They didn't like that we were the first car there. C, who is usually not so bold and insistent, jumped out of the car and headed for the door. I followed her, and the guys had to follow or leave us there and go somewhere else. Funny! It turned out to be a very good place (though Italian is definitely not my favorite). It turned out it was a very good thing we were the first ones there - by the time we left, it was full of golfers who filled the place with raucous talk and reiterating their golf games, I'm sure. We were very glad to be finished, but it was pleasant up until then. It was definitely a local favorite.

Coming Soon - Part III - On to Brookgreen Gardens

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Autumn Vacation 2008, Part I

Thank you so much for your concern about my back pain that I mentioned in the last post. I came to the conclusion that it was probably caused by a combination of sleeping in 4 different beds in 8 nights, being in the car for hours on end, and VERY little exercise. It is much better after a couple sessions at the gym (I love the back stretching machine!), and back to picking up the girlies a hundred times a day.

Our trip to Atlanta was flawless for a nice change of pace - flying is not the fun it used to be. The fact that you now have to pay to take a suitcase big enough for a week just boggles the imagination. AND - if you happen to overpack that one bag, you will be charged an overweight charge! Oh, yah, and our travel agent didn't get the part of me being claustrophobic and needing an aisle seat. I thought she did and discovered too late that I was in the middle. HELP!! It was amazing that I made it through okay. And - oh, yah, the part about me buying a box lunch in the air for $6.00. My purse was crowded at my feet and I couldn't reach it, so I hung onto the $14 change in my left hand. When I woke up from a short snooze, I realized that hand was empty. I must have thrown it away with the napkin. ARGHHHH!!! That was one pricey box lunch! I guess it wasn't totally flawless - -

We spent Friday evening visiting with DC's brother, his wife (whom I shall refer to as R&C from now on), and 4 of their 6 children, two spouses, and 4 grandkids. This is the second time we've taken a road trip with R&C, spending just a bit of time in Athens. Their oldest daughter thinks that next time we should take day trips and spend more time in Athens so we can see her and the rest of the gang more often. I thought that was sweet that she wanted to spend more time with us.

R&C put a pool in their back yard last spring - they told us that the water was in the neighborhood of 95 degrees some days this summer, so it was a welcome part of the summer - the grandkids really had a good time all summer long.

They have this wonderful device that keeps the pool clean - and is working hard these days vacuuming up the oak leaves that will be falling in abundance - they have wonderful woods in their back yard. The hose in the back will come up out of the water and randomly squirt water - and give you a shower if you happen to be in its path.

The next morning was the women's meeting, including brunch, at the church where I was the "featured speaker." I felt no qualms or nervousness at all - I was able to present it mostly without depending on my notes. When you bare your soul to people, it is amazing how many come and tell you their stories - there are many hurting people who are serving the Lord.

Sunday after morning service, we hit the road. We got to Columbia, SC by about 5:00 p.m., just in time to celebrate our great nephew's (grand nephew?) 4th birthday party. They had invited another family over, so there were 6 lively little kids having a great time, and 8 tired adults watching.

We got a real kick out of his dad enjoying one of his gifts --

We had a good night's sleep there and left about 9:00 Monday morning for Myrtle Beach. We were so blessed - the couple who came over for the party let us use their condo for an unbelievably low cost. My niece's home is lovely and their back yard is as large as some parks -

Part II - On to Myrtle Beach

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Aftermath of Vacation

It's a cold and foggy Tuesday morning on the eastern slope of Colorado. I broke down and turned on the heat yesterday. I think I'll be doing the same today.

If you're like me, re-entry after vacation is difficult. At least I didn't have to go back to an office with hundreds of e-mails, voice mails, and snail mails awaiting me. I had 11 messages on the home phone, mostly political reminders; I had a grocery sack full of mail - mostly junk - I think there were 8 pieces that needed to be handled, the rest went directly to the recycle bin (mostly political reminders!); and I had kept up with e-mails off and on while I was gone.

What I dislike most about coming home from vacation is unpacking - and nothing to eat in the house. And laundry.

So - yesterday - Monday - I did make it to the gym - I wasn't "good" in the nutritional sense during this trip - I hit the gym first thing, then picked up the little girlies. The house was a wreck - still is. My back is killing me - I think not carrying the car seats for a week has left me weak. It's better this morning. I ended up having the kids all day yesterday so Kristen could catch up - she got very far behind on her school work while I played.

So I don't have time to start writing about the trip yet, but wanted to show you a few pictures. Here's what happens when you're gone for a week in the prime time of falling leaves, and when you have a yard full of mature trees!

Even the circle in front of the house is full --

A former next door neighbor drove by Sunday afternoon while I was outside - she commented that DC didn't usually have such a yardful of leaves - he usually gets rid of them pretty quickly so they don't damage the grass - too soon for the girls' liking. They were really glad he hadn't been home to mow them up yet. After a quick fast food lunch on Sunday, they rushed back to our house (while Kristen studied), put on their new Myrtle Beach hoodies, and hit the back yard.

Where's Care Bear??

Oh, there she is!!

Yes, Feisty should have changed out of her Sunday clothes before being dragged around the yard!

They love to create a maze, then they race back to the beginning.

Even the tiny ones loved it. I can't believe I didn't get a front shot of their "I "Heart" Grandma souvenir shirts!

When I took them home to Kristen Sunday afternoon, I caught this fabulous view over the mountains.

I managed to get the grocery shopping and the laundry done yesterday - a monumental accomplishment. The babes took turns napping - never both at the same time. Feisty kept Emma occupied some of the time. I wish I had taken a picture of Kate under the play table - I had to crawl in and grab her leg to get her out. She kept herself busy for a good half hour at one point.

That's a jolly laugh, not a cry!

I tried to catch a glimpse of the cute little teeth, but the camera is just not fast enough. Can you see them? Nope, I don't think so. I'll have to keep trying.

I promise to get to the trip soon. I promise! I have now skipped going to the gym and need to get ready to pick up the babes at the preschool in a few minutes when Kristen drops Feisty off for the morning.

Have a great day!