Category Archives: God’s Little Gifts

Those moments on my journey where God’s provision when beyond belief.

Endurance of Memory

All of these people have been gone for years, decades even, but their memory endures with me.

Mom & Dad

Mom & Dad

Uncle Paul, who taught me to love the earth, geography, and the national parks. He was in my life a brief 10 years but his influence lasted a lifetime.

Uncle Paul, who taught me to love nature, geography, and the national parks. He was in my life a brief 10 years but his influence has lasted a lifetime.

 

Check out other posts of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance

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Daily Prompt: Moments to Remember

There are so many moments but of course a few stand out. First was the birth of my daughters. Here I am looking like hell with my girls only a few hours old.

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My next moment to remember swings the other way with a tragic attack on my heart. I had been blessed with two beautiful girls and only two years later I lost my mom. To add coals to the fire only nine months later I lost my dad too.

ashley photo album2_0122

But so much has happened since those sad days, both good and bad. I lost my dear grandmother but found my father’s family. I accomplished goals, got a PhD, spent two years traveling and then came another moment to remember. In the first photo I had just given birth to my daughters. In the photo below I’m with one of those babies only minutes after she gave birth to my grandson. It was a sad day when my girls were born because I had to have a C-section so I missed their birth. There were no memories, no photos of that blessed event. My husband wasn’t’ even allowed in the room. The loss of that moment never left. But here I am – my loss redeemed – a moment that still brings tears of joy to my eyes.

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Check out other Moments to Remember at the Daily Prompt

 

 

Christmas Reconciliation: A Hallmark Christmas revisited

The last three episodes in my little Christmas story were all a build up to this post, my very own Hallmark Christmas. Yesterday, December 23rd, was the third anniversary of my very own Hallmark Christmas.

The summer of 1964 was the last time I saw my father and all I remember is that he didn’t want me. For the next 46 years I would struggle with feeling worthless, unlovable and second best. Oh, you’d never know it if you met me but every once in a while these demons would rear their ugly heads. This wasn’t a conscience effort but like any internal infection it found a way to seep out. If life didn’t arrange for mediocrity then I would somehow sabotage myself. Deep inside I didn’t feel I was worthy.

In 2001, a friend confronted me about my negative attitude. It hurt and as usual I denied it. But it did serve as a wakeup call to my damaged mind and I would spend the next eight years letting Jesus transform my mind. Dealing with these self defeating emotions allowed me to the adventure of a life time.

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If you recall in part two, after the death of my parents I became obsessed with finding my father and experiencing my own Hallmark Christmas with the reconciliation of my long lost family. Then the summer of 2010 I learned my father had died two years before thus putting an end to any hope of my Hallmark Christmas. By November of that year, a dark cloud covered my spirit and again I became obsessed. His death may have provided closure to my mind but my heart was anything but settled.

In a series of coincidences, or what I refer to as “God sightings”, my numb heart and the prospect of a dismal Christmas, God moved mountains for my restoration and reconciliation.

December 23, 2010 I drove seven hours out of my way to find some closure. I found my father’s grave and I talked to him for some time but in me was a growing need to know more. I set out to find someone who could tell me something about him. My first stop was the cemetery office, after that I intended to visit the mortician and the pastor mentioned in his obituary. But I wouldn’t have to look any further than the office. Through tears I told the woman my story and by the grace of God she took pity on me. She contacted his wife who lived in the next town a conversation that would change my heart and life forever.

Was I really unlovable, unworthy? What I learned was an overwhelming NO. They had looked for me for 40 years until his death. I met my sisters and a brother and talked another brother, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. Christmas is no longer lonely. I have a family. God took a dead situation and used it to his glory. He brought back a dead childhood dream and brought it back to life and at the perfect time for everyone.

Is this the way I wouldn’t have wanted my Hallmark Christmas? Well, meeting my father would have made it perfect for me but everything is in Jesus’ timing and that is perfect. And I know someday I will meet him again. I received the gift of reconciliation that year just as the birth of our savior is the ultimate gift of reconciliation to the Father.

No matter how dead, no matter how impossible, no matter how hopeless – with Jesus nothing is too difficult, nothing is impossible and it’s NEVER too late.

So did this miraculous Christmas heal my wounded heart? Did these feelings of low self esteem dissipate? Tune in next week…

Check out A Hallmark Movie Christmas to read the original story.

Next week – Christmas Freedom

Part 1 – A Haunting of Christmas Past
Part 2 – The Fall: A Haunting of Christmas Loss
Part 3 – Christmas Restored

Christmas Restored: Jubilee Journey and Christmas movies

If you recall in part 2­ I wrote about a series of losses leading to the challenge of my Christmas spirit. One thing that ministered to my spirit was Christmas movies. I would dream of having my own “Hallmark” Christmas, of the day I would be reconciled with my family – if they still existed.

SeaWorld Christmas 2012c 187 (3)All of life is a story, the bible is a story and we are all living in our own stories as well as being part of a larger story. Fairy tales, novels, even movies tell stories that reflect the story of life and the connection with the larger story. What we can learn from Christmas movies? What do they teach about the human heart and the heart of God towards his children? Stories that touch our heart often reflect the heart of the father.

We’re going to look at four movies that have held special meaning to me but also reflect the heart of the father. My heart restored, I found hope even while my heart was breaking and I believed in something more.

 

It’s a Wonderful life & A Christmas Carol

“No matter how dead…”

cmas2013-busch.gardens 266You may think it odd that I pair these two movies but there are similarities and both have touched my heart in similar ways: answering the question, do I matter. Both men are blessed with seeing their world in different ways, one a world where he had a positive impact and the other a world he negatively impacted. The angel and the ghosts set out to show the men that their lives do matter and this is what I longed for.

Like Scrooge I needed a spirit adjustment but unlike scrooge I longed for it. More than anything I wanted my heart restored, my spirit restored but I just couldn’t seem to find the way and I just couldn’t find my way out of the fog. I thank God he never gave up on me and protected my throughout all those dark years.

Then there is George Bailey, a man who mattered so much to so many, believed he was better off dead. He is given the magnificent gift of seeing what the world would be like if he never existed. Like George I struggled to hang on to the little hope I had left and that I did matter, somehow.

God wants us to know that we do matter and that it’s never too late. We are put here on this earth for a reason and even if we don’t know what that reason is we must have hope it’s there. George believed his circumstances were dead, Ebenezer believed he couldn’t change and I believed I would never matter. No matter how bad we think our lives are now, no matter how bad we’ve wasted what God has given us, there is still hope. We can still change and we do matter to God, our creator.

 

White Christmas

“No matter how impossible…”

P1080458I always cry at the end of this movie, and not just because of the miracle of snow, but because of the restoration of hope. General Waverly was losing everything, he was alone in his heart and he was becoming hopeless. His situation had gone from difficult to impossible. Bob and Phil cook up a scheme to restore the old man’s heart and faith by giving him a surprise to lighten his heart. When all the generals men come marching into the old, vacant inn, I cry right along with him. The love these men had for their general restores hope and showed him that nothing is impossible

Again we go back to the issue of “mattering”, of being important to someone. I had lost hope that I mattered so movies gave me a brief moment in the dark nights of my living room that I would matter. White Christmas shows me that with love nothing is impossible. Jesus wants us to believe in him, that the story is written and there’s a beauty to be revealed. We just have to have patience and wait for his revelation and restoration of hope.

 

A Smoky Mountain Christmas

“No matter how hopeless…”

P1080666This sweet little movie starring Dolly Parton shows a famous country singer in desperate need of rest, for peace, quiet and time from ridiculous demands on her life. She returns to her family cottage in the mountains to find a group of young orphaned boys and girls who had run away from brutal conditions at the orphanage.

Lorna (Dolly) finds room in her heart for these hopeless children and not only comes to their rescue from the orphanages’ director but takes them into her heart and home as her own children. The character demonstrates true sacrifice by caring for the needs of those who can’t possible return the favor. These little ones had no hope of relief, no hope of a family.

God too sacrificed for the protection, restoration and reconciliation of his little ones. Remember this season, Jesus isn’t just the gift of eternal life, he is the gift of all life, he is life. And while we celebrate the wonder of his birth, the joy and peace of this new beginning let’s not forget where this birth leads; to his ultimate sacrifice for us, to bring us back to him, to gives us as orphans a home in him, a life in him.

 

If parts one and two left you sad, don’t be…

No matter how dead, no matter how impossible, no matter how hopeless – with Jesus nothing is too difficult, nothing is impossible and it’s NEVER too late.

Joy always comes in the morning. Come back Monday, December 23 for Part 4 – A Hallmark Christmas Revisited, an anniversary of reconciliation.

 

Do you have a Christmas story or movie that’s moved or encouraged you? I would love for you to share these experiences.

 

Part 1 – A Haunting of Christmas past

Part 2 – The fall: Spirit of Christmas loss

A Haunting of Christmas Past

We’ve all had Christmas seasons we loved and hated, some of you may have recently experienced loss or disappointment. Each weekend in December I’m going to bring the theme of the Jubilee Journey to Christmas: Freedom, reconciliation and restoration through Jesus. I will begin this 5-part series with my Christmas experience before the so-called fall, before I experienced deep loss and even fought with rejecting Christmas all together.

Part 1: Christmas before the fall

old family_0011I grew up with where Christmas was a Norman Rockwellian experience. The season was filled with the warmth of Christmas decorations, the smell of sweet treats, Christmas parties, hayrides, caroling and the beauty of the darkest nights lit up with tiny twinkling lights. One of my fondest memories was baking Christmas cookies with my mom. My mom was disabled, ill with a type muscular dystrophy. It was quite an effort for my mom to sit in the kitchen and cook with me but she did it anyway. The sweet smells and sweet memories of mom will never leave me.

SeaWorld Christmas 2012c 154 (3)Another sweet memory was the sounds of Christmas, those lovely songs we call carols. My school chorus and my youth group went caroling throughout December. We caroled through neighborhoods, we caroled nursing homes and most often we caroled at homes of those who couldn’t get out to enjoy the Christmas programs. My mom always made the list. My mother especially enjoyed the singing. She loved everything about Christmas, but Christmas carols was her favorite. Mom loved Silent Night and We Three Kings. I think they reminded her of her own children; when her little babies slept peacefully. She loved her daughters and there was nothing more important to her in this life than her little girls no matter how “little” they became.

I have many favorite carols but the top of this long list is the Carol of the Bells, with or without words, this song can actually bring me to tears. My daughters sang this in their middle school chorus, and I cried right there in the auditorium. My favorite version of the Carol of the Bells is by Trans Siberian Orchestra. I encourage you to check it out so here’s a link the video.

old family pics_0169There is one thing that still warms my heart and that is Christmas lights. I loved and still love to see tiny lights twinkling, the glistening ornaments and icicles shimmering in the darkness; a reminder of the light Jesus brings to a dark world. I loved being with my family and friends, the parties, ice skating on cranberry bogs and coming home with a red bottom, sweets, hayrides, Christmas programs, gifts of fruitcake (I actually do love it) and divinity from my grandmother a thousand miles away in Georgia. She made the best sweets.

seaworld_cmas_2013 299However, the end of the Christmas season was always a letdown as it marked the end of the giving spirit, the end of the lights bringing light to the dark world. We would have to wait another year for the spirit to shine on us again. Many years later, the spirit of Christmas would come to an end and I would find myself challenged to continue into a future without a spirit of Christmas. I have been haunted by the joy of my childhood Christmases ever since.

But…then there was Jesus.

No matter how dead, no matter how impossible, no matter how hopeless – with Jesus nothing is too difficult, nothing is impossible and it’s NEVER too late.

Part 2: The fall, Spirit of Christmas loss
Part 3: Christmas Restored

A Month of Thanksgiving – Week 3

 

Millbrook Village, Delaware Water Gap NRA, NJ

Millbrook Village, Delaware Water Gap NRA, NJ

Most of us have traditions particular to our own families. Here I will offer some of the traditional Thanksgiving practices followed by some of ours. If you have some interesting or meaningful or fun Thanksgiving traditions I would love to hear about it.

 

I took this bird out of the oven in just time to put the photo in this post. Smells good.

I took this bird out of the oven in just time to put the photo in this post. Smells good.

Thanksgiving traditions center around two primary activities which are common to most celebrations – family/friends and food. This is the day many look forward to with anticipation of travel or receiving visitors.  Most of us have turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes of some kind, corn, and squashes all topped off with pumpkin pie.

While this is a celebration of thanks and the joy of family, for some it’s a time of stress from either perfectionist expectations or miserable family connections. For more than 20 years I was saddened by friends who dreaded the holidays because their family situations often made them miserable. I remember one friend comparing her Thanksgiving to a Jerry Springer show. This broke my heart.

The only family I had was my two daughters and a sister I rarely saw. I would have loved to enjoy the day around a big table with a couple dozen of my closest family and friends, to hear the voices of little ones playing in the background. But it was not meant to be…all of my family was dead. But then there was God. During my journey I found my dad’s family, they weren’t dead. The next year I found my father’s family that I barely knew existed and didn’t know where. I may not be sharing thanksgiving with them this year as they live too far away, but I know they are there and I am not alone.

Santa's first appearance, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Santa’s first appearance, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Thanksgiving Day is often spent giving thanks, day long feasting, watching or attending parades such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. This famous parade ushers in the “official” Christmas season with the first appearance of Santa Claus. I wish retailers would remember that. It seems now the Christmas season precedes Halloween. Afternoons and evenings are filled with sounds of football games and Thanksgiving TV specials such as A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

Now there’s a new trend…Black (Thursday) Friday. Before you know it retailers will up this tradition to Halloween. Starting so early is just too much. Before Christmas even gets here you’re thoroughly sick of it. I don’t want to think about another holiday until I finish the current one. My daughters tried the early Black Friday last Thanksgiving evening…they vowed to never do it again! No sale is worth the hell you go through.

I will talk about my childhood Thanksgivings next week in a post about my most memorable Thanksgivings but here I’ll tell you what my family and I do now. First we do have most of what’s on the food list but no squashes or mashed potatoes. A few of our favorites include cheesy green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs and my grandmothers recipe for mashed candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. We used to include various cookies, candies, pies like pecan or apple, and appetizers but this year we’re cutting back and trying to stay close to our low carb diet as our taste buds will let us including a sugar free pumpkin pie. NO SUGAR!!!

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

The Mayflower Voyagers: This Is America, Charlie Brown

The Mayflower Voyagers: This Is America, Charlie Brown

We start the morning with monkey bread and eggnog to prepare ourselves for the preparation of the feast. We don’t watch football and haven’t watched Thanksgiving specials since my girls were little; however, this year we will definitely watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving now that Kai is old enough. We watch movies until the evening then go the cinema to watch a fun movie. This tradition, though, has been put on hold until Kai is old enough to sit quietly for 90 plus minutes. I don’t see that happening for a few years. The rest of the holiday weekend is spent unpacking Christmas ornaments and decorations as we usher in our official Christmas season. I think we enjoy this as much as Thanksgiving Day as we eat leftovers and tell our crazy stories of holidays past.

With all these goings on does anyone have time to be grateful? It seems in my home we are too busy cooking, eating and playing. We only briefly take time to thank God for our wonderful life. I hope this year will be different – we do have so much to be thankful for.

My thanks for the week:

November 17 – the Jubilee Journey, having the opportunity to live a dream, a two-year road trip with Jesus
November 18 – My Dad’s family I was restored with
November 19 – Reconciliation with my father’s family that I didn’t even know existed but always hoped for
November 20 – My daughter Amber for doing my shopping; I hate shopping. She is such a blessing
November 21 – Kai’s “I love you”’s. Even though he doesn’t know the meaning of love yet, I love hearing it
November 22 – Extra work projects and the extra income
November 23 – Another day of silence and solitude; ah, the peace of quiet

Next week: The final edition, I’ll write about some similar thanksgiving celebrations and harvest festivals worldwide as well as share my final thanks and new Thanksgiving memories.

Don’t forget to share your Thanksgiving traditions!

Macy’s Parade and Peanuts taken from TV screen, I do not claim rights to these.

Day 542 – Dec 24 2010 – A Hallmark Movie Christmas

I searched for months to find my siblings, aunts and uncles.  I found no information on anyone except for my father’s wife. I was determined not to contact her directly, afraid of how she would react. By Thanksgiving I gave up the search and told Jesus I was done searching and if he wanted me to know them it would have to be because he arranged it, not me.

I knew my father was buried at Andersonville National Cemetery and it was only a five hour detour. I had planned on visiting the cemetery in January but with my last minute schedule change I was on my way, full of anticipation, sadness and the knowledge that my journey and my search was coming to an end.

I sat by his grave for nearly an hour. After thirty years of searching I finally found him but would never know him. The search was over but the emptiness and the questions remained.

I can’t even describe the overwhelming emotions knowing I was at the end of my searching. But my heart couldn’t let go. I needed to find someone who could tell me of my father. I stopped at the office and poured out my story and my tears. The lady was so kind. She noticed a name on the paperwork. His wife who had been to his grave every week, she had not let go of her loss. Question answered: he was loved.

She called her to enquire if she would be willing to meet me. Not only did she want to, but she and my father and my brothers and sisters had been searching for me for 40 years. Question answered; I was loved.

I spent two days with Jean learning about my father and meeting the brothers and sisters, the family, I had dreamed of all my life. They were receptive and happy to meet me. I had feared for so long that if they learned of me they would either not accept me or be angered by my existence. My brothers and sisters, my aunts and uncles all knew of me and had been looking for me, wanting me in their lives. Question answered; my father was a good man.

Although I had never met them I knew them in my heart. Each time I met a family member, each time I spoke with one of them on the phone it was like coming home. It was as if I knew them all my life and this time was the ultimate family reunion. They were no strangers; they were my family. I finally got my Hallmark Christmas.

I am at peace with my past. I am no longer, unworthy and second best, no longer the nagging feeling that something is missing. It is still disappointing knowing I will never meet him in this life but I have the family I have dreamed about for nearly 50 years. And I have the hope and knowledge I will see my dad in the next life. I know he’ll be waiting for me when it’s time for me to move into the greatest adventure.

You see, I was never unloved, unwanted and unworthy, yet I believed the enemy’s lies. Whatever is not true, not honorable, not right, not pure and not lovely, is not of God, and if you believe it you are believing a lie (Phil 4:8). I lived in this mental prison for more than 50 years, settling for second best. Now I’m being set free of these handicaps of my heart.

No matter how dead, no matter how impossible, no matter how hopeless, with Jesus nothing is too difficult, nothing is impossible and it’s NEVER too late. Be open to where and how Jesus is moving in your life because when dreams come true it may not be how we envision it or when we want it but it will be how and when we need it and when it will be of the greatest blessing to others.

For nothing is impossible with God.  Luke 1:37 (NLT)

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night

Day 541 – 12.23.10 Andersonville National Cemetery

“This is where the healing begins, this is where the healing starts, when we come to where we’re broken with him the light meets the dark.”  Tenth avenue north

 

Day 509 – Day Nov 21 2010 – Reprieve from loneliness.

I met two men in need yesterday. I was seeking safe passage to Mexico and they were seeking a way back to their campground. The father and son (Rodney and Caleb) had broken down on the bridge to Mexico.

We talked for a while and I took them back to their camper and then to the auto parts store and Wal-Mart and then back to their truck. It still didn’t start so I took them back to the camper where they were able to get a tow. We talked and ate for two days. I had so much fun.

They thought I was an “angel” sent to rescue them but they rescued me. A weekend of solitude led into two days of laughter and friendship. Thank you Jesus for sending them to be my angels

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 NIV

Day 435: Sept 8. “The beauty of a heart restored”

Four years ago my daughter left a life with Christ to join the enemy. She was abducted by aliens and replaced with an evil Ashley. Those of you who are parents will understand the heartbreak of a child that’s gone astray. It seems hopeless and there’s nothing you can do. You have to let them make their own mistakes, to find their own way in this world no matter how destructive their behavior, no matter how hurtful their attitude. Most parents go through this in the teenage years. Luckily, my girls waited until their twenties and after they left home. I wasn’t able to be there to help them, but that was a good thing. No child can grow up if they know their parents are there to bail them out time and again. They had to work it out themselves. But for a parent who has to just stand back and watch their beloved child self destruct, it is a long and agonizing nightmare.

In July, one day before her 25th birthday, Ashley slid rapidly toward the bottom of the pit she had dug for herself. As she hit bottom I knew one of two things could happen; she’d actually get worse if that were possible or she’d realize how bad off she was and grab on to Jesus for the hard climb back. This deep hole would become the catalyst God needed to bring his lost sheep home.

As the weeks pasted Ashley grew stronger. She began just reevaluating her life, and then she read “The Shack”, which further opened her eyes to the life God wanted with her. Next she read “Captivating” and we used it as a tool for bible study. It seems as though my beautiful girl with the most beautiful heart is back. What I thought was hopeless Jesus never gave up on.

No matter how hopeless a circumstance, no matter how dead a situation, no matter how lost a loved one; Jesus restores all.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:4-7 (NIV 2011)

Day 408: Aug 12. “Revelation”

Well I couldn’t let it go. I had to keep looking for info on my father. I found his obituary and there I saw it; Barbara Burton of Massachusetts. He had remembered me! His family knew I existed. All those years I thought he wanted nothing to do with me, all those wasted years. Waves of emotion, tears, how will I deal with this revelation? I am changed forever, but who am I now? I know my identity is in Christ, but this is going to take time to settle in my mind and heart.

Because of his love, God had already decided to make us his own children through Jesus Christ. That was what he wanted and what pleased him. Ephesians 1:5 (New Century)

So now what do I do with this new knowledge? Contact his wife, or just settle for knowing I’m not forgotten? This is going to take much prayer and more courage than I’ve ever known.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NASB)

Day 378 – July 13 2010 – Hospitality in Bellaire

I have been to so many places, so many counties, met so many people. Sometimes I have felt welcome other times I felt a prickling like knives scratching my back as the people at the courthouses would secretly send vibes that I wasn’t welcome. Some places were so bad I can say I wouldn’t want to go back. Sometimes this unwelcoming would extend to a whole state such as Mississippi and Kentucky. Then there are other states such as Missouri and Tennessee where I felt welcomed wherever I went.

Some people and places are particularly memorable. There was woman in Craig Colorado who welcomed me and enjoyed hearing stories of my travels. There was another county I couldn’t concentrate with all the women looking at baby pictures. Ugh, these sappy women drive me crazy, jees it just a baby. It makes my skin crawl.

I spent a week in Bellaire Michigan and I must say this is then nicest place I’ve been. Everyone I’ve met has been so nice and helpful. I met a woman while collecting Petoskey stones on the beaches of Lake Michigan. Lynn was a kindred spirit. I joined her and her husband for the evening and had a wonderful time. Thank you Jesus for all the wonderful people you put in my path on this journey.

Petoskey Stones

Day 257: Mar 14. “I’m better because I knew them”

After a week on the Trace I’m ready to move on. The car’s fixed and it’s time to head to my next destination. When my car broke down I wasn’t terribly upset, I knew as long as I had the money it would get fixed. No concerns about loneliness, lack of electricity, showers, ice and water, these are only minor irritations. After all I’ve been through, this problem, like all things with God turned into a blessing.

Fran and Bruce, the camp hosts, invited me to visit they helped me out in my predicament, getting me ice and taking me to town but that pales in significance to the real help they gave me.

We spent the week laughing and eating the best fire cooked food, breakfast at the General Café, enjoying coffee and company at Yoder’s Market, new friends Fred, Doris & Gerald; afternoons at buffalo coffee house. I knew I was grateful for the time they spent with me but I didn’t realize until I left the degree of their true impact.

Over the past two months the loneliness of this trip has taken its toll on my heart and soul. I had become frustrated and irritable, couldn’t find a smile or joy in my heart. I felt blackened. Depressed and low. I talked to God about this every time it came up. I realized my loneliness was my own doing. I wasn’t making friends because I didn’t stay anywhere long enough. When I was forced to stay in one place I was also forced to be a friend.

Fran and Bruce’s friendship and caring warmed my heart and freed my soul of its dark place. As I said my goodbyes I hesitated leaving but I had a long drive ahead so leave I must. As I pulled out of the campground I was no longer feeling the loss but was filled with peace and joy, the very thing I hadn’t felt in months. I am a better person because I knew them.

Thank you Fran and Bruce. You were such a blessing and I look forward to visiting with you again.

Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Hebrews 13:2

Day 256: Mar 13. “Be careful what you ask for”

Oh what a week. Monday talked to a guy who could fix my car and under budget but not until Wednesday and it would take 2-3 days to fix. Ok, so I’m here for the week with no work. I’ll deal. I go in and he can’t find what’s wrong with it and sends me elsewhere, they can’t find it but finally say it’s the computer and I’ll have to go to a dealership. The closest is 30 miles away.

So I hold up in a hotel for two days (poor me) while it’s in the shop. I’m stuck again. They can’t get to it until Friday. Come to find out, the computer didn’t fix the problem and the part isn’t returnable. But in the end its fixed and I get to stay on the “Trace” again for the weekend.

I did ask for this though. So why did I get what I asked for with my car breaking down? Over the past months I’ve lamented that while on this trip “I’ve not made any friendships, I’m alone here and I’m tired of being alone”. I realized I hadn’t stayed anywhere long enough to make friends. Had I not been stuck here for ten days I would have never known such good friends – Fran, Bruce, Fred, the Yoder’s, the girls at the courthouse, the people at the General Café and Buffalo River Coffee House. God has truly blessed me this week.

Be careful what you pray for you just might get it – just not the way you thought you would.

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (The Message)

Day 121: Oct 29. “Jubilee Birthday – Devine Restoration”

I haven’t heard from any of my family in Georgia in more than ten years, haven’t seen any of them in 20, not since my Dad’s funeral in 1988.

I remembered some road names and plotted a course. Nothing looked the same and I didn’t know my way around. I remembered Old Waynesboro Road where my grandparents lived, Proctor & Gamble’s winking blinking lights (my childhood landmark) and Crepe Myrtle Dr, the house I grew up in.

Driving slowly I caught a glimpse of my grandparents house and the farm where I played when I was a girl. It looked so different, the store’s porch is now enclosed and the trees were gone from the old farmhouse. There was pasture across the street; now a school. I turned around in what was once Uncle Jr’s drive, now a house on either side where fields and horses once were. The road was overgrown the horse fence gone. It used to remind me of Tara in Gone with the Wind. The once large brick house seemed so small now. Everything seems so much larger when we’re children. We joked about someone coming out with a gun; it is rural Georgia after all.

I turned around and went back to Nana’s house, pulled in and headed back toward the barn. Told stories of the games I played, the barn, what it looked like 45 years ago. Again we were afraid we’d be shot for trespassing so we headed for the road.

We saw a lady walking from the road to the house and I waved nervously. Amber asked “why don’t you ask her if she knew your family” I replied “I doubt it, they’ve been gone since Nana died in ‘97”. I agreed to back up and if she came out of the house I’d ask, otherwise it was on to the next stop. She did come out and I asked “Do you know the Johnson’s who used to live here?” She perked up exclaiming “I am a Johnson”. My eyes lit up and shock took over, who could this woman be, “which one” I asked as I fumbled with the seatbelt and door handle. The reply was more than I could hope for; she was “Angela”, a cousin I played with on the farm as a young child. I always had a soft spot for her. As I fall out of the van I exclaim, “I’m Wyatt’s daughter”. We hug, I ball.

We talk a few minutes and she asks if I want to see “mom & dad”. Confused I asked “whose mom & dad”. I thought, “My parents are dead, her parents are dead: who could she be talking about?” With a puzzled look she replied “mine”, tears well up again. I nearly lost it. I saw Aunt Hazel and balled, again, and then Uncle Jr, and Angela’s sister, Linda, came over. We all talked and looked at pictures. How much everyone has changed. How I have missed them so.

We then stopped by Aunt Sara & Uncle Carl’s, they now live next door in one of the houses in the field. We chatted and ate the best soup ever.

My daughters were so excited to meet this long lost family and ate up the stories. They’ve missed their whole lives being with them.

It’s on to cousin SuAnn’s. Oh, I’ve missed her so much. I was probably closest to Sue; we lived close by each other when we were young, just a road apart. She was the closest to me in age and we remained close to her family for years after we moved from Georgia. I was Aunt Martha’s (Sue’s mom) precious and I knew it. She adored me and I her. We visited with Sue, her husband Mark, and daughter Jesslyn who is now married to Zack.

We decided to stay the night and met up with everyone the next day for BBQ & hash, then to the cemetery where Dad and my grandparents are buried. After we went to where I had lived on Crepe Myrtle. Everything was so different, so rundown.

There were so many delays getting here, but Jesus arranged it that way, because if not, this restoration may never have taken place. It was a surreal experience. To be with all my family, for my girls to share this with me, for them to know my roots and theirs, and to know those I loved and believed long gone; this was the best birthday ever, the perfect jubilee day.

My jubilee birthday – Jesus returned me to my homelands and restored me with my family. Jesus restores and returns us all we have lost, all that has been taken from us or that we have allowed to be taken.

Jesus is our Jubilee – a life of freedom and restoration.

Day 92: Sept 30. “Arrowheads”

I leave the park in search of a fire pit to cook some hotdogs because I couldn’t find any in the area of the park I was in. Finally, just north of Yellowstone, I find this rough but beautiful primitive campground. I go to pay, feeling uneasy as I see a sign that reads “rattle snakes in the area” and “Grizzly bear country”. And I want to cook pork products? Let’s wave a flag, bear food here. Of course I’ll be leaving after I finish cooking.

The wind was so strong and the fire fierce. I used a whole bag of briquettes. What was I thinking; I thought I’d never get the fire put out. The wind kept it going and going and going, over an hour I fought it. Good thing, I later found out there was a fire warning in the area – NO FIRES ALLOWED, oops. There should have been a sign next to the rattlesnake and grisly signs.

Besides the fire I’d also been mumbling about laundry and cooking the last of the Mac & Cheese and definitely a shower. I smell like a campfire, dust and ash in every crevasse.

I find a little motel close to the courthouse I would be working at in the morning. I love these little places, run by individuals, not corporations. Pull right up to your door, so quaint. Wow God is providing, taking care of my heart and my every desire.

First it’s cheap or should I say affordable, then yes, it has Wi-Fi.

I pull up to my door and guess what room is next to mine –the laundry room.

A fire pit; I could have cooked my hot dogs here if I had only waited.

I go in. What a cute place, big bath and a full kitchen.

But wait, there’s more. There’s a coffee maker with coffee.

But that’s not all, a microwave. I can finally cook the rest of the Mac & Cheese.

I could live here. My needs are few.

Jesus, while I know you are all powerful you still astonish me with how you deal with the little things. I look at my little arrowhead and know how awesome you are.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

Day 85: Sept 23. “A gift from God”

I am still exhausted from my day of hiking I’m going to taking the day off. Since I fell asleep so early I wasn’t going to make it back to Wyoming anyway and I only have two more counties to do so I head back to Wyoming, at a relaxed pace. First I travel along scenic Interstate 70. There are many scenic pullouts and rest areas. This highway runs through the Colorado Plateau which was created by the same forces that created the Grand Canyon, Colorado National Monument and my beloved Arches, but with a much wider ranging beauty. At one of the rest areas was a young Native American lady selling jewelry. She was there with a small child. I first thought she was a painter or there for a picnic. Then she started laying out her jewelry. I immediately went to look.

Her jewelry was beautiful, elegant and ornate. I came close to buying some of the more ornate jewelry, knowing I wouldn’t wear it on a daily basis I continued looking for something simpler, like my lifestyle. I saw some arrowheads on a piece of black rope but thought it too masculine and then I saw some small arrowheads on silver chains. Wanting something in turquoise I picked one up but it was such a bright blue I didn’t feel it was me. Then I saw an odd colored green & tan stone. I thought how cool but it’s not my color so I kept looking. I was drawn back to that odd green colored stone and God said “are you going to buy it or not? It’s yours, now go get it”. I went to get some money, thinking if it’s too much I’ll pass. But it was only $8.00. Then I thought, it looks too small, if it fits I’ll buy it. And of course I still have in my head that it’s the wrong color. I put it on and it fit perfectly. An energizing peace surged through my soul and I knew this was God’s gift to me. I ask the lady what the stone was and she replied “leopard skin”

Later, I Googled “leopard skin” to find what meaning the rock held. Surprised I found it, a jasper which is mentioned in the bible several times. The jasper gemstone is a stone of strength and stability and of protection. Oh, Jesus, thank you. Just what I needed, to be reminded of how much I can trust you, you will always protect me, keep me safe and secure and heal me inside and out.

But the revelation didn’t stop there; further research revealed that the leopard skin jasper is associated with spiritual discovery. Wow, now I’m really blown over. God gives me this small gift to remind me of our journey together. This was the perfect gift for this trip. It represents all God is doing here through this journey and in me.

Leopard skin jasper arrowhead

My jasper gemstone has not been polished to look like a shinny bead but was left in it rough, natural state. Like me, a beauty to unveil.

But what about the meaning of the arrowhead…..

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 (NIV)

Day 81: Sept 19. “Dreams DO come true”

Having mentioned my waterfall dream in my last post I need to expound upon it so you may see God’s work, grace and blessings.

In April of this year as I was preparing for this trip I had a dream. Here is the CliffsNotes version.

I was traveling and was soon joined by a man who I believe was a representation of Jesus. In the first part of the dream there were three waterfalls. I was trying to walk across a boardwalk that went along the front of the falls to a get closer look but there was snow and ice; I turned to the man and said “I can’t make it, I’m afraid”. He understood but I sensed he was disappointed in my lack of trust.

So we left to find another vantage point where I could photograph them. Across the river he stood along the fence, distracted I took another route without telling him. I attempted to cross a small shallow stream but found that I was over my head. The man helped me out and asked with frustration “why didn’t you stay with me, I can’t be there for you if you’re going to keep wondering off”.

He suggested a boat ride to get closer. There were many branches off this river, each with three waterfalls. I tried desperately to photograph them but the captain was going so fast that everything was a blur. I asked him to slow down and he responded “busy, busy, busy, lots of people to accommodate”.

There was far more symbolism imbedded in this dream than I can go into here but the theme of the waterfalls is that there have been three things in my life that have been a barrier to my going forward with Jesus. First, fear. I had to learn unconditional trust. Just leaving on this trip was a huge leap of faith. Fears of grisly bears, danger, black bears, loneliness, bridges, brown bears, narrow winding mountain roads and did I mentions BEARS. Fear of failing, fear You wouldn’t be there to catch me if I fall. Second, distraction. As my girls will tell you, when we are together they are often having to hunt me down as I’m distraction to the point of walking away, like a little child in a toy store. I have had to learn to focus and listen to Jesus. This trip has shown me so many wonders because I focused on what Jesus wanted me to see. What he put in my heart. Third, busyness. I cannot remember a time when I was not driven to do, to accomplish, to succeed, even if I was the only one who knew it. My third week west showed me how destructive busyness can be. I worked so much and was consumed by it that I missed God’s blessing, I missed the romancing He wanted to share with me and his beauty. It left me empty and frustrated and that is not what God wants for his children. My vow to slow down, listen to Jesus, and enjoy the journey that brings me to the place of my dream.

Months ago as I was researching places to visit I found the waterfalls I had dreamt about. Having let go of my list of places to visit and letting Jesus lead me I had forgotten all about visiting the falls. They were in Colorado and Colorado had not made my list of states to visit until perhaps later. Monday I called Eric, my guide of sorts, and out of the blue I asked if he had any counties in Northern Colorado since I was so close. He sent me to Craig, Colorado. As I was pondering what to do for the weekend I looked at the map and realized Arches National Park wasn’t that far…only 4 hrs, a mere “Sunday drive” at this point in the trip. Then my heart said “where are the waterfalls?” I got out my list, found the name of the park, put it in the map program and wow! There is was, right on my route.

When I let go of fear, business and distraction God romanced me with such a stunning gift and a dream turned into reality. Rifle Falls State Park, just northeast or Rifle, CO, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve traveled to. Three waterfalls, side by side, equal in power and beauty but each unique. And I did walk across the boardwalk at the top of the falls.

Colorado

A side note on conquering fear.

After leaving Rifle Fall heading to Utah, I took a side trip to Colorado National Monument. The last trip west my daughter, Ashley, drove us up the side of a mesa. I was literally sick with fear and panic. As I approach the Colorado Plateau I see it is much taller than the one we traversed in Utah four years ago but as Joyce Meyer says “Do it afraid”. So I did. It took hours to drive through miles of winding, narrow roads with adjacent cliffs. “I should be panicking” I thought, but I wasn’t. Of course this road was two-lane and paved unlike the narrow gravel road in Utah but still a milestone. I was fearless. God certainly had helped me through this fear and I was able to enjoy the beauty.

God’s word lives in your hearts, and you have won your battle with the evil one. 1 John 2:14b (NLT)