Monday, October 26, 2015

Autumn Reflections

With the cool weather here and the brilliant fall colors bursting all about, I can't help but take a few minutes to reflect on God's abundant blessings. Yesterday, I went back in time to visit my high school for its fiftieth anniversary. In many ways, it was as if time had stopped. My locker was still there. The cafeteria, the gym, the office and much remain as I remember it when I walked the halls and went about my daily routine from 1965 to 1969. Back then, my brother, who was just 1 year behind me in school, and I would walk the short walk from home to school each day. God was good to us. Our home life was simple and satisfying. We had a dad and a mom who showered us with love and affirmation.
I drove by the home we grew up in yesterday too. We moved into this brand new Levitt home rancher in August of 1964. Yesterday, as I drove by, the house has had a few upgrades, but overall, it too is the same.
Today, my loving father, encouraging mother and outgoing brother are all in heaven. I think of them so much with a full heart.
Next week would have been my mom's 92nd birthday. The first time in 64 years that she and I haven't been together to help her celebrate. I will miss that time of being with her, yet it is a joy to know my parents and brother are together.
I know I will see them again and yes, we will celebrate together.
I am grateful for my most wonderful husband, Garland, who showers me with overflowing love. I am so thankful for our wonderful daughters and son in law and joyful grandson and granddaughter.
As the saying goes, Life is good! So on this autumnal afternoon, I give praise to the one who created me and makes all the pieces fit together. Thank you, God for past days, present days and all that is to come.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Today is October 7, 2015. It was a beautiful fall day. Fall is my favorite season for many reasons. I love the cooler weather, the changing colors of the leaves and the spectacular October blue skies. Tonight, a rocket was launched from Wallops Island. Supposedly, the colors from the launch could be seen from many miles away. My husband and I went out at the time it was said to see the greens and reds, but because we are surrounded by trees, no such  sight for us. I hope to see some pictures from those who saw the colors. Even so, it was nice to be out at twilight and look up at the darkening sky. I'll keep looking up! Thank you, God, for Autumn.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Seven Countries in Fifteen Days

On May 7th, my husband, friend Patti and I went on quite an adventure! We left from Dulles Airport around 11:30 PM on May 7th. As we were in midair, my husband reached over and said, "Happy Birthday" and gave me a kiss. I would be landing in Sarajevo, Bosnia on my birthday. We first landed in Istanbul to change planes and continue on to Sarajevo. While waiting for our next flight, our departure gate was changed 3 times. We scurried through the maze of people and luggage to get to our newly assigned gate each time. We were about an hour late arriving in Sarajevo, but our driver, Neno, was waiting patiently for us. Sarajevo Airport is  much smaller and less confusing than Istanbul. Neno is a Christian that we were put in contact with through some missionary friends from Sarajevo whom we had met in Fredericksburg about 3 years ago. He took us to our hotel, Halvat Guesthouse but picked up our second driver, Mladen on the way. Between, Neno and Mladen, we would be chauffeured around Bosnia and finally on to Croatia. While in Bosnia, Mladen took us to the Orthopedic Hospital, where David's company, Guardian Glass had donated glass after the airplane crash. There is a plaque at the hospital in David's memory. Mladen drove us on Sunday, May 10th, to Dubrovnik, Croatia with a stop for lunch in Mostar, Bosnia where he and his wife Violetta had gone to Bible College. While in Croatia, Garland, Patti and I climbed St. John's Mountain where the plane David was on had crashed on April 3, 1996. I am very thankful to have been able to pay tribute to David's life by doing this. The view of the Adriatic Sea and surrounding mountains was breathtaking! We also visited Old Town Dubrovnik where the Ronald Brown Memorial House is with pictures of David and several of the others who were on the plane. This room was a special time to view the plaques, pictures and sign the guestbook. I hope to return to Dubrovnik one day and stay for a few days. It's a beautiful and old city. 
Our next stop was Rome where we rented a car and drove to Pompeii to spend the night. Pompeii requires a lot of walking.  We figure we walked more than 10 miles that day. We also got lost in the ruins more than once. Then, we left for Rome to see the Coliseum, The Spanish Steps, The Vatican and St. Peter's Cathedral as well as the Sistine Chapel. By the time we were in the Sistine Chapel, we just wanted to see the Rotunda where Michelangelo painted the ceiling. It was taking too long to get there, so Patti recommended ducking under the rope. Garland did and got away with it, but Patti and I and 2 other girls were caught by the guards and made to go back under the ropes. Arrgggh! We did elude the ever-watchful guards later and caught up with Garland.
It was then onto Pisa, Florence and Venice. Pisa is a quiet town with the Leaning Tower and the Basilica being the main attractions. I would go back there too as it is very lovely. We would probably stay at the Hotel Crown Victoria next time. This is where Megan and her friend Erica had stayed when they went to Pisa. We couldn't get reservations this time so we stayed at the Hotel Bologna. Our trip to Florence to see Michaelangelo's statue of David, didn't work out. We did make it to Florence, but the line to see the statue wrapped around the museum and there just wasn't enough time to wait as we had to go on to Venice. Venice is interesting too. Easy to get lost there as well, even with maps. Lovely canals and old buildings. It makes you wonder with all the buildings standing in water, how they manage to remain standing.
After Venice, we drove to our hotel near Marco Polo Airport. The hotel, Villa Braida is an old estate and I would love to go back there and just enjoy the space. We woke early the next morning, May 16, to get to Marco Polo Airport for our next flight to Paris. I slept very well at Villa Braida with opened windows as there is no air conditioning, but it was a cool night. I awoke to the sound of goat herding bells and baaaa-ing. Nice!!
Paris Airport was fun as we had an entertaining french Hertz agent. Patti said he reminded her of Tom Gordon who we knew from the Y. Patti told him she was old enough to be his mother so he better be good. That led to a whole conversation about his mother. He said, I never thought I would be talking about my mother at work!! It was fun and he gave us a car upgrade because of the interchange. Then we drove to Versailles and walked around the town. The next day we visited Versailles Palace. The line was intimidatingly long. Garland had been to Versailles in 1974 when there was no one there. We waited in line and then Garland went ahead to check out of our hotel while Patti and I were pushed along by the mass of people in the palace. We were told that about 27,000 people go through there every day.
Next stop was to the north of France to Bayeux where D Day occurred in the Normandy region of France. This is a beautiful region, very much in the country. We stayed at the Budget Ibis as we had stayed at an Ibis Hotel in Versailles. Not much in the way of frills, but for the money, it was very clean and just right. We visited the spot where the Army Rangers scaled the beachhead at Normandy, called Pointe de Hoc. We also visited Omaha Beach and the German Cemetery as well as the American Museum and American Cemetery which is where you exit as you leave the museum. It was a cold and rainy day which added to the somber feeling of the experience.
The Notre Dame of Bayeux is beautiful which we toured later while Garland went back to the laundromat to put his clothes in the dryer. There's a fun story about this, but not now.
After Bayeux, it was back to Paris to drop off the rental car at train station, Gare Est. By the way, if you ever have to drop off a Hertz rental at Gare Est in Paris, go to the right side of the train station to Parking Garage 2, then go to sub floor 5 to park it and then sub floor 1 to drop off the keys and get paperwork signed. The Hertz' signs are super tiny. We took the fast train to Luxembourg, where Anouk and Claude met us with a welcoming sign. They had hoped to see us as we exited the train, but somehow we didn't see each other. Our hotel, The Best Western International, was just across the street, so they surprised us there in the lobby!! Anouk and Claude walked with us around the city of Luxembourg and took us to the Cathedral and by the palace of the Grand Duke. Anouk and Claude are the BEST. They went out of their way to do everything. I might add, they live an hour out of the city too. We had dinner with David Shartz, Miriam and Jackie after a long day.
The next day we went to tour northern Luxembourg and into Bastogne, Belgium where Claude went to college and where the Battle of Bastogne occurred in 1944. The Belgians love Americans. We visited Clairveux, a monastery in Northern Luxembourg. We also visited the beautiful cathedral where Anouk and Claude were married near Clairveux. After that we went to The Cactus, the grocery store David and Deb would go to when they lived in Luxembourg,. Patti and I did some shopping there and in the attached mall, we bought a couple things for our grandchildren:)
Anouk and Claude surprised us with a dinner with 8 of the classmates who had come to the States in 1995 with David and their teacher, Herre Biewer. He was at the surprise party too along with his wife and Gwendy, his daughter-in-law who also came in 1995 as the female chaperon. What an overwhelming feeling I had with their outpouring of love that night. Several of the kids' (who are now 30 years old) parents were there too. Patti and I were hoisted away by Henriette to see her home and her donkeys. Her house is just a few minutes away from the restaurant.
 Anouk took us the next morning to the airport to catch our flight to Istanbul.
On May 21, we arrived in Istanbul and found our driver to take us to The Holiday Star hotel which is in the heart of Istanbul. A stone's throw from the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. We loved where we stayed in Istanbul. The manager of the hotel was excellent and very welcoming. Garland bought a 3 x 5 Turkish carpet. I fell on Thursday evening (the last full day of our vacation) as I was looking at everything and not watching where I was going. Long story short, I did break the lower part of my ankle bone. The swelling wasn't going down after about 10 days, so I went to Dr. Donato on Wednesday. I am in an ankle brace and it should heal just fine.
We toured the Hagia Sofia right before leaving for the airport on May 22. Garland got a tour guide for us so we could go quickly through this old church. Great  idea, Garland!!
Then, the taxi driver, (arranged for us by our amazing hotel manager) took us to the airport and we flew home. We had quite a few- maybe 4 or 5 security check points at Istanbul prior to departure. No gate changes this time!

Home Sweet Home on the evening of May 22. Thank you God, for a trip of a lifetime. A better, much better trip than we could have imagined!!  Thank you  to my wonderful husband for his incredible trip planning and driving us through the highways of Italy- (Italian drivers only use the lines on the highway as suggestions) and through the crowded city of  Paris. Garland, you did better than good.

Friday, January 9, 2015

2015

As I write this, it is the second day of the New Year. On December 17, just a little over 2 weeks ago, Mom entered God's presence around 3:30 AM. I was with her until around 8:15 PM the night before. Her eyes did not open while I was with her on December 16th. The night nurse at Mary Washington Hospital had called me just before 7 AM on the 16th. She asked me what time I would be in to help Mom with her breakfast. When I told her that I would be in around 8:45, she said I might want to come in a little earlier. Amy, the night nurse, told me that Mom's heart had done "a weird thing" in the middle of the night of the 16th. The evening of December 15th, Mom had been able to have her oxygen mask removed and just a nose tube at the tip of her nose was there to give her oxygen. She had aspirated on some food at Hughes Home on Sunday around 1 PM and had been taken to the Emergency Room. I was on my way to see her that day and actually passed the ambulance as it was leaving the Hughes Home parking lot. I wondered who might be in the ambulance. They had called the house phone to let me know she was on her way to the ER, but I had already left the house at that point. When I arrived at the ER, Mom had the full oxygen mask on and her eyes were closed. I stayed with her until around 4:15 and then left for church which would start at 5. They were getting her ready to move to a room on the 2nd floor. When I went back Sunday evening after church, she was in her second floor room at Mary Washington. She was asleep, so I just stayed with her a short time. On Monday morning when I went to her room, she still had the full oxygen mask on and through it, she said, "Help me." I know she was claustrophobic with it on. I said, I am trying to help you mom. Around 1:00, Tracy Lunceford, the Pastor from First Christian Church where Mom was a member and where we go now (in the morning), came in to pray over Mom. I think her eyes would open briefly, but not sure. When I went in to see Mom Monday evening, her oxygen mask was off. She was able to eat a full dinner of pureed pears, peaches, applesauce, mashed potatoes, vanilla pudding and thickened cranberry juice. I helped feed her, but she took the spoon for the pudding and fed herself!  I turned on TV and she watched a little Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.  The night nurse, Amy, came in and Mom looked right at her and said, "Call your Mama." I sent a picture to Megan and Rebecca to see and to say that,"Grandma is amazing", thinking she was rebounding. Then on Tuesday, December 16th, our Pastor Toby Larson came in to see Mom around 1 PM. The Hospice nurse had been in to tell me that Mom was in the final hours of her life. Toby prayed over Mom and together we read liturgy as Mom's Last Rites were read and prayed. I left the hospital for a couple hours just to go home. I came back around 4 PM. Sandy Ovitt came shortly after that and stayed with me  the rest of the time. Mom was being moved to the Palliative Care floor, the 4th floor from her 2nd floor intermediate care room. During that evening, Sandy and I each put on a pair of green and red Christmas fuzzy socks on Mom's feet. Sandy put her left sock on and I put on her right  sock. The Hospice nurse suggested if there was anyone who might want to say goodbye to Mom then maybe now would be a good time to do that. Sandy thought so too. I called Patsy so she could go down to Uncle Noah's. Patsy and Uncle Noah said goodbye over the phone. I called Megan, Rebecca (and Gordon Lee), Katy (Debbie was with her) and Douglas and held the phone for each to say  their goodbyes and comforting words. Diana, Pam, Charlotte, and Mike were also able to talk to Mom. I am thankful I did that as I hadn't planned on doing this. Thank you God for the evening of December 15th as Mom and I had such a great evening together in her hospital room. I know Mom is with God and all of her family who ventured to heaven before her. Most especially, her Mom, my Dad, and her beloved David. I'll see you later, Mom. I love you.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

July

As I think about the month of July, there are many things that come to mind. My parents were married on the 4th of July. My brother and sister-in-law did the same thing 33 years after my parents. My grandson was born in July. Such happy days. Then on July 10th, 1995, God called my dad home to be with Him. This, I am sure, was a happy day for my dad. No more dialysis, no more pain.  I am thankful God called Daddy to be with him while he was at home. He was planning a trip to Lexington, VA to do a bit of business the day that He died. He loved to travel. God had a bigger and better trip planned for him that day. As a Christian, we know, it is not goodbye at the point of separation by death, it is merely a see you later. I am currently reading a book by NT Wright called Surprised by Hope. The book gives new light into what heaven may be like. I don't think anyone has half an idea of what heaven is. All I do know is that we  will be in for a BIG surprise. Also, I do believe, we will see and recognize those we knew on earth, but I don't really understand the particulars. It isn't necessary for me to understand, because then it wouldn't be much of a surprise. Thank you, God, for the events of July. We only have today, we needn't dwell on yesterday and we can't count on tomorrow. May I (we)  live today to the fullest and rest in the assurance that God is in control.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bed Making 101

Today is June 1, a brand new month.  As I reflect on some thoughts, one jumps right out at me from the following commencement speech for this year to The University of Texas at Austin given by Navy Admiral William H. McRaven. http://youtu.be/pxBQLFLei70  He says about a third of the way into the speech that the first thing he learned in Seal Training was to make his bed first thing each morning. His point being, that as you head out the door each day, you have no idea what kind of difficulties await you. You may have a lousy day, but at the end of that day, you can come back to your bedroom and see a neatly made bed and say at least I accomplished something. My husband has made a similar comment to our daughters and me. Maybe he learned this in his army training days. My husband's point is simply, it's nice to come home to a made bed. I may not make military corners and tucks in my bed making, however I do make my bed each morning. I add two pillows in their frilly shams and a decorative pillow in between those two. My husband doesn't get the point of the extra pillows, which just get tossed off of the bed at the end of the day. I, on the other hand, enjoy this extra step in the process. What is interesting is that I was out of town a few weeks ago and came home to find he had gone the extra step by putting the shammed pillows and pretty pillow neatly in their place. Sweet!
My question to you is, have you made your bed today? If so, enjoy your first accomplishment of the day. If not, go make your bed.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March Winds

As I write this, I just heard from my daughter of the death of an acquaintance of hers. He was a Christian who was only 32 years old, the same age as my daughter. His story is in the Washington Post today and USA Today as he had been a soccer player for DC United. His name is Shawn Kuykendall if you want to read about this young man whose main thing was trusting God every step of the way. What I appreciated most, when reading about his life and his struggle with cancer, was his sense of purpose and his sense of humor. I think when push comes to shove, we all need to have  Christ first and foremost and a sense of humor runs a close second. It's more than a saving knowledge of Christ really, it's a steadfast hope that God has a purpose for each of us. Our part is to go along for the adventure. Sometimes, the adventure is one we would much rather avoid, if it were up to us. Thankfully, God IS and always will be in control.
As the wind is blowing outside today, I think about how God causes things to blow across our paths. Births, deaths and all the stuff in between punctuate our lives.We don't know which way the wind will blow. Sometimes, it blows from one direction, in our favor, only to turn the next minute and blow another way, against us~ forcing us to fight. God is like that. As He says in Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.
We can waste time and try to figure out God's plan or we can enjoy the life He gives to us and KNOW He has it all figured out, way before we were even born.
When the wind blows and I am out in it, my hair loses any style it had. When my husband goes out on a windy day, his hair stays put. It's as if the wind isn't strong enough to matter. No matter what I would put on or in my hair, hairspray, styling gel, whatever thickening junk, the wind has a way of doing it's thing. My hair is super fine and that is the way God made it. God made my husband's hair to be super thick and unmovable in essence.
I guess what I am trying to convey is even though we may be fragile or we may be strong, God is at work in us. I may notice the wind more because I see how it blows my hair so easily. There are other times, when yes, we see the wind blowing, but as with my husband's hair, it doesn't seem to affect us.
On this windy March day, I don't know what God has planned, but I do know He will use whatever wind He chooses, a breeze or a gust, to accomplish His will in me. All I need to do is live my life for Him with a smile, a sense of humor and enjoy the adventure. May Shawn Kuykendall's family and friends be comforted in knowing he lived a life pleasing to God and his life continues to show God's purpose.