Heaven sent gift of love and hope;
Ascension of Jesus, Savior and Lord.
Perfect and holy; he knew no sin;
Punishment he suffered for all believing in Him.
Yesterday’s and today’s offenses are forgiven;
Eternal salvation now awaits in heaven.
After that long night when he hung on the cross;
Suffering in silence, our Lord Jesus.
Tomb is opened as the stoned is rolled away;
Early morning celebration, oh Happy Easter Day!
Resurrected, Jesus is alive; in heaven, in my
heart and always at my side.
Crystal blue sunlit skies;
Early Easter morning sunrise.
Leaves appearing; hints of emerald green
Enveloping the once barren trees
Branches reaching skyward and wild wood thickets;
Robins strumming, croaking frogs, and chirping crickets.
Aroma of a warm, refreshing rain;
Thunder rumbles occasionally on the horizon.
Evenings stretching into sun-gilded twilight;
Soft shimmering moon hovers in the starry night.
Purple violets dotting the grass-laden meadow;
Rabbits hopping and scampering squirrels
In the forest hidden by leafy boughs,
New fawn and doe quietly wandering about.
Gifts of new life and hope emerging: new treasures
found in the season of Spring.
Gently, softly, this day concludes
In twilight’s glowing interlude.
Future endeavors laid to rest;
Tomorrow will appear soon enough.
Over the mountains and sea, the sun has journeyed;
Finally resting upon the windswept prairie.
Thankfulness fills the mind and heart;
Happy contentment it does impart.
Every blessing today received;
Sent from the Lord who watches and sees.
Under the canopy of a pink streaked sky,
Nestles the sun on the brink of encroaching night;
Seeping lower, dipping down.
Evening soon clouds the darkened horizon.
Time to rest while wrapped in the cloak of deep night
Knowing the sun will dawn at morning’s light.
Today, February 13th is my mother’s birthday and she would have been 71 as she was born in 1945. She was gone too suddenly and too soon and I can’t help but miss her. I miss her smiling face and her look of astonishment when I would stop by for a surprise visit. I miss our little chats when we sat in the living room in the evening and her quiet laughter when we watched a light-hearted comedy movie. During the many quiet evenings, she often worked on a project while later is revealed as a Christmas gift. She also shared about her faith in God in very quiet ways.We also used to go on long strolls past the farm fields and visit the tiny pond on our property. Mom enjoyed hearing the sound of frogs at night which was something she remembered as a young girl: listening to the choir of chirps in the night air. She also talked about how she saved money and bought her own radio. With her radio near her bed, she would lay awake and listen to the Grand Ol Opry. She liked taking photographs too but often didn’t like having her own picture taken. As a mom she could be stern at times and let us kids know when she was displeased about something we had done. However, she made sure we all knew that she deeply loved us and there was no end to her love. My mom was a modest and quiet lady usually too modest to draw attention to herself; this was evident in her quiet mannerisms, often subdued tone of voice, and even her laughter contained a quiet and musical quality. To be sure, I have shared many humorous moments with her when she suddenly would erupt in giddy laughter However, one day unexpectedly, I heard her burst into loud and uncontrollable mirth.
One warm summer day while I was visiting my mom, she had decided she needed to go to the grocery store. Sometimes, if she didn’t need too many groceries, we would just visit a grocery or convenience store in nearby Hixton. However, on this day, she needed more. That meant heading to Burnstad’s in Black River Falls. I accompanied her to the store where she proceeded, with list in hand, to grocery shop. She had the aisles memorized and knew just where to find each item. Often her grocery list was organized according to items needed in each subsequent aisle. I helped to look and grab items she couldn’t reach or I might run back a few aisles to pick up a forgotten item. And, almost always a few extra things get placed into the cart.
We finished shopping, completed our purchase, and headed to our parked car. I was pushing the cart and parked it in back of our vehicle, opened the trunk, and began transferring the groceries into the open space of the trunk. I had all the grocery bags loaded and needed to only transfer the gallon of milk and the watermelon.
Suddenly my mom cried out, “The cart!!”
I turned to see our grocery cart, still containing the milk and the watermelon, rolling downhill across the parking lot. I dashed off as if I had been propelled from a canon to catch up with the runaway cart; but no matter how fast I ran that cart rolled faster. However, I continued to pick up my pace determined to catch up. The crazily careening cart shot across the parking lot, rolled into the grass, and flipped over in the ditch sending the milk and melon flying. Much to my amazement, neither item was broken. I retrieved the cart and the groceries and then headed back to the car and my waiting mother.
As I retraced my footsteps across the parking lot I mentally prepared to apologize to my mom about being so absent-minded as to park the grocery cart on the wrong side of our vehicle. If I had set it next to the car on the uphill side, it would not have rolled off speeding across the pavement and crashed into the ditch. However, I soon found that my apology was unnecessary. When I arrived at the car, I found my mother bent over laughing hysterically; she could not control her mirth. According to her giggle-tainted description, the scene of me chasing this speeding runaway grocery cart across Burnstad’s parking lot looked so ridiculous and absolutely ludicrous that I was convinced I should have been in an episode of The Three Stooges or, perhaps, Laurel and Hardy. After I stored the milk and watermelon into the trunk and safely put away the cart, we headed home which was roughly 13 miles. During the drive, my mom still couldn’t contain her laughter and it was contagious for soon I was smiling and giggling with her.
We arrived at home still unable to subdue our hysterical mirth. Nathan, my nephew, ran out from the poll shed demanding, “What’s so funny?”
Between bursts of giggles I tried to explain, “I just turned around and the cart was gone.”
This made no sense to Nathan so I took a deep breath and explained the tale of my oversight in parking the grocery cart on the wrong side of the car so that it shot across Burnstad’s sloping parking lot and flipped in the ditch. Then I picked up the milk and the watermelon from the trunk and exclaimed, “But look, neither the milk nor the watermelon were smashed. Isn’t that good?”
Nathan shook his head and smiled.
It was not every day that I had the sweet opportunity to hear my mother’s unhindered and joyful laughter. That day was an unexpected and special gift. While she lived on earth, my mother faced her share of hardships and disappointments but even during those times she made sure her children and grandchildren knew they were loved. She worked hard over the years to take care of the family she loved so much. She also basked in the sunlight on warm and beautiful days when she could sit outside in the yard to hear and watch a nearby water fountain which sent a tiny waterfall gushing over the stones and into a small pond. There was a sense of gentle calmness when listening to the trickling water. Nearby she had set up bird feeders so she could watch the colorful humming birds fly in and feed. Those were wonderfully pleasant days to sit and just visit. Often I wish and yearn to have just one more day with my mom. Each memory I have today of her is a gift that I treasure in my mind and heart.
One bright autumn day
I strolled along a waterway
Where the river curved and meandered
As contently, I walked and wandered.
Although shallow and quite low
Beneath the sun’s brilliant halo,
The stream displayed a calm vivid blue
As hardly a current rippled through;
Nature’s own reflective looking glass
Embedded between rocks and rust tinted grass.
And lo! An amazing glistening surprise
That met my wandering eyes;
As I peered across the aqua blue stream
to see a cluster of vibrant gold trees
Standing poised as their finely dressed branches hover
Over the tranquil and ever gentle river
Which mirrored in glorious reflection
A scene of equal and brilliant perfection
Of the trees crowned in leafy gold majesty
Glimmering in the water below my feet.
Such was the scene of blazing autumn gold
For my eyes and memory to grasp and behold.
I slowly continued my contemplative trek to the path’s end
And reluctantly turned around to walk back homeagain.
And as I retraced my strolling steps,
I intently gazed so that I wouldn’t soon forget
This grand gift provided by peaceful nature;
A wondrous stroll along the Golden River.
Two days ago, a dear 2nd cousin of mine was severely hurt in a fire. Today she is in a trauma ICU on a long road to recovery. She is a beautiful young lady with a beautiful spirit deep inside. And she is constantly on my mind and in my heart. Her mother, my 1st cousin, is one of my best friends in life who has been a wonderful source of encouragement and inspiration to me. Many times she has been my personal cheerleader when no one else is around; always just a phone call away. So, today, I am reposting this story with some revisions to hopefully portray the strong yet gentle beauty that both these cousins have lovingly revealed to me:
Time frame: late 1980’s. While attending college in Minnesota I embarked on a quest to find my cousin, Kathy whom I last seen at age 10. I had told my roommate about her and she encouraged me to try to find her. We last saw each other when we were 10 years old when she, her mom, and dad came to visit us in Wisconsin. When we were five, my mother took a photo of us in the kitchen. When we were 10, we visited on the front lawn on a warm summer evening and I piled kittens on her lap. I thought those kittens were so cute but I am not sure she liked having them all on top of her. While I grew up on a farm in the Midwest, Kathy lived in southern California. Kathy’s parents divorced when she was 11; she could not return to visit her Wisconsin relatives. She also couldn’t travel easily because she had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair. My immediate family never traveled as far as California. We lost contact with Kathy during the years following the divorce. Although I only met my cousin just a few times in my life, I often wondered about her.
Determined to find Kathy, I met with my grandmother who had written her occasionally and she had written back. But, time again passed so my grandmother could only give me Kathy’s last known address. To make things more complicated, my cousin had married acquiring a different last name. My grandmother couldn’t remember her new last name. Not wanting to give up, I wrote Kathy a heart-felt letter using the wrong address and the wrong name mailing it with a stamp and a sincere prayer. I needed to believe that God would answer my prayer.
Weeks and even a month passed. One day, I arrived at my apartment and found a letter from California. The return address contained an unfamiliar last name but as soon as I saw “Kathy”, I knew it was from my cousin. I could hardly believe it. Eagerly, I opened the letter and found that Kathy had poured out her soul in that long, detailed letter. She described some incredible events in her life. She unexpectedly gave birth to a baby girl.
Doctors told her that she couldn’t get pregnant. Sometime later, Kathy began experiencing extreme pain and was taken to an urgent care clinic. She was misdiagnosed as having a kidney stone or perhaps a bladder infection. The very next day and while on medication for a possible bladder infection, she returned to the clinic due to increasing pain. She was found to be in labor and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Kathy and her husband were shocked and amazed for the unexpected and miraculous birth of their daughter, Kristie Lee.
Through the years, Kristie would be an inspiring source of joy to her parents, relatives, friends, and to all who truly get to know her. She would prove herself to be intellectually brilliant, artistic, and to have an eye for beauty she discovers in nature. She also possesses inside her soul a quiet and tender spirit which you might not see unless; you truly take time to know her.
Later Kathy told me that she and her husband tried to revisit her urgent care doctor who had treated her. With her newborn daughter in her arms, Kathy wanted to show him her beautiful but misdiagnosed “kidney stone.” They were promptly told that the doctor was no longer at that clinic. Can you imagine the shock and surprise of everyone in that waiting room?
I wrote again and we began corresponding; by letter and by phone. We became more than cousins but friends who could talk about anything. While Kathy told me about her married life and cute stories of her young daughter, I told her about my job working with adults with developmental disabilities, family in Wisconsin, and my personal life. We shared about our common faith in Jesus. While Kathy had married, I had remained single which enabled me to do some limited traveling taking in time and limited budget considerations. At this point though, most of my solo journeys were short excursions to Wisconsin to visit family and friends. I had made occasional trips to Iowa too. Like I said, limited traveling.
Several years later, Kathy invited me to visit her in California and I was terrified, “I actually have to get on a plane?” Later and with lingering fear I was up for the adventure of traveling cross country. My first journey to San Diego was a direct flight taking about a three and half hours across mostly sunny skies; I watched from my window the changing view of cities, forests, and mountains. Farms resembled quilt blocks of grassland and crop fields.
When the jet journeyed downward, the rising topaz-tinted desert appeared on one side of the plane and the deep-blue ocean on my side. Sun rays brightened the clear sky and glimmered on the ocean’s surface making the scene sparkle like a sapphire gem. This picturesque view showed me God was there and was blessing my journey. Apprehensive though, I braced for the final approach as the jet glided towards land and jolted as it touched ground.
At the airport gate, I gathered my belongings, and walked through a curving tunnel. With nervousness, I rounded the last corner stepping into the terminal. The afternoon sun glistened through the airport’s vaulted windows and in the midst of a blinding glow; I glimpsed my cousin in her wheelchair. After 17 years we had reunited. I hurried to give Kathy the warmest hug I could.
“Welcome cousin,” she said in such a warm voice that I forgot my shyness. Kathy, a sensitive and loving person and we soon felt like sisters and even best friends. During this visit I became acquainted with Kathy’s husband and her daughter, Kristie. While I visited that first time, we managed to visit both Disneyland and SeaWorld. Surprisingly, Disneyland was a disappointment especially for Kathy. Many exhibits and attractions would advertise that they were “handicap accessible” but they really weren’t so; at least not for someone who is in a wheelchair. We did find one interesting attraction that was truly accessible; the Mark Twain Steamboat ride. Kathy was easily able to maneuver onto the boat and find a safe place to park her chair. We all enjoyed the gentle and scenic excursion along their recreation of “Mississippi River”.
Disneyland did have a few other attractions that interested young Kristie and one include “It’s a Small World after all”; a small boat ride through a series of scenes depicting children of all nationalities. Also, I still remember the Alice in Wonderland Teacup for Two Ride. This amusement ride is comparable to the Tit A Whirl which you might see at county fairs. Kristie and I climbed aboard our little teacup and waited for the rid to begin. She notice a turning wheel in the center of our teacup, “What is that for?”
“I don’t know,” I answered and then tried turning the wheel. We found out that the wheel caused the teacup to spin. So I instructed Kristie, “Oh! That makes us spin around. Let’s leave it alone.”
Four year old Kristie did not leave the wheel alone; she did the exact opposite by turning and cranking that wheel as hard as she could. By the way, Kristie is no weakling; when she cranked that wheel, she made it spin faster than any other teacup on that ride. I was convinced we were the fastest spinning teacup in all of America. I became dizzy as the world blurred around me. Finally, our unstoppable teacup came to a halt as the ride ended. I have never forgotten that ride or the adventurous spirit hidden in Kristie.
SeaWorld proved to be interesting as all wildlife exhibits and presentations there were truly accessible for Kathy; this made our visit more enjoyable for all. While there we saw two orca whales, Shamu and Baby Shamu who we learned was just a few weeks old and shared the same birthday as Kristie. We could see Mother Shamu teaching Baby to swim and turn in the large pool. Another highlight was seeing the splashing, playful dolphins. As I held Kristie in my arms, one eager dolphin flew in the water to our side of the pool showering us in a huge spray of water and parked itself next to Kristie. Kristie was soaked from head to toe but she delightedly reached out to pet the friendly animal. Over the years, I would also see that Kristie held a special love and fondness for animals and somehow they were attracted to her. She had rescued a number of cats and dogs who became pets. And when one passes away she deeply grieves and suffers a broken heart. At such moments, I realize that she has the softest heart of anyone I know.
Over time, I visited my cousin Kathy and her family as much as I could. We went on adventures together forging new memories and deepening our friendship. We also shared bus-related misadventures and trips to the beach on warm, sunny days. In one bus related mishap, Kathy was stuck, mid-air, on a broken bus lift and we waited hours under a steamy summer sun for her to be rescued. In another misadventure, we boarded the wrong city bus but did not realize this until the bus turned onto Eucalyptus Street heading in the wrong direction. We then got off the bus as soon as we could and endured a long walk home in the dark as no more buses were available that late in the day.
Also taxis were not an option as I was not strong enough to transfer Kathy into a car seat. During this time, accessible transportation options for my cousin were very limited. To keep ourselves calm, we kept up a steady conversation and prayed for God to keep us safe. Kathy’s courage inspired me to remain brave. Today, I don’t remember what our conversation entailed; I just remember the long walk along those California streets in the darkness like venturing through a dimly lit tunnel. Also, Kathy at this point used a manual wheelchair so I pushed her along until we were safely home. I have no doubt that Jesus was watching over us during that journey in the darkness.
Some years later, we camped on Mount Palomar where the sun-filtering forest surrounded us like a colorful, woven blanket handmade by God; it was a quiet refuge from the demanding world far below. We basked in nature’s peacefulness venturing through the woods, picnicking, and relaxing around a campfire. We visited Mount Palomar Observatory and stayed up late looking through large telescopes, set up in a mountain meadow, to view stars, planets and nebulas. Kathy’s husband and I took turns pushing Kathy’s wheelchair through the long grass so she could gaze through as many telescopes as she wanted. It was a special evening of admiring God’s glowing creations, glittering like jewels embedded in the deep night sky.
The tranquil, emerald-colored mountain was a vivid contrast to the traffic-filled streets, and the sun-scorched climate of Kathy’s everyday life. Years later, she and her family moved to Washington State where they were amid perpetual greenery. Kathy’s daughter, Kristie, who is an artist and nature lover often shoots photos depicting nature’s inspiring beauty. She once asked me, “Do you remember how green it was on Mount Palomar? Well, it’s like that here but it’s everywhere.” The experience of Mount Palomar affected us all and remained a cherished memory in our hearts.
Over the years we’ve all persevered through life’s heartaches and disappointments praying and encouraging each other. In the same year, Kathy’s father passed away, my mother unexpectedly died; together we faced each family holiday with grieving hearts and feeling the emptiness of our parents being gone too soon.
We also encouraged each other in new aspirations. Kristie has grown up and continues to bravely forge out a new life of her own; life is not always easy but she courageously endures and keeps pressing on in sheer determination. She is an example of strength and bravery like I have never seen. In recent years, Kathy, growing in confidence and a desire to do more in her life, took on the tasks of completing her college degree and exploring professional work opportunities. She has earned one college degree and is working on another. We all have met unseen challenges and continue to endure the next chapters of our lives.
Several summers ago, I visited Kathy in her Washington home and we again indulged our adventurous spirits by hiking around woodsy Lake Padden. It was a long, winding journey with a paved trail circling the shimmering lake. The thick green forest surrounded us like a warm and familiar cloak. I instantly remembered Mount Palomar where we had camped, hiked in the mountains, and gazed at the stars. Kathy now used a motorized wheelchair and could easily propel herself up and down the sloping hills of that curving, woodsy trail. However, I worried about the battery losing its charge as we wandered along. This had happened before with one of Kathy’s previous motorized chairs. Thankfully, that had been a lighter wheelchair; I just needed to switch the gears to manual and push her home.
But now if that battery died, I realized I wouldn’t be able to push her back home again. Not this time as the chair was much heavier. But Kathy knew her wheelchair and her battery readings better than I; she was confident and eager to continue our trek. We finished our journey and with a beaming smile, she exclaimed, “That was my first rolling hike.”
When I think of Kathy and her family, I remember the love and friendship we all share; I also am reminded of God’s words about treasures in heaven when in Matthew 6:20-21 of the Holy Bible we are told, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will also be”. I went on a quest to find a lost cousin. In return, I had found a new sister and a lifelong friend. I also treasure the friendship I share with her daughter, Kristie. Each friendship is an unseen treasure granted from God in heaven and a precious gift instilled in my heart.
Gift of the Changing SEASONS
Sunshine warmth, bright flowers, and long days
Evening walks beneath a canopy of an orange sunset glaze.
Afternoon sunlight dwindles and steadily shortens;
Soon brilliant and aromatic autumn marches in
Onward into winter’s snowcapes and then the newness of spring
Never halting, the earth’s vast landscape is forever changing.
Seeing Time like a friend as through life we continue journeying.
Gladness enabling the heart to cheerfully sing.
Remembering God’s promises and many blessings.
Able to smile and wipe the tears away.
Thankful for the gift of another dawning day.
Eager yet quietly content to be
Faithfully believing in hope, heaven, and eternity.
Unhurried and not worried about trials of tomorrow.
Living each moment today and choosing to be joyful.
Today, June 4th, is my dad’s birthday; he was born in 1942 and passed away when he was just 58 years old. It is hard to believe that he has been gone from our lives now for 15 years. My dad had this quiet personality but with a very hearty laugh. When something struck his funny bone, he would roar in joyous laughter that echoed through the house. He worked for many years in an iron mine and later for another 10 years in a tire factory. Additionally, he farmed and sometimes was self-employed as an electrician. He did everything he could think of to pay the bills and make ends meet. I am convinced that his very best friend in life was his older brother John who was born in 1941 and also passed on in 2010. Even though they lived far apart in their adult years, they shared a special closeness.
My dad also possessed a sense of adventure and wonderment. In 1969 when man first stepped on the moon, my dad watched enthralled. He held me on his lap and pointed to the TV, “See, Becky, they’re walking on the moon.” When I was still very little, he liked to swim and let me ride on his stomach while he laid on his back floating. Years later, he showed his sense of adventure by taking us on a family trip out west. We traveled as far as Utah and visited family there. Other highlights of that trip included seeing Mt. Rushmore and camping at Yellowstone National Park. We spent many summer weekends camping in Hatfield.
As a father, he was stern when he thought he needed to be but also very loving when someone most needed it. At least that was how he was to me. And his gift of joyous laughter with twinkling eyes will always stay with me. He could regale in humorous animation a lively story of his childhood. His Christmas Skis story comes to mind. He also loved watching a comedy or a movie that could really bring out that laughter. But other times he would watch a movie and give it more serious thought. We once had a conversation about the old Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Through the course of the movie, the main character, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is very unhappy and in a dire predicament although through no fault of his doing. The situation seems hopeless to George and he doesn’t want to continue in his life. Near the end of the movie, George is happily running down the street. His dire situation had not yet changed. My dad puzzled over this saying, “His situation had not changed and yet suddenly he was happy.”
“No,” I slowly commented in my own quiet way, “His situation hadn’t changed; just his perspective.”
“Yeah,” my dad’s face lit up now satisfied, “His perspective changed and THAT was the point of the movie.”
My dad’s laughter and his quiet moments of wonder and thoughtfulness are gifts that I will always treasure in my heart.