Category Archives: Just Thinking

Thoughts, questions, reblogs, opinions

The Stranger


A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.

As I grew up I never questioned his place in our family. Mom taught me to love the Word of God. Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours each evening. He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Bill and me to our first major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see the movies and he even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars.

The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn’t seem to mind, but sometimes Mom would quietly get up – while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places – and go to her room read her Bible and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.

You see, my dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions. But this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our house – not from us, from our friends, or adults. Our longtime visitor, however, used occasional four-letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge the stranger was never confronted.

My dad was a teetotaler who didn’t permit alcohol in his home – not even for cooking. But the stranger felt he needed exposure and enlightened us to other ways of life. He offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages often. He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (too much too freely) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I know now that my early concepts of the man/woman relationship were influenced by the stranger.

As I look back, I believe it was the grace of God that the stranger did not influence us more. Time after time he opposed the values of my parents. Yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave.

More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with the young family on Morningside Drive. But if I were to walk into my parents’ den today, you would still see him sitting over in a corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name? We always called him “TV”.

He has a sister now. Her name is “computer”.

(Author Unknown, but seems to have appeared in circulation on the internet around 2007)

Just something to think about: What we allow to enter our minds also enters our hearts. And from our hearts, our life flows. What’s flowing from you?

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Living With Disabilities


I recently came across an article titled “6 Things About Chronic Pain You Didn’t Know You Knew“.  While reading I thought, “This is a fairly accurate description of my life for the past 12 years”.

I have 4 different types of arthritis: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia and several old injuries from indiscretions of youth, including a few spinal injuries. On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the highest, my average daily pain level is between 3 – 4. Then there are times like this past week after my back went out again, the pain jumps up to 15+.

Trips to the ER bring cocktails of morphine and valium which zonk me out for a day or 2, and usually makes me sick. Chiropractors won’t touch me anymore because of the degeneration of my spine, and the latest physicians recommended surgeries only give a 40% chance of success.

So I use exercise, diet, homeopathic and herbal remedies of every kind, along with massage and pain pills, hot and cold packs, and rest. But mostly, I pray.

I pray for strength, healing, courage, and determination. I pray for a cure, to end the suffering. I pray for miracles, and I give praise and thanks for the good days and the mobility I have left. I also ask to be used as a blessing to others, in sharing hope and encouragement. That’s one of the main reasons I created this blog.

When my lower back went out last week, it caused immediate waves of intense pain which dropped me to my knees. I knew what was coming next, as I’ve been through this before. The spasms started just above my left hip and radiated in every direction from there, with the muscles playing a sort of tug-of-war with my spine. As I started to feel somewhat dizzy and sick, I cried out and began to pray.

In times of intense pain, I’ve noticed my prayers also become intense. In between the short gasps for air were short cries of “Dear Jesus”, “please, no”, and “help me”.

Eventually, with the help of my 11 year old son and a cane, I was able to get to my recliner and got seated. After getting an ice pack on my spine and taking a muscle relaxer and pain pill, I cried. And I prayed hard. Once the valium took effect, I drifted off to sleep for about an hour.

In the past when my back has gone out like this, after about 3 days it starts feeling a little better. This time was different. For one thing, there was some slight paralysis in my legs. And the muscle spasms were pretty constant, continuing to cause waves of pain through my spine, hips and legs.

Since I had run out of muscle relaxers and the only pain pills I had left were ibuprofen, there was not much relief from the pain and I couldn’t move very much. But from the lack of movement, stiffness began to increase throughout my entire body, causing even more discomfort. I continued using ice packs and heating pads, and generic arthritis rubs, which did bring some short term relief.

All in all, the whole situation caused a lot of stress, discouragement and fear. Thoughts were racing through my foggy mind of “what if” situations. Things like “what if I become fully paralyzed”? Or “what if the pain doesn’t go away”?

Since I couldn’t do much of anything else, I did a lot of reading from the bible. And as my mind was drawn to the subject of suffering, I decided to read the book of Job. It definitely gave me a different perspective on the subject. For one thing, it made me quit feeling so sorry for myself.

I also read from the New Testament, several passages regarding suffering for the cause of Christ and how it should be considered a blessing and privilege. (2 Corinthians 1:5, James 5:10-11, 1 Peter 4:12-13, Philippians 4:11-13) I know that those references were more along the lines of suffering from persecution, and that is not what my suffering comes from. But still, pain is pain, regardless of what is causing it.

While I was reading these scriptures, I remembered when I had read them before, and how I admired these people for their courage and commitment. I thought about how I would respond to being tortured for Jesus’ sake. I thought, “I could handle it” (referring to being put to death by stoning or beheading). I’ve always been tough and stoic, and able to handle all sorts of different types of pain and injuries, in the past.

But in dealing with this current episode with my back, I found myself pleading, “Either cure me, or kill me! I can’t handle this pain anymore.” That’s when I realized that even though I may not be facing persecution in the ways of the apostles, I am facing persecution, of pain. That’s why I could identify so well with the description in the article about chronic pain. I knew that there was no way possible that I could deal with that intense pain, not on my own. I remembered the bible promises that God will never leave or forsake me. And though there may be times when I feel alone, if I start to pray with my whole heart, I can feel His presence with me.

It’s been over a week now since my back went out, and I’m happy to report that I am slowly regaining movement and feeling. There is still pain and spasms, but not to the degree that it was. My physical condition is improving, but even more importantly, my spiritual condition is improving. While my body may deteriorate, my spirit will continue to grow stronger, as long as I keep my heart and mind on Jesus.

I thank Jesus each and everyday, because He is the only reason and the only way I can make it through these pains and keep going. I know He will heal me, if not here on earth, then when I get to heaven. I know there is a way through the storm, there is hope. And His name is Jesus.

To everyone out there who is suffering, whether it is from physical, mental, or spiritual pain, please know, you are not alone. Don’t give up! No matter what illness or disease or affliction you may have, put it in God’s hands. Trust Him. In the end, He is the only One who can help us.

I will keep all of you in my prayers. God bless, Amber.

* For more information on arthritis, please check out The Arthritis Foundation.

* I’d also like to introduce a new partnership with Endless Pursuit, a faith based Multiple Sclerosis nonprofit based in the Pacific NW.

The Gift


The Gift

Christmas is a time of giving gifts. The word gift is defined as: “a thing given willingly to someone without payment. “ God is the original gift giver.

To begin with, we are given the gift of life. There is also the precious gift to a parent of a child. Likewise, there is a precious gift to a child of a parent. There are gifts known as husband, wife, brother, sister, and friend.

Throughout our lives, we are blessed with many gifts. There are gifts of health, a happy home, companionship, fresh air, beautiful scenery, sunshine and pure water.

There are also material gifts, things we call presents. These can even be in the form of a service of some type.

Then there are the gifts of the spirit: Compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, kindness, loyalty, integrity, charity.

Of all the different gifts there are, the most precious gifts ever known, are God’s mercy, salvation, and His great love for us. The birth of Christ Jesus is the gift given to us, so that we may have everlasting life with our Creator.

In the busy hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, while we are scrambling through the shopping malls, or searching online, trying desperately to fulfill our goals of gifts to give, let us not forget to be thankful for the gift given us that night long ago; the gift of a precious newborn baby boy, lying in a manger; the child that came to die for our sins, paying the debt we owe. Let us not forget to wish our Savior a “Happy Birthday”, since it is His birthday we are celebrating.

The simplest of gifts, a “thank you” and a “Happy Birthday” doesn’t seem like much. But when it’s wrapped in our hearts and given with joy, it’s a gift that Jesus loves.

As a gift to all of my readers, I’m sharing this video of Cloverton’s beautiful Christmas version of “Hallelujah”. I hope you enjoy it, and God bless! – Amber

 

What Is Thanksgiving?


For the past couple of weeks I’ve been listening to ads on TV and radio regarding the upcoming Black Friday deals, and this new assault in the retail industry of stores opening on Thanksgiving Day. It makes me sick in my heart!

First, let me say that I have nothing against people wanting to make the most of their hard earned money, in getting “good deals”. But how far are we willing to go?

I have found myself feeling angry and insulted over all this commercialism in our country. Recently I read an article in the Huffington Post titled “If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You Are Part of the Problem” by Matt Walsh. In the article Mr. Walsh talked about commercialism and consumerism. He also mentioned the sacrifices made, whether forced by employers or willingly for extra money, of the workers that will be manning the stores open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. I realized that this aspect is part of the reason that I felt angry. There is a tone of greed and gluttony in all this, and it just makes me sad.

But as I thought about it, I also realized that there was another part of it that was even deeper rooted in my soul.

I began to think about the meaning of thanksgiving. Not in the traditional sense of what the holiday is for, but what the meaning of being thankful is.

Thankful as defined by Webster’s Dictionary says: “impressed with a sense of kindness received, and ready to acknowledge it; grateful”.

Ok, that’s a pretty simple and straightforward explanation of the word. But what does it look like, what is thankfulness?

This is only a small portion of what I’ve come up with…so far:

Thankfulness is when you haven’t eaten for days and don’t know when, or if you will eat again. Suddenly a truck filled with food pulls up and strangers start giving the food away, for free!

Thankfulness is when you can’t feel your feet anymore because they are so cold from all the holes in your worn out shoes, and a stranger takes you into a store and buys you a pair of warm boots and new socks.

Thankfulness is when you lose a loved one, and your friends rally around you to offer comfort.

Thankfulness is when you feel so alone in the world, like no one cares, and out of the blue a small child appears with a warm smile and hugs you for no reason.

Thankfulness is when the doctor calls to say the test shows it is not cancer.

Thankfulness is having a home to come home to.

Thankfulness is when you watch your family sleeping peacefully, knowing they are safe and secure, and have what they need.

For me personally, three years ago, I learned the true meaning of what it is to be thankful. (Thank-full, so full of thanks that it has to come out, or I’ll explode!) After watching my youngest son die, and then being miraculously revived, I was thankful. For the next twenty days in the hospital, I was thankful for each breath he took, for each time that his heart beat. I was thankful for each moment that I got to spend with him. (Not that I wasn’t thankful before the accident, but the experience changed my perspective, and my life.) I was thankful for the paramedics, the doctors and nurses, the volunteers, family and friends, and total strangers that prayed for us. I was thankful for life itself. And that feeling of gratitude was so overpowering that I had a real need to express it! Not just once and to a few people though. Above all else, I was thankful to God, because I knew He was the One who is in command. He, above all else, deserved my sincerest gratitude. Not just for my son’s life, but for EVERYTHING!

On Thanksgiving Day in 2010, I received the news that my son was expected to make a full recovery from his accident, against all odds. Shortly after that, someone remarked about what a joyful Thanksgiving Day it was. And I remember saying, “From now on, every day is Thanksgiving!

According to our history books, in 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations. Then in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

Now, in 2013, it seems that most people don’t even know that this holiday was set aside as a special day of remembrance and giving thanks to our Creator for His many blessings. Instead, most often it is now being referred to as “turkey day”, and is used as a marker for the beginning of the frenzied buying season.

As I said earlier, for me, every day is Thanksgiving now. I don’t have to have a turkey on the table and all the trimmings. I don’t need a bunch of fancy decorations, or any splendid parades to say “thank You Lord, for loving me and taking care of everything”.

Thanksgiving Day is still a day that I will choose to gather together with friends and family, to share in being thankful, at least until the holiday is cancelled altogether and simply referred to as “The Day the Madhouse Shopping Begins”. But with all my heart, and my life, I will continue to give my sincerest gratitude to God, every day, for all that He is, and for all that He has so freely given.

Thank You Lord, for helping me to see in my heart, that I have so much to be thankful for, most of all, Your great love!

May all of our hearts be filled with thanksgiving, tomorrow and always.

 

 

Dealing With Peer Pressure


I’ve been working on a mini series of articles concerning daily issues for our young people, and how they cope with these issues. It is my hope that God will work through these posts to reach out to those in need of hope, encouragement and guidance, to let them know that they are not alone in their struggles. God cares about each and every one of us, and He wants to help us.

If you or someone you know has any ideas or suggestions about future posts, or are interested in doing a guest post, please leave a message in the comment section. As always, I’d love to hear from you!

I am very pleased to share with you the following guest post from Stephanie Kehr, a fine upcoming young author. Her article is on peer pressure, a subject that can be quite troublesome for us all. Please share, like, and leave a comment for her, and be sure to check out her blog, “Musings of a Creative Spirit”.

Thanks, and God bless! – Amber

Peer Pressure: What’s Your Strategy?

 by Stephanie Kehr

“C’mon, Stephanie.”

The sound of twenty pleading teens echoed off the trees, collecting at my ears in a mash of noise and confusion.

“You should try it.”

“It’s great.”

“You’ll love it.”

It was just a swing. Well, a large swing. I’d be strapped in with harnesses and fitted with a helmet and protective gear. But having already tried such a stunt at a previous event, I knew the high swing wasn’t quite my cup of tea. In fact, if I’d had any tea before that attempt, it would have been instantly regurgitated.

“Look, we even got Bethany to do it,” someone nudged me.

I looked to see Bethany climbing the swing, her face as white as Elmer’s glue.

“You’re the only one who hasn’t tried! C’mon, don’t you submit to peer pressure?”

I paused a moment, evaluating myself. “No,” I finally said aloud. “I don’t.”

***

I’m a pure-bred homeschooler. If it weren’t for the kids I babysit, it’s likely I never would have been introduced  to the popular video game, Call Of Duty. Unfortunately, I was introduced. But through the blood, gore, murder, and weapons, Call Of Duty actually taught me quite the lesson during my impromptu babysitting adventure.

If you don’t have strategy, you’ll be shot down. 

You waltz into a room unguarded, and the enemy’s standing behind the door. He fires his gun.  The bar turns red. Your man flashes and disappears. “End Game” appears on the screen. You toss down your controller, frustrated.

With peer pressure on the rise, teens and young adults are more and more often thrown at the mercy of their more popular (and often less intelligent) fellowmen. On the invisible battlegrounds of school, sports, parties, and even churches, the young adults striving for righteousness are often unguarded, caught by surprise, and slowly, but surely enticed by the people and things of this world.

Before we step out into society, it’s important for us to realize that if we don’t enter the battle alert and with strategy, we’ll be shot down.

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” [KJV]

If we aren’t ready with our weapons, we give the enemy the opportunity to shoot first. If we’re not wearing the proper protective armor, our bar will turn red. If we don’t know how to jump out of the way, we’ll blink and fade. We’ll perish. End game.

Peer pressure’s pretty scary for a teen living in a big, ungodly, unknown world. The most frightening thing about peer pressure is that it sneaks up on us. You don’t realize you’ve got the disease until it’s too late. We’ve already been shot. We’re already following the wrong crowd. How do we make sure we’re firing first? How do we set ourselves up to make it through the teenage years alive?

While I can’t speak for every teen out there, I can speak for myself. Below I have listed five little “strategies” I’ve used to combat peer pressure in an attempt to “shoot first.”

1)     Always, always, always, go back to the Bible.           

You know that group of girls always hanging out by the water fountain at church? They like to gossip, slander, talk about boys, laugh at inappropriate jokes, flirt, and evaluate everyone’s outfit. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Not really. You could find worse.

So, what do you do when an adult or fellow teens urges you to join their group? You go back to the Bible. Even if the girls may look relatively harmless, Proverbs is cram-packed full of warnings against hanging out with gossips, slanderers, and fools. Don’t be like them, the Bible says. Be called. Be chosen. Be different.

Likewise, Ephesians 6:17 says, “And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” [NASB]

The Bible is a weapon. If you’re constantly feeding on its truths, you’ll guard yourself against being pulled away by the lies of the world.  

2)    Keep your feet from evil

In other words, be wise. Don’t pack your head full of video games, dirty music, zombies, murder mysteries, and other garbage that has a bad effect on your mind and carries zero eternal value. Take Philippians 4:8 as an example:

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” [NASB]

If you don’t allow yourself to become interested in the things of the world, you’ll be less likely to be pulled astray.

3)    Set your own standards and stick with them

I don’t tend to go to extracurricular youth get-togethers, because they often promote flirtatiousness, which isn’t something I want to get a heavy dose of. I strive to live set-apart. I don’t spent a huge amount of time with worldly friends. Mostly, when I don’t particularly want to participate in an event, I don’t allow myself to give in to the pressure. Think about Call Of Duty again. You only have a set amount of lives, right? Every time you give into some small and “harmless” pressure, you’re setting yourself up to give into something that might not be so small and harmless. You’re setting yourself up for the loss of that final life. The red bar. The flash. End game.   

Everyone has different God-given standards. What kind of standards have you set for yourself? Do you stick with them?

4)    Evaluate your influences and choose your friends wisely

If I notice myself beginning to slip spiritually, the first thing I do is look at my influences. I look at who I’m hanging out with frequently, and I ask myself who I’m looking up to most. Usually, evaluating, pinpointing, and dealing with the issues in my influential relationships solve half of my problems.

5)    Find older mentors

There’s no way to avoid peer pressure if you’re constantly hanging out with, well…peers. I often try to spend quality time with younger teens and kids in order to be a good influence and a blessing to them. However, I also make a point to spend a decent amount of time with older influences, too, whether they’re in their twenties, fifties, or seventies. We learn from older people, it’s true. The Bible talks about having older mentors and Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of council, but with many advisors they succeed.” Older councilors have been through peer pressure before us and can offer advice. Sometimes they catch our faults, too, and things we don’t see in ourselves. 

When we learn to put together a strategy to avoid peer pressure, we need to plan with the understanding that without prayer and a genuine relationship with God, our strategy will ultimately fail. He is the light in a dark world. He is our strength when we are weak. No matter how tough it may be or how far into the world we may venture, it’s important to always remember our God is faithful, loving, compassionate, and He wants you to lean on Him and Him alone.

Stephanie Kehr photo

Stephanie is a seventeen-year-old dreamer, child of God, and story crafter. She began penning novels as a twelve-year-old and completed her first book at fifteen. In 2013, Stephanie signed with Ellechor Publishing House as a teen author. The release date of her Christian fiction novel, Reaching Home has not yet been announced.

If she isn’t too busy dreaming up kingdoms and reciting poetry, Stephanie plans to graduate with an English degree before her nineteenth birthday. Currently living with her homeschooling family of eight, she hopes to get married one day and move to an isolated cabin by the sea.

Visit Stephanie’s website (www.stephaniekehr.blogspot.com) where she talks about writing, publishing, being a teen author, and her crazy everyday life.

 

Only Love and Wisdom Can Prevail


With the invention of the internet and social media, today we literally have the world at our fingertips. And there is a full barrage of information available with it. It can be quite overwhelming at times. On Facebook alone there is a deluge of posts concerning everything from recipes, craft items, baby photos and such, to links to news articles regarding heinous crimes of rape, murder, torture, etc. It is the latter articles I would like to discuss.

In less than 30 minutes this morning, I read 3 different articles involving vile and evil acts committed by different individuals. And while I in no way, shape or form, condone the acts committed, there was something more that bothered me about these stories. It was in the responses left by many of the readers. Responses filled with hate.

Yes, these stories described horrible acts of violence toward innocent humans and animals. And no, I do not think these crimes should be dismissed, ignored, or go unpunished. While reading these stories a very deep sense of sorrow towards the victims was evoked in my heart, and even a sense of just rage. But I have to ask, where should that rage be focused?

I couldn’t help but notice the rage indicated in the readers’ comments. Several of the comments suggested torture, dismemberment and slow and painful death to the offenders. In these comments, the readers were exuding as much violence as the offenders themselves.

Should violence and hate be re-paid with more violence and hate? And will that solve the problem and make the world a better place for us?

The answer is no. It will not change the past, it will not make the future better, and it will not make the present any easier to live in.

The truth is that while it may be a sense of decency in a person’s heart that causes them to feel outraged over an atrocity, if they were to act on that violent rage, that seed of hatred would eventually rot away their soul. It would cause them to become no better than the very thing they hated. And the hatred continues to grow and spread. It will not make anything better, not even for the victims.

As a Christian, I was reminded of three things I have learned from the bible:

  1. To hate the sin, not the sinner. (James 5:19-20 AMP)
  2. Do not re-pay evil with evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 KJV)
  3. Overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21 KJV)

Evil was unleashed in the world a long time ago, and it is alive and thriving at an unprecedented rate today. The enemy has many weapons and tactics to use against believers and non-believers alike, aimed directly at our hearts. He knows that if he can cause intense enough emotions in us, then we may stumble and fall into his traps.

I’ll admit, to obey the above three verses is impossible for me, apart from God’s Holy Spirit inside of me. The enemy is very clever in appealing to my sense of justice regarding what is right and fair. But through God’s wisdom I can see where the deceit is also appealing to a false sense of pride. Pride that causes me to think I have a right to sit in judgment over the sin of another. I might try to excuse that pride with thoughts such as, “I may not be perfect, but I’m not as bad as…” or “I could never do such a horrible thing myself”. And those thoughts would lead me to feeling justified in the desire to hate and seek revenge. Basically, I would be putting myself in God’s rightful place in judgment and sentencing.

The idea of forgiving those that would commit such atrocious acts of violence against an innocent being is a very hard concept to swallow. But one thing to consider is this: hate will only teach more hate and it will continue to spread to others. On the other hand, only by showing love can it be taught and spread. And forgiveness is a major part of love. It is the only way we can let go of the hate and overcome the evil.

Perhaps some of you that are reading this do not believe in God. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to convert you, that is not my job.) But I ask you to consider this…if you plant a tomato seed, do you expect it to grow cucumbers? Of course not. In the same manner, planting seeds of hate in your heart will not grow anything else but hate and no good can come from it. And if that is all we can show and teach, how can future generations learn anything but to hate more, becoming even more violent themselves? Isn’t inflicting that kind of hatred onto others or the next generation an act of violence in itself?

In conclusion, I ask anyone that might be reading this to consider it for a moment. Do you want to be like those offenders, spreading more violence and more hate? Or do you really want these atrocities to stop? One by one, one day at a time, we can make a difference with our own choices. Only love and wisdom can prevail.

 

 

 

 

 

7,165 Miles


Good morning!

I’ve been gone a while, but wanted to let everyone know that I’m back. I took my son, Christian, on an extended vacation for the summer. We flew from Alaska to Virginia and picked up my Mom’s car. When she passed away, Dad said he didn’t want to keep it and so he gave it to me. But I didn’t have a passport to be able to drive it home at the time. We decided to wait until summer and go on a road trip with it.

We spent about 10 days in Virginia, visiting with Dad and my sister, Nikol and her family. We also went to West Virginia to visit my Aunt Twila. We spent the 4th of July on the Potomac River with Nikol and her family and some friends. Everyone had a great time in the water, and then watched fireworks that night. Christian and I got sunburned, my 4th time this year. The next day we began dealing with DMV and getting things ready for our trip.

We left for Texas on July 9th to visit my other son, Daniel, and his wife Tricia. We drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia, enjoying beautiful scenery and some wildlife. We also stopped to visit some friends along the way. Going through Tennessee and Arkansas was filled with minor thunderstorms and lots of rain. We spent 4 days in Texas enjoying cool air conditioning – these Alaskan ice cubes didn’t do too well in the 100+ degree heat. But we enjoyed our visit with Daniel & Tricia, and of course, the kitties. Daniel has recovered well from his heart surgery and is now able to do things he’s never been able to do before. What a blessing to see him so vibrant now, knowing he has another shot at a full life! We also attended a communion service at Jason’s (my oldest son) church. I talked to the music director after the service. He remembered Jason very fondly, and was very pleased to receive a copy of our book, “Faith, Hope & Miracles“. We also visited the memorial garden the church put up for Jason. It brought tears of joy to know that Jason had made such an impact on so many in his short years.

After we left Texas, we stopped for a short visit in Carlsbad, New Mexico to see an old friend. A long drive through the desert followed by a good meal made us very sleepy, so we took a short nap before continuing on to Arizona. We made it to Guadalupe Mountain Nat’l Park just as the sun was coming up. It was a beautiful desert sunrise, and we were blessed with a lone coyote’s song from nearby.

We arrived in Tucson, Arizona greeted by 107 degrees. Thank goodness for our “Frogg Toggs” and air conditioning! We had a wonderful visit with Christian’s grandma and uncle. Christian learned how to drive a golf cart and we went swimming at the pool. We also went to the local Elk’s Lodge where we met some really great folks. Christian’s Uncle Ron took us to his church for their Wednesday night service. It was much larger than what we’re used to, but it was a great service. Afterward we had a little birthday dinner for Christian, his 4th celebration this year. He had 2 in Virginia, and another in Texas. The next day I spent re-packing the car to make room for our friend, Amy. I don’t know how we managed to get so much stuff in the car!

Amy flew from Virginia to Phoenix, Arizona where we picked her up. Almost as soon as we were out of the city, we were stopping for pictures. There is so much more life in the desert than one might expect. We worked our way toward Sedona where we had hotel reservations. As evening came, we were watching a storm off in the distance. Christian had never seen a real lightning storm, so he was thoroughly impressed. We ended up driving right into the storm, so we stopped to watch the beauty. We finally arrived at the hotel late that night. The next morning found us doing some sightseeing and shopping for souvenirs. After our shopping spree, we headed on down the road through some gorgeous red cliffs, planning to stop at a natural water slide along the way. However, when we got there, there were so many people already there, we couldn’t get in. Bummer. There were cars parked all along the narrow road, making driving a little hazardous. But we still got to see spectacular views. We all agreed we would like to go back during the off season and spend some time there.

We continued on to Flagstaff, where we stopped at another motel, one with a swimming pool. Christian had been disappointed with not getting to go to the waterslide, so I had to find a place for him to go swimming. There was another storm coming in the distance, so after swimming and soaking in the hot tub, we watched another fantastic display of lightning with lots of loud thunder. One strike was so close and loud, it made Amy and Christian jump over the bed!

The next morning we left early and headed for the Grand Canyon. We spent the day driving around the South Rim and stopping at every place you can stop. The amazing views left us all with our mouths hanging open. Since I have vertigo, I had to stay back from the edges where there were no handrails, but we explored many of the different paths along the way, and took lots of pictures. When we reached the end of the park, we turned back to the visitor center in the middle of the park. From there we took the bus tour in the other direction, stopping at most of the look outs. We noticed another storm coming across the canyon. As it got closer, it began sending out powerful lightning bolts, causing many “oh’s” & “ah’s” from all of the tourists. We were advised from the park ranger that it was time to get away from the canyon’s edge as lightning can travel 10 miles and jump from the metal handrails. We stopped at the very last stop and took pictures and went into the little gift shop. When we came out, the storm was almost on top of us. Getting off the bus, we got soaked on our way back to the car. But we got to watch another impressive lightning show! After the storm was over, we drove on out of the park, deciding it was another place we would like to come back to and stay longer. We took a few hour nap in Cameron, sleeping in the car.

As the sun rose, we were on the other side of the Grand Canyon. We found a site where some ancient tribes of Indians had built there houses right into the cliffs of the mountains. As the day wore on, the scenery began to change from desert to a little more lush vegetation. We drove through Zion National Park, which was described as “like the view from the bottom of the Grand Canyon”. I was in awe of God’s handiwork all around me! Just as we were entering the park, we got to watch as firefighters were putting out a small wildfire at the top of the cliffs with the aid of a helicopter dumping buckets of water. Zion was an unplanned side trip, but I’m glad we went. The views from the edge of the Grand Canyon made me a little dizzy, and they were beautiful. But the views from Zion looking up made me realize how tiny I am in the big scope of life. It was well worth the extra time.

Our next stop was Salt Lake City. We had been collecting rocks from every state we went through, and I wanted to visit the salt flats and collect a sample of the salt. However, we never found the salt flats. We did find the Morton Salt Plant, but they wouldn’t let us take any pictures. We also met a very nice couple sitting along the roadside waiting for the full moon to rise up over the mountains. The irony of meeting those people was that they had family where Amy lives in Abingdon, and were from Alaska. It was strange, in a nice way.

We traveled through Utah, Idaho and into Wyoming in 1 day, finally arriving at Grand Teton Nat’l Park. We drove through the park until evening, then returned to Jackson Hole looking for a motel. I think we got the very last room available! Tourist season in that area is unbelievable! But we had a great day exploring and saw more wildlife along the way. I was beginning to feel a little more in my element with the mountains there. The next morning we headed on to Yellowstone Nat’l Park. We knew we couldn’t possibly see everything, so we decided to take the eastern road and head north. We saw a magnificent display of “Old Faithful” and several other geysers. We also took a short dip in one of the rivers where the hot springs flowed in, so it was really nice (except the sharp rocks…wear shoes in the river next time.) We also wanted to stop at Mammoth Hot Springs, but it was already dark by the time we arrived. There was a herd of elk walking around the little town at Mammoth, some almost close enough to pet (but we didn’t). We decided for time sake to continue driving. We made it to Boseman late that night.

While in Boseman, we decided to make another stop at a post office, to mail out some of the things we had been collecting. The car was getting so full, we were piling things up on Christian’s lap and he was not liking it. Even after mailing off a couple of boxes, we were still pretty full, so we decided no more large items. From there we mainly stuck to rocks for souvenirs.

The next day we pushed on through Montana, stopping at Lewis & Clark Caverns. Because of time limits, we didn’t get to tour the cave. So that is another item on our bucket list. We did buy a video showing parts of the tour though. We continued on into Idaho and pushed on until we were close to the Canadian border. We stopped and slept for a few hours in a WalMart parking lot outside Couer d’Alene. By this time we were all feeling the effects of being couped up in the car. We really wanted to spend more time exploring and camping, but Amy had to be in Anchorage for her flight back to Virginia soon. So we pushed on to the border.

Once we were in Canada, the scenery began to change and I felt even more at home. Our first stop was at Radium Hot Springs in Banff. As we entered the town, there was a herd of mountain sheep hanging out on the side of the road, and of course, we stopped for pictures. Then we headed on to the hot springs. As far as hot springs go, it was more of a man-made resort. But it still felt good to soak in the hot water, followed by a dip in the cool swimming pool. Christian didn’t want to get out, but we continued on a little farther. We spent the night at a campground in Jasper Nat’l Park and left early the next morning. We did a power drive into Dawson Creek where we stopped, looking for a “Milepost 0” souvenir. No luck there. It seems they don’t care so much about the building of the Alaskan Highway there anymore. We did get our pictures taken at the milepost sign in the center of town though. We drove on to Ft. Nelson and took a 4 hour nap there. When we left Ft. Nelson, I was determined to make it to Liard Hot Springs where we had made a reservation for a room at the lodge. We saw many different species of wildlife along the way, including buffalo, elk, wolves, and a couple of black bears. We arrived at the hot springs in mid afternoon and took a long soak. It was wonderful! These hot springs are left in a more natural state, which adds to the serenity and relaxation. Other than the boardwalk to the springs, and the deck with stairs leading down into the water, the rest is the natural vegetation surrounding the springs, giving the sense of still being out in the wilderness (especially with the sign at the gate reading “Warning: aggressive bear activity here”). The lower end of the springs are fed by a cold water spring, which was nice for cooling off. Most of the kids visiting the springs stayed down at that end, as the upper end is much hotter. Christian quickly abandoned Amy & I for some playtime with kids his own age. We met some really friendly and wonderful people from all over while we were there, including a teacher named Linda from one of the villages on the Kuskokwim River here in Alaska. She really made an impression on Christian with her love for rocks and geology. After a 2 hour soak, we went back to the lodge for dinner, with Linda joining us. She was such good company, and told us of a few places to stop for rock collecting. Dinner was followed by another soak in the hot springs. By the time we returned to our room, we were so completely relaxed, it didn’t take more than a few minutes to fall asleep. We enjoyed another long soak the next morning and a quick shower before taking off again.

(Sidenote: Besides Kauai, Hawaii, Liard Hot Springs is one place I would like to live.)

The next place we stopped was at the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake. I had been there in the winter, only able to look from the road as the snow was waist deep and I couldn’t get into the “forest”. It was much bigger than I had expected. There were over 72,000 signs ranging from license plates to road signs to hand made signs. Items such as flip flops, hub caps, and snow shoes were also used to make signs. We donated our front license plate after painting our initials on it to a brand new post near one of the gateways.

After leaving Watson Lake, we headed to White Horse. We arrived at dusk, just in time to see a blazing meteor fall through the sky. It was more brilliant than anything I had ever seen! We weren’t sure if it was a meteor or a plane crashing at first, but nothing was ever said on the radio about it. (I googled it after we got home.) During the drive from Watson Lake to White Horse, I realized that the bugs in Alaska were nothing compared to what we experienced on that stretch of road. I had stop about every 20 – 30 minutes to scrape off the windshield because I couldn’t see through all the bugs! The red gas can on top of the car had turned black, along with the grill and headlights of the car. Now I understand what my Dad was talking about when he said he hated the bugs in Canada. 🙂

We did another short nap in White Horse and left about 4:30 am. We stopped briefly at Soldier’s Summit in Kluane, where the Americans and Canadians met each other in the building of the Alaskan Highway. It was a stop I had made in 1994 with my dog, Kavik. It was winter then, and there was a surreal peacefulness there. It had been surrounded by a frozen mist, and we never saw another soul there. This stop allowed me to see more of the surrounding area, but it was still a very peaceful place. Someone had put up a handwritten sign warning of a grizzly bear on the trail head just the day before, so we were on guard but still walked up the trail a little ways and took pictures.

After leaving Soldier’s Summit, we were talking about putting a note in a bottle, but wanted to do something a little different (we’re kinda weird that way). We came up with the idea of using a few of our rocks and writing notes on them, asking for their return to us if found. We put our names & addresses on them, and threw them into Beaver Creek just before crossing the border into Alaska. I don’t know if anyone will ever find them, but it would be interesting, maybe another story in the waiting about the person who finds them.

We did the typical tourist picture thing at the border, thankful that we had made it safely. By then, I was looking forward to getting home. We drove on through Tok where we were treated to another lightning storm, followed by another one in Glen Allen. We stopped along the way for more pictures, and the infamous road construction areas, finally arriving back in Palmer around 9:00 pm. God is good…we made it! 7,165 miles in all, a trip of a lifetime with my young son and a very good friend. I want to do it again, but take more time to explore. There are many places I would like to see, and God willing, we will. But if not, I am so grateful for the opportunities He has given me, to see and experience the things I have! And the wonderful fellowship along the way has left a special imprint on my heart that won’t be forgotten.

I know this post is very long, and I hope it wasn’t too boring to read. I had to write it, as a way to help me keep the places and the memories straight, and to say a special thanks to God, my Mom & Dad, and to all of those who helped make this trip possible. I’ll be posting some pictures we took along the way on my other blog, http://amberleaofalaska.wordpress.com/

Thanks for taking the time to read. I’d love to hear your comments, or if you have any suggestions for places to visit. Get out and enjoy some of God’s beauty around you, you’ll be glad you did! Take care, and God bless!

 

 

 

My Mom is with Jesus


Dear Friends,

As some of you may know, I took some time off for a vacation to visit with my son and daughter-in-law in Texas, and then off to Virginia to spend some time with my parents. I arrived back home on Friday morning, then received news that my Mom passed away Saturday morning. I have returned to Virginia and do not know when I will be posting again.

I know my Mom is with Jesus now, no longer in pain or suffering, but free. It was said that she had been holding on, waiting to see Christian and I again. It had been almost 7 years since our last visit. She went peacefully in her sleep, and I am so very thankful that we got to spend time with her before she passed. I will always treasure our memories and the love we shared with her.

I allowed distance and cost to become obstacles preventing more frequent visits with those I love, and it is now a deep regret. Even though money was still an issue, God stirred my heart with a sense of urgency to come. Then He provided a way to make it happen, proving once again He is all knowing and a compassionate God. My Dad told me that our visit gave Mom peace and comforted her.

My heart is aching, but I know I must be strong now, for my family. I do not have any more words right now, except to say: never take the moments you have for granted because they will never come again, and never pass up the opportunities to say “I love you” because it may be your last chance.

Rest in peace Mom, rejoice in the presence of Jesus, and we will see you again someday. You are forever in my heart! Thank you God, for giving me the privilege of being her daughter!

 

The Seven C’s of Character


7 C's

Very well said. But I would have to add an 8th “C”. This “C” would be necessary as the foundation on which to build the above list. Without a strong foundation, the walls cannot stand. Without the last “C”, none of the others could be prevail. The final “C” of course, is Christ Jesus.

Praying that as we go through each day of our lives, the character of our hearts is reflecting the heart of Jesus. Amen.

 

10 Reasons to Make An Investment in Prayer


This is a re-blog from Kevin Senapatiratne of www.christconnection.cc :

 

Why Pray? 10 reasons to make an investment in prayer.

So why pray in the first place? Let me give you just some of the benefits to a consistent life of prayer. This is hardly a complete list but since this is a post not a book I figured I should start here.

1. Relationship with Jesus.

If this was the only reason to pray that would be plenty. We get to build a friendship with God. But there is more.

2. Health Reasons.

The science that I have seen indicates that there are many health benefits to taking time to pray. Things like blood pressure, strengthened immune system and helps with arthritis. For more info see this article by a friend of mine (http://bit.ly/NV0zo6  ).

3. Helps with my relationships.

I find that I am easier to deal with after a time of prayer. This makes it a positive thing for those people close to me when I pray. If I am a nicer person to be around my friends have a better chance to grow.

4. Prayer impacts my family.

I see the difference in my family when I pray. I am investing in my daughter’s future every time that I pray for her. My marriage can get deeper and deeper as I pray for it.

5. Prayer impacts whatever I am praying about.

If I am praying for my church and leaders it makes a difference. It is like a buffet (and I like buffets). Anything in the world that I would like to impact can be touched in my prayer life.

6. I get direction for my days as I pray.

Sometimes God will speak to me about specific assignments for the day or topics for this blog. Other times He will give me more long term direction. I never know what God will say when I pray.

7. Prayer gives me perspective.

It is easy to get focused on my immediate concerns, worries, and cares. Prayer helps me step back and get the perspective of heaven and eternity. This makes life issues take on the right size.

8. Prayer helps me avoid temptation.

Jesus teaches us to pray, “Lead me not into temptation.” We don’t know all the sin we avoid simply by praying this prayer. I figure it is worth not having to go down that road.

9. Prayer makes me more effective.

It is amazing what I get done when I prayer over my list of things to do. I somehow am more productive than otherwise. And sometimes things that seem so important just get eliminated from my list altogether.

10. Answers for needs

I have seen too many answers to prayer over the years to not include this. Miracles happen! But will we ask?

As I said reason number one would be enough, but none of the others are too shabby either. What is your favorite answer to the question, “Why pray?”

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