Thrill of Hope

 

DSC_0953Normally I am not at fan of the fall season changing-of-the-clocks. It messes with my sleep pattern for what seems like months, and really, who wants darkness in the winter before 5 p.m.?  This year’s “fall-back,” though, has brought a welcome surprise.  I am actually now waking before sunrise on most days…well rested and able to enjoy the peaceful hours of pre-dawn and observe the first glorious rays of the sun as it peeks through the trees and reflects on the creek below.

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reflections on the creek

Today was no exception, and on this morning as I was treated to the first rays of pink and gold, the line from my favorite Christmas carol came to mind so clearly:

…a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn….

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As I reflected on the familiar Christmas story, I was reminded that it is the hope behind the story that brings the greatest joy.

I love that God didn’t send his only son to be raised by earthly royalty, but… to a blue-collar worker-a carpenter, who by trade takes blank pieces of wood and crafts them into beautiful works for art or service.  As for his mother, a soon to be common housewife, who humbly and lovingly spends her days looking to the needs of her family.

 I love that His birth wasn’t in the cold, sterile, marble halls of a palace, but in a stable, where the sweet smell of warm hay mingled with the less desirable smells of nature …bringing him into the world as close to the common earth as it gets.

I love that in his earthly lineage, as recorded in His genealogy by Matthew, is not only nobility but a reformed pagan, Ruth, as well as a prostitute, (gasp!) Rahabforeshadowing the redemptive power of God’s love to even the most looked-down-upon among us.

…long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt it’s worth…

And finally,  I love that his birth was first announced to common shepherds and not aristocrats ….that a star broke through the darkness signalling not only His birth but the greatest hope into hopelessness the world had ever seen.

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Until next time, may His hope eternal bring you and yours the peace and joy found in this blessed birth.

∼Jen

Unknown Friends

There are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met…

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My football friend and mentor, Randy 🙂

When  I was growing up, one of the things I remember clearly was going shopping or on any outing with my mom and watching, ok, cringing, as she would engage in conversations or small talk with total strangers.  I simply could not understand why one would start a conversation or even make a comment to someone they had never met.  No place was safe…and the grocery store, especially the check-out line, was the absolute worst.

Fast forward many years to my adulthood, and the apple apparently has not fallen far from the tree!  It is to the point that my husband will jokingly ask me when I get home from shopping at my favorite grocery store, “Well, did you make any friends today?”  Yes, I now know the joy and fun of engaging total strangers on outings, and how nice, even if just for a brief moment, to get to know some of the wonderful people surrounding us in this journey of life.

On a recent day trip with one of my dearest friends to my first pro-football game ever,     I had the absolute pleasure of sitting next to Randy, who hours before was a total stranger. By the end of the game we were posing together for a selfie.  I asked him about a play on the field, and from that question he took it to heart that I knew absolutely nothing about football and proceeded to explain to me every single thing as it was happening in the game from that point onward.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I actually understood the very basic concepts, I just allowed him to continue his one-on-one ,play-by-play narration of the game.  It wasn’t just me, the whole section of strangers was high-fiving and sharing laughs and hugs as if we had all known each other for years.  In fact, it was the joy of interacting with total strangers, even more than the game, that took the fun to a whole nother level!

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Early to our section, soon to be filled with lots of “unknown friends!”

I am apparently not alone in my sentiment about interactions with strangers.  I can think of at least two times when just popping into a convenience store I have been stopped by total strangers.  One was a dear old man who had just lost his wife and wanted a friendly face to pour out his heart to, another was a woman who seemed to need to tell someone about the pain of her recent break-up. For me, a trip to the grocery store without engaging strangers is empty indeed.

My apples did not fall far from my tree either.  Both my sons love engaging total strangers in certain scenarios, and thankfully they are old enough that I don’t have to be concerned about their safety…just happy to observe that they see people in a friendly way as well.

In the end, wouldn’t the world be a much nicer place if strangers were seen as possible friends yet unknown…

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Celebrating a birthday after the game and friendship since first grade!

Until next time, go make a “friend!”

∼Jen

A Tribute to our Sweet Princess

I have long been convinced that of all the animals God created, dogs were especially created to be invaluable friends for mankind…I call them “hairy angels.”

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Our sweet Princess was indeed an angel.  In fact, our vet remarked that usually dogs named “Princess, Angel, Precious, Sweetie….” were anything but, and that our Princess was a nice exception to that rule!

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Indeed, she was!  I have owned and loved many dogs over my lifetime, but never have I owned or met a dog with a sweeter disposition than our dear Princess.

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Captain of our oldest son’s kayak

When we first got Princess, I told myself I would somehow not get attached to her. She would be the kids’ dog and I would take care of her and love on her, but remain unattached to avoid future heartache…yeah, right.

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For thirteen plus years she was our sweet little companion, and up until the last 7 years of her life she shared us with our two other dogs, and, unfortunately, she was at the bottom of the “pecking order.”

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After our oldest dog, Noah, and then her father, Smokey, died, she was our sole dog and the recipient of all of our human love, which she gladly returned a thousand times over.

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As for me, not getting attached just didn’t happen.

 We had to say goodby to our sweet girl, my empty-nest dog, in April, much earlier that I had hoped, and I still miss her more than I can say.  I wrote about Princess’ back-story in a previous post, but if any pet deserved a special goodbye post, it is her.

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Twilight on the creek with youngest son

Two days before she went on, we had our first and only kayak ride together.  She normally rode with one of the boys on their paddle board, but this day it was just she and I, and she left me with sweet memories of a morning together on the creek, searching out an eagle’s nest.

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cooling off after one of our summer-time walks

And so, this dog that I somehow would remain “unattached” to has left me with many precious memories, and a longing for many more morning walks together with my sweet little buddy.

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Thank you, Sweet Princess…you wiggled into our hearts and left your mark on us that will never be erased.  We miss you, the creek will never be the same without you, and we will always love you and remember you with smiles…

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♥ Jen

“When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.’”
—Rudyard Kipling (author, The Jungle Book)

Someone sent me the following video…and though many will find it unbelievable, it brought me a lot of joy and comfort… 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbjYQ_uors8

Patriarcal Shenanigans

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Daddy Cardinal feeding young

“What do you mean you were the only boy in class to not have your name written on the board for acting up….you’ve got to stop that!”

That was the advice given to my younger son during his first week of middle school, by none other than his grandfather, my father….advice my younger son gladly took to heart and seemed to make his motto throughout the rest of his school career.

Yes, amazing how the advice changes from children to grandchildren…that is a far cry from the way myself and my four siblings were raised. If a call came from school reporting an incident, it was not met with the same attitude doled out to my son, I can assure you!

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My father was one of ten children raised in the city of Baltimore, and from all accounts he was quite the little rascal.  Recently we have been treated to more stories of his youth, specifically his time in the Air Force, where the playful pranks apparently continued.  It occurs to me that the more rascally one is as a child, the more careful an eye they keep on their own children when the time comes…oh, I should have some very well-behaved grandchildren someday!

Growing up on a small farm we were were given more chores than I can remember, but I do remember hating them as a child, certain we were dealt a great injustice.  We were also given plenty of free time, however, when our chores were finished to roam the woods, climb trees, and get lost in our own daydreams or storybooks.  There were also the fun vacations spent at the beach along with the trips to New York City, Philadelphia, a Christmas spent at Disney and camping trips to the mountains.

Still, as with most children, I was sure the grass was somehow greener in my friends’ yards-no farm chores, life growing up in town…where I just knew things had to be more exciting.  And, as with most children, I didn’t appreciate the discipline, chores, or general instruction until grown and a parent myself.

So now that I am a parent, I can certainly appreciate my dad….for loving us enough to give us chores, building in us a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility; discipline when we showed lack of respect to others, especially authority figures; saying “no” to us and setting boundaries for our own protection, despite our anger or resentment at the time, because true love protects, no matter what; and most importantly of all, instilling in us a respect and awe for our loving heavenly Father.

Now that my dad has done his parental duty in raising his kids to be responsible adults, he is free to show his playful side to his grandchildren, and we all get to appreciate that other side we missed growing up. I still smile thinking of he and I in recent years on the back pew of church trying not to be seen laughing at a scene in a movie that no one else seemed to find funny. Dad and I were cracking up and adding years to our life with laughter, then, and many other times besides, both in church and out!

So dad, along with all the good characters you instilled in your children, your sense of humor and love of laughter and harmless mischief has certainly been passed down as well, and for that I am eternally grateful!  Thank you dad, I love you.

Happy Father’s Day,

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∼ Jen

A Mother’s Heart…

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.
—Tenneva Jordan


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This is a repost from last year for technical reasons I have been dealing with and have finally fixed!  The above quote is so like my mother that I had to add it.  Happy Mother’s Day to all who are actual mothers, and all that are not but love as if they are !!!

Last night we were under torrential downpours with lightening strikes all around us and a tornado watch in effect.  Both our sons had not yet returned home for the night, but my husband and I went to bed, saying prayers for their safe return while keeping one ear open, as all parents do, when awaiting their kid’s return.

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Mother and fawn taken in Colorado Rockies

I think of my own mother, how on earth she survived raising five children, and how many nights she and my father must have prayed as they waited for their children to return home each night.

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My mom was not only a terrific mom, she was also my confidant and friend….sticking with me through thick and thin….cheering me on, encouraging me when down, and always believing in me no matter what.

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Mother northern cardinal feeding young

She was and still is a source of inspiration to myself and so many.  One of her greatest accomplishments, which still amazes me, was earning her nursing degree while raising five children.  I can still see her in my mind’s eye sitting at the table doing her homework after we finished dinner, which she had also prepared.

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Mother wood duck leading her young about the creek

Now that I have raised two sons myself, I am even more amazed at her accomplishments and am not sure which is more amazing, earning the degree or raising five children….probably the latter!

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Spectacled bear with cub, part of an effort to prevent their extinction

Eventually our first son came in with a few friends in tow, an hour later our oldest son safely returned home as well.  Both stopped in to give us big hugs before heading off to their own beds, and my mother’s heart could rest peacefully knowing my beloved treasures were back safe and sound, and all was right in my little world.

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day to my fellow mothers!

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 Until next time,

∼ Jen

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. Proverbs 14:1

And Time Keeps Marching On…

So, this week I officially enter a new phase of parenting…my youngest is now an adult, gasp, where did those years go??!!

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I always said I could have bought a second home in the islands if I had a dime for every time I took my kids to the grocery store and an older mom said to me…”enjoy these days, they go by quicker than you know.”  They would always look at my kids with longing smiles and eyes seeing long-ago made memories brought fresh to the surface at the sight of my little ones-and now, I am that mom.

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Yes, I am guilty of saying that exact same thing to moms I see with little ones in tow.  And as I’m saying it, I’m thinking to myself, when did I become that mom, the older one, with kids no longer with me as I shop or run errands.  Yes, it does indeed go by more quickly than we could ever even begin to imagine.

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With each stage of their lives comes a new set of joys and concerns….the joys hopefully outweighing the concerns.

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  I taught pre-school before staying home with my own children, and I have to admit, it was the irony little, rascally boys that always brought a smile to my face. When the other teachers were wringing their hands and shaking their heads, I was laughing just a little on the inside at their harmless, mischievous little antics, totally oblivious to what my future held. Oh yeah.

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Be careful what you wish for it’s often said, and before long I had my own little rascally boys, and oh what a ride it has been! I am convinced, though, that God needs fun-loving mischievous little boys in the earth as well as proper little chaps, and He seemed to know just the mom to give them to!

This belief was challenged just a bit when high school rolled around and I was convinced the school office had my cell number on speed-dial.  I’m sure my hair color consumption tripled as the gray hairs seemed to increase exponentially during these years.

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 But now here were are, four months from having high-school behind us as well, and like the other stages of their lives, I’m sure it too will go by in a blink.  I will greatly miss sharing an afternoon cup of coffee with my younger son as he relates the tales of his school day, and the tears of laughter I shed as he impersonates some very colorful characters.  Yes, for all the gray, I’m sure the laughter he inspires has added years to my life.

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So to my youngest son, happy 18th birthday “little buddy.”  The joy, love, and laughter you have brought to my life and others far exceed what I could put into words. Follow those big dreams, climb those seemingly impossible mountains, use all those talents God blessed you with to enrich the lives of others, and always, always carry a bit of that playful, fun-loving little boy with you, as time keeps marching on.

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Merry Christmas…

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 To my dear friends and treasured acquaintances here in the blogosphere, I wish you a very merry and wonderful Christmas season!

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As I sit here sipping my coffee, watching my cat sleep peacefully by the fire, I can’t help but recall all I have to be thankful for in my life, and I wish this  same peace and joy on all who may read this.

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We know it’s not about the material possessions, status, or any of those other things that have no lasting meaning…peace and happiness come from inside and the relationships we surround ourselves with.

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 One of my most peaceful Christmas seasons came at a time when I didn’t know when my next paycheck was coming…true peace transcends those things.

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And at this time of the year especially, as we celebrate the birth of our savior, we find life’s truest joy…

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I have been reading the last in the Thomas Kinkade’s Cape Light series, this one written by Katherine Spencer, and I loved the way a character in the book summed up the manger scene:

….it is a scene of community, cooperation, a coming together of so many diverse players in this joyful drama.  Characters of high birth and low. A tradesman and his young wife, seeking a new home. A shepherd and a king. A wise man and even an angel. All from different backgrounds, with different perspectives on the world and different opinions, I’m sure. But their differences seemed suddenly trivial, eclipsed by their common experience the awe-inspiring experience that connected them, that brought them to common ground, both literal and spiritually. The recognition and adoration of the baby Jesus.

…finally, I thought of the beautiful, innocent baby in this scene.  A baby who responds the same to the admiration of the shepherd or the king. A baby who doesn’t know the difference between any of the different faces surrounding him.  He reaches toward all of them with equal love. Because that is the way God has created and loves us.  We are all equal in His eyes and all worthy of love, respect, and care.

 

May you each experience this true and lasting joy.

Until next time,

∼Jen

 

 

Because a Song, Needed to be Sung….

 

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Early music days

It all began in a little recording studio where a mutual friend had taken me to cut a demo.  The co-owner was engaged to be married at the time, I became engaged a few months later, at some point we both got un-engaged, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Lewes, De – First Date

And how can it be we have created twenty-five years of history already….it seems like yesterday, and yet so much has happened in our little lifetimes together. Times of joy, times of tears, new beginnings and new lives…all because a song, needed to be sung.

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We left the altar filled with dreams and hopes of a lifetime together…and we have been blessed.

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First one precious son, then another, and a third child we’ll someday meet in heaven…

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While our sons grew into young men, lines crept onto our faces, and gray, though fiercely fought, invaded our temples…and still we face our days yet to be written, thankfully together.

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  I smile, as the lesson in my Bible study this week just happens to be the love chapter

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor. 13:4-7

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I wish I could say I lived up to all those wonderful words of wisdom on love…yet, it is love, along with God’s grace and a good dose of humor, that has seen us through the past and will hopefully grant us many more years in the future…because, a song still needs to be sung.

To my husband, with all my heart,

∼Jen

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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