...and I am very happy there.

...and I am very happy there.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Grandfather's Labor of Love...

When my husband Jim and his little sister, Cathy, lived at home, their dad got them a minibike. A Rupp minibike to be exact. A classic today. After Cathy moved from home and their parents were selling their old homestead, Cathy offered the bike to us. We had three sons that would surely enjoy the bike.

After a getting the bike repaired and refueled, the boys had some great times riding the bike in our yard and the back fields. It was great fun though a little tense as the kids rode by themselves or together with us or their brother, Bryan.

I have a picture somewhere of Bryan riding it and his long legs being held up to allow him to ride on the lawn. We have another of Aaron holding on for dear life, but enjoying the ride and the camaraderie with his big brother. The bike took the boys on a few good jaunts before it was in need of repair again. Being the end of the season the bike was put away and never came out of the garage again.

The years went by and the boys got into mountain bikes and  BMX bikes that they liked to ride in the "trails" doing stunts and jumps and such. The poor little minibike was relegated to the back of the garage.

Then when our grandson was old enough, he spotted it in our garage asked what it was. From that day on he would look for it in the garage and ask if it was fixed yet. Truth be told, Jim would have loved to hand it off the him and make more room in the garage, but they had no place to ride it.

Until now. Bryan and Jess moved their family into a home on five acres! The yard is HUGE and just begging for little boys to ride minibikes on them.

So we are heading down the Georgia to deliver a repaired minibike to the new generation of Bells. But first came the labor of love only a grandfather could bestow on his grandsons. So here are a few of the phases to get there.

Tools & Parts to do the job.
Custom pieces to make.
The patiently waiting Rupp.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Memories of Grandmother...

A few months ago, my cousin sent me this photo of my Grandmother in her kitchen.
Grandma Anna Muller

What memories it stirred. The photo depicts her the way I always remembered her. In her kitchen, apron on, ready to go. I think I only saw her sit for meals and once in her living room for about ten minutes. She didn't sit back and relax, but somewhat on the edge of her seat, ready to jump up in a moment's notice to get you something or stir something on the stove.

We tried to go to Grandma's at least once a month when I was growing up. The drive was over two hours from our home in the country. Rick and I amused ourselves in the back seat or slept.

Someone had drilled into our heads how dangerous it was where Grandma lived so we were never allowed outside alone. But one day, I went out on the front stoop and just stood half in and a half out. As I gazed up and down the street of similar stoops I was amazed that I was in the middle of the city and no one was around! Then one door opened a few houses down across the street and a little boy about my age came out. He did the exact same thing I did. As he stood in his doorway, half in and half out, he caught my eye as he gazed down the street on my side. Our gaze held for a minute and as if by some hidden cue, we both stepped back inside and shut the doors! My heart was beating fast. Were we really in danger out there? Why was no one else out there? How was it that at just the precise moment I decided to step outside he did too? Very intriguing for a little kid.

Grandma Muller was of tough German stock who raised seven children (five boys!) and lived into her 90's. Her home was always clean and neat. Never anything out of place. She had two items for us to play with: Lincoln logs and little plastic musical bells. I loved playing with those two toys!

Her home was quiet for being in the middle of Woodhaven, NY (the city). One fascinating place that I found in her home was her bathroom with its skylight and octagonal black and white floor tiles. I am not sure why that held such a fascination for me, but I loved to go up there and stare at the tiles and try to make designs out of them or check out the skylight at different times of the day to see what it would reveal.

The other room that intrigued me was Grandma's bedroom. The door was always shut and we were told, "That's Grandma's room" and though I don't remember being told not to go in there, I remember the feeling that it was off limits. This only made it hold more mystery than my little mind could endure. So only once did I take a chance to creep down the hall to her room. I stood in the doorway and scanned the room. I was awed at the how beautiful it was. Peaceful and neat, very neat. Her room faced out front on the street and spanned the whole width of the house. Her window was open and a gust of wind, blew the curtain sheers into the room. It gave the room an almost ghostlike appearance.  I tried to think my Grandmother in there through the years. When I spotted her silver hair brush, I could picture her sitting at her vanity, brushing her hair as a young woman and then as the matriarch of our family. Grandma's hair was never down, so I could only imagine what long tresses were hidden under her combs and hair pins.

The memories of my grandmother are comforting in a nostalgic way. Her home was a place of peace and quiet. A place of delicious scents from the kitchen and family dinners around her dining room table. A place of mysterious rooms and scary basements. A place of hidden dollar bills that she magically produced to give to us almost every visit.

While I usually dreaded the trip, I never lost the sense of family time and joy my father felt at going "home". She may not have been the cookie baking, story reading Grandma of my dreams but she was my Grand Ma in her own special way.

My cousin included the following notes with the photo:

My own apron when I remember to use it.
Remember Grandma and her aprons?
Remember making an apron in Home Ec?

The History of 'APRONS':

I don't think our kids know what an apron is.

The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few.  It was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material but, along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.

And when the weather was cold, Grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.

After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folks knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.

AND --

Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool.

Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.

They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.

I don't think I ever caught anything from an apron but LOVE.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Medieval Times

Over the past few years our nine-year-old grandson, Elijah, has been infatuated with the world of knights and castles. I bought him a wooden castle one year with the princess, the knights, the king and a horse or two. Then I found the mother lode of figures that you could pose into different stances. Over time we collected horses, men with crossbows, swords, and assortments of weapons and gear.

I also found a book on knights that explained all the weapons and how they worked. It showed the clothing that was worn and other details of the time period. That set off Elijah's imagination and he created his own games and role plays and would ask us all to participate.

Last year we had both grandsons for the weekend of their parents anniversary. Jim decided to take Elijah out on a hike as I stayed at home with Asher who was not feeling well. Jim came back just as excited as Elijah as he told me the story of their adventure.

They drove across the Hudson River down to Staatsburg,  to Mills Mansion. They parked the car and walked down to the river and found the hiking trail that ran along the river bank. Almost immediately, Elijah went into stealth mode, hiding behind trees and using makeshift weapons to thrash his way through the dense forest. In the height of his role play, his grandfather pointed out that he had practically stepped on a snake that was sitting just off the path. That didn't stop Elijah. (Jim may have stopped him for slicing the snake to pieces, I am not sure.) He ran on ahead with Grandpa struggling to keep up. If people approached, Elijah would exclaim that the enemy was sighted and they must take cover. By this time, Grandpa was getting into character.

As ships went down the river, the two would launch the heavy artillery at them and wait to see if they sunk any of them. Then they turned a corner and Jim thought Elijah was going to pass out! A castle came into view on the other side of the river!

Mount St. Alphonsus, Esopus, NY
Elijah charged forward to see if he could spot whether it was friend or foe. Jim was amused listening to this little boy wonder run with his imagination. Almost everything Elijah came across became a prop for his pursuits. And willing or not, just about everybody and every animal became a player. I am sure it was a hike neither would soon forget.

I thought it would be fun someday to take Elijah to that "castle" so he could see it up close and even walk through it. Maybe we can do that when they are in the area at Christmas time. We will have to see. For now, here are a few shots of the majestic building.

Back side of the Mount

The "castle" is actually Mount St. Alphonsus and I have hiked around it and through it ever since I worked in the Lutheran church and we held our planning retreats there.

If you are ever in the area, you will want to drive down the quiet driveway to the Mount and walk the grounds to the river or just meander through the beautiful building. There is a gift shop open several days during the week. It's a great place to retreat to for a quiet restoration of your soul. While this used to be a place to train new priests for the ministry, it is now open to those who find it. (And it's not hard to find!)  In a later blog, I will have to share my experiences with several of the those student priests ;)! For now, I think I hear a little boy asking for a catapult for his birthday...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What if...

As I stated in a previous blog, I was raised in the Catholic church. I also worked in an Evangelical Free Church and a Lutheran and a Baptist church. I have attended services in main line churches and charismatic churches. I have experienced legalistic congregations and liberal congregations. I have also had the pleasure of attending services in a synagogue and a black southern gospel church.

What I found in each one was people from all walks of life, races, color and yes, sexual orientation. The leaders that taught or preached came from many different backgrounds and interpreted biblical truths differently. Many churches claim to use the Bible as their text but no one but the pastor/priest/leader ever opens one in the service. Many people seem to blindly follow the teachings without questioning the authenticity. Many people who come from some of these churches believe they have the answer and proceed to look down their noses at those that don't believe it yet.

Sometimes the perception of the outside world is that of hypocrisy. Some hear snippets of what they think the Bible says and then holds it as a measuring stick against those that are in the church to how good a Christian they are.

Unfortunately, this has led many breakdowns in the relationships between believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers, or those that believe in God or a higher authority but don't read the Bible or believe Jesus to be God or the Son of God, are quick to point out when Christians are not acting as Christians should. I agree many Christians fail to walk in paths of righteousness and that causes a wall for those watching.

Years ago my dad stopped going to church because he couldn't stand seeing the people stand up and read the Bible on Sunday morning then lying, stealing or cheating the rest of the week. What dad didn't realize is these people are only human. All men and women fail at times. We don't like to think they will, but we can always count on people failing us at some time. What dad didn't learn in church is that we aren't supposed to be looking at the people in church. We are supposed to be looking at the only perfect example for us. That perfect example is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ was born to be our example for how we are to live. He is the only human we should ever look up to to see how we are doing. Now I realize you may not believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but he did say he was. Thus far, no one has proved he isn't.

Oh, and Jesus didn't come to show us up. He didn't come to point out our flaws and laugh at us. Not at all. He came to do the work he was sent to do. He came to fulfill the prophecies of the early prophets. He came to sacrifice himself for each of us.

Many believe he was a great teacher. I chuckle when I hear this. Why? Because if you think Jesus was a great teacher and this great teacher says he is the Son of the Living God, then, why don't you believe it? Well, now you may think he's not a great teacher, but just an ordinary man living an extraordinary life. Why?

People need to dig deeper and ask God (if he exists) to help them to understand what the Bible truth is. Start by asking God to prove to you who He is. That's what I did as a teenager and He did! Then ask Him to help you understand what the Bible says and who Christ was/is.

So many are quick to judge the beliefs of Christians by what they see Christians do. But again you are looking at the wrong person. Look to the Christ.

My heart breaks for many friends and family who have tossed the Bible aside, thrown Christ out with the heretics and refuse to find out for themselves who and what they are. Christians want to share the love of Christ, but just the mention of his name gets people's backs up. Many Christians do not understand their own doctrine, many have been taught incorrectly and then told they shouldn't study scripture for themselves. That's how we got Jim Jones and the like.

Many get turned off by Christians "proselytizing" and again I chuckle. Will these same people be turned off if they truly heard the message? If, in the end, the Christians had the Truth to happiness, peace and love, wouldn't they have wanted to hear it?

Such a quandary!

I heard this song a while back and I wanted so much to share it with all my friends and family to get them to think. THINK! Then check out what people are saying before you blindly follow or toss aside what we are trying to share with you.

click here for lyrics

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Favorite Places

My husband and I live in upstate New York near the Hudson River. We are 100 miles north of New York City in the beautiful Hudson Valley. We were fortunate enough to grow up here. Over the years, we have hiked many trails along the river and visited many of the unique mansions built along it. (More blogs to come on these mansions.)

Last week we stopped to visit a place we discovered during the winter. We wanted to revisit the area to see how it changed for the summer season. We were not disappointed.

Esopus Meadows is a small picnic area on the west side of the river, south of where we live. Picnic tables and benches allow you to sit and watch the river activity.
If you are lucky, you may get to see a tugboat pushing a barge up or down the river or a tour boat cruising along. These cruises allow you to see the lighthouses in the area close up. My personal favorite is to watch the sail boats glide along the water.
You can also explore the water's edge for nature's beauty.

Like the stream in my backyard growing up, the river provides a place of respite, time to experience God's creation, and a place to refresh and restore. Go ahead take some time to click on the photos and enlarge them to see the detail. I have enclosed some music to experience it with the music of Phil Keaggy's Addison's Walk. So click the arrow on the link below and then go back and double click on the photos to see them up close (then hit the back arrow to return).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Road Less Traveled, Pt. 1

Trail at Mills-Norrie State Park (Photo by son, Bryan)
In the book The Road Less Traveled, the author makes a statement that really stood out to me. He said, “The Catholic Church provided me with my living as a psychiatrist.”

I grew up in the Catholic Church. I was baptized as an infant, attended Catechism classes, received my first Holy Communion, and had my Confirmation. I even attended those special classes that got you out of school for an hour or so in elementary school. I believe it was called, “Release Time”. I learned that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and sins were the bad things I did. I learned to pray the Lord’s Prayer, say the Apostle’s Creed, go to confession and heard some stories of the Bible. I rarely got anything out of Sunday sermons, but the classes introduced me to the idea that there was more outside my own little world than just MY experiences. It also was the start of learning many traditions of the Catholic church.

My mother filled in the rest. Telling me that even though she could not be everywhere, God could and he knew everything I did. She also let me know that for every wrong I may have done, I should do something good to counter it. She is the one who really taught us the Lord’s Prayer. She is the one who put the “FEAR” of God (or was it the Devil?) in me.  Anyway, it was a foundation that I had to build on, warped though it may be.
In my preteen years, I remember one Sunday sitting with my dad on the hill above our home. Both of us did not go to church and we had hiked up the hill to enjoy the beauty of the view from the top. As we sat, I ask him why he didn’t go to church anymore. He said he couldn’t stand to watch the hypocrites that went there, doing nice nice on Sunday and doing not so nice on all the other days. He took his hand and waved it in front of us and said, “This is all the church I need.” Hmmmm, food for thought.

When I was in Jr. High I attended a Social Studies class. During the first week, the teacher asked each student to raise their hands if they were Christians. (Imagine this today!!!) Several students raised their hands including me. He proceeded to go on to Jewish, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Protestant, and finally Catholic. At this point I was in a quandary. I KNEW I was Catholic, but I already raised my hand for Christian and as far as I knew a Christian was anyone who believed in Christ. Was there a difference? Thus was the start of my search --on and off through the years -- to find out.

While still in High School, I listened more carefully to what people said their “beliefs” were. Remember, I grew up with the conflicting times of “Jesus Christ Superstar!”, “Godspell”, and the slogan, “God is dead!” I listened and I took in a lot. Very confused, I decided maybe it was all a hoax. Then and there I decided to live as if God did not exist. I wouldn’t go to church, I wouldn’t say Grace, I wouldn’t say my prayers at night. Within two weeks, I could no longer take it. Questions had been  popping into my head ever since I started this experiment:

If there was no God, then who created all this?
Who organized everything to grow from seed to flower and back to seed?
Who designed this phenomenal human body that I was learning so much about?
Where did the structure for all our government and laws come from?
What was I doing here? Did I have a purpose? Does anyone have a purpose?

My answer to all this was there had to be a God. It was the only thing that made sense. So I gave up the notion that there was no God and embarked on a search for who He was and what my purpose was in this life.

As I stated earlier, as a child I learned to pray. My prayers went something like this: “Dear God, if you will just get me a new bicycle, I will do…..” only calling up God when I needed something.

Then I remember the time I heard a friend of my mom’s say to her, “You know God wants to hear from you every day, not just when you want something” and that got me thinking.

A sister-in-law once said, “If I ever had children, I would introduce them to God and the Church and let them make their own decisions.” That too, got me thinking.

Such was the beginning of my walks on a road to spiritual awakening. In later blogs, I will share more of my encounters and where I am today. By the way, Peck does continue in his book to say, "I could equally well have said the Baptist Church, Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church, or any other." Still walking down the road…