The County Line

The County Line

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Broken Open: Thoughts at Sunset

In a video clip at Sunday School, we listened to a young mom talk about the death of her premature son. Though the interview was taped a few years after the baby's death, the loss was still visibly raw as the mom talked about the experience through her tears. Since I'm the facilitator for the class, I'd watched the video clip more than once before sharing it. It wasn't easy to watch - even the third time around.

In it, she talked about being "broken open" rather than simply "broken."  She acknowledged that she would never be the same. At first, she tried to be the same Amy she always had been. She tried to be the same at home, at her job and with her friends. But she soon realized that she was changed and she had to grow and evolve with that change. She said that being "broken open" had forced her to give up her own agenda. It had given God a chance to fill the empty spaces with His Light.

Sunday evening, Randy was baling alfalfa. He called me on the phone.
"Hey, the sunset has the potential to be really pretty," he told me.

He rarely steers me wrong, so I grabbed the camera and left the air-conditioned house for a twilight drive down country roads. And as I looked for places to capture the day's end, I again thought about the young mother's story and her thoughts about being broken open.
A crystal clear day doesn't produce a spectacular sunset. It just doesn't.
Adding a "frame" formed by a pasture gate.
It's the clouds that paint the evening's colorful canvas with texture and variety.
As the light played peekaboo with the clouds, the scene shifted with each passing minute. 
A look to the east provided a whole different perspective on the evening's light show.
Most of us would prefer our lives to be "cloud free." But it was not that kind of week last week around here.
Looking east over a neighbor's soybean field
But maybe - just maybe - those "cloudy" days can have some beauty after all if we're open to letting the Light shine through them.

I likely have a different perspective about clouds anyway. And, as a farm partner, all the rain clouds this month have been welcome. Though we aren't out of drought conditions, the rainfall this summer has been beneficial after a dry winter and early spring. So the rumble of faraway thunder was a welcome accompaniment to the full-screen picture show.

A Time to Think

Without faith, we are as stained glass windows in the dark.

FYI:  The video clip is part of Scott J. Jones' The Wesleyan Way: A Faith That Matters.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Ties That Bind

At first glance, they seem like simple satin bows. To be sure, they were beautifully crafted - each meticulously sewn together and accented with a lacy applique and trailing ribbons of delicate pearls.

My mother-in-law Marie made them for my sister-in-law Kathy's wedding in 1992. She designed a hanger that fit perfectly over the end of the pews at the Stafford United Methodist Church.

Jill was a flower girl at that wedding. I can't remember for sure, but I think she probably helped attach those bows on every other pew down the center aisle before Kathy's wedding to Dave.

After Marie died in 1996, our house became the repository for the pew bows. As Kathy said, they had been designed especially for the Stafford UMC, so we should keep them safe. When Jill got married in August nine years ago, the pew bows again adorned the aisle.
Eric and Jill's first look moment - Jill's wedding photos by Gina Dreher, Wichita
When Randy gave Jill "away" during the service on August 8, 2009, neither of his parents were there physically. But those bows that Jill's Grandma Marie had made 17 years before were a silent testimony to their presence in spirit in a church that was the family's "home" for three generations.
Randy & Jill at her wedding, August 2009
Last Friday, a different bride's young nephews and her niece hung the bows before wedding rehearsal, while I followed behind and fluffed them, making sure they were flush against the dark wood and the ribbons and pearls were cascading just so.

If I counted correctly, Lauren was the eighth bride to use the pew bows.
The bows had also adorned the aisles for Lauren's two older sisters' weddings at Stafford UMC and for at least two other weddings besides our family's.
Jill & Eric - August 2009
The brides all had Marie's bows in common. Other central components were the two wedding banners Lauren's mom - my friend Kim - had commissioned before their oldest daughter, Kristen's, wedding. She shared them for Jill's wedding, too. And, by the way, Kristen accompanied me on the piano as I sang for Lauren's wedding. Life came full circle, since Kristen used to be one of the little singers in my Joyful Noise choir at Sunday School. She now teaches those same songs to a new generation.

The ties that bind a church family are much stronger than those delicate pearl ribbons hanging from satin bows.
Randy and I were two of the hosts at Lauren and Cory's wedding reception on Saturday. Lauren's parents - Boyd and Kim - were hosts at Jill's and Eric's wedding nine years ago along with Tami and Steve, who also were hosts for Lauren. ...

The ties that bind.

Once upon a time, these brides and grooms were skipping forward together for children's sermon at church. Now, some of them are the mommys and daddys who cringe when their offspring start to "over share" during children's time.

Time comes full circle. After helping to clean up following the reception, Kim came up, hugged us and said she couldn't imagine doing life without good friends - the ones who will get their clothes sticky with punch, trudge up and down stairs carrying gifts and pull down decorations after the bride and groom have departed into a stream of bubbles. We've all gladly been there and done it for each other.

I'm thankful for that, too. It reminded me of a favorite song by Christian recording artist Mark Schultz, who just happens to be a fellow Kansan. It's called "Cloud of Witnesses." Here are a few of the lyrics.

We watched them runnin' down the aisles,
Children's time, Sunday morning.
The preacher asked them who they loved,
They all smiled and started pointing to their mom,
Their dad,
The teacher from their kindergarten class;
And each and every one
Had just come from

A cloud of witnesses
That would see them through the years
Cheer them with a smile
And pray them through the tears
A cloud of witnesses that would see them to the end,
And shower them with love that never ends
A cloud of witnesses. ...

Whether it's sharing bows made a quarter century ago or refilling a canister with lemonade and heaps of ice at a hot August wedding reception or sharing a strawberry cake at a funeral dinner or becoming the Sunday School teacher in the very room where you used to be the student ...

and in a million more ways ....

... there's a cloud of witnesses who are there to cheer us on on this race we call life.

It sounds like a good way to be a church family.

It was a weekend of wedding memories. Just a few days after Jill and Eric celebrated their 9th wedding anniversary on August 8, my parents celebrated their 65th on August 12. My brother put together this collage using photos from a history book my mom compiled for each of the grandchildren.
What a wonderful legacy!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Both Sides of Sunset

With storm clouds brewing as sunset approached, the sky was offering a prime time show. Since reruns are the television entertainment at this time of summer, we left the house and ventured down the road for the free show. 
The western sky was beautiful - no doubt about that.
The setting sun lit the billowing clouds on fire. But if I'd only looked to the west to the main attraction, I would have missed the best part of all.
And isn't that the case with life? We get so focused on what's in front of us that we forget to take a breath and look around.
Some of the most beautiful things are found on the other side.
Maybe it's the other side of the argument.
Maybe it's the other side of that bad mood.
Maybe it's the other side of sunset.
The lesson I’ve learned? Take a breath, look around. Enjoy the entire view. Get a different perspective. You just might find beauty there.

A Time to Think

Every day we live is a priceless gift of God,
loaded with possibilities to learn something new,
to gain fresh insights. –Dale Evans Rogers, singer

A Time to Act

Encourage me God, to see the value in what I have.

A Time to Pray

Dear God, lead me through today with new insights and new hope.

From Guideposts email devotional

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Brooke's Adventure: A Story in Rhyme

Grandma and Grandpa and a girl who's named Brooke
Together, quite an adventure they took!
Her mom was not there, and neither was dad.
But there was still tons of fun to be had!
Our first stop was the Hutchinson Zoo
There we saw geese and an owl that went "Whoo!"
One critter is not like the others, we said.
It's good that the fox was in its own shed!
Sometimes it's scary to walk down a path
When a pelican's there and might show his wrath!
But Brooke, she was brave and she forged on ahead.
Thankfully, no pelican feathers were spread!
The two little donkeys; they came to the fence.
They looked right at Brooke; their stare was intense!
It was almost as if they wanted to chat
But Brooke doesn't speak donkey - no doubt about that!
Frogs, fish and lizards were next on the map
These are not creatures we'd want on our lap.
But it was just fine to look through the glass
Watching the animals there as they'd pass.
In the reptile house, Brooke entered a bubble
Turtles swam there with no sign of trouble.
Swimming with turtles seemed fun to the girl.
Wouldn't it be fun to give that a whirl?
Into another bubble went Brooke.
She was all ready to give it a look.
Brooke and a prairie dog stood face to face
What a wonderful, magical place!
Were we so brave we could walk through some bones?
Yes, we could do it without any groans!
It was just for pretend, so Brooke wasn't scared
Since with her Grandpa she had been paired.
We were all done with our time at the zoo.
But we still had plenty of things we could do.
Into the car, we went for a drive.
Sometime later at the farm we'd arrive.
Animals don't just exist at the zoo
Grandpa has an awfully cute crew!
Brooke had three little kittens to hold
Cuddling with kittens? It doesn't get old!
They are so fluffy, and they are so soft.
Brooke held the one called Callie aloft!
Zoe and Starlight, other names that she chose
They are so cute - from their tail to their nose!
After our supper, it was time to go fishing.
We'd catch lots of fish: That's what we were wishing!
But not a single one did we catch.
Our hooks and the fishes - I guess they don't match!
We fished the next morning: We tried a new spot.
Did we have luck? Oh, no, we did not! 
Brooke wasn't afraid to hold onto a worm.
She wasn't scared, even when the worm squirmed!
Later, she touched a small minnow, you see.
Then returned it to creek, where it swam away free.

The third place we tried was a kids' fishing pond
And again, at Quivira, no fish did respond.

So Brooke grabbed the camera. She held it just so.
Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow.
Grandpa posed for the camera: Brooke gave it a snap.
'Til Grandma said, "OK, that's a wrap!"
Grandpa and Brooke took a stroll down the road
To find where some trolls and some fairies were stowed.
Grandpa created a fun hideaway
Exploring a fairyland is the perfect play day.
"Under-doggies" were next on the wish list for play.
Brooke liked to soar high, as the swing it did sway!
Grandma's house has plenty of toys
Playing with princesses gives plenty of joy!

Helping in kitchen is another great skill.
Making a pizza? Brooke knows the drill!
Spreading out sauce and pepperonis to plop
Brooke did it all with a pizza to top!
When Grandpa was young, he liked trips to the creek.
He thought it was quite an adventure to seek.
Cows wondered what these two intruders would do
As they watched and they wondered and let out a "moo!"
A girl named Brooke wasn't fond of the mud.
She picked up her feet to get out of the crud!
Even though there were minnows to catch
Brooke and the mud weren't making a match.
Brooke wasn't impressed by the Rattlesnake Creek.
If Grandpa would walk, Brooke would take a peek!
It was somewhat surprising Brooke wasn't afraid
To hold a small minnow without any aid!
But, yes, she would do it. She was certainly brave.
 She wanted a photo so the memory she'd save!
While dirt and some grime were not her first choice
Getting dressed up gave Brooke cause to rejoice!
Side-saddle riding on her favorite steed
 And a crown on her head made her princess indeed!
She wanted a fancy braid in her hair.
Sadly, Grandma's hair skills don't feature much flair
We brightened the hair-do with two little bows.
It was just the right thing for Brooke's princess clothes!
 For four generations, this church has been home
For Grandpa and family, no reason to roam.
Sunday School gave Brooke a chance to go sing.
She also drew pictures: It was quite a fun thing!
Singing is something that Brooke likes to do.
She and her Grandma, they sang quite a few!
VBS songs were their favorite choice.
To dance and to sing in a very loud voice!

During the weekend, Grandma read lots of books.
While going home, Brooke gave them more looks.
She could almost recite them by word and by heart.
Reading is sure to make little girls smart!
A tired little girl then dropped off to sleep.
No more page turns, no more stories to keep.
Grandma and Grandpa were so happy she came.
 A fun time with Brooke was surely their aim.
The grands can't wait 'til it's time for more fun.
For more adventures, more love by the ton!