Category Archives: Faith

Mary Did You Know?


Garden of LightsChristmas is coming up fast, it seems. I feel like I am so far behind and totally not ready. Maybe it’s because it’s so warm yet. My brain thinks it’s still October. Anyway, I thought I would share a little exercise that I am doing with my friends from church – it is helping me practice gratitude and reminding me of the joy that came with the birth of Christ.

The holidays are busy for everyone and some of us fly south for the winter (not me, in case you were wondering – although with El Nino upon us, I’m not sure you can tell the difference between Florida and Wisconsin right now) so we are participating, via email, in prayerful reflection (lectio divine) over a single scripture.

The scripture we are reflecting on is this:  And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. Luke 2:1

Yeah, what a fun one…government and taxes.

But of course, we all know the “rest of the story..” (read in Paul Harvey’s voice for best results).  Because of this decree, Joseph and Mary have to schlep from Nazareth to Bethlehem of Judea – 80 odd miles via roadways made 2000 years ago (translation:  really crappy roads).  On foot.  For over a week.  During the rainy season.  Wearing layers of woolen cloaks.  Up and down and up and down hills.  Sleeping outside.  In the mud.  And the cold.  Carrying all of their own provisions.  With Mary 9 months pregnant (NINE MONTHS!).

Oh wait – they had a donkey.  That makes it so much better.

I just realized that Mary had the perfect labor and delivery story to use on Jesus.  “I had to walk 80 miles!  Pregnant!  In the rain!  Uphill!  And after we got there, we couldn’t find a hotel and ended up having you in a cave.  And then a bunch of smelly shepherds piled in and then those singing angels!  Oy!  The singing!  The noise!  The smell!  And the next day we had to go pay taxes.  TAXES!  You should be so lucky.  So don’t tell me you’re “too tired” to heal the sick.  I’ll give you “too tired….”

Meanwhile Jesus is rolling his eyes and picking at the food on his plate, wondering why all the OTHER kids get to go to the camel races.

I remember my ninth month with both of my pregnancies. I don’t recall it as being a “good time”. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a time for an 80 mile hike – with or without a donkey.  I couldn’t see my feet, which is surprising because they had grown a size and were swollen to the point that the only shoes that fit were Dave’s slippers. I had to pee every 5 minutes which meant I had to somehow negotiate the physics of sitting down and standing up without tipping over into the bathtub.

I couldn’t stand very long without my stomach muscles threatening to flee the country and when I sat down, my pelvis felt like it was burrowing it’s way to China. Laying down was marginally better, except the having to pee every 5 minutes thing and flopping around like a big ole fat fish trying to get out of the waterbed (a sight to see, mind you. And stop raising your eyebrows about the waterbed. This was the eighties. I’m old, remember?).

So the very idea of poor Mary and Joseph spending the last week of her pregnancy hiking thru the hills of Galilee and Judea gives me a new appreciation for my millennial comforts.  I think I shall go out in the garage and hug my car now, thank you very much.  And my accountant.  And my nice hospital where I gave birth to my children in my fancy birthing suite.  And that county road worker over there, laying down the new asphalt so I can drive my car on nice smooth roads.  Oh wait…he’s running away.  Why is he running?  Wow, he is fast!  Fine!  Don’t get your hug then!  Your loss, buddy!

So “it came to pass” that cars were invented and hospitals and accountants and yoga pants and cute maternity tunics and Skechers.  And women sometimes took these things for granted until they read about Mary and then became ever so grateful that God had allowed them to be born in a time that did not require 80 mile hikes and riding on donkeys and giving birth in caves in front of smelly shepherds because it was weird enough having half the nursing and intern staff staring at her nether regions.

May the peace and joy of our living Savior follow you throughout this holiday season, as we celebrate His humble birth.

Joyous-Grateful-Christmas-Tactically yours,

Sue

PS.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. – Luke 2:7-14

 

It’s All A Blur


I think I may have mentioned I am helping to lead our church retreat, and our theme is “Mindfulness”.  Our focus is learning to live in the moment – appreciating right where we are, regardless of circumstances.  For the record, I really suck at this.  But Moses sucked at talking in public, and look how that turned out, so maybe there is hope for me here.

The other night I was walking the dogs and trying to practice being present.  For every step, I repeated “You won’t ever get that step back.  Each step is now.  Now.  Now.  Now.”  Besides freaking myself out a little, the exercise helped me to be mindful of each moment of my walk.  To not whine in my head about the cold or that it was dark or that I wished I was home all cozy on the couch.  To not think ahead or think behind.  Just be in the “now”.  It was hard.

Later, I was going thru photos looking for an appropriate entry for The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge (Blur), and I found the one below.  I took it while out walking in the woods with the dogs, and playing with my camera.  When I got home and downloaded it to my computer, I remember thinking “Well, that one’s a bust” but now I saw it with new eyes.

The barbed wire -the only part of the photo in focus –  is my present.  The barbs are the obstacles – note that only two are in focus – the one behind me that I must remember to learn from and the one in front of me that I must overcome. The blurred forest is the past and the future. I might be bothered by the past and worried about the future, but in truth I can only focus on the present or risk falling from the wire.

Great analogy, right?

Now comes the tricky part.  The part where I let the past stay in the past and let God take care of the future.  Where I trust that beneath me is a net of Faith, Hope, Love, Mercy, Forgiveness, and Redemption.  Some days, I spend a good amount of my valuable time frozen on my wire, arms outstretched, knees trembling, heart pounding.  I wonder if God just shakes his head at me then.  If He’s tempted to knock on my head with his supernatural fist, saying “Hello!  McFly!” in His still, small voice.

I’ll keep this picture with me – a reminder to be mindful.  To be present.  To live. And mostly, to trust the One who walks with me.

Philosophically yours,

Sue

Red Banks Alvar, Brown County, WI

Red Banks Alvar, Brown County, WI

For we live by faith, not by sight…

2 Corinthians 5-7

 

Helloooooo 2015


Shamelessly stolen from my cousin off Facebook.  Thanks for the daily inspiration, Lori!

Shamelessly stolen from my cousin off Facebook. Thanks for the daily inspiration, Lori!

This completely sums up the extent of my resolutions for this new year.  I toyed with the idea of having actual resolutions, but they are just a repeat of what I hoped to accomplish the previous year and all the previous years before.

Even as I type this, I am envisioning myself pedaling 3000 miles on my bike, killing it in the gym, writing like a fiend, and turning back time and genetics until I’m 5’10”, blonde, built like a brick shit house and author of a best seller.  Damn!  I look goood!

The gal on the left is Zuzka - she has FANTASTIC workouts - seriously - check her out at zuzkalight.com

The gal on the left is Zuzka – she has FANTASTIC workouts – seriously – check her out at zuzkalight.com

A girl can only take so much reality before breaking out the chocolate cake.

Speaking of, we had some tonight for Dave’s birthday.  Homemade – my mom’s recipe she used to make for us when we were kids.  Homemade frosting too.  Yeah, I rock.

It really is as good as it looks.

It really is as good as it looks.

My point is – I tend to over blow things.  Knowing this about myself does not keep me from doing it.

So this year, my only resolution is to be grateful in all circumstances.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  Even when I want to shake my fist and scream at God.  Because this is my life, and while I may not always get to choose what happens to me, I do get to choose how I will react to it.  Yeah, I know – I sound like a cliche, but I am learning that this is the only way to have peace in the midst of turmoil.  To have joy in the midst of pain.  God is good.  All the time.

So that’s really all I got today.  Plus, remembering to write “2015” really will take up most of my bandwidth for the first three months.  We’ll talk again in March.  Ha!

The cake queen,

Sue

 

The Whiniest Israelite In All The Land


That would be me.  Well, that would be me if I was Jewish.  And if I lived during the Exodus (despite what my brother may say, I’m not that old).

This realization came to me recently while I was working on a work assignment. A really sucky work assignment.   A really sucky work assignment that was really really hard (really) and I only had one week to do it. It required hours of reading, research, analyzing, and goal setting and then writing a report to go with it.

Crack open that bottle of whine.

“I can’t play Candy Crush because I have to do reeeessseeaarchhh!”  *Throws self on floor*

“On my own tiiimmme!  At hoooommme!”  *Flail arms and legs while rolling on the floor*

“I don’t get thiiiisss!”  *dramatic adolescent foot stomping*

“This is toooo haaaarrd!”  *More arm flailing and foot stomping*

“I want to eat peanuts and read comics like all the other adults!”

“I’m just gonna quit my stupid job so I don’t have to do this.  But I need a paaaay cheeeeeeck!”  *sobs uncontrollably*

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

After I finished the report, I texted a friend saying “It’s done! It’s finally done!” to which she replied, “Are you also done with your pity party?”.  Rat bastard friends.

Every morning, I try to read a chapter from the bible. You will notice I just called my friends “rat bastards” in the previous sentence, so I feel compelled to explain the bible reading for some reason. I obviously don’t fit the traditional “holy” definition, but thankfully, God has infinite patience (along with His wisdom, mercy, love and forgiveness) and hasn’t kicked me off the island yet. We talk a lot. I get a lot of eye rolls from Him, too.

So now I’m reading Exodus. The first part of Exodus is cool. It starts with the story of Moses – rescued as an infant from the waters of the Nile, growing up in the big house, being really stupid and killing an Egyptian, running away to the desert, getting married, finding a new life and then getting called back by God to rescue his people.

But once they get into the wilderness, and God starts handing down the law, things start to get dicey from a “making sense to Sue” standpoint.  Following the law is sort of like trying to read all of the “begats” (genealogies)- I’m reading the words but they don’t mean a whole lot.

Currently, I’m reading the instructions for building the mobile temple and I feel like I need a degree in rocket science to understand it.

Example:

7 “You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair, to be a tent over the tabernacle. You shall make eleven curtains. 8 The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; and the eleven curtains shall all have the same measurements. 9 And you shall couple five curtains by themselves and six curtains by themselves, and you shall double over the sixth curtain at the forefront of the tent. 10 You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain of the second set. 11 And you shall make fifty bronze clasps, put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one. 12 The remnant that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. 13 And a cubit on one side and a cubit on the other side, of what remains of the length of the curtains of the tent, shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and on that side, to cover it. 14 “You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that. – Exodus 26:7-14

Greek, right? Or Hebrew? And can we just address the elephant in the room: Badger skins??  And this is just for the curtains!  Or something!  I’m not really sure!

"Figures The erection of the Tabernacle and the Sacred vessels" by illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648–1733) and others, published by P. de Hondt in The Hague in 1728 - http://www.wcg.org/images/b2/_0303160501_038.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Figures The erection of the Tabernacle and the Sacred vessels” by illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648–1733) and others, published by P. de Hondt in The Hague in 1728 – http://www.wcg.org/images/b2/_0303160501_038.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The entire time I’m reading it, I realized if I was an Israelite trying to decipher this, I was going to be wandering in the desert for a really, really, really, long time, because I would so be on the “Let’s build a golden calf – it sounds so much easier” band wagon.

What I wouldn’t have realized though, is that even though the rules were hard, they had a purpose.  God was trying to build a nation and to establish a way of life for a group of people who had just been slaves for hundreds of years.  They had little knowledge of government structure or how to keep a million people from starving or killing each other or how to even order their day.  Following his instruction stretched their minds, changing how they thought.  As it was, he had to provide manna and quail, water from rocks, and constant hand holding to get them to the foot of Mount Sinai (insert golden calf here).

So I felt a little better about the whole report thing. I mean, it was just a report. I didn’t have to build a temple or a whole freaking nation. Yay me!  Yay everyone else too, because the very idea of a “Sue Nation” is really rather frightening (except for the part where everyone gets to eat cake).  And just like the Israelites, researching and writing the report changed how I thought, brought in new ideas, and made me see my job from another perspective.

I also realized what a whiner I was over such trivial things like work reports when our world is faced with terrorism, war, racism, poverty, and illness.  Seriously – I should have been jumping up and down with joy over having to write that report. My rat bastard friend was right – I was having a raging pity party. And that made me wonder – how often do I complain about piddly crap like that? How ungrateful am I? How often am I whining about the glass half empty, when I could be rejoicing over the glass half full?  Or more importantly, the “cup runnething over” (Psalm 23)?

I plan to make that a daily reminder for myself: Pop a curly straw in that baby and rejoice in the glass half full. The very same RB friend who called me out on my pity party also had this remark for me – the “I get an idea and say “Okay, let’s do it”” and then she remarked “Now I didn’t say it was always a GOOD idea…” and we laughed over it because she knows me so very well. But this time I am on the money. This is a GREAT idea. For me anyway.

Half-full

Love to you all.

May you have a blessed and grateful holiday season.

Sue

PS. Happy Thanksgiving!

PPS. Pie

PPSS. Mmmmmmm….pie.

Just for today...tomorrow it's back to cake!!

Just for today…tomorrow it’s back to cake!!

Soft Pastels – Norwegian Style


The Boynton Chapel, Bjorklunden, Baileys Harbor, WI.

IMG_0599

 

 A fissured rock

the perfect tree

she built a home

to honor Thee

 

You spoke to her

You speak to me

in drenching wind

and unsalted sea

 

The feathered pine

and wizened tree

the slumbering ore

call out to me

 

In land of rock

and birch and sea

she built a church

to honor Thee

 

Interior of Boynton Chapel.  All paintings and carvings done by Winifred and Donald Boynton.

Interior of Boynton Chapel. All paintings and carvings done by Winifred and Donald Boynton.

Front of the chapel.  Even the pulpit was hand carved.

Front of the chapel. Even the pulpit was hand carved.

A Norwegian stavkirke - a stave church.

A Norwegian stavkirke – a stave church.

 

For more entries in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Soft Pastels, click here.

 

Sue the Explorer With Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Wood and Spring


I’m taking a break from my usual fare this week, because I recently started following a blog called Cee’s Photography, and she runs photo challenges every week.  She has beautiful photos and they make me smile, so I thought I would share with you because you can never have too many smiles in a day.

I decided to participate in her Elements/Seasons series – as you all know I am a nature freak.  So, without further ado, here is my entry for Wood/Spring.

First up – photos from one of my most favorite places in all the land!  Bjorklunden (Lawrence University) in Door County.  Love, love, love that place, and for a while went every year with my sister for a ladies weekend.  I missed the last two years, a knife in my spiritual heart – I have been able to reach out to God so easily in this place.

Spring dew on lakeside branches.

Spring dew on lakeside branches.

God calling in the mist.

God calling in the mist.

This next picture was taken down by the Fox River, close to the locks.  I was actually trying to get shots of the pelicans, and happened across this bright bit of life starting it’s journey.

Life finds a way.

Life finds a way.

These yellow blooms were in my front landscaping at our old house.  Absolutely no clue what they are.  Tiny blooms in very fine leaves.  I just liked them because they are my favorite color!  Yellooooowwww!

Yellow somethings?

Yellow somethings?

Here’s something weird about me you probably didn’t know.  I love old cemeteries.  I like to read the stones and shut my eyes and imagine them as they lived, worked, and played.  When I was a kid, cemeteries creeped me out and I used to hold my breath whenever we drove past one.  Part of an old wives tail I think?  Like lifting your feet up when driving over railroad tracks.  Geez – I don’t even remember what that one was for – just remember doing it.

This cemetery in Salem, MA was especially cool because it had people in it from the Salem Witch Trials.  Interesting thing about these old tombstones is that they looked fake because they were so thin. I had to touch them to be sure they were real.  And plus, like the big kid I am, I just can’t not touch.

Salem cemetery, Salem, MA

Salem cemetery, Salem, MA

Salem cemetery, Salem, MA

Salem cemetery, Salem, MA

This next photo was taken while kayaking with the Daver on the chain of lakes in Waupaca.  There is a series of small, shallow lakes on the tail end of the chain perfect for kayaking.  I managed to not only stay in the boat, but didn’t drop my camera or phone in the drink.  I have mad kayaking skills.

Waupaca County, WI

Waupaca County, WI

We found this face of tree roots on our walk to a waterfall in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, TN.  It had just rained, so it was a slippery, muddy hike.  But totally worth it – so much natural eye candy!

Old Man

Old Man

I just really liked how all my pots looked last year, waiting for me to fill them with new life.  This year, many stand empty yet, as we have been too busy trying to get a driveway, deck, etc.  Next year, they will all be filled again, though!

Time to plant!

Time to plant!

Last spring, I road in the Menominee River Century – we did 50 miles.  On a short breather after a hill climb, I hopped off my bike and ran in the woods to grab this shot.  Did I ever mention how much I love riding?  Scenes like this play a big part in that love.

Pine trees in Menominee

Pine trees in Menominee

I know I recently shared this one, but it’s so pretty, I had to include it.  Taken on the trail thru a local bird sanctuary – it’s basically wetlands.  I was covered in chemicals or I would have been eaten alive by the velociraptors…er…mosquitoes.

Trail thru a local bird sanctuary.

Trail thru a local bird sanctuary.

And finally – does anyone know what these purple beauties are?  I see them blooming all over the place but have no clue what they are.

Who Am I?  24601!!

Who Am I?   24601!!

Those are my contributions!  I hope you enjoyed them!

A big thank you to Cee for sponsoring this challenge!  Please check out her blog, and also the other entries posted in her comments.

See you all next week!

Sue

I Got A Rock


The Jesus Rock - Shores of Lake Michigan near Bjorklunden

The Jesus Rock – Shores of Lake Michigan near Bjorklunden

Dave and I have an inside joke, that isn’t really all that “inside”. Based on the Peanuts Halloween episode, where everyone gets candy while trick or treating except poor Charlie Brown, who keeps getting rocks. I no longer remember the particulars, but something happened at home, and Dave’s response of “I got a rock” elicited giggles from our oldest chick. Her dad has been in love with her and her laugh since the day of her birth and so pretty much anything he says or does that makes her laugh is repeated until it becomes a family tradition.

Although this particular chick has fled the nest, the “I got a rock” tradition continues in our house. It pops up at odd moments – shopping, on our walks, vacationing, dinner, decorating for Christmas…

I Got A Rock

I Got A Rock

The thing is, we love getting rocks. I have a collection of them on my desk, we have various rocks brought home from vacations, and any trip to the beach has me bending over God’s glitter with curiosity and wonder.

Rocks are mysterious, beautiful, gentle, brooding, forceful.  They have a story to tell but they are slow to speak.  For me, being around rocks is like being around God – I have a sense of well being, warmth, and calmness.  In the rush of living, they remind me to slow down and take a breath.  Look around me.  Sit a spell.  It’s like I can hear God whispering to me in the warmth of the sun soaked stone.

It’s always interesting to see what people do with rocks.  Sometimes they polish them into jewelry.  Make tools out of them.  Carve out tunnels and drive thru them. Create masterpieces within them.  Bake with them.  Curb fire with them.  Build shelters from them.

"Look at that giant rock!  Let's drive a bus thru it!  Heck, yes!"

“Look at that giant rock! Let’s drive a bus thru it! Heck, yes!”

Mostly, I just like to touch them, especially those worn smooth by wind and wave.  Last time I went to Bayshore, I decided to rock pick with my camera instead of my hands – these specimens were a little large to fit in my pocket. Here are my favorites.

Playing with my shadow.

Playing with my shadow.

In the shallows

In the shallows

Mr. Stripey

Mr. Stripey

Rocks with big strips like this in them intrigue me.  I always wonder what was happening on earth during the making of that layer.

Rocks with big strips like this in them intrigue me. I always wonder what was happening on earth during the making of that layer.

IMG_2532

I love this one.  It looks like a brain.

I love this one. It looks like a brain.  No need to point out the weirdness of that statement.  I am fully aware.

IMG_2539

I love this one too - the color is so rich.

I love this one too – the color is so rich.

If you look closely, this one has a daddy long legs on it.  I usually hate spiders, but even I'm not freaked out by daddies.

If you look closely, this one has a daddy long legs on it. I usually hate spiders, but even I’m not freaked out by daddies.

This one makes me think of a whale.  Or a dinosaur skull.

This one makes me think of a whale. Or a dinosaur skull.

Love the color on this one too.  And how I managed to capture the water splashes.  Completely on accident, mind you.

Love the color on this one too. And how the water swirls around it.

I love how the water looks splashing over this one.  And of course, I caught this shot totally on purpose....

I love how the water bubbles over this one. And of course, I caught this shot totally on purpose….

This one reminds me of an ancient temple.  Or maybe the dutch windmill cookies my Grandma Conard used to always give us.

This one reminds me of an ancient temple. Or maybe the dutch windmill cookies my Grandma Conard used to always give us.

This one I just liked because of all the tiny dot things on it.  Sort of like worms but not in a gross way.

This one I just liked because of all the tiny dot things on it. Sort of like worms but not in a gross way.

This rock with the wound of exposed granite really caught my eye.  I took one picture dry, then wet it down with the rest of the water in my water bottle (which I regretted on the hot bike ride home).

This rock with the wound of exposed granite really caught my eye. I took one picture dry, then wet it down with the rest of the water in my water bottle (which I regretted on the hot bike ride home).

Here it is wet

Here it is wet

Extreme closeup!

Extreme closeup!

Last but not least...

Last but not least…

Besides awesome rock pictures, I got a bit of a sun burn that day too.  All in all, a wonderful afternoon.  I’ll be back next week with tales of Wisconsin Summer Survival!

Sue