Simple (and not so simple) Pleasures

Simple Pleasures~ just thanking God today for a few things that bring joy 

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my favorite yellow roses from Jim

brothers talking on Skype

cooking for my youngest child that flew home for a visit 

deep purple French lilacs

spur of the moment coffee date with a good friend

emails from my daughter-in-law

an unexpected visit from cousins

cozy coffee shops

a compliment from my grandson

a devotional that “nails it”

consignment shopping

Goldberry coffee brewing at the church office

sampling biscotti at our local food/farmers co-op

a good book, green tea, and a cloudy day

72 % cocoa dark chocolate

children’s picture books

all night prayer vigil with church friends

an oversized dining room table for holiday gatherings

Jen Hatmaker’s wit 

worshipping to the sounds of a guitar, banjo, keyboard, ukele, and an upright bass

grandkids playing in the rain on their deck

reading the same book to my grandkids as I did with their Mom and brothers

 jewelry from my daughter

just the right Mother’s Day card from my husband

prayers from my son and daughter-in-law

a prayer room of serenity and sacredness at church

Ina Garten’s recipes

milk chocolate covered cashew clusters for my husband

middle of the night prayers that are answered in the morning

photos of my son teaching first graders

six happy grandsons

creating tablescapes

my daughter’s love for her husband

my husband’s sacrifice to help a friend

a trip to the green house with a friend

prayer walking in our church gym

an old Mercy Me song on the radio

country cottage decor

freshly polished stainless steel appliances

clean shower doors

waking up to birds singing

encouragement

the children’s section of our local library

my quilted floral bedspread 

hosta gardens

light filtering through stained glass windows in our church sanctuary

my youngest son’s compassion for those in need

Just a few random pleasures of the day for which I am grateful.

How about you?

Donna

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Desperation for Transportation

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One of the extra-ordinary blessings of my childhood was what my Dad called a “company car.” When Dad was given some management responsibilities in addition to truck driving, his firm provided him with an automobile. Our family didn’t have a lot of material things, so a new car was luxury. But the best part was that Dad asked ME to pick out the color. I felt pretty important at the time; such a grown-up decision for a little kid! I can still picture Dad bending over to show me the auto color chart. I couldn’t believe that  my favorite color, powder blue was an option! Even more surprising, my Dad agreed to my color choice. (I always thought this light blue to be a “girl color.”)

Obviously, for low income and no income people that are not so fortunate the color of their car is irrelevant. In my work at church, I spend time with a population that’s between jobs, struggling to pay bills, and sometimes homeless. I’ve learned that transportation is a huge stressor for these folks, especially in a small town like Ashland where we live. No buses to hop on, no rapid transit to get one to the workplace. For those even fortunate to have cars, gas prices and insurance rates take their toll due to very little or no income.

In all my sixty years, I’ve never worried about how I was going to get to school, dentist and doctor appointments, friends’ homes, or the grocery. A mode of transportation was always available to me. Insurance was paid. I could fill my gas tank. Transportation was a given. In my upper middle class existence, I’ve neglected the gift of how easy my life is when it comes to depending on a car for daily excursions or long vacation trips.

A woman who lost her job and consequently her trailer, appreciates spending the night at our church. We’re “in town,” so she can walk to the grocery, to her rehab appointments, and to the fast food chains where she hopes to get employment. She is thankful she is in walking distance of the places she needs to go. Walking is a way of life for people without cars. In decent weather walking is a welcome solution. But this past  Ohio winter wrought great discomfort for our community of walkers.

I am shaken by all the people that seek our church for help due to the difficulties of just getting to where they need to go.

Rarely can our homeless guests that stay at our church afford to buy and maintain a vehicle. And when that glorious day finally comes of owning a car or truck, their joy is quickly squashed. Tires need replaced, radiators leak, and on and on.

A single Mom in her mid-twenties with three kids called me for a ride for her daughter. An out of town dentist agreed to help with her daughter’s orthodontics issues, but Mom couldn’t trust that her car would survive highway driving. Even though Mom held down a full time job, no money was left at the end of the month for car repairs.  Mom rejoiced that she found a specialist to attend to her daughter’s physical needs, but became anxious on how to get her to all her appointments. A problem solved often creates another problem when transportation is unreliable.

Just recently, Jim and I were reminiscing with my step-Mom about all the different cars we have purchased as a married couple. As I look back, I’m a bit alarmed at the thousands and thousands of dollars we’ve spent. Living without transportation has never been our experience; nor a point of marriage conflict, or inconvenience for our kids.

I just get in my car and go without thinking much about it.

An unemployed man walked over to our church from the local drug and alcohol recovery building in the next block across our street. He was providing rides for his girlfriend to therapy, but didn’t have gas money for her next appointment. He shared with me that the counselor was helping her get off drugs and didn’t want his friend to discontinue treatment. The counselor was so determined to keep helping this young lady that she called my office to see if we could provide a gas card. The complexities of transportation are often roadblocks to building a better life. 

Although car problems are the reality of an economically challenged population, these reoccurring issues require more than an everyday fix.  Like all of us, these folks need support, encouragement, problem solving, and healing. The first step to offering the possibility of change is about me: my awareness. I’ve found the more aware I am of a person’s plight, the more approachable I become. I’m less likely to say something stupid, or leak out judgement. And the more approachable I become, the more likely someone who feels economic shame will allow me to come alongside him to work toward a solution.

A desperation for transportation exists in my community. I imagine it does somewhere close to you, as well.

Mother’s Day Bird Cage Planter

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I scored a garage sale deal like none other, or so I thought. Jim looked at my purchase and immediately discounted it with, “Did you steal that from a funeral home?” Instant deflation of what I thought was a savvy buy. Unfortunately, I did not think to take its picture, but try to picture this: a metal bird cage with dark purple and bright green flowers shooting up about two feet from its base. The mass of purple flowers must have been the planter’s demise, at least in Jim’s eyes. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? Little did I know I would be repurposing it for  my mother-in-law’s gift a few years later.

After several weeks of Jim glaring at the planter as it sat on the dining room table,  I got the bright idea to ask a florist to change out the artificial arrangement for live plants. Bad idea. I spent more than I intended.

By the way, at the same garage sale I bought a Pennsylvania House (!) children’s table. This sturdy piece of furniture for my grandkids was the best buy of the day. Jim sanded out the stains and scratches and painted it PURPLE (see the irony here?). Every time our daughter birthed another boy, Jim added a stenciled name. This table has become Christy’s kitchen island for her four little ones.

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Oldest son Levi thinks Mommy should have more babies so Grandpa can fill in the corners with more names.

Back to the bird cage. Unlike me with the black thumb, my mother-in-law ADORES houseplants and has a hard time killing them.  She even has one of those garden windows above her kitchen sink.

My mother-in-law; one great lady
My mother-in-law; one great lady

So in an effort to bless her with something she loves for Mother’s Day, I resurrected the bird cage from the junk  storage room, determined to restore it even beyond its original glory.

Not too bad, without the fake flowers!
Not too bad, without the fake flowers!

Picturing how our local flower shop re-designed my bird cage, I wandered around our grocery’s floral center for inspiration. Earlier I bought a nesty looking filler to line the cage from Hobby Lobby.

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Here’s what I came home with:

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See the cardinal on the florist stick? I spotted them in ready-made planters equal to the price of a fancy dinner. But this bird is my mother-in-law’s favorite, so I REALLY wanted one. I took a chance and asked the clerk if one was hiding behind the counter that I could buy. To my delight, birds for sale were found under the register for just a few dollars; the perfect addition for Mom’s planter. I love the ivy and yellow flowers, I ended up not using the red flower.

Here’s my completed creation.

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I think this is one special Happy Mother’s Day gift for one great mom-in-law!

Community Counts

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morning fog behind our flowering crabapple

I tell people my husband and I live in the country but geographically speaking, we really don’t. It’s not that I’m lying, it’s just that our space feels “countryish” to me. Our home sits almost two-tenths of a mile from the road, surrounded by four acres of grass and almost five acres of woods. Although we can see the neighbor’s house when the leaves are down, and the village we belong to starts at the end of our drive. So technically we live in a community, but I don’t live community here in our little town of Jeromesville. I’ve been considering what that means to me for a few years now.

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winter sunset gracing our woods

I’ve discovered it is possible to belong to a community but not be a bonafide member of that community. Basically, that’s how I exist in our li’l neck of the woods. Our unassuming town boasts of several churches, but we’ve never visited one. A middle school sits on the main road, yet I’ve never offered to volunteer there (like I have in so many other schools.) Although I know our closest neighbors by name, I haven’t invited them in for coffee.  I give a friendly wave to villagers when passing by on my bike, but I don’t stop peddling long enough to get to know them.

This lack of relationship with the people around me, as the country folk like to say, sticks in my craw. 

For our people needs, we drive into Ashland. Just a short fifteen minute jaunt through  winding roads and rolling farm land. I started developing relationships and  planting roots in Ashland in 1997 when I was hired as a teaching assistant at the local seminary. Shortly after we moved to the area in 2007, Jim firmly put down his own roots. He accepted the Director of Operations position with the seminary where I continue to teach as an adjunct. This community, Ashland Theological Seminary, blesses us with friendships, vocational challenges, and spiritual formation.

By God’s good grace, we landed at Park Street Brethren Church, situated in one of Ashland’s oldest neighborhoods. Even the name of the denomination, Brethren, denotes community. And what a community it is! Truly multi-generational, Park Street is also ethnically, socio-economically, and vocationally diverse. I would venture to say there is a diversity of positions on social-political issues, as well. Jim and I have grown to love this community that embraced us from the moment we entered its church building.

For several years now, Jim and I have been painfully aware that while we have great community, we engage in meaningful relationships with others on a limited basis. So on Valentine’s Day, Jim and I had a date to discuss our vision for a more everyday, communal way of life in the next twenty years. (We thought thirty years might be a bit presumptuous!) We solidified our desire to move into a neighborhood close to where we already worked and played. Our mission is to drive our roots down deeper with friends at church and school. Our goal is to increase our service to the hurting community of Ashland, Ohio.  We also hope to make an impact with the love of Jesus to those that would live on the streets around us.

We will move into the community where we already have community, following nine years of abiding on this beautiful piece of land.

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Autumn hike in our woods with grandsons

Our rumblings of discontent have grown loud enough that we’re ready to make some major life changes.

And to be realistic . . .I am acutely aware that the dissonance between where we live and how we’d like to live for others will not automatically dissipate with a geographical move.

Frankly, these lifestyle considerations at the age of sixty are a bit unsettling.

But God settles us with his peace, and that is giving us the courage to move forward.

Blessings,

Donna

Can I take my hosta garden with me?
Can I take my hosta garden with me?

Osteopenia Post!

Greetings,

I inadvertently posted an article from the Mayo Clinic on my last post. It’s a good article, but know that it’s not mine! I meant to save it in my drafts to read at a later time. Having said that, read the article from the Cleveland Clinic in the link at the bottom of the post as well. Interesting.

I was diagnosed with low bone density and am being treated for osteopenia. It could be a precursor to the more severe osteoporosis, but doesn’t have to be. I chose an all natural regime of weight bearing exercise and supplements. So glad I am doing this now as my Mom suffered from osteoporosis. In her last few years of life she shuffled about in a bent over position and often complained of back pain. I hope to avoid this debilitating condition. I don’t know if my Mom was proactive and addressed bone density in her early sixties. But if she didn’t, I wish I would have known more about this testing and encouraged her to take care of her back.

On a lighter note, a good friend of mine and I were chatting over lunch about a variety of minor health concerns we were faced with. Suddenly she stopped in mid-sentence to remark, “I vowed when I got older I wouldn’t talk all the time about my health, like my Mom did.” Well, guess what. We’re older and we talk about health a lot. Like our Moms did.

And it seems like if it’s not one thing it’s another! ‘Tis the season.

Blessings,

Donna