Tuesday, October 21, 2014

it was very good.

Our 18th wedding anniversary came and went! Usually I blog with in days of an event but October brought us sickness along with the rain and my energy seems to have flown out the window. It has taken me forever to put together a coherent travelogue... but finally... here it is.

destination: Vantage WA. 
We took a long weekend with the Burke Turque and escaped to the east side of the state where the sun was still shining and except for an early sunset, no hint of Autumn.

We drove over on a Friday and set up base camp in the little tiny town of Vantage, population 70. We're talking a couple gas stations, a hamburger joint and a general store with postal service and limited hours. Oh, and a campground. That's important because it's where we stayed and really it is probably the life and breath of this town. They get a lot of traffic connected to the "Gorge", a nearby amphitheater that offers concerts on a regular basis.

bridge over the Columbia River from Vantage WA.
It was great for us to be able to set up camp and then explore the neighboring areas. The campground has certainly seen better days. Run down and in desperate need of maintenance, we sensed the economic downturn has carried quite an impact on the whole area. It's a shame because Vantage is in such a great location being right next to the Columbia River,Wanapum Recreational Area and the Ginkgo Petrified National Forest and State Park.

The Burke Turque: home sweet home!
Saturday morning dawned bright and sparkly and as excited as we were to set out and visit the petrified forest, Bruce was getting over a cold and I felt like I might be coming down with one. Bummer!!
We took it easy all morning, making the most of coffee, sunshine and quiet solitude. It was so peaceful!

coffee made the old fashioned way ! tasted so good!

Eventually we felt rested enough to head out and to the Petrified Forest we went! Our first stop was the museum. They have a really great display and a lot of interesting facts. We saw plenty of petrified varieties of wood and rocks, hieroglyphics from the Wanapum Tribe and then to our surprise, a herd of wild Big Horn Sheep grazing on the grounds. What we did NOT see where any rattlesnakes, thankfully!!

a walk around the interpretive trail

the love-burkes in the petrified forest!

big horn sheep!

We did a short walk around the Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail under a brilliant blue sky with a hot breeze swirling around us, then headed back to town. We took a drive down to see the Wanapum Dam, which is under repair.  We slurped up creamy goodness in the shape of milkshakes from the funky little restaurant in town and kicked back in our camp chairs.

how beautiful are the feet... 

Sunday, our official Anniversary date, we got up early to avoid the heat while we hiked up the steep trail at the Wild Ponies Monument just east of Vantage. You cross the Columbia River, then take a turn off of I-90 to a parking lot. High above, perched on a steep bluff, are 16 amazing works of art.

we are going to hike up to see the ponies!

Made from iron and bronze, the ponies can be seen from quite a distance away. I have always wanted to get a closer look at them and this was the day. It's only about a quarter mile to the top but it is a rather steep and slippery climb owing to the loose dry gravel on the trail. Coming down was a bit more challenging than climbing up!

view from the top!

Grandfather Releases the Ponies
After our excursion up the mountain we drove on to Ellensburg and the tiny town of Thorp. Ellensburg has some beautiful historic buildings that deserve a longer look but we were really eager to see Thorp so on we went. The town of Thorp is named for Fielden Mortimor Thorp, one of the first permanent white settle in the Kittitas Valley. F.M. Thorp also just happens to be Bruce's Great, Great, Great, Grandfather!

Ellensburg WA

Thorp WA

We toured the Thorp Grist Mill and took in some of the local history there. Fascinating stuff. Our next stop was searching out a way to get to something we've seen several times from the freeway. A pioneer cemetery that has the names Thorp-Splawn on it. Owing to that family connection Bruce was understandable curious about getting a closer look. It took some sleuthing to ferret out the owner of the field the cemetery is located in.

Thorp-Splawn Pioneer Cemetery

With permission granted we came back the next day and tromped across a soggy field where Bruce was able to see the final resting place of his Great, great, great grandfather and GGG-grandmother. A truly special moment.

the headstone on the left is the Thorp's. Splawn was also a relative. 

We broke camp Monday morning and hit the road early as we had several stops to make before we headed home. After our visit to the cemetery we lunched in Cle Elum and then hooked up with a friend of Bruce's to see a house he is building. (hey, I'm married to a builder. it's what we do)

I think the builder is salivating...

Our final stop on the lane of nostalgia was to see the Masterson Ranch. Bruce's mother's maiden name is Masterson, and Bruce remembers visiting the ranch when he was just a wee little lad. What fun to find the ranch, the old homestead and then, cherry-on-top, knock on the door of the house and meet a long distance cousin!

just like Bruce remembers it.

meeting a distant cousin for the first time.

Bruce remembers posing in front of this house with his mom when he visited at around age 6.

After exchanging contact information, with the sun setting and miles to go before we slept, we pushed on to make it home late that night. Tired and sore from a long days drive, but happy and content with the weekend we experienced.
saying good night and good bye to the east side of the state.

To close I will leave with you just a few more photo highlights from our fun little weekend get away! 
God is good. 

close up of the lead pony.

panoramic view from the top of the viewpoint.

rocking this anniversary!


O Autumn How I Love Thee

in between rainstorms, something amazing happens.

the sun comes out!

the brilliant colors of autumn beg to be noticed.

russet, goldenrod, amber, burgundy, orange, even hints of lime.

glorious, wonderful, beautiful autumn.

and the Lord God made it all. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bringing In The Sheaves

“We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves”
vincent van gough; harvest

Not being much of a gardener, I don’t have a bushel of vegetables to harvest much less a sheave. But as a child, growing up on a farm, I recall there was plenty to harvest.Canning and preserving took place all summer along with the outside chores of putting up hay for the winter.

I have always thought the word ‘sheaves’ to be a funny one. Another one of those old fashioned words we come across in a hymnal, like “Ebenezer.” It was interesting then for me to discover that the song “Bringing in the Sheaves” originated from a verse found in the Psalms. “Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed but they sing as they return with the harvest"*  Or, as the King James Version says,Bringing his sheaves with him.”

What a powerful image this verse brings to my mind. And immediately I know this verse as a metaphor. I see prayer warriors down on their knees, weeping before the throne as they prepare to plant the seeds of the gospel in their communities. Tears mingling with the seeds they sow them. Rejoicing with all their might when even just one soul comes to Christ.

As I said, I’m not much of a gardener. I don’t think of myself as a missionary or an evangelist either. I’m not even a very consistent prayer warrior. On a good day I claim to be a writer but even that has it’s periods of dormancy. Yet I know that if I let the Holy Spirit guide my hands as they move over the keyboard, I can plant seeds with words. I can labor over my writing, sweating bullets, weeping from the effort, hoping against hope that something I write strikes a chord with another and brings them some hope. Some joy. Some truth.  

As a writer I have the opportunity to share the good news through my blog posts, through short stories and devotionals, even maybe, dare I say it?—a novel?

I feel a little guilty when I look out over my backyard; the cheeky Armagarden sign hanging from the empty bean pole structure. I have this beautiful plot of dirt that could yield much if I could just put some effort into it. I have my reasons, my excuses, some justified, some not, for letting it lie dormant another season. What can I offer as my excuse for not using the gift God has given me for stringing words together to reach into someone’s life and give hope?

Those who plant with tears.
It’s not meant to be an easy task. Whether I am speaking of tilling the soil or sharing the good news, it’s meant to come with some sacrifice. Some sweat. Some deep digging, some soul searching.

Harvest with shouts of joy.
Could God possibly use my words to bring light into one person’s life? Could He use me to bring a harvest? A sheave?

I won’t know unless I try.

(*Psalm 126; NLT)

Bringing in the Sheaves; Knowles Shaw, 1874

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Insulated or Isolated?

I heard about this at a recent women's retreat. The difference of insulating yourself with good people and good things rather than isolating yourself from others and the world around you. Being one who cherishes her time alone and rather enjoys her own company, perhaps a little too much, this concept struck a nerve.

Only a couple of weeks before I had been thinking about and praying for a girlfriend who was going through a divorce. She'd moved to a new neighborhood, quit attending church and because of the divorce, no longer connected with the small group she and her husband had been attending. In short, she was pretty isolated as far as a real sense of family and community goes. As I prayed for her, I sensed the Holy Spirit nudging me with the question: What about yourself?

I had to stop for a moment and examine this. What about me? Was I, in my careful agenda of honoring my introverted nature, doing so to the exclusion of connecting with other women in ways that would benefit me spiritually? Sure, I co-lead a small group with my husband. Yes, I talk to my sister all the time. And, I am in contact with my gal-pals via Facebook on a regular basis. But was it enough? Was it deep enough, real enough, sincere enough? Was it challenging me, comforting me, feeding me?

I had to admit that because I am often seen in a leadership type role, I might be more inclined to hold back a piece of myself. I may encourage us all to be real, transparent and open and to model it but I know there are some people with whom you don't share it all. That's just common sense. But what I came away with in this little soul searching exercise was that I did need to be intentional about spending time with a few other spiritually mature women in order to keep growing and keep going.

This week, as I have previously mentioned, my husband and I are visiting his brother. C's wife passed away in April after a battle with cancer. This was the first time for us to have an intentional visit and it's been wonderful to have some quality time and of significant quantity. C's life is certainly in a transitional time. He works out of town for a few weeks at a time, then he is off for a few. Being home is when he notices her absence the most and it's been a big adjustment. He's contemplating selling the place and moving but he isn't rushing into any decisions. He is being intentional himself about taking time to grieve, time to think, and making time to keep in contact with family and friends.

His place, as I might also have mentioned, is situated a good several miles from town and his home along with only a smattering of others is perched on the edge of a decommissioned airport. The neighbors all respect each other's privacy but they also watch out for one another. They notice when things are not quite right. This past week one of the neighbors called C to ask about a new guy to their neighborhood. This new resident had only recently bought the property and was in the process of moving in so it wasn't too unusual that no one had seen him for awhile. But then enough time has passed that folks began to question where he was? Have you seen him? It's been a while, do you suppose everything is OK? It was eventually whittled down to the fact it had been several weeks since anyone in the neighborhood had seen him.

Yesterday afternoon a sheriff's car was noted in the yard of the unseen neighbor. And then the sad reality came out. He was found inside his home, deceased. While details are still pending what is known is that eventually a cousin wondered why they hadn't heard from him and eventually contacted the police to ask for a well check when they couldn't reach him on his phone. While the cause of death has yet to been announced, it was generally surmised that he'd been ill.

While the death of someone I don't even know is still sad, what is sadder still is that this man lived what looks to be a life of quiet isolation. C. says he only saw the guy a couple of times and while he was friendly enough it seemed the man was content in his solitude. The fact that his death went undetected and unnoticed for some time (we learned that the coroner estimated he'd been dead a week or more)  also speaks to his life of isolation. And while perhaps this is the life he purposely chose for himself, it is still so very sad.

It makes me ask why? Did he choose to be a hermit? Was he depressed? Did he not have close family, other than this cousin who eventually wondered what was going on? Did he have a job? Was he retired? No kids? No close friends who would say 'Hey where's Henry?"  What makes a person choose to live a life of solitude?

And, while I am again, content in my own company, it makes me still hope that my life has people in in who would definitely notice if they didn't hear from me for awhile! (and I know that I do) But how sad for those who have no one close, no one who would notice or wonder or worry. They say no man is an island. We all need someone, we all need each other. God designed us to be in community!

As a strong believer in the community of a loving small group, I really grieve for this man though I do not know his name or anything really about him. It makes me want to make sure that everyone has at least ONE person in their life who will notice if something isn't right. And it challenges me to BE that person to the one who has no one else.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Here's Hoping...

Hubby and I are on another little adventure! I'm hoping this time away will blow the cobwebs out of my brain and restore some creativity. It feels in some ways that it already has. YAY!!

This morning on the Facebook page that I admin for my Christian Women's Write Group, I saw a comment from one of the members lamenting something similar to my last blog post about writer's block.

On the one hand I certainly could identify and sorrow with her, on the other hand it was sort of a relief to know that I wasn't the only one feeling this! Anyway, as a result I made Writer's Block this weeks writing prompt. Here's hoping that having to write about writer's block might help release the creative juices and at the very least perhaps we will all gain some ideas about how to handle this unwanted but very real issue.

Meanwhile, here I sit, facing a gray washed sky and wind blown trees. I'm sipping a lovely cup of Chai tea. At my feet is a large sleeping (snoring) old dog and not far away another sleeping little dog.

We are visiting Bruce's brother out on the west coast where Bruce is doing some repairs on the house. A few days away is always refreshing, even if it involves some work.

 While I watch the guys brainstorm over deck upgrades I am also thinking about what to fix for dinner here tonight. Call me crazy but I find it kind of fun to cook for others especially in a new-to me- kitchen and for folks who will really appreciate a good home cooked meal after a long time of bachelor-cooking.

Because my brother in law lives on an decommissioned airport-- seriously, his drive way is part of the old taxiway-- my morning walk today was down the taxiway and back. Always fun to explore a new path and I saw evidence of 'wildlife' in several 'piles'. I learned later that there is a herd of elk that frequent this area so the chances of seeing some this week is good. I would prefer to view them at a SAFE distance however, since running into them while out walking might prove a bit unnerving.

Another fun fact about Bruce's brother is that he is a pilot so living on this old airport serves him well. He has his own small plane that he can taxi out of his shop and take off right from here. The plan originally was that he was going to fly over to collect us for the week but while we were enjoying a gorgeous sunny day in our neck of the woods, a heavy fog was developing in his. Not good flying weather so we made the last minute decision to just drive over. It's about a 5 hour drive including a short ferry ride, which we didn't mind. Spending time with my best friend is never a bad thing.

This is the week leading up to our anniversary and we have plans for camping for the weekend. I look at this week away as a little bit of warm up for the big deal! 18 years of blessings is something to celebrate!!

God has been good to us. But then God is always good. Even when we can't see it, or feel it, even when life's circumstances seem to be bringing us down, God is still God. Sovereign, Holy, Faithful and Loving. Even when I suffer from one of those days where it doesn't feel like my antidepressant is doing it's job or my body betrays me. Even when paying work dries up.  Even when the dreaded writer's block bonks me on the head. No matter what my circumstance, God is good and God is for me.  So, take that dry inkwell! Take that mood disorder! Take that fibromyalgia! Take that empty piggy bank!

A gust of wind has just risen up outside, bringing with it a fresh whirl of falling leaves. It serves to remind me that our God is always there to bring refreshment even as He brings change. I will rise to welcome it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

the blank page

Writer's Block.

That darn cursor blinking at me. Taunting me. Daring me to write something, anything!

I try and I delete.

Delete. Delete. Delete.

I walk away. I say this will pass. I come back and I try again.

Delete. Delete.

the inkwell is just dry.

Part of the problem is wrapped up in an email I received awhile back from an editor/publisher friend. I figure I did something either incredible brave or incredible stupid. I sent her one of my unedited manuscripts for some constructive critiquing. Help! I said. I don't know what to do with this. Her response was overwhelming. First, in that she agreed to even read it. Second that she took the time to reply in very detailed and helpful ways. Thirdly, and probably most overwhelmingly, is the task before me. Actually doing the work of rewriting this novel. She ended her email by asking if I was up for the challenge.

I want to say yes. Yes, as in "I'm all in" but the truth is I am: Scared. To. Death. The task feels so big and I feel so small. I feel overwhelmed even before I begin so I don't start. I know, I know, the old "how do you eat an elephant", but honestly, that's still rather daunting.

I say I'm waiting for rainy weather when it will be easier to tie myself to the desk and start writing. I say I'm going to start tomorrow. I say I can do this. Then I say but do I want to?

Wouldn't it be easier to just do nothing and then never have to face failure? Yet isn't it failure to not even begin?

So, then I try to write other things.


Writer's Block.

maybe someone is trying to tell me something...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



Yes, I know I just misspelled it but with the amount of wind swirling around out there, the spelling actually fits quite well.

It's one of those perfect pre-fall days. Sunny, high 60's, warm enough to get away with capris and a t-shirt, but the sun has moved just far enough from us to warrant a sweater for back up. Leaves have begun to depart from the trees, the golden hues of Autumn are starting to appear. The kids are back in school, the Halloween decor is showing up in stores (who am I kidding-- Christmas decor is showing up in stores!!) and Pumpkin Spiced everything is being pushed upon us.

But you know me... it's still summer as far as I'm concerned. Technically it IS summer until September 23rd. And while Autumn is my favorite season I am just not willing to let go of the notion of summer quite yet.

Even if the winds of change are a'blowing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Living Simply; Simply Living

Living out of a suitcase for a couple of weeks can have a profound effect on one's life believe it or not.

Living with erratic cell service, cut off from the internet and relying on battery powered lighting can also do it. When you are traveling for several days and you need to keep the food on ice, you might prepare food and eat differently than normal too.

You find all kinds of ways to practice simplicity and you learn to not only get good at it, but you start to really like it. Love it even.

There's something to be said for waking up with the sun and going to sleep at dusk. There's a magic lull that happens when you eat by candle light or under the stars. When the only sound you hear at night is the lake gently lapping the shore or the hoot of an owl and come morning its the coo of a dove and the rustle of grass from a curious deer.

We lived simply for the two weeks we were on the road. I packed way more clothes than I ever needed and learned a lesson in that. I found what was comfortable and stuck with that, putting the rest at the bottom of the basket.

Taking sponge baths or dips in the lake made me realize how much I took hot showers for granted but I found I rather enjoyed the quaintness of heating water for my morning routine. I let my make up and hair product rest in the drawer and turned my face to the sun for color.

Coffee perked the old fashioned way never tasted so good. The smokey flavor of  grilled meat and the sizzle of eggs in a pan delighted me in ways a cappuccino machine can never do.

We lived simply and we ate simply. Yet we never felt deprived and we relished every meal. We developed a system for cooking and cleaning and the partnership it created was fun. I cook. He cleans. Likewise our traveling: he drives, I navigate. Setting up camp got easier each time as we both had our roles to play and didn't have to be reminded of it, we just did it.

We lived simply and we simply lived. Without the distractions of the world wide web we could sink back into the soft pillows of the hammock and get lost in a good book. We took hikes and enjoyed the sounds of rushing water over the creek bed. We saw wild life up close and struggled to breathe in altitudes we were not used to. We reveled in the majesty of God's Creation: mountains and crevices, rolling hills dotted with trees and brown grass. Snow capped mountain peaks, whistling marmots and chattering squirrels. The thrill of seeing a big black bear as it meandered in search of berries!

Curiosities in the form of road side attractions and tourist traps. Pulling over when the mood strikes and buying ice cold coke from a funky little store in the middle of nowhere. When your shopping list is as complicated as "eggs and milk" and your needs are whittled down to a shady place to park and water to cook with, you know you are living simply. Living simply but simply living. Rejoicing in the simplicity of life and how much pleasure it can bring if you just stop long enough to drink it in.

I've been in a bit of a post-vacation funk since we got home. Part of it I can probably blame on the rapid change in weather-- definitely feeling like that next beautiful season is fast approaching and wanting to stretch summer out for a few more weeks. But I think a great part of it has to do with the busyness of life rushing in to claim me once again. For two weeks we put our regular routine on hold but when you go to collect your mail after 2 weeks and start sorting through the bills, when you have meetings to attend and decisions to make and your calendar is full of activities.... all clamoring for your attention, all threatening to steal the peace you worked so hard to achieve while on vacation... well.... post vacation funk, plain and simple.

But the mantra that has been rolling over in my mind since our return is going to be the mantra I use to hold on to some of that vacation tranquility. Living Simply, Simply Living.

If I can live simple and find joy and peace and contentment in the practice of simplicity while on vacation, can't I find it here in my every day life? What changes would I need to make to live simply in order to simply live?

It's nice to know that as I explore this I have the Burke-Turque sitting right outside my front door. If push comes to shove I can always move out there for a day or two to remind myself of how to live simply and simply live.