Pursuing Peace

“Seek peace and pursue it.”  How I love that passage from Psalm 34.  And I love it that a hardworking fisherman turned apostle quoted it in one of his letters.

And oh, how I try to pursue peace!

It’s easier said than done.

But evening after evening I take my little gardening shears in hand, and I dead head my roses.  Lots of roses.  I try to lose the cares of the day while I clip away, taking delight in making everything fresh.

It’s not always easy to lose the cares of the day.  There’s a battle in my heart.  I want to fix problems.  I want to heal marriages and rescue alcoholics.  I worry about lives that seem to be imploding right before my very eyes.

And over the years I’ve lost a lot of peace in my life trying to make everything better.

And thus, the battle.  Pursue peace, stay removed, try to make a beautiful rose garden?  Or jump into the fray, shed the tears, pick up more scars?  Am I the only one who feels guilty while pursuing peace?

The Amplified Bible says to crave peace and go after it.  And so I shall.  And I’ll keep working toward getting rid of the guilt that comes with not showing up for every function, not getting involved in every crisis, not serving on committees, not confronting every problem.

That’s my path right now.

~

 

Taos Memories

I have this Jd Challenger mug.  A gorgeous portrait named “Wears Eagle Medicine”.  And how I love the story of this wonderful coffee cup.

All my nieces are incredibly beautiful and smart and talented… you know that by now.  But there’s one girl who holds a special place in my heart, because I was right there with her the moment she was born, and together we’ve shared some great adventures.

Three years ago my mom and I took her on her first visit to Taos, New Mexico.  She was only 9 years old, and she was enchanted with the place.  I tease her about that little vacation because she was also enchanted with every single store we walked past.  She had to have everything any little Choctaw descendant could ask for in the land of Native American treasures.  Jewelry, feathers, drums, pottery, leather pouches.  The girl wore me out!

She inherited her grandmother’s artistic talents, so even as a little girl she appreciated fine art, and knew to marvel at the paintings in the grand galleries we visited.

On the last day of our vacation we went into the Jd Challenger Gallery.  I told Lizzie I was buying something for myself for a change.  How I have loved that coffee cup.  It brings back the sweetest memories.

Last week my mother and I were fortunate enough to take Lizzie back to northern New Mexico.  She’s no longer a little girl.  She’s a delightful young lady with an artist’s eye.  She had some dollars of her own to spend, and she chose marvelous keepsakes from the Taos Pueblo.

She’s a girl after my own heart.  Photographs… that’s what she most wanted to bring home from our amazing time together.  And that’s what I wanted to bring home as well.

No new coffee cup this time around.  No need.  This one will always remind me of the beauty of Taos, and the joy of spending time there with my niece and my mom.

~

 

About Your Uncle…

Last month I spent some time praising our nephews for my Father’s Day post.  They’re all nice young men, and I was happy to give them the pat on the back.

Today their uncle is another year older… so to celebrate his day, I thought I’d give these guys several reasons they’d be wise to use him as a role model.

As a teenager, he was already running his own small construction business.  Every dollar and everything he owns came from hard work, determination and heaping doses of integrity.  He has always gone the extra mile with his work – getting up early in the morning, working into the night, answering the phone when it rings.  He is fair and honest, and always has been.

You would never realize what an incredible athlete he is, because he’s quite humble and keeps his trophies and medals in a closet that only he sees.  (And they’re only on display because I put them there.)  Triathlons, racquetball, spearfishing, basketball, running… he has always come out on top.  I admire his quiet self-discipline.  I wish you could have seen him water ski back in his twenties.  He was phenomenal.

He genuinely knows things about other people because he loves to listen and learn.  You won’t hear him talking very much about himself.  Instead, he’ll be asking questions of others… letting them tell their stories.  If they ask to hear his stories, he’ll tell them.

And speaking of talking… he’ll happily engage in conversations of all kinds.  Where to get a good brisket, the NBA finals, the most beautiful places to go hiking, loan amortizations, quail hunting, travel plans, where to buy granite.  He’s good at making people feel comfortable.

I remember the time we showed up for dinner with some friends, and they’d cooked something that always nauseated him.  Literally.  They were so excited about the meal they’d prepared.  He whispered to me as we entered their dining room, “I will eat this if it kills me.”  He’s a man of patience and good manners.  Spend a month with him.  You will witness this over and over and over again.

He was an incredible trumpet player in his younger years.  He loves grand music, and if you were to borrow his Ipod you’d be impressed with the variety of styles.  Although he’s so busy with his working world that he has to have daily print outs to keep up with all the places he has to be, all the people he has to talk to, all the connections he has to make… on Saturdays before he leads the singing on Sunday mornings, you’ll find him quietly at his computer for hours choosing his songs carefully, searching the internet for perfect photos to place into his power point presentation.  Many Sundays he’s at the church building shortly after sunrise to make sure everything is perfectly ready.  I love it when he leads our worship.

He does not lose his temper.  I can see when he’s boiling.  Others don’t.  He is a master of self-control.

What a man of adventure.  All this traveling we’ve done around the world, these places we’ve lived… they’re his ideas.  While some men may waste their time on the internet looking at things to be ashamed of, he spends his time clicking on travel sites, finding good prices, making reservations to take us to the next exciting destination.

And now, young men… hear this.  He has never looked at other women.  Never.  Not in real life, not in photographs.  He looks at me, and he treats me like a queen.  He loves to make me smile.  In our thirty plus years of marriage there has not been one single time I’ve had a reason to feel insecure about his love for me.

Gary… perhaps the nephews will read this, perhaps they won’t.  I mean every word of my admiration for you.  And yes… I’m sincere in this… those young men would do well to emulate your actions.

Happy Birthday to most incredible man in the whole wide world!

~

 

Journey of Hope

They come from all across America, young men on this Journey of Hope.  And every year when they ride those bicycles through New Mexico, spending the night in Portales, I am overwhelmed by this dedicated group.

These young men from Pi Kappa Phi devote themselves to raising money and awareness for people with disabilities.  From sea to shining sea they ride their bikes an average of 75 miles a day, put on puppet shows, and visit with Americans… spreading genuine encouragement.

I invite you to take a few minutes to look at their website.

Push America – Journey of Hope

A little group from our church has made it a tradition to feed these guys a “stacked supper” every year.  My contribution tonight was ten pounds of shredded cheese and a huge bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

In return, I was treated to an evening of fantastic conversation with interesting, incredibly polite, amazingly focused college students.

Safe travels on your Journey of Hope.  Enjoy that long, long stretch across Texas.  When you arrive in Washington, D.C. on August 2, you’ll have completed an amazing feat… one that you’ll talk about for the rest of your lives. Godspeed!

~

 

Amazing Nephews

 

We have these nephews… sons of our sisters, husbands of our nieces… incredible young men.

They’re an amazing group.  Collectively, they just about represent perfection in my eyes. 

Civil servants, active in their churches, wonderful daddies, charming uncles.  They work hard, they play hard. 

They show up early to hide eggs in flower beds.  They bring rose bouquets to little ballet recitals.  They spend days off ice-skating with toddlers, going to zoos, air shows, aquariums.

They wear ties, for crying out loud!  Clean cut, polite, helpful, dependable.  If they ever utter those “four letter words”, I guarantee you I’ve never heard it.

You guys are champions.  I admire you all, and to say I’m proud of you is an understatement.

Wishing each and every one of you… the dads and the uncles and the big brothers… a very happy Father’s Day!

~

 

Friendship

 

There was the time we went on a double date in high school, and we both showed up in cute over-alls with a matching striped shirt… unplanned!  I don’t think we even knew we both had that shirt.  And the time I bought some fabric to sew a dress, and was so excited to describe it to my friend… and that very week she had purchased the very same fabric.

Of course there are those other special dresses… the bridesmaid’s dresses we wore in one another’s weddings.

Imagine my surprise when I visited my friend in Japan years later, and there she was in a photo stuck to her refrigerator with a magnet… wearing an identical dress to one I owned!  And the next morning, when we came out of our bedrooms ready for a day of sight-seeing… both wearing blue jeans, peach-colored sweaters over white shirts, and fresh water pearl earrings.  It was ridiculously predictable.

I stood with that friend in a church building that weekend, listening to her sing a familiar old hymn with Japanese words.  Tears fell from my eyes at the thought of two girls from Portales giggling at Sonic, both living on the other side of the world.

I’m back in Portales, and she’s there in Japan.  Our friendship is knit together with many special bonds.  I rejoice when she laughs.  I weep when she mourns.  And this week I share with her the love of family, and understanding the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

My love to you, dear friend.

~

 

Memories of South America

Oh what fun… to run across a handwritten vacation journal.  It’s from 1998, our first time in South America.  Gary was playing racquetball for Guam in the world championships.

I’ll share a few of my favorite paragraphs.  And while I’m at it, I’ll encourage you to write down special scenes from your travels.  Dates, times, temperatures, scores… I find them irrelevant.  Capture the moments!

“Flying into La Paz was incredible.  The huge snow covered mountains, shrouded in clouds, Lake Titicaca… it was breath-taking.  Landing there actually did take our breath.  The 13,000’ altitude made our hearts race.”

“While picking up our laundry a parade came by, apparently celebrating a patron saint.  Children dancing, old men playing crumpled horns, elaborate costumes… and then the most pathetic car covered in plastic dolls, stuffed dog toys, old silver tea service pieces.  A unique parade indeed.”

“Along the way I fell into a must-buy-something-at-the-market trance and bought a dress from India without trying it on, from a woman in a tiny stall.”

“The tour guide would give five or six sentences about the fabulous statuary, or a marble fireplace mantle, or a marvelous tapestry… then Marco the translator, in his limited English would say, “These are the dog statues” or “This is the special fireplace”.  It was a beautiful palace with wonderful gardens.”

“Mama and I couldn’t resist buying a little something from each table.  Our last purchase was from a little ragamuffin girl who had three items to show us.  We bought one for 3 bolivianos.  She was a tiny little thing who reached into her ratty dress pocket to give us our change.”

“We went inside the San Francisco church and stepped into another world.  From the bustling, loud, bright courtyard into the hushed, dark, tranquil interior.  Massive arched and domed ceilings, intricate gold work, huge displays of old saint carvings, people praying silently, and old women lighting candles in dark corners.”

“It’s been a fabulous trip! Wonderful memories…”

“Typing e-mails on slow computers with Spanish keyboards.”

“Telling the maid we couldn’t ‘dream’ at five in the morning because of the squeaking door.”

“Trying desperately to speak Spanish with waiters and cab drivers.”

“Stepping into the curtained room at the La Paz airport for a possible strip search!”

“Standing with a llama herder on the altiplano and showing him my tiny island home on my map.”

“Hearing Saya music coming from so many places, and feeling the unusual beat.”

“Children in Cochabamba asking for our restaurant leftovers, but equally delighted to have a little conversation.”

“Watching Gary carrying the Guam flag with a huge smile on his face in the parade of nations.”

“The architecture of Lima.  Flowering vines pouring over courtyard walls.”

“More than anything – women with two black braids down their backs, colorful wrap on their backs, usually with a child in it.”

“Ciao – Sud America!”

And thus began our love affair with this gorgeous continent.  We’ve been back three times since then, and are always looking forward to our next visit!

~

~

 

Thirty One Years

 

Back in the olden days… you know… the 1980s, when there was no such thing as the internet.  Yes, way back then we took our first out of the ordinary vacation.  I came across an article in a magazine about old plantation homes open to guests.

It was our anniversary, and to celebrate we combined our love for beautiful houses, the romance of gorgeous gardens, the joy of hitting the open road, and we set out on a lovely journey through Louisiana and Mississippi.

The big to do was spending two nights at Cottage Plantation, an antebellum beauty. My sweetest memory is having breakfast in the wonderful old dining room, enjoying southern hospitality and fine china along with the other guests, loving their surprised faces when they discovered we were not on our honeymoon.

Oh how we loved that!  After all, we had already been married three whole years, and at the ripe old age of 23 it delighted us that we still looked like newlyweds. 

You know, Gary… it tickled me a couple of years ago when someone asked us if we were on our honeymoon as we glided over the deep blue sea.  31 years with you, and it just gets better and better.  Happy Anniversary!

~

 

Half Full

 

Literally, my rose beds are half empty.  There is no place for them in the gallery of beautiful gardens.  The barren dirt reveals an ugly old soaker hose.  The remnants of dried up daffodil and iris stalks dot the little landscape. 

But I sit on my Nana’s old glider, coffee in hand, cat on my lap, and I look beyond all that.

The miniature roses I planted last year are spreading their sweet branches.  They were only tiny twigs when I took them out of their pint sized containers and put them in the ground.  Some of them are now four feet across and blanketed with precious petals in white and yellow.

So I don’t see the dirt.  I see the promise of one solid rosy carpet by summer’s end, the miracle of growth, the joy of hope.

I’m sorry for the ones that were traumatized by the ice and wind.  I’m especially sad for the one that gave up altogether, leaving a prominent gape for the others to fill in. 

It’s a good thing to own rose colored shades. May we wear some for a little while today, and may we delight in finding our rose beds half full.

~

 

Blue Skies

I’ve just come inside.  Have been out there enjoying another gorgeous evening.  Our poor land is so drought stricken. But we’ve had rain… glorious rain for the past four days, and it’s starting to rain again this very minute.  We’re all rejoicing!

Dark blue stormy skies.  Magnificent.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

~

 

First Flight

My first flight.  I wish I could say I remember it like it was yesterday… but it’s back there in the recesses of my mind, and the details have become hazy.  The highlighted memories remain special to me.

Our mother surprised my sister and me with the news that we were flying to Dallas to see a traveling museum exhibit on Pompeii.  I was in junior high, and fairly astonished that I was going to ride on an airplane.

It was back in the day when flight attendants were called stewardesses, and on Southwest they wore cute little orange hats and short shorts and white boots.  I remember that.

My grandparents went with us.  Seems like Granddad wore a plaid jacket.

What I remember most about the exhibit of that volcanic tragedy is the little tray I bought with mosaic artwork from that time period.  I had it for years until it somehow got lost in the shuffle.  It was hauntingly beautiful.

The grand part of the story is how my mother introduced me to so many things.  To beauty, to travel, to other cultures, to adventure.  Thank you, Mama.  You gave me the world and so much more!

~

 

Texas Highway 36

 There’s a long stretch of road though the middle of Texas I love to travel… especially in April.  I call it my waltz across Texas, and always promise myself that the next time I make the sashay, I’ll allow plenty of time for photo stops.

But alas, I’m always in a hurry because – as beautiful as the drive is – I’m making my way to the true beauties of Texas… my nieces.

A girl from the high plains gets mighty excited to reach the texture of the land around Sweetwater and Abilene.  The bluffs and the mesquite begin to give way to rolling hills and massive oaks when we merge onto 36, making the southeast journey toward Houston.

The roadsides are filled with a glorious array of wildflowers, and those Texas Bluebonnets blanket the hillsides and pastures.  I always wish the longhorn cattle could realize just how fortunate they are to roam about in such grand surroundings.

Little towns like Hamilton delight me with their big-porch-and-gingerbread houses, their old stone court houses, their rose filled front yards.

Greener and greener grows the path as I look forward to my coffee stop in Brenham, that Blue Bell Ice Cream bastion.  I always feel at home in this town… a place I’d like to linger if Sugar Land wasn’t calling me onward.

On down 36 to the quaint streets of Rosenberg… but I’m so close to precious girlie girls at this point, I’m really just looking for exit signs.

If you’ve never been deep in the heart of Texas, you’re missing out on a jewel of a place.  There’s a myriad of highways and byways… but my favorite is 36 from Abilene to Rosenberg.  I hope you find yourself there someday!

 (My photo downloading does not do justice to the magic of Sugar Plum Fairy Photography.  I hope you’ll click over to my niece’s Facebook page and treat yourself to her gorgeous photos!)

~