Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Last week, Mom, Leah and I got together once again at Ha Ha Tonka State Park with our good friend, Joy, and her daughter, Elyse. We had a wonderful day together! First having lunch at a picnic shelter and visiting for awhile, then exploring some of the trails and the 'castle', and at the close of our time together, sitting on benches at the end of one of the trails and visiting until we needed to part ways and head for home.

I'll let the photos (and some words :) tell the story of our day (or at least part of it!) . . . .

The picnic shelter where we had lunch and talked for awhile

Then we were off to hike the "Natural Bridge Trail" . . . .

The Natural Bridge

Joy, Elyse, Me, and Leah


The other side of the natural bridge

On the trail again - this was a fun one!


Me doing one of my favorite things :) 

A wildflower along the way

The first trail

Joy and Elyse . . . enjoyed spending time with you both! 

Leah photographing 

Looking out towards the cliffs on which the 'castle' sits 

The remains of the 'castle' in the distance

Me, Mom and Leah

Some of the leaves are changing colors! Fall is here . . . . 

Leah and Mom on the "Watertower Trail"

And the Watertower

Scenes like this remind me more of the southwest instead of Missouri!

Me, Elyse and Joy

Looking down from the trail

Joy, Mom, Leah and Elyse at one of the overlooks

The view . . . it definitely looks like the Ozarks with all the trees!

The Carriage House 

The remains of the castle

Joy and Elyse

So enjoyed spending time with these special ladies (and Mom, too! [who was taking the picture]) 

There were quite a few of these little lizards scurrying around by the castle. This one was running around the tree away from me and then froze letting me snap this photo of him. 

 Mom and Leah in one of the castle windows

 On the trail back to where we had parked

All in all, we had a much enjoyed day enjoying friendship, fellowship, and so much beauty in God's creation!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sadness and Joy

Shortly after doing my last post, I learned that my dear friend at the nursing home, Edna, went home to be with the Lord. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have known her and for all the special times that we had together! She was a very special lady and blessed me more than I can say by her love, strong faith, joy, wisdom, friendship . . . I am going to miss her so much!

Intermixed with the sadness is joy . . . sadness that I will no longer see her here on this earth, yet joy for her that she is in heaven with her Savior.

The last time that we had together, I and a nurse brought her over to her usual spot right to the left of me at the piano, and I played her favorite hymn How Great Thou Art, and we sang together. When we reached the chorus, despite her weakness and shortness of breath, her voice rang out stronger and clearer than I had ever heard before. I glanced over at her, and her face was turned upwards, her eyes closed as the words poured from her heart to the Lord. It was an awe-inspiring moment! Five days later, she was at home with the God she had been praising and whom she loved so much. In her words, Jesus Christ was her "first and foremost."

I can still feel her arms giving me a tight hug, feel her kiss on my cheek, and hear her whispered "I love you." When leaving the nursing home that last time, I looked back and there she sat, smiling as she watched me leave.

I remember the very first time I met her and after we sang together at the piano, she told me that she was going home soon. I wasn't aware at the time that this was just a fancy of hers and not reality, so we talked about that if we never see each other again at the nursing home, we can look forward to seeing one another again in heaven and there we will sing praises to the Lord together again. Now that time has come . . . and I am indeed looking forward to that coming day!

"For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality . . . . then will come about the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ"! 1 Corinthians 15:53-57

Friday, September 11, 2015

On My Heart

I originally wrote this post last week, though it sat in my drafts folder until now as I wasn't quite ready to share it yet . . . .

This is not the post I had intended to write today . . . yet it is what is filling my heart and mind . . . today I went to the nursing home again, played the piano for awhile and then visited with the residents.

The first man I went over to was in a wheelchair, and after greeting him, we visited for a bit. Though when he began sharing his heart with me, I knelt down beside him. He laid his trembling hand on my shoulder as he shared . . . the pain since losing his wife, how the burden was so very heavy, how he didn't know how he was going to make it, the path was so full of rocks to try to climb over.

When asking him if he knew Jesus, he said that he did, but it wasn't really helping. I talked with him at length, sharing with him how much Jesus loves Him, that He died for him, that He wants to carry this very heavy burden for him. Scripture verses kept coming to mind that were shared . . .

"Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest"

"Blessed be the Lord who daily bears our burden"

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . . and He will direct your paths."

How God is "our Rock"

As we talked, I began to wonder if while he knew Christ, perhaps he may not really know Christ. (It was hard as I was having some difficulty hearing everything he was saying - how I wish I could have caught every word and knew better how to respond!)

Praying hard as we talked, I shared with him about sin and shared the gospel with him; and also encouraged him to trust in Jesus as his Savior and give this burden to Him and trust Him to help carry it for him.

I shared also about the beautiful heaven that awaits those who repent of their sin and trust in Christ to save them . . . a heaven with no more pain and sorrow, no tears, no sin.

This dear man shared much more with me, and I can't keep the tears from my eyes as I remember the tears slowly coursing down his cheeks, as words of sorrow and pain were spoken . . . as well as later, words of hope about trying to trust Christ and how Christ has indeed helped him this far.

Our conversation ended with me letting him know that I will be praying for him, and encouraging him that if he trusts in Christ as his Savior, He will carry him through, he'll make it! The path may be rough, but he can do it with Christ in his heart and helping him!

And so now I sit here typing . . . I can still hear his voice, see the tears in his eyes, hear words coming from a hurting heart, and my heart aches. There is so much suffering in this world. So much pain. So much sin. So many who do not know the Savior and who desperately need Him. And not just for this physical life which is so fleeting and but for a moment, but most importantly and eternally, for the eternal life that awaits each one of us after this body of flesh dies.

I know I have missed so many opportunities . . . and this was sobering to me; as well as hearing that a dear friend is likely going home to Jesus soon (she is now on hospice care.)

Life is very short . . . who knows if those we love or those who come in and out of our lives each day will be gone tomorrow?

Please, let us who know Him boldly proclaim Him and be witnesses for Him! Let us not be "ashamed of the gospel", but let us speak in love to those who need the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Sharing with them the beautiful gospel of salvation which can alone save them from their sins and eternal separation from God . . . sharing with them about our great God and Father who loves them so very much. Who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for them and to be their Lord and Savior if they will believe in Him, repenting of their sins and surrendering their lives to Him.

Let us also encourage those ones who do truly know Him, pointing always to our Savior. Life is hard, and what a great blessing an encouraging and edifying word is to our brothers and sisters in the Lord!

"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!' " Romans 10:14-15

"Therefore strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed." Hebrews 12:12-13


Since originally writing this post, guess who I was able to visit with again and who came over and joined me at the piano the next few times I went? This dear man! There was a change in his countenance and a joy in his face as I talked with him, and then also as dear E. and I sang along with the piano and he listened. And then afterwards when sharing about Jesus Christ with them once again, there was a smile on his face and in his eyes as he nodded his head emphatically. When I told him goodbye, he gave me a tight hug. It seems prayers are being answered, and I am eager to see him again and speak more with him!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Our 2015 Garden

It has been an unusual gardening year here in Missouri! With a very wet spring and July, as well as high heat through July and August, gardens suffered significantly. Our friends at the farmers market have said this is the worst gardening year they have ever had. Some friends plowed their gardens under back in July without having really any harvest to speak of.

Our garden suffered quite a bit as well, though we are so thankful for the produce we have been able to harvest! While we lost the carrot crop, most of the cucumbers and squash, and we will likely have only a very small tomato harvest, many crops did well such as our first harvest of beets and the beans. There are many jars or bags of both of those canned or in the freezer!

The garden as it is now - the bare dirt is where the potatoes, spring/summer beans, and summer squash used to be

Vegetable gardening is one of my favorite things to do, though this year, after developing the systemic bee sting allergy, I have not done much at all out there other than some harvesting (like the potatoes) as most of the garden is very close to the hives (as you can see in the photo. We still plan on moving the hives somewhere else, though needed to wait until either this fall or early spring next year.)

Mom, who also loves gardening, did an amazing job caring for it and helped the struggling plants along through the wet spells and the bug invasions. Thanks to her, our tomato, cucumber and squash harvests are/were larger than they would have been!

Some of the tomatoes

The basil is one of the plants that didn't mind all of the wet weather. I dried a bunch of it so far, and plan to dry more soon.

One of the winter squash plants that survived. We're going to have at least a few delicata squash to enjoy over the winter!

Black Hungarian Jalapenos

Sweet Bell Peppers

The peppers are one crop that has done very well this year and have been producing prolifically! So much so that Mom not only put a bunch in the freezer and dried a lot, but we have also started giving them away and bringing them to the farmers market to sell.

The celery plants limped along through the hot July and August, and with some cooler weather we have had recently, have finally started to perk up a bit.

The fall crop of beans

One of the watermelons. We enjoyed the first one of the year the other day, and it was so good! Deliciously sweet and juicy.

The sunflowers certainly have been brightening up the garden! They are nearing their end now, and it has been fun to watch the goldfinches enjoying the seeds. I think next year, I'll try bagging the heads so we can have some of the seeds for ourselves. :)

A pollen-laden honeybee on one of the sunflowers

One crop that far exceeded our expectations this year was the potatoes!

One of the wagon loads that Leah and I dug

We were skeptical about how they would produce as with all of the rain, the plants were suffering. One section was even in standing water several times through July. The plants kept growing, though, so we waited in expectation to dig those first ones.

When the first plants were ready to harvest, I started digging in the worst section of the garden and that had been in standing water. Unfortunately, most of them were rotten and the ones that weren't, were quite small. Once I made it up past that section, though, they were almost all in good condition and good sized potatoes . . .

Many were this size or close to it.

There are still a few plants left to dig, but as of now, we have harvested 284 lbs. Such a blessing! They have been cured, are now stored, and are ready to be used throughout the fall, winter and into next spring.

One vegetable crop that we do not grow ourselves is sweet corn so we like to get some from a local farmer to put up in the freezer. This year with everything that was going on, we lost track of time, and by the time we remembered, the farmer we usually get it from was sold out. We were thankful when the following Saturday at the farmers market a fellow vendor had their last 30 or so ears to sell!

Leah and I had a fun time together husking the corn and putting it up in the freezer. As we didn't get a lot, we'll be rationing it out over the fall and winter!

Gardening season is overall beginning to wind down now, though our tomatoes have just started to produce. We haven't had enough to can, but Mom put some in the dehydrator last night. This is our first time drying them so it will be interesting to see how it works.

Soon we'll be putting in the fall crops of lettuce, spinach, and kale and can look forward to enjoying fresh from the garden salads again!

How did your all's gardens do this year?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

How Great Thou Art

With taking in the diverse beauty of God's creation at the conservation area for Leah's birthday, the hymn How Great Thou Art kept coming to mind. And as I looked through the photos on my camera, it just seemed fitting to combine some of them with the words to this beautiful hymn . . .

Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow'r throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When thru the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in, 
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God how great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And to know, the One who created all this intricate beauty in the world around us and who cares for His creation, is our God and our Savior. The One who loves us and has redeemed by His blood all of those who have believed in Him, and who faithfully guides His children along the way. He is worthy of all of our praise, adoration, and thanksgiving . . . indeed, how great is our God!

"O may Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise! You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, the heaven of the heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is on them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You. You are the Lord God . . . " Nehemiah 9:5b-7a