Saturday, March 31, 2012

Magical Moment 616, "A Sighting in the Woods"

This little story was written by my husband, Eddie.
"A Sighting in the Woods"

As he opened his eyes, the cold instantly brought him to full alert. The sharp, biting wind had been there all along, but his dreams had sheltered him completely. The green meadows and fields of flowers were snatched away so suddenly that even their memory was gone.  He stood slowly. His joints were stiff and his muscles tight. It was as though he had been there for days rather than a few short hours. He stretched his neck and shoulders and took a cautious step forward. He took one strong whiff of the pre dawn air to confirm what he already knew to be true; he was alone. The air from his powerful lungs crystallized as he exhaled and his second breath was deeper and longer, almost a sigh. It was going to be a long day and he knew it.

For the first few hours, he saw nothing to cause alarm. There was no sign of life at all. Even the birds seemed strangely quiet as he made his way along the invisible, but ever present path. The only tracks through the satin white snow followed him obediently. They were his silent companions, steady and unwavering, the only ones loyal, or foolish, enough to accompany him. He made no sound as he travelled, though there was no one to hear him if he had. The thought of being silent as he made his way along did not occur to him. It was innate. He was born with the instinct and it was reinforced to him as he was brought up by his mother and aunts. Now, he made no more conscious effort to keep quiet than you or I do to pump our own hearts. His ears constantly kept watch for him as his mind drifted slowly and pleasantly back to the meadow.

He recalled dreamily his small brown friends who would appear from seemingly nowhere, spend long lazy minutes frolicking without a care or concern, and then bolt away as quickly as they had arrived. A fleeting shadow ahead and to the right stopped him in his tracks. His body tensed like the string of a bow and arrow and then relaxed just as quickly when he saw his old friend, now white as the driven snow, hop slowly away.

It reminded him of the first time he had ever seen a hare. He didn’t know then that it was called a “hare,” nor did he know now. Names and labels were insignificant to him. His simple mind didn’t work that way. He thought in emotions. And the emotion associated with these wonderfully frisky creatures was joy. When he was young and new to the woods, every fresh sound, smell and texture was cause for fright. No one, man or beast, could get within a hundred yards before his senses roared into full throttle. Slowly he began to recognize and distinguish between the threats and the non-threats.

The two classifications for him, outside of his family, were danger and safe. And the first hare he ever saw was immediately a danger. Not only was it new and quick and alert, but it had also snuck up on him. Even at that early age, his eyes and ears were sharp. So, naturally, it took him completely aback when all of a sudden this monstrous, though tiny, creature was standing not ten feet from him staring quizzically into his eyes. Had it followed him on his mad, aimless dash into the wood, he might never have had the courage to return. Instead, as the panic subsided and the curiosity set in, he made his way meekly back and found the monster going about its business paying no more heed to him than he would have paid to a mushroom on the ground.

It was always pleasant for him to remember the brightness and vitality of that moment and it warmed his spirit, if not his body, on days like today. He continued on looking at nothing, but seeing all. His life had been hard since then and there had been many new things to see and hear and do. Nothing much surprised him anymore. He had taken this very path dozens of times in all seasons. Things changed, friends left or died, trees grew or fell, and all the while he kept on walking. He stopped to eat when he got hungry. He stopped to rest when he got tired. His days were all alike now and would be until the thaw. There was rarely any variation and today looked like it would be the same as the sun slowly began to sink toward the horizon.

Then, as he crested a ridge, he saw two unfamiliar creatures, likely starving it seemed to him, with oddly colorful fur like rainbows. They seemed out of place, as their winter fur clearly had not set in yet. He wondered how on earth they could survive, scarcely a layer of fat and with faces as naked as a baby possum. Normally, he would have kept his distance from any unknown animal, but they had an odd smell and squeaked more than grunted or growled. They were loud and foolish and did not notice him at all. They paid no attention to him as he crept up slowly from downwind and uphill. He was less than twenty feet from them when they finally looked up and became alert to him. His age and boldness tempered his instinct to run, so he stayed, ready to flee at their first aggressive move.

As he studied them, they raised their arms towards him. Since their feet were still, he braved on, curious to see what they were up to. Then, the last thing that he could have ever imagined: the sound of a loud “click” as if a giant twig snapped in half. Then a light, like the lightning during rainstorms, lit up his entire mind. He stood, paralyzed but unhurt, his mind racing with no thoughts at all. The second flash woke him from his trance and he leapt off with a flick of his white tail. As he bounded away, he heard a voice  say, "That'll be a good picture for your blog."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Magical Moment 615, "Sweet Beulah Land"

I can't believe it was just a few short weeks ago that my thoughts drifted towards a close family friend, Pastor Brooks, and I felt prodded to write about him and share his influence on my life with all of you in this post:
Today, he has passed away. Only his legacy remains on earth, while he is celebrating in Heaven with his dear wife. When I heard the news this morning, I went straight to the piano, opened the dusty, rarely used hymnal on my shelf, and opened it to page 775, "Sweet Beulah Land." 

I decided to record it on my computer. It's nearly 6 pm, and I haven't stopped to eat. I just wanted to play this for him. Tears of sadness are mixed with tears of joy as I think of him and his true love together again. He missed her so much and I know in my heart, he was ready to go. I can hear him singing this song. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Press play to hear my recording of "Sweet Beulah Land" in honor of Pastor Brooks:

"Sweet Beulah Land" 
E. Parsons

Verse 1:
I'm kind of homesick for a country
To which I've never been before.
No sad goodbyes will there be spoken
for time won't matter anymore.

Beulah Land, I'm longing for you
and some day on thee I'll stand.
There my home shall be eternal.
Beulah Land -- Sweet Beulah Land

Verse 2:
I'm looking now across the river
where my faith will end in sight.
There's just a few more days to labor.
Then I will take my heavenly flight.

Verse 3:
I see the lights, I hear the singing; 
A brand new song of joy divine. 
My soul rejoices just in knowing 
that soon these pleasures will be mine.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Magical Moment 614, "Running Buddies"

A ribbon of gray pavement ran through the deep woods, holding back the thicket of bare tree branches that grabbed at it and tried to swallow it up. It was closed off to cars, allowing mothers pushing strollers, dog-walkers, and runners like me to have the path to ourselves. Only today, I was its only visitor, or so I thought. 

Down the straight path, in the early morning darkness, I noticed silhouettes ahead of me. It looked like...dogs. A pack of dogs in the woods? I had just seen the "The Grey" the previous night, a movie about man-eating wolves in Alaska, and suddenly slowed my pace. I squinted. Not wild dogs, greyhounds! I could tell now that their lines were slender and sleek, and for a moment, I rationalized that there was a dog park just a mile up the road. A greyhound lover must be out walking with their dogs and let them off the leash. I jogged forward and all of the sudden, through the shadows cast by the rising sun behind the trees, I saw a spec of white on one of the dogs. One by one, these white specs popped up as they trotted across the road. It was the white tails of deer! 

With the mystery solved, I continued onward until I came to the spot in the road where they had crossed. I looked to my right, preparing to stretch my eyes once more and capture a glimpse of them bounding away. But there they were, standing still. Feet away from me. There were 5 that had inched down the side of the hill, and paused to turn their heads back. And one that was right next to the road. He had turned around to face me. They waited for me to catch up to them.

I stopped running and turned towards the deer. "Hello." I said. 
And we stood staring in each other's eyes for nearly a minute. 
Finally, his rest was over. He must have told his friends, "Come on, let's keep going." And off they went into the woods.
I said, to no one in particular, "I better keep going." And off I went down the path.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Magical Moment 613, "Monstera Deliciosa"

First of all, congrats to Jayne from Suburban Soliloquy for winning the CD give-away! And thank you to all who entered!

There are always discoveries to be made at Thomas Edison National Park, where my husband is a Park Ranger. My favorite building on the property however, is the old Greenhouse, which is kept up by a local volunteer garden club.  In just 7 years, they've re-created the original beauty as it was years ago in Thomas Edison's Day. 

There are plants from all over the world, cultivated and cared for, with the patience that only a true gardener can possess. I am no gardener, and I've never had a green thumb. But the Greenhouse is so special to me, that I wanted to offer what I could to help out. There is much to be learned in the world of gardening!

The newest discovery I learned of, is a plant called Monstera Deliciosa. It's a tropical plant that can grow up to 20 meters high and produces a muy deliciosa fruit. One of these fruits fell from its branch the other day and I was allowed to take it home until it ripened. 

It's about the size and shape of a corn cob

These green scales pop open to reveal the fruit inside

This is the edible part of the fruit

It was quite tasty, reminding me of a mixture of pineapple and banana, which may be why one of its' nicknames is the Fruit Cocktail Plant. Yes, the Monstera Deliciosa is monsterously delicious. :)

"There are certain things anybody can plant - sweet P's in a straight row, for instance: prayer, patience, peace, passion. But it's not enough for a gardener to love flowers. A gardener also must hate weeds. As good plants grow, you must pinch off bitter ones like panic, paranoia, and passivity. And by the way, while gardening, do squash pride. And please, lettuce love one another at all times."
-Barbara Johnson


Other treasures from Thomas Edison's Greenhouse:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Magical Moment 612, "My First Give-Away"

After 2 years and 611 posts, I'm going to host my very first give-away! 
The prize will be (drum roll)...... my album, "Silk in the Sky," which releases April 10th. I know, I know, try to contain your excitement. :)

So all you need to do if you're interested in winning the 10 track CD before its' official release date, is leave a comment below saying you'd like to be entered into the drawing. The winner will be announced this Wednesday and I'll get the CD in the mail to the winner that very day. 

I've adjusted my comment settings, so ANYONE can leave a comment.

If you don't win, don't be too disappointed! You can buy the album April 10th on iTunes, Amazon, or CDbaby. :) Good luck!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Magical Moment 611, "Great is Your Reward"

Certain sounds and smells can bring to mind a long forgotten memory. For me, certain Bible verses can conjure up a memory, long, but not so forgotten.

If you grew up like me, in a private Christian school, attending Sunday School, Awanas, and Vacation Bible School regularly, you're an expert at quoting Scripture. I laugh in the face of Bible "Sword Drill." I can find a Scripture reference in 3 seconds or less. When other's have to think to themselves the sequential order, "Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians..." I'm already at I Thessalonians. It's like growing up bi-lingual. The skill is just there.

This morning, I read the first 3 words of a verse, and then finished it quickly by memory. Like the pledge of allegiance, it was automatic.
"Trust in the Lord...

...With all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6

When I finished, I smiled to myself slightly. That's Awanas 101. Awanas, is a children's program I attended every Wednesday night at church for...a million years. We played games, got a Bible lesson, and most importantly, memorized Scripture. There are awards, pins, even special money to spend at the Awanas store for every Scripture you memorize. Yes, I am the proud owner of the Timothy Award Trophy. I think my mother still has it in the garage.

The reason for my smile, was the image of a sweet woman, in her gray Awanas vest and long denim skirt. Her wide smile pushing out her round cheeks and remarking with enthusiasm when I completed reciting my verse, "Good job!" Her verbal praise would be followed by a hug. I imagined my small, childish frame being engulfed tightly into her arms, and then smiling sheepishly at her approval. 

Mrs. Brooks and her husband Pastor Brooks. 
Say those names to hundreds, no, thousands of children (many now adults) in the Midwest and they will know what I know. They had a heart and passion for children and for serving the Lord. This was clear to me as a child, and even more clear as an adult. Many times, I've sat down and tried to think of all the ways their lives have affected their example and ministry have touched my life in some way. It's incalculable. And when I think of the thousands of others like me who've been affected, my mind truly boggles.

For years, they were at the center of the children's ministry. They used buses to pick up children whose parents didn't attend church. Children who might otherwise have been forgotten. Who didn't think they were worth much. That was their speciality, making children feel their value. They made this shy, wiry, scraggly-haired, freckled girl feel like the most important kid around.

They moved onto a new chapter in their ministry when I was in high school. But you never lose touch with people who have affected you that much. We were a close-knit church family, and always kept up with each other. When it came time for me to get married, I couldn't think of anyone in the world I wanted to officiate the ceremony more than Pastor Brooks. His approval and love for Eddie meant as much to me as maybe my own parents' did. And when he agreed make the long drive to Lincoln, NE to marry us, I was touched beyond words. 

Mrs. Brooks didn't come to the wedding. I was surprised to learn her health wasn't what it once was. But our special day was made complete when she called me on the phone at my wedding reception to tell me she was proud of me and that she loved me. I didn't know it then, but that would be the last time I ever spoke to her. Mrs. Brooks passed away in late 2008.

Eddie and I felt it was crucial for us to fly from North Carolina to Iowa to attend her funeral, and together with my parents and sisters, we made our way to a small country church to say our final goodbyes. Pastor Brooks greeted us with all the love he is known for, and asked us to sit at the front of the church with the family, "Because that's what you are," he said. "Family."

I have a new image of Mrs. Brooks now, to go along with the old memories of her joyful spirit and deep laugh. It is an image of her in Heaven. There is a song by Ray Boltz called, "Thank You." It describes someone in Heaven. One by one, people come to this person and tell them, "Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed." Eventually, a line extends as far as the eye can see because of how many lives were affected. And this person is told by the Lord, "Great is your reward." I imagine that is what Mrs. Brooks was met with when she entered Heaven. I've done my best to tell Pastor Brooks on earth how he's touched my life. And someday, I will join the line in Heaven to tell Mrs Brooks, "Thank you for giving to the Lord. am a life that was changed."

My mother Mary, Mrs Brooks, my sister Erica, Pastor Brooks, my sister Regina, me

Pastor Brooks at our wedding

I dreamed I went to heaven
And you were there with me
We walked upon the streets of gold
Beside the crystal sea
We heard the angels singing
Then someone called your name
You turned and saw this young man
And he was smiling as he came
And he said friend you may not know me now
And then he said but wait
You used to teach my Sunday School
When I was only eight
And every week you would say a prayer
Before the class would start
And one day when you said that prayer
I asked Jesus in my heart

Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave

Then another man stood before you
And said remember the time
A missionary came to your church
And his pictures made you cry
You didn’t have much money
But you gave it anyway
Jesus took the gift you gave
And that’s why I’m here today


One by one they came
Far as the eyes could see
Each life somehow touched
By your generosity
Little things that you had done
Sacrifices made
Unnoticed on the earth
In heaven now proclaimed

And I know that up in heaven
You’re not supposed to cry
But I am almost sure
There were tears in your eyes
As Jesus took your hand
And you stood before the Lord
He said, my child look around you
For great is your reward


I am so glad you gave