Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Angels for a Single Woman

Life was hard, my job was hard, and being alone in life was very hard. Then the year I turned 38, my niece, Stephanie, came to live with me. Life got even harder, but it was different than before. My lonely existence seemed to have meaning, and I considered this young girl an angel in disguise!

Stephanie was eleven years old that first Christmas; a few months after she came to live with me. One morning, I was preparing her breakfast when the carol “Silent Night” played on the radio. Tears came to my eyes as the song took on a whole new meaning. The line “Round yon Virgin Mother and Child…” brought goose bumps to my body. I’d never married or had kids of my own, yet felt blessed to now have my own child to care for and who needed me. Because Stephanie loved angels, beginning that first year, I gave Stephanie an angel ornament as a new tradition

When my beloved niece had her first daughter, she’d had left a disastrous marriage and so was back living with me. Browsing in the store, waiting for the birth photos to develop, I came across a very special angel for her. It was Christmas time, and the stores were filled with lovely angel displays. I found this one special doll that had blue eyes, curly golden hair, and white dress with feathery wings to match. The angel’s hands were clasped as if in prayer. When her hand was touched, the wings would gradually shift colors and she sang “Silent Night” in a sweet childlike voice.

Stephanie and Samantha lived with me for two more Christmases, and each year, we brought out the angel doll. Even as an infant, and into toddlerhood, Sammi was enchanted with it and would drape garland beads around the angel body and entwine it onto my head! When Stefanie re-married and moved away, the doll went with them.

The Christmas Season Samantha turned four a new baby sister was coming. Stephanie had decorated early for Christmas, knowing she would not be up to it after giving birth to her newest little angel. Stephanie had placed the angel doll up high so Sammi would not keep playing the song, for it could get annoying, I stayed with Sammi when her parents went to the hospital.

The night the new baby was born we brought down the singing angel. Samantha wanted all the lights off, except for the ones on the Christmas tree. With the angel doll proudly displayed near the tree, Sammi kept playing it over and over and over. It was not annoying; it was magical! The wings turned blue, and green and red as she sang Silent Night. Again, I felt the tears well up. God had so blessed me with Stephanie, and then Samantha.

This Christmas Season, Sammi is now five, and Lily is one year. Another little girl blessing arrived last week. I am visiting this year for Christmas and am surrounded by new life and hope.

Four precious girls have been added to my single life, and although they are far away in distance, they will always be close at heart. Because of the birth of the Holy Infant on that silent night so long ago; I have my girls-my special angels.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lord, Teach me to Praise

Every Sunday morning, I shadow a special needs child so that his family can attend the service. My young friend loves music so we are able to sit through the beginning worship time, but then he needs to have a different activity when the preaching starts. “David” is 11, but his disability results in poor social awareness so we go to our classroom for one on one time.

Our weekly program is to sing along with CD’s of old time Sunday School songs, and to the AWANA Cubbies level CD and workbook. David can read, and loves to sing, although he has limited verbal skills, and like me, cannot carry a tune. David likes to start at the beginning of the Cubbies book, and we sing our way through the modified Bible verses set to music. 

There is one song that reads: “Lord, teach us to pray, Lord, teach us to pray. Mark 11:1”

When David sings this verse, he says “Lord, teach us to PRAISE, Lord, teach us to PRAISE…”

Every week, I ponder the simple truth of that request. During worship in the sanctuary, David unabashedly sings, moves his uncoordinated body into claps, and sometimes raises his arms in Praise. His family believes that deep inside him, he understands about God and I agree. David intuitively knows how to enter into worship, and is not embarrassed to express how he understands praise to God.

Oh that we could be so child-like in our worship to God, and not feel embarrased by how we sound or look.

Lord, teach ME to Praise!

Monday, October 18, 2010

"CHRISTMAS INSPIRATIONS" hits the shelves!

We did it! The Aspiring Writers Forum of Chino Valley Community Church has completed self-publication of our first book. It is an anthology of 24 days of stories and poems pertaining to the Nativity, and culminates with the scriptures of the birth of Christ.

This story began in January 2010 when the pastor of our church preached a sermon on  the “Kingdom Assignment” which is a book written by Denny and Lisa Bellisi, detailing what happened when churches provided a set amount of money to interested persons, who then used that to further God’s Kingdom.

 In February, the leader of our group, Linda Boutin, felt God’s leading to use our writing skills to create a book for a Kingdom Assignment. As a group, we decided to write stories for Advent that was family-friendly and had interconnecting characteristics. We decided to use proceeds from sales of the books to form a scholarship to let kids from our church attend camp next summer.

 We worked long and hard on our stories. Since I enjoy doing digital scrapbooking, I began to do a few graphics for the stories, and Co-leader Coleene VantilBurg created the illustrations. (She did the awesome cover that just jumps out at you)This was a rough time for many of us, but God carried us through in unity. I started out doing the layouts on my computer because I had a scrapbooking program that constructs books. I spent hours obsessing over this, ignoring my house cleaning and other things like that… I enjoyed doing it, but then reached a point when I realized my program was inappropriate for text layouts. Another member had Publisher on her computer and was well acquainted with the program, so she took over the page layouts. I enjoyed doing it, but got so wrapped up in it, that was all I did! So, once the job was out of my hands, I felt such relief.

With the church-provided monies of 50 dollars per person, and personal giving of money, high-grade paper was purchased.  The pages were printed on our church printer-500 books! Linda spent hours and hours and hours doing that printing. With our funds, we had the covers professionally printed due to the intense colors and thickness of the paper used. Then a few from the group met this past Thursday morning and collated all of those pages!  Mark Hoch, a close friend of Linda, took the pages to his worksite and professionally cut and packed the pages into separate sections.

On Saturday morning, our group met a member’s roomy home for a “binding party” Mark brought a machine from his work that cuts holes into the pages, provided the Double Spiral binding coils, and crimping machine. We had quite the assembly line. I pulled the separated page packets from boxes and layered them in piles for the next person. Someone then placed the pages in-between the separated front and back covers. Two other “checkers” made sure all pages were present and in correct order. The next step went to Mark, who used his fancy machine to punch tiny holes in the sandwiched packet.  The next persons meticulously hand placed the black wire coils into the holes, careful not to drop pages.  The next person used another machine to crimp down the binding. The books were then packed into boxes.

After about 5 hours of intense labor, snacks and a lot of chatting, we finished! We celebrated by having a “cast” party with a fantastic spread of different foods. We also signed one another’s book!

On Sunday, we set up a table to sell our completed project. We prayed over the books, and especially for the kids that will be able to attend church camp as a result of our Kingdom Assignment.  So far, about 150 copies have been sold.
I provided three of the stories in this book as well as several graphics and enhanced photos. Guess I can now truthfully state “I am published!” But really, this project is for God’s Glory. Amen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Caught up in the Snare (drum)

NO! That’s not right! It goes this way:
 Agghhhhh! I just can’t get it!
 Why do I stress myself out over this stuff? Just enjoy the music and stop trying to be a wannabe drummer!

  I love music, yet cannot carry a tune. More so, my piano teacher was correct when she pointed out that I had no sense of rhythm. I WAS NOT a child-I was in my early twenties and just starting out with lessons. You see, I wanted to play a piece in my own way; not how it was written!

  Now, as I age I cannot clap on beat, yet, become fascinated by drumming rhythms. When standing during Praise and Worship time at church, I sometimes focus on the drummer when not into the mood of the moment. Utilizing the chair in front of me, I slap at it in pathetic attempt to keep beat with the drums. I don’t try too hard to keep up, but simply enjoy the time of musical interactions.

The Bible does tell us to make a joyful noise….

  There is a classical piece of music that I just love, and fixate on the beat that is carried through the entire piece. The song is Bolero, by Maurice Ravel, and you either love it or you hate it. The same two-part melody, in the same key, is carried throughout the duration of the piece. The music is written for a large orchestra and utilizes a tam-tam,(gong), a celesta (glockenspiel with keyboard) flutes, piccolos, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, tubas, saxophones, harps, violins, violas, cellos, cymbals, timpani, bass drums and snare drums to build up an intensity until it reaches its climatic and cacophonous finale.
The snare drum carries the steady rhythm throughout the piece but I just cannot “get” the rhythm.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
Make music to the Lord with the harp, and with the harp and the sound of singing,
With trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn- shout for joy before the Lord, the King
Psalm 98:4-6 NIV

I don’t think Ravel was praising the Lord when he composed this piece.
   In 1928, he was commissioned by a well known dancer to compose music for a ballet. Ravel had an idea to integrate different pieces of other musicians’ work, but there were complications dealing with copy right issues. He ditched that idea, and his own inspiration emerged. He tapped out a simple repetitive melody on his piano, and then formatted it in the style of a popular Spanish dance known as a bolero. Ravel originally titled this piece as “Fandango" but ended up referring to it as “Bolero.”

My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Psalm 108:1 NIV

  Music does not necessarily need to be “Christian” in its origin to bring on the attitude of Praise and Worship to God. The recurring melody in this masterpiece could become redundant for those who do not enjoy the piece, but I find that I appreciate the sameness. It may be the identical theme over and over, but it grows louder and stronger and then explodes into its goose-bump-inducing conclusion.

  I have noticed that when I listen to the melody, rather than the drummer’s beat, I am carried off to another realm, which for me, is in Praise to God. I am learning that I need to focus on the music as a whole and not get caught up in just one aspect of the work. When I listen to just the drum beat, I am missing out on the beauty of the entire song. Worship to God can be carried out in many different ways, yet no matter what form it takes on, God desires our praises.
You know, I can’t sing, and I can’t keep a beat, but I can make a joyful Noise to my Lord!

Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord in His sanctuary; praise Him in his mighty heavens
Praise Him for his acts of power; praise Him for his surpassing greatness
Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet.
Praise Him with the harp and lyre; praise Him with tambourine and dancing.
Praise Him with the strings and flute; Praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise Hm with resounding cymbals
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord
Praise the Lord

This is a YouTube clip of Bolero

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What I learned of myself at the 2010 Faith Writers Conference

Earlier this month, I posted this on my Face Book Page:

“Whatever gave me the idea that I am qualified to be a decent writer?
I don't even have the passion or the desire to be published. After the conference next week, I am thinking to give it up. It is a chore to me."

What I did not emphasize was that the lack of passion referred to the writing; not on becoming published. Some of the responses I received referred to the passion to be published.

“I don't see being published as the mark of a "decent writer"……”

“Who says you have to have passion and desire to be published?”

Good points, but not what I meant to communicate, which seems to prove my case. As it is, I have trouble verbalizing my feelings; I know what I want to say, but frequently cannot get the words out. This becomes very frustrating to me.

At the conference, I heard over and over the key phrase: "PASSION for what we do." For me, writing is not a passion. The photo above exhibits my internal ideation of where I belong and that is in serving others rather than focusing on writing.

However, writing is a hobby on the side, and I know that I have so much to learn about it. For example, I enjoy taking pictures and want to learn how to do it better, but it is not a passion and I am not a photographer in the sense of being well-learned and accomplished.

I really appreciated these other responses to my lament:

“Sometimes I find writing a chore, but something keeps tugging at my heart to keep writing!”

“If God calls you to write even one story or article and it touches just one person, your obedience has done the work He gave you to do.”

“Don't give up! It there is even a hint of doing so and God keeps calling you then girl you are a writer! “

So, after the conference, I was all set to pull back, and just occasionally enter the challenge, but then I received a 3rd place win in my article this week. Maybe there is a talent in there? Maybe I can continue to write, but not feel coerced into doing it just to meet the challenge each week? I struggle with trying to get ideas that are fresh. I do think of many things I could write about, but they seem cliché to me. On the boards the other day, I asked this question:

“Is it better to write and submit an article that is IN THE BOX rather than to not write and submit at all due to not finding the way out of the box?”

Responses were heart opening for me:

“No question about it. It's always better to submit than not to submit. Every time you write, you learn something, and every time you submit, you take a step on a journey”

“The exercise of the Challenge is still valuable. And who knows? Maybe you aren't as in the box as you think you are”

I responded to a FaceBook post that I was still “up” from the conference (I had enjoyed the camaraderie)
A response came from a person who led one of the conference workshops and that I did not even take the opportunity to meet said:

“And don't let anything get you down. Stay way up there where ideas percolate and bubble. Get writing!!!

Yes Ma’am!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Where is MY Country?

At my place of employment, I work with people of different nationalities, and I really enjoy learning about their cultures. I have feasted on foods from Indonesia, the Philippines and Egypt, and have been the recipient of little souvenirs upon their return from extended vacations. Often, when referring to their home land, these folks will say…”In my Country…” I sometimes wonder, if that place is “their country” why are they are living in America?

Today is another birthday celebration for the United States of America in which people suddenly become patriotic and aware of this beautiful nation. I was born in New York and raised in California, but the USA is really not my country. Yes, I am living in America, but this is not my real home; “My Country” is a beautiful place called Heaven!

Parades, picnics, parties, red, white and blue colors and fireworks symbolize American Patriotism, but what is being Patriotic for Heaven? Any ideas?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Special Day

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt”
Special Olympian’s Motto.

Today, I attended the 2010 Special Olympics Summer Games held at California State University Long Beach. This was my first time attending and I knew two of the participating athletes. Both young women are residents in the group homes that I supervise. One uses a motorized wheel chair and the other self-propels her chair. Both placed first in their division of wheelchair racing and received gold medals. I felt like a proud mama!

The opening ceremony was touching. Numerous Law Enforcement Officers paraded onto the track, to the resounding applause and cheering from those of us in the grandstands. They stood at attention in formation of a two-sided pathway to welcome in the athletes. As the athletes processional began, under the banners of their respective county, the police officers high-fived the over 10000 athletes. (My sources tell me that there was some mighty fine looking cops there!)

Once all athletes were assembled on the field, the posting of colors was done, and one of the officers sang the national anthem. A few introductions were given, and then Rafer Johnson came up onto the podium. He is a former Olympic gold medal winner and the founder of the Special Olympics. While he was speaking, there was a fly over from the nearby Coast
Guard helicopter. The big orange flying machine came very low and circled twice in honor of the occasion. That was thrilling!

Then it was time for the lighting of the torch. From outside the track, dozens of motorcycle officers rolled up with sirens blaring. Then a bagpipe playing duo ushered in the special athlete chosen to light the torch. He held it high and ran at a fast pace. Goosebumps!
After a few more words and a special song, the MC yelled out “Let the games begin!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Life Creed

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Remembering Dad

Remembering Dad

It’s been 13 years since Dad left this world, but lately he has been heavy in my thoughts. I want to take this Memorial Day Weekend to publically remember him. Dad served in the Korean War for two years and was fortunate to return home to his bride.

My parents married in October of 1952-he was 21 and she was 19. Just six short weeks after the wedding, Dad got the dreaded call-he was to join the army, and after a mere 10 weeks of marriage, he was deployed to Korea.

Dad served as a cook and his life vocation became that of a chef. Dad was also in the army band, and played the saxophone. I inherited my love of music from him; but not his talent.

Dad was a dreamer, but had little education to follow-through on his desires. He was a very outgoing person who loved to talk and playfully tease people.

My Dad died at the age of 65 due to heart and lung conditions. He is now with Jesus and no longer suffering.

I will see you again someday, Dad. I love you and miss you!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Oily Oceans

Viewing scenes from the recent Gulf Oil Spill breaks my heart. I love the ocean and it hurts to see its beauty marred. The pictures brought back memories of an oil spill here in California. The year was 1991 at Huntington Beach. I lived in Whittier at the time so went down to the beach to observe what was really happening.
What I saw was gut-wrenching and I sent the following account to the Whittier Daily News-Letter to the Editor department. It was published as written:

The brisk wind chills the flesh to the bone; and not even the bright midmorning sun can warm the soul. The stench is like that of a tar pit, intermingled with the salty taste from the mist of the wind-whipped waves. The normally cream colored two foot breakers shovel brown froth to the shore and deposit piles of ugly blobs that resemble coffee-colored whipped jell-o or the foam atop a root beer float.

Several persons garbed in plastic yellow hazardous material gear materialize as alien space beings invading the beach. Busloads of these strange looking workers spill out upon the drifting sand and spend more time hauling equipment to the worksite than actually cleaning the polluted shore.

The troops bring in scores of plastic bags packed with absorbent diaper-like fabric to mop up the marred coastline. Python-size tubes of absorbing material are being used like tow line to rake in the greasy debris as the waves disassemble at their feet.

Sweeping the gooey globs to the shore seems futile as the returning waves remove the compiled jellied masses faster than the workers can scoop it into the special plastic bags. It seems so tedious and so discouraging. Mounds of oil-soaked sand filled bags are heaped onto special waste trucks. Where will they end up? An escaped empty plastic bag ballooned out by the winds leaps down the beach as if it were tumbleweed.

A worker accidently splashed the contaminated seawater in his eyes; he wasn’t wearing the special goggles. The fire department and ambulance arrive. Will he be ok? Will he be blinded for life?

Curious tourists brave the slamming wind to observe the tragedy. Tears, shaking of heads, expressions of sadness and anger abound. Some photograph the heartbreaking spectacle from atop the pier.

While swirling patterns of liver-colored slime skim the sea of green, unknowing sea birds hover about for tasty morsels. Will they get caught in a sticky grave? Will the fish suffocate in the oil-laden water? What about the migrating whales? God- Please save our ocean!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Thunk–zing, Thunk-zing, Thunk- Zing were the sounds I heard….over and over and over, as the green laser beam penetrated my right eye. I have a torn hole in my retina and it needed to be repaired before it could cause full detachment and blindness

The retina is a layer of tissue in the back of the eye. It works like camera film in that it receives images formed by the lens of the eye and transmits the images to the brain via the optic nerve. If the retina pulls away (detaches) from the eye, it is like the camera lens cap is still on and no image is seen.(blindness)

Laser surgery, known as photocoagulation, is actually an argon laser beam of high-intensity light that is converted to heat. The heat then creates scar tissue to seal the tear

The laser did not really hurt but was uncomfortable. My eye was propped open and then dozens of green, bright flashes of light were blasted into the eye. I felt pressure like the eyeball was being pushed on. The lights hurt too, as the eye was dilated, and I am light sensitive anyway.

Tonight I still have a dull ache in the eye, similar to when the eyeball is pushed back into the socket. I still have floaters, but the doctor reports they will eventually be absorbed into the body.

I will always be at high risk for detached retina due to my overly-elongated eye, as a result of being near-sighted. (Myopic) I just need to be aware of the symptoms and know to obtain medical help as soon as possible.

I thank God it was treatable and that blindness has not occurred!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gnats and Flies in my Eyes

It began Tuesday afternoon following hours of computer work. First the floaters in my eyes were like pieces of strings, but then big black spots appeared. It made me think there were horse flies around me and I would swat them away.

I figured that probably because I wear contact lenses and rubbed my tired eyes, I may have gotten grit under them. When I went outside, my vision beheld a huge swarm of gnats. This was only in my right eye, but filled my entire view. I went home, removed the contact lenses and washed out the eye hoping that and rest would make it go away.

The next morning they were still there so I went to my eye doctor. Not good news. The flies and gnats floating around in my eyeball are blobs of blood. Because I am severely myopic (near-sighted) my eyes are unusually stretched and I am a high risk for detached retina. In this case, there was a tear in the retina, which broke off and is floating around in the eye fluid. The blood escaped because of an affected vein.

The doctor states that because the tear broke off, there is less chance of the entire retina detaching. I am to return on Tuesday to see a specialist. Then, they will decide on treatment.
Until then, I just deal with the floaters. At least they aren’t as intense as they were the first day. Now, it is just the gnats and a huge stringy glob at center of my vision field. Moving my eye around I can make them swim, much like those computer critters that follow the cursor!

The photo is a representation of what I am currently seeing

To be continued on Tuesday….

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Broken Mothers

This morning, I had to relieve one of my staff who had taken a client to the emergency room last night. Walking over to the entrance near the emergency room, I noticed a small alcove with a large safe-like door that had colorfully tiled wall of hands holding an infant. It was one of those “Safe Surrender” stations that women can bring their newborns instead of leaving them to die. On this day of recognizing mothers my heart just broke for the lives that have come to this spot. With tears in my eyes, I whispered a prayer for God to touch their hearts.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Victorian Wannabees

Several years ago on a Sunday afternoon, my ten year old niece, Stephanie, and I donned white dresses and floppy hats and went to the seashore.

We frolicked in the wavelets and photographed one another as we pretended to be the Victorian Ladies that we saw in paintings.

I requested an amused passerby to take a picture of the two of us together; trying to hold onto our hats from the gusting winds.

It was an adventure I cherish and will never forget.