We went up to Vermont last weekend and spent a relaxing few days with my family in the heart of the mountains. I love the safe feeling I get as I sit on their back deck, looking at the vivid green mountains that surround their home. In fact, the picture I have on my home page is the view from their deck. They have a variety of wildlife in the many fields along their dirt roads, and many colorful birds that come to feed in the area. One of my favorites is the active hummingbird, who does not hesitate to come up to you if you are wearing a brightly colored shirt, or will arc back and forth over your head if he is trying to keep another hummer from coming to eat at his feeder. They are so tiny and fragile looking, but are very entertaining to the onlookers just a few feet away.
My mom told a funny story that keeps putting a smile on my face and I thought it would be a cute story to share with you. I had asked her about starting my own hummingbird feeder and was asking her about the right measurements of sugar to water. After she told me, she gave me some good advice: never put it out while it is still hot from boiling the water and sugar, and never give it to the birds right from the refrigerator. She proceeded to tell me her story of giving it to the hummingbird while it was still cold: "I put the feeder out and sat down on the deck. Shortly after the hummingbird came and settled down on the feeder. He stuck his beak into the sugar water and began drinking. Usually hummingbirds are constantly in motion, but I watched as he stopped drinking and sat with his head down for a minute, looking a bit dazed. I think he got brain freeze because I have never seen a hummer stop moving before."
Well, if people can get brain freeze from eating cold things, why can't a little hummingbird, no bigger than my finger, get brain freeze from refrigerated sugar water?
Speaking of birds, all is quiet on the home front. The baby hawks have succeeded in learning how to catch their own food and have since moved away. Seeing that there is no need to stay in the hawk nursery, the mother and father have also moved on and my birds have settled into a calm, pleasant way of life once again in our backyard. I have not heard the shrill cry of the hawk since we returned home from our trip, nor have I heard the birds angrily squawking to try to scare the meanies away. I will have to mentally record that in my mind so I will know that when they return next spring, (which most likely they will seeing that this is the second year of raising their young in the same nest) that they will be out of the neighborhood by mid July.
We officially have five weeks left of summer before school starts, though I have four weeks until I need to go set up the classroom. I have been enjoying every minute of my summer, getting caught up on things I needed to do, going to the beach, not having a strict time schedule to follow...yes, it has been really nice and I have never appreciated it more. I do need to make more time to write though, but I am at a point where I do not know what the Lord would have me write next. I thought I knew, but I am not getting anywhere with the idea. I kind of feel like that hummingbird with brain freeze and I am hoping my brain will warm up and I can be off and writing again. I am currently working on a creative writing program for children (and adults if they cared to take it too) to help others get started on their journey of writing. I will have more information about that in a couple of weeks if you are interested.
I pray you are enjoying your summer as much as I am, and I look forward to seeing you again soon! God bless!
Three months have come and gone since we last left the teenagers. Upon further investigation, we find a well organized group of young people, who are quite healthy and strong looking. There is a village of reed houses with large baskets of fresh water at every door. Vines of fish are lined from house to house, drying in the air, with the salt from the evaporated water used to preserve their supply of food. A few weeks before a few of the guys went to explore the rest of the island and had discovered a source of fresh water so the tedious work of getting fresh water was now over. They all took turns bringing back the precious water and life had settled into a normal routine. A cave had also been found where they set up provisions for emergencies such as storms.
It was Anna and May's turn to bring some baskets of water back so they took off on the journey, not noticing how black the sky was turning during the middle of the day. The rain came down so suddenly it surprised the girls and blinded them. Getting a little nervous, they began to run as the wind picked up in intensity and blew the girls off their feet. Their baskets ripped out of their hands and they gave a little screech as they were pushed into a tree. Anna heard a loud crack and blacked out as her head struck the bark.
Anna woke up inside a warm, cozy cave, sheltered from the wind and rain, a fire snapping close by. May sat near Anna, holding her hand, waiting for her to wake up. Three other people whom Anna did not know sat by attending the fire. Anna sat up.
"Anna, oh, thank God! You are awake! I was so scared!" May gave her a hug.
"Where are we? Who are you?" she asked the strangers. One was a man with a full beard, and the other two were young ladies.
"I'm Susan. About six months ago a man named Greenhart brought us here. He thought we would die, but by God's grace we found ways to survive. We have stayed hidden for so long because we were afraid he would come back and do us in himself. We have watched you for quite some time, making sure you were okay. If you had needed our help we would have come to assist you, but you have all done quite nicely. Besides, Michael here was waiting for the right time to surprise you. He was not ready to see you yet."
Anna's eyes lit up. "Ready to see me? Michael? Michael Livingston?" she could not believe it. She looked into his eyes and saw the same old twinkle she always knew. "I can't believe it!" She stood up too quickly and would have fallen over if Michael had not caught her. "Thank God you are okay! We were so worried about you!" She hugged him, tears of joy flowing down her face.
"I didn't want you to know I was here, Anna. We were sent here for very different reasons than you were. We broke the law and were caught. I was very bad, Anna. I still am." His voice held a hint of sorrow.
"God can forgive you, Michael. He loves you and will forgive your sins if you will let him."
"I have sat in the woods and listened to you have your Bible studies. You don't know how many times I wanted to come out and ask you to help me see how He can forgive me. I want this Jesus, Who gave His life for me. Please show me how I can get Him into my life!"
"What about you, Susan? Do you want to know Him too?"
"Yes, as well as John here. We all want to know what we can do to change our lives. It has been a horrible mess, but we want to get it right with God."
The five of them gathered around and Anna took them on the journey to salvation. All three prayed for God to forgive them and they joined the family of God. It was an hour later when the wind stopped howling outside and everything grew peaceful outside. "Can we go out now?" Anna asked.
"Not yet," Michael answered. "This is only the eye of the storm. It will be back again in a bit and finish with another blast of heavy winds and rain. We might have time to reach your friends and take shelter before it hits though. What do you think, Susan?"
"From what we have seen in the past, we have enough time to make it to their emergency cave. Do you feel well enough to travel?" she asked Anna.
"I think so. My head hurts a little, but I don't feel dizzy anymore."
The five teenagers hurried through the quiet woods, avoiding fallen trees and branches that were strewn across the path. They reached the cave with five minutes to spare and the storm started again. All her friends looked up with relieved expressions when she and May walked into the cave with the three new people. "We are okay! And look who the Lord brought to us! It's my brother and his friends! They just got saved too! Isn't God good?"
Philip rushed over to Anna and gave her a little side hug. "I was so worried! Thank God you both are safe! It is truly a miracle! Even in the midst of storms God can do some amazing things!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It is a year later....never did the teens give up. Even when their homes were destroyed by storm after storm, their faith remained strong. No one ever got sick...in fact they all grew healthier than they had been away from the island. They all had forgiven Greenhart in their hearts, though it had been a hard thing to do, especially in the hard times. Anna's only wish was to somehow get word to her parents that she and Michael were alive and well.
It was a sunny afternoon and everyone was resting during the heat of the day. They were discussing how their lives had changed over the past year and they were wondering if they would ever get off the island.
"Remember the Scripture verse, "Perfect love casteth out fear?" There have been many times when we were afraid, but God pulled us through. He is and will always be, faithful!"
"Amen!" everyone agreed.
Not far away on the sea, Greenhart stood on the deck of his ship, gazing out toward the island. He had a group of prisoners below deck and he was preparing to toss them overboard, but he noticed some smoke rising from the island. "Tom!" he called to a sailor. "Take three other men with you and check out the island. Report back to me all your findings, but do not let anyone see you!"
Two hours later the four men returned and reported that they had seen eighteen people sitting around a fire, dressed in skins. Greenhart frowned and stared at the smoke, deep in thought. A sneer slowly formed on his face. "Get the prisoners out from below and throw them overboard. We will spy on them and when they least expect it we will give them the punishment they deserve! Stupid, Christians! Won't they ever learn?"
Tom appeared beside Captain Greenhart looking pale and frightened. "What is it, Tom? Where are the prisoners?"
"They're...they're gone, sir!"
"What do you mean, gone? How could they have escaped? Find them, NOW!"
Tom hurried away, but the group of new prisoners was nowhere to be found. Only their chains and handcuffs marked the place of where they had been. Greenhart ordered all of his sailors to search the entire ship, as well as the island, but to his dismay, nobody was found. "Leave no stone unturned! Find those stinking Christians! They can't hide forever!"
All day they searched. They found the village, food and water supply, and even unfinished baskets lying around the fire, but no bodies. Finally, a frustrated and confused Greenhart ordered everyone back to the ship and sailed off, fading into the distance.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Anna sat up. Where was she? She shook her head, trying to clear it from the fog. Had it all been a dream? She opened her eyes and saw the familiar surroundings of her room. It had seemed so real! She lay back on her pillow and tried to clear her head. Her nose felt stuffy and her head ached. "Thank God it is Saturday and I won't have to miss school because of this cold." She lay thinking about her dream. What had happened to the people on the island anyway? She came to the conclusion that they had been raptured away. After she got dressed she went downstairs to the kitchen where her mother was fixing breakfast.
"Good morning, dear. You don't look too well. Are you feeling okay?"
"I'm a little stuffed up, but I'll be fine. Where's Dad?"
"He had to work today. It will be nice when he can stay home on Saturdays."
"Do you want me to help you with anything?"
"No, that's okay. Why don't you just relax and I'll call you when breakfast is ready. I am making pancakes."
"Sounds good to me," replied Anna as she headed into the family-room. She sat down and glanced at the clock. It was 7:50. She looked down at the table beside her and noticed the newspaper. A shiver ran down her spine and her hands grew cold. She had a strange feeling that this had all happened before. She knew there was only one way to find out. She picked up the paper and opened it to the last page; the article would have been on the bottom right of the last page, but it was not there. She let out a sign of relief as her mother entered the room carrying a cup of tea.
"Here you are, Anna, dear. I fixed you a cup of tea to help that little cold...why, what's wrong? Are you okay?"
"I'm all right, Mom. It's just that I had a strange dream last night and it all began with an article in the newspaper. I was relieved that I did not see it in today's paper."
"It wasn't about a new law being enforced, was it?"
Anny suddenly felt faint. "Why do you ask that?"
"I wanted to show you something. I pulled the last page out of the paper when I was reading it. It thought you should know. It's on the table in the dining room. It's entitled, "New Law to be Enforced..."
Anna felt someone touch her arm and give her a little shake. "Anna, are you okay? Please say something!" She opened her eyes and saw Philip looking down at her in concern.
"I am fine, Philip. I must have fallen asleep on the sand. It feels so good to be on solid ground." She struggled to sit up and brushed some sand off her cheek. "Brrr, it is getting cold out here." She shivered as she watched the sun setting on the horizon. A thought suddenly occurred to her. "Did everyone make it safely to shore?"
"Everyone is here. I am gathering up some wood to see if I can make a fire. Maybe someone has a match on them."
Anna grabbed Philip's hand in excitement. "I do! I have a match!"
Philip looked surprised. "You do?"
"Well, praise be to God!" he shook his head. "I just know everything will be okay. Now to find some fire wood and shelter."
Anna stood up. "Here, let me help you look. It beats sitting on the cold sand. Maybe I will warm up a bit walking around."
Others began to join them in their search as the sky grew darker. Within fifteen minutes they had a blazing fire going and they all gathered around to warm up and thank the Lord for saving them all.
The next morning everyone began to explore the island for something to eat. Some found berries, while others attempted to fish with their hands. Two of the young men took it upon themselves to climb some trees to gather coconuts, but overall, the amount of food they found did little to satisfy their hunger. On top of that, they had not found any fresh water nearby and they were quite thirsty. By the middle of the day, the teens gathered around the fire, feeling quite gloomy. They began complaining and suddenly Philip knew how Moses had felt every time the Israelites decided to moan about their circumstances.
"Listen up, everyone! Why are you all moping around? We need to continue to work if we want to survive. The Bible says if you don't work, you don't eat! I am going to assign everyone jobs and you are going to be required to follow through with them. We need to make the best of our situation, and do what can to make it through this. First thing is this fire - we need to make sure it never goes out. We only have fourteen more matches and we cannot afford to use them unless we absolutely need to. May and Liz (Liz was a seventeen year old friend of Anna's), you will keep near the fire and keep adding fuel to keep it going. Mark, Tom, and Andy, you will go and collect fire wood so the girls' stock will remain full. We also need fresh water; I once watched a movie about a man who was shipwrecked and he got fresh water by evaporating sea water. It might be our only option."
A boy named Chris spoke up. "We would need plastic or some other material to get water that way. We would also need something to collect the water in. Walter, what happened to those large turtle shells we found earlier? Those might work!"
The teen named Walter went off with Chris and they went to fill the shells with water. They lugged them to the fire and then Chris arranged some rocks in the sand as close to the fire as he could get, and lifted the shells onto the rock base. "Now I just need a bag of some sort." He frowned in thought.
Anna thought of her pocket. It was waterproof - maybe it would work! She took the rest of the contents out and handed it to Chris. "Will this work?"
Chris took it. "Maybe," he told her. "It is worth giving it a try." He pointed to the steam coming off of the water in the shells. "See the water is already evaporating. All we need to do is catch the steam and collect it in this pouch, and we will have fresh water." The others watched him do the tedious work. It took an extremely long time to collect the steam, and the sweat poured from his face, but after awhile he had a half of bag of water ready. He smiled. "Anna, I guess your little pocket does hold water. You get the first drink."
As thirsty as Anna was, she thought May needed it more than she did. "Give it to May. I will take the next drink."
"We are going to have to use something a little bigger over time. Maybe we can use some material to collect it and then wring the water into another shell. This will be my project. I will look into getting more fresh water for us."
"I will help," Walter told Chris.
Glad to see everyone was feeling better about their situation, Philip asked Anna if she could get some of the girls to find reeds to make some baskets. They had learned how in one of their art classes at school so this was a good time to put some of that knowledge to good use.
By the time the sun set that evening, every gathered around the fire to show the others what they had all found. More firewood, coconuts, and even a rabbit that some one had snared. More shells had been found, and Chris and Walter were hard at work filling them with fresh water. A few baskets had been made and filled with oysters and seaweed. As Anna ate her meager dinner of the island findings, Philip came over and sat down beside her.
"Nice basket," he commented. He picked it up and examined it closely. "Wow, this could almost hold water it is so tightly weaved."
"That is my plan," Anna told him. "If we can find some tree sap or pine pitch, we can make it hold water."
"Good idea! We seem to be on the right track for staying alive here. Tomorrow it is my plan to find a place to shelter us, or maybe even build one. We also need to make a fishing net, or some spears that we can use to catch fish."
"How long do you think we will be on this island?" Anna asked.
"I have no idea. If for some reason we get picked up again and released, then praise God! But if not, we need to be prepared for the worst. There may be storms coming and we need to have an emergency supply of food and water so if something were to happen we would be ready." He scratched his head. "I can't stop itching!"
Anna grimaced. "You might have lice." At his expression she continued, "We all could have easily picked it up on the ship. It was not pristine conditions in there, you know."
"Maybe we should all cut our hair then. You probably have it too."
"Oh no, not my hair!" Anna moaned. "I don't know if I could cut it off."
"Didn't you have scissors inside your pouch?"
She nodded with a frown.
"Go get them. It will make it easier to care for while we are here."
"As long as I still look like a girl," she told him.
All seven of the girls had their hair trimmed and then Philip cut all the guys' hair as short as he could. Anna cried when she laid down by the fire that night, unable to keep the tears from streaming down her face. Yet, the God of peace, who lived inside her heart, comforted her through the night and assured her that all would be okay. Tomorrow was a new day and He would give her the strength she needed to get through this tough trial.