The play was finished, and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was over. I could relax as the rest of the service continued. The little K5 graduates were very cute as they walked down in their red gowns. They had no idea what was going on but were excited about the award they would each get. Their smiles were contagious, infecting the entire crowd watching them.
As the names of the students were called out, my mind wandered to the drama that had just been performed. I was so proud of my students – they had done an amazing job that night, something that I’d had plenty of doubts about in the previous weeks of practice. In fact, I had almost considered canceling the entire production because it was just not getting anywhere. I had felt as if over half my class had not even attempted to put any effort into learning their lines or listen to my directions on how to act their part on stage. I acquired many new gray hairs during the last three months, thanks to the many moments of grief and frustration I experienced over my students’ behavior. I felt like we were just not connecting.
It is a teacher’s job to tie heart strings with their students. To connect with their heart. Each one learns differently. Each one has something inside that makes them tick. Something that makes them come alive and blossom. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and we need to work with both. Connecting is so important. And I felt like I was not connecting with them all through the year. There were the few easy ones who did everything that was expected, but then I had the ones who either had no choice to be in my class, or they had chosen the drama elective because they preferred that option over the other elective choice. They thought it would be fun. And it was, at first. We played games to help them be comfortable with each other, games that encouraged teamwork and cooperation and working together. We did improv, which many loved, but some hated and did not want to even put any effort into trying to think of something to say. It was blah to them.
And that’s fine. Not everyone is an actor. Not everyone was made to be on the stage, front and center. Some like being in the shadows, doing all the behind-the-scenes work. Some like to work on costumes and make-up. Some like making the sets and doing all the work of moving scenes and setting up the stage. Some like writing the play and content to be dramatized. To be honest, I would have loved to find each one’s strength in these areas, but we had a small stage, a small group, and just me. Maybe it would have been better if I had five actors on the stage and the rest doing stage work, but there was not enough room to do all this. Besides, when we did a smaller production after the first half of the year, many complained they did not get the bigger part and felt like they had wasted their time. I just could not keep everyone happy. So, I gave them each a survey after we came back to school from Christmas break. What did you like about the production? What didn’t you like? How could we improve on what we did? Do you want a big part or a small part in the next play? I wanted to hear from them and connect with them. I wanted to get it right this time.
After reading all their comments, I revisited my original play script and rewrote it to fit my entire class. It took hours to do. I wanted to make sure every single one of my students had a part in this next play, and that none of them felt left out. They were all important.
I spent each class time getting my students up in front of each other, reading scripts or doing improv. I seriously watched each one, taking notes as to who could handle the heavier roles, and who needed to keep to one line. By the time I was done, I had a part for all twenty of my students. I announced my decisions to the class the week before we got started and though some groans were made, there was a lot of excitement in the room. Most of them were excited, but some had no idea how they were going to learn their lines because they claimed they had a hard time memorizing things.
Especially Billy. He looked at me with doubt in his eyes, or maybe a bit of fear and hopelessness. “I can’t memorize very well. I won’t be able to do it.”
“Oh, come on,” I said. “You have to study for tests and quizzes, don’t you? You must be able to remember some things!”
He just grimaced at me. “I don’t think you want me in the play. I won’t be able to do it.”
“You can do it and you will. You are smarter than you think.”
He just rolled his eyes as he shook that red hair of his in disagreement.
March marched on much too quickly. We only had one hour a week to practice, and I had so much to do to get ready for this play. I began gathering up props to use during practice time, but since our main stage was used as our church platform, we did not have the freedom to practice as I would have liked to. The pianos, pulpit, choir bleachers, and four chairs took up most of the area. I decided the best thing I could do was to set up the auditorium floor with the props and backdrops haphazardly hanging from chairs to give them an idea of what it would look like and where to stand. It was not an easy task. I needed to get there a half an hour early to get everything set up, so we could have the full hour for practice. I grew a bit frustrated with this but did the best that I could do with what I had.
After April break, I requested two days for practice. This play would not be presentable if I didn’t have more time to work with my students. I had told the ones with just a few lines that they needed to have them memorized after break. Not many did, but I figured we still had time and gave them some grace.
Then April flew by, and we found ourselves in May – the month when the production was scheduled to be performed. Panic set in. How were we going to get this colossal task accomplished? I mean, Billy had not even tried to memorize his few lines yet. He and the other two boys that had a special part in the play were not even listening to me as I instructed them on how to stand, how to project their voices, how to slow down when they spoke so all could understand what they were saying…it was like I was a wall. If it wasn’t for the eye rolling, I would have thought they were not hearing me. It was as if I was hurting their pride in saying that they needed to work on their acting. Which they did…that was why there were in drama class - to learn how, right? (sigh)
It often got so loud in the room that it was impossible for me to hear the students as they were acting out their parts. The other students who were not on stage often got into trouble as they sat in the audience waiting for their part. Which meant they were late on coming in on their cues. I really wanted this class to do well. I wanted each to do their part. I was trying to so hard, but they acted as if they did not care to be in my class. Maybe it wasn’t what they had thought it would be. I hated having to blow my whistle to get their attention because they didn’t even hear my voice as I tried quieting them down.
Poor Ben. He could always tell how my class went when I came out late, after having put all the props away again after practice. My face is an open book, and I can’t hide anything.
“It went that well?” he would ask sarcastically.
“Oh, Ben, I don’t know how this play is going to come to be. These kids are not easy to work with and I can’t get through to them.”
“I know, Mom, I know. I’m at school with them all day long.”
Seeing that Joe was the main sound guy at church, I had to discuss with him the idea of microphones and sound for the play.
“How many parts in the play are there? Eight?” he asked.
“No, not eight. Twenty parts.”
He looked at me in complete shock. “Twenty? Are you crazy?”
“I had to make a part for each student, even if it was a little part.”
“Oh, boy, that isn’t going to be easy. We are going to need more mics. And I need you to make an excel sheet of all the scenes with the characters who speak at each scene. Label each song as a separate part of the scene….” He went on to explain exactly how I needed to do this. More hours of work went into dividing up each scene into parts. More microphones were ordered. He spent hours getting those microphones to work together, knowing that up to ten mics would have to be on at the same time so feedback would have to be cleared up. He was at the church until midnight a few nights working on this for me. I began to be sorry that I had given out so many parts. I wondered if it would all be worth the effort when all was said and done.
The week of the actual production arrived. The stage was cleared off and I had the go ahead to get it set up with everything I needed for the backdrops. All three major scenes were set up and I finally could work with my class on exact places for their parts. I put tape down so they would know where to stand. We worked on our songs over and over again, and I made a big poster board of each verse so they could read them from where they stood. We were ready physically, but I wasn’t so sure they were mentally ready to perform.
He still didn’t know his lines and he and his two friends were not happy with their parts.
One of them asked me, “Why do we have to die in the play?”
“Because you are one of the reasons that the main character has to do what he does. You are very important to the story line and without you the story has no meaning.”
“But we don’t want to die! Can’t we just be props on the stage, like a rock or a tree or something? We don’t want to die!”
I liked their enthusiasm. They had come a long way from the first weeks of practice, but they still needed to understand their parts were vital to the story. I wasn’t going to change anything at this point. We had already lost one of the students from my class, so we were down to 19 parts at this point. One of the other girls had picked up the lines from the one who had left so that had been an easy fix. I was not going to change anything else to please the few kids who didn’t like their part. It was going to be as planned, no questions asked.
Two days before the play we had a dress rehearsal. The other classes came in to watch and the practice went okay. Even Billy did his lines amazingly well, not even using the little book I gave him with cheat notes in it. That was a huge shock to me. He kept looking at me for approval. When practice was finished he asked, “Did I do good? How was I that time?”
“Billy, you did awesome! You really surprised me by remembering all your lines!”
He just smiled at me with that look of his as he went on his way.
We had a problem with the sound during the practices though. The mics were not cooperating and the poor students working the sound booth didn’t know how to fix the problem. After work Joe had to spend more time getting the sound just right so we could hear the characters talking, and not just feedback. The other practices went okay, but I was not feeling like it could be their best. I put the matter into the Lord’s hands.
I said, “Lord, You are the One Who gave me this story. It is not about me and the students, but about glorifying You and lifting up Your Name and what You did for us on the cross. Please work out all the details, all the sound issues, and help the students to do their best when up on that stage Thursday night…”
And He did. Though it was not perfect, and Billy did forget one line, the entire play was amazing, and I was so proud of my students. They came through and showed me that they could do it. That they had been listening and learning from me.
But best of all was the moment when Billy came up to me at the end of the service.
“Good job,” he said to me. “Can I shake your hand?”
“Oh, well, sure! You did great tonight, Billy,” I said as he shook my hand.
His friend, who was standing next to him, held out his hand too. I shook his hand too and then Billy surprised me.
“Can I give you a hug?” His eyes spoke volumes as he looked at me.
I felt tears come to mine as I nodded and gave him a hug. Suddenly, every little tear, feeling of frustration, and gray hair was worth it all for that moment of connection. I had made a difference in his life and that was all I could think about the rest of the evening. Billy had learned something very valuable, but so had I. It’s not about what we do, but the why we do it. For the sake of the children. Because it is how God wants to connect with us. Heart to heart.
Here you go, Mom! This story is for you! :)
So, this little guy somehow got his tail completely wrapped around a branch on my weeping cherry tree yesterday. It was tied like a knot and he wasn't going anywhere. All the wood chips on the ground and the bark- free limb was clear evidence he had been trying for awhile. I grabbed a glove and worked at freeing his tail to no avail. It was too tight! So, Susy grabbed my tree clippers and we clipped the branch on either side of him. With one big leap he was free and the piece of wood fell to the ground. I was happy to see him go, but sad he didn't even say thank you.
It was gusting loudly oustide my window the other morning and sleep was impossible. Forever traumatized by the Indiana storm of 2002, wind has struck a panic chord in me every time it goes above 25 mph. I lay in bed listening as the gusts grew stronger. I begged God to wrap His arms around our home and protect us. Trees surround our property and I often wonder how many storms they can endure before cracking and breaking inside. Is this the storm that is going to finally break the weakened tree and bring down even the tallest, strongest looking one?
Then something hit the house. It did not sound like something large but it was enough to get me out of bed to take a look out the window. I noticed a few small limbs on the ground, some even stuck straight into the ground from the force of their fall, but nothing too large to be concerned about. I gave a little sigh. Everything looked okay.
Suddenly I heard the loud crack. My eyes went to the woods just beyond the stream and I watched a massive tree break in the middle and come down safely in the woods between our house and the neighbor's. My heart thumped for a minute as the thud of the tree hitting the ground echoed in my head. "What if's" began to form in my mind but God stopped me. He simply whispered to me, "I brought that tree down for you. Simply so you can see that I am in control and I am taking care of you."
Tears came to my eyes. God had gotten me out of bed just so He could show me that He had us under His wing. He was there taking care of us.
Oh my heart and the peace that flooded my soul.
And it was because of a tree.
I must admit that this year has been a hard one, but in reality, ever since 2020 it has been a challenge with all the new changes to life. 2020 was the Covid year, when the whole world seemed to go topsy-turvy and threw us for a loop. Then along came 2021 (twenty-twenty won) when we were still in a bleary-eyed state of uncertainty and were wading through the mess, feeling like 2020 had beaten us.
Here we are coming to the end of 2022 (twenty-twenty two on repeat). The storms and hardships have been far more than some could take. You know that saying we have for the month of March? Depending on how the weather is the first week determines whether it goes in like a lion or like a lamb. Well, 2022 definitely came in like a lion and did not stop charging. The tough times have worn us down, possibly even weakening some of us deep inside where we can't see. Disappointments in plans; death of loved ones; sick pets we had to say goodbye to; family issues; sickness and diseases; financial difficulties as inflation went up; news of people you trusted who let you down; you name it, hardships all around. It's a rough world we live in. The devil is walking around the world like a lion seeking those whom he may devour. He wants to take our peace away so that we run to worldly means of escape. He wants us to forget about the Lamb, the One we are waiting for as the year comes to an end.
But the Lamb HAS come.
And it was because of a tree.
Jesus was born in the town of Bethlemhem, the town that raised sheep for the temple sacrifices. Jesus was a Lamb pure and holy - the Son of God. He was the only One able to lay His life down for the entire world. He was born to die.
On the old rugged tree.
A tree that brought peace.
Like that tree I watched fall to the ground yesterday.
As I wrote this blog, it all became clear how it all tied together and made the event of yesterday that much more special. God once again reached down and gave me a "kiss from heaven" showing me how much He loves me. And I'm at peace as I see the Light at the end of the tunnel of 2022. God is in control and whatever comes in 2023 I know He will be right beside me, giving me the strength to deal with whatever comes my way. He is always there, taking care of us as we continue to strive to live for Him. Amen!
Happy New Year to you all! :)
"I hope something good happens to you today."
I could not stop staring at the little words on the window of the side of the car beside me as I waited at the stoplight. It was as if the message was just for me, speaking a little whisper of hope after a terrible morning, the third day of literally a "yucky" week all around. I did not know how much more I could take of any more bad news, sickness, and other things just filling my life with craziness. The tears had poured down in anger and frustration, leaving my eyes a red mess, but I didn't care anymore. I just wanted God to step in and give me peace again. I just wanted a little kiss from heaven to know that He was still there, holding my right hand just like He promised.
That's when I saw the little sign. As I read it over and over again, a little spark of hope lit inside me. I prayed, "Please Lord, I really would like something good to happen to me today. Please Lord, I really need it." There had to still be good out there and the truth was, God was still good even though life seemed anything but good at the moment.
The lunch hour was long and my patience was thin. A little beep on my phone signaled someone had messaged me. I had a minute to stop between putting nuggets and warm-ups into the warmer for students' lunches so I checked my phone. It was from my friend in Israel, my old pen pal I had not heard from in a while. She wrote me a long message of how she was doing and all that God was doing in her life. She reminded me that God had not changed and He was still good. We could hold onto His promises and trust Him to do great things just like He did in the past. He will continue to do the same for us now. It was a message of hope and encouragement, something that made the little flame of hope inside me grow a little stronger.
Joe was home with a stomach bug and we had church that night so I decided Chinese sounded good to me. It was while I was eating I thought that I should go downstairs and find a large envelope for something I needed to bring to church with me. It was an odd thought but after dinner I went down and was sorting through the shelves when I stumbled upon something that I really needed to see - it was some old files from years ago that I had been searching for to help with some of the "issues" at hand. Again, the little flame of hope began to burn brighter and it was like God said to me, "See, I am still here, holding your hand. I heard your prayers and I am watching out for you. Child, you are mine and I will always be here beside you." That little folder set the flame ablaze again.
When I got up today I had a song in my heart. I felt the flame of hope burning once again. The morning didn't seem so terrible though things have not really changed, but God's got this. And He showed me, through the littlest things, that something good did happen to me that day - little whispers of love from heaven were given to me reassuring me that because I am His child I can trust in Him.
Hello! I am so glad you stopped by to visit me today. I created this specific blog to encourage you and help give you some peace and comfort through music. Music is very powerful. What you listen to can affect you in so many ways, both good and bad. What you need today is to fill your mind with lots of good and peaceful thoughts, and know that God is still good - He is always there, holding our hand. So, check out a few of the links below and find some of my favorite songs that always bring comfort to my heart:
That's What Grace is For
I Need Thee, Lord
He Is There
Know He Cares
Middle of My Storm
He Already Sees the Rainbow
The I of the Storm
When I Can't Speak
You Are Good
Redeemer of the Rain
God is Good
Go Down Again
There is Hope
Even in the Valley
My beautiful, fluffy, flame-point little boy.
He had been easy to name, just a few days after he was born that November morning. His little ears and nose had stayed pink while his brother's and sisters' ears and noses had turned a dark brown. We didn't know if he was a boy at the time but it seemed fitting to me no matter what he was. The name Pinky had been a family name over the years, seeing that my maiden name was Pinkham. My dad had been called Pink by my grandmother as he grew up, and my brother had been called Pinky by his friends during high school so I liked the idea of carrying on the family name.
The kittens' soft little mews melted my heart as I watched them learn to find their feet and stumble around inside the closet where their mother had made her cozy nest. Their sweet little faces would peer up at me when I would pop my head in to see how they were doing, even though they still couldn't see since their eyes were closed. We did lose one of them shortly after they had been born and I wanted to make sure the others were doing okay since I didn't want to lose another one.
It was about three weeks or so later when I started to notice something strange. I began to find little Pinky in odd places around the bedroom, far away from the nest of other kittens. They were not quite old enough to stray that far from "home" but I figured he might be the more adventurous type who wanted to see what the big world was about. I always quickly scooped him up, placing him back with the other ones. His mother, Kia, always licked him vigorously, but later on I would find him under the bed or dresser again. I grew concerned because it appeared that he was not eating. He seemed to be getting weaker by the day. I tried giving him a bottle but he refused to drink it. I decided to take him to the vet to see what was going on. They found him very dehydrated so they gave him a hydration treatment to help give him a boost. They also said he had an odd sickness that attacked his nervous system and it was affecting his brain and his ability to walk. They weren't sure if he was going to make it but they gave me a little tube of high protein gel that I could feed him, if he would take it.
He had reached a a scary point and was close to the brink of death. I was determined to do whatever I needed to do to help this little guy survive. With the extra hydration in his body, he began to feel hungry again. It did not take him long to discover that he liked the protein gel and he would quickly lick it off my hand looking for more. He also started taking a bottle and every two hours I faithfully fed him milk and gave him the gel as much as I could in between. After he had eaten I would set him either in a basket where he would curl up in a blanket or sometimes I placed him back in his nest with his brothers and sisters and he would cuddle with them. Kia never let him stay long though and it broke my heart to see her reject him. I did everything in my power to be his surrogate mother and be there when he needed me.
There was one last scary morning when I woke up to find him turning in circles near the closet door. I thought it was the end. Tears streamed down my face as I got down on my hands and knees beside him.
"Oh, Pinky," I said. "Be strong! Don't give up! Keep fighting. I want you to live!"
And live he did.
It was a very exciting day when we decided that we would keep him. Our older cat, Tiger, had not been doing very well and we knew he did not have much more time on this earth. Plus I had worked so hard to bring Pinky from the brink of death that we needed to keep him. I had connected with his heart and did not like the idea of having him leave our home. And besides, how could we sell him to someone knowing the issues he had? The lack of nourishment had caused him to lose some brain cells and he was not totally normal. He was our special kitty now. So, that night, after Joe and I had discussed the idea of keeping Pinky, Joe announced to the kids who were all tucked into bed, " We are going to keep Pinky! He gets to stay with us!"
I can still hear the cheers of excitement from the children as their feet thundered down the hall as they ran to hug Pinky in happy delight. They didn't care that he was different. He was our kitty and they loved him.
Pinky lived a great life. He was so beautiful, with those big sky blue eyes and his long, white soft-like-ermine fur. He became quite attached to Caleb, who loved carrying him around his neck like a little lamb. I am totally convinced that Pinky had some ragdoll in him because the things he let Caleb do to him confounded my mind. And if Pinky did not like something, he would complain and get mad but it only took a minute for his brain to reset and suddenly all was right in the world for him again.
Kia, his mother, was a bit confused as to why her son was still around though. She had tried over and over again to kick him out of the nest because of his sickness, yet he was still here. Even when the other healthy ones were gone, Pinky still remained in her territory. She often hissed at him, letting him know she didn't want anything to do with him, but there were times when I would find him curled up with his mother, and with Maysie, our much older cat who lived in the house too.
Some people did not like Pinky though, especially as he grew older. Like I said, he did have some strange things about him, like his love of soft pillows. It was a bit awkward at times but there were times when he was really sweet. He always slept at my feet every night and I loved seeing his little face peering out the front door when I would drive into the driveway.
Pinky was also popular at school during Caleb's high school years. The little mew that Pinky always made became a common call among the high schoolers and he was even mentioned in the valedictorian's speech during graduation. Pinky had become famous!
It was during the last year that I noticed Pinky was seeming to lose weight. He had always been thin, and oftentimes he struggled with his food, eating his dry food with his head cocked to the side as he tried to chew the hard pieces. He loved to eat the meat I was cooking during dinner, sitting near my feet so he could get some cooked chicken or hamburger that I would drop for him to snack on. He was my kitchen buddy and I enjoyed his company.
I took him for his yearly vet visit and they informed me that he had the start of kidney failure. I got a very disturbing feeling inside me that day, and I had a feeling that this would be the last time I would take him to the vet. It made me very sad to think about. They said to put him on a special cat food diet, low in phosphorous and high in protein. I tried to get him to eat it but he much preferred real meat over that canned stuff. I didn't blame him. Real meat was much better in my opinion.
I noticed that he stopped coming into the kitchen. He wasn't coming in at all anymore for any food. He did have water dishes all over the house and he constantly ran from one to the other, lapping up the water over the course of the day. He always walked away with a little drip on his chin which we called Pinky's drip lip. It was a rare thing to see his chin dry. He often cried, deep throated Siamese cries as he sat over his water. We could not figure out why he was crying and it would wrench my heart every night I heard it. I tried giving him fresh water, making it go as high in the bowl as it possibly could. As time wore on the cries grew weaker as he grew weaker. I grew desperate. He had to eat something! I tried giving him tuna water, which he sampled but didn't take much. I wanted him to fight. I wanted him to live like he had when he was a kitten. He was only twelve so he had more time, didn't he?
But we all have our time. This week we had to make that tough decision and ask ourselves if it was Pinky's time. What was the best thing for him? I didn't want to see him suffer. He was keeping more to himself now, sitting in the middle of my winter village, looking like a small snow covered mountain, with sad, cloudy eyes. He no longer came onto our bed to sleep beside me. He no longer woke Joe up at 4 am to get him up to feed him anymore. He had grown so weak that even the slightest cough knocked him over. It was very hard to watch.
Last night, Wednesday evening, I was working downstairs at my desk when I heard a noise. It was Pinky. He had come down and tried to get up on the desk but didn't have enough strength to jump up. I lifted him up and he sat close by me as I worked. I noticed he was shivering so I placed him on my lap, with the heater close by so it would warm his cold bones. He stayed for a few minutes enjoying my company then went back on the desk and sat in a basket close by. He had a foul odor coming from him and I knew he was saying goodbye. He had come down one more time to thank me for trying my best to give him the best life that he could have. He was saying it was okay to let him go. And my heart broke.
After that, he hid in our shower and then spent the night in the cat tree, curled up in a little ball. I did not think he was going to make it to see the morning, but there he was, still hanging on to one little thread of life.
Joe took him to the vet today. Everyone had said their goodbyes last night but it was not easy for Joe to make that drive. We have lost a lot of animals over the course of our marriage, but this was by far the hardest. He was the one we had connected with from the day of his birth. As I walked around collecting all his water dishes, tears poured down my cheeks. I will miss that little boy. I'll miss seeing that little gallop of his as he ran down the hall...feeling him walk over me at 4 in the morning....seeing Caleb give him walking lessons in the living room... the list goes on. But it was time. We had done our best. He wasn't suffering anymore. And he will forever be in my heart.
When you choose to take in a pet, you are choosing to love that animal forever, no matter what oddities or strange quirks they may have. It is a sacrifice of sorts, giving up yourself to love that animal friend through better or worse. And I will continue to love our kitties that we still have but I will never forget those blue eyes and that lovely face of the beauty we called Pinky.❤
My mother-in-law saw this story in the paper today! As we sit inside watching tropical storm Henri come blowing through, it's nice to know that my son's reputation and our company is getting good reviews out there. The funny thing about reading this is the fact that I had those same thoughts cross my mind when I was recently watching a video of a nest being removed. It made me feel sad. But safety first, right?
Sadness removing hornets nest
“You have a big hornets nest on that low branch of your maple tree hanging over the driveway,” my daughter Peg reported one day last week when she came to visit. She took a picture of it with her iPhone to show me and, sure enough, the nest was almost as big as a basketball. And it had been built when nobody was aware of it. Round, light grey and papery, it was a classic example of a perfect nest of its kind, and I wished that it was in a safer place so we didn’t have to deal with it.
When my sons found out about it, they said I should have someone come and remove it because hornets are vicious and unpredictable in their instinct to protect their nest. I knew I would have to get it taken care of but that nest was really an amazing creation, a true work of art built by a colony of fierce insects wanting only a safe place to bring up their young. I shouldn’t personify a nest of hornets but when you think of a queen bee setting up housekeeping with her horde of females collecting insects, caterpillars and nectar for the drones to help feed her young, it seems almost cruel to destroy the nest. If it were higher up in the tree, it might not have presented such a problem. But any truck or van coming into the driveway would probably brush against that nest and disturb the inhabitants so an unsuspecting visitor coming along next could be badly stung. Already they were buzzing just over our heads when we went out to get the mail from our mailbox.
The only thing left to do was to get someone to take down the nest.
My fearless neighbor Shelly across the street had dealt with a nest of her own when a colony of hornets built one on a branch over her pumpkin patch. She kept getting stung every time she went out to weed. She fiercely sprayed that nest, cut it down and destroyed it all by herself. She offered to come over and take down mine but I thought she was lucky that first time and I didn’t want her to risk being badly stung by my bees.
Once again I asked Wayne Daly who takes care of my lawn and shrubs to recommend someone and he said Family Pest Control of Wallingford could do the job.
Shortly after we called them, a young man named Caleb, whose grandfather had started the business which his father now runs, showed up to deal with the bees that he confirmed were bald faced (or white faced) hornets.
He donned a full bee suit, pulled down a stepladder from on top of his truck, sprayed the nest, clipped it off with loppers, and sprayed it again once it was down. He also sprayed the area where it had hung. He said any hornets flying outside the nest would return to the spot and if the nest was gone move on or ingest the spray and die.
Because I know that hornets and wasps are also pollinators, (though not as efficient as honeybees whose bodies are furrier and carry away more pollen) I felt guilty about having that nest destroyed. If it had been on a higher branch, I would have let it stay there. But low as it was, I couldn’t risk letting anyone inadvertently disturb it and get badly stung.
My neighbor Shelly, who had watched, with interest, the whole operation from her home across the street, had one thing to say about the whole process and that was “Maybe I should get a bee suit like that!”
By Phyllis Donovan (Record Journal)
Originally, the title of this blog was going to be "A Very Special Valentine" because it was back on February 14th when God revealed something that made me very emotional and overwhelmed with His love and presence. It was an experience that was simply amazing yet so hard to put into words. I am going to do my best to describe that day, which in fact was the conclusion to a very long journey. A journey that began well over twenty years ago.
I came up with the idea for the story (though the Mystery Girl had a different title back then) and wrote about half before I put it away. I got married, had my children, and dealt with all the ups and downs that life brings. It just was not time for the story to come out. Sometimes it is hard to see God's perfect plan and timing and it is so easy for us to get impatient when we do not see progress. That was me. I could not figure out why it just was not coming together. I wondered if I was even supposed to write it.
Then about six years ago I pulled out what I had written and began reworking the main idea, merging another story with it to make it more interesting. I came up with the title around that time too. It was a phrase that had a very personal meaning to me and I wanted to get an important point out to the young teens who might be struggling with the same issue of their identity in Christ. I did not get very far. In fact, after my dad passed away in 2015 I got such a horrible case of writer's block that nothing came easily. I wondered if I would ever be able to write again. I prayed for the Lord to bring inspiration again but all I got was a solid brick wall. Nothing. I thought that if I only could get even just a window, in the block, to see the light on the other side, than all would be well. Old thoughts began to haunt me around that time too. Thoughts like "maybe what you have to say isn't important anyway," or "nobody wants to hear what you have to say. You're just a nobody in this world."
You see, ever since I had been a teenager, I had dealt with insecurity in who I was. There was a lack of confidence in what I said, always hiding in the shadows hoping that I did not say or do anything to displease anyone. I did not understand the depths of love and why God would love little old me. I always had a pretty good relationship with Him growing up, making Him my own around the young age of eight. I read my Bible every day and prayed, and I can truly say it was the Lord Who helped me through all my tough teens years. (I simply do not know how teenagers get through those years without the help of the Lord.) But the one idea that kept going through my mind all those years was that I was a "mystery girl" to all those who did not know me. That term was my secret name for many years, and one day I shared my deepest thoughts with my husband. We talked it through and he gave me encouragement to share what I felt with others. He said it almost sounded like a good title for a book for teen girls and I liked his idea. I just did not know if I was ready to share it with the world or not. It was not time.
For about three or more years now, I 've been working on this book, writing a little before getting interrupted and putting it away for a while before getting the itch to write some more. The story began taking on its own form, then I would reread what I had written and find something that needed to be changed and work on that for a bit before putting it down again. It did not feel like I was getting anywhere with it. Then COVID hit, giving me time to sit down and do some writing. Finally, FINALLY, I finished it the summer of 2020, and thus began the long painful process of edits. Rereading it, making more changes, letting others read it to see if it flowed smoothly and made sense, cutting out parts that were not necessary to the story, then morphing the words to say what needed to be said. What was the hardest part was the idea that whoever read the book would be looking into my very soul, the deepest part of me that had haunted me for so many years. Did I really want that out in the open? I was still unsure about that idea.
Back in December, while we were dealing with our own issues of COVID in our home, I let Joe read the story. I wanted him to truly know that part of me and understand my heart. I think he took away a lot more than I ever imagined when he read what I had written. It was like something clicked inside of him and God began moving through him to show me love. Real, true love. Now, we have always had a good marriage. We always said, "I love you," and we have had a close relationship. I can count on one hand the few arguments we have had over almost 22 years of marriage. So, it was with great surprise that as the new year began he started to do some writing of his own and what came of it became something very special. It was a gift for my birthday. He wrote a little story entitled, "Cara's Five Perfect Days." I did not know what to expect but when I began reading, the tears poured down my face. It was only five chapters long, but I could only read one chapter at a time so what he wrote could settle into my head. In the last chapter Joe wrote about a scene where God reveals Himself to me as a loving Father. It truly was a gift of love. And as my book was completed around the same time, I found that in the process of writing my heart had begun to heal. I found the true meaning of love through Joe's gift and suddenly I understood how God truly viewed me and loved me.
So, that Valentine's Day, I was up in Vermont, visiting my mother. It was just Joe and I who had gone up and we had a very quiet weekend, catching up and enjoying our visit together. I went into the shower that Sunday morning to prepare for the day and that was when God revealed Himself. It was in the very same shower where I had shed tears of uncertainty and frustration as a teenager. His voice, though not audible, was heard loud and clear.
"This was where it all started and this is where it ends. You are no longer the mystery girl. You are my daughter, and I am your Father. And I love you."
I stood there with the water running over me, overwhelmed at the very thought that God had just revealed to me. It was like I was wrapped in a warm hug as peace and reassurance washed over me. And just like that I knew that I was healed. Because of my book. Because of God's timing. Because of Joe's expression of love. But most of all, because of God.
Overwhelmed. Loved. I am loved. There may be hard times just around the corner. There may be trials, struggles, and hardships, and yes, even times when I may feel distant from the Lord again, but I want to remember that day. That moment. The feeling that God, my Father, loves ME! I am a daughter of the King and I am not a mystery. He knows me. He knows my heart. And still loves me. That is the message I want to share with all the teen girls out there. Well, with all the women out there who share the same struggle. Maybe even some young men (and older men) who may struggle with where they stand with the Lord too. If I was 45 when my eyes were opened, then I'm sure there are others out there who need to hear it too. And I must say, my love for the Lord and for my husband is deeper than it ever was and my journey is only beginning.
"Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." Jeremiah 31:3
Today is Thanksgiving. And so that is what I'm going to do. I truly have a lot to be thankful for. This year has had its many negatives but I do believe the positives win. So, today, I am thankful for....
-Peace in knowing I am saved, going to heaven, and that God keeps holding onto my hand.
- For our litter of kittens. We didn't think Mocha would ever have any but she finally did. The litter of five was born on my birthday...the best gift ever! We did lose little Murphy after a week long fight to keep him alive, but we had four strong, healthy kittens. We ended up keeping two. The other two went to live with Grammy and Grampy, who are getting great enjoyment and lots of smiles out of the mischievous boys.
-For our quarantine time. It was really nice when life slowed down. I was able to catch up on projects and be with the family. We grew very close and I loved every minute.
-For another graduate in our home. Alaina finished her 12th year at Heritage at 17 years old, and even though it was a tiny ceremony, it's exactly what she wanted. She began online college courses and is hoping to get into the Vet Tech program next year.
-For the amazing year we had with our pest control business. Last year at this time we were looking to sell because the year had been so bad. But even in the midst of corona, God blessed the work that came in above and beyond what we've ever had before.
-For our new car. Our Honda Pilot died in the middle of corona quarantine. I loved that car, but the timing could not have been better. We did not need such a big vehicle with everyone home. We did have a back- up vehicle until August, then God allowed us to get a 2017 Toyota Rav. It's the newest car I've ever had!
-For the opportunity to attend my best friend's wedding. What a joy it was to witness the long awaited answer to prayer for my friend Rachel. God brought her a husband after 20 plus years of praying for one. (This was the year!) Oh, the joy!
-For my new job as lunch lady at Heritage. I am enjoying the children, especially the little ones, and their funny comments. They love looking for Curly, Larry, and Herbert, the little creatures that "hide" in the lunchroom every day. The children's smiles and hellos brighten my day. And I love to be in the kitchen so it's a win-win situation.
I'm know I could list more but I wanted to post a poem I wrote a couple weeks ago. No matter what is going on in our world, there is always beauty to find, and God's hand is everywhere you turn. He is still in control. And that is what I'm thankful for the most:
After all the unrest
From the news of the weeks,
I went for a long, long walk.
Once in the fresh air,
My mind started to clear,
And all seemed right in the world.
The birds still sang their sweet happy songs,
The flowers still bloomed in the sun.
The bright yellow leaves
That still clung to the trees,
Waved gently to me in the breeze.
It was then that the Lord began speaking,
With that quiet small voice I know well:
"I am here, My child,
Do not be dismayed,
Of the way life seems to be going.
For I know the game man is playing.
The pieces are shifted around.
It may seem all is lost,
At such a great cost,
But My hand is still on the board.
Nothing goes on
Without my consent,
As it was from the beginning of time.
And since Adam and Eve
Chose sin over me,
Now all men must choose their side.
Yet, no matter what happens,
I'm still in control.
Do not let your heart fill with fear.
I'm still holding your hand,
You're still safe in my care."
And all seemed right in the world.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
The other day I was talking to my friend on the phone, catching up on the latest news about her job, her new home, and her new husband. We had a great conversation reminiscing about her wedding and then I found myself saying something very odd. I told her, "My scar is healing up quite nicely." Suddenly a thought occurred to me. "I know this may sound strange, but to be honest, I'm kind of proud of my scars."
She was puzzled and gave a little laugh. "Proud of them?"
I had to explain. "Yes, because it reminds me of an amazing day. Your wedding day. A long awaited answer to prayer. It was a day that was so beautiful and happy. Plus, it reminds me of how loving and merciful our Lord is. The incident could have been a lot worse..."
The incident I'm talking about is something that occurred on one of the best days I have seen in 2020. It has certainly been a roller coaster of a year. Too many things have happened that I would never care to see again in any other year. But seeing my best friend marry her soulmate this past August brought great joy to my heart.
The day dawned beautiful and sunny. Rae was beaming with happiness when I walked into the room and greeted her as she was getting her hair curled and pinned up. Her white dress hung from the light fixture nearby, a picture of purity and innocence, a long awaited dream that was finally coming true. We had only been 13 and 15 years old when we had first become pen pals. A man from my church had somehow gotten her address while visiting her church and asked me if I would care to write this young girl who needed a friend. I needed a friend too. We had both prayed for somebody to come into our lives, never imagining that a friendship of such long distance would work out so well. But God knew. Never underestimate what He can do. And how He is going to do it. His ways are never our ways.
In 1998 I married Joe, and Rae was one of my bridesmaids. Though she was happy for me, it hurt her to see me get married when she had no prospects in sight. It did hurt our friendship a bit as we both had very different lives after that. As my children came one after the other, she still had nobody on the horizon. For twenty-two years she watched me live a happily married life, even attending my daughter Alaina's birth in 2002. It was an amazing time for her, but still that ache in her heart put a little wall up between us. It was hard for her to relate to circumstances I told her about. It just made her want to get married all the more.
Fast forward to the end of 2019. She sent me a text about a gentleman she had met. She was not sure about what the future held for her and him, but there was something different about this guy. I could tell by her texts. I read between the lines. I had been praying for years with her, believing the Lord would bring someone special to her. Each year I would say, "Lord, let this be the year. Please let Rae find her soulmate!" Hope sprang up in my heart when her texts became more in depth about him. I heard the change in her voice, and in my heart I knew it was for real this time. My prayer changed to the plea, "Lord, please don't let this man break her heart! She has been through so much heartbreak already. Please don't let him hurt my friend!"
By the end of February, it was official. They were engaged. And very happy. An August wedding was set and wedding preparations began to unfold. She asked me to be her matron of honor. It brought tears to my eyes to think that it would be my turn to be by the side of my best friend as she said her long awaited wedding vows. As I looked into the specifics of what I was to do as her matron of honor, I found it was my job to put together a bridal shower. How was I going to do that being 14 hours away from her? I decided to ask Joe. Not my Joe, but her Joe. Isn't it funny that God decided to give her a Joe too? We have so much in common, being we both play the flute, love to write, love to read, etc, and now we have husbands with the same name. And the same sense of humor. Imagine that!
So, Joe (and Rae's mom and dad, as well as the two other bridesmaids) helped me put together a wonderful surprise shower for her and we pulled it off, completely giving her the surprise of her life. It had been years since we had seen each other, so to see her three good friends, two from the East Coast, standing there in front of her was a shock. The look on her face was priceless! It was a day we will never forget.
Fast forward to August 29th. The day dawned beautiful and sunny. Rae was beaming with happiness when I walked into the room and greeted her....oh wait, I said that already. It was worth repeating. My best friend was getting married! Oh, what an answer to prayer! The entire day was filled with answers to prayer. It was one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever attended. I won't go into all the details of the entire day but the joy and happiness of the bride and groom was a sight to behold. It all ended too fast and soon the two were getting ready to walk through a sparkler line where they would climb into a horse drawn carriage and leave for their honeymoon. I had my phone camera on and was handed a couple of sparklers. I held the phone up to capture their walk through and then it happened. Somehow the sparkler I was holding broke. Now, I was wearing quite a high necked dress so it really puzzles me as how this all happened, but the burning sparkler piece fell onto my neck, and down the front of my dress. Meanwhile, I still had the camera on, though all you can see is the grass. You hear a gasp, then, "Joe! It fell down my dress!"
I glanced down and saw the chiffon at the bottom of my dress beginning to light up. All I could think of was the fact that I was going to be engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds. Joe thought so too. He quickly snuffed out the flame on the skirt part, then without even hesitating, reached into my dress and pulled out the burning piece of sparkler. You may smirk, but he did it with such rapid speed and unconcern for burning himself that he is my hero. He told me later that he would know when he found it by feeling the burn. I wish I could say I enjoyed watching the newlyweds leave in their carriage but the pain set in after that. I took off across the field, up over the hill, and hurried to the pavilion where they were packing up all the food from the reception.
"I need ice! Do you have any available?" I asked as soon as I got there. I had left Joe in the dust as I had raced for relief. Upon hearing what had happened, the ladies quickly gave me a bag of ice that instantly took away my pain, as long as I kept the cold pack on the burns. Then I remembered that I had tea tree oil in my car. The roller kind that would be easy to rubbed over the burns. I quickly asked Joe to unlock the car. I spread the oil all over my burns and then put the ice back on. I sent a text to the other bridesmaids telling them what happened, not realizing that Rae was part of the group chat too. I did not mean to worry her like that. I did not want to spoil her wedding day with the news that I had been hurt. But she quickly responded, telling me that she and Joe were praying for me. As did the other bridesmaids. And within two hours of the incident the pain was totally gone. It did not look pretty, but that would heal in time.
It has been a month and a half since that day now, and my scars have faded. The biggest one is just a little white spot under my collar bone. But that scar serves to remind me of many things: it reminds me of answered prayer - our timing is not God's timing. His ways are perfect. He will provide above and beyond what we can even think or imagine. It also reminds me of that wonderful day when my sweet friend Rae said her vows and became one with her long awaited husband. It reminds me that God works out every detail, right down to even the smallest one, like having me put the tea tree oil in my purse so I would have it for that very moment. And it reminds me that the incident could have been so much worse - I could have gone up in flames and burnt more of my body then just a little part of my neck and chest but He was so merciful to me. And for that very reason I can say that I'm proud of the scars He gave me as a reminder that God is always good. And God is always right. But last of all, I am thankful and proud for the scars He took for me on the cross so that I could become a daughter of the king. He is an amazing Father, isn't He?