Day 20 – 30 Days of Thanks

Wow – two thirds of my thirty-day journey are past – it’s hard to believe! So today I’ll take the time to highlight five things that didn’t get mentioned yet, though there may have been days I wanted to. (I tend to go on and on and on, so it’s good for me to have that limited list of five each day.

5 things of thanks from various times – today or last week or last month, finally having their moment of recognition:

1. finishing a really good book – even if it makes me cry. I just finished The Book Thief   last week, and I wept at the end, but this was okay.

2. Mackinac Island – We had never been to Macinac Island before, the spot where my parents celebrated their honeymoon 49 years ago, so it was fun to visit for our 20th anniversary! Very beautiful, and “quaint” was the most accurate descriptor we could pinpoint. 🙂

3. scones – fresh ones made by my loving sister-in-law – yum!

4. extroverts and introverts –  Being more of an introvert myself, I am so thankful of the spectrum of personas that populate our lovely world!

5. electric lights –  This is so something that I take for granted daily; I appreciate the ability to light up a room with the flick of a switch! I know that those switches don’t magically cause the luminescence to emerge, but talented electricians have strung rubber-coated copper wires to complete a circuit and send a signal to a glass-enclosed bulb of some sort… rather cool, I must say.

Day 19 – 30 Days of Thanks

On a lovely, packed day like today, it can be hard to narrow down a list of any kind, but I’ll give it a try. 🙂 So here is my attempt:

5 things of thanks today!

1. reliable transportation – when our family travels even a short distance, we continue to be blessed by a family minivan that gets us where we need to go… not to mention the driver! (a rather dashing fellow, if I do say so myself…)

2. audio books – particularly ones with talented readers! Our family has particularly enjoyed Harry Potter series, as read by Jim Dale. He does such a wonderful job portraying each of the character voices! 

3. fresh rhubarb pie – my brother lifts his nose and calls it “celery pie,” but I still find that there’s nothing quite like this special treat. Add a scoop of ice cream, and I’ll sometimes choose this rather than chocolate cake. Really!

4. watching the magic of crochet – I remain amazed that what starts as one large skein of yarn at 7:30 in the morning can be a sweater before 11. Em, you’re awesome!

5. adult siblings and their spouses – If you’d told me thirty years ago that I would love and appreciate my brothers, their wives and children this much, I’m sure an eye roll have been part of the response… and perhaps a bit of disbelief. But as time moves on, I certainly appreciate family all-the-more! (Even when they fail to appreciate good pie.)



Reasons we don’t always see

My parents are a part of an amazing adventure right now!  The fact that their group of fifteen was able to fly to Brazil Tuesday afternoon, though, almost didn’t happen.  To explain, I’ll have to turn the clock back a few months…

Last fall, the trip’s planners were getting the trip rolling.  What exactly was the purpose of the said trip?  A boat would travel down the Amazon River, stopping at villages along the way to offer medical and dental care to people who live in these remote areas.  And for these individuals, this boat, with examining rooms and volunteers on board, is likely the only care of this kind they ever receive.  This is a wonderful ministry, and Dad and Mom were excited to help encourage others to be a part of this group, as they had a wonderful experience here in Brazil two years ago.  But the biggest problem with sign-ups?  …This thing called a recession, with economic uncertainty plaguing society, placed more limits on availability of individuals who might otherwise be interested in this type of opportunity.

Ultimately, enough people, some from other areas, did sign up, get passports, receive immunizations, and apply for visas.  (And of course, they all prayed!!)  Next came the plane tickets: the travel agent was asked to schedule tickets from Indianapolis for Monday, February 22.  But once all of the tickets and plans came back through the travel agent, it was discovered that the tickets were booked – and purchased – for Tuesday, February 23.  It was too late to change the tickets, and this simply meant there was one less day the group would be in South America, one less day to prepare once they were there… it was a little frustrating, but it was just the way it would be.  And that was actually nothing compared to what was coming…

The visas.  My daughters have learned that “visa” is not just a credit card brand, but this is as important as a passport for entering some countries, as the country has to give its permission for you to come (a ticket of sorts from their country, not just one from ours).  The visa applications were submitted when they were supposed to be, and two of the group members received theirs by early January.  Then the other thirteen were denied – they needed to fill out one more paper to answer more questions before receiving government approval.  I don’t really understand what the problem was, but the group members paid necessary fees again and resubmitted the necessary information, then they waited.  And waited.  And waited.  They called the numbers they could, talked to individuals they could, visited the necessary website to check on the progress… and finally, on Thursday, February 18 they found out that the visas had been approved!  They were scheduled to be sent the next day.  <whew!>  But… on Saturday, they weren’t yet there, they were to have been sent overnight mail, but Monday, they still weren’t here. 

Then finally, at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, February 23, the visas arrived!!!  At least twelve of them arrived.  Where was number thirteen??  It had been sent with the others… and this time, it was the US Postal Service that took the blame.  Visa number 13 had been mistakenly mailed to Ohio rather than Indiana.  So here is where I give credit to the USPS – somebody from Dayton, Ohio drove the visa to Richmond, Indiana, where the next relay member delivered the special package to the airport in Indianapolis.  So all fifteen group members had their passports and visas and luggage and plane tickets… at just the right time.  Now remember the plans for the Monday tickets?  I have to think that God had the travel agent order tickets for Tuesday… if she had followed the initial instructions, the group would not have been able to go.

This reminded me a tiny bit of November, when T.R. and I were traveling to a retreat at a camp in Michigan.  I was dealing with a cough that was growing worse, but I hadn’t packed extra cough drops, and I knew the few I had wouldn’t last more than a day.  So as we neared the camp, we stopped at a gas station and purchased a pack of Hall’s.  Then we were back on the road, but there was a sudden stop… traffic was backed up quite a bit.  We found that there had been an accident – it had involved a large truck, and the other car was basically totaled.  We saw at least one ambulance pass as we made it to our destination.  If we hadn’t stopped to get cough drops, that car could have been ours… a sobering thought.

I have one more story, this one again about my wonderful parents.  Dad is a doctor and Mom a nurse, so in late October, they had gone to Haiti with FAME (Fellowship of Associates of Medical Evangelism) to work at a clinic where they had been before.  When traveling with FAME, they filled a number of pieces of luggage with donated medication: vitamins, pain relief medications, antibiotics and the like, enough to help stock the clinic for several weeks.  This time, the group brought more medication than usual – the leader at the clinic in Haiti was surprised when they left so much behind – that were twice as many antibiotics as those usually brought by the team!  …they didn’t see themselves needing that much in the weeks to come, but they were sure it could be put to use.  I don’t need to say much more here… we know why God helped those extra antibiotics to travel to Haiti.  When the capital city of Port-au-Prince was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake on January 12, this clinic was still standing… and for at least a bit of time, they had much-needed antibiotics.   The clinic, in fact, was near enough to the quake site that it ended up being a major medical support site for earthquake victims.

I’m telling these three stores as a reminder: sometimes, things that seem like small annoyances or unnecessary burdens actually have a bigger purpose than we might imagine.  A seemingly incorrect ticket could be just what you needed, and a little voice that tells you to go ahead and stop for cough drops might have another bigger purpose.  Or packing that extra bit of something… well, there could be a reason a little voice told you to stick those in.  So often, we don’t see the story behind the story, but isn’t it nice to see these small examples of how God can work?  If I was more tuned in to hear His voice, I sometimes wonder how much more He could do.  But how much is He already doing that I don’t even recognize?  A staggering thought…

Anne’s anniversary – a year later

Exactly one year ago today, I got to visit Green Gables, Prince Edward Island. We went with a group of more than 30 on Lightrider, a double-decker bus, and what an experience this was! I have to include a couple of photos, of course, and I will also follow with a post about Anne from my former blog. There is a lot I can learn from the life of fictional Anne and her very real author, Lucy Maud Montgomery.

The entry below was first published on January 10, 2008.

100 years later, and still sparkling

Prince Edward Island will host centennial celebrations this year for Anne‘s publication. I’m not sure why, but the authors I’ve grown to love are all people with “invisible issues” of their own. As I wrote a few months ago, Madeleine L’Engle’s most well-known and awarded book, A Wrinkle in Time, was rejected by publishers eight times before it was put aside to collect dust (until it was resurrected by another interested publisher). It is hard to believe that one of the most celebrated and well-known books of a century ago had a similar history. Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was handwritten then typed on her “old second-hand typewriter that never makes the capitals plain and won’t print ‘w’ at all” (from volume 1 of Montgomery’s selected journals). Ms. Montgomery had several short stories and poems published before that time, but this was her first full-length book, so Maud, as she went by, decided the manuscript must not be worthwhile. And she put it aside.

What would lead her to do this? And why was such a bright young lady using a secondhand typewriter with some letters that wouldn’t work? Despite the cheery disposition of many of her characters, Maud did not live a charmed life by any means. Much like her beloved character, her mother died when Maud was very young. Unlike Anne, Maud did have a father still living, a father who went across the country to make a new life and later settle in Saskatchewan. Lucy Maud stayed on Prince Edward Island, where she lived with her mother’s parents, her Grandma Lucy and Grandfather Alexander Macneill. She lived near and grew to love her cousins, one of the families living at a house called “Green Gables,” but L. M. Montgomery is described on page 17 of Annotated Anne of Green Gables as fine physically, but “emotionally starved.” And a century ago, Maud’s relatives’ views were not unusual. She was a female, her parents weren’t here, and a girl – or young lady – was not expected to need, accomplish or become much of anything. So it was that her grandfather, who passed away when Maud was in her early 20’s, left nothing in his will to his wife or granddaughter, but to the males of the family. Then ten years later, in 1908, something happened that would have surprised her grandfather: her first book was published. In fact, Anne of Green Gables was so popular that it went through thirty-two printings in the first five years. Unlike many other books, it has not gone out of print after a hundred years.

The character Anne herself lived the first part of her life filled with issues that weren’t even “invisible.” Orphaned as an infant, Anne spent her growing years either in an orphanage or in homes as a servant of sorts. She went to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert when the brother and sister had sent for a boy orphan, one who could help on the farm. Then came Anne. She wasn’t a boy, and thus wasn’t really wanted, much like Maud felt through her growing years. It became apparent, though, that Anne, much like her author, had much to offer the world. Some of those special gifts were ones she had cultivated during life’s struggles.

So a hundred years have passed… and who would have thought that little dreamer Maud would bring to the printed page one of literature’s most beloved heroines? Anne is known and loved in Canada, America, and in nations around the world. If you go to Prince Edward Island, you’ll likely see as many tourists from Japan as America. This book has been translated into 36 languages, and people are just as enthusiastic about is as they were when it was first published, if not more so. In fact, one exciting thing about 2008 is that there will be special celebrations this summer, marking the centennial of Anne’s publication. (In fact, a bus tour with Lightrider will embark to PEI for eight days in June. There are a few spaces left, and I can get information for you if you’re interested!)

As she read reviews of her work in 1908, Maud wrote, as can be seen in her first volume of published journals, “…Thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work. I would not wish to darken any other life—I want instead to be a messenger of optimism….” Though her life held further shadows, I am thankful that Lucy Maud Montgomery was able to rise above those to share this message of optimism. Both through her life and her writing, Lucy Maud Montgomery left a sparkle in this world that is well worth celebrating!

So we did return from my “dream trip” to PEI, and it is fun to reflect back on that special time we had. It was neat to see Maud’s community, to see the legacy that remains in the spirit of the island. I will share other thoughts in days to come – and if you have any questions about our trip, I will warn you that once I start sharing about something dear to my heart, it can be hard to put on the brakes. 😉