THE PARABLE OF THE SQUIRREL AND A PUMPKIN

My day off began with the usual domestic duties….cooking, laundry, cleaning, tidying. 

Because nothing takes the place of fresh pumpkin I decided to cook one in preparation for all of the upcoming holiday goodies…pumpkin scones, pumpkin pie and pumpkin-squash soup.  


Feeling both resourceful and generous towards the animal kingdom this cold snowy morning, I took the butt of the pumpkin with all of the seeds and other stuff not really conducive to human consumption, and placed the two halves face up in the back yard.

It wasn’t long until the unfolding drama caught my attention. A very plump squirrel was happily marking his territory—those two pumpkin halves. He feasted like it was the finest! Curiosity got the better of me and in my attempts at capturing him on camera, I was taken with his persistence, not to mention his selfishness. Just as keenly as he guarded himself from “human” scent, he also with a vigilance and aggression, guarded his provision. Each time another squirrel would attempt to close in to partake in the feast of goodness, he would lunge as if to say, “back off, this is mine, all mine”.  Feasting like royalty, he had no intentions on sharing the bounty.

I found myself both entertained and somewhat saddened by this little exchange.  In a strange sort of way I saw a picture of the church and God’s goodness. What is the correlation you ask? 


So often as Christians we partake in the feast set before us….through blessings and circumstance, through great teaching that is right and true, through favor poured out, peace and joy unspeakable….we guard it and mark it as our very own.
The world watches, and in their attempts to get close, we push them away. We guard “our turf” because it’s safe and good and right.  Sharing might leave us lacking or doing without.

Luke 6:38 says, Give away your life, you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. (The Message Translation).

Going about my day, I soon forgot about the squirrel and his pumpkin, only to later discover an even greater act of drama. Mr. Squirrel had finally succeeded in getting rid of the “other” squirrels only to take on 2 new and bigger opponents. Not for one minute did he drop his guard. He scurried and lunged back and forth between 2 very large crows, and never once did he relent. The

battle got intense but finally, the crows were gone and he had succeeded in guarding his turf and keeping it all to himself. 


Yes, I am fully aware that God created animals with survival and protective instincts.  But, as I witnessed what seemed a trivial animal kingdom drama on this wintry morning, I couldn’t help but reflect on the goodness of God, all that I have to be thankful for, and how I can become better at sharing His Goodness with others.
I was never really able to capture the full extent of the drama on camera, but to see 2 squirrels and 2 crows feasting together on a pumpkin in my yard on a cold snowy November morning, would have been a “Kodak Moment” for sure. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the moments in my life that are “Kodak” worthy (and yes, even the ones that aren’t).  May I strive to spread the wealth, share the feast, and indeed, be generous with life and all of its goodness. 

Crystal 

Galleries, Museums, And Other Valuable Treasures


As I walked thru the exhibits of one of the newest and finest galleries in Washington DC,

I was solemnly REMINDED, and warmly invited to REDISCOVER:
It’s presence is all around us! 
It’s truths are hidden in plain sight and even found in the most unexpected places! 
No other book in history has had a greater impact!
The most widely published book ever!
Read by people in thousands of languages all over the world!
IT.  IS.  THE.  BIBLE! 


Yes, the impact of the bible still resonates throughout American culture.  It’s influence is deeply rooted in EVERY facet of our society as well as in the quiet habits of everyday life for many Americans.  How it has been written, preserved and translated thru the ages is powerfully sacred and awe-inspiring. 

stations of the cross
Equally fitting to this incredible experience:  https://www.museumofthebible.org/   is the fact I could share it with friends who have had incredible impact on my life and the life of my family. Their influence has deeply affected the habits of everyday life.  How our stories of friendship have been written, preserved and translated thru every distant mile and every changing season is a rare find, a precious jewel, but certainly no surprise… at the very center has been and still is, the sharing of God’s Word Together! 

standing by the Sea Of Galilee
sitting under an olive tree
The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true, they are righteous altogether;
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
JPS Tanakh 1917
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 NASV

“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” – Proverbs 27:9



Today, I pray that your life exhibits a gallery filled with Treasured Friends, walking together in the beauty, the grace and the redemption of God’s Word.  There is nothing Greater!

Crystal 

The Value Of Today Is The Music In Tomorrow’s Song

Although this season of my life is no longer defined by one school year ending or another school year beginning,  I wrote this in 2006, during a season when it was.


*****
As the carefree days of summer fade, I look ahead with anticipation to the more structured schedules of school days.  There are preparations and plans to be carried out. There are hopes and dreams to be fulfilled!  I cherish this moment of solitude to ponder the value in a day.   
Thru all of the summertime amenities we’ve enjoyed this year, it is the sweet simplicity of two days in particular, that I especially hold dear.      

Today we’ve taken a road trip, visiting friends of yesteryear, celebrating newborn babies and having lunch with “the aunts and grandma”.  Driving down the road, my 13-year-old daughter and I exchange the quiet hum of the air-conditioned car and every hair in place for open windows, tousled hair, and loud music. Not many words exchanged, we occasionally chatted or laughed, but mostly we sang.  We enjoyed the music and were thankful in  “just being together”.

With our favorite teams and high fives, my 10-year-old son and I spent the day at the ballpark, complete with highlights and statistics. Not many words exchanged, we occasionally chatted and laughed, but mostly we cheered as the fans roared.  A different kind of song, a different kind of music today, yet so much the same… enjoying the game and thankful in “just being together”.

Sometimes the value in a day seems ordinary, even undefined for the moment.  It isn’t always ushered in with grand pomp and circumstance. Oft times it is quite the contrary.   As I settle in for a good nights sleep, (after both of these days) I am deeply assured, the simplicity and the value in these days extend thru all of life, and rest quietly in the music of tomorrow’s song.  



*****
In the blink of an eye 12 years have come and gone and 
 I am joyfully and with gratitude, living in the music of tomorrow’s song (as far as a raising a young family goes anyway).  The time, the investment, the “just being together”, teaching, admonishing, and that song in my heart is reaping dividends greater than I could’ve ever imagined. 
There is something for all of us in understanding the value of a day, everyday!  Maybe you aren’t living tomorrow’s song just yet, but be grateful for every moment! See the value in time spent together no matter how simple.  Even when the seasons look different or a day seems undefined, cherish it deeply.  

I love how Paul, the writer of Colossians admonishes us, 

 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. — Colossians 3:16 

Make today count! Spend time together! Let the fragrance of thankful worship surround you.  There’s always music waiting to be heard in tomorrows song.  


Crystal

WALKING IN FREEDOM

Getting up long before the heat of the day makes its presence known, I head out the door for an early morning walk.  It’s a walk I’ve taken a hundred times before, but today…Today is different!  There is no agenda, there are no fitness goals to reach and no schedule to keep.  It is simply a morning devoted to stepping away from the routine and the noise of a busy life, quieting my heart and remembering to give thanks for the FREEDOMS I have, both as an American and as a Believer.      

For you were called to freedom, brothers.   Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.   Galatians 5:13 ESV 
At the foundation of our great nation, I see Galatians 5:13 lived out. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence served with love by pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to one another.

I am especially grateful today, to all the men and women in uniform who continue devoting their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to keeping our nation free.  It is thru that freedom, I can make the choice….to shut off life’s noise for this moment in time, to walk thru my neighborhood and see the goodness of humanity all around… free people, serving one another in love.
A young mother walking her sleeping baby, 
Two grown sons helping their ageing father with yard work,
A seasoned veteran, gently and without fear, sweeping his driveway,
An athletic dad jogging (in flag shorts) behind his toddler’s stroller,  
Two brothers working together, tearing out and rebuilding a cement porch,
A stranger watering her yard and taking time to greet me with joy,
and, lots of beautiful flowers and flags and porches at every turn, that beg, “come and sit awhile”, this is the land of the free.
Psalm 33:12 says Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage.  
My heart is filled up this July 4, 2018.  May we as a free people 
 always remember
to give thanks…
and cling to the one who offers freedom, everlasting.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36
WALKING IN FREEDOM
                   

FOCUSING THE LENS

I admit it!  I’m somewhat of a photo junkie.  Taking pictures has been a hobby  (an obsession) for as long as I can remember.  The evidence is everywhere!  In my prized collection of scrapbooks, in boxes and boxes of prints (from way before the digital age), and NOW in files and files of electronically organized photos… each good (and not so good picture) tells a story!

Capturing each moment along the way has brought me great joy!  The art and science of photography (and sometimes even a little irritation from my teenage subjects), has been a great way to mark the past, the present, and yes, even the future.

My husband and (now) adult children, (those once slightly irritated teens) have come to fully appreciate my picture taking habits.  Recently, (for Mother’s Day) they gifted me a brand new camera.  I’ve gotten some great shots over the years with simple cameras, and I love my iPhone camera, but this one is a “fancy one”,  loaded with lots of settings and lens options.   It’s been fun experimenting, learning new techniques and angles and lighting features… all for the sake of capturing the moment…with creativity…quality…and you know, “THE PERFECT SHOT” 


Interestingly, as I expand my lens on photography, I am learning it isn’t just about a hobby, it’s becoming a daily reminder to expand my lens on life (my perspective if you will),  allowing me to push beyond my narrow borders—both physically and spiritually, to sit (or stand) in awesome wonder!  To consider, ALL Thy Hands have made. To take in, ALL of His creation.

I am reminded of the English merchant and a renowned poet who stood watching the sun come up out of the sea.  The bright yellow disk of the sun emerged, gilding the water and painting the sky with a thousand colors.   “Ah! I see gold!” the merchant said.  The poet answered, “I see the glory of God! And I hear a multitude of the heavenly host crying, “the whole earth is full of His glory.”

one of my favorites- Wrightsville Bridge


There is a myriad of people, places and things I am already planning to capture through my “Canon Lens”,  but what about the lens of a busy life, filled with noise that I sometimes have to sift thru? What about the circumstances where I struggle to see the beauty,  the desperate needs in the lives of so many, overwhelming me at every corner?

Whether it be photography, some other form of creative interest, or just plain ole’ good intention and discipline…

Let us push back the narrow borders of our individual worlds, let us refocus our lens.  Through the BEAUTY and the BROKEN,  let us take in the WHOLE creation of God.

IN THE EVERY DAY, SEE HIS GLORY! 


Thou art worthy,  Lord to receive glory and honour and power; 
for thou has created all things.
  
Revelation 4:11 

Taken in Alaska in 2016
A recent favorite…not taken by me, of course 🙂  
Hadassah sending Uncle Matt graduation well wishes

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World

    My two-year-old daughter toddled down the ramp.   Boarding the plane to grandma’s house (with stuffed animal in hand), she enthusiastically exclaimed….”it’s the greatest adventure!”
(her independent, risk-taking spirit was already evident at the age of 2)

Sarah (3) and My mom in 1996 

Since that day, there’s been a lot of great adventures!  Now, so many years later, she’s on another “great adventure.”  One that will last the rest of her existence…Motherhood.

In a 19th century poem, What Rules The World, penned by poet William Ross Wallas, he praises motherhood as the preeminent force for change in the world.  From his writing has come a famous saying that goes like this.   


“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” 
  
Talk to any mama, whether her children are grown up and gone or she’s just starting out, the assignment of motherhood can at times seem monotonous, demanding, unglamorous, exhausting, isolating,  thankless and overwhelming…  i.e., far from ruling the world.  

But in time, sleepless nights give way to first steps, and all too soon, our babies are riding a bike, then learning to drive.  Thru the never-ending mountains of laundry, grade school, high school and college, the years pass by.   

Mother’s Day is a special time to celebrate moms, everywhere.  But, it’s also about celebrating the great adventures, influenced by mom, along the way.
  
Think about it, every day you have influences in your life, I have influences in my life, our children have influences in their lives, 
BUT NONE….so profoundly influence like MOM!


Hadassah and Sarah – Mother’s Day 2018


The Shaping

        The Loving
              The Forgiving
The Teaching
       The Praying
              The Playing
The Cheering
       The Believing
              The Guiding
The Saying I’m Sorry
The Late Night Talking
The Caring
       The Holding
              The Laughing
The Commitment,
The Investment, and on and on and on! 

The stage is being set for God’s perfect design when one day the daily feeding and care of them no longer demand our undivided attention.  Of course, our lives remain interwoven and vitally connected thru every season, but with proud joy and honor, we pass the baton and the legacy continues.   

Watching first hand, 
a daughter giving birth, becoming a mother! 
The celebration of life, 
a new generation born.
  
Giving life to another human being doesn’t just change you…it makes you, for the rest of your existence!  

Me and Hadassah in March 2018 (at her new home in FL)

In just a few short weeks my baby girl will board a plane with her baby girl, from Florida to Pennsylvania.

 I’m embracing it ALL, because

 slowly and surely,
 “The hand that rocks the cradle IS the hand that rules the world!”

To all the wonderful moms out there, 
Keep rocking the cradle, 
Keep ruling the world. 

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY
Crystal  (AKA, NANA) 

The Power Of A Praying Mom.

One of the greatest blessings in my life as a DAUGHTER has been the power of a praying mom.  My life has been guided and blessed immeasurably because of my mom and her prayers. 

One of the greatest blessings in my life as a MOM has been praying for my own children, pouring my heart out like water before the face of the Lord, on their behalf.  

For 4 years now,  conversations and praying together during finals (over the phone) have held a special place in my heart.  
The reality of my son’s college graduation (in a few short days) was hitting home, and tonight as we prayed together,
“one last time before finals”
my heart was filled with a bittersweet gratitude.  
I’ve learned a lot about prayer over the years.

Raising a daughter, who is now a mom of her own
AND
 Raising a son, who is celebrating one chapter closing, and a new one beginning,
(with a great husband and father by my side)
I have known the joy of prayer, the urgency of prayer, the discipline of prayer, 
AND THE POWER OF PRAYER! 

4 Generations — Me, my mom, my daughter and grandaughter

Celebrating Matt’s 21st birthday (last year) 

“Prayer is acknowledging and experiencing the presence of God and inviting His presence into every aspect of our lives and circumstances.  It’s seeking the presence of God and releasing the power of God which gives us the means to overcome anything.  Praying not only affects us, it also reaches out and touches those for whom we pray.  When we pray for our children, we are asking God to make His presence a part of their lives and work powerfully on their behalf. All that needs to happen in our lives and the lives of our children, cannot happen without the presence  and power of God.  Prayer invites and ignites both!” 1

Whether you are MOM to a 2-year-old or a 22-year-old, (or maybe both)
won’t you pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord?  
Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your children. 
Lamentations 2:19 

CRYSTAL


1 FOOTNOTE

  The Power Of A Praying Parent, Stormie Omartian  Copyright 1995