hellomarylou

Inklings from within


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September So Far

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It’s a funny feeling being back here, writing again, on this long forsaken internet island. It feels strange, but good as well. Like coming home.
I think to un-clog the pipes I need to do a quick rundown of the events of the year so far.
Here goes.
January: In January we bade farewell to my eldest sister and her family as they moved to Thailand for 3 years, maybe longer. It was painfully bittersweet…..we are thrilled for the opportunities God is leading them into but simultaneously feel the distance of all that earth between us. David and I adopted their Golden Retriever, Keiko, when they moved and she has been a JOY. In January we also said our final earthly goodbyes to my aunt Mary who passed away after battling cancer. She was an amazing example of generosity and love to so many people, and she is greatly missed by all of us.

February/March: We finally moved into a rental house next door to my mom’s after waiting for months for it to open up. The weeks flew by with painting and unpacking and organizing but wow…it was so nice to be out in the country at last after living in a small, congested town for the past 6 years. We love it here so much, and not just because I can raid Mom’s kitchen whenever I run out of something. We love the setting we’re in with its beautiful farmland views, and the back roads and the deer in the fields….I could keep going. In February Keiko had to have surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from the base of her tail. Poor dog, I’m not sure who hated the e-collar more, her or me.

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April: In April, my sister, cousin, and myself spent a few days in Maryland at our uncle’s place. We were helping him sort through some of aunt Mary’s peripheral belongings. It was a bittersweet time with our dear uncle who is clinging valiantly to the goodness of God.
David and I spent a weekend on the eastern shore in April. We visited Assateague Island and saw the wild ponies, (should I have been more amazed by them? I felt strangely underwhelmed) we spent a few hours in Berlin, Maryland, an adorable small town where the movie Runaway Bride was filmed, and walked the boardwalk in Ocean City. But by far our favorite times were spent around the campfire in front of the little cabin we rented in Frontier Town, a western themed campground. Frontier Town would be a blast for kids but we enjoyed it too….even though we mostly were just there for the campsite.

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May: Ah, May was a blur. I remember someone saying, “Hey, Keiko looks fat,” and two weeks later she had five puppies. That was a happy, but unplanned surprise. Two days after she had her puppies 4 of my nieces and nephews came to stay with us for a few weeks. (Their family was in the process of adopting a baby who was born prematurely and their momma had to spend lots of time at the hospital) The kiddos roamed freely between my ours and my mom’s house, playing football with David, holding puppies, planning elaborate tea parties, and just in general living on the love of a grandma and aunts and uncles who live too far away. Also, they are hard workers, and helped complete more than one project around here!

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June: June was strawberries and good food and campfires and growing puppies and lazy days on a blanket on the lawn and one adorably cheeky niece we’re lucky enough to have live close by.

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July: Hmm……..I can’t remember, was it June or July when we had thunderstorms almost every day for a week or two? Poor Keiko, she is terrified of storms and tries desperately to hide out inside the house at the slightest sound of thunder. In July the puppies all found new homes….it was hard, yet good to say goodbye. July also included a family reunion and an impromptu-one-hard-days-work-of-filming-and-editing (on an iphone, ha!) birthday movie for a niece in Thailand. It was a lot of work for a few minutes of silliness but we made some good memories.

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August: Along came August and David and I spent the first long weekend in Niagra. The falls are beautiful and worth the trip to see but the rest of the the town itself doesn’t have a lot to offer. We drove north to Niagra on the Lake and I was ecstatic to find this beautiful little town sitting on the shores of Lake Ontario. David was making friends with all the other husbands who moved from one street bench to the next as their wives popped in and out of one little shop after another. I mostly window shopped but it was fun. It’s interesting how EVERY shop has scarves, and scarves, and more scarves. Will this trend ever end? One can only hope. Lake Ontario itself is the most beautiful deep blue…gorgeous. In August I helped mom and my sisters put lots of corn in the freezer. We borrowed an Amish neighbor’s outdoor cooker and fell in love with it. It’s something I definitely want to invest in for next year.

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September{so far}: David was gone half of last week on a business trip and while he was gone I got Keiko fixed. No more babies for her. I don’t know how people can raise puppies and get rid of them, over and over. The single most stressful part of it is finding people to take/buy/adopt them. I was fortunate enough to personally know all the people that took puppies in July but I do not want to bet on that again. So yes….barring some miracle, Keiko’s child bearing days are over.
For some, those days are just beginning. On Sunday we celebrated the new life coming to my brother and his wife at their baby shower. November is not far away any more you two!

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So that catches me up! Here’s to not letting time go by so swiftly any more…if only.

Happy fall y’all!


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Ancient of Days

“As I looked,
thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.”
Daniel 7:9

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This past week was a flurry of activity as we helped prepare for my brother and his fiancé’s wedding. V was an organized bride with a clear vision of what she wanted so it was a fun event to be a part of.

20121025-184415.jpgThe barn where the reception was held was so beautiful. Honestly, if they would let me, I would move in and make it my house.

20121025-184434.jpg The day dawned, dreary and wet, but the skies cleared beautifully just in time for their outdoor ceremony. And they got married. They said I do. I will. For as long as we both shall live.

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There’s my family. All 457,694,793,474 of us.
The reception went off beautifully. A celebration with good food, an excellent and witty toast by my little brother, songs, tears, love, blessings. We were and are, so happy for the newlyweds.
Towards the end of the reception, a light rain had grown to a heavy downpour and could be heard pounding on the roof above us. The wind had picked up as well and I said to David, “I think we should go over and close those doors.” The barn had these giant doors that were propped open throughout the evening. I had started to make my way towards the doors when David said, “Honey, no. Just stay here. Don’t worry about the doors.”
Looking back, the timeline blurs, but suddenly the wind really started blowing and one of the barn doors swung shut and then open again with a loud BANG! There were a few seconds of silence and then a lady’s frightened scream. And then bedlam. It sounded like a freight train was bearing down on us. People were running all over the place trying to determine the safest place to hide away. I was close to the bridal table when a window in the ceiling caved to the pressure and glass came flying through the air. I remember dropping my phone and thinking, “Who cares?” (there’s no app for the end of the world) I was getting underneath the bridal table when I heard my dear husband yelling my name. Vigorously.
If you look at the photos above of the barn, you will see these ladders/posts that run from the floor to the ceiling. He was standing next to one of those and calling me over to join him. I put one foot in front of the other, like a slow motion escape from the rabid dogs in my childhood nightmares. I reached his side, we fell to our knees, hugging the sturdy posts. At some point I became aware of the fact that I was hugging a stranger who was also clinging to the post. The stranger and I were both praying. “Dear Jesus, calm the storm. Dear Jesus, be with us. Protect us. Dear Jesus. Jesus.” The wind whipped and howled and the roof rattled and then, as suddenly as it had come, it was over.
People got off their knees, reunited with their lost spouses and children. Hugged each other. “Are you okay? Where were you? Who was with you?” I unwrapped my arms from around the stranger and as she turned to look at me I said, “Nice to meet you.” She smiled. “It seems like we were both thinking the same thing.”

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“Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.”
Isaiah 40:24

20121025-195132.jpg We spent lots of time going over the details of the storm. Over and over. Each one’s different perspective. Rejoicing over and over that we were all safe.

20121025-195441.jpg The next day we drove around the neighborhood around my mom’s house and surveyed the damage. It was an incredible sight to see, to try to wrap your mind around the power it must have taken to cause that much destruction. I know that what Lancaster County suffered was nothing compared to the storms that other areas have suffered in the past. Nevertheless, it was certainly the strongest storm many of us have ever experienced.

20121025-195922.jpg Saturday evening we were having a ladies’ night out at a bistro in Honeybrook when we got the news that a young mother had passed away mysteriously in her sleep. She was a sister to one of my brother’s groomsmen and someone with whom I occasionally hung out before getting married. Ruth. Thirty one years old. My age. Mother of three. I can’t imagine what her family must be going through. What can ever prepare you for losing a sister? A daughter? A wife?

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“A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of The Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.”
Isaiah 40:6-7

20121025-201310.jpg I walk around as if I hold the keys to life and death, as if I can count on my next breath. My next day, or week or year. But in truth, each and every moment I am being held up by the mercies of God. Each moment of life, a gift from the Father. And that can bring fear to my human heart. A few weeks ago I answered a question in my Q&A book. Where do you think your road is going? And the answer had come to me so clearly. Towards redemption. And Ruth is just a little further down that road than the rest of us. There is a reason to fear God. He is powerful and just and holy. And there is a reason to trust God. He is faithful and true and not willing that any should perish. If you have claimed the blood of his Son Jesus as a sacrifice for your sin, repented, and turned from your sin, then you are his.

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“Fear not, I am the first and the last,
and the living one.
I died, and behold I am alive forevermore,
and have the keys of death and hades.”
Revelation 1:17-18


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Toes in Cowpies

Is there a bigger letdown than a cancelled vacation? I know, it’s such a first-world problem, but it’s disappointing nonetheless. Next Saturday morning I was going to be in a car with my mom and sisters on our way to the Outer Banks. It was going to be our first ever ladies only vacation. Sisters, mom, nieces. But Sister Irene, she’s a doozy, and in her fury has pretty much doomed our vacation. And in my grand optimistic wisdom, I declined the travel insurance when booking our house. Yes.

“Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair…” (I was really looking forward to singing that song at the beach.)

It is what it is. And what it is, is a reminder that we can make plans, but God allows our every breath. Every move. It’s humbling, and gratitude inspiring. He has saved me day after day, for 10,950 days. (give or take a few) For some reason, He has not consumed me, with fire or cancer or hurricanes or famine or war. I did not place myself on this earth. I did not self-help my way into being. I did not send in an application requesting placement on this planet. Life is a gift from God to me, completely un-merited and unattainable on my own. Without that gift I would never even know the pleasure of sinking my toes into the sands by the ocean; I wouldn’t have sisters and family that I love to be with. So thank you God. For life.

As far as the vacation goes, we do have a couple of options. We’re considering a mountainside vacation, at my aunt’s vacation-farmette in West Virginia. I don’t have pictures of the farm, but I know there will be a few of these there:

And some of these:

Cows and concord grapes. The ambience would be different – our toes will luxuriate in cow pies instead of sand, but I’m sure we’d still have an unforgettable time.
We’re also considering going to my sister’s house in South Carolina. Poor lady, it wouldn’t be much of a vacation for her to have us all pile in her house, 🙂 but we’re still undecided.
Labor day weekend is this weekend! What are your plans? We have a few possibilities……..I’ll be doing some organizing here at home, maybe a DIY project, (coasters!) a wedding Saturday evening, maybe a visit to the Fonthill Museum, and hopefully a few campfires thrown in there.
Have a blessed weekend!


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August

August- it rushes in with white hot heat, drenches us in humidity, and almost, almost makes us long for the coming season. Autumn is the season I relish most, but this year I’m watching its arrival with equal parts anticipation and trepidation. Anticipation for the crisp weather, apple cider, FOOTBALL, and campfires. Trepidation, because I know that just beyond the beautiful harvest sunsets lurks the icy grip of winter. But today, today I close my eyes, let the summer sun sink into my bones, and thank God for this day.
This day- today is an extra day off for me. I traded a few extra hours last evening for my entire shift today. Yesterday was a long day but today is bliss. I hung the laundry outside and enjoyed the clean, crisp smell of it when I brought it in. I chatted with our land-lady-we were standing in the yard when everyone else felt the earthquake. We didn’t feel a thing. I took my husband a glass of ice water while he mowed the lawn. I chopped up peppers and basil from my garden to put in the pasta sauce I made for dinner. Now DH is gone for the evening and I am reflecting.
Reflecting on August-

The second weekend in August we traveled to Oklahoma for my cousin Tony’s wedding. There were ten of us, assorted siblings, in-laws, Mom, and DH and I. We took two vehicles and had a great time traveling out there. The above photo features a number of us cousins that were lucky enough to be together for a few days. It was supposed to be a serious photo but some of us couldn’t maintain the seriousness. Oklahoma is…….vast. And beautiful. One night we sat out in the prairie watching the most fabulous lightning storm of our lives.

Last weekend DH and I took an impromptu weekend off in Delaware. We left Friday evening, checked into our hotel, then went out to dinner.

Dessert was complimentary coffee and cookies from the hotel. 🙂

{cute pillow}

{good books}

{good company}

The next day we crossed a few bridges, criss-crossing our way from Wilmington, to New Jersey, and back to Pennsylvania. We visited the Brandywine Zoo, (took us about 10 minutes to walk through the entire thing :)), a “farmer’s market” that wasn’t, Swedesboro, NJ for lunch, and then ended our day at one of my favorite stores in the universe.

{love}

{loveliness}

{beautiful $$$$ scarves}

{furniture I want to take home}

{more coffee}

{chalkboard}

{purple}

{love forever}

Lest you think it was an all butterflies and roses weekend…..it was not. It was one of those weekends where even though we were together, DH was being a perfect gentleman, and he played romantic music in the car while the rain came down…..there was something in my heart that was demanding more. More what? I’m not sure I could tell you. It was just this little voice in my head that wanted to somehow shake what I needed out of my husband. It was a demanding voice. And although I restrained it, by Saturday afternoon I felt myself starting to withdraw. I started making a mental list of reasons he was to blame for my discontented spirit.
Friday night I had picked up a book at B&N entitled “Every Woman’s Marriage,” and the small part of it that I had read started to come back to me, and I thought with surprise, “Oh this again.” My spirit was dry because I had not been feasting on living water. I had not been leaning on the only REAL source of fulfillment and joy available to me. Everything else is but a shadow of that source. Forgive me God. Forgive me husband. We put our relationships in rough place when we expect them to meet our every deepest need. Marriage is beautiful….but what gives it its beauty is what it reflects….and that is our relationship with our Creator. And He is so faithful to remind us of that, and not leave us stumbling in the dark forever.

Sunday night we celebrated my brother’s birthday, (pictured here with his gf) with grilled shish-kabobs, grilled veggies, cake and ice cream. And coffee.

We also discovered that his dog has an…..unauthorized pregnancy. Oh dear.

Until next time,
Marylou


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Johnny Chuck is dead.

For the past few summers David and I have been plagued by a family of groundhogs living in the dark jungle behind our house. We would watch them from our windows, sitting on their haunches, the weeds around them waving violently as they grabbed them and stuffed them in their mouths. Their eating habits did us no great harm, but their burrowing habits however, almost brought down the fence separating our lawn from the aforementioned jungle. They would dig their tunnels from one fence post to another, significantly threatening the posts’ abilities to hold up on their own.

My husband would make threats, sometimes taking aim at them with his gun through the open window, but never getting them quite close enough to take the shot. I would beg him to please not shoot them, (cause I thought they were cute) but when ever I was home alone and saw one, I was overcome with a desire to shoot one myself. (The prospect of proudly presenting a dead chuck to my husband was a big motivator.)

Then early this spring the fateful day was upon us. Upon the chuck. We were both at home and watching as the largest of the family, Johnny, waddled ever closer to the back of the house. David graciously agreed to let me have a go at him. After trolling and eating his way along for about 20 minutes, he made the fateful decision to finish his picnic under our office window. After making my way to the office, I slowly, s l o w l y, opened up the window, and took aim with my .22 pistol. I felt no hesitation in that moment, my hands weren’t shaking, and I calmly took aim at a spot on the side of his head, right below his ear. I fired. And hit. He fell over on his side, twitching violently, and then slowly, rolled over onto his back.

I jumped up, screaming, “He’s dead! He’s dead!” I ran outside straightaway to check on it, and unfortunately he was still trying to….live. I couldn’t stand to watch him struggle so I put one more shot in him to end it. The initial elation and rush  I felt started seeping out of me and I before I knew it I started to feel really, really guilty. This was the first animal I’ve ever killed intentionally. Why, did I do it? What had Johnny ever done to deserve such wrath? I worked my way through those emotions, however, and eventually came to a deep satisfaction. I was doing my duty as a human, protecting our fence, and the young, tender crops growing in our vegetable beds.

Maybe next time I will try to eat it. I’ve heard groundhog is very tasty. And it can’t be too unhealthy, they stuff themselves with leafy greens all day long. Have you ever eaten groundhog? Was it good? How did you cook it?

There he lay. And then David buried him. Farewell Johnny.

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Coming up next, my opinion on Ira Wagler‘s new book and why you should buy it.