Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chapel this morning ...

I attended chapel at Kuyper College this morning ... not with entirely pure motives, but mostly because I wanted to hear Dylan lead in worship. He was delivering the message this morning and I wanted to share in his joy.
This is Dylan's senior year at Kuyper. After he graduates this spring, he hopes to enroll at Calvin's Seminary for his master's degree and then pursue his doctorate somewhere in the arena of Ethics, Philosophy, and Patristics.
Dylan read parts of Hebrews chapter 11 as well as a few verses from chapter 12. Since All Saint's Day is November 1, he focused his thoughts and comments around that remembrance. He reminded his colleagues that just as there were heroes of faith from the Old Testament, there were a host of faithful people who came out of the Early Church as well, people we would be wise to study and to imitate. He summarized the lives of several of these dear followers of Christ.
"By faith these people overthrew kingdoms,
ruled with justice, and received what God promised them.
They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire,
and escaped death by the edge of the sword.
Their weakness was turned to strength ...

" ... but others trusted God and were tortured,
preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free.
They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life ...
" ... some were mocked, and their backs were cut open with whips.
Others were chained in dungeons.
Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half;
others were killed with the sword.
Some went about in skins of sheep and goats,
hungry and oppressed and mistreated.
They wandered over deserts and mountains,
hiding in caves and holes in the ground ... "
Hebrews 11: 33-38 NLT

While I was visiting down in Austin at Sabrina's house, she loaned me a series of fiction The Mark of the Lion to read. It's a really compelling story of first century Jews and Christians, and how many of them died violently for their faith in the living Christ. There is a love story woven throughout, but not just between a man and a woman ~ a love story of the Father for all of us! It's been really sobering and challenging to read. It was all or nothing for them. Why isn't it for me? So I am praying and thinking and searching ...
" ... since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd
of witnesses to the life of faith,
let us strip off every weight that slows us down,
especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.
And let us run with endurance
the race that God has set before us.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus,
on whom our faith depends from start to finish.
He was willing to die a shameful death
on the cross because of the joy
he knew would be his afterward.
Now he is seated in the place of highest honor
beside God's throne in heaven."
Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pictures have been inserted ...

This afternoon I quickly added some pictures to three prior posts: (1) The other side of the mountain (Sunday, 10/19); A quiet day at home (Monday, 10/20); and (3) Our last day in El Paso (Tuesday, 10/21). Other than unpacking (kind of), sorting piles of laundry, and looking through 3+ weeks of mail (mostly junk), we haven't accomplished much of anything all day. Oh well. I guess it's time to rest! :)

During this three weeks, Mr. Jones and I took a combined 2200+ pictures. I have a lot of editing to do, but my computer has a lot of issues right now. Adam gave us some good suggestions to try ~ but Mr. Jones is going to have to be the computer technician ~ hopefully, he'll solve what's ailing my poor computer!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Finally home!

After being on the road 13+ hours today, Mr. Jones and I are home. We have recklessly unloaded the van, thrown everything into either the dining room, front room, or hallway, and are headed to bed! The drive from Chaska to Belmont was entirely unremarkable and seemed to last an eternity! We had a windy/rainy/cold ... and very LONG drive!

Trip Statistics:
~ Total mileage: 4,761
~ Number of hours in vehicle: 89.20
~ Fuel economy: 26.2
~ Lowest fuel price: $2.19/gal (somewhere in Iowa)

It's always weird, emotionally, to be on this side of the trip. It's ever so much more fun to plan, anticipate, pack, look forward to all those loved ones, happy little faces, hugs and cuddles. So I'm preparing myself for a bit of a "down" time emotionally. I'm very much looking forward to some privacy and alone time to pour my heart out to the Lord, knowing above everything else how precious all of us are to Him, glad that He never slumbers or sleeps, but lovingly watches over all of us.

As for me, I'm exhausted in every way possible and ... I'm off to bed! Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to add pictures to the posts from El Paso that are missing them. I have a bunch of pictures you need to see!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Adam's birthday

Adam & Emily's house

We were so happy to be able to be here in Chaska to celebrate Adam's 24th birthday with him. We didn't make huge plans for the day or anything, but we did want to see around their neighborhood, so Adam took us on a walk this morning. This area has paved trails, very nicely kept, that lead in and out of numerous neighborhoods, through parks and playgrounds, schoolyards, apartment complexes, etc.
Just because Adam and Emily don't have any little children (yet), doesn't mean we couldn't enjoy ourselves on the playground!

We had a great time seeing the sights that are close by their house. It was in the low 50's and really really windy today ... so it was a bit cold outside! I don't want it to be cold yet!
We weren't sure what to do with our afternoon. Should we just relax at home and play some games, or would it be more fun to take the light rail downtown and have a look around downtown Minneapolis?
We definitely decided it would be much more fun to take the light rail!
I love to explore big cities, don't you? We had so much fun! We ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe'. The pictures I took there did not turn out.
We walked to a huge downtown mall area that connected several buildings and warehouses with skywalks. We didn't really do any shopping; we just enjoyed looking around and walking.

I think my favorite part of downtown was the Hennepin Bridge over the Mississippi River. It's a beautiful suspension bridge. We walked on it and took some pictures, and then walked under it and took some more ...

We just hung around downtown for a couple of hours, walking and talking and taking in the sights, and then we rode the light rail back to the parking lot over by the Mall of America to retrieve our car and go back to Chaska.
We brought some birthday dessert home to enjoy with Adam and Emily. Here is Adam blowing out his big 24 ...
We had a wonderful and relaxing day with Adam and Emily. I'm so thankful we could spend the day with them; and especially that it worked out we could be with Adam on his birthday.
Adam received a very cool remote-control mini-helicopter from his in-laws for his birthday. I just thought you'd like to see it!

Tomorrow morning, Mr. Jones and I are finally taking our last leg of the trip back to Michigan. We hope to be home by 9-10:00. I don't think I'm going to want to get back in that van for a very long time!

Omaha, Nebraska to Chaska, Minnesota

Mr. Jones and I left Omaha yesterday morning and less than an hour later were in Iowa. Don't let anyone tell you that Iowa isn't a beautiful state. I haven't been all over Iowa, but the parts I have seen are just as pretty as can be! We drove in an out of storms all throughout our day yesterday. The rich, warm fall colors of bronze, gold and rust were everywhere. The western part of Iowa is full of rolling hills and valleys, terraced farming, alluring little hollows with creeks running through ... acres and acres of farmland, wide rivers, and wide open land stretching as far as your eye can see ...
Just being able to take it all in and worship the One who spoke all of this beauty into existence, made me so thankful to be alive!
Once we headed north out of Des Moines, the hills lessened and even the colors became more subdued ... like fall had come too quickly and was on its way out ... past its prime, and I'd only just briefly glimpsed it!
Mr. Jones didn't have many trains to follow yesterday, so the day kind of dragged on for him. I was glad when we finally entered Minnesota and we knew we were only about two hours away from Adam and Emily.
The directions to Adam and Emily's house that we got off the internet were really detailed and accurate until we got about 15 minutes from their house and the street we were on dead-ended! Oops. It took us nearly an hour to find their house because it was now dark and our directions were incorrect!
We finally pulled into their house a little after 6:00 in the evening. Whew! We enjoyed a nice dinner out with them, came back to their house and absolutely crashed the rest of the night. I've got a bunch of pictures from our day today that I'm getting ready to post. Stand by ...

Friday, October 24, 2008

From Liberal, Kansas to Omaha, Nebraska

We made our way from Liberal, Kansas yesterday ... leaving at our usual 8:15 a.m. We drove for hours through pouring rain and watched the temperature drop from 41 degrees to a low of 36 through parts of Kansas and even saw our first snowflakes mixed in with the rain ~ not a welcome sight! Two days prior in El Paso, we were enjoying 80+ temps and clear blue skies! From quite a distance away, Mr. Jones spotted both this beautiful bridge and a train coming southwest ... if we slowed down just a wee tiny bit, we could maybe catch a shot of it crossing this expanse! We actually pulled off the shoulder of the road and I handed the camera off to Mr. Jones for this shot.
Kansas is known as The Sunflower State ... I don' know if you can see that this is a field of sunflowers, but it is! It's difficult to get a good perspective or a clear shot while shoving my camera out the passenger window with rain hitting me in the face, traveling 65+ mph ... but I tried!
And this beautiful crop was everywhere we looked, both in Kansas and all throughout Nebraska. I can't tell you what it is! It was about knee-high, looked exactly like corn does when it's about midway through the season, but topped with this brick-red tassle! Perhaps it's some kind of weird fall corn. I don't know if you can see in this picture, but at the front of the field there is a wire fence that is completely entangled with tumbleweed that had blown across the highway and could go no further ...
We did drive through Dodge City and snapped a couple of pictures there ... oh, my ... we didn't miss much by not staying there overnight the other night. But it was fun to at least drive through this part of town real quick and get some photos ....

We took these pictures while driving on Wyatt Earp Blvd. and passed Doc Holliday's Liquor store on the way out of town ... appropriate!

It was another glorious train day for Mr. Jones. If I posted all of the pictures we took of trains yesterday, you would be cracking up! I think this steam engine was parked in Edwards County, Kansas, at a train museum that was free ... but closed!

We drove a few hours right through the middle of Nebraska. Isn't it beautiful?

Our whole purpose of routing ourselves through Omaha was so that I could get together with my cousin, Suzie, whom I haven't laid eyes on since her dad's funeral 7-8 years ago ... and that was such a sad occasion that we naturally didn't really visit with each other.
I can remember family reunions from years and years ago where Suzie and I sat down together, started talking, and so thoroughly connected and enjoyed each other's company that hours flew by before we came up for breath! Last night was no different. I think we actually talked nonstop for almost seven hours ... just Suzie and I ... reliving family moments, talking about the deep things of the heart, screaming with laughter, answering each other's questions, reconnecting all of the years that have gone by ... and again finding that the love we have for each other is a special and very precious kind of love. I'm so thankful we could do this.

This is an inadequate description of yesterday, but Mr. Jones is standing behind me trying to get me out of this hotel and back on the road! We are heading on up to Minneapolis today to spend some time with our Adam and Emily. Looking forward very much to seeing them ... we should be there by about 6:00 this evening.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A good day on the road ...

We left Fort Bliss this morning at about 8:15 and drove almost 600 miles today! I am presently sitting at a nice corner desk in our room at The Liberal Inn ~ Liberal, Kansas! I don't think it matters very much that we are a couple of conservatives, do you?
Since we are making two very important stops on our way back to Grand Rapids, we routed ourselves north and east through New Mexico towards Alamogordo and Tucumcari (which I think I have misspelled) and then back into the panhandle of Texas, making a diagonal northwest crossing into the Oklahoma panhandle, essentially cutting diagonally across the middle of it, and then crossing the Kansas border to ... Liberal! When the cold front came through here last night, it brought 70 mph winds and some damage with it ... glad we were safely in El Paso!
Grandpa Jones mapped all of this out last night while at the Lodge at Ft. Bliss. He had maps scattered everywhere ... and now I know why! For the entire 9-10 hours we were driving today, we were no further than two minutes from train tracks, grain silos, train bridges ... including more than a half dozen moving trains! I think the mountains were my favorite ... sheer cliffs, forbidding yet challenging, the dancing and shifting shadows, vast and stark in their beauty.
A cold front came through last night, and it was actually COLD this morning! It really didn't warm up past about 52 degrees the entire day! It was blustery and windy too. There were times the dust was blowing so thick, it completely obliterated the mountains from our view. We drove past miles and miles of these amazing mountains, surrounded by desert with wild deer, cattle ranches and immense areas of nothing else!
Some of these peaks reach 10-12,000 feet and are actually 12-20 miles from the highway!
We drove past dry wadi beds, abandoned shacks and barns, as well as wineries. We dodged sagebrush and tumbleweed blowing across the highway ...
We also drove by way too many feed lots. I couldn't help but picture several of our small grandchildren grabbing their little noses and grimacing with the horrid stench of it! The smell was so unpleasant, it almost brought tears to my eyes ...
Most of the trains we saw were Union Pacific, but we also saw Burlington Northern Santa Fe. I tried to shoot some pictures through the window while moving at 65+ mph ... those shots don't turn out very well for me. Actually, I saw so many amazing desert and mountain scenes I wanted to photograph that if we had stopped for each one, we would STILL be on the road.
We were going to try to get as far as Dodge City tonight, but both of us decided enough was enough! We hope to drive through Dodge City tomorrow ... except there are blizzard warnings (!) up for parts of Kansas all day tomorrow; and even though it's north and west of where we planned our route, we may end up driving east to Wichita and then head north to Omaha instead of cutting up north to Dodge City from here. We'll have to see what the weather shows us in the morning. It is almost 10:30 and I am almost too tired to care at this point ... however we get to Omaha is fine with me! I have plans to meet my dear cousin, Suzie, there tomorrow night! I think it has been over eight years since I have seen her face ... it will be wonderful to see her.
Wind turbines in the Texas panhandle

"LORD, there is no one like you!
For you are great, and your name is full of power.
God made the earth by his power,
and he preserves it by his wisdom.
He is the creator of everything that exists ...
the LORD Almighty is his name!"
Select verses from Jeremiah chapter 10