Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's been a long time ...

It's been five years now since I have been to Israel ... and I have never been there with a digital camera! But on this very day, five years ago, we had the most incredible day studying Psalm 23 out in the desert ~ many of the psalms are desert psalms ~ I had never realized that before.
The most loved and well-known shepherd in the Bible is David, but I learned there were many other shepherds ... all of the patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob ... even Rebecca was a shepherd, wandering out here in the heat of this wilderness. I wondered then and there ... WHY didn't the shepherds head up north and stay in Galilee where there was more water and much greener pastures? The answer was because Galilee was where the farmers lived and raised the crops ... and that couldn't happen if the sheep were eating every growing thing!
We did a lot of walking that day. We hiked down into a wadi and learned that the most dangerous thing in a desert is ... ??? I thought sure the answer would be the LACK of water or heat exposure, but the answer was actually WATER ... flash floods. But the shepherds are well trained and know just how to watch the sky and what to look for ... you can't wait to HEAR water coming because by then it would be too late.
And those green pastures I'd always imagined ... were this! Just tiny bits of grass here and there surrounded by boulders and cliffs. But the shepherd knows all about that too. Do you see the lines on the sides of those hills? Those are actually called "paths of righteousness." We watched sheep follow shepherds along some pretty steep hills. And these shepherds were young children actually, sometimes as young as 10-12 years. We talked a lot about God giving us everything we WANT versus everything we NEED ... and sometimes we need just a sprig or two of grass to keep living!
We hiked some more and learned about the still, quiet waters where the shepherd leads the sheep. These pictures are taken at Ein Avdat (literally, "spring of Avdat"). The shepherd knows where these springs are out in the middle of this vast wasteland. This place is farther south in Israel than I had ever been before.

The tree in this picture is an acacia tree. It can lie dormant for 100 years ... and still live! It gives shelter and shade in the desert.
We walked for miles in the heat (it was wonderful) to a Bedouin camp and learned a little bit about how they live. Their #1 thing is hospitality. You can stay at a Bedouin camp totally free for three days ... even if you are their enemy. They will feed you and take care of you. Our guide knew one of the young men in this camp and he had to beg them NOT to kill a goat to serve us a meal.
See the young girl dressed in red at the right side of this picture? She is a shepherdess. She is attired this way so that she stands out against the desert ... so that no one will approach her and say it was "an accident" ... that they didn't see her. The Bedouin are very protective of their girls. If you are caught anywhere near her out when she is away from the camp, it is assumed you have harmed her ~ and they show no mercy about that.
We did eat their very delicious bread ~ see how she prepares it? ~ and drank the sweetest hot tea I have ever tasted. If we emptied our cup, they were right there to fill it up to the very tippy top every time. The only way we could get them to stop pouring us more was to leave some tea in our cup!
This is our group at Tel Arad, listening to Pastor Ed teach. We were outside almost 15 hours that day. I grew up loving Psalm 23. Understanding its desert context was such a rich experience. All throughout Scripture, when people wanted to meet personally with God, they went to the desert. Moses! The children of Israel! Elijah! The Apostle Paul! Even Jesus! I'm thankful that God doesn't give me everything I want ... but that He faithfully meets the deep needs of my heart.

Michael Card wrote his own rendition of Psalm 23. I can't find it anywhere on Playlist or you would be listening to it right now! Here are the lyrics.

My Shepherd
The Lord is my shepherd
and so I lack nothing.
In meadows of green grass
He lets me lie down.
Beside the still waters
He patiently leads me
restoring my soul ...
restoring my soul.

For His holy name's sake
He guides me by right paths
Though I may stray to
the vale of deep darkness
I fear no evil for You are there with me
Beside me Your rod and staff
they comfort me.

You prepare a table
before my enemies.
My head you've anointed
My cup's overflowing.
Your goodness and mercy
will follow me all the days of my life
and I'll make my home place
in the house of the Lord ...
and I'll make my home place
in the house of the Lord.

Monday, February 23, 2009

She is still our "baby" Karis ...

Look at the chubby cheeks on our adorable granddaughter ... can she possibly be turning three today?
Karis is a delightful little person ... she loves me ... and I love her too ... very much!
Karis is very fond of trains (WHERE could she have gotten THAT from?!). Here she is at Zilker Park standing next to the Zephyr, waiting to ride it with her Grandpa Jones ... whom she still refers to as "Boppa."
Karis loves her Boppa Jones ... and he adores her too ...
Here she is at the playground ... I love her beautiful eyes, her soft skin, her sweet smile ...
Karis can rough it up with her brother, but she is very much a girl. She loves dresses and the color pink and baby dolls and newborn babies too!
This is the bunny Karis has had since she was born ... a close friend of hers ... she takes very good care of bunny ...
This picture was taken at the Oil Ranch in Houston. Karis had been running and playing hard all morning ...
I love her in this little dress ...
... she is an excellent cook! If you play along with her, she will cook you up the yummiest snack!
I asked Sabrina what we could send this year for Karis's birthday. Olivia has a little china teaset that Karis really likes ... but since it is fragile, she really can't play with it without Olivia watching over her carefully. Could we possibly find a plastic teaset for her? I had no idea HOW MANY kinds of toy teasets were available ... fancy Disney ones from Beauty and the Beast, a nice Fisher Price one that plays music ("I'm a little teapot") ... but I liked this rosebud set the best. It came with pretend desserts (yum), fancy napkins, and a whole bunch of accessories.
And somehow, all of the baby bottles Karis had for her doll babies had gotten lost ... so we sent two new ones for her to play with. And a Melissa and Doug princess puzzle!
She also wanted some princess dress-up clothes ... there were a bunch of different sets to choose from and I think she will like this one ...
This is my favorite picture of Karis that I have taken. I've seen other beautiful ones from Sabrina's camera, as well as the pictures they had taken professionally before Christmas. But I took this picture of her last fall on her upstairs porch. We had just finished putting together a half dozen puzzles. I asked if she would pose pretty for me so that I could take her picture and she just ran over to the corner and smiled as sweet as could be!

In 2008, we only saw Karis and her family on two separate occasions ~ one week in the spring and one week in the fall. We get to talk to her every other week or so on the phone, though, and Sabrina SKYPES with us every now and again so that the kids and us get to see each other ... it helps bridge this very long 1200 mile gap between Austin and Belmont. I'm counting the days until our spring trip ~ less than four weeks now we are coming to see you, Karis! Happy Birthday, sweet little granddaughter!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

winter worship ...

"Nature is God's tongue. He speaks by summer and by winter. He can manifest himself by the wind, by the storm, by the calm. Whatever is sublime and potent, whatever is sweet and gentle, whatever is fear-inspiring, whatever is soothing, whatever is beautiful to the eye or repugnant to the taste, God may employ. The heavens above, and the procession of the seasons as they month by month walk among the stars, are various manifestations of God." Henry Ward Beecher.
unassuming ... undefiled ...

elegant ... innocent ...

spotless ... untainted ...

"Grant me purity of heart, that I may honor you."
PSALM 86:11b

I woke up this morning at 6:15 ... no new snow! The weather folk had predicted 4-9 inches by daybreak. Perhaps it had passed us by. I went outside at 8:20 to fetch the paper for Mr. Jones, who has been ill for the last four days. Our driveway was completely dry and there were only remnants of snow here and there, where it had been shoveled into piles.

But less than an hour later, the snow started and really hasn't stopped all day. I went outside and cleared the driveway at 1:30 and we'd gotten that 4 inches and possibly a little more. I walked up Samrick to see if the horses were outside and snapped these pictures.

I love these words by Mr. Beecher. I love all four seasons and what they reveal about God. How great He is! I will say that winter gets a little bit stretched out here in Michigan, but God is in charge of when it snows and when it doesn't ... not me! "This is the day the LORD has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!"

Friday, February 20, 2009

psalms of praise ...

Let the rivers clap their hands in glee!
Let the hills sing out their songs of joy before the LORD.
For the LORD is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with justice,
and the nations with fairness.
PSALM 98:8-9

Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise before the LORD!
For the LORD is coming!
He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness
and all the nations with his truth.

PSALM 96:12-13
We are forecasted to wake up to 4-9" of new snow in the morning ... I thought I'd get a jump on praising Him for His handiwork ... ;)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

full and running over ...

My cousin Lois and her family came over to the Jones Junction last night for dinner. If I could paint a picture of our time together, I would use every single color, and splash them happily all over my canvas!
My cousin Lois is the youngest daughter of my youngest aunt (Sally). She is a short little lady, unremarkable in appearance ... but don't let that fool you! She is a no-nonsense, practical, pro-active, get-it-done, godly woman ~ nine years my junior. Lois has the same voice as my aunt Sally, and lots of her mannerisms too. I love to listen to her talk. She is very smart. And hard working! Lois and her husband Joel have eight children: three biological, and five adopted ~ all home-schooled ... bright and beautiful individuals, and so interesting ... all of them! I think one of my very favorite things to do is to prepare a big meal for lots of people, so I was right in my element all day yesterday! Pure joy! I went with one of my tried and true recipes that has never failed me ... the chicken enchilada recipe I got from the GR Press many many years ago. I served the enchiladas with Spanish rice, chips and salsa, and veggies and dip. I made my very favorite punch for our beverage and instead of serving it in a fancy punch bowl (mine isn't fancy, it is rather ugly, and the ladle makes a mess of pouring!) I just filled two pitchers full and placed them on the table. Following dinner, we had strawberry pretzel dessert and cookies.
Seven of their eight children were able to come to dinner. Their oldest son, Thaddaeus, lives at Cornerstone University here in town but could not join us last night. Joanna (21), Bram (16), Zachariah and Josh (twins, age 15), Rebecca (14), Lydia (11) and Niesha (10) crowded around our rather smallish dining room table, together with their parents and me! Mr. Jones sat behind us at the serving table and helped ... serve! :)
I didn't take one single picture last night. I handed my camera off to Mr. Jones to do the journaling of our evening. He promised to take lots of pictures of us with our mouths full of food, etc. I didn't post even one of those!
The picture above cracks me up because everyone is looking UNDER the table for our Thomas K (rascal), who had been coming and going from the dining room (in and out, in and out!) and Bram was uncertain as to whether or not he had been "nipped" in the process. We concluded that he had not (whew!). Thomas warmed right up to Lois, but then she has that "special something" about her that cats appreciate.
I sat in-between Rebecca and the twins. Sadly, I cannot tell you which was Josh and which was Zach ~ but I can tell you they were adopted at age 8 and at the time were considered "special needs." I would never have guessed that ... and of course, it isn't at all true! Zach is a writer and illustrator of stories. Josh draws too and is fascinated with medieval stuff. They are both bright and absolutely delightful.
Enough pictures at the dinner table, Mr. Jones!!!
This is Rebecca. She is all sparkles and glitter and is very outgoing! She was adopted as a baby. Look at her beautiful smile! Good job, Mr. Jones. :)
Bram (the fellow closest in the picture) is a train enthusiast. He knows lots of obscure facts about them. Mr. Jones has invited Bram and his dad to see his friend Thom's train layout when they can figure out a time to do that.
This is Joanna. I remember meeting her on several occasions in the past, but never in a setting where I actually FELT like I'd met her! She never graduated from high school (!) but entered college before she was 14 (I think) and graduated with a degree in elementary education by the time she was 18. She is brilliant ... but the very opposite of arrogant. She is perceptive and contemplative and trustworthy. She has a quiet confidence about her and a deep inner beauty that far exceeds her years. When I look at her it's like seeing a graceful deer in the middle of a woods, innocent and sweet ...
I asked Lois to tell me some of their children's adoption stories. I heard a very abbreviated version of how God led them to adopt the twins, and also a bit of Rebecca and Lydia's stories. But we never did get to Niesha! She and Lydia had played a game of chess, went on to play checkers, and then spent a lot of time downstairs in the playroom with our marble run.
And I haven't told you anything at all about Joel, whom the children refer to as "Papa." It's times like this when I really wish I was a good writer because I don't want to do an injustice in my description of this kind, considerate, patient, humble, gentle man. He has such integrity of character and strong faith ... someone with no pretense or guile about him. He has traveled extensively, a minister of the Gospel. I was looking forward to hearing all about his most recent trip to Madagascar ... but the evening flew away from us and too-soon they were driving down the driveway. We'll just have to have that conversation another time! As I watched this family interact, I was impressed with the friendships and comraderie between the children, and the safety and security they have in the love of their parents.

Have you ever set out to try and be a blessing to someone but then it ended up THEY were the one who blessed you?! When I was a little kid, we used to sing a little song in children's church. The lyrics are very simple. And we sang this very song with our 3's this past Tuesday morning! It goes like this: "Running over. Running over. My cup is full and running over. Since the Lord saved me, I'm as happy as can be. My cup is full and running over." There are cute hand motions for this song and 3-year-olds love it. It's a good description of how I feel today ... richly blessed!

Monday, February 16, 2009

A bunch of different things ...

I'm posting many pictures here, all random disconnected events ... bear with me please!
Dylan is graduating from Kuyper College this spring. He has also been working on a lot of research projects with a colleague and friend. Last fall, Claremont Graduate College was soliciting papers for its Philosophy of Religion Conference and Dylan wrote and submitted one. His paper was accepted, and he was invited to fly out to Los Angeles to read it and participate in discussion at the conference. So last Thursday I drove Dylan to the airport at 4:30 in the morning and he flew out to Los Angeles. This was Dylan's first time in the air! He's traveled some other places in his life. Last spring, he went up into Canada with a bunch of folk from Kuyper and they also went to New York City and New Jersey. He has been down to Florida as well ... but this was his first flight, going through Minneapolis and then onto Los Angeles. He arrived safely back home early yesterday morning and said everything went well at the conference. I'm excited to hear the details!
And I don't know if you remember my Valentine's Day post from a year ago, but I had really wanted to go out to dinner at Red Lobster, my very favorite restaurant. But I ended up cooking a special Valentine's meal at home instead. Since Valentine's Day was on Saturday this year and I had a prior obligation over at church, Mr. Jones and I decided to eat a late lunch out Friday afternoon and call it a date. Mmmmm. I ordered the Sailor's Platter at Red Lobster and it was SO good!
And speaking of Valentine's Day, Mr. Jones and I did our usual exchange of cards. He always buys a humorous one for me, and I most often design him a special one. This year, I found a quote I really liked: "Love is not blind ~ it sees MORE not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less." (Rabbi Julius Gordon) So I used that quote on my card to Mr. Jones and wrote some mushy stuff as well that I will not share ...
We woke up Valentine's Day to a fresh 3" blanket of heavy snow! So beautiful! I bet you're thinking I was less than enthused about more snow. But I'll tell you ~ I was actually glad ... no, really! We'd had our week of nice warmer weather and I enjoyed it very much. But after a few days, things had become so gray and bleak looking. All of the trees were SO undressed, with no hope of any leaves for 8-10 weeks! But with this new snow, everything was made beautiful again!
I went back to my woods and took a bunch more pictures. In Michigan, spring rarely comes and stays until mid to late March. So we may as well have snow!

Saturday afternoon, I drove over to my Mom and Roy's house for a visit. Nana and I worked on her computer for a little while. For Christmas, they had received a gift of an Amarilis bulb ... look how beautifully it has grown!

Amazing! If you have little children at home, this is the kind of plant they really appreciate ... you can practically WATCH it grow in front of your eyes! This plant is over two feet tall and the stalk of it is more than an inch around ... it's huge! I think I'm going to have to get one of these next year and see if I can possibly NOT kill it ...
And this is for the Jones kiddos (Sabrina, Nick and Adam). The other day, your dad showed me this switch lantern downstairs in the basement. It was all dusty and sad-looking. He wondered if we could hang it over our new TV in the family room. I looked at him rather doubtfully ~ it just was SO dirty!
But he cleaned it up ... and hung it up! I like it :) I had to take down and re-arrange some of the pictures I had just hung on the wall, but no problem! This lantern hung for years and years in the family room over on Rapidfall, where the Jones kids grew up. I think it's very nice that we can have it hanging here to show the grandchildren when they come up to Michigan.
Doesn't it light up very nicely?
Lastly, here is Thomas K. This time of year, he behaves like a loyal puppy. He follows me all over the house and is quite affectionate (for a Tom cat). This is his newest favorite place to relax and nap. I think he is a very handsome cat! I wanted to show you these pictures tonight, because tomorrow evening my cousin Lois and her whole family (almost) are coming over here for dinner ... I've got some preparation to do for that! Lois and her husband Joel have eight children, five of whom are adopted. I'll take some pictures and show you later ...