Monday, December 13, 2010

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof...

Last evening I was comfortably ensconced in my bed, under a pile of blankets reading a good book.  It had been raining all day, and it was particularly cold, so it seemed like a good evening to relax under some blankets. It was so peaceful and calm, the perfect end to a great weekend.  Suddenly, there was a loud noise above my head coming from the roof.  In all the time I've lived in my home I've only heard that same noise once, and that was when my Dad had gone up to my roof to do some repairs.  It was the sound of someone walking around on my roof.

I live in the quiet countryside, and have never felt threatened in my home.  The thought of intruders to my home doesn't even cross my mind.  The sound of someone walking around on my roof though sent fear spiraling through me.  I felt instantly vulnerable, and certainly not in a position to protect myself.  I leaped from bed as I heard the person moving around on the roof, hoping that it was just one of my friends come to play a prank on me. 

My roommate was in the kitchen, and as I passed through with the coat I hastily grabbed, told her of the noise (which she hadn't heard) and how I was about to go outside and investigate.  As cliche as this sounds I even gave her the line, "If I'm not back in a short while get help."  Maybe that wasn't so cliche as it was smart to have a plan :)

Outside I didn't see any vehicles that shouldn't be there, and after walking around the entire house didn't see any persons out of place.  With my home being built so low to the ground with angled roof space I had a fairly good view of most of the roof and didn't see any looming figures walking around.

I came back inside, out of the cold wet rain, and told my roommate of my findings, absolutely NOTHING.  I was describing to her the noise I had heard, when suddenly we both heard it over our heads.  She immediately wanted to check on her cats (I think she had an inkling at this time where the source of the noise might be coming from). 

When she walked outside she was greeted by one of her two cats.  The other cat knowing it's Momma's voice decided to come and peek over the side of the roof where it had been walking around only moments before.  That silly cat had managed to climb up the old utility pole next to my bedroom and jump onto the roof, which in turned scared a couple years off my life.  After some coaxing from my roommate she managed to get him in position where she was able to manhandle him off the roof.

My roommate has reminded me that there is an old fable about being "as light-footed as a cat."  This particular cat though has the footfalls of a grown man.  We're just hoping the disgruntled look he gave my roommate just prior to coming down is proof that he's learned his lesson and won't be making a trip back to my roof.

Just the day before this incident I had been outdoors taking pictures of these two cats.  I'll let you decide which one looks mischievous enough to climb on top of a roof.

 Though I might giving away the secret I will tell you the names of my roommate's two cats.  This first photo is of Lor, short for Ailuro, which means Cat.

This second photo is of Pho, short for Phobia, which means Fear.  So, together the cat's names are AiluroPhobia, Fear of Cats.

When they first came to live with us, I told one of my co-workers their new names (and she's like me - we're not cat people).  My co-worker's response was quick and sure, "I would have called them Home and Less."

I think about my co-worker's response on days when certain cats jump on my roof, or try to sneak into our house when I'm rushing out the door.  Other than those brief moments Lor and Pho and I get along just fine.  They really are beautiful animals for being cats :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Award Winning Rooster

I happen to live next door to an award winning rooster.  Yes, as of this year my neighbor's rooster took 1st place at the Rockingham County Fair.  This afternoon I was over in my neighbor's yard enjoying a photo session and was able to get some great shots of the rooster.

I learned from my neighbor that the two roosters in the background of this photo had only minutes to live after the photo was taken.  I didn't stick around to continue taking photos of what came next.  Though I'm sure my neighbors are enjoying a good meal this evening, fried chicken or maybe chicken noodle soup.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Working Toward A Green Thumb

Last winter it snowed, then snowed some more, and then it snowed even more.  I was ridiculously tired of snow by the end of winter.  It was days, weeks, and months of looking at the color white blanketing the ground, and if it wasn't white it was brown.  By the end of winter I CRAVED the color green!!

This winter I hope to keep my green cravings at bay by incorporating more houseplants into my home.  I actually started the process of adopting indoor plants last year, but my collection has enlarged this past year.  In recent years I've wanted houseplants, but moved around too much to make having one (or several) practical.  I guess I'm finally starting to settle down because I'm now into a plant frenzy.  Not only do I want to enlarge my indoor plants I'm also working on my outdoor gardens as well.

For someone who has a notoriously brown thumb I'm doing fairly well with my plants.  I'm enjoying reading about each one and finding out what makes them happy.  In turn they make me happy by greening up my home and providing such beautiful blooms and color. 

 This plant is the first one I brought home last year.  It came to me through the Virginia Mennonite Relief sale.  I decided last year at the Relief Sale to purchase a plant, and that in the years to come I would purchase a plant.  Each year I would have my Relief Sale plant, and when they became much larger I would take a start from the plant and donate it to the Relief Sale.  Just an enjoyable way to continue the cycle, and benefit many others.

This particular plant is a Monkey Plant.  In November it begins to bloom these beautiful pink blossoms for a couple months (atleast mine does).
The Monkey Plant is such an interesting plant.  When I first bought it I didn't know anything about it (not even if it would like the light my home receives).  I just really liked the name, coloring and feel of the plant, and couldn't resist the impulse to buy it over a plant I knew more about. 

This next photo is a close up of the Monkey Plant and it's beautiful blooms.  You might also note the interesting coloring of the plant.  The leaves are green with white ribbing, and underneath they have a deeper, richer purple coloring.  It's a beautiful effect!

I've been so happy with my Monkey Plant.  I've even been able to separate it once over the year I've had it, and give a start to my Mom.  My Mom's Monkey Plant has done so well she was able to make a start for my friend Maurita...and the cycle of giving continues.
The most recent plant to come home with me I received from my Aunt Karen over Thanksgiving.  I was commenting about her houseplants, and asked about getting a start of one of her philodendrons.  She in turned gave me the entire plant (she had two there). 

I've been so blessed by her generosity; the plant sits lovingly in my living room, and adds beauty to the space.

These of course are just a small viewing of the plants I've adopted.  I have several more throughout my home.  Some of my favorites are just the practical ones, like the herbs for my kitchen or the aloe in case I have a burn or cut.  It's amazing how much God has given us in His creation, all the beauty and practicality to meet our needs.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

With a heart full of gratitude I was able to enjoy the richest of blessings this Thanksgiving.  My day was spent with so many loved ones; my friends and family.

My immediate family has a tradition of attending the restaurant named Traditions on Thanksgiving day for an early lunch.  It's always nice to spend that family time with each other, especially now that my brother Brent is living in North Carolina, and we don't see each other as much.  This particular year we decided to arrive extra early and stand in line outside to be one of the first seated when the doors opened.  That's right, my family who doesn't care a twig about standing in long lines on Black Friday for retail deals will gladly stand in long lines for first seating at a restaurant (we've got our priorities).

The afternoon was spent getting some much needed rest!!

Then it was on to another dinner, this one was being held at my Uncle Fred and Aunt Karen's home, for the Heatwole Family.  It's not uncommon for any one of my relatives to bring a guest along to our holiday dinners, and this year I was excited to have my good friend Maurita and her brother Andy join us.  Actually, it was at the Heatwole Thanksgiving meal that I met my friend Chitra three years ago, she had been a guest of my Aunt Glennys (they had classes together at JMU).

 Maurita, a talented musician, found my Uncle Fred's upright bass (not that he was really hiding it).  Isn't she such a natural?
 When everyone else was pulling out their cameras to take posed pictures of each other at the dinner (normal behavior for a holiday meal with the Heatwoles), I was taking pictures of my Aunt Karen's centerpieces.  Aren't these variegated roses gorgeous?  
I had to take a close up on the roses so you can really see the beauty of the color.

The Lord really has blessed me with so much, a loving family, wonderful friends, and the constant beauty of His creation.  So much to praise Him for this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dinner Party Anyone?

 No, my living room does not usually have a long table running through the middle of the room.  Nor do my couches contain so many different pillows.  This special rearrangement was for a dinner party my roommate Stephanie and I held at our home back the middle of October. 

The dinner was a farewell party for my dear friend Chitra, who was moving (has since moved) to Seattle to join her soon to be husband.  It was definitely one of those bittersweet occasions.  For as much enjoyment I had from planning the special event, to the work that went into that day's preparations, and the wonderful fellowship I experienced during our dinner; there was the reminder that this was one the last times I would see Chitra in quite some time.

We did have a wonderful time that evening.  So, many terrific memories, and friendships were formed (I had invited quite a number of my friends that didn't know each other).   

In honor of Chitra I did something I've never done before...prepared an entire Indian meal (her home before coming to Virginia to study was near Mumbai, India).  I have to say, though I spent a good deal of time prepping for this meal, and worked diligently all through the day, I did not finish the entire menu I had planned (still had plenty to eat).  Just so you're aware, Indian cuisine takes longer to cook than you realize.  I had previously made the items I had planned for our menu, what I had not done is to prepare them together as a coordinated meal.  There's something about coordinating several dishes at once that inevitably slows down the process.

The only non-traditional Indian food item, was the cake pictured above.  I call the cake my "love cake", and this is only the second time I've ever made one.  The first love cake was for my friend Laura who was also moving out of the area.  It's a chocolate cake (because nothing says I LOVE YOU like chocolate), and lettered around the cake is the word "love" in several languages.    Sorry this picture is so blurry, hopefully you can still make out a couple of the words.  With this particular "love cake" my artistically talented roommate Stephanie did the iced lettering, I just prepared the iced canvas for her...I think it was a great team effort!!

Because the time is drawing near for me to get some well needed rest, I'm going to bring this entry to a close.  Hopefully I will have time tomorrow to continue this entry with the story of how I met my friend Chitra, and our friendship of the last several years.

Monday, November 22, 2010

His Great Love

If you haven't already, why don't you take a moment and listen to the beautifully written songs of JJ Heller I have posted below.  I pass them along to you as a blessing that has been passed along to me in these last few weeks.  Their reminder of God's love and grace for me has been a balm to my bruised heart.  If you're feeling somewhat battered and bruised today, listen and be reminded of a God who is there to hold you in His Hands.   

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

J.J. Heller - Your Hands - Haiti Earthquake

JJ Heller - What Love Really Means

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's that time of year again...

Last year, during the summer months, I made an amazing discovery!!  At the time I was living at Sandal House, which is located around downtown Harrisonburg, and making the most of city life.  Now if you know me you'll understand that my appreciation of "city life" is limited to my ability to reach more destinations by walking.  Aside from enjoying walking wherever I need to go, I'm not necessarily thrilled by all the other aspects of "city life", i.e. crowded, noisy, dirty, etc.

All that aside, back to my amazing discovery.  One of the places I enjoyed walking to was the Farmers Market.  I loved to see and try the different produce, it was like having a little bit of farmland in the middle of the city.  Plus, it made a great excursion to take teens too; with the baby strollers, very family friendly.  When the teens came with me it was always a learning experience for them, they had so many questions about the different produce they were seeing.  For some of them if the vegetable didn't come in a can they weren't all that interested in it (sometime I'll write the blog about all the pureed veggies I snuck in their food...but you'll have to promise not to tell them it's still a secret ;))

I also enjoyed going to the market to see an old friend of mine.  He had gotten a summer job working for one of the vendors, and since I hadn't seen him in years, prior to his moving to the area for the summer it was great to see him each week.

I've really sidetracked from my story here, which is to share with you all my amazing discovery.  What you've all waited for....I discovered GOAT CHEESE at the farmers market!!  This wasn't just any ol' goat cheese, it was/is the most yummy, creamy, and smooth goat cheese you'll ever eat.  I tried the sample offered from the vendor that first Saturday visit early in the summer and I was addicted.  Now, a year and a half later I'm still addicted to the cheese.  My favorite flavor is the Southwestern Ranch, but a close second is the Garlic and Chives.  The hard cheeses are delicious as well, my favorite in that category is the Horseradish Cheddar. 

These cheeses are made by new friend, Pam Green, of Green Haven Farm Cheeses.  The Lord blessed this woman with a gift for caring for His goats (I'm sure in this case just as important as His sheep :)), and she's wisely used her talents to bring happiness to others through cheese :)

I was sad last year with the end of summer, because Pam no longer came to the market with her cheeses.  At the time though I was in the process of moving myself out of Sandal House and back into my home in Bridgewater, with so much activity going on it was more like a fleeting thought of regret for the cheese I was going to miss over the winter months.

This year I made trips to Harrisonburg at least twice a month on Saturdays to enjoy the market, and visit with friends (it's quite the social venue - especially with many of my friends living near downtown Harrisonburg).  I'd be lying if I said my trips to the market were entirely socially motivated, or a desire to see and try different produce, it was plainly my opportunity to pick up more cheese.

I went to the market this last Saturday, and even though I knew it was late in the season, I had hoped to see Pam one more time with her delicious cheese.  Unfortunately, it's that time of year again, Pam is taking a break from the market for the winter months, and I'm left waiting until next Spring for a whole new season of cheese.

Even without the cheese, the trip to the market wasn't a waste.  I had a wonderful time with my friend Stephanie as we talked about different produce and how we would cook/bake it.  Stephanie is super talented in the kitchen, and is always trying new things, where I'm more likely to just stick with the status quo.

I did end up buying some beautiful butternut squash from my friend Radell, owner of Season's Bounty.  With a little sugar and spice (and everything nice - in this case milk and butter), I turned some butternut squash into two pies for church fellowship meal today.  Enjoy the photos!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Do I even remember my login password?

Even after four months of inactivity I can still remember my login password...thankfully :)

And what a busy four months it has been, full of all sorts of changes. I've started a new job, had a roommate move in, and in general have been working at sprucing up my home. And those events only scratch the surface of all I've been up too :)

Not much time to write about it all now, but be warned I'm back and in the mood to blog :)  More to come in the next few days, weeks, and months.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Last Two Months

It has been brought to my attention recently that I haven't posted on my blog in the last two months. This has been disappointing to all my avid readers out there (the whole half dozen of you) that waited on baited breathe to hear about my new adventures/insights.

It's not that I haven't had anything to blog about in the last two months; it's just that the juiciest bits were not open to the public and therefore my life was not quite the open book it normally is (which makes blogging rather difficult). In the last week a few details have been ironed out and I now feel more at liberty to share what has been taking place in my life.

First, I got a new job!! I'll be working with Select Airparts in Weyers Cave beginning July 14th. The application and interview process was a bit extensive for this position, so I appreciate all the support and prayers I received from different co-workers and friends.

This week has also brought a new change to my living arrangements, I now have a roommate. My good friend Stephanie Y. moved into the house with me, and we're currently trying to find space for both her and my belongings. I'm looking forward to this new adventure of friendship and house sharing.

The not so hush-hush aspects of the last two months, include time and transition spent at church. At Weaver's Mennonite we were excited to welcome our new lead pastor, Phil Kanagy. I've really enjoyed getting to know Phil and his wife Janine better; they have been such a breath of fresh air to our church family. I've REALLY enjoyed Phil's sermons on Sunday mornings and absolutely hate when my schedule keeps me from attending (that's only happened a time or two – and I was absolutely miserable about missing out).

I've also been excited about some conversations that have begun in our church family about Young Adult ministries. Several of the young adults, like myself, have begun planning for times of worship, mentorship, biblestudy, fellowship, etc. This has been a challenge in our church family before, and I'm excited to see where God is leading us in the coming months.

So between changes in my career, home life, and church fellowship, my life has felt quite like a shaken snow globe here of late. In this last week it has become more like a snow globe that is settling it's snowy pieces after being shaken. At this time I'm appreciating the beauty of watching all the pieces fall into place.

Again, thanks to all of you who have had me in your prayers and thoughts over the last several months!!


Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Case of Mistaken Identity

The other evening, while at home, I thought to enjoy a nice cold beverage. I was thinking of the root beer I had in my fridge, and how it would compliment some salty popcorn. The root beer was one of those glass bottles with the twist lid, similar to many beer bottles on the market. I had been saving the root beer for a quiet evening at home, which for me is a special occasion.

I opened my fridge, grabbed the root beer, twisted the cap, and took a nice long swallow. YUCK!! Unfortunately for me it wasn’t the root beer I had grabbed, but an actual beer. One that a friend of mine had left at my place months ago, and I had been saving to cook with (which is about all I do with beer – never have liked the taste).

On my trip to the fridge I hadn’t bothered turning on the kitchen light, trusting my memory to guide me in the darkness. I had grabbed a bottle that had the same shape and feel as my root beer, and the cap twisted off like I knew it would. In that first taste I expected the sweet coldness of a good root beer. What I got was the bitter, sour taste of a cold dark beer, which for me is quite stomach turning.

I wasn’t happy about the mix up until I went back to fridge and found the actual root beer. The sweet taste of the beverage helped to wash away the previously sour-beer taste from my mouth. I then went back to my freezer and found some brats, which I cooked with the beer (gives the brats a good flavor – without all the alcohol).

As I stood by the stove cooking my brats, I kept thinking how this experience was much like one I had over ten years ago. Back then it was another case of mistaken identity, and had far greater significance.

Many of you know this part of my story, the time in my life where a friend of mine shared with me his faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I first heard that name it held no significance for me whatsoever. In my eighteen years I had never knowingly heard mention of that church name, and I thought he was referencing a Christian denomination that I hadn’t heard of before. I assumed Christian, because my friend was definitely a Christian to my understanding; he was (and still is) a loving, kind person, who knew his Bible inside and out, and was actively involved in church. His image to me was a reflection of all that I had seen growing up in my own church.

By all outward appearances my friend, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which he presented to me, looked like the “root beer” I was so use to. What I got instead was a sour taste from a non-root beer.

Just now I hesitated to write that last comment, it sounded unfair to my friend. I always want to be cautious when talking about my Latter-day Saint friends, especially since I know them to be loving and sincere people. They sincerely understand and believe the teachings of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and I relate to their sincerity. Unfortunately, for my Latter-day Saint friends they’ve not experienced the real sweetness of “root beer”, namely Jesus Christ, and aren’t able to compare it to the sour taste of what they do have. My heart bleeds for them as they unknowingly continue to accept the sub-standard.

Getting back to my story, some have asked me through the years why it was that I, knowing how sweet the “root beer” tasted could have been fooled by the imitation. My answer, it wasn’t until I drank deeply that I knew the taste, and therefore didn’t know the difference. Like I said earlier the outward appearance was very similar, not just similar almost identical.

The lifestyle, religious culture, vocabulary…it was all so like my own Christian tradition. It wasn’t until discussions on the very nature of God were broached that I realized the substance inside held the difference. God is that very substance, and His Word speaks to us about His nature and ‘sweetness’.

Never again do I want to replace Christ with an imitation. To know and understand the difference between the true nature of God and the imitations of this world, I study His Word in the Bible.

Going back to my analogy (for you know I love analogies), there are two methods I now use so as not to be found drinking something I should not. First, I turn on the light, no more groping in the dark, assuming I have the right drink because it feels right. Those assumptions and feelings may lead to terrible mistakes. Secondly, I’m a label reader. It’s good to read, and make sure I understand what it is I’m drinking, that it’s not something I wouldn’t desire to ingest.

When we find our “root beer” in Christ, hold tight and enjoy the sweetness!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Coincidence or....


You're most likely curious as to what I'm talking about in "godwinks".  Here's some definitions before I go into a longer explanation.

Coincidence: A sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged. - American Heritage Dictionary

Wink: To give a signal or express a message. - American Heritage Dictionary

Godwink: A personal signal or message directly from a higher power, usually, but not always in the form of a coincidence. - SQuire Rushnell - the author of "When God Winks" 

Last Saturday after getting off from work I had some time I wanted to use to see if I could visit with one of my girls from Sandal House (not to confuse you...I'm no longer at Sandal House...but like to stay in touch with the girls when I can).  I found out she was at work at the Mercy House Thrift Store and decided to drop in and say hi to her at work.  I also did what I always do when I'm at a thrift store and that was to look at the books offered.

My eye caught on the title of a book called, "When God Winks".  I was intrigued because I have this thing about winking that started one summer while working at Highland Retreat Camp.  It was the summer that the director asked the male and female staff to refrain from hugging while camp was in session, so that campers wouldn't get false impressions.  In place of being able to give reassurance or encouragement in the form of hugs, I began to wink.  A wink meant, "God loves you and you're special." 

What I learned about winking that summer was that in order to be blessed by a wink you need to be paying attention.  If you didn't see the wink, it had still happened, but the blessing of reassurance and encouragement wasn't the same.  Also, there are times when the person needing the wink will see it, but those around (i.e. campers) will often miss the communication or if they did see it it might not have the same significance to them.

After my summer of winking I needed to create a personal email address (I had never had one before).  I created Jenwinker and that has been my screenname ever since.  It's a reminder to me that I can choose to be a blessing of reassurance and encouragement to others.

The author of "When God Winks," has taken the same principal I used that summer at camp and expounded the subject.  SQuire Rushnell created a name (godwinks) for those moments in life when we had a coincidence take place that we contribute to God, but want to call it something other than coincidence.  We can now call it a godwink. 

Personally, I couldn't put this book down.  I even believe it was a godwink that I stumbled across this book to begin with.  Weeks ago when I wrote my post entitled, Inspired, I received a lot of comments both verbal and written about the story of my grandfather's picture being in the home of a South African I met.  While writing the post I mentioned that the occurance had spoken eloquently to me of God's love...and now I have a word for that story other than's a godwink. 

Another godwink connected with the book and the post I wrote, took place two weeks ago in Sunday School class.  A member of my Sunday School class mentioned the story I wrote in my blog and that led another participant to share a quote I had never heard before and hadn't stopped thinking about since.  "Coincidence is just God working anonymously."

I loved that quote and wasn't at all surprised that it was stated in the last chapter of the book, "When God Winks."  These are just testimonies of God's love for us, that He works out the littlest details, we just need to open to seeing Him at work (or we might miss those wonderful winks).

Recently I had a godwink moment that was special to me.  I was cleaning out my desk, not something I do often, and stumbled across a crumbled piece of paper that had gotten stuck in the back of a drawer.  The note was one I wrote to myself reminding me that the next time I made chocolate roses I needed to share some with two small children I knew from church.  I had made the promise to them and then wrote the note knowing if I didn't I would forget. 

That note had been written late last summer, then lost, and the promise forgotten.  I called their Mom, my friend Davene and asked if I could treat them to some chocolate cake, chocolate roses and a lesson in how to make chocolate roses for the boys.  My schedule is kind of tight these days, and I know Davene and her family keep busy too.  After looking at our schedules the only date that worked for us both was a week away on a Thursday.  We made our plans and then Davene confessed to me that the date was actually her birthday ,and she hadn't been wanting to have to make her own birthday cake.  Wow...what a godwink!  Our Creator God, even cares about birthday cakes.

What a loving God we serve!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

If You Could Meet...

Someone asked me today who I would choose to meet (living person) if I could pick someone.  It was implied that that someone should be famous.

With only a moment pause I replied, Nelson Mandela.  The famous political leader of South Africa, who helped to lead his country out of apartheid, and did so with peace and reconciliation.  I believe his' (and the South African citizen's) example is worthy of notice.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Maple Festival

Lucky me, this year I attended the Highland County Maple Festival twice!!  I went the first weekend with some friends of mine on a cold wet Sunday, and was cheered by the warmth of the company I kept.  The second weekend I was acting tour guide for a couple from my church who had never attended before.  The weather was decidedly better the second weekend, but the crowds (and lines for everything) wasn't as enjoyable. 

The following are a collection of photos from both weekends:

To most this first will seem completely random, but to those of you who are familiar with the McDowell Pancake Breakfast you'll understand that the collection of people hanging around the tents are actually in line for breakfast (line going out the door).  At the time this photo was taken the line was into the parking lot, which meant about a 2.5 hour wait for breakfast...those were some committed individuals.  When I joined the line it was out the door, but not nearly so long, our wait was a little under 2 hours.  This photo was from the second weekend...the first weekend I attended the Maple Festival the rainy weather meant that there was no line and we were in and out within an hour.

I took this photo from Jack Mountain entering Monterey, Virginia.  The traffic into Monterey was so heavy that it was an almost 30 minute hold up to drive into the town.  I had plenty of time to get this photo and a few others from the car as we crawled by the overlook.

This maple tree is estimated to be over 200 years old and is tapped at the Rexrode Sugar Orchard in Highland County.  What an amazingly beatiful tree...and what a wonderful God to create such beauty!!

The Sugar Tree Country Store is located in McDowell, Virginia and is a must visit at the Maple Festival, and I'm not just saying that because I'm related to the owners :)  I enjoyed visiting with some of my cousins at the store during my visit the second weekend.  The first weekend I enjoyed visiting with them at church on Sunday morning at McDowell Mennonite.

Had my first taste of Maple Ice Cream at the Sugar Tree Store...YUMMO!!

The Highland Museum was offering Civil War reenactment in the front yard.  I took these next photos on the first weekend.  Ironically, the pacifist Mennonites were holding church service in the building next door :)

This small log cabin is a part of my family history.  At one time it was Vance Country Store, where my Mom's family had a store they ran particularly during the Maple Festival.  It hasn't been open since I was a small child, but I do remember going there as some of my earliest memories of the Maple Festival.

The following is a photo taken at Rexrode's Sugar Camp, where they were boiling down sugar water over an open fire to make into syrup.  Going to the sugar camps and learning (or in my case re-learning again and again) how maple syrup is made is definitely a wonderful tradition of the festival.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Springing into Spring

May I just say that the beautiful, sunny weather we are experiencing here in the Shenandoah Valley has done much to lift my soul this week.  If I had the time (meaning if I didn't have to work for a living) I would be spending all my time outdoors and soaking in the sunshine.

For me the day starts with the sun peaking through my window around 7 a.m.  If the sun doesn't wake me the birds that have suddenly made an experience, chrip me into wakefullness.  These days the sunlight continues to around 7:30 p.m., which also makes me smile.  I just adore long days!!  I love being able to sit on front porch rocking chair with a glass of tea, and watch the sunset over the horizon. 

It will only get better as my garden takes on new life, and the nearby field is full of tall cornstalks.  Love living in the country :)

Friday, March 12, 2010

From my Heart to Yours...

I first heard of Bridges while living in Salt Lake City.  Bridges was a seminar put on locally by Salt Lake Theological Seminary; that equipped Christians with understanding regarding Mormons, and a loving approach to sharing the gospel message with them.

In the years since I moved back to Virginia, Bridges seminars have continued in Utah and beyond, though they are now sponsored by the Western Institute for Intercultural Studies. 

Recently, I've begun sharing Bridges with local congregations in Virginia, and I'm excited to share this ministry with other churches in the weeks, months and years to come.

Though this will sound biased (and I'm definitely biased), Bridges is a wonderful learning experience.  If you've ever had a desire to share the love of Christ with your Latter-day Saint friends, neighbors, and co-workers, but have felt ill-equipped to do so, then Bridges is for you. 

It is a day long seminar (about 6-7 hours with breaks included), that combines video segements, workbook exercises, group discussion, and of course with me faciliating their are some stories from my own personal experience.  The material covered in Bridges is segmented in five models:

  • Legacy The founding and perseverance of the LDS church through its history to its present prosperity.

  • Tapestry of Theology Understanding the basics of LDS vocabulary, doctrine and teachings.

  • The Journey Out Former Mormons share their experiences in LDS culture and the ways in which God drew them to experience His grace.

  • Bridging the Gap The Do’s and Dont’s of successful evangelism. How to make the Good News sound like “good” news to Mormons.

  • Community of Grace How to surround former Mormons with a loving church community that meets their individual and family needs.

At present I'm working to present this information to local congregations, pastors, sunday school classes, small groups, etc.  If you have a desire to experience Bridges for yourself, please feel free to contact.

**Oh, and don't let money be an issue for you or your congregation.  I'm freely giving my time to present Bridges and there is only a small fee ($10 plus some shipping and handling) for the workbooks used in Bridges.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I do realize that it has been several months since I last blogged, and during my hiatus I’ve contemplated writing on multiple occasions. Each time I would log onto my account and sit staring at the computer screen, feeling neither inspired nor motivated to write. It was almost depressing how little I cared, and no amount of pressure could make the words come.

Then as God is often able to do, I received encouragement today from an unlikely source. Through a series of connected websites I stumbled across a semi-stranger’s (sister to an acquaintance of mine) blog. I’ve never met this girl, but her writing has inspired this latest entry.

What profound thought did she share that encouraged me so? It’s so simple, yet so amazing, she wrote about God’s love for me. Her words were a gentle reminder of all that God gives us.

As I read her stories of God’s love my thoughts drifted to stories in my own life where God expressed His love for me in amazing ways. Any attempt to put to paper ALL these thoughts reminded me of the familiar hymn:

The Love of God

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

The imagery in that last verse has always stood out to me, it’s vivid and incomprehensible. It’s how I felt this afternoon as I began contemplating how I might share in writing the love God so often gives to me. Though I won’t be able to do it justice; I, like my new friend, will at least attempt by sharing a few stories.

God’s love inspires my awe…

In May of 2004, I found myself traveling with several other peers in Lesotho and South Africa as part of our college cross cultural program. I could share from a wealth of experiences from that trip alone how God showed His love to us, but one day in particular stands out from the others. We had arrived in the outskirts of Cape Town, and were preparing for our last host family stays. Late in the day, many of the other students had been assigned host families; yet there was a small group who waited for hosts arriving late, and I was among them.

We waited in the home of a South African man (and his family) who had at one time studied at our university in Virginia. Almost six years before he had taken classes at the seminary, and was now back in his home country leading a local congregation. As the wait for hosts to arrive extended he offered us dinner, and I offered to help him prepare in the kitchen. I was placed in charge of getting drinks from the refrigerator. I still remember that moment of absolute shock, when looking among the pictures posted on their refrigerator I found my Granddad Heatwole starring back at me.

It took me several seconds to even register what it was I was actually seeing. My mind couldn’t process the absolutely incredible happenstance, that my Granddad, a simple dairy farmer, from a Conservative Mennonite church, who had lived in rural Virginia (and had been deceased for four years prior at that time) was in a picture hanging from a refrigerator in Cape Town, South Africa. In fact, this was all so farfetched that I didn’t believe it at first.

At first I thought I hadn’t recognized Granddad, and it was someone else. No, after a closer look it was definitely my Granddad. Then I thought maybe someone was playing a prank on me, and I turned around to where our host was preparing pizzas and asked him where he had gotten the photo. He began telling me of James Heatwole, a man he met while living in Virginia, and how Mr. Heatwole, as he called him, had been a welcoming person to him. He had met Mr. Heatwole while on a drive one morning. My host had gone for a scenic drive early one morning to see some farm land, but had gotten lost, until he came across a man sitting in his truck by the side of the road. They talked briefly and Mr. Heatwole did more than just give him directions back, he just had him follow his truck back to the university. From that time forward, they met on several occasions.

My host’s story might have seemed odd to someone else, but the tidbits made complete sense to me and my memories of Granddad. In Granddad’s later years, he and Grandma moved from their home near our farm to another home in town near Eastern Mennonite University. Each morning (with the exception of Sunday), he would drive out to the farm, and often in the early hours he would park his truck off the side of the road and enjoy the quiet of the new day. This must be where my host met him that day, near the very farm I grew up on. And that day, instead of giving him directions back to the university he went home early so this man from South Africa could follow him and not lose his way again.

That day in South Africa I was able to tell my dinner host that I was Mr. Heatwole’s granddaughter and that he had passed on to his’ heavenly home. How AMAZING is our God? He orchestrates even the smallest details for His people.

That same day I was placed with a host family. My host family had arrived later in the day due to activities they had been involved with as youth leaders for a local congregation. They explained to me and my other classmate that the local Baptist Youth Groups were meeting for a weekend convention. Even that evening they had a meeting planned and as part of the host family we would be attending.

My classmate and I didn’t know what to expect that evening, and I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what we encountered. We were brought into this large gathering place (almost like a remodeled gym). Immediately the speaker, who had been previously speaking Afrikaans, changed over to English for the “American Sisters”. Jokingly, I thought it was pretty obvious who the ‘american sisters’ were, considering that everyone turned to look at the only two white people in the room.

The preaching that evening was lively and intense, and kept me from falling asleep after what had already been a long day. What woke me up completely was the moment the speaker called out that he’d like to hear the testimonies of the ‘american sisters’. SAY WHAT?!? My classmate and I were brought forth to the front of the gathering, and took the stage. We were easily standing before a couple thousand (we were told there were others in rooms throughout the building). My classmate was prompted to the pulpit and microphone first, she wrapped up her “testimony” within seconds, briefly telling everyone her name, state she was born in and where we attended university. I could tell from the speaker’s face he was hoping for something more than an introduction, so I spoke guessed it…God’s Love.

God wasn’t finished with this day yet, after the service the speaker came to us and introduced himself. He explained that he had a nephew who lived and worked in Virginia and had married a local woman there. Something about what he was sharing struck me as familiar, and after a few questions back and forth, we soon realized that his nephew’s wife was actually a high school classmate and neighbor of mine.

That day I stood amazed at the work of our God. The details that went into those two encounters are unfathomable. Our God loves us enough to work out the smallest details.

God’s love prepares a way…

In the Spring of 2005, I was preparing for a move across country to Utah. I was leaving Virginia with a strong sense of God’s calling and faith to keep me along the way, plus my few belongings packed into my four-door car. In my mid-twenties, this was a relocation of a magnitude I had never experienced before, and I had moments of uncertainty.

I was certain that God was leading me to Utah, but the details of the move, where I would be living, working and attending church were fuzzy at best. In the weeks prior to my move I solicited the support of friends and family through their prayers. I remember one evening in particular when I asked my biblestudy group to be in prayer that God would lead me to a local congregation in Utah to fellowship with.

That evening one of my friends mentioned that though there weren’t any Mennonite churches in Utah, they had experience attending a Christian and Missionary Alliance congregation. He told me I should do a search and see if there were any CMA churches in the Salt Lake City area. One quick Google search later, and I had turned up a, as in singular, CMA church in Salt Lake City.

Thus, Discovery Christian Community church was on the top of my churches to visit list. As it turned out I really didn’t need a list, I found a home at Discovery almost immediately. During my years at Discovery the body of believers I fellowshipped with became dear family to me, in a time of my life where my immediate family lived over two thousand miles away.

Now, even years after I relocated back to Virginia I thank God for His wonderful provision for me during my time in Utah. Most special among all that He provided was the fellowship of believers at Discovery Christian Community. In God’s encompassing love for me He prepared the way…

God’s love is a refuge during the storm…

I, like everyone else I know, am not immune to difficulty. There have been numerous occasions when I’ve struggled with hardships, grief, and disappointment. Yet, through all life’s valleys I am able to depend on God’s presence walking with me.

Most recently, I’ve been dealing with disappointment over broken relationships. Through the brokenness I’ve seen God bringing about new relationships and healing. I’m learning how powerful the love of God truly is, that He is able to bring joy from sorrow and healing from pain.

If you, like I, have been inspired by God’s love recently or in the past I encourage you to share it with someone. You might want to write your own blog :)