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Grief 101

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Grief 101

See, from His head, His hands, His feet Sorrow and love flow mingled down Did e’er such love and Sorrow meet Or thorns compose so rich a crown. (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts)

Grief is part of our world. Love and sorrow twist together in our lives.

To love, to open our hearts to others? Is to be vulnerable.

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.                              C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Grief takes a toll on us all: Men and women and children. So many of us are responding to this in “Social Isolation.” But how do we experience it? 

Elisabeth Kübler- Ross did extensive studies on grief, and it helps us understand what is happening to us now. She envisioned grief as an inverted bell curve, 5 stages.

Shock & Denial

In this stage we can hardly believe what is happening. It is like nothing we have experienced so we do not have a frame of reference. 

Shock gives way to surprise as news unfolds of the event. In this Pandemic, it is disturbing and unsettling. It is frightening and brings on fear. It is a jolt to our system. Trauma intertwines with distress.

Denial comes hard on the heels of shock. Certainly, these reports cannot be true. The Pandemic may be effecting Europe; but how could it ever reach America? We are a medically sophisticated society, and surely our medical community will stop this in its tracks. The facts and figures coming in from China, Italy and Spain must be exaggerated. And as we examine the statistics on American soil, it seems negligible.

And it can’t be worse than the flu—can it? A bad flu.

We experience this every winter. And this, too, will pass.

Anger

The anger stage is multifaceted. How did this Pandemic get out of control? How can it be happening here? In our Country? State? County? Borough?

The invisibility of this beast adds to out exasperation. Give me a visible enemy, and perhaps I’ll be able to take him on. But this? Just how many times do I have to wash my hands? Studies have shown we wash our hands a total of 6 seconds. So there has been a suggestion of singing verses of “Amazing Grace”, or your favorite rock song or “Happy birthday. Tell me: exactly how many verses do I need to sing? Clever methods calm my annoyance for a short time, but give way to irritation.

I become more irritable as time goes on. Do not tell me where I can go. And the distance I have to stand from my neighbor. And how I have to handle my groceries. Or when I shop.

Irritability gives way to annoyance. I may have never baked bread before, but now I insist on buying yeast and bread flour. How dare the store be sold out! Never mind that there are plenty of Pepperidge Farm loaves on the shelves. And the bread dilemma is national in scope. Yeast cannot be found throughout the land.

I may have lost my job, been furloughed, or reduced hours. My finances will be a mess.

Or, I may be working in the medical field, delivery for UPS FEDEX or supply chain. Can’t I stay home like everyone else? Just how much exposure can I have without exposing my family?

Bargaining

Bargaining is subtle in nature. As if we could bargain with a Pandemic! But we try. It is hard to predict how long this will last. If I pace myself for 2 weeks, perhaps the worst will be over. If the extension of “Social Isolation” is for 4 weeks, I can manage. But no longer. That is all I can promise. I’ll make an agreement for the end of April, but surely not into May.

Let’s make a deal! I promise to stay isolated, but how can I see my family? My children? Don’t tell me we can’t have Easter dinner!

Perhaps all of us can have our own Easter dinner, and meet “virtually” through Zoom. That is the solution. I’ll barter with this Pandemic.

Depression

The longevity of this Pandemic begins to wear on us. 

I want out! I want my independence back and I want my freedom! I feel dejected as my routine has been disrupted. A sadness prevails, as I pace from room to room. There is only so much that I can take of these 4 walls! Cabin fever abounds.

I’ve fallen out of the rhythm of life. I may not get up in the morning, but instead, lounge in bed in despair. After all, why get up?

I am despondent as I look at myself in the mirror. My hairdresser is not open, and my roots are beginning to show.

I’m eating or drinking to console myself, feeling guilty about the comfort foods that try to ease my internal ache and melancholy.

Being “in the dumps” has never felt so real.

The internet is ablaze with jokes:

“If I hold a glass of wine or a beer in each hand, I can’t touch my face.”

“Pretty soon I’m going to need a magician, not a beautician!”

“Breaking news: Wearing a mask inside your home is highly recommended. Not so much to prevent COVID-19 but to prevent eating.”

We laugh at them, knowing there is a deep truth here. We see ourselves. And we know that others feel the same way.

Acceptance

As this Pandemic drags on, we recognize that we have to do our part.

To successfully shelter in place means nothing will happen today. But the decreasing numbers of infections will be the reward of our patience. A commitment to other’s safety will become our foremost concern.

We know there will be a “New Normal.”

Learning to manage the home front, even with humor, helps us through the “daily days.”

There are innumerable sites for parents and children to engage in fun activities.

For adults? Netflix, reading, and perhaps video games. But these all point to being at home. Alone and isolated. 

The ideal: time spent in God’s Word and with Him.

And so we reframe this time: Instead of being stuck at home? We are safe at home.

The end is in Sight

Perhaps you’ve seen yourself in parts of the Grief cycle. Perhaps this is a moment, of “Aha! Me too!”

It is not linear and most often, we take “two steps forward and one step back.”

We offer grace to others, knowing that we are each on an independent journey through this time. There may be similarities. But there are also differences.

“We may never know the treacherous journey people have taken to land in the pew next to us.” (Rosaria Butterfield)

We receive this time in faith, being confident that He is at work in us, and in His world.

We trust Him to work in us and through us to accomplish His good will.

And while we may not have a definitive date for this Pandemic to end, we do know that we have a Savior who is doing all things well.

“The tomb, normally a place of endings, became a place of beginnings. Out of if came the new hope of Resurrection life.” (Paul Tripp 4/10/20.)

Let us live in this time anticipating the resurrection He is doing within us.

Valentine’s Day

Cynthia L. Eppley 02/12/2022

Valentine’s Day Past

It is that time of year when love is in the air….Valentine’s Day!
I’ll get to that soon. For now, travel back in time with me to Jan. 1974.
My childhood friend, Cindy Bennett was getting married, and I was in the wedding.
By that time Bob was my fiancee and we anxiously awaited our own marriage in May.
The morning of Cindy’s wedding I woke up and felt sick.
Really sick.
In fact, I vomited in the trashcan.
Tears quickly followed as I wondered how I was going to get through the day?
Bob came to my side with a damp washcloth. Wiping my face tenderly, he assured me we would get through it.
He brushed my hair back from my face.

Further in the Past….

It seems that the celebration of Valentine’s Day has a history.

“Valentine’s Day also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated annually on February 14. It originated as a Christian feast day honoring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and, through later folk traditions, has become a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world.”

Cards

Who can forget the Valentine’s Box of yesteryear? A brightly decorated box took a prominent position in the classroom.
Students anxiously watched as friends took their cards up and deposited them in the slot. Would there be one for me?

Would it be “special”?

Valentine’s cards could be purchased in packs, generally enough for each child in the classroom—including one for the teacher. Themed cards reflected the cartoons of the day. Parents trudged to the store to buy “just the right pack.”
Buzz Lightyear, Transformers, Cinderella, Frozen, you name it.

Valentine’s Day in the Present

“Many people have a kind of love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day: the holiday is disparaged as a manufactured holiday foisted upon us by greeting card companies, and there’s often a sense that it’s only for people who are romantically paired, making it feel rooted in exclusion.”
You might think Valentine’s Day was the peak of anticipation and excitement.

“Order your favorite Valentine’s gift now.”


Bring on the sweetness (and the cheesy) for Valentine’s! We have lots of specials items available—honeys, cheeses and, of course, chocolates and locally-made cookies.”

Videos of how to make heart shaped cupcakes, with lots of pink and white icing.

“It’s not too late! Order by 4pm to get your gifts for Valentine’s Day!”

Strawberries!

I might add a thought from Shakespeare: A strawberry by any other name would still be sweet. More to the point, any other time of the year they are just……strawberries.
But this time of year? Coat them in chocolate, add some sprinkles or embellishments, and they are “Valentine worthy.”

And who doesn’t love chocolate covered strawberries?

Speaking of Chocolate….

I must confess, chocolate is a favorite. Dark chocolate. And if it is a chocolate covered caramel?
Even better.
The custom of candy filled heart shaped boxes began in 1868 when Cadbury developed it. It is popular to this day, in any number of variations and themes.

Roses

And where would we be without the popular red rose?
Roses, at any time of year are popular, but on Valentine’s Day? They are sought after, and of course, the price goes up.

Tie it in with poetry:
“Roses are red, violets are blue. Sugar is sweet and so are you.”

If you can’t wax poetic yourself, surely there’s a card for that.

Galentine’s Day

And for those without a romantic attachment, or in some cases even if they have a romantic partner? There is always “Galentine’s Day.”
Galentine’s Day, formed by a blend of gal and Valentine’s Day, is a day in which women celebrate their female friendships. The new holiday debuted in a 2010 episode of Parks and Recreation. The term is also seeing increased use in celebrating any kind of friendship, not just those among women.”

Love in the Present

My health has been on the edge in the past 15 months. Many signs and symptoms, but it is very hard to pin down.
This came to a head as I headed into a medical procedure yesterday.
Never easy, these procedures can test our patience and fortitude.

Sometimes the procedures and preparation are ghastly.
(And please understand dear reader, I do not mean to trivialize those who suffer with countless ailments and disease.)
But as I was enduring the preparation, I knew this would not be good. It was just a matter of time…..
I headed to the kitchen and promptly vomited all over the floor. Quickly followed by christening the bathroom floor.
Innumerable towels were used for cleanup.
Not to mention clothes being washed and changes of clothing.
Wash and repeat. Wash at 3am. Transferring to dryer at 4am.

Connection

Why do I bore you with the details? (Stay with me here….)
I do it to emphasize the beauty of being married to my husband: 48 years this May. As I was hurling into the trashcan, he was patiently wiping up the floors. The kitchen. The bathroom.
Cleaning them up.
Folding the laundry. I lost track of how many loads.

Wiping my furrowed brow.
And telling me: “We’ll get through this.”
Certainly we’ve had our share of struggles and burdens.
But the stuff of life has not torn us apart; and now we encourage and support one another, even in times of sickness and health. Commitment has taken us through the years.

And so on this Valentine’s Day?
Cards, chocolates, flowers are all extra.
Romantic love is one thing.
Give me the man that I knew back in 1974 to be a Servant.
A man after God’s own heart.
A man who loves me and serves me in the pits of life, as well as the soaring heights.
I’ll take him any day.
And when my stomach feels up for it? Maybe I’ll take some chocolate covered caramels.

The Day After Christmas

Cynthia L. Eppley 01/03/2022

“Greeting cards have all been sent The Christmas rush is through But I still have one wish to make: A special one for you….”

Merry Christmas, Darling

This song was first recorded by the Carpenters in 1970. It is still popular 50 years later. And we can see why: haunting melody, heartfelt emotive vocals. And certainly, a message for all of us. We long to be with those we love.
We long to be recreating family memories and traditions.

“Merry Christmas, darling We’re apart, that’s true But I can dream And in my dreams
I’m Christmasing with you.”

We’re Apart

My very first Christmas away from home was with my fiancé Bob, in Western PA. We had spent holidays apart, but now we were engaged. And so I was with him.
But how do you explain the longing to be in two places at once?
Separating from your family to join together with the one you love? It may be the very best thing, but also the hardest thing.

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

Holidays are Joyful

“Holidays are joyful There’s always something new! But every day’s a holiday When I’m near to you.”

Holidays are joyful.
Family together, fellowshipping and enjoying one another. Children laughing. Wrapping paper torn off.
But then there is the day after.

Near to You?

Not necessarily the day after Christmas, but very soon, all good things come to an end. Grown children must return to work. Youngsters have school. And so the exodus begins as they make their way home. I am reminded of this as I’ve seen my social media:“Our family is on the move! One is flying back home to SanDiego; Two are on their way to Germany for vacation. Missing them all, blessing them on their way.” 2011

“Definitely a day of the ‘blahs.’ Put one on a train bound for NYC, and then out to SanFran tonight. Seems like he just got here. The times with all of us together were precious. And when he goes back, I feel a pit in my stomach. I know this too will pass. Life will get back to normal. How many other Moms & Dads feel this after the holidays when the kids return to their homes???” 2013

“Typical Monday. Doing wash, putting things away. Except THIS Monday is after Christmas. And one flies home this afternoon. Is it any wonder that it is hard to get motivated? Holiday blues. Or should I say, post family blues???” 2014

Note: when I have posted my “Post Holiday Blues” there is often an outpouring of many feeling the same way.

I Wish you Could See!

“The lights on my tree I wish you could see
I wish it every day. The logs on the fire Fill me with desire To see you and to say:”

But our littles grow up and go on.
College calls.
Or first jobs.
They are full of anticipation, joy, excitement and apprehension. New beginnings!

Empty Nests And of course, our deepest desire is to see them succeed.
Two nieces have launched their littles into careers leaving their homes behind and somewhat “empty.” We are left at home. We become the “Empty Nesters.” How did the years fly by so quickly?

I Wish I Were with You

“I wish you merry Christmas; Happy new year too! I’ve just one wish
On this Christmas eve–I wish I were with you”

Other circumstances separate us.
Bob’s sister died just after the New Year, 2021. So this is a “First Christmas.” Another one has just recently lost her mother.

“Another year without you Mom. Celebrate by dancing among the stars tonight.”

A toddler is undergoing chemotherapy in a hospital in Florida.
There are families that are separated by distance, but also disagreements that happened years ago. Do they even remember what the squabble was all about?

Or differences in opinions on politics, or vaccinations, or you name it. There are elderly in nursing homes, and it may be impossible to visit with them. Many are serving in the Armed Forces, assigned far away. And others whose jobs require distant locales: another country, another Continent.

Cancelled Christmas?

There are so many who expressed the desire to be with family this Christmas, only to have those hopes and dreams dampened by illness—or even potential illness.

“The let down of getting excited to see family and friends and never getting to do that….it’s come and gone and it won’t happen.”

“The let down of cancellations. since we were actually sick it made it bearable.”

“The disappointment of kids getting sick and not coming is sad! But we will get together in Jan. It’s not the day but being together.”

“The Post holiday blues of having been together but it feeling less than ‘normal.’ Testing, masks, Covid talk & fear of giving it or getting it….mentally exhausted!”

“The end of the expectation and the sadness over what didn’t happen.” 

Christmas and Transitions

In this unusual time of Covid and illness, know that your expressions— our expressions of desire to be with those we love is strong and rich and deep.
We all long to be with those we love; it is our common humanity.
Our expectations run high leading up to the holiday. We build up “The Perfect Christmas” in our hearts and minds. (See The Perfect Christmas)
And so our hopes may be dashed at cancellations.
Our disappointments are shared. (See Holiday Ho-Hum)
Though isolated, we are not alone in our struggles and sadness.

Happy New Year Too

The transition is difficult. Getting back to a routine is hard.
Dragging ourselves out of bed this morning seemed harder than the year before.
But it is a New Year and we eagerly anticipate all that is ahead. And maybe Christmas 2022 will be a fuller, richer experience with family and friends close.

“I wish I were with you. Merry Christmas, darling.”

The Perfect Christmas

Cynthia L. Eppley 12/19/2021

Nighttime

It’s that time of year. We lay awake at night going through lists in our heads—checking it twice. This is not reviewing who is naughty or nice— it is because we don’t want to forget anything. And how do I know this to be true?
Because so many share this on social media.

Remember

There is so much to remember.
Between last minute runs to the store, Christmas cards, and decorating? It is enough to exhaust us.

Sick and Tired

All this hype for the holiday can make us run down and sick. And it does take a toll. Years ago, I could count on getting a cold as a result of pre-holiday stress. And there were many like me.
To be blunt: it was exhaustion from my own expectations to have “A Perfect Christmas.”

(I might add, this no longer happens.)

A Culture in Review

Just look at the influences on us:

Ads on TV

if you were to believe the ads, you would think everyone is home for Christmas. “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow” are healthy and happy.
Cars arrive with a giant bow on top.

White Christmas

Everyone has a “White Christmas.”
Why, there is even a car commercial for it!

“As a desert-dwelling family drives back home, they’re in for an unusual surprise. They are greeted with snow, although the artificial kind, in front of their home—an unexpected sight for someone living in a dry climate surrounded by palm trees. Lincoln Motor Company longs for you to experience something extraordinary along with the power of sanctuary during its Wish List event.”
Of course, the car takes center stage.
This all pulls at our heart strings as we reflect on what Christmas could be; never mind that Dad has been busy creating the blanket of snow with a snow machine perched precariously on top of the house.

Movies

Perhaps Christmas movies open a window to our deepest longings; and why we enjoy them, laugh uproariously, and repeat the lines in advance.

Christmas Vacation

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” skewers many of our dearest traditions. From the perfect tree to the perfect dinner, nothing seems to go right for Clark Griswold. And we laugh at him and with him as we see ourselves. He just wants to have the “Perfect family Christmas.”

Christmas with the Kranks

The Kranks decide to skip Christmas one year since their daughter is away, much to the chagrin of their neighbors—until their daughter decides to come home at the last minute. Hilarity ensues as carolers torment them. They “must have” a ham, not just any ham, mind you, but a “Mel’s Hickory Honey Cooked, Boneless, Skinless ham with natural Juices and Gelatin Added.” “Borrowing” a neighbor’s tree, and the perfect chocolate—again, we laugh at them and with them as we see ourselves striving to make all things right.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Created in 1965, this animated show has won our hearts.
“Feeling down about the commercialism of Christmas, Charlie Brown becomes the director of the gang’s holiday play. Can he overcome his friends’ preference for dancing over acting, find the “perfect” tree, and discover the true meaning of Christmas?” Even his “Charlie Brown” tree has become a symbol of frustration. He exclaims in frustration: “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?”

Linus

And then there is Linus: His blue blanket goes with him everywhere. It is his “security blanket” and he must have it. Always.
He clings to it for reassurance and the others taunt him by taking it and running.
His role in the film is to remind all the meaning of Christmas and so he answers Charlie Brown by quoting Luke 2: 8-14:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And, suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

The Blanket

But there is so much more to this scene.
An article released in 2015 explains this for us:
“In that climactic scene when Linus shares what “Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket, and I am now convinced that this is intentional. Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words “fear not.”
Looking at it now, it’s pretty clear what Charles Schulz was saying through this, and it’s so simple it’s brilliant.
The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.
The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.
The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to him instead.
The world of 2015 can be a scary place, and most of us find ourselves grasping to something temporal for security, whatever that thing may be. Essentially, 2015 is a world in which it is very difficult for us to “fear not.”
But in the midst of fear and insecurity, this simple cartoon image from 1965 continues to live on as an inspiration for us to seek true peace and true security in the one place it has always been and can always still be found.
https://www,thegospelcoalition.org/article/just-drop-the-blanket/

Cartoon Inspiration

It is inspiring that a simple cartoon about Charlie Brown has withstood the test of time. It still resonates with young and old alike.
And in 2021, just like 2015, and 1965, the world can be a scary place.
What do we grasp?

Fear Not How can we “fear not?”
Maybe the meaning of the blanket holds the key:
As we strive for “The Perfect Christmas,” we find that we can’t find the right ham, or the right tree, or the right gift.
Depending on where you live, you may never have a White Christmas.
Like Linus, perhaps we need to give up our aspirations that bind us to impossible goals. Perhaps we need to drop our striving and find new meanings in this changing world of 2021. And perhaps, we may find our security in more than a blanket, holiday, tradition, and ritual. Let us find our Rest in Him.

Christmas Cards

Cynthia L. Eppley December 7, 2021

That time of Year

It’s that time of year when our hearts and minds turn to Christmas. Often, that includes sending out cards—either physical or ecards.
Since I haven’t sent cards in a few years, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and actually order prints including our family.

The Work

I suppose this should be easy. Shutterfly, Snapfish, and so many others have platforms that make this task go quickly.
Or so it would seem.

Pictures

First, what pictures to choose? I carefully got permission from our grown children to include them. Our children are grown, with children of their own; friends and families want an update! But therein lies the rub.
How do we get the “Just right” picture for Christmas? You try to herd children into a picture; it’s rather like herding cats.

Best Laid Plans

I know parents choose outfits carefully before the photo shoot. Perhaps everyone is color coordinated in their “Sunday best.” Or maybe the picture was captured over summer vacation. But this we know: the best laid plans often go astray.
Who hasn’t had their family all dressed for an event…..when the baby vomits on their outfit? Or worse, a diaper leak makes that outfit fit for the trash.
And how many mothers have spit up on their shoulders?
How many toddlers are having a meltdown?

Say “Cheese!”

Generally, we want everyone smiling for the camera.
But really?
When we’re dealing with kids?
One of my friends shared the family picture, and the toddler was racing away.
They caught the image in mid stride, and as she said: “That’s the best we could do!” Or perhaps the kids are all screaming. Or in outright rebellion, looking down or away.
Besides the “Just right” picture, there is the “Looking goofy” picture. Is this the one we should choose?
With everyone making a comical face?
Which one represents reality?
What is real?

Picture Perfect The picture you see above is an actual picture of an actual family being very, very real. They are sitting for their mother, my friend and professional photographer Rae Barnes.(See raebarnes.com) Here is her take on “Getting the Perfect Picture:” “Before you start to think that my kids are perfect and just LOVE having their pictures taken by me (and always cooperate)…” (I especially love the little guy picking his nose…)

The Text

This year I chose to print a short summary of our family, to bring people up to speed.
I carefully crafted the words to describe our grown up children’s positions and activities. Spelled out our trips and tribulations—at least some of them.
And saved it on the website. Imagine my horror when I went back to retrieve it……and it wasn’t there.

What?

All that work for naught?
My expletives were not ready for Christmas. I was not smiling for the camera.

How Real?

Which brings me to the question:
Just how real do we get with these cards?
What do we share? How much do we share? And where does the better part of discretion lie?

Perfection

If we were to believe what we see on the Internet, we’d see only perfection.
Perfect family pictures, with all lined up “just right.”
Smiling members, implying that all is right with the world.
The tree manicured and every ornament perfectly placed; no lights burnt out.
The dinner table shimmers with crystal and candle light; wine flows freely, dinner isn’t burned, and the mashed potatoes actually mashed. (See Mashed Potatoes) Everyone is getting along.
No heated political discussions, no family emergencies, and no health problems….apparently. (More on the Perfect Christmas in the next few days….)

What is Real?

So what do we choose for the Christmas card?
How do we represent ourselves in one picture that we send out? Does that one picture represent our lives for the whole year? How do we choose, and write, and symbolize our lives?
Is this Real? And what is real?
This is very much reflected in the book The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams:

“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

Becoming Real

Sometimes I feel like I break easily, and have sharp edges.
Most of my hair might be there, but it certainly is grey.
My eye sight is changing and don’t even begin to mention my joints.
Getting up from the kitchen floor is an exercise in managing cabinets to support me as I attempt to get vertical.
It is not an easy task. The knees don’t work so easily.

The Truth

Perhaps the greatest truth we can tell ourselves is that we all are a mixture at Christmas. No one gets it right.
No one gets it perfect.
Your Christmas card and my Christmas card are only a thin slice of reality.

We Remember

As we open our Christmas cards, as we remember friends and family?
We remember them fondly, and perhaps we do know the backstory of their lives.
Perhaps we know the smiles but also their struggles and heartaches.
Let’s remember that this becoming process takes time for all of us.
We are all in process, and we all may be shabby despite what the Christmas Card reveals. But this we do know:
Love came down at Christmas. Christ came down at Christmas.
He came to restore, renew, redeem, and forgive.
This is Real. And this lasts for always.

Fragile

Steep Paths

Cynthia L. Eppley      December 4, 2021

Falling

I have a nasty habit of falling. Not on purpose, of course. But randomly I’ll find myself flat on my back. If I’m fortunate, my garden bed will catch me somewhat gently. Generally I’m trying to go too fast and furious. I need to slow down. Justin (my son) tells me I need to encase myself in bubble wrap.

Broken

And so it came as an unfortunate turn of events when I fell on vacation. Note: this was a “Cross-Country” event. Nothing local here, oh no.

Our first day in California we met our son and his two little girls for a sunny day on the Pacific beach. We would frolic in the cold water and sand! We would build sand castles!

But the beach was a steep 200 ft down, with a winding switch back trail.

“No problem!” I said. 

“There are switch backs!” I said with relief.

And so we set off down the winding trail with caution and care, when…..

Bam!

Down I went.

These things happen so quickly don’t they?

I lay on my back, looking up at the clear blue sky, and catching my breath:
Was anything broken? Could I even breathe? How did this even happen?

Bob and Nate huddled around me in concern, and the grands were worried. After much ado about (not) nothing, I was assisted to my feet.

I quickly realized I could breath fine; but I was sure I had a hairline fracture in my ribs.

Great way to start vacation!

Utah

After several days we were on our way and headed to Utah and the National Parks. I could sense something wasn’t right in my breathing. Any bump was precarious as I braced my sides.

We checked into a tiny hospital with a 4 bed Emergency Room. There, I found I had pneumonia. Many X-rays later, we were on the road again with the proper medicine.

Extra Care

Since that time, I’ve been to the Doctor many times, and have found a difference in my behavior.

Am I afraid of falling? Yes.

Do I try to be more careful? Of course.

I’m more aware of the fragility of life.

“There was a kind of fear that settled over my family the day Nick died—a fear related to a new awareness of the fragility of life. And while we are doing a bit better now than we were a few months ago, we still struggle to believe that we won’t experience other sorrows and losses, that the God who ordained one tragedy for us hasn’t ordained many more.” (See Tim Challies post: 

https://www.challies.com/personal-reflections/a-december-family-update-and-non-travel-report/)

The Doctor’s

The Gray Head Couple stood at the reception desk, clutching their papers, and their cards, and each other. 

Shakily, they asked what desk to go to?

I noted their warm hats and scarves, wrapped up to ward off winter. And her shoes were down trodden and worn on the outside heel. 

Did she not have the money for new shoes? Did she not have the energy to go the store?
The young receptionist, with a note of condescension gave directions. 

I paused at this sad interaction. It could be me. 

Stairs

The tall, wide stairway looked very long indeed, and very steep.

I’m not sure if I checked for hand rails before, but I sure do now. As my friend Paula and I say: “Never leave a handrail unused.” They come in quite handy. A reassurance.

So it was significant when I came out of the Doctors office and headed to the stairs, that I first reached for the handrail. 

Carefully.

First, switch my purse and my papers to my right hand. I took the stairs on the left, holding the rail with my left hand. 

Very slowly I descended….and then I saw him.

A young man, head down on his phone, coming up the stairs on my side.

(Nevermind that he was on the right hand side, as he should be. Or that I was on his side coming down.)

Chicken

I wondered if we would play a game of “Chicken.” Who would move first? In order to move, I had to let go of the railing. And shift to the right.

This was not my desire.  I wanted to hang on.

But when push came to shove (no pun intended here) I let go and gingerly stepped into the middle of the stairs. 

Balancing.

It is Us. It is Me.

We were once babes in a manger, or bassinet, or crib.

Take your pick. 

We were once young and vigorous and able to “spring back” from a fall or a stumble.

But in all reality, the turning of this life brings us to the same point:

We all have wounds that may be external; or internal.

We are all broken.

We are all aching.

Some aches are more external, but so many cannot be seen.

Love Came Down

So many Christmas carols and hymns are rich in theology and meaning. One of my favorites is:
“Love Came Down”:

Love came down at Christmas,  Love all lovely, Love divine; Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign. 

The Advent Season

In this Advent Season, we celebrate the Babe born in a manger.

The King of the Universe, coming to a stable floor.

Psalm 126:33

He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 37:23-24

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

Jude 24-25

24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Jeremiah 23:23

“Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away?

The God Who is Near

There are times when we all may feel fragile.

The fragility of life draws closer.

But even in this:

Let us remember that God Himself stooped low for us.

He remembers us in our lowly estate.

He is faithful.

And I know, whether in California or Utah, or Pennsylvania that though I might fall, I would not be cast down; the Lord upholds us with His righteous right hand.

Mashed Potatoes

Cynthia L. Eppley December 2, 2021

Holidays

One major holiday has just passed—Thanksgiving. And one is upon us soon—Christmas. And what would the holidays be without festivities and feasting?

We catch the aromas of cooking wafting through the house long before dinner time.

Our taste buds work overtime, expecting our favorite foods.

Shopping

If you are going to cook, you need to shop. And if you shop, you need to store it all. 

My refrigerator was bursting at the seams. Where to put it all? I saw one post that suggested putting cooling racks in your refrigerator, stacking things high.

I, for one, simply improvise and stack things high, precariously balancing it all.

Rolls

And after all this preparation, all the different foods. (SeeThanksgiving Traditions) because you can’t leave out a favorite dish—we sit down to eat. You can be assured that most children will avoid all of it—except the rolls. Where would they be without rolls and butter?

Anticipation

It all comes to a culmination of textures and tastes, a delight to the eyes as well as the palate.

Take the mashed potatoes, for instance. 

They fall right behind the rolls for the kids. A pot full of simmering water and sliced potatoes, waiting for the magic. Drain the potatoes, add milk and butter—lots of butter—and whip them into mountains of creamy white goodness. Add toppings.

This is, of course, unnecessary—but adds to the visual appeal. My favorite is a big dollop of butter, cut across the peaks and valleys. And if it is a holiday and you want to do it up big? Use Kerry Gold Butter.

A generous dash of freshly ground pepper, and perhaps a sprinkling of chives.

Is your mouth watering yet? And understand: my mashed potatoes, always from scratch, are delicious. Why, a good friend even said, “These are the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten!” High praise, indeed.

Gravy

You can’t forget the gravy. There are gravies, and there are gravies. Some simmer the giblets and the neck and use the essence as the base of their sauce. My particular gravy this year was spectacular. Using a new recipe utilizing my Crock Pot, it assured “the best gravy you have ever had!”  And to be honest? It was. Spectacular.

I saw visions of white mountains of steaming mashed potatoes, with gravy running courses down the sides, pooling around turkey and stuffing. Waiting to be devoured.

This was going to be a dinner.

Whipping Potatoes

Dinner was coming together nicely, and it was time to whip the potatoes. Add milk, salt, pepper, and butter. Lots of butter.

Start the mixer.

I knew immediately that this was not the creamy white mountain I had envisioned. This white mass took on the consistency of paste—wallpaper or Elmers, take your choice. “Whip it more!” I said. “Add more milk!” I said. And finally, the trump card that would save the day: “Add more butter!”

But alas and alack.

The gooey white cement would have been better suited for a food fight. Although it could easily knock you out…..And, I might add, it did take out my hand mixer. Broken. Ready for the trash. Those were some mean potatoes.

The Setup

I had been in the hospital just 2 weeks before and was still regaining my strength and stamina. Napping in the afternoon was more than a luxury, it was a requirement.

Even the Dr. had suggested I not make dinner at all. And so I compromised: Make a smaller dinner. But even so, things need to be drained, seasoned, and plated. Smaller does not equate to easier. Certainly, Bob and our son were helping.

Disappointment

What are we to do with disappointments? What are we to do when things don’t work out quite the way we planned?

And understand, dear reader, I sense the frivolous nature of potatoes. And the solemn weight that many carry this year for so many reasons.

This is not meant to trivialize their struggles.

Perspective

In the midst of disappointment, we look for perspective.

At the end of the day, I sat with my feet up while Bob and Justin cleaned up and stored food. The refrigerator was still stacked high with precarious piles. (And Justin was going home with goodies for future meals.)

Thankfulness

A spirit of gratitude and thankfulness go far, whatever our circumstances.

Countless hymns speak to these values, and this is one of my favorites: “Now Thank we All our God”

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things has done, in whom His world rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us, with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us, to keep us in his grace, and guide us when perplexed, and free us from all ills in this world in the next.

Thankful Hearts

There is so very much for which to be thankful:

Thankful that I was even home for this Thanksgiving. Thankful for good doctors and good care.  Thankful for good food, full bellies, and a full refrigerator, enough to share.  Thankful for family and friends. Thankful for our God who draws near to us. Thankful for His grace and guidance.

And finally, thankful for good gravy….

The Road Less Traveled

Cynthia L. Eppley     10/10/2021

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost

Memories

Perhaps the best family vacations are those that include the unexpected.
A favorite of my childhood was a trip West.
Dad had saved 6 weeks of vacation in order to take our camper on a trip of a lifetime.
We skimmed across N. America seeing National Parks, and ended in Texas to visit with family. I could go on about the size of the camper (tiny and cramped.)
Or how we all wedged into it to sleep at night. (I shared a bunk with my younger brother.)
Or how my Mother made meals miraculously from the tiny stove.
But really?
The negative criticisms of youth have faded into a glorious memory of shared family time and our incredible country.

You must understand: my Father was a history buff, and cherished the Country for which he fought in WW2.
While we 3 kids were more interested in Amusement Parks, or gift shops, Dad was interested in historical markers.

Did you know that you can find them almost anywhere?
And find them we did, pulling over to read them.
Meanwhile, I’m sure we 3 kids obnoxiously kidded him and teased him. We did not understand the treasure of history within these markers.

Trips

We have recreated much of this trip with our own children.
And in retirement, we have added to our list of National Parks.
Our history of vacations have included tent camping, catching every storm front coming through, and eating questionable meals over an open fire.
But sometimes, those very moments (I shudder) are the best ones.

Glacier National Park

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Robert Burns.


Two years ago we went to California, and then up the Pacific Coast Highway.
Our destination was Glacier National Park.
Did you know that when you explore and go on an adventure….your GPS may not work? That the internet is not available everywhere?
And so we harkened back to the tried and true, very old fashioned paper Map. Our morning started out brightly as we followed the signs for Glacier National Park, driving through a little town and meandering down an increasingly narrow road. Not to worry!
We had a full tank of gas! We had a map!

Take Me Home, Country Roads

“Every once in a while, take the scenic route.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

The road narrowed and eventually became a dirt road. Not paved: this should have been the first indication of trouble.
No signs anywhere, and no cell service.
But we drove on bravely as the dust billowed up in deep brown plumes behind our car.

The Western Entrance

After 2 hours of this adventure, we reached a small mercantile in the road: Polebridge. We drove on past it, following the sign for Glacier National Park….and for Canada. And within 15 minutes we arrived!
A small, dinky entranceway. The Ranger welcomed us warmly and asked:
“I guess you followed the GPS?”
“Yes.”
“This is the Western entrance, but not the main entrance. Everyone makes this mistake. You can turn around here and go back.”

Polebridge

“Welcome to Polebridge, Montana where the West is still wild.”

And so we turned around and decided to stop at this small trading post that looked like it was built in 1800. In fact, it was built by homesteaders in 1914.

“The Mercantile was then, as it is today, a community center and a grocer of last resort.”

“Celebrating our 106th year. The world famous Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery. Located close to Glacier National Park and far away from everything else.”

“We’re like a cozy enclave in the wilderness. The length of the road, the primitive condition of the road, it makes a psychological transition, and gives the illusion that you’re very, very far away….Some don’t want to leave. Others want to know what’s the best way to get out of here, and is it paved?” Deb Kaufman

A complete tiny town, with cabins and historical markers, and Northern Lights Saloon and cafe. We stayed several hours and learned more about Polebridge and its’ history.

“It’s beautiful once you get here. Breathtaking. But the journey is part of the reward. People who come here need to accept it on its terms. You don’t change it to make it easier. As a society, we have the expectation of instant gratification. but that’s not the North Fork.” Scott Emmerich, Polebridge District Ranger, Glacier National Park

Bear Claws

Famous for their “Bear Claws”, this pastry is served fresh from the oven.

“This is no quaint general store, but rather a living piece of history. Its’ bakery is a paradise of pies and pastries, its’ rows of merchandise an inventory of elemental existence.” Tristan Scott, Missoulian

“And there, at the end of the road, the rapture, Heavenly manna, fresh baked bread, and cinnamon rolls, and sinful huckleberry Bearclaws, piping hot straight from the oven.” Michael Jameson, Missoulian

It was a nugget of history and Americana that we loved— and would have missed if we had taken the correct road.

The Road Less Traveled

“It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the end of our journey, he is also at every stopping place.” Elisabeth Elliot

We certainly did take the road less traveled.
There was no instant gratification in this dusty trail.
But in the process, we found a rich treasure.
Polebridge, Montana remains one of the favorite places of our trip. And remarkably, I didn’t mind reading the historical markers.
In fact, they enriched our visit there.

Backroads

Often we want quick answers, quick success and no struggle.
Certainly interstates get us to our destination quickly.
But we have found small town Americana to be charming and full of history and charm. Life seems to hand us a journey that is circuitous.
Like those who have gone before us, we look to their persistence and resilience with tremendous respect.
Their stories are valuable for teaching us.

Behind and Before

Psalm 139:1-5
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down, you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

When life throws us a curve?
When we hit a bump or a bend in the road?
We can trust in the path , knowing that God is at work in it. He knows us and our ways.
He hems us in, and His hand is upon us.
And in this path and this journey, whoever we may go, we are always safe.

Steeples

“Here is the church, here is the steeple: Open the doors and see all the people!”

Cynthia L. Eppley 09/19/2021

One Year

One year ago started out like any other day.
The end of summer, the beginning of Fall.
I had been a little tired lately, but then again: who isn’t? The heat of the summer seemed to take its’ toll.
The ache in my back was increasing.
I tried not to complain.

The Hill

But then I walked up the hill to our house, trying to catch my breath.
A neighbor had given us a “pulse-ox”monitor, so I was able to watch the oxygen in my blood. Typically, you want to see that number in the 90’s.
Mine was 88.

Emergency

This number put me into a panic mode, and Bob immediately took me to the Emergency Room.
Bob had to wait in the car, as Covid restrictions were in place.
I waited for xrays, cat scans, and blood work.

The final diagnosis: pneumonia and at least 4 pulmonary embolisms.
I was presenting as a Covid patient; but my tests were coming back negative.

Hospital Stay

I was whisked up to my room where I would stay for the next 4 days. Poked and prodded, awakened in the middle of the night.
Hospitals are no place to get rest.
But one nurse assured me: you have quite a view.

Room with a View

Surely she was joking?
I looked out onto another wing of the hospital: brick and mortar, and other lonely rooms. But then I saw it: just around the corner from that wing was a steeple.
It stood as part of the original structure of the hospital.
Stately in form, reaching for the sky, and majestic.
It was easy to see during the day and it was illumined at night.

“Abington Memorial Hospital opened its doors in 1914. A familiar community symbol, the hospital’s steeple, was added in 1930.”

The steeple warmed and comforted me through the night.

Steeples

Why would a steeple have such an effect on me? Isn’t a steeple….just a steeple?

“In architecture, a steeple is a tall tower on a building, topped by a spire and often incorporating a belfry and other components. Steeples are very common on Christian churches and cathedrals and the use of the term generally connotes a religious structure. In early settled America, the church was typically one of the first buildings put up when settlers established in a new area. No other buildings built thereafter in the community were made larger, with the possible exception of a few barns. Even today, local churches from these early periods stand across the U.S. as some of the oldest buildings around.”

Back Story

First Presbyterian Church, Salem, New Jersey

Steeples have a historic significance.

So this takes me back to growing up in Salem, NJ, where I was a member of First Presbyterian Church. Many generations of my family worshiped there before me.

My earliest memories include sitting with my grandmother, and my parents, in the old wooden pews. Always on the left, about half way up.

The building itself is a landmark:

“First Presbyterian Church of Salem was built in 1856 by architect John McArthur, designer of City Hall in Philadelphia. With its imposing 165-foot steeple, the church is a fixture of the Salem skyline and a prominent landmark in the downtown historic district. https://www.nj.gov/dca/njht/funded/sitedetails/firstpresbyterianchurchofsalem.shtml

“Our building is a landmark in South Jersey with its soaring steeple reaching into the sky. Lighted at night it is a beacon to mariners in the Delaware Bay. Salem is a historic city, with many structures in Salem predating the founding of our nation.”

The church building is magnificent; small crosses arise from the spires encircling the central steeple. South Jersey is farming country, so it is flat and open land. Driving at night, the steeple could be seen for miles, assuring me as I made my way home.

More to the Story

The true purpose of the steeple, and the building itself, is what I learned from my earliest days. I was taught by members of the congregation. Scriptures were opened. Hymns were sung. To this day I can still sing all the verses of the oldest, sacred hymns.(See Songs of Thankfulness.)

And certain Scriptures came alive through the symbolism of that place:

Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the mountains; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Sacred music taught me to “lift my eyes” including Felix Mendelssohn’s Oratorio Elijah: “Lift Thine Eyes.” It remains a favorite of mine to this day.

In contemporary Christian music, Bebo Norman released “I will lift my eyes” in 2006 that reflects this dynamic:

“I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the mountains I can’t climb I will lift my eyes to the Calmer of the oceans raging wild I will lift my eyes to the Healer
of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You.”

The Sacred

And so the sacred Texts were implanted in my heart.
Sacred music laid a foundation for it to be nourished and take root. The “faith of our fathers” was handed down generation to generation. The things of our life are never trivial or without purpose.
God uses them to lift our eyes to Himself.
And we can be assured He uses all things for our good.

Amazing Grace and Home

Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

The Steeple: All day and all night

The Steeple was a reminder of the truths of Scripture and Song.
As I lay in the hospital, I watched the interplay of sunrise, and then sunset.
By night, it was lit up and my early morning awakenings were assured by its’ glow. It brought a deep comfort to me to know it was there. Yes, I had been through many dangers, toils and snares.
The Steeple was a reminder of Biblical Truths: It was a reassurance He had brought me safe thus far; His Grace would lead me home.

First Day of School

Cynthia L. Eppley 09/10/2021

“You’re off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” Dr. Seuss

School Days

It is that time of year.
If you look through our old pictures, you will find the mandatory “First Day of School” pictures.
Fresh scrubbed faces, freckled with the summer sun.
Huge grins, anticipating the year ahead.
Neatly combed hair; except that one “sticky up” part that just refused to stay down. We might wet it, but it would dry and “Boing!!!!” up it would fly.

School Shopping

And school would not be the same without new school clothes.
Typically a rite of Grandmothers and their grandchildren, it is a special time of picking out a few new things.
And no matter how hot it was…..first day of school meant trying to wear one of the outfits. Maybe not the sweaters, but certainly there would be something we could wear.
New shoes were mandatory. It seemed like our feet grew inches between the last fitting.
But this fitting was special because it was for the first day.
My shoe of choice was “Penny Loafers” from Hoffman’s Shoe Store.
The new shoes had to be worn; the old shoes wrapped in the box.
Never mind that we came home that first day from school with blisters.
We wore them—the shoes and the blisters—proudly.

School Supplies

There is something anticipatory about a fresh pad of paper, awaiting an essay. Or freshly sharpened pencils. Remember the pencil sharpener at the front of the class? With pencil shavings dropping onto the floor?
Fresh crayons, markers, pencil bags. And then there were “Trapper Keepers”—the ultimate in storage.
To be replaced by Texas calculators and now iPads and who knows what else? Somehow I don’t think the high tech gadgets have the same tactile and sensory stimulus.

Teachers and Friends

Back then, we knew our assigned classroom and teacher.
The card came in the mail, and frantic phone calls were made to friends. “Do you have the same teacher?”
It meant everything to have at least one friend in your class.
Classmates meant everything.

Coming Home

When the bell rang, students rushed out the door.
Before long, they tumbled in the front door, filled with stories from the day.
Where were you seated?

Was it boy/girl? That had to be the worst because having the opposite sex surround you meant you might get “cooties.”
Were you seated near friends?
What was the teacher like?

It was the privilege of parents to sit and be regaled with story after story. And perhaps get a special treat.

Treats

First day meant cookies.
They might even be fresh out of the oven.
With milk.
Chocolate chip was the cookie of choice.
One of my friends has continued this tradition for her child who has just entered 8th grade. This child will remember this tradition, for sure.
It warmed the tummy, but also the heart to know that this ritual embedded in our minds and hearts just how significant “first day” could be.

First Day 2021

This year is different.
We are into 18 months of a Pandemic.
We never quite know what to expect.
At first we were told: “Two weeks and we’ll beat this thing.” But time has drug on.

Masks

Masks have taken on a life of their own: Paper or Cloth?
Designer or Plain?
Statement fashion? You name it: there’s a mask for that.
Depending on your school district, you may be required to wear a mask.

Social Distance

School desks have been placed the mandatory distance apart.
Some have plastic partitions encasing them.
Individual pods for each pupil drive home the point of being distant and separate.

Inschool/Out of School

School districts have scrambled to accommodate students.
Last year many classes were held virtually.
New technology has kept up (for the most part) with the need for education.
Teachers have been creative and logged innumerable hours to change up their approach. Students have learned to adapt.
And this year, many schools have opened their doors once again.

First Day of School 2021

Things change, but so much remains the same.
New outfits have been bought this year; jeans have replaced matching outfits. Squeaky sneakers run down hallways, the replacement for penny loafers.
A group of students just rushed down the sidewalk on their way home;
cookies may be waiting.
Moms or Dad, or Grandmoms or Caregivers will be eager to hear stories.
Fresh faced kids will burst through the door and excitedly share the news of their day.

This doesn’t change.

Nor should it.
Masks, social distancing, virtual school: these things may change.

Taking Root

For Fall 2021, and for any day of First Days of School:
Can we embrace the enthusiasm of youth?
Can we set aside the cares of this world and age, and allow the kids to be kids?
Can we sit and review their day, embracing the best, and helping them through the challenges?

Our attentive listening, caring, and acceptance of them will go far.
This is the stuff of connection and encouragement that our children need; that we all need. Like chocolate chip cookies: warming the tummy and the soul.

Who knows what memories of First Day will take root?

Perspective

Cynthia L. Eppley 08/25/2021

We recently enjoyed a 2 week vacation in California and the Pacific Northwest.  Nothing changes your perspective like getting away from home.

Home

Pennsylvania is a large state and has many ecosystems. On one side of the state you may find wetlands and flat open fields. Drive West and you’ll find roads nestled between mountains and valleys. 

Trees

One feature of our home are the trees which surround us. They guard our home in the hot summer, shielding us from the intense heat.

In the Fall, they are a riot of color.

But our trees also block our view of our surroundings.

In order to see an impending storm, I have to go to one bank of windows and look to the Northwest. A dark, looming cloud foreshadows rain and wind.

In the evening, I see glimpses of the sunset filtering through the Spruce trees behind our home.

I often long for an unobstructed view to marvel at the shades of pink, yellow, and purple.

Aunt Marie and Valleys

Aunt Marie lived in El Paso, TX. It was an area of wide open spaces. When she would come to visit my parents in New Jersey, she felt overshadowed.  She couldn’t get her bearings because a trip was often covered by trees.

Give her a thruway and she might have an idea of direction and purpose. Give her open fields!

And we know that East Coast roads are winding and curving, unlike the straight open roads near El Paso.

It unsettled her.

Valleys in life can unnerve us and we lose perspective. We feel closed in.

Mountains

I knew the mountains of the West Coast would be towering and snow covered. 

The Olympic National Park boasts of Hurricane Ridge. To get there, you must navigate a long arduous journey of switchbacks along the side of steep cliffs.

We held our breath, looking down, and prayed that the transmission and brakes would hold.

“High above Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge provides the most popular access to Olympic National Park. A paved road twists and turns 17 mi (27 km) up a steep 7-percent grade to the mile-high summit, where, on a clear day, you can gape at the breathtaking 360-degree views of mountain, valley, and sea.” (roadtripusa.com)

And what a view.

On our drive up, we had mere glimpses of the summit. But at the top, we felt like we were on top of the world. In June, there were still snow covered peaks. We felt like we were in Switzerland.

I wanted to spread my arms and turn slowly around singing:
“The hills are alive, with the sound of music!”

Perhaps on a mountaintop we can see clearly. The mundane of ordinary days fall away and we can see a clearer picture.

God of the Mountains and the Valleys

And so we have both.

Mountains and valleys give us a different perspective, don’t they?

1 Kings 20:28 The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.’”

Psalm 121: I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.

A recent Song by Tauren Wells combines both of these experiences and speaks of both the hills and the valleys:

https://youtu.be/8iDuZv_5MQk

On the mountains, I will bow my life to the One who set me there In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the One who sees me there When I’m standing on the mountain I didn’t get there on my own When I’m walking through the valley I know I am not alone You’re God of the hills and valleys, hills and valleys God of the hills and valleys And I am not alone.

God of the Hills and Valleys

On the mountain top we know God as Creator and Sustainer. In the valley, He is the lifter of my head. He is the God of the hills and valleys. I am not alone.

Aimee Byrd

Inside the word. Outside the box.

The Palest Ink

The strongest memory is weaker than the palest ink. I write to remember.

nuakh

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