Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Check Your Focus


It seems like a lot of philosophical thought can be tied to the year 2020 as, in our country at least, we think of 20/20 vision as being the standard of excellence for physical vision.  


Our Ladies Bible Study has been reading/discussing Ecclesiastes. Solomon, King David’s successor, is generally considered to be the writer of Ecclesiastes. Back at the beginning of young King Solomon’s reign, he prayed to God asking for wisdom (see I Kings 3:7-13) God was delighted to grant the young king wisdom and in addition, He allowed Solomon to amass great wealth. It’s very likely that Solomon was the wisest man to ever live as well as the wealthiest. But when you read Ecclesiastes you discover that neither wisdom nor wealth guarantee happiness.

Solomon states several time in this short book about the wisdom of obeying God, and being grateful for every blessing from Him. But he spends more time bemoaning the fact that, essentially, he can’t take his riches with him when he dies and with all his wisdom, he can’t figure out creation or even the convolutions of wisdom/learning, itself

The spiritual epiphany that struck me as we were studying was somewhat simplistic. In all his wisdom, during the majority of his life, Solomon directed his focus on something besides God, whether it be amassing precious metals and jewels, land and livestock, wives and concubines, or displaying his wisdom to other royal dignitaries.

Every time Solomon moved his focus back to God, he glimpsed peace and joy. In the same way I’m reminded: every time my frustrations send me into a depressing downward spiral, I need to check my focus. When I do, I discover, it’s not on the Lover of my soul, it’s on the disagreeable or painful circumstance in my life.

So, my friends, when fear or depression occur or your joy and happiness seems to have totally disappeared, check your focus. It’s most likely not on God. When your focus shifts back to Him, you will rediscover joy and the ability to regain an “attitude of gratitude.”

Solomon concluded in Ecclesiastes 12:13b “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,” Stay focused on God for His love never fails.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Lissie Is Live!


I am happy to announce the birth of my latest book, A Most Uncivil War: Lissie’s Story. It is now available in electronic version as well as in paperback form from Amazon. 


The book a fictional account of my great-great grandmother’s life, was written using my imagination, along with information from old newspaper clippings, and a short autobiography written by her husband, LB Reber, back in 1901.

The really cool thing about LB's book is that, thanks to my brother, Bob, we have re-formatted the book, which has long been out of print, and reissued it so that his story is once again available to anyone interested. In addition, the format is much more readable than the original 

His book is an account of his experiences as a teenage soldier in the Union army and his later life as a Free Methodist circuit riding preacher. This book is also available on Amazon.

Stay tuned on FB as I hope to run a deep discount on the Kindle version of “Lissie’s Story” at the end of this week.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 Vision


This new year’s number lends itself to all sorts of interesting ideas and comparisons. And, as with any new year, comes the idea of New Year’s Resolutions.

A friend recently used I Chronicles 4:9-10 as the basis of a Bible study/devotional, and the minute I read the verses, I knew that would be my prayer (or resolution) for this new year as well as this new decade.

In the midst of several chapters of “so and so was the son of so and so”, the Lord plops a two-verse story of a godly man named Jabez. The section of Jabez’s prayer I claim for myself is: “Oh, that You would bless me and expand my territory.” Jabez prayed for several other weighty blessings and since nothing is too difficult for God, He answered Jabez in the affirmative.

Now if you have not made a New Year’s resolution or if you scoff at the thought, please do consider Jabez’s prayer and making it your own. For me, personally, I’m not anticipating acquiring land or houses. I would consider expanded territory to be good book sales (“Lissie’s Story” should be out this month) and increased ability to write interesting material, doing it well.

My personal “territorial expansion” could also include ministry interaction as I lead a Bible study group and just listen as friends come to visit over a cup of tea. An “out of my comfort zone” territorial expansion might include visiting with people on the bus, for instance, and sharing the hope God has given me. However, expanding your territory can have all sorts of meanings and lead to many interesting adventures.

Bruce Wilkinson wrote a little book, “The Prayer of Jabez” where he speaks at length on the subject. However, if you are still mulling over a worthwhile goal for this year of 2020, I recommend you read and meditate on Jabez’s story in I Chronicles. In the meantime, during this new year, may we all be blessed with 20/20 vision--spiritually, mentally, and physically.

Monday, May 27, 2019

My Heroes

My husband, Dean Diehl
This Memorial Day I took the time to look up pictures of both my husband and my father in their Service uniforms.

My father (Jim) James Johnson
My father was in the US Army Air Corps stationed somewhere in the California desert. His term of service was 1942-1945. By the time I was old enough to be curious about what he did in the war, all he would way was that his job was to teach fighter pilots how to use radar. 

My husband was in the US Army stationed in Ft. Campbell, KY (I think this is correct, but I had not met him yet at that point:) He service term was 1963-65 and he was the company clerk. He, too, said very little about what he did, other than to remark that as he was getting ready to be mustered out having served his three year stint, he was typing up orders for his company buddies to go to Vietnam. I feel sure that he dealt with a mixed bag of emotions regarding that.

Here's a huge thank you to all those who have served in our country's defense as well as in the defense of life in other countries.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What Happened to That Dress?


The dress pictured here was worn by my Grandmother Triplett 100 years ago to say “I do” to her true love, Harvey. I have Grandma’s dress adorning a dressmaker’s form standing in my living room. And thereby hangs an incredible tale. 


When we were little kids (my brother, cousins and I), we used to dress up at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. She had a chest of old clothes and shoes that we were free to play with and I remember seeing shoes with many buttons, so different from our shoes having laces or buckles. I even remember a pair of soft white leather shoes with many buttons—her wedding shoes. But there was no wedding dress to go with the shoes.

Grandma died in a car crash and my mother occasionally spoke of her mother’s wedding dress because it had apparently disappeared. She said Grandma had sewn tiny seed pearls around the neckline as decoration and her description made me think of a fairyland creation. Like the fairyland of our childhood, the dress seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth.

Flash forward to August 2001. My dad had died and mom was moving  into senior housing, but she needed to have a sale of farming equipment and the contents of barns, outbuildings, and the farmhouse. My brother and niece had spent several weekends working on cleaning out the accumulation of 50 years of country living, but there was still plenty to do when I flew back to the Midwest a week before the sale. The day before the sale we were still going through boxes, sorting and tossing.

I was working my way through the back entry between the garage and back door where an old trunk had sat since my Aunt Anna died back in the mid-80’s. I opened it up to find it mostly empty except for a few vintage hats. However, a small shelf attached to the lid still held some detritus which looked like it should head for a trash bag. By this time, I’d learned never to do a wholesale dumping of "stuff" because currency, old pictures, and other priceless memorabilia could well be mixed in with useless receipts from 25 years ago

I started gingerly pulling out a yellowed plastic bag. When I opened it, there were several beautiful little girl’s dresses for perhaps a two year old. I knew they weren’t mine so I guessed they were surely my mom’s or her sister’s from back in the 20’s.

There was another yucky plastic bag in the open shelf so I picked it up and opened it. I pulled out a lovely piece of satin fabric—decorated with seed pearls—and the hair rose on the back of my neck. Could this be Grandma’s “lost” wedding dress?

Out came a long skirt with three rows of ruffles, evenly spaced. The last item was a long sleeved blouse with a square neck also decorated with seed pearls. The first item that had emerged was like a decorative vest so the wedding “dress” was an ethereal three-piece ensemble.  


Mom verified that, indeed, it was her mother’s wedding dress but she didn’t remember anything about the little girls’ dresses, guessing that they were hers as a tiny child. It was agreed that I could take the wedding dress home with me since my brother’s family never knew Grandma Triplett and my mom had no place to display the dress. I folded it and the little dresses and put them in a corner out of the way.

Sale day arrived and the helping hands of friends joined us in getting all the indoor “treasure” outside for the auction as the weather had threatened rain the night before. After lunch I was visiting with a cousin of my mom’s generation and mentioned Grandma’s wedding dress. She, of course, had never seen it so I went in the house to get it. But the corner was empty!

Apparently the helpful hands had carried the dresses (the little girl’s dresses were gone too) out to be sold. Grandma’s wedding dress was gone again. And this time there was no doubt in my mind, it was gone forever.

The sale over, we all went home and I was recounting the sad tale of the vanished wedding dress to my friend, Jackie. “Why don’t you advertise for it?” she asked. That thought hadn’t even grazed my mind so I thanked her for the idea and called Mom that evening. She, in turn, advertised in two county papers and the daily just across the river in Illinois.

Three days later Mom got a phone call from a lady who said, “I think I have something you’ve been looking for.” Mom had taught elementary school for sixteen years and one of her students was the caller’s son. He had come to the sale and bid on a box of doilies, aprons, and other items, which, it turns out, included Grandma’s wedding dress. The lady was planning to take the items to a flea market that weekend but when she read Mom’s ad in the paper, she felt compelled to return the dress.

And that’s how Grandma’s wedding dress finally made its way from Palmyra, MO to Elko, NV

She and Grandpa were married on May 14, 1919 the day before her 25th birthday and probably 2-4 weeks after her school term was finished as she taught in a rural school for at least five years prior to her marriage. 
The newlywed 100 years ago, today

Saturday, April 20, 2019

57 Years

This post is actually a travelogue but fifty-seven does enter into it. The last eleven days of March began our Great Adventure as my son, Brian, had agreed to take me on a road trip to Apalachicola, FL—by way of Ft. Worth so we could pick up his brother,Jeff.

 As I worked on planning the itinerary earlier in March, the boys began adding points of interest they wanted to include to and from Florida since our goal before we arrived back in Elko was to celebrate Aunt Dorothy’s 92nd birthday in Tucson.

Brian wanted to see Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet and we traveled through Moab, UT to get there  
An arch at Moab, UT

Shiprock, NM

Further along the trip, he wanted to experience New Orleans. Unfortunately, that experience did not include a beignet and coffee but a creeping pace around the French Quarter. (I hope he can go back and actually enjoy New Orleans someday).

French Quarter--cheek by jowl


We arrived at our friends’ home in FL and enjoyed wonderful visiting time (we hadn’t seen each other in 35 years) and awesome food cooked by my friend, Sara. Her menus included fresh (meaning it was in its watery home just the night before) shrimp and red snapper. I would not want to have to rate the food against the renewing of old ties as it was all such an awesome time. 



Brian wanted to get a picture of the sun setting on the water so Sara took us to the beach and I decided to get my feet wet. It so happens that I don’t like to be in water deeper than a bathtub so you can imagine how I cut off the circulation in Brian’s hand the first time the tide came onto the beach—and my feet. The sight of that wave of water coming at me as well as the unfamiliar sound, truly was an eerie experience, but one repeated several times. I marveled at the way the water surged in and then out, leaving an expanse of sand as smooth as glass. To add to the special experience, a lone sandpiper walked down the beach in front of us (we were sitting on lawn chairs by this time), checking for edibles. He obviously was not afraid of people because it wasn’t long before he walked back from the other direction. He didn’t return again so I guess he filled his tummy or decided another location would be more fruitful.

The tide and Pat's feet

During our conversation I realized that I’d been fairly close to this part of Florida before—fifty-seven years ago my high school senior trip had Pensacola Beach as one of its destinations. Turns out I had never been back to a beach on the Gulf since then, so everyone agreed that it was high time I had returned. After all, everyone should dabble their feet in (sort of) the Atlantic Ocean at least twice in fifty-seven years.

My beach experience led me to try my hand at writing some haiku which is a three-line poem made up of five, then seven, then five syllables. (They are separate thoughts.)

Beach Haikus

Tide rolls in, rumbling
Smoothing sand like a mirror
Sandpiper distorts


As tide smoothes the sand
Man ponders troublesome life
Seeking that smoothness

Our return west to Tucson took nearly four days crossing bits of Alabama and Mississippi, the length of Louisiana and Texas and of course including New Mexico and Arizona. We walked a portion of the River Walk and saw the Alamo in San Antonio 
Bridge over River Walk
Muddy Boots visits the Alamo


We travelled on through TX and visited a quasi-Prada store outside of Marfa as well as  “experiencing” several trios of concrete "boxes without topses" on an acreage outside of that same town. 
Quasi-Prada outside of Marfa
Would you believe, their inventory





Fourteen sets of these!!!!
Bisbee, AZ was our last out of the way visit where we saw a very large copper mine pit (not as big as Newmont’s gold mine pit) as well as a unique RV Park consisting of Airstream and Spartan trailers and even a yacht that had been “beached” all for rent as motel lodging. 
Old Bisbee copper mine
RV Park where the vehicles don't roll
Over the mountain was Tombstone but we didn’t get in on the gunfight at the OK Corral.  We did, however, take a selfie in front of the Tombstone Epitaph (which has disappeared from my picture file).

Happy to say, Aunt Dorothy had a nice birthday celebration, Jeff flew home (by the hardest) and we arrived back in Elko after two weeks absence.  
Happy birthday, Aunt Dorothy

Aside from the wonderful visits with friends and relatives  and the good food we ate, Jeff said his favorite experience was climbing the lighthouse on St. George Island (which has had a hard life of being moved more than once, falling into the gulf and being put together again, better than Humpty Dumpty). 

  My favorite was the second time in fifty-seven years experience with the Gulf-Atlantic Ocean.  However, I don't want to leave out our friends and relatives, the Rundletts, Cousin Kate and ending with our favorite B and B hostess in Las Vegas.
My sweet friend, Nancy
As for Brian, it was probably all the great pictures he took, but also the realization that he had driven almost 5555 miles in two weeks into or across nine states and crossed three time zones—twice!




Sunday, February 3, 2019

Perspective


Last week as we were driving home from Salt Lake City an interesting subject regarding the idea of perspective presented itself. To set the scene, the weather was beautifully clear as we left Wendover heading for the Pequops. Eventually, off to our right stood Pilot Peak, appearing in, seemingly, solitary splendor, looking like a volcanic sentinel. In fact, during pioneer days, Pilot Peak was a trail landmark, but it was never volcanic.     
Courtesy of Brian Diehl

The light was so perfect that day, my photographer son stopped the car and took a picture. When we were on the road again, he remarked something to the effect, “It’s fascinating how Pilot Peak just looks like another peak in the Peqop Range from the back side.”

Another example of perspective was brought to my attention with the jigsaw puzzle presently spread out on a card table to one side of my kitchen. It’s slightly larger than the table so my older son (the cardboard king) fashioned a cardboard topper so we could safely assemble the puzzle without pieces dropping off the ends of the earth (namely, the card table).

It has been a Christmas tradition for many years to put together a jigsaw puzzle during the holidays and my brother sent us a dilly of a present with this puzzle. When we turned over all 1500 puzzle pieces with their disconcerting hues of brown, green and blue, gray and black, our perspective caused us to be overwhelmed with a tinge of      discouragement at the seeming possibility 

of ever assembling that puzzle.

Now after a month’s time, with the help of several friends, my perspective on The Puzzle has changed. It’s fascinating to see how those different hues of brown, greens, and blues have taken shape to form the total picture. Not that we’re finished, but completion now seems possible.


It’s probably age on my part, but I can see (no pun intended) how perspective can flavor our impressions/reactions to any challenge that comes along in our lives. It seems to be directed by positive or negative attitudes toward the life bumps that raise their as we travel along.

Consider adjusting perspective in a “challenging”--use any adjectives that fit hereJ -- situation. Remember, the “front” side of the mountain looks completely different from the back side, and the pile of puzzle pieces can “morph” into a lovely picture. I like the example of looking at a beautiful piece of embroidery work and comparing it to our lives. When we look at the under side of the handwork, we see a maze of threads running helter-skelter, including plenty of knots. When the piece is turned over, an artistic piece of lovely colors blend to create a pleasing picture.

Using that idea and comparing it to God, the Creator, Who sees through all the knots and hairpin curves in His children’s lives and sees them fit into a beautiful picture at completion of our life, gives me hope for my personal perspective.  Isaiah reminds us that God’s ways and thoughts far surpass ours and Jeremiah encourages us that God has a plan for our lives one of hope and not harm.

So take heart and double check your perspective.