Saturday, July 30, 2005


We used to live near a small airport where the presence of planes was as common to us as birds, clouds, stars...the sounds from a small engine as familiar as the squeak from the swing set, the traffic on our street. I grew accustomed to the sight and sound of small aircraft; a comforting, calming activity that took place far above me, but seemed as close as my outstretched arms. I would ride my bike by the airport, watching take-offs and landings and sit in the grass on the edge of town, pondering the lives of those aboard and dreaming of my own future flights

When we moved to the country, far from city or airport, I missed the lull of the engines, the reflection of sun on silver against the sky. The constant hum of highway traffic a mile away seemed a poor substitution for the roar of a small plane overhead.

This morning as I came back from my morning walk, I heard an airplane as it headed north towards the city, an hour away. And it struck me as strange because it seems that lately, I've been hearing more air traffic. Medic helicopters travel the path over our house that links two cities, small planes seem more common now and occasionally, I hear a jet far above as it begins its descent. So why was it I rarely heard anything the first two years we lived here? Perhaps there is simply more air traffic, more flights. Perhaps new routes have been established that now take planes in our direction. Or maybe Air Traffic Control sensed my loss and directed aircraft to satisfy my aerial yearnings (um...probably not)!

I'm beginning to suspect that they have been there all along. I was so used to having them close by that it took little effort to see or hear them. Now everything is vast and wide and the sky has opened up more fully. The sounds out here don't command that you hear, but whisper their presence, asking that you listen.

And so it is with life. We get so accustomed to sights and sounds, comforts in life, people that we love, that we take our commonplace for granted. One of my mother's favorite sayings is, "Think how happy you would be if you lost everything that you had.......then got it back again." We do take things for granted. We forget to listen and appreciate and then when we lose it, we want it back again.

Most everything that we want is before us if we just open our eyes and ears. Don't just look, but see. Don't just hear....listen. And appreciate.

The planes are there.....

Thursday, July 28, 2005


I'm not good with change. I want things to remain the same, to know what to expect, to chart my course for familiar territory. It's hard going back to the beloved farm of my childhood where the only landmarks I recognize are cedar trees completely out of proportion with my memory. My children's first school is no longer the small, loving place where I held little hands and snapped photographs of first days but has become, instead, an overgrown brick impersonation of what used to be. Quaint country roads have turned into freeways, and my face and body belie the youth that is inside of me.

Last night as I was out walking, I watched as the sun started to set. It began a simple path in its descent but as I watched, it changed with every minute, turning from an orange glow into a beautiful display from both sides of the colorwheel. I was amazed how the sky transformed in steps, each lovelier than the last. And I realized that sometimes, change is good. As much as I enjoyed my children when they were little, they have become intelligent, interesting young people who are wonderful company, keeping me active and focused. New roads can get me to my destination technology brings new learning. Though no lines of age found my face in youth, I've gained wisdom and grace through their presence. Life is a cycle, a circle; a constant series of changes that have to take place so we can learn and grow and become.

I'm still not always comfortable with change but I know it is necessary. And sometimes, it is even beautiful.

Laughing out Loud

Yesterday I took my daughter and son into the city to do some shopping. As usual, the car was filled with chatter about various things when I remembered a story that my husband had shared with me about a recent experience at a local restaurant. I'm not sure that in its written telling I could do it justice, but I proceeded to share it with the kids as we drove down the road. I got into the middle of it and got so tickled that I couldn't stop laughing. Eyes welled with tears, chest tight with the feeling of overflowing hysteria, I could very well have been a road hazard. Thankfully, there was little traffic or I would have felt obligated to pull over.

Laughing out loud and hysterically. You know that feeling. When something hits you just right (often at the most embarrassing times) and you are completely and willingly out of control with the most joyous of emotions. Blurred vision, stomach aching, unable to sit upright...and when you have gained composure, that wonderful feeling of release. For that moment, everything is perfect and right and possible and the world is on track.

Tap into your funny bone. Excavate your wit. Laugh out loud.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Country Moment

I went to water the neighbor's horses this evening. Two, a silver mare -large, proud - and a Bay, skittish, cautious, held-back. I work the pump, letting the cool water fill their stock tank on this hot, windy day on the Kansas prairie and walk over to check the plants. Dry as dust, though their pots were overflowing yesterday; moisture no competition for July's furnace blast. I carry the bucket to the pump by the barn, a weathered building I would love to explore more fully. The shingled roof is peeling like a bad sunburn, boards loose and squeaky. A loop of barbed wire hangs on its side, a perfect circle against the parallel of rectangles.

The bucket full, I carry it to the porch. A lone geranium, daylilies, potted cactus and aloe vera....a mum, desperately clinging to life in the midst of shriveled stems. Smoke billows in the distance, an unwise burn on a day too windy.

The mamma cat and her two velvet babies are gone, most likely seeking a cool respite. There is no sound except for the wind that blows across Cottonwood tops and whistles through vacant windows. The cattle are in the pasture on the hill...and in the pond. They have no timetable, no calendar to tell them that there will be another few weeks of this.

It is all so perfect in its imperfection and I savor the stillness before I grind the truck to a start. I switch off the radio, its noise foreign and unwelcome to this moment. Titan and Ellie are down the hill, their colt nearby and I roll down the windows and let the wind carry me down the road. Home is near....and its time to fix supper.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Church of my Childhood

It was the place where I first came to know God, that little country church of my childhood. Located on the north side of a quiet highway outside of Wichita, Park Methodist Church was the beginning of my lifelong spiritual journey. A small, white wooden structure, it sat along a hedgerow and in the middle of a grassy lot filled with wildflowers. The gravel drive wrapped around to the side where familiar vehicles parked once a week. A few concrete steps framed by iron railing led quickly up into a small vestibule where coats hung on winter mornings and smiling faces greeted one another each Sunday. A narrow and winding stairway curved down to the east, turning north on its descent and led to the open basement which housed a small kitchen and partitioned Sunday School rooms.
Outside, several yards to the north, was a rickety outhouse, faded from the sun and always an adventure for us children. On the east beneath the hedgerow was a propane tank, cool to the touch, the church key housed within a black magnetic box and hidden along its silver leg.
Inside, the sanctuary was small, yet open and very light. My family always sat in the same place as was customary for all the members of the church. Our unofficial "reserved" seat was in the second pew from the back along the southeast wall. My parents, four of my siblings and I sat in the same order each week while my oldest brother played the organ at the front of the church. My parents sat with several of us sandwiched in between as my father's sudden switch in octaves during hymns tickled my mother. I felt a benefactress in this situation since I was the one who got to sit beside my dad, singing from the purple hymnal and feeling warm and loved. My mother often passed us little Bible books to read: Noah's Ark, Joseph's Coat of Many Colors and my favorite - Baby Moses. These entertained us on many days when sermons grew long and little legs grew restless.
A large floor register was at the end of our pew, warming us on the cold, frosty mornings of winter and the sun streamed through the east window, dancing across our laps and basking each face in a celestial flow. On dewy summer mornings the birds could be heard outside of each open window; a sound I've always thought was so close to God. There was no air-conditioning or central air so when it turned hot we would use hand-held fans made of heavy paper, depicting colorful pictures of Jesus. Ridged, wooden popsicle-like sticks were attached to the backs, making them easier to grasp.
Back then worship began first with Sunday School following. The adults took turns reading inspirational passages after the sermon so that the transition between the two services flowed smoothly and without digression from the message. My father often read these verses and I admired him and listened carefully as he was not one to relish being in front of people.
Downstairs at Sunday School my mother's quiet voice read us stories as we passed around the small envelope designed to hold our precious dimes of tithing. We sat at small, wooden tables feeling close and safe in the knowledge that as both teacher and mother, she had the inside scoop on the lessons we were to learn. It was here in this little country church that I took my first communion. It seemed forever before my parents felt I was ready and I would sit listlessly and enviously in the pew with my little brother as the other members of my family went to the altar. And when it finally came my time to join my older siblings and parents at the front, I was excited and humbled to have stepped over the threshold from observer to participant in this important and holy part of the service and my life.
Cleaning the church was delegated to a different family each month and when it was our turn, dust rags, mops and the smell of lemon filled the sanctuary as we worked together to make it sparkle. For us younger kids, the highlight was bravely retrieving the front door key from underneath the propane tank. At one time a black spider had woven a web next to the magnetic box and we would half hope, half dread we would find the eight-legged creature scurring across the silver tank.
Various holidays found us wearing paper hats shaped like daisies, reciting poems and singing songs. And once a year at Christmastime the beautiful alto voice of Margaurite Faulk filled the sanctuary as she played her guitar and sang. The most anticipated moment on those Christmas mornings was after church when bags of colorful, ribboned candy were passed out to the small number of children from our congregation; a treat in a time when such sweets were not commonplace.
There were fun-filled Halloween parties on chilly autumn nights, songs about Gabriel resonating from the partitioned school rooms and quiet moments for prayer and reflection. It was always comforting to look around at the small congregation and see the same loving faces in the same places each week, knowing that though few, they were loyal both to God and to one another. We were not only members of the same congregation, but neighbors and friends who helped each other seven days a week. Through their example and living in a loving and giving home, I learned that though it is important to have a church and attend it every Sunday, it's more important to establish a church within our hearts and attend it every day.
What a wonderful and lasting memory, this first little church; an integral part of my life that set the tone for my faith. It was a spot so dear to my childhood, and to the adult that I have become.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


I'm convinced that if you really want to see how compatible you are with a together! My husband and I have FINALLY finished putting up the rest of the sheetrock in the basement - YES. We had to wait until we could build a small storage shed to house the saws and tools we had stored in the basement, and finished THAT project up a couple of weeks ago (I don't get bored easily...but that had to be one of the most boring days of my life)!

I am lucky. We work quite well together on projects, and even when I do something not so intelligent (like dropping a hammer on my head!) he's very patient and rarely loses his cool. We see how the other deals with frustration, teamwork, compromise, compatiblity and communication. And all of those things are how you treat one another in every day life.

I'm telling you....if you want to get to know someone, forget the romantic dinners.....forget co-habitation. Grab a hammer, some nails and a stack of wood...and go build!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Cross

"On a Hill Far Away...stood an Old Rugged Cross..."

It stands alone at the edge of a pasture at the bottom of a small hill, tall and proud, its arms holding up a barbed fence with sunflowers growing close by. Most days when I drive by, I look at it: the skyline behind it, the lighting, the bird perched on one arm. But sometimes in my haste to get to where I'm going, I forget it is there.
Sometimes life is like that. We think of God. We see Him in our day. We stop....we pray....we see the beauty He has given us. We remember the thorns that Jesus bore, like the barbed wired upon this cross. But other days we're in a hurry....and we forget.
Today is a new beginning. A new opportunity to fall on your knees in thanksgiving. A new chance to ask for forgiveness. A new day to seek God's help and grace. For even on the days when we are running to meet that next deadline, make that morning meeting, attend an evening ballgame....even on those days, those moments that we forget, God is waiting with arms outstretched to give - and receive - our love.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


I love the television show, "Ambush Makeover" on ABC. Usually the word, "ambush" carries a negative connotation: "to lie in wait", "a surprise attack", "to lurk". Lurk? How creepy is that? But in this show, an unsuspecting person is surprised on the street and taken away for the day for a positive change: a new hair style, make-up, clothing. But it's not so much about the physical changes as it is about what takes place within. At the end, when the person is revealed to themselves in a full-length mirror, there is new confidence, a change of expression, a genuine smile. After a day of being cared for there is a bounce in their step, a light in their hopes, renewal.

How nice that out of no where, someone steps in with a new opportunity, disguised as an ambush....and gives you the gift of yourself.

Alphabetically Me

Who I am and what I love.... in 26 letters:

A - Andrea, affectionate, artistic, animated, Autumn
B - books, Bed & Breakfast Inns, barefoot, bicycling, birthdays, Beverly, blessings
C - compassionate, candles, cuddly, camera, caring, castles, content, creative,
communication, country girl, chocolate, children, Christmas
D - Dylan, deep-thinking, different, down-to-earth, determined, direction, day-trips, diverse,
daughter, dreams, devoted, dancing, daisies
E - ethical, earnest, evergreen fragrance
F - family, friends, fireplaces, fair, friend, fun-loving, feminine, feeling, flying, freckles,
G - grounded, glorious sunsets, goofy, gardens, gazebos, giving, Galveston, genuine
H - honesty, helping, hugs, Halloween fun, holding hands, hardware stores, hazel eyes,
harvest moons, hopes, harvest, harmony
I - idealistic, imaginative, ice cream, Italian food
J - James, joy-filled, John Deere, jeans, Jim Brickman
K - kind, knitting, kites, kissing
L - Lesly, Libra, laughing, level-headed, loving, lady, library, love notes, loveliness,
letters, Lori
M - Megan, mother, Methodist, musicals, Mexican food, music, memories, myself
N - nature, neighbor, night-owl
O - objective, October, original
P - picnics, patient, photography, partnership, positive, protective, priorities, perceptive,
poetry, planes, pretty dresses, porch swings
Q - quiet, quality
R - romance, responsible, reading, rain showers, rare, rocking chairs, real
S - sensitive, solitude, singing, sentimental, surprises, sweet-tooth, sunshine, serious,
silly, sharing, sweaters, smiles, Salina, simple pleasures, sister
T - Tammy, tea, twilight, touching, tender, Thomas Kinkade, treasured moments, teacher
U - unique, unbeatable, understanding
V - vanilla fragrance, Victorian, vulnerable
W - writing, walks, warm, wife, weddings, wheatfields, witty, will not settle
X - x-tra kind people
Y - youthful, yard work
Z - zany, zero tolerance of the superficial

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The blessing of McDonald's

It was Valentine's Day, 1994 and I was on my way home from taking flowers and chocolate out to my great aunt who lived at the Presbyterian Manor across town. It was bitterly cold and snow was flying in the air; not the hard, wind-driven snow that stops a town in its tracks, but flakes that begin as downy feathers and gradually accelerate into a substantial snowfall.
The children, 4 and nearly 2 at the time, were buckled in their car seats in the back, bundled tightly in winter paraphernalia. We were thankful to be just a few blocks away from the warmth and coziness of home.
We passed by a new housing development where several men were working on the frame of a large, two-story home. Faces red inside the unprotected skeleton of the house, they worked deligently at their task, hoping - I'm sure - for a reprieve from the cold and wet environment. I thought of my own husband, out on the road in his delivery truck, and of my father, who spent many years climbing telephone poles and crawling underneath houses to work on phone lines.
Instead of going through the traffic light and driving the last mile home, we turned north and headed towards McDonald's where I purchased several orders of cheeseburgers, fries and coffee. We then returned to the housing development where only two men were left, still working out in the cold.
"Hello!" I called, as I stepped out of the car, bags in hand. I told the gentlemen that we had passed by and thought they could use something to warm them up. There was a look of great surprise on their faces as one of them stepped forward, extended his hand and introduced himself. He came over to the car and helped bring out the coffee, thanking me profusely. As I pulled away, they waved then immediately sat down to enjoy their lunch. It seemed the right thing to do on a snowy Valentine's Day; extending a hand to a stranger...showing concern for a fellow man.
If I could have, I would've packed them up and taken them to the best restaurant in town or brought a large tarp and heaters into the place where they were working. We can't always do exactly what we want to help someone, but we can almost always do something to make a positive impact to their day.
I didn't give my name during the introduction, but merely said how nice it was to meet them. I wanted to be an anonymous name: a face that would gradually fade through the years, but a memory I hoped would linger....and inspire. I wanted to secure their smiles in hopes that they would view others as the possible benefactor and in turn, give to someone else in need.
Sometimes it's inconvenient....sometimes we have to go out of our way, but I feel it is what we were meant to do on this earth: to love our neighbor, not just as ourselves, but spite of ourselves.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Letting Go

Today I watched as my teenage daughter drove out of our driveway and down the road for the first time. It's excruciating, wanting to be beside her, to protect her from the hazards of the world that lay outside of our front yard. She is just six miles away, in town at a school practice...but it feels like a thousand.
You never get over being a parent. There never comes a time when you say, " worries now." Whether they're taking their first steps, walking in the door of their kindergarten classroom......or driving down the road and away from your sheltering arms. I know I have to let her go; let her spread her wings, make her mistakes, reach for her dreams. But while I'm doing that, I'll still wait anxiously by the window....until I see her safely home again.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

No words

As I sit here with much on my mind but unable to articulate, a sing-song verse from an old autograph book keeps playing through my head. I'd say it pretty much describes me at the moment...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Reading with Mother...

I remember reading with my mother. We would lie upstairs in my bed while she shared her love of books with us. My sister and I would listen as Laura and Mary Ingalls came to life and even after we could read ourselves, a treasure still lay in my mother's quiet voice. In 1967 when I was 6 years old, I was given a book called "Little Bits of Wisdom". My mother's beautiful penmanship lines the back of the cover with an inscription to me, as fresh as if she'd written it yesterday. We would sit against the headboard, our backs against the pillow as we read the verses inside. She would help me with the words I didn't know and we'd discuss what we thought each phrase meant. The pictures and words are so familiar to me:

"What you would seem to be, be really."

"He that would live in peace and at ease,
Must not speak all he knows, nor judge all he sees."

"Hide not your talents; for use they were made!
What's a sundial in the shade?"

I didn't know it back then, but I was learning not only to read but to feel and know. I was learning compassion for others, the Golden Rule and love for the written word.

I work in a classroom where we teach children with learning disabilities. One particular group that I work with consists of three little girls, just the age that I was when I received this book. They are beautiful children, but sometimes a 2nd grader's unreined temperament gets the better of her and she isn't as kind as she could be. I brought this book to school and sat out in the hallway with them: three sets of eyes glued to the pages, little hands in mine, bodies leaning in close to see. I was charmed once again as I read the words in my grown-up version, and listened to their thoughtful innocence and pondering. How good to know that after 37 years it is still teaching and that its messages of inspiration and quiet lessons are as pertinent today as they were all those years ago.

"Little drops of water, Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land.
Little deeds of kindness, little words of love,
Help to make earth happy Like the Heaven above." Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Storm watch

Dark, gray-blue clouds began forming Sunday afternoon just as predicted. They moved slowly across the sky, gathering power as they crept closer...their great mass enveloping the prairie. I have lived in Kansas all my life but have never become comfortable with the awesome force of a summer storm.

It was just the children and me as night time took over and the storm hit. We went to the basement when the wind rose, sweeping around us.....howling....taunting, and the hail began to pummel the rooftop. A flicker of light, then darkness. The illumination from the lightning lit up my daughter's room as we lay there waiting for the worst to subside: Megan in her own bed and Dylan and I with pillows on the floor. I prayed that our home would be spared and that my husband would be safe while he was out in the midst of it.

Usually the power is back on within a few hours, and though daybreak brought a beautiful, clear sky, the illumination of digital clocks was absent; the whirring of ceiling fans stilled. It's funny how loud electricity is and how accustomed we get to its commonplace noise. And even though we know there is no current, we still switch on powerless lights, open dark refrigerators and contemplate hot meals.

We were without power for two days and though its absence led to the frustration of soured milk and uncomfortable temperatures, it was also a time to catch up with one another. We are a close family and spend a great deal of time together under normal circumstances. But this down time allowed us the opportunity to connect on a different level: no television to distract, no teenage chats with friends over the internet, no dishwasher or washing machines swishing in the background. We went on walks, spent time outdoors, read, worked on puzzles, played "Clue", took silly photographs, drank too much Kool-aid, made shadows on the wall at night and laughed a whole lot.

And when the lights came back on this evening and the modern world of technology groaned and whirred its way to life again, we were grateful. But I noticed that the kids didn't immediately jump to the computer as I thought they would, nor did they switch on the T.V. or throw a bag of popcorn into the microwave. They sat with books....close on the arm of my chair, not quite ready to give up the 48-hour moment of quiet that drew us close, and held us still.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Kitty in a Creamer

We have so much fun watching the kittens playing with and pouncing on one another. We call this one "Mouse" because he skirts around the place like a little rodent.

Growing up, my sister and I loved cats and living on a farm, were never without at least 10 or so. We had names for each one and all were considered part of the family. It was always traumatizing to lose one and yet it never prevented us from falling in love all over again as soon as the next litter was born...

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Happy Independence!

What fun my family has when we all get together! I am so fortunate to have such loving and charming people in my life. This was just a small group out of the total 24 (children, parents, siblings & spouses, nieces & nephews). Happy July 4th to my fellow Americans.....enjoy your independence!

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Picture Remembers...

Every picture tells a story, but this particular photograph displays only the cover to a tale that will never quite be told.
The year was 1997, the season...Autumn. It was a perfect day from a storybook album: lovely, poetic, its lines synchronized and flowing into an enchanting tale.
We had spent the day at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival near Bonner Springs, the four of us, and it was coming to a close. The evening crowd had dwindled slowly, leaving just a few to witness the last rays of the October sun descending over the tree-lined horizon.
I had made all of our costumes, including the one merely silhouetted here in his shadow as he stands to take our picture. We felt one with the day as if we had stepped back in time 400 years to our own medieval setting where ladies were indeed ladies and knights proved that chivalry not only lived, but thrived.
Looking at this picture brings back a flood of memories. For though in it, my smiles tells a lot, so much remains unspoken.
How can you explain what is in the heart? It was a real fairy tale that rode in on a white horse and vanished when reality stepped in, interrupting the storyline. It is now forever far away and yet, always near as I'm haunting by a list of unanswered questions.
Because the smile doesn't just say, "What a glorious day this very day is"...the smile remembers.
It remembers dancing by candlelight on top of a castle rooftop. It remembers lying across the bed, reading a book to each other and loving the artwork showcased on each page. It remembers a surprise trip to Chicago, arriving at dawn and a prom held in a candlelit garage. It remembers a Bed and Breakfast with a skylight over the tin tub and of the perfect full moon that hung directly above it as if it had been planned just for us. It remembers drinking wassail and singing carols...of dancing in a gazebo during a rainstorm. It remembers carving Jack-O-Lanterns, witnessing the first snowflakes on a post-Thanksgiving night and making snow angels the next morning.. It remembers a warm, August breeze blowing in the low window of an old farmhouse, sitting on the floor in Barnes and Noble with the excitement of children as we shared our passion for the written word. It remembers love notes written in the form of treasure maps, and silver rings we wore. It remembers playing tag in the park, framing houses together, all of the songs that were ours and sitting in Applebee's at our special table, talking - literally - for hours. It remembers skating at the park, playing sock tag, watching "Anne of Green Gables", reading - and crying - over Nicholas Sparks', The Notebook, and never wanting to say "Goodnight". But above all else, it remembers the laughter, the romance, the talks, the friendship.
The smile did not know, when that picture was taken, that it would all come to an end. The woman in that photograph that moment...KNEW that what they had was real. And the moments they shared, at the very moment they were shared, were cherished. She was her best self with him, and he with her. And that is as love is supposed to be.
Sometimes I miss her, but I'm glad she lived and that she experienced the passion and connection that speaks to two hearts.
They did not live "happily ever after", as the famed storybook conclusion would have it. At least not together. But this photograph from that time in my life will always be a lovely illustration; not of "what might have been", but simply of what was.

The "court" on top of the castle of Coronado Posted by Picasa

On top of Coronado Heights Posted by Picasa

The Castle

I woke up this morning and saw the daylilies blooming outside my window. Their faces were turned eastward, towards the sun and the brilliant orange of their petals lit the backyard like the glow of a jack-o-lantern on Halloween night.
I thought of the other beautiful things that surround me and the places that I go - both physically and in my mind - that are lovely and stir what lies deep within me.

One of those places is Coronado Heights.

Atop a lone hill 15 miles south of Salina rests a small castle. The history of its knights and ladies is embedded in each stone, each spiraled step... and the tables once seated great kings and queens who ruled the land with scepters of conscience and love for their kingdom. Beyond the castle to the west is a cliff that overlooks a land in peace; lived by a people who were happy in the tranquility of their lives and in those who held them.

Actually, Coronado Heights is a memorial. Built in 1936, it is believed to be the farthest point north that Coronado came on his expedition, almost 500 years ago. But for me, it's fun to imagine it in the time it represents. And it is a place that does hold much peace for me.
I have been there many times before. The first was when I was a college student, since it rests just outside of the little town of Lindsborg where I got my degree. Back then it was mostly a place for kids to party so it was difficult to find moments for private thoughts. Later, after I moved to Salina and the children were small, I took them there to hike and play.

Along the winding, rocky road that leads up to the castle, you will find a marker that reads, "A Place to Share". It is a beautiful place; certainly a place to share and couples often go there to watch the sun set low upon the horizon.

But it is also a place to be alone.

I remember one evening, a few years ago, I went there needing some solace...some quiet time to think about my life and who I was. I walked along the uneven ground so I could sit on the edge of the cliff and ponder all that was revolving through my mind.
It was one of those beautiful days when the wind is but a breeze and the temperature one of shirtsleeves. It was a rare day, a rare moment and I was alone up on the hill. As I walked I watched each step I took, aware of the crunch of sand and gravel beneath my feet and the stillness all around me. Then suddenly I looked up and what I saw literally took my breath away.

I had seen that same view many times before, but that day it was as if I was seeing it for the first time, its beauty heightened. Everything was in technicolor: the lush, green meadows, the rolling bluffs, scattered evergreen trees and a crystal-clear pond with little diamonds lying upon its surface. I don't think I'll ever forget that day as I sat along the edge of the world and gazed out upon Heaven, listening to the sound of angels upon the wings of birds and feeling the peace of God within the deepest parts of me. I may not have been quite at Heaven's gates that day. But I was close.

If you go back and climb the winding steps of the castle you will come out of its damp darkness onto the top of the world. From there you can see something different from every direction. But my favorite view is looking east and down upon the patchwork quilt of my heritage.
There I see the fields, textured in different stages of sowing and reaping. In the spring everything is covered in shades of green; the wheat in its adolescence, the pasture land of waving grasses and the intermittent patches of what is unknown from such a distance. In summertime you can see the golden hues of mature wheat, mixed with the brown soil of tilled ground. The corn and milo are beginning to take hold and their leafy, green stalks stand like thousands of floppy scarecrows protecting the fields. As autumn arrives, everything turns into a Thanksgiving rainbow of oranges, yellows and browns and meets the bright blue skies as a land of harvest comes to rest. And in winter, a restful calm settles over the land as everything sleeps in preparation for another season of growth and renewal. New life awaits...and indeed, it always comes.

And throughout the changing of the seasons, the stitches always run through the quilt, separating each square, bringing it all together. And I think about my own patchwork quilt; the people who have come into my life and placed their squares upon the blanket of my existence. I have carefully included them all, painstakingly stitching them together to make a beautiful tapestry of color that has enriched and enhanced my life. Each is unique....special and adds a joy that can be found nowhere else. Every square is colorful and makes the quilt bigger...that much warmer and richer.

We are all a part the "quilt": putting the finishes on our own, and contributing to the beauty of those we love - and who love us - the most.