Monthly Archives: September 2014


It’s a rare fifth Monday. I thought it would be fun to sift through the time capsule of old posts, polish one off, and present it again. This one hails from September 2008.

If you’ve been anywhere near civilization the last week or so (and if you’re reading this, I assume you are now) you’ve been bombarded with newscasters’ voices delivering unsavory news reports…financial crisis, candidates launching verbal darts, hurricane recovery…on and on.

It’s enough to rattle a person’s nerves if allowed. However, we can’t ignore these happenings. Sand was not meant as a home for our heads.

photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli

photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli

Instead I’ll suggest a momentary refuge. Have you noticed lately the sounds of the season? Anyone who knows me (or who reads this blog for long) knows that I love fall. The sounds around us right now aren’t all unique to fall, but humor me for now. As I tap out these words, a chorus of crickets sings my neighborhood to sleep. In the mountains, breezes play aspen leaves like nature’s wind chimes. Other trees surrender their leaves to tall piles in yards, laughing children crunching them with leaping cannon balls. Taking a moment to focus on small pleasures reminds me that our world still makes sense at times. I smile and thank God.

What about you? I could go on a lot longer, but I’d rather hear about your favorite seasonal sounds.

The Traveler: Why Stop?

It’s a Grab Bag Monday! You never know what’s going show up here.

You’ve seen them before: those roadside historical markers that pop up at random places along the highway. It’s easy to keep the cruise control in gear and coast by, not giving the unassuming sign a second thought.

So, why stop?

historical marker Nicolas Henderson

photo by Nicolas Henderson

Maybe the better question is, why not?

Years ago my husband and I sailed north on Highway 83 in Texas. We were en route to the Oklahoma panhandle for a dear grandparent’s funeral. It was a long, emotional trip. We needed a break. We spotted a large iron bridge that spanned the Red River near Wellington. It broke up the horizon, and a “Historical Marker Ahead” sign teased us off of the road. The gravel shoulder crunched under our tires as we eased to a stop.

My expectations of the marker hovered on the low end despite being a fan of history and cool-looking bridges. I expected tidbits on the construction of the bridge or something similar. But check out what it said:

The Red River Plunge of Bonnie and Clyde

On June 10, 1933, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Pritchard and family saw from their home on the bluff (west) the plunge of an auto into the Red River. Rescuing the victims, unrecognized as Bonnie Parker and Clyde and Buck Barrow, they sent for help. Upon their arrival, the local sheriff and police chief were disarmed by Bonnie Parker. Buck Barrow shot Pritchard’s daughter while crippling the family car to halt pursuit. Kidnapping the officers, the gangsters fled. Bonnie and Clyde were fated to meet death in 1934. In this quiet region, the escapade is now legend.

Excerpted from Why Stop? A Guide to Texas Roadside Historical Markers by Betty Dooley Awbrey and Stuart Awbrey

Holy moly. What a surprise! If that didn’t make us glad we stopped, I don’t know what would. My eyes were as big as a getaway car’s tires as I gazed over the bridge and followed the bank that sank into the riverbed.  I could imagine it all happening.

Isn’t it amazing the things that pop up around you that you’d never guess? One moment you’re trudging along an endless highway, the next you’re seeing the scenery in a while new light. Taking a minute, taking a chance lets ordinary surroundings whisper their amazing secrets.

I’m so glad we stopped.

What about you? When/where have you been pleasantly surprised by a chance encounter or unplanned stop? Hypothetically, what would a historical marker in the future say (funny or serious) about where you live?

Want to know more?

Interview with son of eyewitnesses by A. Winston Woodward

The Historical Marker Database online and its Google/Android App

25+ Top Apps for iPhone/iPad

Book Review: Boundaries

Once a month I review a book – usually fiction, sometimes non-fiction. Grab your favorite hot beverage (mine’s a mocha), and let’s talk reading!

Has anyone ever trespassed on your property?

photo by Paul Englefield

photo by Paul Englefield

Not much fun, is it? A sprinkler of ours hooks up to the side of our house. Neighborhood kids think they’re awesome in front of their friends when they take it upon themselves to “help us out.” They come into our yard and turn off our sprinkler when it’s on, or vice versa. They could find worse mischief, but it’s not theirs to mess with. I feel really old when I get annoyed about this.

On the flip side, what’s on our property is our responsibility. A couple of shrubs beg for a good haircut. The house could use new paint. It’s up to us. The neighborhood kids sure won’t do it for us. Not their job.

And that’s the message of Boundaries, a recent-classic, non-fiction book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Rating: 4 mochas out of 5

You might like this if you like: Anything by Henry Cloud, The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst

What it’s about: It examines when to say yes and when to say no. …And knowing what’s our “property” (responsibility) and what we have no business shouldering ourselves. For instance, if I give money (yet again) to a friend who spends it all on, say, buying chinchillas instead of paying her rent, am I doing myself or her (or the chinchillas) any favors? Or, if I slack at work and expect a willing coworker to fill the gaps, am I owning my responsibilities?

The goal is to manage our personal resources so that we can serve and love the way God wants us to. The alternative is what so many experience every day: feeling used up, run over, and burned out, with nothing left to give anyone.

What I liked: I’ll be honest: I’m picky about which non-fiction books I read, no matter the topic. I want to make sure I’m not opening my mind and heart to an author whose beliefs are off-center, to put it nicely. Nationally-recognized leaders have talked up this book for a long time. Even so, I hesitated. And then I took the plunge this summer.

I’m so glad I did.

This is the kind of book that confirms some things you knew deep down but don’t always feel the permission to acknowledge. …That it’s okay not to put yourself in harm’s way with someone untrustworthy, even though you’ve forgiven them. It’s not unkind.

Or, it’s okay (and necessary) to step up to do the things you know God wants you to do. He’ll equip you to fulfill the responsibilities He’s handpicked for you.

This book is saturated with Scriptures used appropriately. I like that and find it refreshing.

I wasn’t crazy about: There wasn’t much I disliked. The authors’ approach stems from a counseling/therapy background, so many of the examples hail from the counseling office or support group settings. They can tend toward deep-seated problems. However, the advice proves useful for everyday life. Practical suggestions can be applied immediately.

The bottom line: I plan to reread this every couple of years, which I don’t say often about any book. I’d recommend this for adults of every age and situation. Even if you don’t take every piece of advice to heart, my bet is that more than once you’ll recognize yourself in these pages and find something you’ll want to put into practice.

Your turn: Do you think people, in general, struggle with boundaries in some way? On a different note, confession time: Did you ever cause mischief in your neighborhood?

Life with God: Two Ways to Run through Psalms

Do you have favorite books of the Bible that resonate with you? It’s uncanny, as if they can peer into your life like modern-day spy equipment, despite being penned millenia ago. Psalms is like that for me.

photo by Andy Arthur

photo by Andy Arthur

No matter what’s happening, I can search these poem-songs and find truth that speaks right to what’s going on. Funny how God can do that through the Bible. =)

Two things in recent days have stuck with me after reading Psalm 119 in particular. Both evoke images of running. I’ve had running on the brain lately because I’m slowly (in more ways than one) working my way to running a 5K. …Not run/walk/hyperventilate/run/walk. Run.

These ideas show that we can run with God whether or not our real running shoes ever pound pavement.

1. We can run in freedom.

Psalm 119 is a love song to God’s Word if ever there was one. Verse 32 (NIV) says this: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Not stroll, cower, or pick our way down life’s path. Not run/walk. Run. His ways, His commands clear a sure trail in the dense forest that we can charge through.

His path isn’t confining. Like the trees in the picture above, He doesn’t hold us prisoner on a treacherous trail to nowhere. The trees bracket the path and beckon us onward in His purpose for us. And like those trees, God lines our path with His protection. He’s standing  guard to shield us from dangers lurking in the forest that don’t serve His plans. We can run free, escorted by His protection.

I struggle with this at times, don’t you? I want to arm myself with my own compass, map, and GPS to navigate life’s twisty path. Even then, steps skew tentative. How much more secure, more fun it can be to chase down the path God has already cleared, even if we see only a few steps ahead of us. He charges us to move ahead in confidence that His commands pave the way.

2. We can run now.

Verse 60 of Psalm 119 adds, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” When you were a kid and your parents asked you to do something, did you jump up and run to comply? I did, but it was usually to run away from what I was supposed to do. And well-earned consequences followed.

We don’t like obedience. My spine stiffens just hearing the word. But the more we get to know God and His Word, the more we realize that obedience to His commands holds the only peace and security in this chaotic mess of a world. To disobey means to march into harm’s way, either sooner or later.

Another paraphrase of this verse describes “not dragging my feet.” Often I know God’s directions yet stay rooted in place. I deliberate the pros and cons as if I know better than Him. (Ouch. My running shoes need steel toes.) Yet God quietly urges me to run. Now. Not next week, next year. Run the path of His plan, run away from the dangers I can’t possibly see with human eyes.

And countless souls who’ve finished the race before us cheer us on: Run in freedom, run now.

Your turn: Which is harder to act on: freedom or obedience? On a very different note, what’s one race or sport you’d take part in if you magically had the ability?

Time Travel: Why is there a Nazi on my farm?

What are you going to do? There they are. Nazis populating your fields, wielding sharp tools. Working for you on your farm…at your invitation.

from Fort Bend County Museum

from Fort Bend County Museum

Sound like a surreal situation? Yet all too true. Scores of American families recall World War II enemy  POWs in military camps across the states. Texas hosted the most. My current hometown in New Mexico built one atop a hill that the hospital now occupies.

The U.S. Army assigned the POWs to several tasks during their stay. A huge number were sent to local farms that suffered from a lack of wartime manpower. German soldiers filled slots left vacant from hometown boys long gone to fight those same Germans overseas. Many of them enjoyed these communities and the relatively good treatment by the military so much that they chose to stay after the war.

This slice of history fascinates me. My own grandfather (on my dad’s side; now deceased) served as a career Army officer. I found out that he inspected some of these POW camps in Texas, when my dad was just a little one. My research/ancestry bug is itching to find out more…

Questions for you: What’s something you’d want to ask a POW? How would your community react to this situation?

Do you want to know more? Check these out:

POW Art in America

Citizens share memories about POWs

Are you on Pinterest? Here’s my ongoing research board for an upcoming novel.