Winter. And Spring.

When I first started writng about my brother David, I put those posts in a category called An Unfinished Story –my bother finished his story here on this earth on August 19, 2017 and entered the beauty of his new life and story in heaven. And while this part of his journey is over, I suspect I’ll still be writing and reflecting on his precious life here…

These are the words I spoke at his memorial service this past Saturday evening, August 26, 2017:

IMG_0433

There’s so much I want to share with you about my brother David. But I decided the one small thing I’ll share with you this evening is what I saw this past spring when David was in the ICU.

This fall will be twenty years since I moved away from northern Virginia to south Florida.

Only a few short months after I moved, I experienced my first winter in Florida –Palm trees, warm weather, blue skies, and the evergreen and tropical landscape. What a strange and wonderful sight.

After a few years, the strange and wonderful sight of the ever-present summer of south Florida replaced the experience of the four seasons. A perpetual summer became common-place and familiar.

I’ve traveled back to Virginia a few times in these twenty years, but in the familiar green summers or colorful leafy falls.

This year was different, I traveled back here on the cusp of spring.

IMG_5887

David was fighting pneumonia in the ICU at Fort Belvoir Hospital and I knew I needed to be there. I remember my drive with dad to the hospital on a Saturday morning and taking in the sights of spring, blossoming trees and perennial flowers sprouting up from the ground. It was an incredible sight. We rode along familiar roads and hills into Fort Belvoir, even though it was familiar it also felt strange. I saw forests on either side as we entered the base. There were some flowering trees starting to blossom, but the oaks, and maples, and sweet gum trees were nothing but brown branches, “Are those trees dead?” I asked dad.

img_0430.jpg

“No, no. All this will be green soon.”

We arrived at the hospital and spent the rest of the day in the ICU with mom and David and Heidi and the girls. I was afraid of seeing him with all the tubes and machines hooked up, but David has a way of making these things seem unimportant. I could still see the smile in his eyes, and despite it all, he even gave me a genuine smile when I came over to his bed and held his hand.

We sat by his side while he rested. We talked and prayed together and talked with all the nurses who came in to care for David. Dad brought in a package from Aunt Jan and we shared all the photos and letters from when David, Heidi, and I were little.

For so many years my family has prayed over David. I can remember my prayers for him as a child. I expectantly waited for God’s miracle healing of my brother. This struggle with faith, and with trusting in God, and with questioning pain and suffering – all of it has been with me through the years. But also through the years, I know God has heard my prayers, and He gently shows me his love, for my questioning self, and for my brother –in the midst of his trials and despite his trials.

What I’ve always longed for was David’s complete healing. I’ve often heard the words, “we don’t know whether healing will come here on earth or in heaven.” And in my true childlike and selfish nature I would want to throw a fit at God and say, “That’s not the miracle I’m looking for. We’ll all be whole in heaven.”

That doesn’t count.

And then God gently reminds me again…

He showed me on a walk with mom outside David’s hospital. We walked along a tree lined path and I saw more flowering trees blossoming and more oak trees standing bare against the blue sky. I asked her too, “Mom are these trees along this path all dead?” And her answer was of course no.

IMG_5845

I was only there four short days, but on Monday when I said my last goodbye to my brother I walked outside among the trees and I saw on those brown branches little buds beginning to appear.

IMG_0534

In the ICU We faced death all around. Outwardly we saw it. The doctor and nurses spoke of it. Yet God showed me, this is not all there is.

 

He shows each of us. Reminds us through spring and these full green summer trees, There is life again.

IMG_3518

 

2 Corinthians 4:10-12 and vs 16-18 says:

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I walked along the Fort Belvoir hospital path again this morning, This time with my dad and uncle Bob. The path was lined with full green oaks, paper birch trees, southern bayberry and thick grass. I saw and heard the new life all around. I couldn’t see it in the trees in the early spring. I could hardly imagine this pathway so full of new life. But new life has come.

 

In April I could only see David’s broken and dying body. But now new life has come. The miracle of healing I’ve been praying for is his. I can hardly imagine!

IMG_3536

 

 

 

**********************************************************************

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Sunflowers

Weekend Wonder

YELLOWIMG_5576My father in law always shares his newspaper with me when my family and I come up for a visit. This particular visit there was an article about a farmer and his sunflowers. Five acres in bloom. Only a few days remaining for the golden-yellow field.

I knew I had to go and see.

We follow the route on the GPS to the sunflower farm, past store fronts and restaurants and busy grocery stores. The road seems to empty as we drive on. We turn and follow a bumpy dirt road. The houses here aren’t inches apart, they’re acres apart. Clouds of dust rise up and we’re passing farms and horses in pastures.

It’s amazing how these beauties in life exist down roads near by, but somehow far away at the same time.

I think we’re coming upon a secret treasure–

A couple of miles down the dirt road, we near the entrance and looking up from the dust we see the cars. It’s not a secret. Many have read about the sunflower field. The funny thing is, no one seems to be expecting this hidden country life tucked back only a few miles from the city. As we’re trying to navigate our way into this crowded little oasis, I see women in heels trying to step lightly in sinking dirt and a family trying to dig car tires out of deep sand.

There are photographers and families and women picking armfuls of fresh flowers for bouquets.

We all came to see this beauty growing up from the ground.

IMG_9677IMG_9660IMG_5521

Walking in a field of golden suns,

lifted high upon green stalks.

Yellow blooms and petals reach,

like sunbeams through morning clouds.

—LAM—

IMG_9676

My daughter and I with the sunflower farmers (Father, Son, & Grandson!) and their cute board book, Sunny & The Sunflower Maze written by Raj Sinha and Illustrated by J.C. Plitt                                                                       –Check out Liberty Farms in Florida and New Jersey 

 

 

 

 

 

Shore Birds

Noisy, playful, insistent, curious…

img_8740

I’ve got an idea in mind for a new book. And in this little book is where a seagull lives. I needed to get to the beach and  find my seagull. Thankfully this weekend was a perfect beach day kind of weekend. We packed all the usual, sunscreen, towels, body boards, and beach buckets.

My family picked out their spot on the sand and before I could even lay out my towel I spotted a group of my little shore bird friends, in between beach umbrellas and ocean waves. Shore birds and snow birds basking in the Florida winter sun.

Here are some of the images I captured

Shore bird study:

Flight

 

 

Poses

img_5432img_5420Sanderlings 

Not seagulls, but so incredibly cute! Seriously.

 

img_5417img_5431Laughing Gull

Happy little seagulls!

 

Ring-billed Gull

John James Audubon was a fan of this gull…

Or at least according to my interpretation of my Reader’s Digest Book of North American Birds– “John James Audubon himself called it ‘the great American gull.'”

 

The Flock

img_5341Black Skimmers

These are the birds with the long beaks and bright orange coloring. The lower bill is longer than the upper bill and skims the surface of the water as they fly above it. They look as if they love nothing more than to fly just for the joy of it. Maybe it was the morning I was there to see these birds, but they did not seem content to sit still for long. They would take off, rise and fall in synchronized harmony out and up over the ocean– up, down, around, land, repeat.

bw_img_5334

 

*********************************************************************

Election Day (Peanuts Style)!

Grandpa

Happy Election Day!

Ok, so it isn’t really Thursday yet. It’s Tuesday, November 8th, 2016.

And it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a throwback picture book, but this one is too good not to share a few days early.

So here’s a little light-hearted distraction to bring you a smile as we wait for all the poll results to come in.

The Peanuts Platform

Illustrated by Charles M. Schulz

Hallmark 1968

 

fullsizerender-4

fullsizerender-2

A few of my favorite campaign promises from the Peanuts gang:

“No homework on weekends! (For anybody!)” -Charlie Brown

“Full rights for women!” -Lucy

“A good-neighbor policy!” -Snoopy

 

fullsizerender-3

“And Happiness for everyone!”

**************************************************

The True Story of a Common Grackle

Weekend Wonder

My daughter and I were spending the afternoon together, a little bit of me time and a little bit of her time. Our day included coffee and doughnut treats, antique shops and thrift stores, and volunteering together at the cat rescue (this one in particular for my little animal lover’s soul).

We were just walking back to the car when we both saw the little black bird in the median. It was pecking at a wrapper on the ground next to my car door.

“Mom, is the bird trying to open that?”

I unlocked the car and we walked closer. The little black bird hopped back a bit to wait for us to go about our day so he could go about trying to open the little cellophane wrapper on the ground. I looked down and saw it was fortune cookie.

“Mom, we should help! Can we open it for him?”

img_5182

I bent down and picked up the fortune cookie, opened the little bag, crushed up the cookie and spread it on the ground for our new little friend. And then I saw the thin slip of paper lying there. Of course, it’s a fortune cookie. I reached down to read the little bird’s fortune,

“God looks after you in a special way.”

Amazing isn’t it?

img_5187

I’m writing a bird book and this little fortune is a gift from God. A gift to me and my beautiful girl. One I just had to share!

On the back of the book I’m writing I’ve included a verse;

Look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns. But your heavenly father feeds the birds. And you know that you are worth much more than birds.  ~Matthew 6:26

Whenever I read this verse it reminds me of my Grandma Annie in Michigan. She has always cared for the birds around her home. When I was young and would come for a visit, she would fill up the bird feeders with seed and the bird bath with fresh water. We would go inside and watch from her dining room window.

img_3543-2

After I was married I visited her with my own children. She drove her great-grandson down to the market with her to get more seed for the feeders and even some corn cobs for the squirrels. We filled the feeders together and watched the colorful birds enjoy their meal.

God cares for the birds by bringing the worms up from the ground after a rain, or through a grandma who puts out fresh seeds and water, even in a winter-frozen Michigan backyard, or through the heart of a little girl who notices a common grackle trying open the wrapper of a fortune cookie.

Yes, God looks after the birds in a special way. Even little birds who are called common.

Always remember, God cares for you even more than that!

img_8231

 

 

 

******************************************************************

 

 

 

Why Write?

Thoughts On Writing, Fear, and Time | Part 2

“Don’t you find it strange that we have these ideas we dream up? We write and create and go to conferences and critique groups. No one has asked us to write, but we do.”

I was at a conference a few years ago when I asked one of my friends and fellow writers my question about writing. The process and the idea of writing started to feel strange and surreal.  Why do I seem to find inspiration for new books all around? I jot down the ideas in my notebook, on receipts in my purse, or on the back of a bulletin in church. Some of these ideas stick with me and their little voice is strong. I feel this desire to put my thoughts and words and art together. I create little book dummies of how I see these books in my mind.

I have 12 on a spreadsheet facing me now. Three in book dummy form.

img_7713_2

Family, school, kids, and work pop in and demand some love and inspiration too. Shouldn’t I put my ideas aside and focus on what’s in front of me? And yet these little books speak to me. They compel me to take them to critique group and attend writer’s conferences.

The question I asked my friend about writing has stayed with me. It pops up when I doubt what I’m trying. It’s easier to listen to the voice that says, ‘focus on what’s in front of you’.

But what if all writers listened to a voice that told them to stop writing?

What if all artists listened to the voice of doubt or fear and stopped making art?

img_7706_2

The question remained: Why write?

And then I met Nikki Grimes. I was invited to hear her read from her book Words With Wings at the Upper Room Art Gallery. She is talented and gracious and humble. She talked with me afterword about her writing, her children’s books, and poetry, and new projects.

We took a walk with our host Robin Merrill from the Upper Room to see a piece of art in the making. We stood in front of a large log being hand cut into a canoe by a Seminole Indian from the tradition of generations before. A story in its own way, told and passed down.

img_7701_2

I asked Nikki the same thing I had asked my other friend, “Don’t you find it strange to write sometimes? To put these ideas and thoughts down on paper and publish them? No one has asked us to write what we write but we do it anyway.”

She answered me quickly,

“If I waited for permission, I would never write.”

Wow! I had never considered that I was waiting for permission.

As we looked at the canoe in raw form and Robin told us about the artwork, she showed us a pile of wood chips on the ground that had been cut from the log. Chunks and layers of shavings discarded for the canoe to takes its form. She gave us a little brown paper bag and told us to take some shavings and create our own piece of art from them.

Here is mine, a bird with Nikki’s winged words for me…

fullsizerender

I dont’ have an answer as to why I write, but it doesn’t have to be because someone asked me to.

I have a goal now for my little board books.

That’s what they are. No permission needed.

 

If you’re the curious sort, one who wonders about why we do the things we do, here’s an amazing book I found one evening at Barnes & Noble, Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature.

img_7891

 

Happy reading, writing and creating! ~LAM

***************************************************************

 

 

Time Is Ticking

Thoughts on writing, fear, and time | Part 1

time

I saw my friend and fellow writer, critiquer and encourager, Belinda at church. She told me she had sent her second query out to an agent. We attended the SCBWI Florida regional conference together this year. Since the conference she was the first to send out her work. And now she’s sent out her second query. Belinda two. Me zero. She’s on a mission. I’m still nervous to hit send.

Later that day I headed out to the beach for some time with my family. They were here for a visit and their lovely condo was right on the ocean. A week of beachfront lazy days together was in order. At least that’s what I envisioned for the group.

My husband had a different idea in mind. Somehow he and my son decided an hour jet ski rental would be great fun for the whole family. Aunt Heidi, the cousins, little sis, my husband and I, gliding across the surface of the ocean at reckless speeds.

I was terrified.

Listening to the safety rules and ocean regulations didn’t help calm my fears-

Don’t get too close to the swim markers, best to stay a hundred feet out since swimmers don’t pay attention and often go beyond the markers. Don’t pass the buoys. Don’t go over the reef. Stay 300 feet away from scuba divers and other boats. If you flip over, stay calm and try to turn the jet ski back over before it sinks. If you ride over too much seaweed you need to be able to hop off and reach your hand under the jet ski and pull the seaweed out of the intake.

Riding a jet ski is the opposite of relaxing at the beach.

My husband and son rode first. Next was our daughter. Then we switched drivers and my sister took her two girls. We still had time. She came in and Mike and I went out. Our guide steadied the jet ski for us while we were getting on.

“Hop on!” my husband says. I do, but completely nervous I try to hop on the back.

“No, you’re driving. Get up front,” he says.

“No, you drive. I’m not getting up front.”

“Yes. Yes, you are. Get up front!”

And then our guide chimes in, “Time is ticking!”

Whoa. Really? Who does he think he is? We’ve already paid for our time. I can take a few minutes here. If I want to waste part of our time being afraid, I can.

And then I realize just how stupid that thought is. Our ride is paid for. Just one hour. Time really is ticking and then the opportunity is gone.

What about life? Time ticks here too. We just don’t readily see it. I’m busy being afraid to hit send on a dream because I want my query to be just right. I don’t want to fail.

But time is ticking.

I hopped on the driver’s seat and adjusted to holding down the throttle. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t graceful. I hit a few waves. I screamed a bit. I drove the jet ski though. My husband and I ended up switching places somewhere out over the water. I got to see what fearless driving really looked like! It wasn’t so bad…

img_5610

And we all made it back to shore.

I’ve read about other artist’s journeys, I’ve listened to podcasts on fear and productivity. These were good, but not a kick in the pants kind of good that I needed. Who knew all I needed to do was drive a jet ski? The thing I fought against doing was the thing which taught me the greatest lesson. I’m thankful for the kid who steadied the jet ski and reminded me time is ticking.

img_5606

 

What fear is holding you back?

*********************************

Catching Lightning

Lightning_IMG_5037

Weekend Wonder

I’m often driving somewhere when I look up at the sky and wish I had my camera in hand. This usually happens when driving the kids to school in the morning. How many times I’ve said, “Oh! Look at that sky! Don’t you wish we could keep heading east and watch this sunrise from the beach?” My kids usually respond with, “Mom, you say that every morning!”

But Sunday was different. Sunday was evening. I was headed to my car again, but I was stopped in my tracks by this sky. The storm clouds billowing up. Lightning rolling around inside the swell.

This Sunday show was a gift. There was no downpour, no window-rattling-thunder, just beauty and light. The storm was close but distant. This time I  went back and grabbed my camera and tripod and my son came along.

“Bye! We’re going to go catch lightning!”, he called out as we headed out the door.

The two of us walked west onto an empty golf course under the night sky. We  watched this mircale light show for twenty minutes…

and we tried to catch the lightning.

    Stop and notice God’s miracles.
 Do you know how God controls the clouds
    and makes his lightning flash?
Do you know how the clouds hang in the sky?
    They are the miracles of God, who knows everything.

-Job 37:14-16 (icb)

 

 

***********************************************************************

To My Husband On Our Anniversary

dusk

 

To my husband of 16 years,

The man who took a chance

On saying hi

At Sunrise Hall

To the girl moving in

To Room 314

We were both teenagers

You and I

Designer

Photographer

Hard worker

Dreamer

You drove me to church

In your CRX

The fast car

With the loud speakers

And sunroof open

Along A1A

You proposed

In a suit

Our toes in the sand

Ocean winds

On our skin

In the clear night sky

A barge

Anchored offshore

I said, “yes”

One simple word

Transformed us both

Now we’re thirty somethings

You and I

Father

Mother

Provider

Dreamer

We have grown up

Together

Learning

These marriage vows

Being like-minded

Having the same love

Being one

In spirit

And purpose

In humility

Putting others first

You are better

Than I

But not proud

Or arrogant

You teach me

Grace

And Love

How to say I’m sorry

And how to forgive

To laugh

To have courage

To drive a jet ski

To go after dreams

To believe the best

In a person

You are

My hero

My Mitch

My love

Who

Still drives

A fast car

With sunroof open

Along A1A

I am yours

Always

Monarch Miracle

 

A couple years ago my daughter asked for some milkweed and a caterpillar. It was a simple request with amazing results. A wonder filled spring.

IMG_5010

 

And now it’s springtime again and there’s a special kindergarten class I know studying caterpillars and butterflies. So I collected those images and videos I captured from my little girl’s wonder filled spring and made this little video to share.

I was tempted to speed up the video, but part of what makes looking at this little creature so amazing is seeing the very hungry caterpillar munch through his nice green leaf in real caterpillar speed! Nothing sped up there. They can munch apart a whole milkeed plant down to stems in no time! The other part that is truly remarkable is seeing the caterpillar spin the chrysalis. The transformation right before your eyes is extraordinary.

IMG_5134

These butterflies make me wonder about Walt Whitman’s poem Miracles –these little things that happen all around us everyday that are quite amazing when you get up close and really look.

“Why, who makes much of a miracle?

As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles…

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle…”

-Walt Whitman

IMG_5822Monarch Miracles

For Spring

For my Nature Girl

For Wonder

For Sharing

For Inspiration

For the love of Very Hungry Caterpillars

and beautiful butterflies

For Ordinary

For Transformation

For New Beginnings

*********************************