Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category

The Breath of Life

little hands on Luke for blog-BW

In January 1999, I was a student in a college class on the campus of Murray State University.  One of the books we were reading suggested that “we read to become more human.”  As I pondered this concept, I let my mind tinker with that thought.  Can one do anything to become , more or less human?  Is the pursuit of this thought a mere exercise in playing word games, or is there a core philosophy at the heart of the matter?

Is there any particular activity that can be engaged in, or a journey that can be embarked upon that would make a dog more, or less, a dog, or a pig, more or less a pig?   Can a cow by eating more grass, producing more milk, or winning more blue ribbons at the county fair, be more a cow?  I think not.

Animals may produce more, show better, and have finer health because of the circumstances around them, but the fact remains that they are all the dog, pig, or cow they were born to be.  So it is that I believe a human is born every bit as human as she or he will ever be.

God created mankind uniquely different from all other creations – “in the image of God”.  He purposed to make human beings.  There was not an evolving process.  God set His plan for humans into motion at the creation of the world.  After forming Adam from the dust of the ground which He had created, “He breathed into man the breath of life”.   That was “in the beginning.”  We are human, because God created us to be so.  No amount of activity or action can cause us to be more, or less the human God designed us to be.

Often when we are not in touch with our humanity, we may behave like a snake in the grass, a shark, or a skunk.  We may refer to
a person as being a dog, or a pig.   We all have choices as to what sort of behavior we will manifest, but we are nonetheless, human, by origin.    We are unique in His creation as the caretakers of the world.  We have the special privilege and ability to commune with the Creator.  He gave us the highest gift of communication, “a living soul.”  Communication is intricately meshed with the gift of being human. In the perfection of His creation God took evening walks with His first created humans, Adam and Eve, therefore giving to us a model of the importance of communication with each other, and with Him.  He placed within our very soul the need to be heard, to understand each other, to feel emotions, and to share those emotions with other human beings.

When Luke, my grandson (pictured above) was born, his life was no surprise.  God formed him, shaped him, and had a particular plan for his little life.  He came into the world seven years ago today, welcomed by his parents, big brother and sister, grandparents, and extended family.  We were all completely awed by his tiny little body, his soft skin, and precious smile. He was born fully human and uniquely fashioned to take his place in this world.  He was and is God’s masterpiece.  He has a heart that desires to know His Creator better with each passing day.  His laughter, his smile, his zest for living, and his unique manner of embracing life is what it is all about in being human.

As I read the Bible and recognize God to be the awesome Creator and Master Designer, I get just a glimpse of His heart.  He had a particular plan, purpose, and design when He created the first man, Adam.  Nothing has changed.  His desire for each new person created in secret, designed while yet unseen,  is unique and specialized.  The more I read, the more precious this truth becomes.

What an uplifting and awesome truth to take hold of.  I am human, by design.  God made ME and He, the Creator of the universe, has a plan for my life.  Do you recognize this truth in your own life?  You are here by design and purpose.    I hope this precious truth will inspire you to be all He wants you to be.


In the Beginning


In memory of my precious Dad
(February 21, 1926 – March 4, 2002)

In the beginning
Dad fed me
Bathed me
Wiped my face
Changed my clothes

Sat with me until I slept
Chased away my bad dreams
Played music to soothe me
Listened to my heart needs
Held my hand

Breathed his strength into my frightened spirit
Protected me from the big bad bullies
Taught me to trust God in all things
All this – in the beginning.

But today, in the ending
I’m feeding him
Bathing his body
Wiping his face
Changing his clothes

Sitting beside him until he sleeps
Chasing away his bad dreams
Singing his music back into his heart
Listening to his heart needs
Holding his hand

Breathing my strength into his frail and frightened spirit
Reminding him to trust God in all things
All this – in the ending.

The nurse says
“He’s gone.”

I watch his body for any sign of life
I know she’s right,

For today in Dad’s life,
It’s the beginning.

Written by Ritchie D. Hale ©2002

Dreaming From My Back Door

Backyard June



Give me a box of brand new crayons, let me open and tilt the box just enough to allow them to slide partially out, exposing all the
variety of shades.  I will be happily entertained in my mind for quite some time.   For me, the visual experience of color is such a
pleasant sensation that I’m sure is part of the reason I became a preschool/early elementary teacher.  It didn’t seem to matter what subject I was teaching, I always found a way to interject vibrant color into the lesson plans and the ancillary materials.  Color makes
me happy.

Back  yard in DecemberSimilarly, the absence of color makes me sad.  When the environment is monochromatic, I feel my energy draining away, and I become listless, lacking in motivation, and have difficulty with just ordinary daily tasks.  In small doses, monochromatic environments are relaxing….but then there is that point when
relaxing become depressing.

I remember a cross-country road trip I took with my sister and aunt.  We drove from Kentucky to California and back in about 18 days.  There were so many first-time visuals for me that I was in awe…almost visual overload at the astounding beauty.
Even the deserts we crossed, at first were amazing….and then they went on and on and on and on with lack of color.  It was that time of the year when there was no green to be seen.  I remember my sister lamenting, “I just need to see green”.


That’s where I am with this winter season.  It’s been unusual for us here in Kentucky this year.  It’s been so white, andBack yard in February for such a very long time.  So far the news is reporting  we’ve had 36 inches this season.  We aren’t used to this, and I am feeling the need to see color – soon!

Initially the snow fell like confectioner sugar ; gentle and soft like a draped blanket.  After a few days, the sun melted a little of the fresh snow and small tufts of grass poked through just enough to create small brown areas.  From a distance I imagined a box of powdered cocoa being lightly sprinkled across the powdered sugar.  Soon this visual gave way to greyish, dingy laundry, needing a little bleach to bring back the white.  As the weeks have gone by with additional snow, then ice, then salt, then melting and refreezing, my world has taken on the appearance of monochromatic mounds and boulders of sooty frozen chunks of lava.

I’m trying hard to keep my spirits up, but I along with others who are of the persuasion of a box of crayons being a pleasant thing, am ready for the bursting forth of rich vibrant colors on God’s green earth.  Won’t it be a lovely thing when we spot that first green daffodil shoot pushing up through the sod? And then a tiny purple Crocus?  And then…well, color!


I remember feeling this way last January.  We had just returned to Kentucky after having lived in Florida for several years.  I stood at
my back door looking out on what seemed a wasteland, devoid of anything remotely inviting.  I felt sad.  I missed color. I began to
dream and plan what I wanted the yard to look like in the spring.

Back yard under summer rennovationToday I have already visited the back door several times and am again envisioning a new dream.  I just can’t wait for the warmer weather to get her to implement my plans.  But first, I need to decide what plants I will put back there, and perhaps order some seeds from a catalog and get them started indoors.  I need to get ready.  There’s a lot
of planning to do if I want to be ready when the snow melts away. Let’s see, I could probably visit some thrift stores and find some quirky little items to tuck into my
flower garden, and maybe an old window, or door to do something a little different in that back corner.  I remember once painting an old bicycle solid white and decorating
it with flowers….maybe I’ll do that again.  Wonder where I can find a cheap, or even a free discarded bike?  Hmmm, I’m feeling better already.  Maybe I should visit
Pinterest for a few new ideas.  I wonder if my daughter has any old flower catalogs I could browse.

I see the beauty of the snow.  God speaks to me as I walk along snow-covered paths in the quietness of the woods. I thrill when a Cardinal perches on a stark branch against the backdrop of a snow-draped evergreen tree…and still, I yearn for the vibrancy of spring.
I long for the “time of the singing of birds.” I’m so thankful that God promises the continual flow of one season, to the next, and the
next, and that we can rest in His promise that spring will return, “In its time.”

Has this long winter got you down? Are you making plans for Spring?  I’d love to hear what you are doing to get past the blahs.

Spring Will Come Again

The view from my window

The view from my window

I’ve been pretty busy grumbling about the snow and ice recently…there has certainly been plenty of it.  Having spent the last several years in Florida, I’ve misplaced most of my excitement, and for sure the wonder of it all has been lost  in the chill of it all.  However, I do remember a time when as a child I loved to take walks late at night in the freshly fallen snow. I remember our family meeting the Miller family, or the Nettie and Bob Parker family, or Joyce and Charlie Evans for a day of sledding at Park Hill in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Park Hill, Owensboro, KY 1960

Park Hill, Owensboro, KY 1960

Making snow angels, building snow forts, having snow-ball fights, skating across Carpenter Lake out of Owensboro when it froze over, and tunneling through 6 foot drifts to create mazes and places to play… collectively these memories are all pleasant.  I loved walking to school on mornings when everything had frozen.  It was a challenge between my friends and me to see who could walk on the frozen puddles and cause the ice to break.  Usually this activity resulted in wet, cold feet for the challenge winner for the remainder of the day.

Today as we were out for an afternoon drive, my eyes were riveted on the beauty of the crystals encasing every tree and bush.  The sun, though rarely seen these past many weeks, touched every branch, creating unique art forms of such brilliance, one could not settle into the doldrums.  It was beautiful, and exhilarating to see.  The shadows up into the woods falling on the pristine snow, touched here and there by a ray of sunshine were intricate in design and mystery. I know that underneath all those many inches of snow and ice, God is at work on a masterpiece of equal beauty, and we are just about to see it happen.  We call it spring.  I am truly ready for the cold, dark days of winter to fade into memory, but I am thankful for the beauty of today.

I’m planning on beginning a “watch” for the very first sign of new life.  I wonder, will it be a Robin, a Crocus, or a bud on a tree?  What are you watching for?  Remember, beside what you see, Spring WILL come again…it’s a promise God made, and I will trust Him with the details of when it is going to happen.

A Bucket Full of Adventures

VW Camper on side of RoadA Heap of Livin’ and a Bucket Full of Adventures

 Mom always used the expression, “a heap of livin” to explain all the wonderful adventures my dad dragged us to and through.  As age begins to creep up on me and I am closer to the finish line than when I started out, I recall many of those adventures with a bit more nostalgia and joy than I did when we were actually in the midst of them.  Like the times when Dad would come bursting into the house full of zip and energy – announcing we were going on a trip to the New York World’s Fair!” (We lived in Kentucky) and we were leaving in the morning at day break!  And so the adventure would begin.  We stayed almost all day so we wouldn’t miss a thing!!!!

No Fancy Hotels for us…
Our travels took us to little out of the way places that were not often frequented by other travelers.  That often meant our sleeping arrangements were tiny “hole-in-the-wall” hotel rooms, (or a tent without a floor, – a sheet of canvas over poles, in the middle of a
grassy field).   Mom always carried her electric skillet, so we enjoyed a huge country breakfast right there in the room.  I can only imagine what the other guests might have been dreaming about when Mom heated up her “stove” and the aroma of the sizzling bacon drifted into the other occupant’s rooms. Meals not eaten in the hotel rooms were generally eaten in the car as we traveled, or served on concrete tables in roadside parks along the way. (I still enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches).

Adventures & Misadventures…
When we became teenagers we groaned about “roughing it” on the long trips . . . but as adults we recall those experiences as precious memories. Well . . . mostly precious memories.  There was that time when we literally pushed our Volkswagen Camper Van across the Painted Desert, and the time Dad was hauled off to jail because he illegally made a U-turn on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  But even those memories have the mixture of love and family growth that bonded us into best friends for life.

One family outing was spent traveling in a borrowed car to the North Carolina coastline.  Along with our family of six were my uncle, aunt, two cousins, and all our beach toys, swim gear, and picnic supplies. Oh yeah, the borrowed car was actually a hearse loaned to us by a mortician friend.  At the time we were of course, mortified . . . but today, it’s sheer joy as we recall the “day we went to the beach in
a hearse”.

When Dad would make these announcements, I know it was a bit of a hardship for Mom, but his spontaneity was infectious, and the ever practical side of Mom most often gave way to the thirst for excitement that Dad brought to each of his many “adventures”.

Dad’s Influence on My Adventurous Spirit…
Dad had a unique take on life that lasted him up until he took his last breath on March 4, 2002.  He filled our lives with adventures from our earliest days, giving us the freedom and tools to do special things – different than most children our ages.  Many hours of my play time were spent climbing into the hayloft behind our house, with Dad’s blessings, and Mom’s admonitions.  Even as I write these words, I recall that dusty, dry, grassy smell, and feel the prickle to my skin as I climbed in and over and through my “hay fort” and down  into my seven-story high tobacco-stick house.  (I shudder to think what might have happened if it had toppled over). Hiking alone in the woods,  playing hide and seek in the corn fields, wading in mountain creeks, and using Dad’s tools to fashion forts, tree houses, and secret hide-a-ways…ah, what pleasant memories.

As I approach this February 21, 2014, (the date my dad would have celebrated his 88th year), I look back with joy and forward with anticipation.  Mom said it right about her life, and I can truly say it about my own.  I’ve done a “heap of livin”, and life is certainly full of adventures to remember and many yet to come.

Have you done a heap of livin’ and stored up buckets full of treasured memories of your many adventures?  I can only imagine that your adult children would love to hear about them.

Making the Ordinary; Extraordinary

October in Seaside, Oregon

October in Seaside, Oregon

February is my birth month, and in the words of my Mom, “I’ve done a ‘heap of livin’. From her I learned to be highly motivated; always working on a new project, and to never quit.  From my dad I learned to approach each day as if it were an adventure. Most days, living an adventure is the way I would characterize these past sixty-three years.

The word adventure is a main-stay of my vocabulary.  To my ninety-four-old mother-in-law, I propose, “Let’s have an Adventure.”  To my grandchildren, “You wanna’ go on an Adventure?” To my husband, “I need an Adventure!”  The Bible says, “this is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  I tend to think of this verse as an invitation to have an adventure.

Some adventures are exciting, some not so much.  Just as “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”, so is adventure to those who choose to approach the ordinary in an extraordinary manner.  An extraordinary adventure I launched just before my fiftieth birthday, was the return to  full-time college student status after a thirty-year absence.  This adventure, though exciting, held ingredients of fear, insecurity, and a great amount of anxiety.  Of that experience I wrote in my journal the following observations.

 January 1999
Panic attack.   I can’t do this!  I don’t know what all these other people know!
As I take my place in the classroom full of strangers, I tenaciously look around, noticing telltale signs that they too are uncomfortable. Seeing fixed smiles, nervous twitches, tapping feet, I wonder – facade of security?   Anxious about this experience?  Are they feeling the same first day anxiety I feel?  Perhaps all of us are insecure in some particular area of life.

The Students –
One student, though smiling, continually picks at an almost invisible blemish on his face.  Another student seems to be anxious that his embarrassing tremors might begin at an inopportune time.  Is the boy seated in front of me thinking about his poor writing skills, wondering if he will feel foolish in front of his peers?  The girl across the room appears to be thinking only of the rejection I observed only moments ago when in the hall  her boyfriend broke-up their relationship. A quiet young man seated in the corner seems to be feeling inadequate about his physique as his gaze darts back and forth to the body builder seated beside him. One student appears ill-at-ease because she alone represents her race. The foreign exchange student sits tall, pensive, and quiet.  Is she worrying about her faulty English skills?

The Teacher –
The teacher approaches the classroom with first day jitters – experienced though he may be, he knows each new class evolves a little differently than the one before. There’s that unknown element as he faces the new class.  Is he concerned at all whether we, his students, will like him?  Is he as prepared as he hopes to be as he prepares to present his lecture? And the students . . . we all sit here wondering about the teacher.  Will he be clear in his method?  Will he be fair? Will he be interesting?

The Class –
I begin to realize we all have insecurities of one sort or another.  We each possess some wonderful strengths and feel high levels of confidence . . . each in different areas. I begin to feel less vulnerable, more energized, and am discovering a growing confidence with this thought.  This is the day the Lord has given me to return to college…to rejoice, and to have an adventure, and to be glad in it.  From my individual strengths and weaknesses, I will boldly approach this new learning experience with an adventuresome spirit.  We as individual students will tackle the assignments with an enormous amount of energy and we will all grow into a group.  We will succeed and we will learn.  All our unique insecurities will pale against the brilliance of the accomplishment of learning and new academic achievements. We will gain strength as we each recognize our individual frailties and move beyond our own insecurities.  We will recognize that we are all unified in purpose, we are learners in life; we are pilgrims.  We are masters simply because we have dared to take the risks of simply being students. We have embraced learning as an adventure.

Have you ever experienced a time when you almost missed an adventure simply because you lacked confidence or felt insecure?  Whether your calendar for today is booked with routine, mundane, or stressful activity, how about making it an adventure?   Who knows, the ordinary just might become extraordinary.

I Can’t Hear You

IMG17                                          I TAN’T HEAR YOU!

“I tan’t hear you!!!!!”….My two-year-old grandson shouts this phrase loud, louder, and loudest as he     voices his complaint at my admonition for him to cease his whining. Finally, my silence causes his silence.  He then asks, “Nonna, what did you say?” I repeat quietly that he should stop whining and must speak to me in a nice voice.

His abhorrence to hear that which he doesn’t want to hear, brings a renewed second round of screaming out, “I tan’t hear you! He raises his voice over mine, screaming in protest from his car seat.  This chant continues until suddenly he realizes that I’m no longer listening to him.  In the silence, he giggles, “Nonna, I’m being silly, aren’t I?”  We laugh, and the adventure of Nonna and grandson continues.

We converse about things we are seeing on our adventure, until he suddenly begins singing loudly, “God is bigger than the boogie man.”  He sings verse after verse, each becoming more distorted as he experiments with the many possible sounds his little set of vocal cords can produce.  Finally the sound has become a gravelly whisper as he attempts to sound like a tiger.

As I listen to all these renditions of God is bigger… I am reflecting on the Psalmist, David, when he wrote, “what time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee (Psalm 56:3).  Perhaps we should quote that verse when we are frightened, or perhaps we should sing Connor’s little song about God being bigger than the Boogie Man.

Often when the boogie-men of my life get closer, I find that I do what Connor did in my car that day.  I yell out, “I tan’t hear you!”  I yell louder and louder as the boogie men surround me.  Soon I am just being silly because I discover that if I become quiet, I will discover the sweet silence after the raging fear-storm and realize that God is bigger than all the Boogie Men that Satan can send my way.

Sometimes Boogie Men have come at me physically in the monstrous rains and boisterous winds as in the case of  Tropical Storm Isaac.   Perhaps it has been the fear of today’s schedule of “to do’s” and “what ifs” that sit heavy on my heart and emotions.  Maybe I allow the dread of the future to  overwhelm me and leave me exhausted; unable to cope with the now.  Instances of sheer exhaustion have sometimes taken a toll and I desperately need rest.  Physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion may have left me without reserve to fight the boogie men that come crashing through my door.  It is then that I have discovered how to fight these oppressive boogie men. I need to be quiet.   I need to be still and  snuggle down in my quiet little place where God waits for my silence.  When I arrive…He is always there, just as He promised. And yes, God IS bigger than all the Boogie Men!

Have you got Boogie Men chasing you today?  Do you have a plan of attack?  Can you spend a little quiet time with God just listening for His voice of quiet assurance?

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