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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

If desperate times call for desperate measures, then tremendous provision calls for tremendous thanksgiving. Our youngest grandchild was born just over a year ago with heart problems. He had major heart surgery about 9 months later. Though small, he is now growing and happy with good skin color. It is amazing that he is alive and progressing. His father decided that in the light of God’s gracious provision of his child’s safety and health and the many people who showed concern, helped out, and prayed that a birthday party might not be enough. Instead, he decided to invite anyone who had been even distantly involved to come for a half day celebration of his son’s life and God’s goodness. 50 people responded that they would come. In the time my wife were able to be there, from 1-5:30 PM, the people came and went at a steady but reasonable pace for meet and greet. Good conversations, good food, and many stories of God’s goodness abounded.

After a year of multiple hospital stays, procedures, tests, and surgery, it is good to see the little man at home, content, and growing. God is good even when things are hard, but we celebrate His goodness when He is gracious to care for us with such largesse. His all sufficient grace is good and praiseworthy and full of joy.

In retrospect, I wish that I had taken pictures of the many people who came, but my few good pictures are of my own family gathered to encourage and give thanks. Also, notice that the little guy is almost always serious. He will go to anyone, probably because he is used to being held by nurses, but he takes a serious look at whoever picks him up.

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First Arrival Greeting

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Mama Talk

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Very Involved Sister

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A Few Moments Together

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Close Siblings (He smiles more often with his sister than any other time.)

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A Story and An Inquiry

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Intense Little Video (Uncle Time)

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With Uncle and Aunt

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With Those Swingin’ Uncles

Gift from a Pilot

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Odd picture: It must be blurred because I was shaky. Her face must be in focus because her movement matched my shakiness. That gives it a cool sense of motion.

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Healthy and Happy

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Mamaw Loves Those Grandchildren

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My daughter was reminiscing about a backpacking trip we took when she was 20 years old. As I pointed out to her, I have always been bad with ‘when’s’ and am slipping with regards to ‘what’s’. So, she reminded me that it was in August of 2008 and that I had blogged about it (see “Casting Cares”). That former blog entry was more about a few impressions of the trip than a diary thereof. At her request I am posting more pictures. I can’t resist a little commentary, but I will keep it to a minimum. Check out the map of the route at the end.

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You can’t hide forever

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I like lichen for the patterns and color variety.

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Beech Gap Trail

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Mutual Support

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Fir Cones

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You can just resolve the fire tower on top of Mt. Sterling.

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Water Filter Blues

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New Style Shelter

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Old style blogging (trail journal)

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“Why do we do these things? I will tell you…Tradition.” Based on the elevation and approximate sequence of pictures, the location is near Eagle Cliffs (elevation 5781 ft.).

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Remembering former days on the trail

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A goodly sized Red Spruce

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The Happy, Rested Crew

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Bee Balm or Oswego Tea?

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Hog Wallow (Russian Bore, that is)

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Tired turns to fatigue

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I don’t even know.

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The Cucumber Magnolia seed pod begged to be photographed.

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Occasional Surprises in the GSMNP

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When it is sharp or slick or both, you have to watch you feet.

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Watching the wading crew

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Spores Galore

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Cool looking mushroom; frustration of automatic focus camera

08-08-16 Backpacking

Trip began and ended at Round Bottom, hiking counter-clockwise. The first night we stayed at Laurel Gap Shelter. The second night we stayed at Pecks Corner Shelter.

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The title comes from the notion that my extended family gathers every Thanksgiving at my oldest brother’s house for a meal and remembrance of God’s goodness to us. That is what feasts in the Old Testament were about, sacrificing animals to recognize and acknowledge one’s sin followed by celebration and feasting with family and friends over God’s goodness to forgive, provide, and protect.

Recently, because of growth within our family, we have had several additional gatherings for meet and greet. The latest one was planned for Independence Day, 2019. That comes under thankfulness for protection within this great country. Anyone thinking we could have what we do without God’s blessing is foolish, and anyone who implicates God in the evil that sinful men and women of this country have promulgated is without any sense. We are blessed and we don’t deserve it, therefore, God has been good to us. <-Period, read it?

On the way over the mountain, my wife and I stopped at the small westbound I-40 rest area in the highest gap for lunch. On our way to the bathroom, we saw several bunches of planted flowers. The edge of the woods had many wildflowers, notably Solomon’s Seal gone to seed. The entrance to the restrooms is the most busy corridor in the rest area, but it also has a dry ledge for mud builders. I took pictures and described to two ladies why it was a barn swallow instead of a cliff swallow, tree swallow, or swift. (Besides facial pattern the forked tail is a big give away.) Several Swallowtails landed among the plantain to warm their blood in the cool, sunny air. The traffic is close and noisy, people are coming and going, and the creatures just accommodate and adapt as needs be. I am sure some adapt by staying well out of range, but I was amazed at how others live so close.

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2 Beauties
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Barn Swallows
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Built on the Rock
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Eastern Swallowtail

Speaking of accommodating, my oldest brother and sister-in-law are very accommodating to have a family party. I think we are sensing the passing of the years, the incredible blessing of extended family, and the need to connect more often and more deeply. I was so busy talking and playing and eating that I almost forgot to take pictures. My wife and I counted 30 souls in attendance, the majority under 15. Many of my children and theirs were not able to attend. They have 15 grandchildren and I have 6.

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A Story, I’ll be bound
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Whack it hard! The “Birdie” is in motion just above her head over the white SUV.
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Get ready…seriously.

The next day, my older brother and I decided to go on a hike while my wife visited her sisters. The grandchildren wanted to go, but the pictures below reveal why that wouldn’t be safe. My brother wanted to visit a tristate marker on the way. It was a very unheralded spot, tying a point on a map to an actual location in the real world. Lines have thickness on paper, but lines in the world have only one dimension, length. It may seem as trivial to most, but the connection between the two is most fascinating, particularly as you stand over the spot.

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Grandchildren saying ‘goodbye’
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Another Tri-state intersection: The arch says, “Tristate Corner Paradise Point Resort”
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Which state is the camera in? And which way is north?

My brother had been to Foster Falls previously in winter when there was abundant rain. I was not surprised to find it simply dripping. This is the way of streams and falls on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee. The pool was quite deep and must be well sealed to keep so much water with so little input. It was a beautiful sight, nonetheless.

After the falls, we walked about a mile along the base of the cliff, reconnoitering the sport climbing for a possible future push. I attempted a few pictures but the quality was sub-par due to contrast of shade at the base and full sunlight on the cliff. With the heat it would be best attacked in Fall. The walk back along the sandstone caprock was significantly flat with sandy spots and intermittent seeps, all dry and baked this summer day. And yet a succulent was thriving on the rocky, shallow depressions, Fameflower. My sister-in-law, who is very knowledgeable about wildflowers, named it and described it from this picture I texted her. She said she had never actually seen one in bloom in nature owing to the fact that it only blooms a few hours in the mid-day heat. You frequently don’t know what you are looking at until someone points it out later. I saw 10 or more blooms at the edge of thicker grasses, but only stopped to take a picture of this one because of its extra-ordinarily stressed environment- kinda a “bloom where you’re planted” scenario. It turns out that they are just tough as nails and out compete other plants for such sites.

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Foster Falls- capstone, shallow soil, and infrequent rain result in a boom or bust flow
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Mud Daubers? Cliff Swallows? Dried Mud? No, it’s pitted limestone!
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Topview of Foster Falls
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Phemeranthus calcaricus, Limestone Fameflower
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Natural Pavement, aka Sandstone Cap; Unnatural Meadow, aka Powerline Right-of-way

We made it home late that night, tired but blessed by the family time and brushes with nature.

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The weekend after Resurrection Celebration my wife and I went the opposite direction from Knoxville, to Concord, VA, to visit our daughter, her husband, and two grandchildren. We enjoyed much good conversation and a very relaxed time. Some of the pictures below are not the best, but well record the joy of the time together. In two weekends we had the privilege of seeing all five of our children and all six of our grandchildren, along with some 30 extended family members. It wasn’t even a planned family reunion time.

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Little Ewok with his magic jewel

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Mealtime

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Doting Big Sister

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Not really wanting to eat just now

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Watching the little man

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Mamaw’s favorite thing

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Firelight and Family

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Enjoying a Spring evening

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Feeding time again

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A nearby scene; living in the country is nice.

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Oak-Hickory stand at the rest area

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Crimson Clover in a neighbor’s field

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I told my brother that my wife and I would be in town to visit our children and grandchildren Resurrection Day weekend. Might we get together with him? He replied that he would get the whole family together at his eldest son’s house for a party. Along with his wife, he has three children with three spouses and 13 grandchildren and one on the the way. One was not there. Of my five children, three were there, one with his wife and four children and the another with his fiancee. My youngest brother was also there with his wife. My ciphering puts us at 34 souls. The clan is growing. If you count my missionary brother and his wife and my two other children with their spouses and two more grandchildren, that brings the clan to 42 at present. The last picture is of my 3rd born and his fiancee at his church breakfast on Sunday morning. The conversation seemed to go through catching up and news, serious political or religious conversation, and then crazy old stories, particularly about growing up in my parent’s house. 

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Mothers are always busy

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Food and Fellowship

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Do crossed arms mean it’s a serious discussion?

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Are we skeptical?

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“Candy Land” Carousel

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My second son and his fiancee

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Scotch-Irish blood runs in our veins on both sides of the family. I had not thought all that much of it until I took my young family to the Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina many years ago. My oldest son has never been the same. Combined with significant family history studies, he frequently dresses himself and his children in kilts and tartans. His oldest son has a very Scottish name, the middle name of Royal descent and protectorate of our own family name. So, it was no surprise when his eldest son asked for a Scottish birthday party, complete with dressing up, listening to bagpipes and ballads, and Scottish food. The boiled eggs deep fried in sausage, the bannocks, and the leek salad were of most interest to me and very good. With my wife, our eldest son and wife, their four children, and two of our other sons, one with his wife, we had quite a merry event. We even shot rifles and a pistol on an appropriately drizzly day. Check out some of the festivities:

Black Watch?

Old Duffer

The Feast Begins

Sprawled out Uncle

The Matron is ever multi-tasking with a smile

This little box can capture pictures of you!

Mamaw Observes

Dressed for the Feast

Holding up the Royal Standard of Scotland

“Please, kind sir, what is going on in my house?”

Cuddly Moment

Intense Moment

Mamaw gave me new sandals.

Changing of the guard

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It has been a year and a half since we visited our son in Pennsylvania. I felt like I made more connection this time with the grandchildren than previously. We have forgotten how much energy young children expend and parents expend on their behalf. We sword fought, colored, cooked, ate, cleaned and organized, worshipped, ran around in two different yards, shopped, read, ate, recalled, sang, ate, talked, watched film, prayed, ate, played croquet, and cleaned some more.

Two of my younger sons were there for the first evening dinner. I would so like to get the whole clan together in one place, at one time. It is good to see the young ones healthy and happy. I think that their parents are tired. Many changes are coming.

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A Stance and Grip on Life Ready for Growth

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My Kitchen Is My Happy Place

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I took two walks and a run while I was there. A walk down by the nearby creek occurred when all seven of the other people were napping. I wonder if the woods, creeks, and fields have always felt so lonely in the winter, or did we eliminate so many mammals as to make it so. I don’t mind alone, because it gives me time to process, meditate, consider, and request. I also observe much better when I have un-rushed time alone.

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The Quiet, Melancholy of a Winter Riparian Scene

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Natural Impressionism

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Late Evening Winter Scene

We stayed in an airbnb all four nights. I discovered them this year because of increased travel and motels being a bit expensive for what you get. In someone’s home you have the option to cook, which both saves money and allows for eating what you want to eat. The first night we stayed in a very nice home, beautifully decorated with an inquisitive couple who would have talked into the wee hours if I had allowed it. The next three nights we stayed in a clean but very sparsely decorated older home. We hardly saw the host and had the two story house to ourselves for the little time we spent there. It was from this second home that I took a walk at dusk on the second night. I had to include the poor picture of the falcon sitting on the fence post. It was not more than 30 yards away. The small towns there are surprisingly compact. There were probably not more than 20 houses with a volunteer fire station, an auto repair shop, and a few small business warehouses. You could walk 200 yards from the middle of town in any direction and be in a farmer’s field.

I’m sure locals could tell at a glance, but just because you see a buggy doesn’t mean the occupants are Amish. Many are Joe Wenger, 35er, or Piker Mennonites. What is generally conservative in religious circles elsewhere is moderate to liberal in Lancaster County. 

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Bad Picture, Amazing Sight

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Mastersonville, PA

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They do have running lights and headlights

We came home tired and satisfied. Time with family and time in a new place are refreshing to the spirit and mind, even if not so much to the body. God has so blessed us with children who seek Him and occasional opportunities to break up the mundane with new experiences. Life is good, because God is good.

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