Archive | February, 2013

A Snowy New Jersey Valentine

15 Feb

Greater Love has no one than this,
that He lay down His life for His friends.
John 15:13

When making plans a week before our scheduled trip, the extended travel forecast trumpeted sunny skies and 50 degree temperatures.  With excitement, I called to confirm our on-line reservations, making sure all was in place for our mid-winter excursion to the east coast.  Wanting to do something different this year to celebrate Valentine’s Day, we both agreed to drive the familiar trek to our favorite summer-time destinations along the New Jersey shoreline.  A Groupon for the Bed and Breakfast, great food, a visit with friends, quiet surroundings, and the nagging curiosity of the damage from Hurricane Sandy pulled our hearts to make the final decision to go.  And at the last minute, despite the fact that the weather forecast dramatically changed in that week from unusually warm to being on the edge of a record-breaking blizzard, last Saturday morning we set out for our pre-holiday adventure.

Blowing snow along the road to New Jersey

Blowing snow along the road to New Jersey

Knowing the alarm clock would wake us before daylight, we went to bed early the night before, anticipating a few inches of snow to fall through the wee hours of the morning.  To our great relief, the local roads were clear with little accumulation.  As we headed into the direction of the gorgeous sunrise, the amount of snow that had fallen on the ground began to increase as we traveled, the strong winds blowing it all around, creating a beautiful sight against the back drop of the brilliant blue sky.

We made our way to Toms River to meet our breakfast companions, where we then drove to a tiny hole-in-the wall for tasty eats and great fellowship.  Hearing stories of Hurricane Sandy survival, clean-up, and ministry warmed our hearts as we ate, grateful for God’s watchful care over our friends.

Lamp posts still standing on the destroyed boardwalk of Ocean Grove, NJ ... at sunset

Lamp posts still standing on the destroyed boardwalk of Ocean Grove, NJ … at sunset

A few more miles up the coastline brought us to our familiar little seaside towns where even more snow had fallen.  We drove from one community to another, noticing the number of trash dumpsters dotting the driveways, big loaders and earth moving equipment parked nearby, and signs of ‘do not enter’ posted throughout the region.  A few homes were still boarded up in hurricane-type style, one was a total loss of charred remains, while others were under new construction.  For the most part, however, the towns seemed in tact – businesses up and running … life as usual.  Everything except the beach area itself.  Entire boardwalks washed away, including restroom buildings and ticket huts, with nothing left but the pilings.  Most communities had some sort of organization to their on-going repair … stacks of lumber and boards waiting for the weather to break.  But most shocking was the beach town of Ocean Grove, where the boardwalk street lights still stood on disheveled planks like skeletons in whatever direction the hurricane gales had blown them in.  Nails remain in the wood, dangerously protruding their points.  And no stacks of fresh lumber waiting.

Swirling snow creating crunchy ice on sand

At sunset, swirling snow creating crunchy ice on sand

Beyond the graveyards of seaside boardwalks, however, we found the one thing that is a constant.  The Atlantic Ocean.  The landscape of the beach has changed somewhat as much of the sand washed up into the towns, later to have been brought back and piled high, making a large ridge between the boardwalk pilings and the ocean.  But the ocean continues on.  Waves cresting quite high and crashing against the rocks and sand, sending spray into the air as blizzard-forced winds blew.  Tim and I walked along the ocean’s edge both days, bundled up from head to toe, enjoying the silly antics of the birds who call the beach their home, and the visiting canines and their owners who were out for exercise.  I was most amazed at how 5 inches of snow had fallen the night before, but the sand on the beach was just that, sand.  What very little snow was on the sand was back by the boardwalk area, and the wind would catch it from time to time and swirl it across the beach, in some places forming layers of snowy ice on the wet sand.  It is a very fascinating winter environment.

The Bed and Breakfast was ok – certainly nothing to write home about, or a blog, for that matter, other than to say it was disappointing.  We ate at our favorite BBQ place in Belmar, where I quizzed the waiter about the restaurant and how it fared during Hurricane Sandy.  Having only lost electricity, they still had the ability to cook with gas and a smoker, so they opened their establishment up as a free soup kitchen for several days … during day-light hours.  They fed rescue workers, FEMA, and those whose homes had been destroyed or severely damaged.  As we ate our brisket and ribs, we listened intently to the story and were very glad to support Jersey Shore BBQ with our business.

Our favorite beach ... Avon-by-the-Sea, NJ

Our favorite beach … Avon-by-the-Sea, NJ

We hope to go back again to the shore before the summer season gets into full swing … while it’s still affordable to stay within walking distance to the ocean.  Much work is left to be done, and it will be exciting to see the progress made since our trip there now.  Two full days went by very quickly, but we are grateful for the chance to get away for a new adventure.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.  Love.  Appreciation.  Family.  Friendships.  Gifts.  Won’t you join me today as we continue to think about Love?  The roses will wilt, the chocolates will soon all be eaten, and the trip to the New Jersey shore will be nothing more than a mere memory.   But just like the great ocean, there is one Gift that is Constant and never changes.  Not just on Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or Easter, but this Gift is always available to each one of us.  My prayer is that you will accept Him with your whole heart, for He was given to you with the greatest Love there ever was.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Greater Love has no one than this,
that He lay down His life for His friends.
John 15:13

Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

Happy Day-After Valentine’s Day …

Until next time,
Debbie

Yellow Day

4 Feb

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Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:4

 

I was so thrilled to see that the incoming call was from my friend, Valerie … knowing that she was among some of my dearest friends in all the world.  She held in her hand a new iphone, which was requesting my iphone to connect the call so we could not only talk, but see one another.  Face Time is the correct term for this wonderful technology, which brings back childhood memories of watching the futuristic cartoon ‘The Jetsons’. I was then carried from lady to lady, laughing together as I got to say hello, blow kisses, laugh some more, and even received a tour of the hostess’ new home.  What a joy it was to share in that brief moment with these friends, thanking God for their commitment to one another and to Him.

A week ago tonight was a special evening of love and support for a dear friend of mine who lost her husband just days before Christmas.   A unique group of ladies, with hearts as big as Cincinnati, gathered together to shower Debra with gifts of yellow.  This special tradition of cheer was born this past summer as these women desired to brighten up the day for another hurting friend whose husband lost his long battle against cancer.  These Munchy Monday girls continue to stand by one another in celebration, sympathy, friendship, and love … spurring each other on spiritually as well.

Deb opening her sunshine basket of YELLOW

Deb opening her sunshine basket of YELLOW

Since I am here and they are all there, I wrote a letter and mailed it inside a greeting card so that Debra would have it to open that night along with the other gifts.  I would invite you to sit down for a few moments and share another morsel of mercy in my life as you read my heart to my hurting friend…

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Dearest Debra,

Today is your YELLOW day!  To be honored with such a fun day means that life has not been real pleasant for the recipient.  For that, I am so sorry.  Words cannot even begin to express my feelings when I think of your loss, your hurt, your confusion, your disbelief, …  In our small and meager attempt at showing you our love in the midst of your circumstances, here we are, bearing YELLOW.  Mine is a bit different than the others, due to the distance that it had to travel, so let me explain…

I was at Kohl’s last week, returning items from Christmas.  I also had YELLOW on my mind.  I started in the house wares department, looking for a big bright YELLOW bath towel, hand towel, and wash cloth.  I found them!  I wanted you to be reminded each time you wrapped yourself in the plush towel that you have friends who love you and embrace you with our love, ultimately representing the love that Jesus has for you.  His arms of love and comfort are always there with you, even when ours cannot be! He will also hold you while you cry, and then wipe the tears away.

I then went on a search for bright and cheery table placemats.  I found 2 round woven YELLOW ones, matched them with spring print cloth napkins, and then looked for coffee cups of YELLOW.  I wanted you to be reminded each time you sat down to eat, that you are never eating alone.  “Give us this day, our Daily Bread.”  Jesus is our Daily Bread.  He will always be the unseen guest at your dining room table.

As I walked through the store and on-purpose looked for more YELLOW, I saw YELLOW sweaters, YELLOW bras, YELLOW earrings, YELLOW shoes, and YELLOW ipad covers.   Then I saw it.  This simple little YELLOW gift card.  It says ‘You’re a Lucky Ducky’.  I have never cared much for the word “luck” because I firmly believe that God has His hand on the heartbeat of all life, and luck has nothing to do with it.  So, instead of it saying ‘You’re a Lucky Ducky’, let’s pretend it says ‘You’re a Special YELLOW Ducky with a Special YELLOW Day’!!  Now you can take this card with you to your own Kohl’s and buy something you need or want.  It doesn’t have to be yellow at all.  But whatever you purchase, please remember this day and the significance behind it … that you are always surrounded by us, your Munchy Monday friends, who love you, pray for you, and care very deeply for you!

Please know that you may pick up the phone any hour of any day or night … you can just cry, you can get angry, you can just talk for a solid hour about your Steve, saying his name as many times as you want.  We can pray together, or we can just catch up.  Do not hesitate to call.   I remember when my Daddy died several years ago now … there were a couple times in the middle of the night that my phone rang …  it was my precious mother.  All she could do was sob on the other end of the line … so all I could do was pray.   Please, don’t hesitate when that time comes that you just need to cry.  Although I’m many miles away, I’m as close as your phone.

Happy YELLOW day, Debra!  May you be showered with many things that will remind you for days, weeks, and months ahead that you are loved, prayed for, and thought of often!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Our world is full of circumstances that bring sorrow, disappointment, disbelief, fear, and doubt into the hearts of people all around us…even into our own hearts.  Won’t you join me today in finding someone who needs a YELLOW day and bless their life with the bright sunshine of Jesus, love, and support!

Until next time,
Debbie

 For the LORD God is a Sun and Shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does He withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
Psalm 84:11