Saturday, October 24, 2009

Standing by the Cave

The weekend after the Smokies, Steve and I enjoyed a Fall Foliage weekend in northeast Ohio. We went to our closest national park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Akron. The color was fabulous--the perfect weekend to be there. We stayed in the park at the Inn at Brandwine Falls, which I highly recommend.

We had planned to go to New England and I thought I'd bought Delta tickets. But when I tried to get our boarding passes to Boston, behold! We didn't have any tickets listed except to Key West in February. So we went to Ohio instead. But here are some really good things about not having the tickets, showing that God was way ahead of us:

1) It snowed in Boston and around there and it would have been a winter trip rather than a fall one. Also, we might have had trouble getting out on Tuesday.
2) Steve had an all-day program in Indianapolis on Wednesday and this way he had time to prepare instead of burning the midnight oil after we returned Tuesday evening.
3) I realized that the Phoenix tickets I thought I had bought (for a program Steve always does there in January) did not exist either! So I could go online and get those tickets while the flights we needed (and at a good price) were still available. Delta has cut so many flights from Cincinnati that the ones that remain fill quickly.

Isn't God awesome! I felt pretty stupid at first, but it worked out for the best. We were having some computer issues at the time I thought I bought both sets of tickets, but that's straightened out now. And I've learned to be sure the itinerary I print out has a confirmation number on it!

When we were hiking the Ledges Trail in CVNP, we came to a cave-like opening in the wall of rock. Steve approached it and looked inside while I stood back on the trail. After taking a few steps away from the cave, he turned and looked at me, waiting. We each stood there. "Are you OK?" he asked. I assured him I was fine. I couldn't understand why he didn't return to me so we could continue.

Finally he said, "Are you sure you're OK? Are you ready to keep going?" And he gestured on past the cave.

Then I realized that there was also an alternate trail that he was on. The trail split for people to go see the cave and then rejoined after a few feet. I was waiting on him and he was waiting on me. Fortunately, we both thought it was pretty funny, once we figured it out.

As we hiked, I started thinking about how often we rush to judge where another is standing when that person's place is just as good as our own. We simply don't have that person's perspective. Paul's reminder, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall," kept coming to mind as well as Jesus's many statements on not judging others. Any time I'm tempted to judge someone else's actions, I need to get more information about their situation. I need to improve communication--listen to them instead of telling them what I expect. Communicating was the key to our figuring out why we were each stuck on our section of the trail. Communicating is also the key to figuring out where other people are and how we can best help and encourage them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekend in the Smokies

Our annual family weekend in the Smokies has ended, and new memories now blend with the old. We spent more time at the Ranger Stations this year because Kinley works on her Junior Ranger badges whenever they visit a national park.

Our usual hiking was shortened due to Knox's determination to walk it himself. So we dawdled at a three-year-old pace and enjoyed the woods and water of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our new adventure was to drive to the Cataloochee section of the Park, which entailed driving across the mountains to the Oconoluftee Visitor Center in NC, and then through at least 12 miles of dirt roads to reach the isolated valley where a herd of elk roams through the Cataloochee.

It was misting rain, which made the lush valley and elk seem even more surreal. We picnicked on the porch of the Caldwell house, built in 1903 and eventually purchased as part of the park. We took pictures in the old barn and went into the Palmer Chapel Methodist Church where the church bell still tolled when pulled by eager youngsters and some oldsters as well. We could tell the accoustics were just right, so we had a Boyd family rendition of "Victory in Jesus." Some other people came in as we were singing and seemed to enjoy it almost as much as we did.

I cannot say enough good things about where we always stay--Zoder's Inn on the Parkway in Gatlinburg. We get a Tower Suite with a balcony overlooking the creek, which includes a kitchen, dining room, living room,fireplace, a bedroom with a king bed, bath, and crib, a bedroom with two beds and bath, and a Murphy bed that folds down from the wall into the space between the living room and dining room. This is plenty of room for the 8 of us, especially with Knox in the crib. We get breakfast with many choices of cereal, pastries, juice, and fruit, "wine and cheese" in the late afternoon, and cookies and milk at bedtime. This is the deal of the city because we can get out to the park a couple of back ways and avoid much of the city traffic. The place is clean and neat and the kitchen has microwave, ice maker, dishwasher, as well as stove, coffee pot, etc. And all this in season for $239/night! If you're thinking of visiting the Smokies, I can give you more information. We go back year after year and do not regret it.

We spent quality time in quantity with those we love most in God's magnificent handiwork. What could be better than that?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Heading South

When most people say, "And that's when it headed south," they mean things went terribly wrong. But for me, heading south is heading home. It can be the home in middle Tennessee where my mother lived for 36 years, but it can be other places as well. In this case, it's home to the mountains of Tennessee.

This particular day we are heading south for our annual family visit to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park for hiking, picnicking, and general family togetherness. As well as we can reconstruct, this.. is our 25th year for this trek. We didn't start out to create a family tradition--we just wanted to take advantage of the long fall weekend off from school to head to the peace and color of the Smokies.

At first, Dad Boyd would drive over from his Indiana home to ride down and back with us. We loved having him with us and he seemed to relish it, too. When he could no longer drive over, often Steve's sister Nancy and her husband Flay would meet us there and bring him along. Nancy would make Kelsey a special birthday cake and we'd celebrate two weeks early. We'd go our own ways during the day, but we'd enjoy eating, shopping, and hanging out together in the evenings.

When Josh went away to college in 1990, we wondered if that would be our first Smokies weekend without all of us there, but he didn't want to miss out. Nancy and Flay drove via Nashville to pick him up at his college campus, and we went home that way to drop him off. So coming from college became the routine which Kelsey picked up on all four years.

When Josh and Gina married in 1995 and were living in Bloomington, Indiana, we figured all the heroic measures for getting Josh there from Yankeeland were in the past. But we were soon informed that not only Josh, but Gina didn't want to miss out on this annual event that she'd heard about for years. When they moved two hours further away to Lafayette, we thought that was too far. We were wrong. When Kinley was born in 2001, we thought they surely wouldn't drive so far with a baby. Wrong again. Now at age three, Knox is heading south to the Smokies for the fourth time.

Kelsey and Stephen came first from Nashville and now from Bellevue, Kentucky. Excited about this year, we're all already thinking about next year when they'll bring their baby to the Smokies.

The route is so familiar. As we drive south on I-75, we feel our muscles relaxing and our spirits lifting. We marvel at the neon-colored trees, pointing out one after another. We stop for supper and grin at each other when we feel a nip in the air. Twilight falls as we near the Tennessee state line. We are certainly heading south to a slower pace, softer voices, and silent grandeur.

I had no intention of chronicling so specifically the evolving of this family tradition. I simply wanted to pay tribute to family traditions. It doesn't have to be a six-hour trip; it can be to a nearby park. I analyze what makes a family tradition, and part of it is repeating something the family enjoyed the first time. As years passed, I became hesitant to do any activity for a third time; I'd noticed that the third time pretty much locked it in as a family tradition.

I can't resist mentioning that the same thing is true of things we neglect. As parents, if we skip bedtime prayers, or Sunday class, or visiting a shut-in, it gets easier. I want to encourage young parents to pay attention to their traditions. Be sure that your family traditions are positive ones that will help you to grow closer as a family and closer to God--and not in the opposite direction. Keep pursuing those special family traditions that you and your children will treasure for years to come.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

100 Things--or maybe 21

I just found a notebook from twelve or fifteen years ago with the impressive title, "Lanita's Lists." The first entry says "100 Things I've Learned in My Life." Wow! I thought when I found it--my life wisdom from years ago.

So it turns out that the list I started so optimistically has only 21 items on it. But they are still lessons I've found to be true, so I'll share them here. (I really want to comment on some of them, but I'll let them stand for now.)

1. Life is not fair.
2. An activity fills the time allotted to it.
3. Other people make the same dumb mistakes I do.
4. My own children are delightful.
5. Childhood passes quickly.
6. Handling people fairly does not mean identically.
7. The more competence you exhibit, the more competence people expect.
8. Don't say anything important to Steve during a basketball game.
9. It pays to keep quiet.
10. It pays to speak up.
11. Personal characteristics become more so with age.
12. Simple pleasures are more enjoyable than extravagant ones.
13. Girls are more challenging to raise than boys.
14. Men and boys are easier to manipulate than females.
15. Children remember best what they've done individually.
16. "Have a good one" is a fake-y thing to say.
17. People are more important than things.
18. Sincere apologies are always appropriate.
19. Teachers make a poor audience.
20. Computers are both wonderful and horrendous.
21. I must give what I want to get.

Who knows? Someday I may actually figure out the other 79 things I've learned. Meanwhile, I may take one item from this list occasionally and comment on it. I'd love to hear from readers on any of these points. Do you agree or disagree? What would you add to the list from your own experiences?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Spiritual Peaks

As Christians, we all have spiritual peaks and valleys, and this week so far included two spiritual peaks for me--in addition to the usual joy of worshiping with my Christian family at Central.

The first was last night when over 300 of us gathered at Cincinnati Christian University with members of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and Church of Christ to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Thomas Campbell's Declaration and Address. In this document he called people to go back to the Bible and use the Bible as the sole source of our name and the sole direction for our lives. These three faith traditions all came from the break of the Presbyterian Church with Campbell. See to learn more about it. The Elmwood Church of Christ where son Josh's family worships was also involved in a similar gathering of 700 people at 11 Sunday morning. They began with a powerful video that you can view at .

In Cincinnati, we had three speakers, one from each strand. One of the university professors dressed as Thomas Campbell read some of his propositions from the document. The congregational singing was marvelous. The person who spoke before we shared communion commented on the great harmonies.

There were over 40 people there from our congregation and probably 70+ from Churches of Christ in the Cincinnati area. I met Everly Rose, wife of another minister, and we hit it off right away. When she said she didn't know if she could remember my name, I said, "It's Anita with an L. That sometimes helps." She laughed and answered, "Mine is Beverly without the B." So we bonded through our unusual names!

The second spiritual highlight of my week was our mothers of preschoolers' Bible study this morning. I adore these young women who come together to share their lives and their love for the Lord. Most Mondays, it's half prayer group, half Bible study. Today it was all prayer group. Sharing praises and problems and praying about them bonds in a way that nothing else does. We are blessed to have our dear Fay, wife of one of our elders, who keeps the children (3-6 children, ages 3 weeks to 4 years) occupied in the basement playroom while we meet around the kitchen table. And we prayed for daughter Kelsey, who doesn't yet qualify as a mother but will in April. We're excited that we can finally tell this good news for our family. Blessings overflow!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

An outstanding author that I admire greatly is Mary DeMuth. She spoke at Write to Publish in June and I was touched by her devotion to God, her family, and the craft of writing. You can follow her blog at What she writes is always honest and thought-provoking, whether it's parenting articles, devotional thoughts, or fiction. Here are my thoughts on her most recent book, A Slow Burn.
How does a mother survive the death of a child? Especially when that mother, in this case Emory Chance, did not have good survival skills even when her daughter Daisy was alive. Mary DeMuth, in her stunning sequel to Daisy Chain, creates characters so memorable that as readers we feel the tug to pray for them, take them food, reach out to comfort them. Then we realize that they are fictional characters, their lives predetermined by a skillful author and see-er of souls.
Even as we become involved in the lives of these fictional characters are we brought to understand more clearly the lives of real people we know. This story of loss, sacrifice, love, and redemption will stay ith me for a very long time. This is not light reading, but the insights it provides are worth the effort. I can't wait for the final book of the Defiance, Texas, trilogy. You can enjoy this book without having read Daisy Chain, but if possible, read Daisy Chain and then A Slow Burn.