Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Seventh Hen

There once was a sweet, little hen named Seven,
who lived with her six sisters
in a chicken palace on top of a mountain.



Life was happy for Seven for one year, one month, and one day.
She woke up in the morning,



gobbled her chicken food,



played in the grass with her six sisters,



and laid eggs in the nesting box along with the other hens.



When the sun set in the evening,
Seven paraded with her chicken sisters up the plank
and lined up on her perch,
beak to tail and beak to tail,
ready for a rest.

 (Seven agreed with her sisters that they should never be caught in their beak to tail line-up, and that any flash photography should cause a scurry of wings in order to avoid being thus documented.)



Then, one spring morning, everything changed for Seven.
For an unfathomable reason, Oldest Sister pecked Seven on the head when Seven tried to get a drink.  Seven scurried away in fright.



As the days passed, Oldest Sister continued her cruelty: bullying and pecking poor Seven.  Seven's head began to bleed, and her formerly beautiful comb became speckled with black scabs.  The other hens noticed and joined in the attack on Seven.  No weak chickens were welcome in the chicken palace, and all the hens terrorized Seven mercilessly.



Seven squawked in fear and indignation, alerting the Farmer.

The Farmer was a good and loving farmer, and he responded to Seven's plea for help.  Assessing the sad, bleeding hen, the Farmer removed Seven from the flock, freed her from the chicken palace, and set her to free range on her mountaintop home.

                                                

Seven was now free from harm, but also bleeding and alone in the world, separated from her six sisters.  Poor Seven!  This was not the life she had planned!


As Seven adjusted to her new life, she began to notice that life was now a bigger adventure, with a great, big field for exploring on her mountaintop home.  Seven thoroughly enjoyed checking out the bugs in the grass and the shade under the trees at the edge of the woods.

                                                   


Days passed, and while the adventure continued, Seven missed her sisters, so she set out to find a friend.


Seven observed the Farmer's Son from afar as he tended the garden.



After watching the Son for awhile, Seven decided she wanted to help.
She watered raspberry bushes with the Farmer's Son.
She considered herself personally responsible for the good growth she saw.



After working together with the Son, Seven began to hang out with him just for the fun of it.



Seven learned new tricks from the Farmer's Son and soon became a pro at climbing the barn stairs.



Life was such an adventure out of the chicken palace!  Seven was no longer sad to be away from her chicken sisters, as she had found a good friend in the Farmer's Son.  He provided much more excitement than the confines of the palace.

                                          

And so it is, that sometimes situations we do not want
allow us a better chance to grow close to the Son,
to be loved by Him,
and to find our worth in Him.
Seven was perfectly happy.


There once was a sweet little hen named Seven,
who lived on a mountaintop,
and lived a life of adventure,
and lived as a friend of the Son.





Sunday, April 24, 2016

Forty. And wise. Ha!

Forty.

Ten years ago, I never turned thirty.  I really didn't want to be thirty, so instead, I went from being twenty-nine to twenty-ten.  I don't remember admitting I was thirty until I turned thirty-one.  It was a really bad attitude.

Now, I'm kind of excited to be forty.  It seems that as I get older, I should be getting wiser.  I want to be wise.  Wisdom gives great quotes.  I love quotes.

My roommate in college and I weren't visual at all.  Most people's dorm rooms had pictures on the walls.  Our room had none.  Instead, it had a huge sheet of paper covering the wall, which we decorated with quotes we'd heard.  The good and the bad, fame and shame, were all represented, from professors, classmates, and general life.  It was great.

If I'm going to be forty, I want to be wise, and I want great quotes.  I may have to collect the quotes from others, but they'll be great.  If my husband would let me get away with no decorations or paint on the walls - only an enormous paper with quotes to cover bare walls, I'd do it!  Here's some quotes I've collected in my heart this year.

"Forty is great!  I love the ages of the kids, marriage, this phase of life.  40's good!"  - Jo-Lynn.  This is the quote I kept in mind as the right attitude for the new decade.

"He must increase, and I must decrease."  - the Bible.  It's all about Jesus.

"I wonder what our grandmothers would have done?"  -Sarah.  Life sounded easier then, in loving husbands and children and serving generously.  Maybe life wasn't easier, but memories of our grandmothers are still good examples.

"All your life long you are slowly turning into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature." - C.S. Lewis.  This seems more obvious in each of us the older we all get. Please let me be becoming more heavenly!

"Great idea.  The picture is awful."  - Lisa.  Honesty of a friend.  There's nothing like it.

"Don't listen with your ears.  Listen with your heart.  You'll understand."  - Jean, explaining how I would understand our ESL students, despite the accents.  She was right.

"We love you, honey.  Take all our love."  - Grandma and Grandpa.  Can I say that quote enough that it will be the memory others have of me?

Maybe none of those quotes meant much to you.  What have you heard lately that makes a difference in your life?  What's God teaching you through what you've heard or read?  I hope you have a day of wisdom and noticing great quotes!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Ohio

Last summer, I realized that we'd gone on a big adventure and traveled all over the United States, but we'd never really taken our kids to many touristy places in Ohio.  Char and I always wanted to see and do things that were new to us, and it seemed we never got around to showing the kids as much of their own state while on trips.

Our adventure also made me realize that a lot of people tend to short-change their own home state.  We heard a lot of people joke about their home states, thinking that the jokes were really unique, but in reality we heard the same jokes in many states:

"There's only two seasons here in [insert the state name] - winter and construction."
"If you don't like the weather here in [whatever state name], stick around for another few hours.  It'll change."
"Really?  You're traveling around the entire U.S. and you chose to come HERE??"
Why do we disdain our own states so much?

Last summer, I started wanting to take the kids to a few specific places in Ohio.  There are quintessential places in every state, and it was time to visit some of Ohio's as a family.  I'm now writing about these Ohio places partially because this blog is my version of a family scrapbook, and partially because I know some of you read it as a travel blog.  Here's my opinion of a few unique or special Ohio destinations.

1)  Hocking Hills State Park.
We took the kids last summer, as our first post-adventure camping trip.



I remembered going to Hocking Hills as a child, and it's still my favorite state park in Ohio.  I'd say it can rival the state parks in the other states we've visited around the country.  Lots of waterfalls, which I love, rocks, and forest.  We also went to a great night hike there.  Hiking is strictly forbidden in the dark at Hocking Hills except for in naturalist-led hikes, as people otherwise have a tendency to fall in the gorge and die.  The night hike was unique, and if you visit, I recommend timing it with a night hike event.

2)  Amish country
This spring, we visited Amish country with our kids.  Amish country is so close to our house, we'd never made it a destination of its own, other than to go buy furniture.  A blessing of living near Amish country is being able to get affordable, nice quality, hand-made wooden furniture.  It's an Ohio perk.

This was a quick, one night trip.  Since we scootered around the country, I really think we need to scooter some of Ohio, too.  The Holmes County Trail is a great trail that has one lane for bikes and scooters, and a second lane for horses and buggies.  The photo doesn't show it, but we did get passed by a good number of buggies!


In this picture, B is scootering on the wrong side, apparently thinking himself a horse.


If you're not from around here, you might be surprised to see the way parking lots look through the car window.


This is Heini's Cheese Chalet.  I love it!  The Amish farmers bring the milk for the cheese every morning.  Only part of the milk is used in the cheese, and the other part is used to make fudge.  After taking a tour of the factory, you can sample probably 30+ different cheeses, and 10 or so fudges.  We bought our favorites and had them for lunch with crackers.  It's unique, and Amish country is worth visiting!

3)  Lake Erie Islands.
This is on my list to do with our family sometime, as we haven't done it yet, but I remember enjoying it as a child.  It was fun to take a ferry ride out to Kelley's Island or Put-in-Bay and bike ride around the islands.  It's another unique activity in Ohio.  (However, for the best Lake Erie beach, I think Presque Isle State Park in Pennsylvania is the place to go.)

4)  Cincinnati


I'm sure everyone has a differing opinion.  I'm a country girl, and not so interested in cities.  The cities in northern and central Ohio just don't seem great to me.  (Except that Cleveland has the Cleveland Orchestra.  That's great!)  If you like cities, I think Cincinnati is pretty nice.  We recently went there to visit the Creation Museum.  It was fun and educational!

The Cincinnati River Walk helped me accomplish the goal of scootering through the state as a family.  It was fun to walk across the Ohio River on the Purple People Bridge, and our kids loved that the river walk had tons of really unique play structures.


Relaxing river walk swings

Why do I want to touch major bodies of water and rivers?  Not sure, but it makes me happy!

There you have it.  I am no longer short-changing my home state, and these are some places in Ohio that I think are worth visiting.  I wonder what's on your list, either in Ohio or in your own home state?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Rest

In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.  Isaiah 30:15b

There are seasons for lying on your back in the snow.


There are times you've skied downhill on your cross country skis longer than you realized, and it ends up being a time to lie on your back in the snow.  A gentle landing.  The snow feels cool, soft, and good, so maybe it's time to enjoy the perspective change.


In rest you shall be saved

God plans perspective changes and their timing.

If you try to lie on your back on the grass in the summer, you might end up as the final destination in an ant parade.  Or, you might be lying in a place where your dog just pee'ed.  Aak!


Conversely, a good thing about snow is that you can see what's Pure.  Clean.  Lovely.  It's good that God stops us to rest.


Yes, lying on your back in the snow, you get a completely different perspective.  Looking up, you can see how God makes everything beautiful.  One cold flake by another perfect flake, coating the world and making it new.  Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.


Sometimes the sun starts to melt the snow from the branches, and a big clump of wet snow falls down on your head.  You laugh and laugh.  You could be angry.  But, it is better to laugh.

Sometimes, it seems other things would be more fun than resting.  But you were unwilling, and you said, "No! We will flee upon horses!" Isaiah 30:16 

It looks more exciting to get up - run, play, and frolic in the snow!


Other times, it seems it would be fun to make a difference in the world!
To build something!
But, In quietness and in trust shall be your strength.


It would be so fun to soar!


God still knows when we need rest.

Blessed are all those who wait for Him.  Isaiah 30:18

We will still soar, and in His power, we'll soar even higher, on wings like eagles.


While the earth waits for the spring,
and families wait for the busy seasons of soccer, baseball, and outdoor activities galore,
the winter is a time to rest.
A time to lie in the snow and look up at what's going on above.
God is in the resting and the waiting,
and the season of resting and waiting is a gift to us every year,

until it's time to stand and to walk again.

Your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.  And your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, "This is the way, walk in it." when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.  Isaiah 30:20


In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.  
Isaiah 30:15b

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Memories of the Future

It's been ten years now (minus the living-in-an-RV-traveling-the-country stint) since we moved to our quaint, little town.  I remember one of the first times we drove into our new town and drove by the playground.  

There was a merry-go-round.  

I felt like we'd driven backwards a few decades.

I remember there was a merry-go-round on my elementary school playground when I was in kindergarten.  After kindergarten, the merry-go-round was removed for being too dangerous.  All that was left was a sandy circle, reminiscent of children running in circles and jumping onto seats.  Similar sandy spots seemed to mark playgrounds everywhere in the early 1980s.

I looked at that merry-go-round in our new town in 2005 and remembered my childhood.  I thought how fun it would be to be able to take B, who was our only child at the time, to play on a merry-go-round.  Somehow, looking at the merry-go-round in town, my mind was drawn into my past, and simultaneously flooded with memories that were yet to be made.  I was excited!

It's 2016, and B and E have grown old enough to be off attending sports games and parties with friends, somehow largely outgrowing playgrounds.  

Y and Miss I accompanied me to the town playground.  

This time, as I watched my little two play on the merry-go-round, I savored watching each moment. How quickly B and E played on the merry-go-round and then grew and grew and grew.  When we'd moved to our town, I'd had "memories" of the future.  They have become realities, and some have become memories of the past.  Must enjoy these moments in the present!


Speaking of memories of the past, present, and future, don't get me started on teeter-totters!  


Continuing the past-present-future theme, remember the "letter people" from kindergarten?  Most schools seem to use other letter curricula now, but in our quaint small town, the letter people live on, and Mr. Q and Miss U get married annually.

As I helped my little "Miss U" into a wedding dress so she'd be ready for her kindergarten class celebration, I admit to getting a little teary.  Crazy!  Dressing my daughter in a five-year-old-sized wedding dress, somehow brought to mind "memories" of what might be in the future.


As this kindergarten Q-U couple got ready to walk outside to their rice-throwing class, this moment was minorly heart-stoppingly a foreshadow what I hope she'll experience for real at some point in the future.


Adorable!


I hope this blog isn't getting too wordy, but this past-present-future stuff still has my mind turning.

Char and I were discussing free will vs. predestination and how it all works together.  God is sort of in and out of time, it seems.  He sees the past, He's with us in the present, and He knows what it will all come to in the future.

Minorly, I think I get that, by looking at merry-go-rounds.

And looking at Q-U letter people weddings.

Maybe the present's beautiful.  Maybe it's hard.  But somehow it's all in the perspective of Jesus dying for us in the past and a beautiful wedding day of the bride of Christ in the future.  It's a beautiful big picture.





Why not?  Here's another picture in our great little town from a few years past.  Waiting for the arrival of Jesus.  Which happened in the past.  And will happen in the future.  Beautiful.





Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ready for 2016?

Are you ready for 2016?

We were asked that question, and although I said nothing, I was thinking, "I have no idea!"

Are you ready for 2016?  What about 2015?  Were you ready for that?

Our 2015 was a happy year, and rather status quo.  It turns out, I was ready for 2015, but I didn't know it at the time.  When I look back at most years, though, it seems I was not "ready" for what they would hold.

In 2014, we took our adventure around the U.S.  I most certainly wasn't ready for it.  I had no idea what we were doing!  It may go down as my favorite year of life, but I wasn't ready for it.

In 2013, E was diagnosed with diabetes.  One day, life was normal, and the next, life seemed turned upside down with all the changes that diagnosis brought.  I wasn't ready for 2013, either.

2009.  We found out we were expecting our 4th child.  The oldest was only five years old when the youngest was born in 2010.  I wasn't really ready for that year, either.  But, my daughter is one of the greatest parts of my life.  What a blessing!  :)

I have no idea if I'm ready for 2016, and we'll see what God brings to the year.  I usually feel a little sentimental and a little nervous, leaving one year and moving on to the next, without knowing what the year will bring.  But, I want to rest in whatever God has in store and live as fully as I can.

Enough speculation about 2016!  Here's what the conclusion of 2015 has looked like in photos:

 Our older kids learned to collect leaves on the tractor this fall

 Y has grown old enough to be mildly obsessed with reading, just like his older brothers and parents

I got to practice American money with our ESL students

Char has a great office in a sunbeam with a fire.  And, I get the benefit of him working from home, tending the fire, and chopping lots of firewood.  :)

 We spent a lot of this fall on the trails in the woods.


 and spent time creating new trails and finding new grapevines for swinging

Somehow in 2015, this child grew to look a lot more like a young man.  How a year changes things!

I hope you and your family are enjoying the end of 2015, and that you have a fantastic 2016!  Love from the Utter family!