Tuesday, May 7, 2013

a House Divided - no more!

((Let's just say, that title does not truly hold double meaning to what you read in this post. It is said in sincere jest and creativity. I tend to like catchy titles that attract attention. From a former blog, one person in particular took one of my titles a little too literally, thus the disclaimer.))

So, for the last 5 years it has seemed appropriate for me to be the outsider at the Civil War events  my family attends. If you are unsure what I'm talking about, you can see my husband who's a "real" Abe here   http://alincolnlive.webs.com/ .

My role is most often child care, costume room organizer, food and water supply, secretary and script writer. But, someone recently saw fit to "dress" me up and invite me out for the evening. She offered to make me a gown of silver gray, with two different tops, one for a ball and one for a fashion/tea show I will be attending this summer as ((drum roll))......Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln. Right now, it's just a one time appearance, until I'm able to present for a full weekend.

In the meantime though these fineries gave me a chance to spy out what actually goes on at these shindigs Spring Balls. I mean, it can be quite intimidating knowing your husband is out dancing the night away on the town with overly clad women in silk. Why shouldn't I?

In order to save my self-esteem, I did a before and after picture. So, don't judge! It takes an element of loosing yourself to step back 200 years in time and become something you truly are not comfortable being, everything from hairstyle, pleats, hoop skirt, and even a corset. Wow, what a ton of work just to get dressed. Did you know you have to get everything on before the corset, because you cannot bend over to tie your shoe or pick up something from the floor.

Then you have to learn proper etiquette. Like, always, always stand at the gentleman's right side, never show your ankles, do not cross the dance floor unattended or you'll be thought of as forward, never by any means turn down an invitation to dance, never wear a red gown, hair nets are a must to keep all your hair in place, and gloves are to be always worn so as never to touch bare skin. By no means should a man's hands touch your waist or vs.  ((Phew, after I learned all that, it took all the fun out of spying!))

I was to be Widow Nottingham with my daughter Ms. Nottingham and her friend Ms. Sanger. Here we are just before we stepped back in time flaunting our new-millennium-modern-women-look with our techy toys.

Our costumes were made and delivered to the upstairs of the hall where we had a huge carpeted room with mirrors and furniture to lounge on and several other women comparing their fancies. All we had to do was show up and get pampered. It was a great experience and fun.

Here we are, all dressed up and ready to go......
It was a revealing experience of what we have seen on one of our favorite Civil War movies Little Women, caddy women comparing their goods to each others. And the fear of being asked to dance or not and worse yet, dancing with someone you don't wish to. Not to mention even knowing the dances. Thankfully we had a masterful master of ceremonies and he talked you through every move. It was always nice when you pair up with someone who had been at it a few times before.
But there was that one dance, myself and 3 other single teen women, all we could do was giggle.  We had to escort ourselves off the dance floor and find a room to let it all out. We laughed to tears, recomposed ourselves in the powder room, and returned to the floor. Goodness, it's hard to remain composed. How did they ever do it?

Then there was Mr. Lincoln. He scandalously asked me to dance with him 4 times that evening. I thought his extra attention awkward, but it was much fun, I've decided to return again sometime.

And, all in all, Mrs. Lincoln gave me very little to "spy" about. She doesn't prefer much dancing herself, due to arthritic knees, so she was happy to see Mr. Lincoln having a good time. She truly is a good sport (as I am myself!).

All in all, it was an evening of learning. As I continue to prepare for my next roll, as Mrs. Lincoln as a guest at a society fashion and tea show, I'm learning that I'm not one to romanticize the Civil War era. During these times many suffered, lost lives, and it was a time that evil (slavery) made many men and women rich. So the question remains, how do we portray these parts and pieces of history and not become delusional to the realities of them. It was appropriately stated by one of our fellow actors that the Civil War was a time of great loss and while they dressed as best as they could for these social events, many had to learn to focus on a greater reason to gather than to just show their fineries. I liked that idea and will hopefully continue to find a greater purpose for all these fancy duds!

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and,
under a just God, can not long retain it."
(The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln - "Letter to Henry. L. pierce, April 6, 1859).

Friday, March 22, 2013

Armed and Dangerous!

Is it just me or are we surrounded by gun talk--buried ammunition, common people utilizing the black market, and conspiracy theories within the government? Maybe such talk is more prevalent amongst country-loving, agrarian-minded, hunting-dependent, landowners. But it seems to be everywhere.

Hilariously, sitting in a recent Mom's night out weapons became part of the conversation. It always amazes me when my sex is armed and dangerous. I'm glad to say, I feel safe knowing some of my good friends are only a phone call away!

But another arming is more concerning and confirming to me as of recent.

Confirming: A group of college friends and I have recently been sharing our life stories of the last 20 years on FB chat. The stories have at times been heart wrenching with lives broken and piece by piece picked up and put back together and as each person put their life in God's Hands, He was able to use the pieces to bring Glory to Himself and in turn benefit individual's lives.

Honestly, most of us have that broken detail somewhere in our distant past. But one detail remains constant: the preservation and work of Scripture in each story. Whether it was a verse, a Truth about God, or the evidence of it upon the life of someone helping an individual through a trial. As I read, it is the common thread of each of these stories.

If you listen closely, often those who don't even know Him will also have some "ammunition" buried, waiting for retrieval. Why? Because it works, it's Living (to those who know its Source) and it gives Hope! How thankful I am for parents who understood that and it was valued in talk, time was set aside to "burry" it, it was valued as if on the black market, it was talked about in our circles, it was truly troubled over. Time and time again it has come back to me, and saved me. This is what I desire for my children too.

Concerning: I recently saw a cartoon of children sitting in church anticipating what they would hear. The cartoonist pictured a serpent like creature wrapped around the young person's body, and on the creature were labels of  cares that would be on the mind of a child, choking the truth out. The symbolism was saying that sometimes we struggle with hearing truth because we have spent so much time troubled with the cares of this world that we leave no room for truth. Some of these troubles we should take the time to work through but many we borrow unnecessarily.

Although the cartoon was intended for the young, it was very convicting to me. How often, we "trouble" ourselves with so much that pertains to this lifetime. St. Patrick's Day, watching the Chicago river being turned green (just one small example) I couldn't help but to think, that sure is quite a bit of "trouble" for a very temporal thing. Fun, yes, but for what?

This is concerning to me because every detail of my life that I trouble over, I'm communicating to the young in my watching that this is worthy. Not all trials (tribulations) we have are of our own design but we certainly can choose how "troubled" we'll be with them. Our level of "interchange" with the "troubles" of this world we certainly have control over. This interchange of troubling over trouble has concerned me personally and I wish instead to be armed with Truth.

Truth is, all this trouble has already been overcome, we just need to be convinced of that. A sort of amnesty takes place, He (Jesus) which all truth is represented by, has taken car of all. As we surrender all peace is awarded. Knowing this makes a world of difference.

John 16: 33 I have said these things to you,
that in me (Jesus) you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation (trouble).
But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Ooh, checking in here on Ebenezer Acres and found summer fun overtook blogging. But I have a head filled with writing themes and ideas. Most will stay there, meaningful ones may find their way out. Fall and winter months are upon us, which means indoor time: hunkering down for home educating, more study, computer, thinking, and writing time.

For the last few months though checkpoints have been on my mind.

The following incident which was shared with me by one of the most unsuspecting (almost 75 year old) people I know, made me consider checkpoints.
At the airport in Ft. Lauderdale, at the scanner I was singled out for an "interrogation."  The TSA attendant questioned me, got a piece of white cloth with something on it and swiped it across both palms, put it on a machine which indicated I had something on my hands.  She asked my husband if I had held a gun with gun powder on it.  He said, no, we don't have a gun.  He started to walk toward me and she told him he couldn't speak to me or touch me.  That was a little scary. I had to wait until she could find another attendant to fill in for her and was taken aside to a little room and waited again for another attendant to go in with us.  She told me what she was going to do and proceeded with  her pat down.  I think maybe they're like the police who, it seems like, have a daily quota to meet.  She didn't find anything and let me go. My mind was racing a mile-a-minute with ideas like being jailed like a terrorist.  Needless to say, it was quite frightening and I don't think I want to fly anytime soon.
I also have vivid memories of border patrol. My father had a keen desire to live, work, and minister in Canada. As children, we crossed the borders regularly. Back then (30 plus years ago), it was fairly easy but there were times they would inspect our goods or even ask us children leading questions.

Only once was it scary, and it was when my sister who had been sleeping, woke up in the middle of one such "interrogation" and the border patrol chose to question her, with his flashlight in her face. Due to her grogginess she did not do a good job of answering questions, leaving my parents, transporting five children back and forth, open for speculation. Eventually, we were cleared to go.

Toronto, Canada - a great city to spend time with your family !

If you mention checkpoints to my husband, he has memories of something in school days called "hair check". Apparently, as the young men paraded past faculty they would "inspect" their hair, making sure hair was not touching in the wrong places. If so, you were pulled aside and you failed hair checkpoint!

Traffic life provides its own sets of checkpoints. Living in the state of Maine, I do remember being randomly stopped to have our vehicle inspected, and being held until someone came to rescue us. It was a constant reminder to keep our vehicles maintained. I'm thankful Michigan law is more obliging in this regard. Any Maniacs know if this still happens?

There are those moments in life when you can breath easy and know, you passed a checkpoint!

Our family recently traveled 2000 miles together. We were not sure how it would be, nine of us - tired, traveling, and together - too trying? It was a good checkpoint for our family.

Once, a lady had been observing us eating breakfast together made it a point to pull me aside and offer feedback. She had not been in America too long, and shared, that in all of Europe there were not to be found such well behaved and well mannered children. She observed they enjoyed each other and were pleasant to talk to. She had several questions for me. This scenario was repeated several times on our trip. It was a positive checkpoint for these weary traveling parents and a confirmation of hard work (and prayer).

I could ramble on (maybe I have already), but if you're still here, I was reminded this week of a Biblical checkpoint. It spoke to me again on this theme.

An Old Testament clan decided that they had a plan. It was to stay together, no more roaming. They declared, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:4)  Most of you know the rest of the story. The very thing they were afraid of (scattering) is what happened to them. Why? Becuase they failed majorly a checkpoint.

Literally, God came to drop in and pay them a visit, a building inspection of sorts. "But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building." Unfortunately for them, they failed the building inspection. He allowed them to be confused, forcing them to scatter.

This story I have heard 100's of times, but it spoke to me again. God did not look too keenly on them trying to make a name for themselves. He is God who wishes to have the  name of Jesus, above all other names. He resists prideful (wo)men and desires that we make His name known.

Perhaps because we are in search of a different home, a different church, and different career paths, we realize how easy and tempting it would be to make those choices that best made a "name" for us.

Now, more than ever, we're asking God to help, to provide, and to let Him work as we do.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bye-Bye Ebenezer Acres

It just seems that special places require a name. Some weren't exactly sure what was up when I started this blog and called it Ebenezer Acres. The name was meant for something much more special to me than blog name; it is connected with the acres and acres of land upon which we currently live. It has been inspirational to me and part of much of my material on this blog.
There are times in life when God drops you smack dab in the middle of something--or somewhere--that you can only consider and acknowledge, "This is a God-thing". Ebenezer Acres, where we live, south of Quincy, Michigan, was a God-thing for our growing family.

Upon our first sighting of the property we knew, this was going to be the time of our lives.

It may not say that to you but being the city girl I had been all my life, never once having lived on more than one acre and moving 18 times, state to state and even out of the country, in 24 years, it was just a slice of Heaven. I never desired a"Mansion on a hilltop" (as in a big fancy estate) but always believed that given a plot of land to work and live on with open spaces and plenty of trees, I'd be happy as a lark. Moving to the country I felt like a caged bird that was allowed to expand its wings for the very first time. Wow, it felt good.

There was virgin dirt, fresh and unturned, just waiting for seeds. Anything planted grew, and it was like experiencing a miracle every time something was planted! We prayed while we planted and prayed thankfulness again, while we picked.  

Fruit trees, Grape vines,   and flowers everywhere.

Critters of all shapes and sizes; perfect for a boy with a bow and arrow.

Plenty of starry nights making campfires and camping ideal.

My favorite part, endless fields, and a front, wrap, stone porch, perfect for hosting any event;
hundreds have visited us here.

Then the icing on the cake, for the first few years we had endless use of the landlord's pool, opened and treated just for the Nottingham clan.

Barns a plenty - opportunity to try our hand at agriculture, and a trial it was.

   And even a hayfield to glean from.

Wide open spaces, making a knife throwing hobby possible.

And awe inspiring sunsets to view nightly from a bay dining room window.

This was "my" Ebenezer Acres!

Just years before, our family went through an economical disaster. After a job loss and a various other things, not limited to but including having a baby with no insurance, we faced foreclosure on our former home. How often I prayed to see the "ram in the bush", deliverance. But it did not come. It seemed God would allow us to walk the path and experience loosing our home. It was a humbling and trying time.

Then, an offer was made to us, "Visit our country property, you'll love it".

Love it, we did indeed and it has been a reminder to me that like the stone Ebenezer, an ancient Israel monument, that the Lord God was our helper. This pretty piece of earth, has done the same for me. God provided, helped, and allowed us joy during a very trying time of our lives.

Well, the Nottingham family has grown and the demands of life have also grown; right out of our Ebenezer Acres home and budget. With a landlord that wishes to sell and our budget says "no can buy", it's time to pull up roots and move on. It is more important to me to have a complete family (vs. a dad who is always gone working) than to have things.

The house-hunting process, like it is for anyone, is tedious and at times stressful, but I can't help to believe that just like "Ebenezer Acres" came to us, another plot of land, be it on a city square or endless grassy field is there.

I have learned a few things living here. Country life is often elevated, :spiritually". There are "lines" between city dwellers and country dwellers. But I find, people are the same, wherever you go. And in the end, we all only require (as morbid as it sounds) a plot of about 6ft by 3ft, a place to finally rest on earth. How often we gather, toil, labor, and stake our claims forgetting it eminently will sift right through our fingers. How often our blessings become our burdens.

This reminds me, that while we've quite happily rooted ourselves here, it is not for us to stay. There are greater things in store for us, things of a spiritual nature, found in contentment and joy, which we will take into eternity with us. So, right here in blog land, I'm saying, "Farewell my friend, you have served us well. I've loved every inch of your beauty. Thank you God for being our Helper, in times past and in times to come." 

Author's Note: Stay tuned to see what's next. Prayerfully, it will not take too long!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

At Home (WARNING: This is a "huggy-feel good" blog)

A friend recently, quite randomly asked me, "Are you close to your sisters?".

"Sure, yeah...mostly!" was my quick answer.  Then I had to ask her, "Why did you just ask me that?".

Her response was that over time she had observed my oldest daughter and I interact. She said that it seemed we were always so close and had a good relationship. So, from that, she assumed it was the same with my sisters and I.

I was happy to quickly answer her with, Yes, my sisters and I are close, however...just like with my daughter, it takes work.

Serena and I
Let me assure you, it's not just on my part. Off the bat, I would say, my daughter is one of the most forgiving people I know. She overlooks her mother's imperfections and loves me in spite of who I can be sometimes.

I'd say the same for my sisters (brothers too!). Only they can testify of my testiness over the years. It's not always been easy for them to be "at home" with me, whether as a child sharing bedrooms, clothing, or boyfriends (just throwing that one out there...not sure we did that) or now as adults, all the kid stuff, holidays, preferences, differences in lifestyle, or whatever. So before this sounds like a personal horn-tooting session, it is not! They each are equally responsible in their own way.

Recently, it seems that I've heard at least three times (and this somehow makes it noteworthy to write about here in my land of personal blog) of family members sharing how awful their relationship is with a sibling or parents.

Me and Marme
 One, I had to sit and endure listening to two peers go through a mother-bashing session. I'm not saying my mother has arrived to perfection, nor has our relationship, but how sad to hear these adult women spend so much time and energy sharing amongst peers how dreadful their mothers and their actions were. It saddened me and I'm certain it would have their mothers as well.

Two, I heard recently of sisters who had been estranged for years. In spite of the best efforts of one, nothing would change.

Profile PictureThree, in contrast, I heard someone say how "at home" they were with their
spouse. Knowing both of them, I knew, they understood a key ingredient to good relationships. These three
reminded me people truly do long for good relationships.

But here is what I really wanted to say, RELATIONSHIPS take WORK! Sometimes, it requires "taking the hit", when that other one is down in the mouth or running low in the giving department, or whatever the lacking between you/he/she may be. This is way hard to do. And I'm not setting myself up as a perfect exmple of it. However, I've seen it time and time again, heal in what could be a broken relationship. It works!

God is big enough, He is huge, He can handle anything that might come along and not be His best will for individuals. I can liberate myself of that in relationships and continue to love, give, and even ENJOY the relationship. Just as so many people have done with me.

And this is how I'm able to continue to enjoy my sometimes not so enjoyable children. I do my part by loving, encouraging, and giving when I can to the unlovely child. God will take care of the imperfections, much, much better than I can. He may choose to, He may not. It's not for me to "worry" with.

I do know this, Jesus Himself, sacrificed his life in Love, for some pretty undeserving humans, utterly hateful toward his Father. How can I/we do less? Following His example is the only way we can truly be "at home" with other human beings. As I dwell on that, how thankful I am for those that are Christ's example to me. It provokes me to know Him more...and that's what relationships truly are all about!
My Sisters that God has blessed me with!
Romans 8:17...and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Funeral Notes

I'm a perpetual note taker. Always with me is something on which to make a "quick note". My bird's eye view does a pretty good job of it too. But how often we want to remember something, and find it gone.

It seems as time is passing, funerals have become as common as other ceremonial celebrations. Finding myself recently again there, I resisted the urge to take notes. "Take notes at a funeral?" Well, why not?

I've attended a variety of funerals and my husband has officiated for both sanctified and unsanctified alike. I can remember one particular funeral, finding something good to say was at best, challenging. These times have provoked me to pull out my proverbial notebook and take note just as the rich man spoke from his eternity (Luke 16:23) asking ones to remember him and the consequences and sadness of his life wasted on carnality. These ones who have found their destination for eternity had one more thing to say to us, "Live differently!".

On the other hand, at the passing of a joyful saved-sinner, to be surrounded by a group of saints, weeping and rejoicing, simultaneously praising God (in one accord and in one spirit), testifying of the life spent fulfilling the two greatest commandments: love God and love others, this is also a noteworthy moment!

Finding myself in the last few weeks at such a funeral, how tempting it was to want to make note of every detail about this person, beloved of God and so many others. Jackie Harris was not a perfect person, but how thankful I am to have had the chance to share her lifetime. In the weeks since her passing, her life has been helpful and encouraging to me, even in her death she continues to love God and others.

Her example was found in living out her thankfulness to her benefactor, Jesus Christ. Whom, before His very own passing, it was prophesied "when they look on me" (Zach. 12:10) hearts would be changed. How interesting it is to me, that even at the viewing of Christ's deceased body, those past and present that were in need of a changed heart, it would become evident.

I am awed and thankful for greater appreciation of life and death. Jackie Harris is just one person.  Although few and far between, there are others that can and do set a tremendous example for those of us still here, in the land of the dying. I pray and ask my Heavenly Father, as I daily view His life and others, that mine will be noteworthy in the way He has purposed for me.

These thoughts are dedicated to my good friend Jody, daughter of the deceased Jackie Harris. Both whom I count it a joy to have walked, laughed, loved, and shared many good times with.

Jackie, Jody, and Renee

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pure Water

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land
where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1)

This Psalm sumizes my month. 

A wise woman once told me, just like the Brook Cherith (my namesake and an actual body of water that trickled from the Jordan River) dried up, you can as well. Why? It failed to take in. This happens when output surpasses input (Earth Science 101). 

This is not to boaster my life or doings in any way, but to acknowledge that there are spells in life that seem to weight on us (in a draining sort of manner). I realize the landscape of my life could seem a parched Brook, a weary Cherith. 

David's words are pitcorial of the internal dryness one can experience. It's certainly not a pretty picture, sometimes you have to be at the bottom to really look up.

Dried Bones - MSU Museum
But, I am reminded, hope is found in repentence. We are so vulnerable during these "dry spells". How easy it is to respond to situations around us in light of our present views. How thankful I am that people forgive, that God forgives, and hears the prayers of a humble and dry, broken spirit. Just as a healed bone finds renewed strength, so can a broken spirit.

Where's hope? Wisdom from above. That most certainly cannot be duplicated. How often we look for it in all the wrong places--other people, events, more service, dwelling on others who have it worse. None of these will fill us or bring life back to drying ground. Christ alone, whose shed blood appeased his Father God, makes this "watering" eternally possible.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places
by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain,
that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:19-22)

How very thankful I am for the "talks" I can have with my Father God, especially during these dry times. The ground still is not completely watered but how good it is to know that I can live expectantly, knowing One much greater than I, than any circumstances in my view, who loves and cares about me beyond any telling, is in high places, listening downward to one who is earnestly seeking after Him.

A local brook we like to wade in.