Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Storing Memories

Sometimes, an umbrella hat is exactly what you need. Having made it halfway home from NY and settled in my favorite Richmond hotel with my sister, we had planned to wander the lovely historic city before continuing home on the last day of our exciting adventure. However, we awoke to rain.  I went on a run while Amy slept off a slightly sore back. I ran along the James River, and passed the kayak launch site which I have run past many times over the years visiting my son in Richmond, and wished I had my kayak. Then I remembered -- I did have my kayak! It was waiting in the car from our Chincoteague wild pony expedition! I raced back to the now awake Amy and told her: the bad news was it was raining, but the good news was, I had umbrella hats for both of us. Also, the warning sign for boaters said the James River was low, thus the current manageable with no boating restrictions. Consequently, we could probably kayak across without being swept over the dangerous rapids.

I could not convince Amy since her back was still not in great shape, but she urged me to go fulfill this final dream, while she sipped coffee and did back exercises in the hotel. I hurriedly drove to a parking lot near the launch site, clamped my kayak on it's little cart, put on my umbrella hat, and wheeled off to the James River.


 It was stunningly beautiful, and the umbrella hat kept me dry. I was glad Amy hadn't come because the current was a little strong, and a little swirly for a new kayaker. I easily scooted across the river and explored the shore of a small island, but I would have been worried about Amy being swept over the small waterfall just downstream and the dangerous set of rapids. I took many photographs of Richmond, from mid-river, and enjoyed figuring out how to navigate the shallow areas without bottoming out on barely submerged rocks.
 When I returned, I talked Amy into a stroll through Richmond, with both of us wearing our umbrella hats. It is interesting to note that most people do not want to look at anyone who is unusual. They would pass us by and glance, then avert their gaze, as though we were crazy people...
We were meeting my beloved son Matt for lunch, and I texted to ask if it would mortify him if we met him while wearing our umbrella hats. He told me no. Reason Number 3,657,899 why I love my son. He ended up spotting us on the street before we converged at the restaurant. "How did you know it was us?" I asked.

Lunch was wonderful, and the rain had stopped by the time we finished. But alas, all good things must come to an end, and we said goodbye to Matt and Richmond, and drove home to Charlotte. We listened to the sequel to "Misty of Chincoteague", courtesy of Amy's thoughtful downloading of the two Misty audio-books. The book ended as we pulled into my driveway and the dream trip of a lifetime was complete.

A pile of to-dos awaited me, and the wrenching realization that tomorrow I would have to deal with it all. Life is like the tide, with its ebbs and flows. I had sorely needed the change of scenery and perspective, and the fulfillment of so many dreams. I will keep those memories in mind when tackling the unpleasant and mundane routines of life.

God reminds us to store up His word in our hearts, because there will be times when we will have no strength, and will be sustained only by His.

I closed my eyes last night and had visions of ponies, and loved ones, and the silvery James River swirling while the mist rose to greet the rain, and stored them in my heart as well.


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Psalm 119:11 

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Joshua 1:8 

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

2 Timothy 3:16 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Psalm 119:9

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

Deuteronomy 11:18 

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

Psalm 1:1-3 

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Reward for Your Work

It was a working vacation with my folks in NY for sister Amy and me following our glorious few days in Chincoteague with the wild ponies. We bought pumpkins for the folks and Amy bought two just to make her world famous pumpkin cat.
We trimmed, and raked, and gathered fallen twigs and sticks. Dad wanted the stone on his center island repainted with uniform bright letters. I worked on that while Amy organized dad's bills and brought him up to speed on the intricacies of his computer.

 Amy finished her pumpkin cat, and we were alerted that the wooden deer I had constructed last year was falling apart. With a good bit of creative carpentry (such as shoving wood chips in the intersection of deer neck and head, caulking, and judicious prayer) we were able to make the small deer remain at least temporarily upright.


However, we knew Father Winter might not be kind to the old, wobbly creation. Time for a new deer. We had approximately 12 waking hours till departure. Surely a deer would take NO time with two people. First, we assembled the pieces we needed. We discovered that the chainsaw, which would have made our work take 3 minutes, was broken. Thus, we needed to use the hand saw which increased our projected estimated time of completion to February 7, 2024. (unless Jesus returned first, which is what we began praying for.)
With the deer parts safely cut to size and carefully organized, we went to our work. Unfortunately, we were unable to find a power drill, and we wondered how we would cut the needed holes in the wood. We did find a battery operated drill. Word of warning to future deer constructionist: battery drills to cut deep holes in hard wood is the equivalent of carving Mount Rushmore with a toothpick. I'm not complaining, just stating the facts.
However, with two people working diligently, and just one brief break to go to sleep for the night, we arose and returned to our work. On hour 11 now, with one hour left till we had to depart, our feverish work reached a frenzied crescendo.
We did not let it deter us for more than the few brief moments of wailing and gnashing of teeth when we turned our deer upside right to discover his legs were uneven...and the two front legs were anatomically impossibly placed to ever hold the deer upright. (Hint: drilled holes in wood cannot be removed. Best to break off newly secured legs in holes, and drill new holes, but first, find electric drill which was in plain sight but somehow unseen when project began.)
Finally, all four legs were in place, deer leveled, and perfect antlers found and placed. Time to bring the new creation to the folks who were waiting eagerly in the living room.

We placed the new deer in front of the old deer in my parents' front yard. It didn't seem so monumental an undertaking when one stepped back and surveyed what we had accomplished.  However, it had taken us many hours, and we paid for it with backs just slightly not working the way they should the next day. But it was a labor of love. I hope when my parents look out the window and see the wobbly deers, they will not see the wood chip shims, the bent nails, the extra holes, or the gap between the body and the tail. I hope they will see what we all should see: Those you love are probably doing the best they can. Be gentle with them, and remind them often how much you love them. That was what God whispered to me as the gentle autumn mist settled on my deer.

"I think the folks liked the deer," said Amy, after we scurried to get out of the house and on the road only an hour after our intended departure time.
"I hope so," I said, "My goal is to add a whole herd one by one."

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Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord. Jeremiah 31:16

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Exultant

Eureka! We have found them! The wild ponies of Assateague

Cannot express enough joy

Praising God before the wild ponies

It pays to have the cohort on your trip of a lifetime dream be an excellent photographer. Many many kisses, and thanks to my beloved and hilarious sister, Amy Ceccherelli Fox.

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Philippians 1:7 

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Musical Chairs

My sister and I came off of 3 glorious days in Chincoteague, cavorting with wild ponies to visit my folks in NY. We were ready to work! Dad set Amy to work on his computer woes, and Mom asked me to clear the overgrown dead growth and weeds from their front yard island.

But first, Dad wanted me to move some chairs. Last summer, all of us progeny had contributed to a beautiful island of plants and trees that the folks wanted, and the centerpiece of the island was a bench. Dad wanted to start a neighborhood movement to put benches near the curb where walkers could sit and rest as they walked about the development. After a year, no one else in the neighborhood has set out benches and only one group of people has ever sat on his bench. Dad is convinced this is because there are not enough chairs on his island. He wanted me to move two plastic lawn chairs from the back yard to the island.

"Are you sure?" I asked, "It is such a beautiful, classy island. I think the plastic chairs will cheapen it. Besides Dad, I doubt the reason no one is sitting on your bench is insufficient seating."
"I want the chairs on the island," he insisted.
Who was I to argue? I moved the chairs to his island.

A few minutes later, my mom came outside. She quietly picked up the chairs and carried them back to the back yard. I was busy with my other yard work, so smiled and chuckled but said not a word.
A few minutes later, my Dad came out. He went and retrieved the chairs from the back yard and carried them back to the front yard. I thought for sure he was about to put them back on the island, but fortunately he veered off to the side front yard and placed them by a little wrought iron table there.

 I thought it was amusing that my daily bible reading began with this verse:
But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. (Jeremiah 1:17)

In other words, our job is not to pay attention to any of the contention or turmoil around us. Our job is to "dress for work", to do God's will, and to obey to the nth degree what He tells us to do. It is very easy to be distracted by the world with all its skirmishes. Don't be. Pay attention to what God is commanding and don't deviate.

I continued my work and wondered who would burst out of the house next and where the chairs would end up. However, the door remained closed, and the chairs remained where they were. I breathed a sigh of relief. No one else emerged from the house and d├ętente was achieved.

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Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

1 Thessalonians 1:6 

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

Romans 1:1

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,

Hebrews 13:17

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Romans 14:1-23 

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.





Thursday, September 25, 2014

Every One of His Promises Fulfilled


Photo by Vicky Kaseorg, enhanced by John Ceccherelli


My last morning in Chincoteague, I awoke to grey skies. I wanted one last bike ride on the refuge with the wild ponies. We had to be out by 11 at the latest to reach my folks in NY in time for dinner. I checked the weather hourly report. Rain due at 11. Praise God from whom blessings flow! I immediately darted out on my bike.


 In no time, I was on the refuge and quickly found the wild ponies grazing in the distance. I biked for two hours circling on every bike path on the refuge, reluctant to leave. The only wildlife I had longed to see and hadn't was a bald eagle. But right before biking out of the refuge, I saw a large dark bird flying into the trees. It's tail was white, but I didn't see its head before it was gone. Given how gracious God has been to me on this trip, I suspect it was a Bald Eagle, and the bucket list was complete.

 When I returned to the hotel, sister Amy and I checked out, and found the original Misty of Chincoteague's hoofprints in front of the historic movie house. We snapped photos, and filled to the brim with joy, began our drive to NY and my folks. The rain started as we drove off the island.

 Amy had one more surprise. She had downloaded the audio book of Misty of Chincoteague which we listened to for most of the drive.

Which is why I was perhaps distracted....
"We missed the toll ticket lane," I explained to the toll collector, but it was at the southern end of the Turnpike, right before exit 31."
"I have to charge you $48. Did you get off and tell them at exit 31? "
"No, we called the number we saw for information..."
"They always tell you the wrong thing."
"Then you can't charge us the entire route fee if they are giving wrong info."
"I could lose my job...and fast. Why did you drive 100 miles before getting off?"
"We called the official number immediately. All we got was an automated system. Surely there is something you can do?"
"OK, I can give you a one time forgiveness, and record your license number. If you do it again, you will be fined."
"That will be great."

We drove on, listening to the story of Misty, and reliving each place we had explored by kayaks that glorious morning when we first saw the wild ponies on the shore by the Assateague lighthouse.

Headlines as we leave Assateague/Chincoteague: Great white shark, 20 footer, seen off Assateague.



Why God didn't send the shark to our tiny kayaks and instead sent us a glorious herd of ponies, I will never know. Sometimes He does send sharks. Sometimes He sends ponies you've dreamed your whole life of seeing. A friend of mine wrote me after reading my blog of our adventures and said, "May the wind always be at your back."


It isn't always at my back. It is often dead-on in my face. It is one of the great lessons of life that we should find joy even when we are struggling against the wind. But what an incredible blessing my Chincoteague trip was to endure no struggles, and feel the hand of God touching every event. A foretaste of Heaven.
Amy and Vicky in front of Misty of Chincoteague statue

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Does God speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19 (NIV)
In Jesus Christ every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:20

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ask and She Shall Receive

Guest Writer: Amy Ceccherelli Fox, sister and co-conspirator in dream chasing.


Note from Vicky: I watched a beautiful sunset on our hotel balcony with Amy as we finished dinner on our last night in Chincoteague, and told her I was too tired to write my blog. "I'll do it," said Amy, and she did. This is her post in my stead. I may have to permanently employ her. What a blessing to have her here...
and now, here is Amy's guest Post:



It's hard to be the ever faithful side-kick of a sister on a blessed journey. Yup, blessed. At every turn God places signs and symbols that, quite frankly, I have been known in the past to mock. It's getting more difficult however.

It has been especially hard to find an argument against divine intervention with some of our bucket list journey's events. Just yesterday afternoon Vicky had expressed a small desire to eat a lovely dinner back on our hotel balcony, as the 15 miles of biking we had done had made her a bit tired and hungry, and then a stranger later suggests a local eatery that ONLY does take-out, well it does give one pause.
The days here have all seemed to be stitched together with the gossamer threads from His hand.


 She wanted a clear sign if we should leave Chincoteague early yesterday, and on her bike ride Tuesday morning, she said it was clear when she set eyes on the Nature Refuge that she HAD to explore Assateague AND (this next part I am having trouble believing came from God) I had to see it with her...on bikes...for miles and miles and miles.

 (Whatever those pointing pelvic bones you sit on when ensconced on a bike seat did NOT get the God directive either, BTW.) (Besides that pain, i knew I looked silly wobbling along on my unfamiliar rental bike, but then again surely no one noticed, as the folding clown-bike my sister was riding took more than its fair share of sidelong glances from passersby.)  But I digress.

(Vicky's aside: I love that bike. But I didn't realize it looked THAT ridiculous....)

She wanted glorious sunsets, and she received them. Dolphins? No problem. Ponies by the herdful? You betcha. She refused my pleas to buy lottery tickets or ask God for a million bucks (crass, I suspect) but she was unfailingly and undoubtedly blessed in the small pleasures she did desire.



Not as much luxury as she deserves is part of her life, so this trip was a splurge and respite from the usual fare of saving of abortion-bound mothers and college-bound progeny, writing encouraging blogs and inspiring books. Huddled in the brisk morning air on our balcony she worked away, pecking at the keyboard to bless OTHER people.

 Is it any wonder God chose to bless this trip?
So, along for the ride, I have basked a bit in her glory, and in her dust as she walked further, ran faster and biked brisker than I had a hope of. A blessed time indeed.



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1 John 5:14-15 

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

James 4:3 

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 

Pray without ceasing,

Isaiah 65:24 

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.

Matthew 21:21 

And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.

John 5:30 

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Micah 7:7 

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Bucket Runeth Over

 I set out to Chincoteague Island finally this week to cross an item off my bucket list. Every since reading Misty of Chincoteague as a little girl, I wanted to see the wild ponies that live on the island. I added to the dream by the determination to kayak along the shore of the island, and see them by kayak. In preparation,  I called the Chamber of Commerce, workers at the Refuge there, and kayak rental shops in the area asking them all if I would be likely to find the ponies by kayak. Honestly, no one was very helpful. They told me they are wild animals, and you never know exactly where they will be. Maybe I would find them, maybe not. Nonetheless, my sister Amy flew from AZ to join me, then we drove 8 hours, kayaks in car, on a wing and a prayer.

We headed out in our kayaks yesterday, crossed the channel between Chincoteague and Assateague Islands with a stiff wind and choppy waves. We knew the very strong wind would be in our face on the return trip. Not good...but we would batten that hatch when we came to it. For now, Amy asked if it was truly ok if the kayak tipped "that much" when motorboats zoomed by, and we kayaked in the stunning waterway along dangerous shoals of razor sharp oysterbeds, and tall islands of reeds.

It was Amy's second time ever kayaking. We headed towards the lighthouse, where we were told we might find ponies. We were blocked from seeing the distant shore by a small island of tall reeds, but we could see the top of the lighthouse and steered towards it. Another kayak came out from behind the reeds and warned us of the oyster beds as we rounded the edge of the reeds.
"Are the ponies that way?" I asked.
"Yes," they said, "Right in front of the lighthouse."
So we paddled furiously around the reeds. I am (sort of) ashamed to say that I called out to the new kayaker, Amy, "You're on your own! I'm paddling as fast as I can!"
She understood instantly, "Go!"
I am a strong kayaker when I want to be...and I wanted to be. I paddled furiously, rounded the bend and there they were! A whole herd of wild ponies, right on shore!!! We got hung up on the oyster beds briefly, but then paddled to shore and sat in wonderment in front of  the herd of wild ponies.

 We ate lunch in our kayaks watching the herd.  We  got out, waded through deep disgusting muck and walked up to within a few feet of the ponies. They didn't run away, but didn't come closer than abut 5 feet from us. It was incredible. They appear tame, but they are not. They are wild animals, and wary. When we walked too near, they moved away. So we stayed in our kayaks in 2 inch water, and watched them for an hour. It was as close to heaven as I may get on earth.

Later that afternoon, we sat on our hotel balcony overlooking the sound. I had just opened my computer to check email, and Amy was about to shower, when I saw a whole pod of dolphin start surfacing right under my balcony overlooking the sound! I shrieked to Amy, and we joyfully filmed the dolphin. Not only did they cavort for several minutes right in front of us before heading East, but a little while later, they came back heading West! They surfaced repeatedly as we watched and cheered. It was one of the most lovely days of my life. God seemed to be making a special effort to bless me.

As Amy and I returned from dinner overlooking the sound, having watched the lighthouse flicker on as the sun set, I said, "This has been a glorious day....I am feeling so blessed!"
"Your bucket runneth over," said Amy.
"That's good," I said, "That's exactly how I feel."
When God blesses, He does so lavishly.
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Psalm 23: 5-6
 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.