Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Peace and Joy (Advent Poem 2013)

"Peace and Joy"
Advent Poem 2013
by Virginia Knowles

Beloved, you are loved by a Savior who serves you
An Evangel, who is Good News:
          Peace and joy
          Peace and joy

A Christ King who calls you: Come and rest
Come and follow, follow me:
          Peace and joy
          Peace and joy

Beloved, wonder at this Beauty sweet and strong
Angels in heaven and saints on earth still sing:
          Peace and joy
          Peace and joy

We shall sing it, sing along
We shall sing it sweet and strong:
          Peace and joy
          Peace and joy

We shall sing and we shall follow, 
As evangels of this Good News:
          Peace and joy
          Peace and joy!

Each year I write an Advent poem to celebrate the coming of Jesus. Each year I wait and wonder, musing about what I shall write.   And then each year it comes.  I will see or hear some small image or phrase, and then the poem will unfold.  I went to see my counselor yesterday, and as I pulled into the parking lot, I saw that her car's license plate read PCENJOY.  That was enough to get me started.  "Peace and joy" - of course!  Especially at Christmastime, but really all year long. 

After running errands on the way home, I lay down for a nap, exhausted from a busy week and then being sick for a few days.   Words drifted into my mind as I drifted off to sleep.  When I woke, I reached for a pen at my bedside, snatched a leftover scrap of funky reindeer wrapping paper from the floor, and wrote.  I fiddled with it more later, and here we are, just in the nick of time.  Though not the most polished poem I've written, it's a dreamy reflection of what my own heart needs and can receive when I take the time to ponder the message of Christmas grace.    Maybe it will speak to you, too.

In a world filled with controversy and confusion, hype and hysteria, let us all be his ambassadors of peace and joy.  As I hear around me of families who are suffering from trials and tragedies right now, that's the least I can do.  Nothing intense, just calm and comforting.

You might also like the two Christmas carol posts I did in my Strength in Hymn series at Watch the Shepherd.

Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Homeless in the Suburbs

Dear friends,

It’s been pouring outside on a Tuesday morning, and I am thinking of my homeless friends camping out in the woods within a mile from my house.  The tent leaks, the sleeping bag is soggy -- that is if you are lucky enough to have one and it doesn't get stolen. Just another day in the life.  One day you have a job, you get sick and can’t work, you can’t pay the rent, and you’re out on the street with all of your possessions thrown unceremoniously in the dumpster.  So you live in the suburbs, yeah, but it’s hidden in a thick patch of scrub off the side of the road, where no one can see.  Invisible.  Or, if you’re lucky, you might get some financial assistance to get a room in a motel where many of the other guests don’t have a permanent address to call their own.  That’s what you and your kids call home, and it sure beats the rain.

A warm meal and a bit of congenial fellowship make a big difference.  That’s what my daughter thinks, anyway.  She’s 24 and pregnant, with a huge heart of love for the homeless.  That’s why several times a year she organizes some sort of outreach, along with her husband and a team from Metro Life Church.  

Ana, Betty, Ruthe
They used to do it in downtown Orlando in partnership with another ministry. Now, they’ve moved their own efforts up really close to where we live, where a lot of the homeless are young families.  On Sunday evening in the motel parking lot, they hosted a Thanksgiving style dinner for several dozen people with turkey and ham and all the trimmings.  Artisan rolls. Pumpkin pie.  Hot cider.  Live music. The works.  Next month, it’ll be cookies and hot chocolate, caroling, gifts, and about 30 bins of clothes and blankets.

Most of the volunteers were there to mingle.
A friendly conversation is a huge deal. 

My food contribution: 
star-shaped pumpkin muffins 
and bags of sugar-free cookies.

My little girl was very eager to help
serve the bread!
Artisan rolls!

A full plate, a full heart
Another daughter at the craft table
Oh, it is such a privilege to be a part of this, to go and just be with these precious folks. What a joy to watch the kids’ faces light up to see a fun table set up just for them, with crafts, including a loopy bracelet station. They also loved the little capsules you put in warm water to see them emerge into a little animal-shaped sponges.  Bubble blowing was another hit.  What a delight to see another of my adult daughters and three of my younger kids, ages 8, 10 and 12, come along to help just because they want to do it.  

My 10 year old son rocks at the color loop bracelet making -- check out the collection on his wrist!  I figured the color loop kids would be a hit, since it’s the fad at his elementary school, and sure enough, the 900 loops went fast with a cluster of kids at the table.  So did the 30 gift bags with crayons and candy and other little things for boys and girls.  My kids had a blast filling the cart at the dollar store and then packing the bags assembly line style before church on Sunday.

It was this dear lady's birthday, and the dry sleeping bags and towel, a warm hoodie, a first aid kit, and a bunch of new friends singing “Happy Birthday” meant all the world to her. She had lots of hugs and smiles for me because she knows God is taking care of her, even in the tough times. She got some extra takeout boxes filled with food for her other friends who hadn't come. God bless her, such a sweet lady.  I hope I’ll see her again next month.  I hope by then she'll have a better place to live.

What can you do for those who need a little boost this holiday season?  Check out these links on my blogs:

Two more web sites for those in the Orlando area:

You might also like to listen to Brandon Heath sing "Give Me Your Eyes."

For beauty and justice,
Virginia Knowles

This post may be linked at these blogs:
  • Still Saturday
  • The Sunday Community
  • Raising Homemakers on Wednesday
  • Whole-Hearted Home on Wednesday
  • Wise Woman Link Up on Wednesday
  • Walking Redeemed on Wednesday


    Saturday, November 23, 2013

    On My Blogs for November

    Dear friends,

    It's been over a month since I've posted here, but no, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth!  I've still been posting at least weekly about old hymns at www.watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com and just put up a post at www.comewearymoms.blogspot.com a few days ago.  I haven't posted on any of my home education blogs in a long time, but you can find them at www.startwellhomeschool.blogspot.com (preschool and elementary), www.continuewellhomeschool.blogspot.com (middle school) and www.finishwellhomeschool.blogspot.com (high school and beyond).

    I've been pretty busy keeping up with mothering, homemaking and part-time teaching. Thanksgiving is in just five days, and I still need to finalize our menu, figure out who is making what, go shopping, and keep getting the house in shape.  I've got today's To Do list on little index card, but we'll see how much I actually get done! 

    Where I write
    So, instead of writing an original new article today, I wanted to link to new posts on my other blogs, links for Thanksgiving posts from the past, and some of the pages linked in the tabs at the top.  As a reminder, you can subscribe to any of my blogs using the links in the sidebars.

    Be blessed!
    Virginia Knowles

    November 2013 Posts on My Blogs:

    (This last post will be of special interest to those in the home schooling movement.  It is one of the “most read” posts of all time on my blog, with nearly 3,500 page visits this month.)

    Life During the Holidays: 

    At a Glance Lists of Posts within Major Topics on My Blogs:

      Thursday, October 17, 2013

      Kewanee Park on a Foggy Day

      Dear friends,

      This morning my daughter brought me outside to show me the fog.  After I dropped her and her friends off at the bus stop, I decided to drive over to Kewanee Park and take some pictures before the fog lifted.  I should have gone home to get my real camera, but I think my iPod did well enough!

      I texted my husband and invited him to come join me for a stroll on the boardwalk, and he was delighted at the idea.  He helped me find some of my best photo shots.  So good to get away together, even for just a little bit on a foggy morning.

      Tent moths!

      Do you see the little tent moth caterpillars?

      Water drop on a bud

      A rare red leaf of Florida "autumn"

      Shelf fungus

      Funky fungus! No, that's not its name...

      Pretty white fungus on a log

      Elephant ear leaf

      Little leaves on water

      A curly swirly dried leaf

      Lush green vines

      Red berries on a tree

      Just the two of us

      Wednesday, October 9, 2013

      To the Hospital and Home Again (An Update)

      Weird stuff happens.

      Monday is usually a "home day" for me since I teach Tuesday through Thursday at a private Christian school.   I had just spent the early afternoon getting up to speed with how to use some on-line curriculum when I decided to take a break and go to the bank, a mile away.  As I was driving, I began to notice that everything any distance away from me looked blurry and double. I couldn't even read street signs that weren't right up near me! That was not only weird, but extremely unsettling!  I checked my glasses for smudges and didn't see any.  Something was wrong.  The bank teller told me to get my blood pressure checked.  Then I remembered that my feet were swollen that day, too, and I had already taken my "as needed" diuretic medicine for that.  Hmm.  And I felt anxious, tight in the chest.  So I stopped in at Walgreen's and had the pharmacist check my blood pressure.  It was much higher than usual but not in the emergency range.  He told me to go home, rest, drink water and call my doctor.

      By 8:30 that evening, I was in the emergency room.  Doctor's orders.  (Daughter's orders, too. She's a nurse at the same hospital, and she's the one who brought me in, less than an hour after arriving home from the airport after a trip to Maryland.)

      I spent most of the night shuttled from one area to another of the ER, getting checked for this and that: blood drawn, EKG, and CT scan to rule out a stroke.  Later they moved me to a curtained off cubicle in the CTU (Clinical Transition Unit), and after a couple hours of sleep, I had a venous Doppler scan (to check for leg clots) and an echocardiogram.  I never did get officially admitted and was released in the late afternoon, very tired, and still without a clear diagnosis for my cluster of symptoms.  They did prescribe medicine for low thyroid -- which is not surprising since I had half of my thyroid removed years ago.  That (and a bit of anxiety and stress) could account for a lot of it right there, except for the vision glitch, which they said was pretty unusual in its context.  

      My mom and grandma
      Not only did I come home tired, I came home sad. Yesterday was my mother's 75th birthday, but she passed away in July.  I was wearing some of her clothes in the hospital, like a warm hug.   Then my sister called to say that my dear grandmother, whose 99th birthday is next month, is dying of congestive heart failure. She doesn't even know it. She seems happy and comfortable enough now, and my family doesn't want to worry her in her few remaining days.  I fully agree.  My sister will be with her at night, watching over her and tending to her needs, as she did with my mother all those long summer weeks. As I think again about grieving, I am reminded of my recent blog post Love, Loss, and Lake Lily and my new haiku called Autumn Breeze.

      So here I am.  It's Wednesday, and I've been sitting quietly.  I'm missing my second day of work, since my boss kindly encouraged me to stay home and rest for one more day.  My blood pressure and legs are back to normal.  My distance vision is still a bit blurry and I'm not sure I'm ready to drive.  This too shall pass, I hope.  I'll see my doctor soon, and also get a full vision check up. (P.S. Writing on Sunday: My vision is back to normal.  My optometrist ran every test imaginable and said most everything looks pretty usual for my age and that I don't need new glasses.  He thinks I was having blood sugar issues on Monday, which is quite probable, even though they said my level was normal.  My A1C, which measures average blood sugar of longer period of time, is up, so I really have to watch what I eat and lose some weight.  I see my regular doctor this week for a follow-up.)

      As I reflect, I am thankful:
      • for my daughter Rachel, who took me to the hospital and stayed with me a few hours, even though she had to work the next morning 
      • for my husband visiting me, shuttling kids to school and back, and dealing with hospital paperwork
      • for the doctors and nurses and techs, who, even though they didn't fully figure me out, at least gave it a good try (I think I had an entourage of at least five doctors working on my case since it is a teaching hospital) and were good with their needles
      • for the fact that all of my tests came back fairly normal and nothing seems to be seriously wrong with me (no stroke, no heart attack, no clots) though I do need to lose a lot of weight!
      • for alternative non-insurance health cost sharing through Samaritan Ministries, which even though it will take a few months, will cover most of the medical bills
      • for Florida Hospital's hefty discount for the uninsured -- which is important to me since this is the third time I've been there overnight in the past year and half (once for heart symptoms - see Weekend Gratitude: A Healthy Heart  -  and once to diagnose my severe sleep apnea)
      • for the family and friends who have cared enough to pray and offer comfort and post sweet comments on Facebook
      • for my iPod, which gave me a way to connect with those family and friends, as well as to read my favorite blogs and take a few pictures
      • for Bart and Judy, who came to visit and pray, not just because he is a church elder, but because they are my friends.  They are bringing dinner tonight, too. The funny thing is, on Monday morning, I wrote a little tribute to my friend Judy to go with her favorite hymn. You can see it here: When We All Get to Heaven.
      • for Fritz and Barbie, who sent pizza over for dinner, and who are awesome with the youth at our church
      • for the hospital chaplain who came in for a brief visit, and for all the lovely Scriptures and inspirational artwork on the walls -- gotta love Florida Hospital for that!
      • for my own bed to come home to (the guy in the cubicle next to me has been homeless, I think -- hard not to overhear his visit with the chaplain through the thin curtain -- and also thankful that the folks at the Orlando Rescue Mission have helped him, even though I never met him)
      • for my children being considerate of my need to sleep in that bed for the rest of the day and for my husband not being too upset that I stole his blanket last night. Mine had apparently fallen on the floor, and I guess I swiped his in my sleep, right off his back.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  
      • for the other staff at school subbing my classes and telling me not to worry about a thing!
      • for the eyesight I do have, thanks to a good pair of progressive lenses that I've had for two years and that I wear from the moment I open my eyes in the morning until the moment I close them at night.  Whoever invented them was a genius.
      • for God being gracious to me and keeping me going step by step, even though I don't always understand what he is doing in my life.  It's been a tough year, and a rough past few years, but I'm still here in both shimmer and shadow.

      Judy and Virginia

      As I finish this post, I'm sitting here listening to a CD that Judy gave me in the hospital: Leave the Light on by Kellie Haddock, who has suffered a lot of loss herself.  She reminds me a lot of Sara Groves, and sure enough, Sara Groves sings with her in the song "Is It Enough."  Good stuff!

      My kids will be home soon, and I need to go back to bed for a bit before then, but I just wanted to keep you updated.  When big things happen to me in life, I write.  Little things, too, but especially big ones.  

      You can keep praying for me, especially for the full restoration of my distance vision!
      Much love,


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