Wednesday, December 17, 2014


This story has been rolling around in my brain long enough!  I have to get it out and in print.

It is just disturbing. The people in this story are unknown by ANYONE that may read this blog. There is NO way to discover their identities so don't even try. And please don't ask!

Get it is. True story!

A few months ago a friend that I'd known for a long time died. She struggled with cancer for YEARS, for as long as I knew her.  She'd be in remission a while, then it would rear it's ugly head in another part of her body and another battle would begin. We spent many hours discussing her health, her children, her ex-husband, and her single parent struggles.  There were many.

Her mother and two sisters died of that same awful disease in years gone by, but she was determined to be THE one that made it.  Many forms of treatment were repeated time and time again, but she lost the earthly fight for health and longevity.

She left behind two children, a son in his twenties, a daughter in high school. The children's father had abandoned them when the kids were babies, offering no financial or emotional support during their growing up years. Her son was traumatized the day Dad left and never recovered.  He looked in all the wrong places for affirmation and affection, spending too much time in the pokey and too much money paying fines.  He's serving out a 2 year sentence right now, jailed just one week after his mother's funeral.

The absent father spent his life bumming around taking one low paying job after another. He had no home, no ambition, or job when she died, but tried intermittently to repair his relationship with his teen-age daughter and comfort her in her devastating grief. After her mother's death the daughter chose to stay in her home ALONE with every intent to return to high school. (I'm not sure that was even legal.)

Think it can't get any worse???  It does!

The father decided that even a nearly grown girl was too much responsibility and after a 9 page goodbye letter, he took his own life. 

Think it can't get any worse????

A mutual friend called me to tell me this horrible news and read the obituary in the newspaper to me over the phone.
The father was praised as a God-fearing, extremely successful business man who loved his family more than life.  Yep, lies, all lies, right there in black and white.

Was it necessary to ADD such details?

Everybody that knew the family knew the truth.  I've wondered why such blatant lies were printed. They changed nothing. I'm assuming the man's mother or perhaps a sibling submitted the details, perhaps to somehow lead opinions of this man away from the truth. Perhaps grief clouded
DREAMS from reality.

How much pain can one family endure?

Now, here's the good part.

After her father's death, an old friend of her mother's who also has a teenage daughter in the same high school came for a visit and asked the orphan girl if she would PLEASE come live with them and be part of their family.  She agreed and has begun a new life with this very giving, generous and brave woman. God bless her!!!

Cancer, abandonment, drugs, alcohol, laziness, selfishness, grief, lies, pride, single parenthood, fear, loneliness, and poverty all found their way into this family that started out years ago with such hope and expectations. I don't think this is an isolated case.

Love, sacrifice, courage, and generosity found it's way into the heart of the woman who enlarged her home and offered a new life for a lonely, grief-stricken, confused young girl.   May her tribe increase!

I'm SO impressed by this woman and her actions. Yep, immediate action was sorely needed in this situation.

(The long-range plan is for the teenager to eventually live with a young married cousin.)

There's so much in this story to ponder.  I'm wondering how this would have turned out had that young married couple worked VERY HARD to grow together and keep the family intact. I'm wondering if the extended families could have intervened and helped.Were church friends oblivious to the pain.

 BUT, I don't know the details.  No one truly knows what goes on between a husband and wife except the two parties involved. I will not judge them.

No one knows what goes on in a grief stricken mother's mind.  No one knows what goes on in a teenage girls mind that has lost her whole family....two to death, one to prison.

I DO know people everywhere are hurting!  I also know that some folks have huge hearts of love and don't hesitate to offer it when needed.

I DO know that I need to be kind.  Devastating pain is often so very well hidden behind practiced smiles.

I DO know that I am very thankful and extremely blessed with a loving family and a long history of commitment, determination, sacrifice and reconciliation.

AND a faithful, gracious God that supernaturally holds us all together!

I'm praying for strength and divine intervention for today's young families. They need all the help they can get.


DURANGO!  What a great place!  It's beautiful, quirky and fun...AND it is home to the FAB 5 and their parents. They are better known as the  BranerPartyof7.

There is non-stop action at this household! They are thriving and we love it. (We are continually amazed at how Jamie does all she does!) We've suggested that she sell tickets to theses adoring grandparents who get to watch this brood in action!

We've got this Christmas thing, figured out.  In order to see EVERYONE we know and love during Christmas month, we take to the highways and airways, beginning in COLORADO.

Andy, Jamie, Hays, Maggie, Tiki, Dax, & Gabby make up the delightful tribe! Each one is uniquely special and loved obsessively. (They have NO idea how deeply they are loved.)

 We came home with memories of laughter, one-liners, lots of braids, pajama-grams, a BIG doll house, good food, trips to town, new books and books on tape, many SOCKS,  a special church service with Andy preaching, fireplace warmth and SNOW!

And even though we enjoy giving gifts at this time of year, I'm reminded again that "its not the gifts under the tree, but the people around it that are important."

AND even more importantly, the focus on the GREATEST GIFT the world has ever received.....DEITY wrapped up in a baby!

December is GOOD!  We humans NEED to stop and remember and CELEBRATE.

IMMANUEL....God with Us!    That wonder never ceases to amaze!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014



What a great holiday!  It could be my favorite, right after EASTER!!!

Everyone is giving thanks this week, at least I hope folks are contemplating their blessings.

Our tradition is to take turns telling everyone around the dinner table what we are particularly thankful for from the past year. The responses have ranged from "cranberry sauce" to "new babies" to "health," etc. ALL GOOD....EVERY ONE!

This year I introduced my THANKFUL JAR!

Last January I decided to keep a running record of significant events for 2014.  It's somewhat like a diary but way easier!!!

I took an old pickle jar, painted the top silver, added a silver knob and a chalkboard type label with the date, 2014.  I filled it with blank yellow slips of cardboard stock paper.

WA-LA!  A blessing jar was born! I put it on a shelf in the kitchen within easy reach.

Every time I experienced a happy event, I wrote about it on one of the yellow slips and stuffed it back into the jar.  The original intent was to read ALL the slips of paper on New Years Eve, 2014, starting over again Jan. 1 2015.

BUT...I couldn't wait.

This year we celebrated Thanksgiving Dinner at our house a few days before Turkey Day with  the Dallas Braners.  (the other 1/2 of the family is in Durango, CO frying a turkey!)

I presented my jar and asked everyone to take out a few yellow slips of paper and together we would review my year.  They agreed, although curious.

It was a little scary because I'd long forgotten what had transpired months ago that I may have written about.

BUT, it went very well.  I was able to recall some terrific, sometimes tender, always special days and happenings as we went around the table and they "read" to me, MY YEAR.   I was able to expound on some of the events without boring everyone to death! Those at the table were able to hear about the times THEY were involved in bringing a smile to my face. That was very heart-warming.

After our discussion, all the yellow slips went back into the jar. I'm going to add some more, no doubt, before Jan 31st.

Moral of the story:  I am blessed beyond words!  As Chris Christopherson used to sing,
"What have I ever done? To deserve even one...of the blessings I've known.

There IS no deserving!  It's pure GRACE.  And it's very humbling.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


It's November, one more month left in the year 2014.  I guess now its safe to reveal my "secret!"

This past January I decided to forego the usual "New Years Resolutions."  You know, lose weight, be kind, clean closets, walk for 2 hours every day, climb Mt. Everest, etc.  Those are very good intentions that fall by the wayside about Jan.10th!

This time I made a PROCLAMATION!  Even though it was silent and secret, I was determined to try an experiment that I'd been pondering for years.

Many moons ago (actually about 30  years ago) a very wise friend told me  HER secret to joyous living.  It was so stunning and revolutionary that all I could do was file it away in the deep crevices of my brain matter.  It seemed SO impossible.  Actually I thought she was a little crazy....BUT, she DID have that wild-eyed "who cares" smile on her face ALOT!

THIS was the year I pulled it out of the cobwebs of my brain  to give it a try.

Her suggestion:  "Sharon, practice INSTANT FORGIVENESS until it becomes a habit."

WHAT?  Instant Forgiveness??  How can ANYONE possibly do that???

I'm delighted to announce.  It works!

There are so many cliches out there that probably feed into this thought process.  Statements like;
"Everybody is hurting," "Walk  a mile in their shoes before judging,"  "Be kind for all folks are dealing with something hard," etc.....   All are very good sentiments.

BUT, I am basically lazy and forget all those sentiments so try as hard as I could I still found myself with hurt feelings, self-pitiful moments, seething anger, etc.

It is SO much easier to just FORGIVE right there ON THE SPOT and move on!

Most folks don't even realize they have hurt you and would NEVER do so intentionally.  AND I'm sure I've left a trail of pain in my path, unknowingly and certainly without predetermined malice.

That's humanity at it's best.  (Let's don't even mention humanity at it's worst!)

This has been the healthiest emotional year for me for a long time. (Even though we've had some life changing experiences.)

Psychiatrists could have a field day with this I'm sure! There would probably be predictions of future health and mental problems for "stuffing it," and not expressing myself often enough, not getting it off my chest,  not telling people exactly how I feel, not letting anyone get away with insulting me, not being honest, etc.

BUT, for now I'm singing the praises of  INSTANT FORGIVENESS!

Nothing is so FREEING!  I have more time, energy, love, compassion and SMILES.

Sounds almost BIBLICAL, doesn't it??? Why did it take me 30 years to give this a whirl???

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Wow!  This is an oldie, but goodie!

I opened a basket today and there hidden away were several small picture albums.  You know, the kind we made BEFORE our iphones stored pictures in something called a cloud and before those fancy Shutterfly books that are SO fun to craft.  The basket was full of REAL pictures.  So, naturally everything on my "to do" list came was thrown to the wind as I sat down and mentally WALKED down memory lane!

This picture was taken 10+ years ago.  (Why didn't I put dates on the back of all these old photos?)

As I recall, it was a VERY special weekend. It was the Christmas Season that we invited friends and family to our house to attend the  Prestonwood Baptist Church Christmas Extravaganza!  AND THEY CAME!

Right to left:   Eddie and Linda Braner from Illinois, Jim and Deanna Beck from Houston, TX, Dianne and Pastor Bill Edwards from Illinois and us!  We lived in Plano, TX at the time and had driven out to Frisco to admire the "western" artifacts placed there.  This very "uncovered" covered wagon was the backdrop for this historic picture. I think we just grabbed a passerby and asked if he would snap this photo.  (I do that EVERYWHERE I go, people are always happy to oblige.)

The weekend was full of fun and laughter and we made some terrific memories.

BUT, what strikes me most about this picture today is not the memories of the holiday festivities we all enjoyed.

What impresses me today can be summed up in one word, STRENGTH!  These marriages are some of the strongest ones I know.  These couples have been through some bumps and some valleys, BUT not once has their commitment or love dimmed.  They are beautiful examples to all that know them.
They're in it for the long haul and their rewards are immense.

They have known breath-taking joys and heart-breaking pain.  They're scarred up a little and once in a while they still wobble through some issues. But there is no doubt that they will be victorious together.  Not. One. Doubt!

So what's the common denominator? How do men and women learn to do life together without killing each other?  You've got to admit, the sexes are vastly different in just about every aspect of humanity.  As I heard from one young person the other day, "sometimes love just isn't enough!"

I've analyzed it!  (You knew I would!)

The only thing I can come up with is that each one pictured...........knows and loves God.

Oh, not the god idea of Hollywood, superstition or popular opinion, BUT the GOD of the Bible.

They know the REAL DEAL!  They know how to  worship Him, silently and steadfastly.  They have a very healthy respect, high view and reverent fear of Him. They are NOT perfect but they have experienced perfect GRACE.  Their very personal relationship with the Sovereign Creator of the Universe puts this fleeting lifespan into  its proper perspective.

I'm so thankful they let us into their lives, the good and the not-so-good times.  They show us all how it's done.

And I'm very thankful for this picture today!  What a sweet, sweet reminder that good strong marriages are ABSOLUTELY possible in a culture that tries to tell us otherwise.

Any young whippersnappers curious?  These folks have some answers!

Monday, November 10, 2014


It was a BEAUTIFUL day in North Texas this past Sunday. SO, we decided to take the Dallas grand kids to Jurassic Park.  Well, not really, but ALMOST!

There is an incredible exhibit of dinosaurs near Fairview, TX that will be open to the public through next February.  It is located at the Heard Museum and Nature Preserve and about 20 minutes from our house. It was a short ride of anticipating a wild game hunt!

It didn't take long before we were obsessed with everything dinos! (I could HEAR the theme to Jurassic Park looping through my brain.)  Down 1/2 mile path, half hidden by trees and foliage,  9 of the BIGGEST pre-historic creatures to ever walk this earth emerged. We tried to pronounce their names, imagine what they enjoyed for dinner, where they might sleep at night and how they became extinct.

Meanwhile they all moved their legs, rolled their eyes and made pre-historic growling sounds.  It was great!

The older kiddos saw through the "pretense" immediately, laughed at them, climbed on their tails and smiled for photos!

Not so with Betsy! (age 3)  She covered her ears and RAN away, no doubt convinced that T-Rex was about to swallow her whole! Evidently if she could not HEAR the frightening sounds the danger would disappear! It didn't work for long!  It never does, you know!

It's the old "ostrich head in the hole in the ground" plan!  Many very well adjusted, intelligent, fine upright adults try to live their life by that plan as well.

BUT.....I thought I would try it today.  I covered my ears, ignored the negative news and pictures and hoped everything would be ok.  For a brief time all were safe, everyone I loved was content and happy, and momentarily "everything was right with the world."

It didn't last long!

 Once I took my hands off my ears it was soon evident that ISSL is still gaining strength, spin about the latest election is still spinning, politicians are making promises and quickly breaking them, children are still being sold as sex slaves, cancer is still taking it's deadly toll, healthcare costs are skyrocketing, teens are believing that sex and drugs are the panacea for living, our borders are still being violated, terrorists plots are still being uncovered, pornography is tearing apart the psyche of our young men, divorce is breaking hearts, part-time workers are frustrated, people of the same sex are marrying each other, babies in the womb are being murdered, and many relationships are stretched to the breaking point as family members stare at their electronic devices while at the dinner table.

 On top of all that CHRISTMAS is coming and I have no idea what gifts to buy this year!

BUT, a temporary relief is better than no relief at all I suppose.

Keep your ears covered, baby girl!  I want you to remain beautifully innocent and safe for as long as possible!

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Do I look like I have ulterior motives?  A sinister grin?  Conniving gang member?  A terrorist, perhaps?

I'm ALMOST used to the photo shoot at the airport security line.  You know the one where you're told to stand with legs apart and hands over your head so they can snap a picture.  It's a magic camera that can see through your clothes. Yes, that's pleasant! (Where DO those photos go anyway?)

Then there's always a TSA agent that needs to actually feel THROUGH your clothes.  The last time my picture was taken there I was told that I had three areas of concern on my body.  My new pants had zippers at the ankles and I was wearing my favorite locket.  DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!
A pat down soon alleviated all fears! At least I didn't have to take anything off. That would have caused instant blindness to everyone in that line!

One time I was accused of carrying a live GRENADE in my purse!  Yes!!  It turned out to be a small coin purse full of change. The x-ray machine had identified it as a weapon.  Lesson learned, don't ever carry change in your purse.  I had to remove it myself as guards stood by, ready to "hit the dirt" I guess!

BUT, this latest experience beats all!

We were in Florida at a swanky hotel.  I'd checked out early, our luggage was in the hotel holding room. I was waiting for Honeybuns to return from a meeting so we could then drive to the airport for our flight home.

Check-out time: NOON.   Departure time from the hotel...ONE!

I had an hour to kill, pardon THAT bad choice of words!

Part of the lobby of the hotel was a beautiful courtyard complete with concrete statues of women with water pouring from vases and several concrete elephants standing IN a pool spouting water as well.  Surrounding the pool were several small tables and chair for the guests to enjoy.  I decided that would be a great place to wait.  I made myself comfortable and proceeded to e-mail, FB, tweet and all that other stuff we do with i phones these days.  It was a lovely setting, the sun was shining and the flowers were glorious. I was sure the wait would be pleasant.

About 15 minutes into my wait a HUGE muscular guy with wires sticking in and out of his ears marched past me and sat down at the table nearby, FACING me.  He looked me over good and passed his time trying to look inconspicuous.  I thought he was like me, just waiting for someone to join him.  No one ever did. He had no book, no phone, no newspaper....all he had was muscles!

A while later a hotel employee approached me and gave me a beautiful pink flowered lei, asking, "do you have any questions, mam?"   NO, I explained that I was waiting for my husband to return from a meeting.  He then approached the big burly man with the wires in his ears and they had a whispered conversation, about ME, I'm sure!!! I was VERY uncomfortable, feeling almost violated!

The security guard continued to stare at me and his feet for another 20 minutes and at last approached me with enough noise and bravado to cause me to look up from my phone so he could get a real good look at my face.  I'm sure I had that "deer in the headlights" look.  He walked right by, talking to his wrist.

WOW! I was so sorry to disappoint these fellows.  I really was just a squatty grandmother, waiting for grandpa to arrive. Did they think I was going to harm their elephants??  Did my phone threaten them?? What DID they think I was going to do? What harm am I capable of doing? Do I really look like a home-grown terrorist?

Weren't all those tables and chairs placed there FOR guests to sit and wait and enjoy?

Finally, Honeybuns arrived, we gathered our luggage and got out of there.  I'm sure the hotel staff was relieved.  Their "granny" crisis was over, no lock-down, no bullets, no explosions, no arrest, no take-down!

We're just a little bit paranoid, don't you think?

Saturday, October 25, 2014


This past week Honeybuns and I attended a big airplane convention/trade show in Orlando, FL.  The airplane business is a network of folks that love to soar.  They spend time flying, talking about flying, buying their own planes, or fixing the planes that others own.  It's a type of family!  And having been a part of this professional family for many years, these types of events are usually attended by the same folks. It's always interesting to see who moved to new positions, relocated across country, and joined new companies. Family news is always on the table and we've come to know these people well. It's a pleasant reunion which takes place once a year.

This time I met someone entirely different.  I sat across from a NEW face at one of the business dinners and a delightful conversation began. I guessed this gal to be in her 50's, perhaps in the aviation business or married to someone that is.

AFTER speaking the general niceties, she just happened to mention that her son was a professional football player.  WHAT?  I asked all the right questions and she gladly shared her story.  It was fascinating. ( I will not tell you her name or her son's name because I don't have her permission. If I were to share it, ALL football fans would recognize the name.)

She became a first time mom at the age of 16.  The father of the new little boy disappeared from her life and she was thrown into the world of single motherhood. She and her precious child were dirt-poor!  She got a job, then two and then three. Working night and day meant weary visits with her baby and then teachers and then coaches.  But no matter how she felt she was ALWAYS present in the events of her child's life.

At age 8 she realized he was a gifted athlete.  He stood out at sporting events, being the ONE that ran the fastest and carried  the ball the farthest. He was MADE to play football.  And he loved it.

From that moment she began attending EVERY practice and EVERY game! Struggling to keep her eyes open and herself upright in the stands, she was there, alone!

She pinched every nickel until the buffalo hollered and raised her son with used bicycles, hand me down clothes and TONS of love.  He went off to college and she continued to go to EVERY practice and EVERY game. They struggled financially together.

THEN, the day came that he was offered a contract with the NFL! They had no idea that their world was about to enlarge 10 fold.

A wise agent told them that they were about to be handed a huge cake, and everyone they knew wanted a piece.  He encouraged them to not allow that to happen or soon they would be without any cake at all.  She listened naively.

He started playing professionally and he was good!  The money started rolling in, millions of dollars!
Distant relatives and friends came out of the woodwork begging for hand-outs. Fans were everywhere, they couldn't go out to eat without him being recognized and interrupted for an autograph.

The government took over 40% of his income.   She was given an allowance, her son was now supporting her.  After all, they were IN THIS together!!

She bought a huge house and before long all 7 bedrooms were filled with people that "needed a place to stay" for a short while.  She sold it!!

He moved into a lovely but modest home to begin his adult life complete with privacy shades. Prying cameras are everywhere.  She purchased a simple 3 bedroom a couple of hours away. They both live simply, realizing the life of his career is short.  And his body will be racked with problems once hes on the other side of professional football. She says of her boy, "he has no idea of the size of his wealth."  His heart is good, he is kind and his wants are few.

We talked about the journey of going from "rags to riches" and agreed that being poor and then gaining wealth is a whole lot easier than starting out rich and losing it all.  That just seems to be a very difficult adjustment.

Publishers are urging her to write a book of her life's story.  I encouraged her to get at it.  What a wonderful life of love, sacrifice, generosity, wisdom, pain and victory.

So why was she at an AIRPLANE convention?  She has a JOB in the industry.  She goes to work every day, saves her pennies and on the day we met she was trying to decide what to get her son for his birthday. He told her she could make a down-payment on some piece of equipment he'd been admiring.  (Like he couldn't buy it outright himself!)

I love this woman and I wish her the best.  She did a FINE job raising her son.

AND now I find myself looking for her boy when football is on the TV.

ME?  A football fan?  That's a miracle in itself.!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Matt, Andy, Philip, Mark

There's nothing like it!

This past September our Uncle Bub Gaines left this earth on his journey to eternity.

 90 years of life as we know it here, ended.  Most folks would say, "he had a good long life, it was time."  But, it's never a good time for those left behind that loved deeply.

We got the call and quickly proceeded to  Illinois, his home all his life.  Friends, relatives and  the small cemetery are there. He would rest beside his parents that passed away many years ago.

Funeral plans were made over the phone during the rainy, cloudy day drive from Tulsa to Illinois.  A huge rainbow finally filled the sky as we approached St. Louis.  That was helpful!

We moved into my sister and brother-in-laws home for the duration of funeral week.  We met with the local funeral director and finalized the details.  We assured the professionals that the funeral would be small since he'd been living at the Veterans Home in Quincy, Illinois for the past few years and before that had been confined to his house with round- the- clock caregivers for several years.
Surely, a single, elderly WWII veteran's passing would not garner much attention.

Andy flew from CO to officiate, Philip flew from TX to be a pallbearer. (He brought Thompson along, age 3 as a delightful distraction.)  Nephews Mark and Matt Leischner rearranged their schedules to also attend.  Close friends were also called to serve.

I was convinced that we would experience a tiny intimate family gathering and that would be just fine.

Boy, was I wrong.

Saturday morning the hearse arrived at the Concord Christian Church and we watched those very dignified men prepare for the visitation one hour before the service.  It was just US, saying good-bye.  It was hard and sweet and so appropriate.

An hour passed and the designated time arrived.

People started pouring into that beautiful little white clapboard country church, standing in line filling up the aisle.

Faces from 40-50 years ago appeared.  There were more wrinkles and weight, but after a few hints we were quickly transported back in time. Old school chums, neighbors, church members, long lost relatives and Bub's co-workers filed in. Some of his old buddies were wheeled down the aisle in their wheel chairs, unable to speak but determined to attend. After an hour of shaking hands, hugging and shedding several tears the service began.

Andy spoke about sacrifice, his description of his great-uncle, I read my prepared eulogy, we sang hymns, prayed and told stories.  It was tender and so honoring. We were reminded that there is a "time and season for every purpose under heaven."

 I looked around as we sang Amazing Grace and then followed the casket down the aisle and out the door.

THAT LITTLE CHURCH WAS FILLED!  Old friends, distant relatives, neighbors, caretakers, church members and townspeople turned out!  It was absolutely amazing. Concord: Population about 150.  As we counted names later we decided over 100 had attended.  (High attendance for that sweet church is normally 54!)

The churches pastor and the funeral professionals were as surprised as we were!

We proceeded to the cemetery. Cars followed behind us. As we arrived at the grave site we saw a line of very patriotic elderly veterans standing at attention in honor of their comrade.  They fired a 21 gun salute. The sound rang out over that beautiful familiar cemetery.  The flag was folded and presented to my sister, along with heart-felt thanks, dignity and honor.  Taps were played. Andy reminded us of the necessity of leaving our grief in that place and that life must continue beyond that day.

Reluctantly we left that place, comforted by knowing he was NOT there, but that we gave him a sweet, loving and grateful send-off.

We went back to the church where once again we were surprised by the amount of food prepared and served by the ladies of the community.  Folks gathered again to eat, tell stories and remind us of what it means to be loved in a small town.

Pictures were taken, folks introduced to each other, new babies hugged, recipes shared,  sincere condolences spoken and old friendships rekindled.

Those folks have no idea of the comfort they brought to this family. Or maybe they do!
Because, that's how it's done in a small mid western town where "everybody knows your name."

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Wow!  What were we thinking?
We are way too old to be moving to another state! But, we did it.

Last week the strongest 4 young men on the face of the earth showed up at our house to load most of our worldly possessions into two very large trucks and an additional van. (Yes, we were 3500 pounds over the original estimated weight!)

As we drove my loaded red truck and Honeybuns loaded black car south out of Broken Arrow, OK and crossed the Texas state line, I again questioned the sanity of this adventure.

The "Two Men and a Truck" guys arrived in Frisco, TX a day later and began the process of unloading. It took several fewer hours to take it off than put it on!  They were polite and fun and funny.  They must have had special training to "lighten" the atmosphere of a stressful situation.  I felt like they were MY sons before the day was over.

We found ourselves alone with 250 boxes, furniture, office papers and equipment, a myriad of personal items, and Oklahoma dust as they cheerfully drove down the street. (They lied when they promised their furniture pads would remove dust! I forgive them.)

THEN.....the Calvary arrived!  My sister and her husband (Donna and Bill Leischner) showed up that very evening after driving several hundred miles from Illinois to help us unpack! What a God-send!  The next few days were spent wallowing in far too many dishes, books, rugs, lamps, clothes, tools, yard art and cleaning supplies.

What were we thinking when we bought all that stuff??? Really???

Their presence also "lightened" the atmosphere as we laughed, made fun of ourselves, took much needed breaks to an air show and fireworks. We could not have physically survived this ordeal without them. We owe them BigTime!

Now life begins differently.  We kept an apartment in Tulsa since Honeybuns thinks he must still go to work most days and we will travel back and forth until he decides to retire. Yes, it's a crazy arrangement, but the goal of living closer to one of the sons has been met, even though a few years premature.

NOW, we're ready!  As we age it will be Philip's job to watch over his elderly parents.  He's already looking for the cheapest nursing home, but promises it'll be NICE!  Snow and cold weather kept us from settling in Colorado next to Andy and his tribe.  We are comforted knowing that there is a non-stop flight from Dallas DFW to Durango, CO.  THAT is good news!

Well send out our new address to those that are interested and NOT frustrated with the many addresses they've already "inked in and later crossed out" of their address books.

Tonight I'm "lightening" the load of maintenance and hauling those "extra" unnecessary possessions out of the house, into the garage for the trash man or Salvation Army truck to carry away. I guess it took this experience to purge! (Jamie and Nancy, you would be SO proud!)

Proves the point......."The Best Things in Life are Not Things."

The best things are:
 knowing and loving God and being known by Him
 a Godly, loving husband
 healthy, successful, God-fearing sons and daughters-in-law
nine perfect grandchildren
WONDERFUL friends in many states
and a sister and brother-in-law that love and serve us SO selflessly!

Now....back to work!

Thursday, June 26, 2014


A few days ago I was taking the shortcut through the country to a major highway on my way to Springdale, AR to visit my friend there.

It's a lovely drive, no traffic at all!  There are pastures and cows and horses and country homes along the way.

Nothing out of the ordinary!

UNTIL... I noticed an unlikely friendship as I watched two buddies taking a morning stroll down a dusty lane.

It was unbelievable.

Trotting together was a huge black lab AND a huge very pink PIG! (They looked just like these pictures.)  I could tell by their easy gate that this was not the first time they'd been thrown together. They obviously have accepted each other and their differences. There was no fear, no aggravation, no judgments. I'm sure they have spent much time together since being a puppy and a piglet. Maybe they were headed to breakfast, maybe a shade tree to take a nap.

 I could not stop watching and SMILING!  What a delightful sight!

A dog and a pig! 

Who says it can't be done?  Two totally unlikely personalities walking through life together.

Two titles used in very negatives ways by some humans on this planet.

A dog??  A pig?? Have you heard people referred to by such names?  And others just as cruel and hateful.  Sure you have!

Because we recently returned from a Middle Eastern trip, and because we live in a country that is very racially, politically and economically divided, we are very aware of the titles, the anger and the hatred of people when referring to others that are not like them.  Perhaps there is a religious difference, a cultural difference, a skin color difference, an educational divide, or a economic span that breeds distrust.  Those things are real and deep and I'm not minimizing any of it. Sometimes the divide has been years in the making. (Remember the Hatfields and the McCoys!)'s refreshing to watch those in the animal kingdom get it right.  That black lab and that pink pig KNEW each other.  They grew up together, they are used to doing life together. They are comfortable with each other and even enjoy one another's company. The relationship is just....well, easy!

Isn't it amazing that once we get to really KNOW each other, all those differences are changed into delightful characteristics to celebrate.

The dog and the pig have proven it can be done!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


A couple of weeks ago Honeybuns and I made the drive to Dallas to witness Fine Arts Day at Providence Christian School.  It was another breath-taking event, watching children dressed up as historical characters re-teach us old folks American history.  Everyone in the audience was stunned at the details we long since forgotten.  (Do YOU know the history behind "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain When She Comes?")

Our job at the event was to clap and be VERY PROUD.

Each class presented the material they'd learned all year in a most delightful way.

Of all the wonderful impressive songs, speeches and re-enactments one of the most poignant moments for me came when the music director prefaced "Hymn Sing" time, involving ALL the children.

I paraphrase here. She said:

The hymns we have chosen to teach the children this year are not selected casually. When we sing hymns we sing our theology. You see, when we teach children what WE love, they grow up to love it, too.  (Very important statement!) The children have memorized the words and will remember them forever.  Everyone should have a canon of hymns in their memory for that is what will get them through the hard times of life when they come. And they will come.  It has been proven that even the folks that suffer from Alzheimer's, in their latter days, remember and sing the hymns they learned as a child.

She then led the children in their theme of "Hosanna" and they sang from memory 12 of the great hymns of the church, some familiar, some I'd never heard before.  Theology rang throughout the auditorium.  Beautiful, innocent, smiling, serious faces enthusiastically sang their little hearts out!  I could barely breathe and tried to keep tears from streaming down my face.  (As I glanced around, others were doing the same.)

Perhaps some of the younger kiddos sang the words without completely understanding the depth of their meaning. But they day!  They will review in their minds and hearts the grandeur, magnificent, beauty and wonder of God.  They will remember that HE is with them, protecting, guiding, forgiving and loving.  And THAT will see them through!

What a fabulous reminder for all.  What a very wise music teacher!

We learned much that day!

I've decided to go back and memorize the 3rd and 4th verses of some of the great hymns I love,

Just As I Am
Great is Thy Faithfulness
When We All Get to Heaven
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
I Need Thee Every Hour
Holy, Holy, Holy
A Little Sanctuary
It Is Well

Oh, boy! This is going to be fun!

Sunday, June 1, 2014


OK!  NOW, I've seen it all!

After lunch with the grands in Dallas today,  the suggestion was made to show BeBe and Papa the new ATM CUPCAKE machine! We took a leisurely stroll down the sidewalk and stopped at a brick wall with the proclamation, "there it is."

Boy, howdy! Any hungry person can now satisfy their sugar craving and receive a DE-LISH miniature cake anytime day or night (24/7) at one of these automatic, self service, brilliant inventions. A cupcake via the ATM!

Yes, we tried it out.  The process is simple.  You touch the screen, choose the flavor of your choice from a list only grandma could make, the number you desire and add it to your "cart."

After sliding the necessary credit card  through the slot, a beautifully designed brown box is delivered to the opening below, the door raises and BINGO! There it is!  Inside the box is the most beautifully decorated cupcake ever created by man, or machine, or robot, or whatever/whoever is behind that pink screen.

It's magic!

How very creative!  How very GOOD! (We shared a couple of red velvet and milk chocolate!)

It ain't cheap! ($4.25 ea.)  But the novelty, the taste, and the sheer convenience has made this little stop at the brick wall worth it! We heard that often there is a long LINE waiting to touch that pink screen.

Capitalism at it's finest.

I don't know who thought this up, but I'm pretty sure they aren't working at a minimum wage job today.  Evidently this culinary delight is found only in a few select cities in America.  I'm putting money on the fact that it won't be long until this logo is as familiar as the golden arches.

It's one of those days when I ponder, "why didn't I think of that?"

Evidently it takes a genius!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Many years have passed since the days of hiding out in the cellar during a wind storm.

  My hair is not long enough for a ponytail, my grandpa is no longer with us, and my sister is a great grandmother. I have a husband, children and grandchildren that I adore and life is good. The old root cellar has long since been filled in with dirt, mushrooms are no longer found on it's grassy roof.

Dangers other than wind still lurk around every corner of adulthood,  sometimes very real but often simply imagined. At this stage of my life it seems that the danger of worry is the most worrisome danger of all.

Perhaps it comes with "maturity," maybe certain personalities have that propensity, maybe life's tragedies that some families experience bring about a depth of cynicism and realization that bad things happening really IS a possibility.

Worry is a state of mind that I must avoid at all costs.  It robs me of my health and joy and is NEVER  productive.  It is like taking a trip in a rocking chair, never getting anywhere but going through the motions. Avoiding this mind-trap takes many "self-talks," of reminding myself that I can only deal with facts, not "what-ifs."

Tragedy, death, illnesses, financial challenges, relationship problems most definitely drive me to my knees and I'm certain that is the best place to be during those times. Strength and solutions for known facts are always found there! (Positive thinking is a placebo, prayer is the real deal!)

FACTS are manageable, IMAGINATION is a wild fire.

Worry is a type of fear! It is my minds projection of the future!  And WHO can see into that???

I'm reminded that worry is the product of doubt in our Loving God who knits everything together for good for those that love Him.

I'm ditching fearful worry today and enjoying this moment of peace.  I'll let God take care of tomorrow. (What made me think I could control the future anyway?)


WAR is terrible!  It is more terrible than my imagination can imagine!

I grew up very conscious of it.  Being raised in my grandparents home meant that I was privy to stories of WWII.  Pictures of my uncles and my dad in army uniform adorned the walls and pieces of memorabilia were casually found throughout that little house as well. I have a collection of my father's personal snapshots taken of a Nazi death camp that are museum worthy. The Washington DC Holocaust museum tells me they are now receiving more than they can handle since  the attics of WWII vets are being cleaned and pictures are discovered.

My grandparents suffered during that war.  They sent all three sons and one son-in-law away to a foreign land, not knowing if any would return. (All 4 did!)  They told stories of listening to the radio while wringing their hands and wiping tears with the same. I have old newspaper clippings telling of that little town's sons that did not come home.

Movie news clips did nothing to lighten their concern as the United States and their Allies fought the battles in the European and Pacific arenas. Eisenhower, Hitler, Mussolini, & Stalin were more than names in history books, they were real and those men were discussed.  My history lessons began at home.

Much time has passed.  Other wars have been waged and won or lost, their battles televised, their significance determined by the news media and how much time is allotted. Debates are held publicly and privately about the necessity of battle.

 Recently I heard a young man in Israel proclaim, "young men go to war because they are the only ones stupid enough to do that."

That statement has been ringing through my brain since.  I found it very offensive. There is NO doubt that many folks in the US and around the world feel the same.

I've been reflecting on that statement this Memorial Day.

Yes, war is terrible!  Innocent lives are taken, brave young men and women are lost.  Yes, it is terrible!!! It is unfair and it is bloody and it is AWFUL!!

And it is sometimes necessary. When?

There is another great debate brewing.  The question: should the United States be the policeman of the world?  Should we get involved in areas that are "none of our business?" Should we be responsible for the safety of people that provide no benefit to our national interests?

There are many valid concerns, no doubt.

My thought:  If the US is NOT the keeper of peace, then who is?  At this point there is no country with adequate military power, let alone the moral resolve.  Who will protect if the US doesn't?

War is necessary only if you believe that evil truly exists.  It doesn't take long to spot it.

Think about the folks that kidnapped the 300 Nigerian girls.  AND the MANY other atrocities around the world.

We have to be careful to identify evil, but it is not impossible to do. (It's like pornography, you can't describe it but you know it when you see it!)

(Years ago a very liberal friend announced at a meeting I was attending, "it's their culture, we have no right to interfere."  Before I could take a breath or think,  I answered a little too loudly, "murdering babies and raping women and children is always wrong, no matter what the culture." You could have heard a pin drop.)

I will never understand the philosophy of  "if it's not on my front porch, I don't care."
I truly believe "if you don't care, it WILL be on your front porch."
Isn't it ALL on our front porch if we take seriously the command,  Love your neighbor.

War is TERRIBLE!  And should be avoided at all costs.

BUT, evil exists on this planet and WILL until the final judgment day arrives and the King of all Kings steps in and makes it right. Until then, don't WE (Christians) have a responsibility to love and care for the least of these?

If Christians and this Christian nation do not, who will?

I salute ALL those brave patriots that have and are serving in the armed forces of the US.
They've got something deep inside of them that most of us do not have, a view of the world that goes beyond their "front porch." 

"We should not be sad these brave soldiers died, we should be thankful that they lived." Patton

Where would we  (and the world) be without them?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

FAMILY MATCH GAME - 2014 Edition

We love playing  "MATCH" game with the grand kids.  Over the years there have been many variations of this simple test of memory.

 Gabby had a Princess Match Game a few years ago, we've seen animals, candy, super heroes,  etc....all kinds of things to embarrass the grown ups as the little ones "smoke 'em" at this memory thing! 

Since our family is scattered out in three states and I needed a "creative" project this week, I decided to make a BRANER FAMILY MATCH GAME to play with whatever grand we see next.  The purpose is to help family members stay in touch "visibly" with those they don't see very often because of distance, schedules, and time constraints. took a while, BUT, I edited and printed pictures to fit 2.5 x 3.5 card stock I found at the local craft store.  Two pictures of each family member were clued onto those cards. 30 cards total!  I then clued those cards onto some blue and white striped wrapping paper, making sure the stripes on the back were all going in the same direction.

The people at Staples Office Supply store laminated each one and cut them so each one had a tiny plastic border.  I insisted they all be the exact same size, no cheating in the match game you know.  IF one card was "off" it could be identified easier and be a help to the cheating, competitive spirit of the grandchild that is determined to WIN!!!!

AND we take winning a "Match Game" very seriously.  AND we (the grandparents) ALWAYS lose!

If this game is a success, and I believe it will be, I may expand to past generations!  I could add a great grandmother, a cousin twice removed, or an uncle that no one has ever heard of or met. I have some really funny old time pictures the kids would enjoy, great grandpas car, a group of women dressed as flappers, and an aunt in her first pedal car.  Perhaps I could include past pets!!  Yes, this thing could grow!!!

What a super way to pass on the family legacy, we may have the opportunity to tell some wild stories  to grandchildren ABOUT THEIR parents. That would be a fun addition!

Yes, I can see the "rules" of the Family Match Game expanding!  There is NO end to where this could go as we learn about each other!

 Yep, this is going to the family reunion this summer!

Feel free to copy my idea!!!  ENJOY!

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Of all the characters documented that final week in the life of Jesus, I am drawn to the unlikely ruffian Barrabas. Other than the Son of God, of course, HE'S my favorite.

Barrabas was a murderer, thief, scoundrel and major trouble all around bad guy. And he was in prison for his crimes, awaiting his sentencing which would surely be crucifixion.  He deserved the death penalty and he knew it! I have a vision of him sitting hunched against a stone cold wall, shacked by chains, grumbling, smelling like dried blood with bits of last weeks goatburger decorating his scraggly beard.

It's not his fine upstanding character that I find so compelling!  It's not what he said, which was NOTHING.  It's not what he thought, of which we have no idea.  It's not his actions.  (No, I'm not naturally drawn to the BAD guy in the movies!) 

What I find fascinating is what he HEARD!

No doubt his prison cell was around the corner, down the tiny cobbled streets, out of sight! His life counted for nothing, there would be no reason for him to be near the center of town. The jail was always down a back alley, right? BUT, Jerusalem was no metropolis at the time. The whole area was pretty compact.

As Jesus appeared before Pilate publicly there is NO doubt what Barrabas HEARD!

You remember!  That spineless, crowd pleasing official  Pilate decided to make an offer to the angry crowed assembled that day.  He was sure it would placate them,  maybe get them off his front porch for a while. He was ready to be done with the silly Jewish conflict even though he found NO reason to condemn the man Jesus to death. He literally washed his hands of the whole mess. The  bothersome affair seemed beneath him, a waste of his precious time.

His offer?  He asked the mob mentality controlled  crowd who THEY wanted him to free that day, Jesus or Barrabas!

His  singular voice was no doubt directed toward  the crowd...."Who do you want?  Jesus or Barrabas!"

IN unison the crowed cried out loudly and angrily,  "GIVE US BARRABAS." Their fists must have been flailing in the air.

Pilate's lonely voice came back at them, "What shall I do with the man called Jesus?"

The crowd, "CRUCIFY HIM!" "CRUCIFY HIM!" Those words must have echoed through those walled streets.

Did Barrabas know what was going on?  I doubt it.  He was totally detached from the whole religious mumbo, jumbo  problem.  He probably wasn't the smartest pencil in the box, either.


I KNOW what he was thinking then!! He was about to meet his maker. I wonder if he even acknowledged he had a maker!

A short time later the guards came, keys a rattling. His time was up!  He must have been scowling, ready to resist the muscular law enforcers, one last ditch effort! The survival instinct must have kicked in.

 The cell door was flung open and the chains were quickly REMOVED from his arms and legs.  They must have pushed him out the door.  "Be gone with you. You are free."

Barrabas!  FREE!  He must have stumbled into the sunshine, shielding his eyes from it's brightness.

FREE!  A convicted man....FREE AND FORGIVEN.  An INNOCENT MAN would die and he, Barrabas would live.

Why do I relate  to Barrabas?  Because he is me, and you, and every person that hears the EASTER story that accepts the God planned, substitutionary crucifixion. Chains exchanged for freedom. How can you NOT love that?

Barrabas experienced literal, in the flesh,  GRACE.  An exchange had been made, the life of the One from Galilee would die in his place.  Barrabas didn't deserve it!  But wisely, he didn't refuse it. He walked out.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014


This is IT! THE most holy time of the year for Christians. This week surpasses even CHRISTMAS.  Easter is why the baby Jesus came, you know.  It is the culmination of HIS earthly work.

Reflecting on the last week of the  life of Jesus is happening throughout Christian churches and homes.  It happens every spring and sometimes it is more meaningful than others. Those years when I take the time to stop the hustle bustle of life and truly study those last days are the best and most meaningful Easter seasons.  The details of the observation of the sacrificial lamb of God, the triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, Gethsemane, the arrest, the phony trials, the sentencing, the beatings, the path to Calvary, the Crucifixion must ALL be reviewed. There are some life changing elements in the story, it never gets old.  He laid down His life willingly, no one took it from Him.  AND then the victory over death we celebrate Easter Sunday is off the charts wonderful.

The whole story wouldn't be so fabulous if the tomb still contained the bones, but it is empty.  Even if you want to disregard the Scriptures, history itself relates the fact. No body has ever been found, and hundreds of eye witnesses have testified and recorded the fact that Jesus really WAS who HE said He was.

Even the skeptics that like to call him a "good prophet" lose the argument. What "good prophet" would lie about His identity, committing blasphemy,  how is that GOOD?

In our present age of tolerance, try as we might, the claims of Christianity and the claims of other world religions cannot be reconciled.  Either it's true or it isn't.... we can't make a combo of beliefs to make folks feel better about their worldview.  There is just no way to put all tenets together, shake 'em up and make it come out palatable.  Sound narrow? I suppose it is.

If we leave the argument there it's pretty discouraging.  BUT...the purpose behind HIS life was to reconcile people to their God and to each other!  Somehow we've missed that and decided to engage in a shouting match, erecting walls of differences that in view of eternity don't amount to a hill of beans.   HIS purpose  WAS AND IS ALL INCLUSIVE.  The purpose behind calling Abraham to be the unique Father of All religions and the purpose we serve today is the SAME.  Love God and reveal His character and love to the world through our behavior. 

Having just recently walked those narrow streets and paths of the very land  that Jesus walked, hearing the angry shouts of "religious" people, witnessing man's inhumanity to man, and hearing stories of deep generational pain brings one conclusion. The Message of the Holy One has been silenced in that Holy Place.

And I'm not sure the American church culture has done much better. We fight over denominational issues, types of music, types of buildings, times of services, dress code, definition of sin, etc.  And somehow the message we're supposed to be declaring gets lost in the confusion. It takes a steady, determined focus to fix our gaze on God rather than on people (us!) that get wrapped up in the non-essentials.

The Bible tells us there will always be a minority of God's people, holding down the fort, trying to love and forgive as Jesus did. I cherish those people in my life and in my church. The church, with all it's imperfection, is STILL the only place of HOPE and UNCONDITIONAL LOVE for ALL.  

It's a really good place to be this week!  HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! 

That is profound! And demands a response. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

ISRAEL - KIVU Holy Land 2014


The sun rises over the Sea of Galilee and leads one to believe that Israel is one of the most peaceful places on earth. It is not!

This "journey of a lifetime" lived up to its name. It was our second trip to the Holy Land, the Promised Land, the State of Israel, having crawled all over that place several years ago. This time we received a totally different kind of education and experience.  It was an eye-opener!

March 28, 2014 we made our way to NYC and joined our fellow travelers. It was a mixture of teens, parents, leaders, family and old people!  ("Old people" was determined to be anyone over the age of 40) What a fabulous group! We grew to love each one dearly. They are imprinted on our hearts.

The question is asked, "What was your favorite part or spot?"  The answer? "There was a new one each day."

The front end of the trip was the usual sightseeing, awe-inspiring visits to the Holiest sites in all the world.  By a minor miracle we were able to visit the Dome of the Rock, the high holy place for all Muslims. We visited the Mount of Beatitudes, Caesarea, St. Peters home, Jericho, Bethlehem, Shepherds Field, Herodium,  the Dead Sea, the Wailing Wall, the Garden Tomb, the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher,  and MORE!

We took a family picture I will forever cherish.  (Honeybuns, me, Andy and Hays) at the Mt. of Olives. Zechariah 14:4

We learned and performed Jewish dances on the deck of a wooden boat floating the Sea of Galilee and shared laughter with our new friends. Some brave souls tried the mud pack at the Dead Sea and others tried to catch huge fish in the Jordan River.

It was perfect and such typical activities on a pilgrimage never get old! EVERYONE should experience these places at least once in their lifetime. Seminary students should be required to visit the places of the Bible BEFORE they think they can teach anyone anything. Scripture understood through the eyes of the Middle Eastern culture changes EVERYTHING!

THEN!  Our KIVU leader Andy Braner announced that the rest of the trip was going to be different. An understatement!  We would turn our attention from Biblical history, geography and wonder to relationships with the people of modern day Israel.  Relationship were to become our priority! We were going to now "WALK the WALK of Jesus."

WOW!  That's when the new education for us began.

You see we left the US with long and deeply held ideas about what was going on "over there."  We have studied the scriptures in depth for YEARS and have embraced every command, promise and prophecy. We have traced the lineage of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac and know what God said about those boys and His plan for each of them. (Each would be a great nation, one as wild as donkeys!)

  We support the nation and people of Israel unequivocally! We love the "chosen people" and look forward to their future. Their Godly mission has been removed until the "times of the Gentiles" and we understand that.   We pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the future purpose of God for the land. We support the Biblical map definition and can quote the chapters and verses. (The State of Israel is the size of New Jersey and is the most controversial sliver of dirt on the planet.)

I have also read the Koran, or at least the version printed in English. I understand the tenets behind that very dark and threatening document that most Muslims have never read.  It is not a peaceful religion but there ARE many peaceful people, living in an ancient culture we American's will never (or should) embrace.

So what happened?

We  visited with people, asked questions and saw things we had no idea existed.

For the first time we purposely visited people that live in the land that are NOT Jewish.
 Imagine the culture of the US before the Civil Rights Act of the 60's.  There are thousands of innocent people suffering greatly at the hands of politics, local and international.  There are people hated, disregarded as human and treated worse than we treat our pets. Their crime?  They lived and  rightfully owned land and businesses BEFORE 1948.

 They have been displaced permanently.  Have you ever heard of a PERMANENT refugee camp, one that houses generations of people?  These people have never lobbed a bomb, shot a gun or thrown a stone at anyone. They cannot drive on roads that would take them to work in a convenient timely manner, they have to drive hours around.  They cannot freely leave their designated prison, their children will never see the Sea.  THOUSANDS walk through  many security check-points daily, often stopped at the whim of a young passionate guard for hours in the hot sun.  Pregnant women are turned away from access to a hospital while their husbands are allowed through. Their homes have been razed or locked, their orchards destroyed.  Water is cut-off regularly, electricity too. Gas prices are higher on their side of the wall, food cherished. They are continually systematically harassed. They are given NO permits to build anything on their own land and if they try it is quickly destroyed.

NO ONE wants them! 

We visited Jewish settlements as well. We learned that the Biblical map is not as an important an issue for them as it is American Christians.  Fear and anger reigns.  The mistrust of others  is deep, complex and understandable.  The Holocaust Museum reminds everyone of the slogan "never again."

The wall separating people is real, concrete, barbed wired and extensive. The wall has no doubt stopped the bus bombings and suicides we used to see frequently in the newspapers.  Jewish families come from all over the world and are paid to build homes in  areas owned by Palestinians, their lovely homes and lifestyles subsidized by the government. The flag is raised and their neighbors are urged to get out while they can. When gestures of giving up land for peace are realized, the results are not positive and once again "divide and conquer" becomes the norm.

We visited in lovely Palestinian Christians homes, ate at their tables and heard their stories as well. They too must live in the boundaries established.  When we asked them for their idea of a solution, the reply was,"Jesus."  The very city where the Prince of Peace was born is surrounded by a wall. As one friend stated, "baby Jesus is in prison." And HIS voice of love is drowned out by louder voices of anger and hatred.

Because we all  carried the cherished blue American Passport we were able to go everywhere we wished to go, staying away from areas where rockets red glare. But, the places we went the latter part of the week had NO other American tour buses.  I came away wondering why there is a deliberate hiding of the reality of the horrible situation.  Perhaps supporting tourism is paramount to sharing truth.  And tourism is critical in keeping things afloat.  The typical American tourist NEVER sees what we saw and if ever informed would NEVER support this  type of man's inhumanity to man.

The pendulum has swung, the bullied has become the bully.  What do we do with that information?

The Bible tells us and we believe that as times goes by the conditions on this planet will worsen, so we should not be surprised.  BUT, it also tells us that the purpose of being God's child is to love HIM above all, and LOVE THY NEIGHBOR as thyself.  Wasn't that the message all along? For the Hebrews? For us?  Love Him, then show the WORLD who HE is by our behavior. 

The citizens of the Holy Land have diluted the command to a LAW.  A law they are finding impossible to obey.  Have we?

I had a special conversation with a 40 year old Muslim man. (How great is that? ME? Just a simple granny from Oklahoma) He convinced me that he hates no one.  He shared with me with tears in his eyes how his life has been torn apart, his house locked up so he cannot live on his own property.  He works and pays very high rent for an apartment for his family in a part of Jerusalem approved by the officials. He is NOT free to come and go as he pleases.  I asked him what would "fix" this situation.  His reply, arms stretching wide and with a moan in his voice, "I want them (the government) to just leave me alone to live my life."

Oh, my.  The desire for freedom truly is planted in the heart of every man by GOD.

International Peace Talks continue! I'm not sure the American mind can even begin to conceive the mind of the people involved in this mess. The problem is ethnic, religious, fear, pride, and a terrible history on both sides of the conflict.  I certainly don't have simple answers to such deep complex pain.

I supposed what I do have is a renewed determination to LOVE GOD AND LOVE OTHERS. And when appropriate tell them about the Prince of Peace who is the ONLY one that can help that  type of love become a real possibility in my own life.

And now that I think about it, that WAS the KIVU purpose all along, wasn't it?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Gabby Ilibagiza Braner
Last week author Immaculee Ilibagiza came to Broken Arrow, OK to speak at a local Catholic Church. It was an amazing evening! Her book is titled "Left to Tell."

Immaculee is a beautiful Rwandan woman, inside and out.  She stood at the podium of that beautiful church in front of a packed house (with an overflow room) for TWO hours and related her story.

She was a young girl living with her mother, father, and two brothers when the genocide in Rwanda occurred in 1994..  The President of the country was killed in a plane crash and on that very day, hell broke out across that beautiful land. The Hutus  declared war on their neighbors, the Tutsis.  Even though they had lived side by side for many years and shared life experiences, it was a slaughter in the making when the government itself promoted the murderous onslaught.
The Tutsis' were called pigs, cockroaches and all foul names, open season on them was declared, just because they were of a different tribe.

It didn't take long for Immaculees  family to realize the gravity of the situation. As a leader in the community the people came to their home to ask her father for advice.  He must have been a tremendously wise man.  He replied that they would probably be killed in the next hour and all must be ready.  He asked them, "are you ready to die?"  Suddenly a revival of sorts broke out as the people cried out for forgiveness, publicly declaring their own sin and their sorrow. They prayed and wept together as they prepared for their deaths.

Then her father told Immaculee to RUN!  Run to the nearby Baptist preachers home where she would be hidden and protected.  She had no time to gather any personal belongings and simply obeyed,  not looking back.  For the next 91 days she and 6 other women, ages 7 -55 STOOD together in a tiny bathroom, (3 ft by 4 ft),  in the pastors home, in silence!  They took turns sitting on the toilet just to rest their legs.  He fed them crumbs late at night through a crack in the door.

As she told of the harrowing experiences the audience was stunned.

She watched through a crack in the bathroom window as hundreds of "soldiers" with machetes approached the house, surrounded it, came inside to look for people in hiding. She prayed they would not open the door to the bathroom and miraculously they did not, but left.  The brave pastor was sweating bullets as the men looked in every nook and cranny yet stopped at the bathroom door.

While the women were hiding, praying and trembling for 91 days, over 1 millions people were slaughtered after the UN protection  team pulled out of the country.  2 million people became refugees and an untold number just fled their homes into the countryside.  When Immaculee raced back to her home at the end of her stay she discovered her house in ruins and her family dead.

The most remarkable part of her story then began.  She told of her struggle from hatred of those neighbors to forgiveness.  Incredible!  What a message!  It was brilliantly delivered by her and received by everyone in the audience.  Hundreds of people listened and evaluated how they would react. Could they forgive the offenses against them? How minor their hurts seemed to be as they compared them with this young woman's! No one left untouched!

Our family has a connection to this lovely woman.  Gabby Braner was adopted at age 3 months from a Rwandan orphanage.  Jamie knew of this brave woman and gave her Immaculee's middle name!!!

Following the presentation I stood in line to speak with Immaculee with this picture of Gabby and told her story. Our little girl, also from Rwanda was named after HER and that I now pray Gabby  will come to know God just as personally, that she will be brave as she grows up, that she will always pray for safety but more importantly she will pray for the ability to forgive as deeply.  Immaculee's tender heart was moved as she looked at Gabby's picture and signed it..."you are an angel."  Our brief visit was a memory I will treasure.

Immaculee believes that she was saved from death to tell this story, "Left to Tell."  It is a timeless story of man's inhumanity to man but also the story of the supernatural ability to forgive even the very worst atrocity with God's help.  She walks and talks with God!  What an example of power and grace!  I hope Gabby enjoys the picture and newspaper article and perhaps as she grows older will realize the absolute necessity of forgiveness, no matter what!

Very soon the 20th anniversary of the genocide will be acknowledged. Smart folks have done much research to understand the reasons behind the carnage and indictments will probably come forth. That is probably necessary to TRY to prevent future brutality.  But, there is no indictment coming from Immaculee, she is free because she has forgiven!

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Wow! Take a look at this handsome fellow!

It's another old picture I  found while rummaging through the picture box. The writing on the back identifies this man as Great Grandpa Long, born mid-1800's. Isn't this great?

If  old pictures could talk, I wonder what this one would say. 
G-Grandpas face is hard to see, no expression gives away what he is thinking.  I imagine he's tired, he may have been working hard from the looks of his clothes.  And how about that ride?  Did everyone in the late 1800's have a buggy like that?  What was the horses name? Where were they headed?  Did they just return from the nearest village or the neighbors home?

What would he say if he could see us NOW?

I suppose every generation believes that it alone has experienced the greatest changes in the history of the world.  Then again, we know that there is nothing new under the sun, just new ways of conveying what's always been happening, I suppose.

Grandpa's social interaction would have centered around this horse and buggy, no doubt. It would have carried him and his family to the neighbors, the nearest town, the local barn dance or the raising of the same. It took some effort on his part to connect with folks.

Not so today!  We are CONNECTED  to the world via cyberspace. Events transpiring on the other side of the world are viewed almost instantly from the devices in the palms of our hands. We can spout off our views whether we know anything about the subject or not, play games with people we don't know or ever expect to know, SEE each other in real time across hundreds of miles, or share the most intimate details with the world with just a click or two.  Yep, it goes without saying, times have truly changed.  At a whirl-wind pace, I might add.

Don't you wonder what he would say if he could see Phil, Willie, Jase and Jeb sporting HIS type of beard? Do you think his eyeballs would pop right out of his head if he could visit the high fashion runways of NYC or Paris? What would he think of our car dealerships or  lower Manhattan during rush hour?

How about Smart TV,  the Iphone, or the Ipad? Would he be brave enough to ride an escalator at the mall or a 747 through the skies?

Time moved on but Grandpa Long didn't.

I wonder what future generations will say about US?  I wonder if they will sympathize with our "old-fashioned" ways when they discover our pictures, DVD's, cars, computers,  or movies on YouTube? 

While I am at it, could someone please explain "live-streaming" or the obsession with  the "hash tag?"

It DOES take some effort to keep up with progress, doesn't it? (There are days I want to climb in my buggy, hitch up old Nellie and ride off over the plains.)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


She's a red head, she's wise, she's dependable, she's flexible and I hold her in the palm of my hand. This tiny computer that is velcroed to me and can do everything but cook Sunday dinner AND sometimes I use as a phone has living within it's tiny circuits my new best friend, Ruby Jean.

Ruby Jean's heritage comes from someone named Google Map and she is at my beck and call, day or night, ANYTIME I am in my car and have not a clue where I am going.

I named her Ruby Jean because I don't have a dog by that name.  (One day I WILL holler out my screen door at a Red Irish Setter, a Red Weiner Dog, or a Red Standard Poodle playing in the back yard, "Ruby Jean, git  yur-self in here."   Yes, that is my dream.

Until then Ruby Jean will somehow mysteriously communicate with a satellite flying high over head and then TELL me where I am and which way I need to turn in 1.5 miles.

Together we have found Tulsa businesses, Dallas home addresses, and  Durango hiding places. (Let me be clear, NOT the new establishments selling weed. You don't need a GPS for that,  just a nose! And I don't go there anyway.)

All I need to do is type in where I want to be, where I am at the moment and Ruby Jean does the rest. She maps out a route, tells me how long it will take me to get there and then proceeds with audible instruction.  YES, audible.   She speaks!!!  Sometimes I just TELL her where I want to go...She hears!!

Ruby Jean was MADE FOR ME and people like me that can't find their way out of the driveway.
Not that my inability has slowed me down one iota! ( I've been known to plop the Dallas City Map on the seat next to the drivers seat, jump on the Dallas toll way, go as fast as I can go and pray that I'll still be in one piece at the end of the journey.  The spiral bound map was used when I got OFF the toll way and needed to actually find an address on the other side of town.)  I've traveled several state highways and back roads over the last 2-3 years, ALWAYS leaving enough time to get lost, which I always do. But alas, I ALWAYS find myself, usually in the nick of time. maps, no worries!  Just sweet little Ruby Jean, standing at attention in my cup holder, waiting for me to get down the road a ways before she gently instructs, "take a left, turn right, OR make a legal U-turn."  I love her voice, I love her sense of direction.  I will follow her anywhere!

Life is SO much easier now that she's in my life!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


If that UPS man gets to know me any better, I'm going to have to put him on my Christmas Card List!
Our on-going, ever deepening "friendship" began a few months ago.

A package had been delivered to our house while we were out of town.  Our wonderful neighbor signed for the thing and held it safely in her home until we got back.  When we picked up the mail, old newspapers and boxes delivered I noticed that one box had the right address on it, but alas not the correct name.  How does that happen????

Well, I called the UPS people  and assured them that yes, indeedy, no one by that named lived here! They promised they would send a truck out the next day to pick it up and get it back to it's rightful owner, wherever that might be.

No problem.....

BUT...that very day I came down with an awful cold,  fever, upper respiratory ailment.  I promptly took some meds, donned my "flannel nightie saved for sickness," jumped in the bed and covered my head with a pillow and a promise to NOT come out until morning. Misery had settled into every part of my being. Every molecule of my body was in agony.  My hair stood straight up and my eyes glazed over.

After several hours of facing death itself, the doorbell rang!

In unbelief I finally dragged myself to the window and sure enough, the familiar brown truck was parked in the street. Those efficient people were coming after that box, a DAY EARLY.

The doorbell rang again.  I had to answer it and get rid of that pesky package. I threw on my very roomy, very fuzzy full length CHEETAH robe and half-crawled to the front door.

I opened the door!  There stood the guy in the brown uniform.  He had a shocked look on his face as if he'd seen something or someone from the "other side."

Only then did I realize that I was the source of fright! I'm sure he didn't know WHAT  creature was standing in front of him.  An animal escaped from the circus perhaps? A cheetah on the loose from the safari exhibition down the road? Big foot? An audition for National Geographic?

 I threw the box at him and croaked, "I'm in the bed sick, you weren't supposed to come until tomorrow."

He was speechless.  If he'd stayed a minute or two longer I'm sure he would have gone away blinded.

The whole embarrassing ordeal lasted only a few minutes.  I crawled back to bed thinking that I was one lucky women for I was positive I'd NEVER SEE him again.  Chalk that one up to a terrible moment and try to forget about it.

YES, FORGOTTEN!  UNTIL.....a few weeks later another package arrived. (I shop online!)

I answered the door and was greeted by a cheery "Hello, glad to see you're feeling better."

WHAT?  The same UPS man came back???

Well, at least that day I had my underwear ON and that cheetah robe OFF!

Since we were first "introduced" my UPS  man has been here several times, ALWAYS INQUIRING about my health......and ALWAYS with a silly grin on his face.

I've learned something from this ordeal.....UPS men NEVER FORGET!

Thursday, January 9, 2014


A visit HOME, our beginnings, our place of origin ALWAYS includes an afternoon of digging around in old pictures.  Every year the treasures discovered result in hilarious laughter as together the whole clan examines odd looking hairstyles, plaid jackets, beards, antique cars, long forgotten relatives and a few folks no one EVER knew!

(I'm sure there is a diagnosis for people that keep old pictures of somber looking, darkly dressed folks no one knows, never knew, or have any hope at all of identifying. No doubt we are a sick people!) 

This past New Years Day the Braner family had a rip roaring good time when  huge plastic tubs of pictures were presented for a "pitching" party. Territories were designated for "save" piles and the fun began.  Memories were stirred and good times were remembered.  We came home with a short stack.
Old frames and duplicates were discarded......3 garbage bags full!  Success!

Stories poured forth as we were transported back in time. Where did all that time go? How could so much have transpired? Aren't we STILL those young people in our minds?

 There were giggles and one liners and occasionally a tear or two as loved ones no longer with us appeared before our faces.

This picture is one of the many in our short stack that made it back to Oklahoma. It was taken in 1956 on a cold snowy day.  Honeybuns is the 5 year old kneeling on the center sled.  He is surrounded by his two older brothers and their neighbors. No doubt his mother took the pictures.

This image conjures up visions of a cloudy day filled with many trips pulling that sled up and down the hill behind their farmhouse. What a fun time! What a picture of innocence! They had all the time in the world that day.

I'm going to show this picture to the grand kids. There is NO WAY they will believe that little boy is Papa!

And in the process, squeeze joy and purpose and peace out of every moment of time.