Thought For Today

I am so glad that you have found this site and I hope you will find encouragement and joy as you read through my thoughts on God, family and life.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Art of Giving Within a Family

Family and friends together celebrating.
Today we have just entered Florida and stopped by their Visitor’s Center.  They were serving orange and grapefruit juice in the main lobby; it tasted very good.  The temperature here is a warm 78 degrees and sunny with a light breeze.  Many people are dressed in shorts and tennis shoes with colorful shirts that reflect the nature of the individuals around us.  It is interesting that a couple of nights ago when eating out, a very talkative waiter was surprised that we were driving down to Disney, and that we as a family could get along with each other for 3 days on the road.  It struck us funny that he would say that since we enjoy our time together.  My thoughts went back to administrating schools and the many families that I was involved with that had struggles within their family unit.  Our harried lives today are a testament that identifies our struggles as a family within our busy cultures.  Today, children are involved in many outside of the family activities; needless to say, parents’ are also active in their work worlds and social lives as well.  Families are struggling to find a place where living together is not just a chore, but also something that brings happiness and cohesion as well.  The question is, where is that place to be found?

Abby and Aunt Gayle
In an earlier post, I wrote about how many families are moving away from the cities and heading to the country.  They either are quitting their jobs (or at least one husband or wife is leaving their job) and choosing to devote their time to canning, raising livestock and gardening to supplement their income.  Many are finding that by doing this, there are expected and unexpected benefits to their move.  Added to this, children are now doing chores and helping the family unit, and thereby growing closer together by generating a feeling of comradery, and a feeling that they are helping to support the family.  Contrary to this, many out of family activities are for the benefit of the individual family member only.  Whether in sports and/or in other social activities, these individual family members are many times separated from the family unit.

Picture credit:  Emily Dalzell
One might ask, can being in a close family environment actually hamper a person’s individuality that our society highly treasures today?  I believe this to be a false assumption; a person’s individuality can indeed be enhanced by the collective nature of a close family.  One might ask, “That does not make sense.  A person looses at least some individuality for the benefit of the whole, does he not?”  Perhaps that is partially true, but when we as humans rely on others to help us in our lives, we are recognized for our own value as a person.  We are then individuals that hold worth, since others are willing to sacrifice for our benefit.  Thus we see our own individuality by how others place us in their lives, that is, by their willingness to sacrifice their time, work and efforts so that we can have a fuller and more meaningful life. 

God has placed within our nature to live together and serve one another in some form or other.  Families that serve one another, learn to appreciate the value they each hold.  Contrary to this, a football team that has players who are out to gain only for their individual benefit, never succeed for very long.  Conversely, a team that works together for a common goal, finds success not only in their wins, but also more importantly, in their sacrifices for each other. 

Great grandma Marji Dalzell
As Christians we learn of sacrifice from our father, Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our benefit.  Jesus told his disciples that the greatest among you is the one who serves the other.  This is not done out of a desire to get, but to give freely for the other person’s benefit.  Jesus washed his disciples feet in an effort to show them of their need to serve and not look for gain.  Contrary to this, the Pharisees of Jesus day held the place of honor in social functions, but lacked the humility to teach by example.  They preached what they themselves were not willing to do, and so their efforts bore no fruit, only bitterness and division.   One has only to ask a couple who have a successful marriage, they will tell you that it becomes so not by wanting ones fair share, but by giving to the other without the thought of receiving anything in return.  Children learn from how parents relate to one another.  Our actions as husband and wife speak much louder than our words.

When arriving at Orange Lake Resort we all were pretty tired.  Anne wanted to go out and stretch her legs with a short walk.  Both kids wanted to walk with their mommy and she could only be with one at a time.  The way to solve the problem was to choose a number between one and ten.  Grandma chose the number while both kids guessed their respective numbers.  Will was the winner.  What happened next pleasantly surprised both Anne and myself.  Will whispered into Abby’s ear, “You can go first Abby!”  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Touching Lives

Acts of kindness being observed by little eyes.

Today the weather is changing and Minnesota as a whole is experiencing a wide variety of temperatures and different forms of moisture.  From central Minnesota north there is forecasted the chance of snow while here in southeastern Minnesota, we are experiencing rain and perhaps freezing drizzle for this evening.  The transition to winter is happening at a fast rate, and I have observed that all of nature is scurrying around feeding heavily with the attempt to fatten up for the cold winter ahead. 
Today a wild turkey has been feeding in our meadow, while last night a skunk came to visit looking for food by the house. 

The gathering storms of seasonal change.
Yesterday William and I spent the day outside fixing the snow blower and changing its oil getting it ready for the upcoming snowstorms in the coming months ahead.  I remember last year in getting back from Florida, it was a surprise for us all.  We discovered that several feet of snow were on our driveway.  I had to wade through the deep snow in order to get to the snow blower.  I had to cut a path for my family to walk to the house, otherwise our children would not have made it in the deep snow.  Now we are getting ready for another vacation, but I feel prepared for the snow that is coming.  Two days ago I was caulking on the roof around the vents and smoke stacks, again readying our home for the long winter ahead.  When I was on the roof working, Will was throwing away old damaged shingles that were just removed from our rooftop.  Like the animals, we too in the North Country are preparing for the cold days ahead. 

I remember as a child when the nights got colder, my desire to snuggle up with a book was greatly anticipated.  As a little boy, I remember going to a grocery store near our home.  The owner, (Mr. Carlson) let me look at his books as well as the comic books with not charge to me.  I would read the different books and let my imagination run free.  I remember thinking at that time how it would be to visit some of these countries I was reading about.  I got so excited that it would lead me to more material on the same subjects.  I then would try to find information on these topics from the school library.   In looking back, I could see the kind hand of Mr. Carlson allowing me to read in his store.  I also recall that I would bring him pop bottles and he would pay me 3 cents a piece for them, and I would buy candy or another comic book or magazine to read.  This quiet gentle man touched my life in ways that I will not fully understand here in this life, but I know that by his kindness to me, I was changed in my desire to read.

Will discovering the autumn wonders.
How many of us looking back can see how one kind act has influenced our lives.  I believe that one day when I sit before my Savior, he will show me those points in my life that were changed by what I saw perhaps as insignificant acts of kindness at the time.  Now looking back, I can see they were in fact life altering experiences.   

Another man that changed my life was my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Como.  He was tough and he frightened me at times by his staunch nature.  I was having challenges in my life with anger at the time.  I was rebellious over losing my favorite 5th grade teacher who left part way through the school year to be a principal in another town.  I did not adjust to his substitute and consequently, we locked horns everyday.  I went from having As and Bs to Cs and Ds my latter half of 5th grade.  I spent so much time in the principal’s office the second half of 5th grade that I got to see our principal’s job, and what she did appealed to me. 

Deer gathering for the coming winter.
One day when sitting in my usual place in the principal’s office, a male teacher stopped, looked down at me and said, “I got you next year boy!”  At that moment I remember thinking, “My year was not bad enough, now I have this man to look forward to.”  Mr. Como saw something in me that no one else did, potential.  He was hard on me, but fair.  He encouraged me in almost every way and I blossomed and grew.  Consequently I forgot about him over the years, but I hadn’t realized that my impact on Mr. Como was life altering for him as well.  One day many years later, I was sitting at my principal’s desk and I remembered Mr. Como and how this one man turned me around in my attitude and my desire to learn.  I next checked into the state education database and I found him.  He was in the iron range part of Minnesota.  In looking at his title, I could see that he was now not a teacher, but a counselor instead.  I decided to give him a call and that one phone call changed our mutual lives yet again.  Mr. Como had become a school counselor and had left the classroom shortly after having me as a student.  I immediately thought of how he must have changed so many children’s lives like my own.  In my conversation with him on the phone, he revealed to me something very shocking.  “Augie, you are the reason I went into counseling students.  I saw how it made such a difference in you in the time we spent together, that I wanted to help others like yourself.”  My life was not the only one that had changed that year, Mr. Como embarked on a life of service in helping many more children throughout the years.  Those children who needed his tough love, supportive words, and acts of kindness, just as he had done for me.  Being a principal at the time, I saw myself in the same place, helping counselors and teachers in their pursuit in teaching and touching the lives of children. 

Will being asked to captain a boat at Disney World.
Years before becoming a principal, I was an Alternative School teacher and administrator.  I worked with many children, much like myself when I was in 5th grade.  In looking back, I can see the hand of God in my life in me working with At-Risk students.  It was my turn to help lost children just as I had been helped.  How many lives have you touched?  Has your life been changed in ways that have turned you around? Was it  by a man or woman who had gone out of they’re way to help you?  I believe that God gives us insight into our past at times, to let us see how even small acts of kindness have changed our lives, and that of others.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The day the Earth stood still for Grandma Anna's chickens.

Winter brings with it a new beauty.

Today the sun is shining and the temperatures are supposed to reach near 50 degrees by midday.  The high temps are much appreciated by many people here in Minnesota.  Anne still has petunias that are on our deck that are enjoying the extra sun as well. 

My thoughts go back to the 1970s when the energy crunch was so evident by how people were looking to cut energy costs in anyway possible.  Some were buying energy efficient stoves and fireplaces, (that is how my cousin Dudley Hussong got started with Cozy Heat) while others put solar panels on their roofs and some on the side of their homes.  Unfortunately, here in Minnesota during the winter months we have about 40% sunlight and so, solar panels were not as helpful as in other sunnier locations.  As time goes by, we have discovered through a process of elimination that some new energy efficient ideas have worked, while others have gone to the wayside. 

Storms reveal God's awesome strength.
Man is a very ingenious creature, he struggles to adapt into whatever circumstance he finds himself in.  Through stages of trial and error he has figured out what works and that what does not work.  Today wind energy is being harvested throughout southern Minnesota.  As I drive west on I-90, I see more and more wind generators popping up, and the countryside reminds me of old Holland and its windmills.   Fossil fuels once again are becoming increasingly more expensive to buy, and with the limited supply of oil, we are once again searching to find other sources of clean energy.  All one has to do is to turn on the TV and you can see adds about battery-operated cars.  With all their advancements, I wonder, when the battery does not charge anymore, will it cost the value of a car to buy another?  Again, without the trial and error of advancements, we would not have any new technologies coming out at all. 

Many people today are returning to their roots.  They are selling their homes and going back to the farm life of 75 years ago.  They are buying pigs, sheep, cattle and chickens to raise for food.  These individuals are not using growth hormones nor are they putting their livestock in stalls to be left there.  These animals are roving around in pastures and meadows eating the grass and seeds provided by nature.  Animals are supplemented with stored grass, hay and seeds in the winter, while staying warm in their respective buildings (barn, chicken house, hog barn, and such, but they are still allowed to roam free on the farm during the day. 

Abby enjoying new snow.
I remember my father saying that when he was a boy, his folks asked him and his brother Bobby to get the chickens into the chicken house before the big storm hit.  It was snowing heavily and grandma was afraid they might die out in the snow.  My father told me that it was snowing so heavily that they could not identify each bird due to the fact that snow was beginning to encase their bodies with a hard icy residue.  They quickly grabbed the chickens and put them in gunnysacks and rushed them to the chicken house, empting the bags and rushing back outside again to hurriedly retrieve other snow encased birds.  Needless to say, their job was done very quickly due to the fact that there was an approaching blizzard.  The next morning though, would reveal a dreadful surprise for everyone. 

Grandma went to the chicken house the next day to gather eggs and let the hens out to roam for food and gravel.  What she found would be remembered by her family for many years to come.  Upon nearing the chicken house she could hear the chickens cackling with screams of frenzy.  Upon opening the door to the chicken house grandma realized what had taken place.  The day before when her two sons were gathering the near frozen chickens into the gunnysacks, they added an unwanted visitor to the collection of chickens.  To grandma Anna’s surprise, there was a feathery predator flying around trying to make meals of all the chickens. 

"I am sorry, what did you say?"
Now the chicken house was supposed to be a safe haven for the hens, but after this day, the chickens would think twice before entering their once impregnable domain.  The chicken her son had gathered the day before, turned out not to be a hen or rooster, but its predator instead, the feared chicken hawk.  Snow encasing the chicken hawk became its best disguise.  When it finally thawed out sometime in the night, it must have thought that it had died and went to chick hawk heaven.  He found all the chickens gathered together roasting on wooden perches and in nests, and what easy pickings at that.  After grandma collected herself from watching the mayhem before her, she shooed the chicken hawk out the door, taking away from it its only chance at eternal happiness here on Earth. 

"I was wondering if you might have a nut for me?"
Sometimes later when looking back, we realize that God brings laughter into our lives, as opposed to what at the time seems like calamity.  When the feathers and dust had settled, grandma saw that the chickens survived, and after she gathered her breath, she saw the humor in what had just transpired.  Her children and her children’s children still laugh over that incident.  I am sure even now in heaven, grandma Anna and her family are still laughing over that very extraordinary day.  I know we are.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Looking Back/Looking Ahead

Today we saw our first snowflakes coming down on our deck.  For us Minnesotans we do enjoy our seasons and we treasure the nice weather when it arrives, be it so briefly.

In looking out over the railing, I see Anne’s flowers still struggling to survive the cold weather that has so recently arrived.  I am reminded that like our lives, we each have a season that comes upon us.  For some reading this blog, you are experiencing the spring of your life.  Each new day brings with it challenges that test your resolve as to whether you will accomplish the short range tasks that in turn will allow you to get to your goals that are in the distant future. 
For those of you that are in the summer of your lives, I imagine your days consist of raising your families and making it to the weekend, with all the challenges in between.  During this stage in our lives, it seems that the days are a blur; our children go from infant diapers to graduation in such a short time.  We wonder where the years have gone.  Our summers are much the same here in the North Country.  It seems that just yesterday it was spring and now we are in the throws of autumn, and winter is already knocking at our door.   For those of you that live in similar climates, one learns to appreciate each season that comes your way, especially when warm weather arrives.  Living here in Minnesota, we have about 5 months of snow and the rest of the year everything changes very quickly.   

Those of us that are in the winter of our lives, many are looking back much more of the time than  anticipating our tomorrows.  We think of the jobs we had, places that we lived in, and most importantly, the children we nurtured who are now raising families of their own.  We feel the aches when the change of weather comes and our old injuries sometimes come back to haunt us with sore joints and quickness of breath, when moving from place to place a little too quickly.  Sometimes we look back in regret with the choices that we have rendered, yet at the same time, feeling good about “right” decisions made, which now give us a sense of peace. 

In our humanity, we find a balance and realize that in some instances, as an individual, we learned so much more from the bad choices that we had made, even though the pain still lingers at times.  Somewhere in the midst of reviewing our lives, we reach a point of peace with our humanity.  We have come to realize that our Lord is much more forgiving than we are towards ourselves, and that in it self, brings us peace. 

This sense that Jesus allows us to start over and begin each day anew, helps us to see each morning as a new beginning.  A new day!  We then see the sun even though it refuses to shine, and experience a vigor that flows through our veins and gives us once again, the insight and delight of a child.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wasting Time

Good Morning!  In the business of each day, it is sometimes hard to stop and relax with all the things that must be done.  Agendas sometime get in the way of life and the more important things get put on the wayside for less essential items that seem at the time, to hold us sway to their demands.  So how do we stop and start over? 

The forest among the bluffs.
A couple of days ago Will and I were gathering wood from the forest for heating our home this winter.  I had cut down several dead trees a couple of days earlier, and now we were gathering them in a wheelbarrow.  The work was very strenuous to say the least and I knew that rain was on the way by midweek.  I felt pressured by the weather to get our harvest of wood into storage before it got wet.  I realized that if it retained moisture from the rain, it would be much more difficult to start in the fireplace later on.  Several times my 8 year old son would tell me that I needed to take a rest as he watched me cart another load of wood to the location for splitting.  I told him that I would stop in a little while.  After waiting patiently for some time, he looked up at me from sitting on a stump of wood and said, “Daddy, please take a rest, I don’t want you to have a heart attack!”  It then struck me that the pace I was going at was insane.  I stopped and looked intently at my son, took a deep breath, and then sat down next to Will.  I hugged him and said that I would slow down. 

The blue haze of the morning light.
When sitting next to Will trying to gather my breath, I found myself looking up at the sky.  I realized how precious my time was with my son and family, and that I was wasting it by driving myself so hard.  It sounds rather crazy to be writing this as I look down and see the words going into type, but what is said here is true.  I was wasting my time in my business of gathering all the wood in such a frantic state.  What happened next changed my day completely.  Will and I started to have fun in the chores that we were tackling.  We rolled wood down the hill and watched it bounce and turn, it was such fun seeing each log choose its own path to the bottom of the hill. Tree bark began flying off the logs while tumbling down the hill at a frantic pace.  We watched collisions of timber that started other logs to pile up against each other while some chose to roll off by themselves.  We laughed so hard that we had to sit down in the grass and take deep breathes.   Later, when relaxed, we gathered the rolled wood and moved it to the splitting pile, all the while reminiscing over the fun we just had. 

Will and Abby in the forest.
Later, as I sat and contemplated my time with Will when gathering the wood, I realized how much fun we had, and at the same time I realized we got a lot done.  Was my time wasted?  No, I was learning how to have fun in my work, something that Will already knew how to do.

Take time today to have fun in the chores that face you.  God does choose to teach us through our children, that is, if we take a moment to kneel down and listen.