Friday, March 30, 2007

Counting Pennies and Blessings

Always live within your income, even if you have to borrow money to do so. - Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw)

This quote was especially amusing to me today. I have had an interesting week of setting up charts, graphs, and tables while working on my finances. After some changes at work, it was becoming increasingly important that I know where each and every penny goes. And, I've always felt like I've known so little about finances. So, I started simply... and now the process has grown into quite an elaborate tracking system. And, within 4 hours of receiving my paycheck yesterday (my break for lunch), all of my bills that are due within the next 20 days had been paid. It is not a big deal for some. But, for me, that is quite an accomplishment. I try not to put off much, but I seem to struggle in the areas of writing final papers for classes and paying bills. And, I pray that this week's work will help me become better in this area and so many others in this financial realm.

Romans 13: 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another...

I also pray I can be a better steward with the money God gives me, and I have started a plan of attack that I hope will assist me in making huge leaps in my personal savings for the future and in fully owning my home. This plan includes getting rid of what I don't need... especially when items could help others in need. It would be a relief to live more simply, desire less "stuff", and give away more.

A penny saved is a penny earned. - Ben Franklin

So, times might be a little tight compared to periods in the past. And, the limits I've set might make me not be able to go out to dinner as often or even buy something at the dollar store on a whim. But, I pray I will have more time to study on contentment, focus on the many blessings I already have (especially the blessings that are not material), and enjoy the simple pleasures that surround me.

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other. - Chinese proverb

Thursday, March 29, 2007


When anyone asks me what my favorite word is, my reply is always ONOMATOPOEIA. It just sounds fun, doesn't it? (on uh mot uh pee' uh) Not only that, but it stands for words that are fun. Double the fun? Who wants to resist that?

If you'd like to read some detailed information about the term, please check out this site. I don't know which grade it was in which I learned about it. But, just to prove what a big nerd I was (OK, and still am!), I thought I'd share that I used to have a large school notebook in which I'd try to catalog as many onomatopoeias as possible. The hard part was keeping them in some sort of alphabetical order to prevent duplications. (Why did I spend time on these sort of things?!?!)

This came back to me just recently as I was searching through some of my old books in my basement and found my onomatopoeia notebook. That very same evening, the nightly news featured a Chinese farmer who made a sound that he thought was imitating his chickens. It sounded nothing like our "cock-a-doodle doooo." Not even close.

For those of you who have not yet followed the link to understand about what in the world I am writing, here's a quick definition: one or more words that imitates the sound it is describing. Many are animal sounds. Others describe mechanical functions. There are hundreds from which to choose.

So my challenge goes out to anyone and everyone who is reading this blog post. It doesn't matter if you're someone who checks in from time to time or come here daily... if you've never posted or if you post each week... if you're lurking in the shadows or out in plain sight. Please just consider providing 4 or 5 onomatopoeias that you think of. The first that come to mind. It should be fun to read the long string of them aloud. Crazy thoughts for a crazy Thursday.

I'll start us out on the craziness: coo, caw, eeeyaw, tick, beep

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bluebells, Cockle Shells...

The warm weather has delivered delightful sounds, such as the birds and squirrels high in the backyard trees. But, the best addition of all has been the sound of children laughing and playing in our neighborhood. More sunlight. More time to enjoy the outdoors. More fun with friends.

As I was picking up sweet gumballs last night, I was able to chat with two kind young girls who live down the street. Their parents were sitting in their front yard, so it was safe for them to walk the short distance toward my place. My! How times have changed. Aaron and I could be out and about with friends who lived blocks away until the street lights came on each evening. There was no worry that we'd be hurt or taken. Now, parents feel like they must watch their children even if they're walking to a trusted neighbor's house. It makes me sad to think of this change in the world.

As quickly my thoughts settled on this, I was reminded that other parts of life do not change. The sisters were carrying their jump ropes, trying to tie two together to make a long rope while waiting for their neighborhood friend to arrive. They started their chants as they headed toward me and were shocked as I chimed in.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Turn Around.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Touch The Ground.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Turn Out The Light.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Say Goodnight.

It was an amazement to these young ladies that (carefully worded) "someone like you" (definition: OLD) would know the same jump rope songs that the girls said each day on the blacktop near their school, in their driveways, and on the back patios of the neighborhood. So, as they started a new song, I joined right in. I think I was as excited as they were when they began one I didn't know, so I took the opportunity to try to memorize it. I think the girls will be coming back tonight to test me. And, I will be asking them to recite a few that I taught them. If I had a daughter right now and someone asked me to remember the songs I sang each day at grade school recess, I think I would struggle. But, there was something about the feel of those ropes, the young girls' sing-songy voices, their pigtails, and the thump of the wooden and plastic handles hitting the pavement that caused so many memories to rush back.

So, fellow lasses (and any lads who joined in the fun and are willing to admit it), do you have any favorites from your childhood? How about those hand-clapping patty-cake songs? Or, maybe you sang songs while jumping hopscotch? I found a homeschooling link today with many variations. If you're having trouble thinking of some, maybe a few of these might jog your memory.

Monday, March 26, 2007


No matter how sudden or gradual spring's entrance is, I should have learned by now that I need to be ready and well stocked for my fight against my home's spring-time intruders: ANTS! This week has been nerve racking. After spraying each inside window ledge, each window screen, each window's trim, the outside of each window, the inside and outside of each door, and my entire basement, I have fought a hard battle and believe I've finally won the fight. But, tonight's investigation will tell. Plus, I've made a special trip to Home Depot today to find the ant pellets that seemed to do wonders last year. The instructions direct the home owner to walk the perimeter of the house while sprinkling bright colored pellets at its base, and I hope this expensive substance will provide the same cure this year.

I don't know if everyone experiences this. Those teeny tiny little blank ants - the ones that are especially abundant in the kitchen. One of my older neighbors said the ants are seeking water (and food) and that no matter how well the house is built or sealed, the ants in our neighborhood will get in. After talking to more neighbors, I realized everyone on our block is fighting the same battle, so I am trying to do what I can. Since the warm weather came suddenly, I have searched high and low for anything and everything that I thought would attract ants in the rooms. Then, after detailed inspections, I'd find a long trail of the fascinating little creatures climbing toward something that I never expected. A fruity candle. The cat nip. The cat food. "Oh, I never thought of that." I've been so frustrated. I'm now paranoid. (After the slightest tickle: "Is there an ant on me?!?! Is there an ant on me?!?!" After seeing a spot on the floor: "What's that black speck? What IS that black speck?!?! It is moving? Is it an ant?") I've bleached, sprayed, wiped, mopped, swept, bleached most surfaces again... and, yes (in moments of desperation), have even yelled at the insects. But, I admit, I've also been mesmerized by their activities. After many adjustments in the house and too many long conversations with the neighbors while seeking advice, I've been praying - yes, PRAYING - that the battle will soon be over. (I realize this is nothing like skunks, but it has been annoying.)

I am anticipating the (hopefully near) day when I can drop a crumb without the worry of an army coming to retrieve it. Maybe some readers of this blog can suggest a solution... or can ask an older family member if they have an "home remedy" for this particular issue. In the meantime, you can enjoy this amusing poem with me while I live this out in my own home.

by Winlar

An ant crawled on my leg,
I knocked it halfway to the moon.
It wasn't hurt. It didn't flinch
It didn't even swoon.

It just kept crawling round and round
Few seconds, maybe ten
And then, with bold audacity
Crawled up my leg again!

The ant was so persistant!
I was flummoxed, floxed and floored!
And once again I knocked
The little stinker overboard.

And once again, he fell a distance
Several times his height.
But you can't take the fight out of an ant
By taking said ant out of fight!

He climbed back up my leg again
Back to his early plan
This ant sure had me beat
When it came to attention span!

This time, I just observed him
As he once again did climb.
I'd see what he was up to on this
Third and final time.

He climbed atop my head this time
Spun round and round, and then
To my great shock and horror
Just climbed right back down again!

"Well where's the point in that?" I thought,
Then gave the ant a chase.
(Ant's legs are pretty short, so
I'd no trouble keeping pace.)

I picked that ant right up,
And made it fail it's getaway
Then looked that insect in the eye.
I had to have my say.

"What gives?" I asked it several times
My face all turning red
"What was so important?
Why'd you climb atop my head?"

The ant did not respond.
It paid no heed to all my rants.
'Twas then the sad truth came to me,
I cannot talk to ants...

The ant just stared back
with a look I've never seen before.
Like I was clueless in some game
Where ants were keeping score.

The ant stared at me long and hard
As if to make me see
"Until you understand yourself,
Don't try to think for me!"

And with some great humility,
I set him on the rug
And thought how sad a thing I was,
I couldn't know a bug.

I lack the wisdom even
To predict the smallest thing
Like why an ant crawls on your head
Or why a bee takes wing.

The wisdom that one is not wise
Is best that one can grant
And to think I learned it from
A teeny little ant!!

So, as the ant went scurrying off,
I bid it toodle-oo,
Reflected on what it had taught,
Then crushed it with my shoe.

Tegan Benjamin

Mr. Tegan Benjamin Vanderploeg
Newborn son of cousin, Janelle, and her husband, Ryan. Born Tuesday, March 20.
Welcomed by extremely proud and excited brothers, Braiden (left) and Shai (right).

The Vanderploeg Family. WE LOVE YOU AND HOPE TO SEE YOU SOON! We cannot wait to meet our new cousin in person!

Thursday, March 22, 2007


It has taken a great deal of time for family and friends to understand what our business does. With some processes, I don't even understand it. But it's fun to let loved ones come to the site or show them pictures to let them have a peak at our day-to-day processes. This afternoon, after numerous hurried projects, I went up to the office labs to check on two of our employees.

Here's the task that Carolyn, a Quality staff member, has been working on all day... and this is only about half of the samples set out in the micro lab this afternoon. She has placed small amounts of cocoa (taken from different packages) in petri dishes to test for molds and two other factors that may harm our chocolate milk products. After she mixes the cocoa with solutions, she places the petri dishes in incubators to see what will develop. It seems like a long tedious process.

Right next door, our resident ice cream maker and tester, Steve, has been rushing around making samples that will be sent to our customers. The customers will then determine if they like the flavors we make, if they'd like to adjust the flavors, or scrap the project.

So, today, I helped Steve with one of our newest ideas. I can't provide too many specifics about this flavor at this time, but here are the basics. First, we start with yummy vanilla ice cream.

Then we add chocolate covered cookies. OK, then we add even more chocolate covered cookies. Anything that you find within ice cream in the categories of fruit, chocolate chunks, sprinkles, cookies, nuts and the like are called inclusions.

Next, we transfer the basic mix of ice cream and cookies into small ice cream containers and layer it with a special salty caramel. Any syrup-like ingredient that is swirled through an ice cream, such as most fudges, caramels, and fruit fillings, is a variegate.

Steve makes up many of these little tubs for each flavor that the scientists develop. He'll then leave them in a special freezer overnight. Tomorrow, he'll package up the tubs in a dry ice filled coolers and make the long trek to the back loading dock. Less than 24 hours later, the ice cream samples will be in the hands of our customers, and those executives will make the decisions about what you find in your local grocery freezer.

Just thought I would provide a glimpse into what two of our co-workers do day after day after day, working very hard along the way. And, these are just two in the many steps of the process, so maybe I can capture more of them in future posts.

Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor (or many) that you crave or keep in your freezer?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring Has Sprung!

The weather last week was wonderful. I was allowed a small bit of free time to enjoy the blessing, but I was hoping for much more outdoor time in the 70 degree weather. After a large rainstorm, I ventured out into the big back yard as I was hoping to see my usual first signs of spring. And, there they were. The golden daffodils. A little muddy, yes. But, fighting to stand up straight and tall.

I then took inventory around the yard, and the bushes and trees were exhibiting little shoots of yellow, pink, peach, red, purple, white and green. Forsythia, azalea, bridal wreath, wild rose, dogwood, snowball bush... I'm most excited to see how this lilac bush will develop in the upcoming weeks.

After a drop in temperature and a shock to the system (after becoming so enamored with the warm weather), I was happy to hear that it is expected to be at least 70 degrees again today and that will allow me to spend some time in the yard. But, with spring also comes hard work. Challenges. Twisted ankles after tripping over the bane of my annual early spring existence: Sweet Gum Balls.

This is a small glimpse of the work I have ahead of me. (And, there are still many more up in the tree, besides what is in my neighbors' yards, my flower beds, my driveway, bushes, and the rest of my yard.) My rake and I will become extremely close friends this week.

May I Introduce To You...

Reflecting back on the first weekend of this month (several times since then), I wanted to post a picture from the blessed event many of us attended. Here at the special moment....

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. York.

We're praising God you have been brought together, and we pray He'll continue to bless you with a long, happy, loving marriage - filled with memories as beautiful as the day it began!

Monday, March 19, 2007

City Museum Visit

I stayed home this weekend to attempt to catch up on sleep - even though I would have liked to have been about 4 other places. It was a weekend packed with weddings, ordinations, and reunions. But, even while remaining in this area, my weekend was quite adventurous.

As mentioned before, the Saturday before each 3rd Sunday our church members get together for a "social night", and this weekend we were blessed to meet in the home of Brother Paul and Sister Barb. I failed to take pictures, but it was a fun night night of board games and dominos. I was very happy to discover that one of my cousins has been staying in the area while being trained for work, so he and his girlfriend were able to accompany me and meet many of the church members. Here's Whitney Weber, Jacob Webb and me.

Even though Jake had been in the area a few months, he had not seen many of the St. Louis sites. So, I thought it would be fun to head to the City Museum. If you come this way for a trip, be sure to visit this place on the north side of downtown St. Louis. It is a bit expensive, in my opinion, yet still worth the price... especially if a family or a couple were to spend all day there. It is open late on Friday and Saturday evenings, so it is also great place for dates or courting couples and families to visit.

It's difficult to describe the place. So, you'll have to see it to fully understand. But, their slogan tells the story: Where Imagination Runs Wild. Here are a few pictures of the room right off the main entrance. And, the people in the picture will provide some perspective. Life size whales, huge aquariums, gorgeous mosaics on every surface... You feel like you're entering a mystical wonderland. (Double click to enlarge for a better view.)

The attraction that keeps the kids (of all ages) coming back are the tubes, tunnels, coils, caves, slides, and obstacles that have been created throughout the building. Here is a shot of one of the tunnels (with windows) that peeks out from the shimmery silver ceiling. One never knows what he will encounter just around the corner, and visitors are easily entertained for hours. A huge jungle gym for children and adults. (You will just want to remember to wear comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes....and maybe a pair of knee pads, if you have them! This is not a dress-up or fancy place, and the visitors are just as diverse as the museum offerings.)

I haven't even begun to describe the architecture exhibit, Everyday Circus, rollerblading park, Art City, glass blowing demonstration, Toddler Town, or 4 story slide... let alone the many other features of the museum. Check out the web site for more details. It's especially difficult to explain the exterior of the museum also (known as MonstroCity) - as it is a conglomeration of steel and stone structures, slides, fences... along with a bus and plane... at various heights in the air. All on which to CLIMB and explore. Acrophobics, BEWARE of this part. The entire museum is just odd... and beautiful... and ugly... and ever-changing... and in progress... and fascinating.

We also visited the newest part of the City Museum, the World Aquarium. It included several underwater animals, a few land animals, ...and many "touch areas" where you could touch certain ones on display. (I'm very thankful for the anti-bacterial cloths that the museum provided in this area.)

Can you guess what else we were able to see?
You betcha. Two adorable grey chinchillas. Since all of this nonsense began on my blog, I've had three friends write to say they've seen chinchillas - for the first time - at a zoo or pet store, and Sister Barb reported that they were shown on a talk show at the end of last week. What a week for chinchillas! Unfortunately, the cute little critters were not in the "touch areas" so we could not hold them.

Hope many of you will be able to come to St. Louis to see this interesting site - and visit me!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Not By The Hair of My Chinny- Chin- Chilla

Everyone seems to laugh when I say I'd like to have a chinchilla. Not on a coat. But in my hand. Or, in a cage in my house. Or, sitting on my lap. Have you seen anything as cute as this? Maybe you have. And, maybe you're not so keen on mice and rats and rodents... and maybe this reminds you of a rodent. But, it doesn't do that for me. I just reminds me of cute. And, soft.

Here are some stats that I've discovered about these creatures:
* Each chinchilla follicle produces more than fifty hairs, while human follicles usually produce only one.
* Chinchilla do not attract skin parasites (such as cats and dogs do with fleas) because the parasites will suffocate in their fur.
* Chinchillas are the land mammal with the highest density in fur, with over 20,000 hairs per square centimeter.
* Chinchillas can jump 5 feet over their own height.
* Chinchillas don't sweat.
* Chinchillas have a wide variety of coloring.
* Chinchillas "bathe" in dust or ash to remove the moisture that collects in their thick fur.
* Chinchillas can hear a wide range of pitches, very close to a human's hearing.
* Chinchillas can be taught simple tricks by using voice commands.

Have you ever felt a chinchilla? It is the softest thing I have have ever touched. Would you ever consider having one of these, or is this not your type of pet? If you're liking these at all, you should check out this photo page of chinchillas & friends. With two cats who would just love one of these as a "playmate", I won't be able to add chinchillas to my farm anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Billy Goat Not-So-Gruff

Only two guesses? Well, despite the low turnout in comments below, I will still post the picture of the animals I'd like to have in my big backyard: these itty bitty goats.

I don't know much about them, but they always catch my eye when I see them. I have no idea if they are of the pygmy or the dwarf variety, so I need to do some research. They're just so cute (to me) in person, and they seem very useful in supplying milk, meat, and hair (for yarn) to many families around the world. Having a goat doesn't seem like a baa-aa-aad idea, right?

This one was, by far, the friendliest. He came up right up to the fence to make friends (or beg for food.)

I'd also like to have chickens, one (or more) of these huge Flemish Giant rabbits, and a chinchilla (inside, of course.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

As mentioned in yesterday's post, Lydia, Tasha and I had a fine old time driving to and from the Sacred Harp convention on Saturday. We really enjoyed the old houses - even the rundown ones - and especially the farm animals.

We were stopping (safely) alongside the road and parking at the end of lanes to see close-up views of the animals. I really miss the country, and I especially enjoyed looking in on one pen. I wish I had some of these particular animals in my back yard, but I don't think the city government will allow me. Anyone want to take a guess at what this animal might be? (Some of you have seen me admire these animals before - especially on long church trips in TX.)

Feel free to weigh in with a comment. I'll try to post a picture or two tomorrow afternoon which will reveal the answer. If I were to start a farm, these would be the first addition to my current collection of two cats and innumerable dust bunnies.

Do you have a favorite farm animal you'd like to add to your imaginary (or real) farm?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Join In A Song With Sweet Accord

This past weekend, the 22nd Annual Missouri State Sacred Harp Convention was held outside of Pinckney, MO. The setting as very close to the well known Katy Trail, and the scenery on the drive to the St. John's United Church of Christ was gorgeous. Huge trees, steep hillsides, crooked creeks, large farms and pastures, small towns with old storefronts and homes, winding roads... It will be an even more beautiful drive this summer and fall.

Because I have been dealing with a cold and didn't have much energy on Saturday, I was not able to take pictures of everything that I had hoped to share here. But, I have included a few pictures here of the "class." I have not yet seen the official record, but there were well over 150 singers in attendance on Saturday. My hearing (and singing) was inhibited by my illness, but I could still tell the singing was beautiful and ringing throughout the old church building. It was a true joy to spend so much time with our friends from the St. Louis Shape Note Singers, visit with Sacred Harp friends we've met at conventions, and meet even more new friends who we hope to see in the future. There were visitors from all over the country - at least fifteen states. Even one from Canada!

Looking through the altos to the trebles, and looking through the basses to the tenors.

For those of you who aren't extremely tired of my posts about Sacred Harp and who have not been to a singing, you might consider viewing the video below. This is a video of 3 songs being led in the Alabama Capitol Rotunda in 2006. While you won't see much of the class, you will clearly see the leaders for the 3 songs. You may wonder, "Why is the leader turning all around in circles?" The woman who leads the first selection, for example, makes a effort to lead in each part as it enters the fugue portion of the song - even when the group sings through the songs the first time in the shape notes (fa, sol, la, and mi.) You will also see her turn around to indicate to the class that she'd like to skip to the 3rd verse.

She leads one of my "new favorites" in Sacred Harp, #373 Homeward Bound. This is followed by #137 Liberty and #171 Exhortation, a song we sing often in the St. Louis group.

I enjoyed a wonderful day of song and fellowship (and delicious food!), and it was especially nice to spend the time with Lydia and Tasha while we drove to and from the convention in such nice weather. Thank you, ladies, for being so kind to help me and keep me encouraged while I am not feeling well.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Grateful for Grandpa

Late Saturday morning, my grandfather, Mr. Sheldon Rasho Stremmel, was called home to heaven.

Born on August 14, 1907, he is the son of Charles and Estella Stremmel and the older brother to two sisters, Fern and Frances. He was a devoted and loving husband to my grandmother, Ruby Margaret Webb, and she preceded him in death exactly ten years ago this week in March 1997.

He is the father of Norma, Richard, Dennis, and Roger. He is the father-in-law of Charles, Billie, and Phyllis. He is, to so many of us, Grandpa... Great Grandpa... Great Great Grandpa. To even more, his nieces, nephews, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and church friends, he is simply "Shed."

A long-time member of Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist Church (Astoria, IL), Grandpa was a man of few words. But, his actions spoke volumes... about his love for his wife, his family, and his Saviour.

Our entire family realizes we had a great blessing in having him in our lives for such a long time. There are so many memories to recall about my stays over at Grandma and Grandpa's house: Grandpa showing me the iodine that he placed on his cuts, timing how long it would take for Grandpa to fall asleep after sitting down to watch TV, enjoying Lawrence Welk and Andy Griffith together, helping him out in the garden, picking strawberries and going mushrooming, watching him walk around the yard with his hands behind his back, listening to him recall the old days back in Astoria when he "set up house" with Grandma, just sitting and holding hands,... and especially the three little clicks he'd make just after kissing me hello and goodbye each time I saw him.

I'm sure going to miss those clicks... and kisses... and Grandpa.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Boldly Unto The Throne of Grace

There are many in need at this time, and I would appreciate it if you would keep these individuals in your thoughts and prayers:

* Jimmy Zimmerman, brother of Brother Jeff, who has been battling cancer. Was admitted into the hospital this week in an attempt to lessen his pain, run even more tests on his brain tumors, seek out a new treatments for tumors on his torso, and understand his recent rapid decline in certain abilities. Please remember Jimmy, his parents, his brothers and their families, and the doctors - that all may stay encouraged during this fight.

* My grandfather, Sheldon Stremmel, who was admitted to the hospital Tuesday evening. He became dramatically weaker in recent weeks, and doctors discovered his problems were due to large gall stones and an infection. Grandpa is 99 (will be 100 in August), and the doctors worried what the necessary surgery would do to his condition. We are thankful that Grandpa is now recuperating but still extremely weak. And, the doctors also fear that his liver may be failing. Tests results are to be returned soon. Please remember Grandpa, Uncle Roger (who cares for him daily), Dad, Aunt Norma, Uncle Dick, Aunt Frances (Grandpa's sister), and all of our family, in addition to the doctors.

* The family of Walter "Wally" Wolff. Wally is my cousin's step-father and a loving, Christian man who has been an extra uncle to Aaron, Ketra, and me. Wally passed away after preparing for bed Monday evening. Please remember our "Aunt Phyllis", our cousins, their families, Wally's children, and their families during this time of missing Wally. While their sorrow is great, they know Wally is having a wonderful time in heaven praising his Father face to face.

Last night, we did not hold our usual worship services. Instead, we took a great deal of time making requests for prayer. It seems it is a trying time for many of us, surrounded by family and friends who have experienced a loss or who are in much physical and emotional pain. What a wonderful gift it is to be able to share these concerns with our loving brothers and sisters as we had a special time of prayer with each other. What an even more awesome gift it is that we can speak directly to our Saviour through prayer!

While the day seemed dim, we also know how much we have to be thankful for. Blessings to our left and right. In family. In friends. In jobs. In our country. In our safety. In our relationship with God. Even in the weather. Spring seems like it has arrived just overnight, bringing rain, then sunshine and warm temperatures to us here in St. Louis area. It brings thoughts of new beginnings, especially as so many friends are preparing for a new beginning in their own lives after God so providentially brought each couple together this past year. So, we also ask that you please remember George and Liz, and Asa and Karla this weekend... and Luke and Morgan in two weeks... and Dani and Gary in July. We pray these couples are not only blessed with a wonderful celebration on their special wedding days but, more importantly, are blessed in their lives together long after the ceremony. We pray they will be surrounded by love, encouragement, and support. We pray they will be role models for those following them in marriage. We pray their households will serve the Lord and God will be the center of their union.

Amazing Grace, The Movie

After enjoying a delicious lunch at Jeff and Tracy's on Saturday afternoon, Dad and I started our adventures by heading to the St. Louis Mills Mall, right by my workplace. We were heading there to see the film that had just opened the night before, Amazing Grace. The film focuses on the life of Parliament member William Wilberforce who made it his life's work to abolish slave trading in England. I had many "favorite parts", but the portion that keeps sticking with me is the second time we see John Newton in the film. As you surely know, John Newton penned the words to the hymn Amazing Grace. He was also the pastor of the church Mr. Wilberforce attended in his youth. By the second time we see Mr. Newton, Mr. Wilberforce is in great need of encouragement and Mr. Newton's physical health had greatly declined. But, despite the trials - even blindness, John Newton provides spiritual encouragement so that William Wilberforce may fight on. To the contrary of his physical condition, John Newton explains that he was blind while participating so long in the slave trade industry but he has been blessed by God to clearly see - both the evil of what he has done and now what he must do.

The film is based on actual events but, of course, is supplemented with dramatic dialogue. It probably won't win an Oscar. But, Dad and I enjoyed it very, very much. In fact, when I clapped at the end of the movie, others joined me. (That is not always the case.)

If you have the opportunity to find a break to catch a movie at the theatre and you enjoy movies about historical events, I encourage you to see this one. Rated PG, it would a be a good movie to see with older children who understand the concepts. It is a rare situation where one can go to the movies these days and not worry about what will be said or shown. While the tragic details are provided in how slaves are transported across the sea, the movie is a good history lesson, suitable for all.

If the parents of young children came to you and explained they were wanting to start a "movie library" full of suitable movies for their children and family - now and in future years, are there movies you would suggest as "must haves?"