Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Thou Art Graven in My Hands

I took my usual morning walk along the sea wall of the Elizabeth River. The walk begins in Olde Towne, with the gorgeous old houses, each one an individual jewel unlike all the others. Next comes Crawford Bay, usually with diamonds dancing on the very gentle waves as the sun shines on them. The sailboats sway in place where they are moored and the skyline of Norfolk is just across the water.

My favorite part of the walk is when I’m meandering along near the actual sea wall. Portsmouth is a gritty, working port and has been so continuously for over three hundred years. No contrived “re-creation” like those in New York City and Mystic, CT for us!

A paddle wheel passenger ferry takes commuters and visitors back and forth to Norfolk all day. I love the red Matson Company tugboats which chug, chug, chug along pushing coal barges and other vessels. I have a passion for the red tuggies and even have a model of one in my kitchen. The Titan dry dock usually echoes with the sounds of the chipping and grinding of a ship in re-fit. Huge cruise ships float by.

I pass the Lightship Museum and the Mexican restaurant. I finally double back around at the police station and head toward home around the same way, taking advantage of being along the water as much as possible.

The only items which I carry as I walk are my keys. My hand started to ache this morning as I was nearing the end of the walk. I realized that for some reason, I had been gripping the keys very tightly, so tightly that the imprint of one of the keys was left in my palm.

Did you know that the Lord holds on to you and to me just like that? It’s true! Isaiah 49:15-16 tells us, “But Zion said, The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me. And the Lord answered, ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of) you on the palm of each of My hands.’” (Amplified Version) The King James version paints even a clearer picture by saying, “Thou art graven in my hands.”

The Random House Dictionary defines “graven” as deeply impressed upon or firmly fixed. God holds each of us so tightly that our impression is firmly fixed into His hands. When you have one of those days when you feel forsaken and forgotten, remember that our times are in His Hands. In those hands are not only the imprints from Roman nails, but also our own individual imprints, because he’s holding us that tightly.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anne Ortlund and the Parting of the Red Sea

Did I ever tell you about the big miracle in my life? My loving God does quiet miracles all the time. However, I think God only gives the grace of “parting of the Red Sea” moments to weak people like me who occasionally need signs and wonders. Oh, unbelieving and perverse me! However, I accept these moments with the deepest of gratitude to a gracious Lord who knows my every weakness and even the number of hairs on my head.

I was in a job that was consuming me. One day I had made a mistake with the payment of a credit card, which I was able to correct at the bank in person. On my way to Towne Bank, I heard a voice in my head say, “You are worthless. Drive your Jeep into that tree.” I had no intention of doing so, but I realized that I needed some help.

On that very bad day, I came home to a newsletter from Renewal Ministries. Renewal works with pastors, missionaries and other church workers who need refreshment and a new perspective. Anne Ortlund and her late husband, Ray, founded Renewal Ministries. You can learn more about the ministry at

Ray was the pastor of the famous Lake Avenue Church in CA. They are the authors of many books (together and separately), including Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman; Disciplines of the Heart; Disciplines of the Home; Up with Worship; Children Are Wet Cement; How Great Our Joy; Joanna; My Sacrifice, His Fire; Lord, Make My Life a Miracle; Confident in Christ; You Don’t Have to Give Up; etc.

In my early years as a Christian, my husband was deployed a great deal. Submarine op-tempo can be up to 70% of the time at sea. Many the night would find me sleepless and propped up in bed surrounded by a spotted dog, rice cakes, peanut M&M’s and a pile of Ortlund books. Just in case you're confused, rice cakes cancel out the calories of M&M's, as does Diet Pepsi.

The “Disciplines” books are available as one volume. I am on my third replacement of this book and the third copy is getting pretty raggedy, rather Velveteen Rabbit-esque. Anne Ortlund has been my boon companion during a lot of long nights.

Another different and loving voice that tough day said “Call Renewal.” I couldn’t shake it. I thought being mentored by Anne Ortlund would be only for the super spiritual, which I was surely not. I read another blog of a much-published author who stated she had waited 7 years to meet with Anne.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss, a mighty woman of God and founder of Revive Our Hearts Ministries, has shared on her radio broadcast that she also met with Anne and Ray before starting her ministry. You can learn more about this ministry at

God parted the Red Sea for me in January, when I was privileged to spend 2 ½ days with Anne in her home in Newport Beach, CA being “Titus 2:3-4’d”, if you know what I mean. Me. Flawed me.

I have a confession to make. The love of God had never been particularly real or present to me. I’ve never doubted that there was a God. Since age 24, I have believed that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. The problem was that I used to see myself as being so incredibly damaged that while God could love all mankind in a general way, I did not see the triune God as loving me individually.

This is a big lie of Satan, a very successful ploy he uses with many Christians. No matter what we underline in our Bibles, we often do not see who we are in Christ Jesus. God sees me through Jesus-colored glasses. Nothing I can do personally will ever make me “unflawed” enough to appropriate the acceptance of God, but everything that Jesus did will. Jesus said, “It is finished,” as he died on the cross. At that moment, all of my striving was made as filthy rags and I was accepted in the Beloved.

Anne Ortlund helped me to feel the love of God for me, Annie, personally. He knew the exact miracle needed to help me understand that He sees me individually. Just for me, He would stop Anne from all her other activities so that she could help me see this.

It is a pretty terrific thing to meet your heroine. Do you know what is even more terrific? When your heroine is everything that you hoped she would be and a whole lot more. Anne had just had surgery on her scalp. Twenty eight stitches were needed, yet as you can see from the picture, Anne looked so beautiful in a wig that you’d never know it. She had recently lost her husband of many years and was giving sacrificially. Anne was a gracious, wonderful hostess who poured herself into us.

I speak with Anne from time to time and now call her my friend. I left my difficult job and the painful worship situation that came with it. We finally were released to attend Kempsville Presbyterian Church full time, where we had found respite during the dry years.

Just to show us that He is still personally interested in me, God showed me another little glimpse of the miraculous. The first worship song at our new church was called, “I Am Free.” Although she and I had never specifically discussed the church we longed to attend when we visited Anne, God confirmed that we were in the right place when I recently discovered that the same worship leader who sang “I Am Free” is Anne’s nephew.

God knows me intimately and personally. He knows you the same way. And you can take that to the bank.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Guest Blogger

I can't believe they did this to me. Just when I had developed a really nice fragrance by rolling around in the backyard and stealing the Noxzema face cloths out of the wash. I had just gotten
my fur into condition. They took pictures of this abuse. Can you believe it? Someone call PETA.

My parents stink. They're abusive. I'm not speaking to either of them. Little Bit

Saturday, July 19, 2008

J. P. Morgan Didn't have a Clue

We enjoyed our trip to New York City right up to the last minute. As we were checking out, our bellman noticed the Bibles we were carrying. Greg let us know that three Guttenberg Bibles were on display at the Pierpont Morgan Library. We checked our bags at the hotel and took a cab cross-town to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Johannes Guttenberg is the father of the movable printing press. Only 48 of the Bibles he produced in the 1400’s are currently in existence. Three very good copies are in the Pierpont Morgan Museum, two printed on paper and one on vellum. Printing Bibles was his life’s work. You can learn more about the Morgan here:

I was in awe of the three Guttenbergs on exhibit, the first ever mass-produced vs. copied by hand by scribes. I switch Bibles each year. I generally use paperback Bibles, because I write, highlight, underline, make notes and just make a mess of mine. That's a picture of my Bible up there with the page open to one of the Psalms I have a tooled leather cover with handles that I use to hide all the mess, since I don’t write all over that.

I held my Bible to my chest and tried not to cry as I contemplated the differences between my Bible and those that were displayed. The Bibles on display were exquisitely rendered with gorgeous type and initial capital letters. Each Bible was unmarked in any way. They were, however, also protected by glass, untouchable, terribly costly in their own time and priceless in ours.

My Bible, a paperback Amplified version, cost under $20, although it is priceless to me. Almost everyone can afford a Bible today. Any church would gladly provide a seeker with a free Bible. The Gideons give them away to motels. How thankful we should all be for the great availability of Bibles in our time. We have any number of direct translations, paraphrases, parallel Bibles with several versions in one, Bibles on CD and every kind of study aid imaginable. Many of us do not take advantage of these materials, but they are there for us to explore the Word of God in all of its richness and complexity.

I moved on to view J. P. Morgan, the financier’s, office. The Pierpont Morgan Library is his former residence. The office was vast and imposing with a soaring ceiling. The walls were covered in red flocked velvet. Treasures lined the walls and chair rails, from ancient Egypt to ancient China and the European Renaissance. It was breathtaking.

What do you imagine, in the midst of such treasure, that J.P. Morgan gazed upon as he sat at his desk working? The painting of Madonna and Child by a Medeival artist and monk? A priceless Chinese horse figure? A Renaissance tresure? J.P. Morgan looked at a very large portrait of himself over the fireplace in front of him.

J.P. Morgan apparently spent time looking at himself. He had many, treasures, but I think he might have valued them more for their monetary value than for their history or for what they represented. Let’s not make that mistake.

It is easy to make old J.P.'s error. The Bible talks about idols that are man made and have eyes that can’t see and ears that can’t hear. Our homes can become idols, our careers, our exercise time or anything else that comes before our time with God.
Let’s take our focus off making ourselves and our possessions our idols and seek us first the kingdom of God. Let’s look instead to the Author and Finisher of our faith.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lords glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord. Corinthians 3:18

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Bridge Thing, Part Deux

I told you all about my bridge phobia in my post about Mystic, CT. Ssssssh, don’t tell anyone, I’ll get embarrassed. My biggest bridge fear is walking across a really high one over water. Get ready for what comes next…

When I got to New York, I decided it was time to take positive action, so I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Really. You know me. I never do things half way.

We took the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge stop and walked back across the bridge to Manhattan. It would be difficult to convey how terrified I was, but FB said it was like holding on to a vise grip lined with a sponge. If you ever wanted to see me completely terrified, that is a picture of me holding on to the park bench for dear life about halfway across.

Just went I got past the midpoint, I was struck the beauty of seeing Lady Liberty to my left and the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings to my right. While I didn’t exactly relax, I was at least able to appreciate the wonder of what I was seeing.
Fear not, for lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the age or the Brooklyn Bridge,whichever comes first.

Black Point

Black Point. Just the sound of that name brings to mind the mingled summer smell of honeysuckle and brine in the air, with Long Island sound’s gentle waves touching the shore. When I think of it, I get an ache in my throat and the tears come for what had been and is no more. Osprey Street and a knotty-pine paneled beach cottage where ribbons won swimming were tacked to the walls and the ticka ticka sound of Taffy padding across the kitchen floor looking for a Milk Bone hand out echoed from the kitchen.

I was the first grandchild in the family, so I had not only loving grandparents, but doting great aunts and uncles who loved me like a grandchild, too. My beloved great aunt Kit was one of those surrogate grandparents. She and her husband, my godfather Lenny, were so very kind to me when I was little. Kit was slim and elegant and Lenny had a shaved head before it was cool. He’d get mahogany brown by mid-summer and hang out on the small beach with his friends.

I was a precocious child. I talked early and haven’t stopped since. Lenny liked to show off all the cute things I could do when I was two and three. One day, I’d had enough and remained mute while he coached me. “Annie, tell them how old you are.” “Annie, tell them your address.” I picked up my plastic bucket and headed toward the water shaking my head saying, “Poor Lenny.”

I dearly loved Kit and Lenny’s three daughters; Joan, Peg, and Claire. They were attractive girls who were in high school and college when I was little. Joan was the smart, acerbic one with a quit wit. Claire was the sweet one with a quirky smile. And Peg was the beautiful one.

To a pre-schooler, Joan, Peg, and Claire were the ultimate in cool and glamour. They had pretty hair and pretty clothes. They used Noxzema to wash their faces. I still use Noxzema just for that reason. I think of them every time I wear a hair band. I was the flower girl in Claire’s wedding when I was six. I still remember dancing with my father to Blood, Sweat and Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” at the reception.

Joan, my father’s cousin, met my mother’s brother, Jim, during my parent’s wedding. They married, making their children both my first cousins and also my second cousins. I would often stay with them when I was small. I’m sure I must have been annoying parading around in Joan’s shoes while singing “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” 9,431 time, but they never let on.

I read “Hide and Seek Fog,” my favorite childhood book, at Black Point. I won a costume contest at the Black Point Beach Club once in a cool muumuu my mother made me. Black Point was blueberry muffins, stopping at farm stands for tomatoes and swimming out to the floating dock. It was putting my bathing suit through the old wringer washer, hanging it on the line and rinsing sand off my feet. Everyone in that place meant the world to me.

My parents divorced. I moved away from Connecticut. The girls all married and moved away. I’d see Joan from time to time and received news about the girls from my grandmother. I moved even further away to Hawaii. My grandmother died and even the news stopped. Due to a series of sad events outside my control, I lost touch with “the girls.”

I’ve been traveling lately with Farmer Boy and his work takes him to Groton, CT, about twenty minutes from Black Point. I finally summoned the courage to return there with him. I was unsure if the cottage on Osprey was still in my family at all or how I’d be received if it was. My longing to see it all again was too great, so I drove back.

I looked at the cottage from my car. It had been improved, but was still the cottage of my childhood. The character of Black Point has remained the same. Although there are a few newly-constructed, vinyl-sided summer rental monstrosities, the multi-generational family cottages with cedar-shake shingles and geranium-filled window boxes still predominate. Black Point has not become homogenized.

While drivng down to the beach for one quick look, I was amazed to see my cousin Peg. I was surprised at how young she looked. I felt tentative at first, but I was very warmly welcomed. She quickly invited me back to the cottage for drinks on the deck. It took Peg just a minute to recognize me, but her husband, Joe, recognized me immediately, even after 30 years.

I learned the sad news that my Aunt (and second cousin) Joan of those “wheels on the bus going round and round days” died last year. She had a hard life. Joan lost one son to crib death, one to suicide and my Uncle Jim when she was a little younger than I am now. She was a breast cancer survivor, but lost a long-term battle with smoking and emphysema when she died of MRSA last year. I know she is at peace now. I’m thankful for that, as well as her many kindnesses to me when was a child.

It is difficult to convey the rush of emotion that suffused me as I walked up those familiar steps. The living room was exactly as I had remembered, right down to the knotty-pine paneling and the red and blue swimming ribbons tacked up high near the ceiling. As I left that night, Peg said to me, “Come back anytime.” I’m not sure if she realized how much it meant to me to recapture a small bit of my childhood, but I wept all the way to dinner.

Peg always was the beautiful one. But can I tell you that I never saw her look as beautiful as she did when she was carefully tending to her disabled son in a wheel chair and welcoming back a wayfarer from a long time ago?
“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned.” Proverbs 31:30.