The gift of dreaming

“If God cares about us and delights in us and therefore cares about the things we care about as a Father cares for the joy in His children, then we can exhale…He put the very ability to long in my soul. He gave me the gift of dreaming so I could have vision in this life.”–Sarah Mae, Longing for Paris

woman on beach
woman on beach

Summer is in full swing here in Missouri, with 3-digit temps some days, making even my husband Ray who hates snow long for cooler days. I look longingly at my friends’ beach pics on Facebook, their pretty painted toenails in the sand. The beach is my place of peace and refilling, and I miss and crave it in my soul.

When I was a child, every summer our family took vacations at the beach in Florida. My home town of Valdosta, GA, is about the last stop you can make in Georgia before you see that “Welcome to Florida” sign.

Several times we went to the idyllic Jekyll Island in Georgia, as my dad’s Civitan Club conventions were held there. But we also tried other beaches in Florida, such as Daytona and Panama City, where the current is so strong that you feel as if you’re going to be sucked right under the surface of the waves and carried out to sea, forever lost.

purple sky and ocean
Ocean

At the beach, my usually reserved father, a workaholic in his home business as a CPA, finally relaxed. He’d drink some beers, looking out on the ocean at night under the moonlight, and he’d actually laugh–a rare event. And when he relaxed and laughed, my mother–an overweight, stressed-out, usually screaming woman on the verge of madness–would laugh, too, and they might even hold hands on the patio. One time we kids actually saw them kiss, and I was shocked as they never did this at home in front of us. We all giggled. 

During the day, we’d head for the beach, my mother making us slather our bodies with sunscreen, and my older brother Greg yelling, “Last one in is a rotten egg!” as he dove with exuberance in the waves. One year on the beach, Greg got stung on the foot by a jellyfish; they seemed to be everywhere in the water and on shore that year. While the sting was painful, he recovered and was okay.

jellyfish Image source: Pinterest-gacpr.com
jellyfish
Image source: Pinterest-gacpr.com

Another year, we thought that Greg had drowned to death, as the strong current and a giant wave suddenly snatched him underneath the sinister surface. I recall the frightened calls of my parents, “Greg! Greg!”, as they frantically searched for him, and suddenly he reappeared out of the ocean like a Loch Ness monster, looking larger than life, but red-eyed and sputtering salty water. Thank God he was alive!

It wasn’t the only time that God spared his life. Years later, he was hit by a drunk driver when Greg was riding a motorcycle. He was in a coma for days, doctors unsure if he would ever wake up and not knowing the extent of any brain or internal injuries. 

Motorcycle accident
Image source: Google

When Greg was in the coma, it was one of the few times in my life that I remember my dad, a strong, prideful, independent man, ever crying. I was at our high school’s prom when the accident happened; or at least, I was supposed to be there. My boyfriend and I were doing what was called “parking” back then, in a dark driveway by the town’s football field, when my boyfriend’s dad drove past us and spotted his son’s car. He’d been driving all over town to find us, to let me know about Greg’s critical accident; my parents had called him to find my whereabouts when I wasn’t at the high school.

Remembering his own high school days, he had a hunch what we might be doing, and found us just by a fluke. Imagine our surprise when he parked on the side of the road, got out of his car, and tapped loudly on the car window, interrupting us!

When he told me that my brother had been critically injured in a car accident, we rushed to the hospital. As I walked frightened into the ICU room, my father was furious with me, demanding to know where I’d been instead of at the prom. At the moment, my “activities” with my boyfriend (which were innocent enough as we’d only been kissing) seemed to be more important to him than my brother laying on his possible deathbed.

IV needle Image source: Google
IV needle
Image source: Google

But then the doctor came in, and my father’s and my mother’s attention turned back to him and their oldest son, Greg. I stared in shock at my pale brother, with whom I was close friends back then. He was hooked up to a lot of machines that blinked and beeped ominously, the IV needle stuck in his vein and the fluids flowing into his limp body. Yet he looked peaceful and asleep. 

My brother Greg (middle), with his beautiful Russian wife (left) and my sister Maria (right)
My brother Greg (middle), with his beautiful Russian wife Ilona (left) and my sister Maria (right)

Miraculously, Greg awoke several days later from the coma, his life spared and although he was shaken, he was fine. He sued the drunk driver, and they settled in court for thousands of dollars. Today he is a successful business man, married to a beautiful woman from Russia with a grown stepson, and is a Presbyterian minister, preaching the gospel of Christ. God protected and saved him for a glorious purpose. 

But I digress…back to the beach vacation days! I’d walk on the wet shore, collecting sea shells to take home, wanting to forever preserve the memory of the beach. Why couldn’t we just stay here? I loved the beauty of the ocean and the sunset, smelling the salt in the air, and hearing the waves as I lay on a towel, warm sand on my feet.

At night, I slept restfully because we kids had played hard, delighted to wake up to the sound of the ocean the next morning and anticipating more fun swimming in it that day after breakfast. By lunch we were famished. Mama usually brought groceries on the trip so that we could save money, and we’d devour our sandwiches and chips. It was hard to wait the hour following lunch; mama claimed we’d “get cramps” if we swam too soon after eating. 

Daddy would usually take us out to eat at one nice seafood restaurant during the vacation, the highlight of the trip for my mother, as well as her being able to swim in the ocean. She had been an excellent swimmer in high school and swam effortlessly as a mermaid in the water.

Mermaid Image source: https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/are-mermaids-realI
Mermaid
Image source: https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/are-mermaids-real

Mama seemed to feel young and sexy again in her one-piece swimsuit, diving under the waves, and letting her greatly freckled skin dry in the sun–but not too long, as she and us kids seemed to burn so easily. We’d usually get burned anyway, and mama would rub Noxema or something to cool down our skin. The fun seemed so worth it!

Never stop dreaming

My dad and my sister Maria had olive complexions and would get dark, and I’d be envious of her, walking around in her itty-bitty bikini, sporting her new tan. But nothing could take away my happiness completely, because we were at the beach, our once a year, only, fun vacation. The stuff dreams are made of.

I’m reading a book right now by Sarah Mae called Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty, and Adventure–Right Where She Is. She’s a wife and a busy mom of young kids; Sarah dreams of traveling to Paris. Me, too–and of every continent!

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”–Susan Sontag

Sarah Mae still hasn’t gone to Paris, even after writing this book! I confess that I am frustrated about this. The reasons are never really clear–the expense? Because she has kids and we all know that moms can’t travel to exotic places? Who really knows why?–but I understand. I’d be traveling all over the world to many nations right now if only I had the money to do so!

Traveling woman Image source: Google
Traveling woman
Image source: Google

Still, what is stopping me from saving every single dime until we have enough money for me (and/or my husband and our kids) to go where we want? 

Sarah writes:

“We give our dreams and longings to God, trusting Him to do as He pleases, knowing He cares about us, our growth, and our total trust in Him…We recognize our longings are in us for a deeper purpose.”

“Use your imagination…go on, close your eyes and dream. What would you do if you could go to Paris (or another place that calls to your heart)? What would you want to see?”

 

I’ve actually been to Paris…twice. Once in high school with my French teacher and our class. It was the first time I’d ever tried champagne or any alcohol, and I confess that I got drunk with my classmates, because I didn’t realize how potent alcohol was! My French teacher, Mrs. Gandy, threatened to kill me if I told my mother and father. To this day, I hardly ever drink, except a glass of sweet, red wine over dinner with Ray once in a blue moon.

I was enthralled with the Eiffel Tower (it’s beautiful, fascinating, and so tall!), the gorgeous art in Le Louvre musem (especially the Mona Lisa; I stared for an hour at her), and I loved dipping the French bread into hot chocolate in the morning!

Eiffel Tower Image source: https://viralrang.com/5-reasons-visit-eiffel-tower/
Eiffel Tower
Image source: https://viralrang.com/5-reasons-visit-eiffel-tower/

And once, speed forward years, I went to Paris again on Ray’s and my 10th wedding anniversary trip. We traveled there briefly by train when we flew to Europe, renting a car and driving all over Switzerland.

We stopped for a couple of days in Italy, France, and an unheard of place called Lichtenstein, which borders Switzerland and Austria. There at a beautiful castle on a high hill, I boldly and secretly buried a piece of paper with a Scripture in the ground, proclaiming the word over the area.

Ray said we couldn’t walk around inside, since it didn’t look open to the public. (We found out later that the Princely family lives there!) After I furtively buried the Scripture in the ground, immediately a strong wind blew through, and I realized I had probably stirred up some demonic principalities of the air! But God’s word had been prophesied over this nation!

French bread Image source: Google
French bread
Image source: Google

In Paris for the second time, I cried seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa again, and I simply couldn’t get enough French bread baked with chocolate and French cheese. In many of our pictures from this trip, you see me standing in line for chocolate bread! Sometimes I’ll buy baguettes and French cheese to recreate the feeling of being in Paris again, an idea of wishing, which Sarah Mae encourages in her book Longing for Paris.

“Grab your kids and hunt for something French! Maybe you will discover the best croissant in your town together. Or maybe it will be the best macaron. Take a side trip to the library and check out The Little Prince or Madeline or The Story of Babar–adventurous tales with a French twist.”

For me personally, it’s not enough to pretend to go to Paris, eating the Americanized version of French bread (the baguette is actually much thinner and longer) with imported French cheeseI want the real thing.

Beth Jones- Jasper National Park, Canada
Me when I traveled across Canadian Rockies by train Jasper Park, Canada

I want to truly travel abroad all over the world! I believe dreaming is a gift from God and He wants to give us the desires of our hearts, just like we as parents want to make our own children happy and laughing.

I believe it’s important to never give up your dreams and to go for them, as much as possible. God can miraculously make the way for them to become true!

woman in bonjour shirt
Woman in Bonjour shirt & skirt

Sarah writes, “When my son draws me a picture, he is so excited to give it to me, not just so that I can see his talent, but because he loves me and wants me to take pleasure in it. This is what God does with us; He wants us to take pleasure in the beauty He’s made and in the gifts He endows us with.”

Never stop dreaming; never give up. Be the girl (or guy) who goes for it!

Woman with camera
Woman with camera

What is your big dream? Remember that NOTHING is impossible with God? To be encouraged to go for it, check out my book, The Cinderella Story: The Power of Dreams, at Amazon, by clicking here.

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Giving thanks to God

Thanksgiving table at our house
Thanksgiving table at our house

I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving with your family and your friends this year. I’m so happy that our three daughters, Heather, Eden, and Leah, our son-in-law Craig, and all our grandkids (missing one!) came this year to eat the Thanksgiving lunch at our home–and we even had guests, Heather’s boyfriend Andy and his three kids, Kelsey, Kaden, and Eian his baby boy. This year we had a new family member join us–Craig’s and Eden’s new baby, Willow. Our family is growing!

Ray made his special, sweet holiday ham that our kids always request. As usual, it was a hit! I made the turkey, the dressing (there’s a debate if it’s called “stuffing” or “dressing”), and crescent rolls and everyone else brought a dish. 

Baby Willow
Baby Willow

 

Thanksgiving 2017 tablecloth, decorative plates, cups, & napkins
Thanksgiving 2017 tablecloth, decorative plates, cups, & napkins at our house

Here’s our oldest beautiful daughter Heather with her boyfriend Andy and his baby son Eian. The baby is about 4 months old and so cute! Heather adores him already. The green bean casserole Heather made for our meal was so good. I was busy cooking and serving, so I forgot to take pics of the yummy food, but people are more important anyway!

Heather, Andy's baby boy Eian, & Andy at our house
Heather, Andy’s baby boy Eian, & Andy at our house

Heather decided to also have a Thanksgiving dinner celebration at her house with her two girls and Andy and his kids. Heather’s table looks so elegant and pretty with the cloth green tablecloth, cloth napkins and napkin rings, blue plates, and decorations. They enjoyed ham, potatoes with gravy, mac n cheese, sparkling cider juice, and buttered rolls. They look happy here. 

Heather & her two girls Andy & his two kids Heather's Thanksgiving meal
Heather & her two girls Violet & Annabelle
Andy & his three kids, Kaden, Kelsey & Eian
Heather’s Thanksgiving meal

Here is our middle beautiful daughter Eden with her husband Craig. Their toddler daughter Piper is a busy bee, so it’s hard to get a picture of her being still!

Eden & her husband Craig
Eden & her husband Craig

 

Piper is a busy bee!
Piper is a busy bee!

Here is Ray with our youngest beautiful daughter Leah, and then me with Leah. I love this pretty plum-colored blouse on her. She made home-made pumpkin rolls for our meal and they were delicious! The kids loved them!

Ray & Leah at our home for Thanksgiving 2017
Ray & Leah at our home for Thanksgiving 2017

 

Me & Leah at our home for Thanksgiving 2017
Me & Leah at our home for Thanksgiving 2017

All our grandkids except one, our grandson Jacob, were able to join us this year for Thanksgiving. We were able to see him today at Eden’s house. He’s so adorable and getting so tall!

Our adorable grandson Jacob
Our adorable grandson Jacob

Heather and Andy bought me some beautiful, fresh flowers for the Thanksgiving family meal. I had been wanting some flowers lately, but didn’t buy myself any. They didn’t know that, but God did! What a sweet surprise.

The beautiful flowers that Heather & Andy bought me
The beautiful flowers that Heather & Andy bought me

 

Orange lily, rose & other beautiful flowers
Orange lily, rose & other beautiful flowers

I’m so grateful that all our family was together this year. The food was delicious, but God and family are what really matter.

“I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”–Psalm 9:1, NIV

How did you celebrate your Thanksgiving? Leave your comments below.

Thanksgiving napkins
Thanksgiving napkins
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The Bonsai Tree

Today I asked Ray to go on a date with me for lunch. I’d planned for us to eat in town, but Ray suggested the Bonsai Grill restaurant in Harrisonville, MO, which his friends Matt and Kelley suggested. While it’s not traditional Japanese hibachi cooking (which was traditionally only used by the samurai and aristocrats), it was still good. 

Bonsai Grill restaurant
Bonsai Grill restaurant

One of the first things I noticed as I walked in were the cute bonsai trees. Now I want one. Ray said I can order authentic ones from North Little Rock, AR, where his dad Charles and his stepmom Sue live.

bonsai tree
bonsai tree

They also had a bigger one in the back of the restaurant by some pretty floral pics.

big bonsai tree
big bonsai tree

I liked some of the other art work on the walls, too. This tree is called the delicate pink sakura, or cherry blossom tree. They blossom throughout Japan every spring. 

delicate pink sakura, or cherry blossom tree
delicate pink sakura, or cherry blossom tree

Below is their picture of a Japanese style house on a lakefront setting. I’d love to stay in this Japanese style house on a lake in Maine, featured in Better Homes and Garden. I love all the open spaces in the house. It looks very peaceful and inviting. 

Japanese house
Japanese house

Ray ordered the hibachi shrimp and I ordered the hibachi chicken. Both came with veggies and fried rice. We ate it with our chopsticks, which is always fun. I only tasted a little of the rice, since I’ve radically changed my lifestyle, avoiding rice, potatoes, and sweets for the most part.

When one of the restaurant’s partners came over to say hello to us, seeing that it was our first time there (which I thought was impressive customer service), he asked if something was wrong with the rice! Of course, I told him no…I wanted to eat it really bad! 

hibachi shrimp
hibachi shrimp
hibachi chicken
hibachi chicken

The restaurant offers something unique that I’d never tasted before called yum yum. It’s a mayonnaise-based sauce (it seems to have mustard in it, too), and it is indeed YUMMY! The partner said he puts it on everything, including the rice. I can see why!

Sometimes I think I should be a food writer/blogger. Wouldn’t it be nice to go around eating at different restaurants, sampling a variety of delicious foods?

This reminds me of the movie Julie & Julia, when Julia was trying to figure out what to do with her life and her husband asked what she was good at and enjoying doing. She said, “Eat! And I’m so good at it!”

Unfortunately, I am so good at eating, too, which is why I’m still trying to lose 20 pounds to reach my ideal weight! (Please pray for my continued discipline to continue walking at the track, eating healthy, and drinking lots of water!)

yum yum sauce
yum yum sauce

Nevertheless, I slathered the yum yum sauce all over the chicken, veggies, and the little bit of rice I ate. This was the best part of the meal to me, other than the seeing the cute bonsai trees and taking pics for my blog.

When I told Ray that I was taking pictures for my blog, he joked that he would’ve guessed. Then he said if I did not take pics, he would’ve taken me to the emergency room for something being very wrong with me.

Ray knows that I love to travel and go different places, take lots of pics, and then share about the traveling and the pics in my speaking and writing

sauce
sauce

Below is a pic of Ray looking like he’s going to fall asleep at the table. Every time I’d talk (which is a LOT!), his eyes would start to half close, except when I began talking about the genres of fantasy and thriller in fiction books, and except when we were discussing his country music singer friend, Daron Norwood, only 49 years old, who tragically was just found dead in his apartment from unknown causes.This just breaks my heart!

Ray hasn’t talked to him or seen him in a couple of years, but it was still a shock to him when he read about it on Fox News. He visited him at his home a couple years ago in Florida. I loved Daron’s version of Sweet Home Alabama, which you can view and hear on YouTube here. Please pray for Daron’s family and friends.

Ray had a long, rough shift at work yesterday with a traumatic call. Hopefully he’ll get more sleep tonight. 

Ray at Bonsai Grill
Ray at Bonsai Grill

Below here I am, enjoying our date at the Bonsai Grill. You can see the larger bonsai tree in the background. I kept obsessing over wanting to take one of the trees home with us, like a stray kitten.

Ray said I can just order one online. He didn’t think the partners, as welcoming as they were to us, stopping to personally talk with us at the little table for two, would allow me to just waltz off with one of their restaurant decorations. (Of course I’d offer to pay for it!)

me, Bonsai Grill
me, Bonsai Grill

The Japanese are such a creative, artsy people. The Bonsai tree is a Japanese art, using miniature trees in containers. The tradition dates back to thousands of years. It originated from the Chinese tradition of penjing (depicting artistically formed trees, plants, and landscapes in miniature). 

Traditionally, the purposes of the bonsai are primarily for contemplation (for the viewer) and the bonsai grower’s effort and ingenuity. Initially, the Japanese used it to decorate their homes and gardens, then it became an art taught by masters.

It is something so valued that it is cared for every day of its life, like God our Father cares daily for you and me.

Bonsais were displayed in palaces by emperors. Eventually, Japanese immigrants brought them to the US. 

A story of a bonsai tells of a councilor to the shogun, and one of his favorite trees was thrown away in the garden to dissuade him from spending so much time on the trees. Despite the servant’s efforts, he never gave up his beloved art form. What, or who, is that important in your life?

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