Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Princesses

I was a bit nervous, a bit apprehensive, but very much full of anticipation last Sunday evening. My friend Lydia and I went through the instructions again out loud: Park in the lot to the right. Go to the gate at the main entrance. DO NOT RING THE BELL ... we will see you. Proceed to security to begin the clearance procedure. We stood outside the tall gate, capped with rolls of barbed wire, looking in at the buildings that sat in front of us. We had no idea what was in store for us, but we believed we were ready because we had covered ourselves in prayer long before this moment.

The security guard was quite friendly. He took our two forms of ID after he had carefully pulled on his white gloves and got his scanning machines ready. He handed us a key to our locker so that we could put in all of our stuff, valuable or not, while we were in the interior of the building. He handed Lydia a security button to attach to her belt, just in case there was an emergency. He explained that if the red button were pushed, no alarms would sound, but help would arrive within seconds and we'd be surrounded by people who would be there to cover us. Then we were told to go sit in the cafeteria and wait for Rosemary.

Several months ago, Lydia had asked me if I would be interested in being her partner in the women's prison ministry at the Grand Valley Institution for Women. I was interested immediately, and as soon as I gave her my answer, we started the process of getting a background police check, etc, and then we waited for our official invitation to attend Worship With Rosemary - the Sunday night chapel service for the inmates.

What happened that night is not easy to explain. I tried to soak it all in, but the experience was so overwhelming that most of the time I just sat in awe of what was going on around me. The room was already busy 15 minutes prior to the start of the service and more women kept coming in. We were told that it was a smaller group than usual, probably because of the hot, sticky weather and the rain that eventually came pouring down outside. Still, there were about 40 women in attendance, I would guess.

We began with some worship songs and then Rosemary, the prison chaplain, asked a question: Who is God to you? Wow. The answers those women gave immediately caused me to reconsider who they were, where they had been and who they were becoming! We sang some more. Rosemary asked more questions. More answers blew me away. I didn't hear the story behind all of the women in that room, but I was told that some of them had come from The Max (maximum security), some from isolation and some for much shorter and less severe sentences. One amazing woman, Ruth, is in there for life. She had killed her husband. She has gone through so much since that time - painful confession and repentance and memories. Now she is a Princess of the King of Kings and is being used as an encouragment and tower of strength for her fellow inmates. During the course of the evening, there were tears as one woman shared her story for the first time ever of being sexually abused. Another woman had to leave the room as she was weeping over the condition of her past. Yet another confessed her anger toward God because He had allowed her 17 year old brother to be killed. One woman acknowledged that her (sexual) violator was caught in a cycle of abuse from three generations past, and when she found that out, she could finally forgive him. She still had to serve her sentence for her sins, but she could forgive the one who started her on this path.

I could go on and on about the stories that we were told, but it was one of those times when you really had to be there to understand the depth of the healing that took place and the power of the Holy Spirit that was working that night. Lydia shared her testimony with the women, sharing her struggles as a teenager with bulimia and how she finally found victory over this when she realized that she was a princess in God's eyes - totally loved by Him! Her encouragement to the women was so evident as all eyes were riveted on her and no one moved the entire time she was speaking. My job (this time) was to cover Lydia in prayer as she shared what God had placed on her heart, so I didn't really have a part in the evening physically. Rosemary emphasized over and over again that more importantly to the women was the ministery of presence rather than the ministry of speaking.

Ministry of presence. Lydia and I have since talked about this often. Ministry of presence. Those women were more blessed by the fact that we had come in from outside the gates to just SIT with them, talk and laugh and cry with them, share a bowl of ice cream with them, talk about our families with them than if we had been preachers of a thousand sermons in that room! Even if we had not said a word (and we didn't speak very much at all, actually), our presence in the room with the women was more important than anything.

Lydia and I can not stop thinking and dreaming about our experience with those amazing women in the prison. THEY know what it's like to rely on God! THEY have come from the depths to the heights. THEY are true princesses, despite the fact that they are living out their sentences in a high security prison. THEY taught me more lessons Sunday night than I could have learned anywhere else.

Pray for those women in the prison. They all have families that they are not with. They have regrets and guilt and sorrow that are unfamiliar to most of us. They have fears about leaving the prison and making it on their own again. Pray that the faith that they have found in the Lord will prepare them and carry them through the rough days inside and outside of the prison gates. Pray that they will be strong enough to reach out to others that they can relate to. Pray that they will believe that they are Princesses because they are Daughters of the King!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And the Giveaway Winner Is ....


Thank you everyone for participating in this giveaway, and thank you especially for all the wonderful suggestions for summer activities! Some of these we already do as a family and some of them are new to us. I look forward to using this bank of ideas for those days when the boys complain that they are bored. I knew I could count on you to come up with some unique ideas and I was not disappointed!

Pauser, congratulations on winning! See me this weekend for your lovely Lavender Hand & Cuticle Salve tin from Watkins!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Father's Day Spice

Fred got the most amazing Father's Day gift from Timothy that their class at school made this year. It's so amazing that I think I've used it more than the father around here! Of course, Timothy makes sure I ask Daddy for permission before I use it each time. This gift is a little jar of spice mix called "Father's Day Spice" and it came with the recipe that I want to share with you. Naturally, you'll be using Watkins spices to get a superior flavor!

Father's Day Spice
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Try it. You'll be hooked and won't want to buy another commercial spice again!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"It's Almost Summer" Giveaway

It's almost summer here in our neck of the woods and that means that the kids will be done with school and our holidays will begin! Having three very active little boys here who like to get up early and stay up late and run non-stop between those two times can be very exhausting for any mom, let alone a 43 year old woman who would love to sleep in during summer vacation! Since I can't sleep in and I can't take afternoon naps (what are those things again?!) and I probably won't be able to just curl up with a book whenever I want (not that that has happened much in the past few years anyway), I need to find other ways to relax, even if it is only momentary. How do I do that? With lavender!!

This is where my giveaway comes in. I have a 2.1oz tin of Watkins Lavender Hand & Cuticle Salve to give away to one of my readers. This lovely salve smells soooo delicious and just one whiff of it can start the relaxing that is needed on these action-packed summer days! I love to put this salve on at night, not just on my hands and cuticles, but I also put it on those rough spots on my feet because I love to go barefoot in this warm weather.
How can you win this natural Lavender Hand & Cuticle Salve from Watkins? Simply leave me a comment with an activity that you do/did with your children in the summer that they loved, or an idea for adding some responsibilities to their daily routines that are FUN, but in reality, they are actually helping around the house! Am I fishing for ideas????? YOU BET! You may comment up to three times for three separate entries into the draw (I need LOTS of ideas!!).

Anyone in Canada, the US or Paraguay can enter to win.

Contest will close at 4:00PM Daylight Savings Time on June 29 - my kids' last official day of school and the moment they will be home for the summer.

Contestants may enter more than three activity suggestions (PLEASE), but a maximum of three entries will be valid for the draw. For those of you who lurk and don't want to comment publicly, you may e-mail your suggestions to me privately, knowing that I may refer to some of them on future blog posts.

Good luck! You may start sending your ideas NOW!! Ummm, I mean, you may enter the contest at any time. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I'm missing Angela today. I made salmon patties and it made me think of her. She would have been proud of me, I think.

Some of you have heard my Angela stories before, but for those of you who haven't, I'll share a bit about this 90-something woman who had a great impact on me as a teenage girl and beyond. Liz, Karen and I were introduced to Angela by my mom who used to take her Meals-on-Wheels. Angela was in her 80's at the time, lived on her own and was able to see only with her periferal vision so she would ask Mom to thread some needles for her every so often when Mom would drop off her meals. She mentioned one day that she wished she knew of a girl that could come help her. Mom told her that she knew of three girls. Guess who?!

We started going to Angela's house once a week for an hour to thread needles, read her mail, and maybe make a bowl of Jell-O. We got paid .50 for that hour - but it was usually with a beautiful fifty-cent coin, so it was worth it! That was about all we could handle as 11-12-13 year olds. That one hour a week gradually turned into several hours and several days and even though we groaned about going, we didn't believe Mom anymore when she would keep telling us that Angela was going to die soon and then we wouldn't have to go anymore. Year after year passed, and Angela was as alive as ever! Our responsibilities changed, though. We would still thread needles and read mail, but we also cooked and cleaned and learned about all the saints in the Catholic church and how to make corn silk tea and (poisonous) poke berry jam and tuna patties. We made rum biscuits and honey cookies and tapioca pudding. We cleaned toilets, cut toenails and filed teeth (well, one of us did that!). We accidentally dumped holy water, unintentionally wiped Latin blessings off the front door and haphazardly fixed broken rosaries. We patched cotton stockings for the 87th time, rolled hair balls to put back on Angela's head and made our own envelopes to mail recycled Christmas cards. We painted black leather shoes outdoor-house-paint green, along with a matching black leather purse and a fabric belt from a cotton frock (one can't go to church without wearing something summery and bright, now, can they?). I drew the line at painting the bottoms of her cooking pots with that same flat, pukey-green house paint, though!

Ah yes. Angela was a character, that's for sure! She had a way of lying on her porch glider and belching so loudly that it would scare the daylights out of you! She memorized her grocery list alphabetically and then called it in to the Supermarket downtown Doylestown for delivery. The only problem with that was that she didn't always remember what she had tried to write on her list, so we'd be sitting next to her shouting the next item to her so that she could hear, and then repeat it to Dave, the Supermarket man. By the time Angela told him the item, I'm sure he had heard us shout it about 3 or 4 times already.

I continued to work for Angela through my high school years and on into college. Mom still promised me that Angela would die soon and I wouldn't have to go. I still didn't believe her. I continued past college graduation and several years more until at the age of 97, Angela's family finally convinced her (or not) to give up her independence and moved her into a nursing home. I continued to visit her until I moved to Phoenix, about 12 years after I met her. Angela did pass away at the age of 99 after I had moved away, and I would never have believed this ten years prior, but I missed her. I still do. I would love to sit down and talk with her again and listen to her stories and humor her by recycling the strings from potato bags, saving the plastic sleeves that soda crackers are packaged in and collecting dandelion leaves for her tea.

So many Angela Stories have impacted my life. There are way too many to tell here, and honestly, they are much more entertaining to hear in person. Sometime you can ask me in person about the time she wanted me to make her a brasier that she could adjust with her fingers that had no feeling from the knuckles down.

Some day I may be an old lady with stories to tell, odd ways of doing things and curious behaviors that make no sense to teenagers, but if I am an old lady some day, I want to be like Angela. I'll try not to belch when other people are around and I'll make sure that I get some dentures instead of relying on my three good teeth. I will wash my hair more than once every two months and I will refrigerate my leftovers instead of storing them on top of the fridge. I may call my "girl" Toots, just to be like Angela. And if I am still making my own tuna or salmon patties, by golly, you can be sure I'll be frying them in PURE LARD, because at that age, it really won't matter any more! Making those salmon patties the other day brought back special memories of my years with Angela, but patties fried in cooking spray just didn't taste like hers!