For Memorial

Three of my four children, along with some of their families, came to our home–Jerry’s and mine–during the Memorial Day Weekend. We had a fabulous time.

DSC_7240

On Friday afternoon Andrew and his clan fought such traffic from San Diego that the typical two-hour or so drive took more than four. Rebecca, Nathaniel, Michael, and Melina made it in on Saturday. Jerry had smoked a turkey on Thursday–best turkey I ever tasted–then on Saturday spent most of the day tending his smoker and grill so that when we sat down for our evening meal we were treated to exceptional ribs and juicy steaks. The kids brought food, Jerry tended the grill, and I cooked some things. We feasted.

But the best part was not the steaks, nor–to be honest– the flags, neither the bunting, or the chocolate cake or Bek’s special oatmeal cookies. The best part was time. There was time to reflect and talk about the meaning of the flags and of Memorial Day itself. Our children gave us, and each other, the gift of time. Time to talk, to laugh, to reminisce. Time to speak of plans, of failures, of successes, of God, of our babies growing now into adults, of death of parents and other loved ones . . .of life.

DSC_7161Those who follow my blog know I am an amateur photographer, although pretty serious about it. However, in these family gatherings at my home I get so caught up in other things that I take very few pictures, then later I’m sad at the dearth of images that are mine. Andrew snapped this one of Mike and me a short while before Mike and Melina left . . .

DSC_7175. . .and on the front deck I preserved this image of Andrew and Shauna. Little more.

Time included us piling into cars and plying the roads, streets and lanes of Crestline and its neighbors for the annual Memorial Day Mountain-Wide Garage Sales. We all scored.

DSC_7247 This antique game bird collectors plate is Bavarian, and is one of five I bought for the grand price of $3.00. Not each. For all! (Told you we scored.) Along the side of the road as we meandered about was a box with free items in it. I was riding with Gentry when I wondered what it might be.

“Do you want it, Granny?”

“Yes.”

Brady jumped out, and popped the box and its contents into the trunk beside our other treasures. Turned out to be a George Foreman large grill with interchangeable plates–about $100.00 new someone said when they checked the internet . . .and so we had waffles from our found treasure. Had waffles on Sunday evening, and they were so delicious we ate such fare again on Monday morning before everyone left.

The highlight of the weekend was Sunday morning when three Buxton families worshipped at a nearby church. As we stood together in the altar area near the end of the service, I was happy for this time, for this Memorial Day weekend.  Thankful.

At the lodge by the lake, by myself on Monday morning at 11:00 I attended a service honoring those who have fallen, who have given their lives. Stories wafted through the air, as did films, and other presentations. Veterans marched with guns, flags were posted and presented. Tears glistened in the eyes of a hundred or so people as we watched and as we listened. We stood and sang God Bless America, then the poignant, unmatchable tones of Taps sounded through the room, and the time was over.

DSC_7213I walked a short distance on Lake Gregory shoreline yesterday, and as I rounded a corner near this log, I saw two turtles. One of them eyed me, so I sat down on a likely spot and communed with the critters for 20 minutes or so. They move slowly, do turtles, deliberately and with no appearance of haste. They have time. So did I.

Challenges Met in Sterling Ways

DSC_6559As astonishing as it was to observe the basic, stark way of outdoor cooking, and serving to the hundreds of UAW delegates in Nairobi, was the lovely, caring, presentation of meals to speakers and other guests. Table clothes were changed for each meal. Later we would see the linen pieces hanging on fences to dry.

IMG_0935These beautiful tents were rented. Used for ladies sessions during the day, at night they became sleeping places for many of the delegates. IMG_0891Junior Aston showed us how to eat this Kenya food called Ugali. It is customary in one’s home to serve the mixture in one large bowl into which everyone dips their hands and pulls off a piece. The process calls for taking one’s thumb to make an indentation, then “sopping” up the sauces that have been cooked with the meat and vegetables. I learned the trick quickly, and quite enjoyed it. The food was tasty; lots of stewed meat with delicious sauces. Pictured below is goat meat we were served. I liked it.

IMG_0980IMG_0978Her name is Carol. She is the national secretary of the Ladies Department, and she kind of took me under her wing. She is the one who in the first service gently pushed me into a group of ladies who were dancing in worship to African music. (I did my best, but in some videos I have seen, I look rather stiff and uncoordinated!) Once, in a moment of affection,  she picked me straight up off the floor. Later I walked up behind her as we headed to the tents, touched her on the arm and acted as though I would lift her. She smiled at me and said in her beautiful accent, “You cannot move a mountain.” I truly love her. Hope to see her again some day.

AUW Compound in Nairobi, Kenya

Here in the United States before our trip to Africa I had only briefly met both Pamela and Bishop Ngota Aston, but I certainly came to know them better during those days we stayed on their church compound, and to admire their ambition, their godly ways, and their accomplishments. I salute them today.

DSC_6557If I understand correctly, it was through his burden that he met with Apostolic leaders across Africa, and that in 2014 the Apostolic Union of the World was founded. He became the leader of the organization whose purpose is to facilitate evangelizing Africa with the Apostolic message. The conference we attended was the third such meeting.

DSC_6573His wife is beautiful, hospitable, a great speaker, singer, and musician. She was reared in a very challenging environment, but by the grace of God has risen from its depth to a place of prominence in Africa, and has attained an excellent education.

The compound is impressive. I was stunned to learn that they have only been in that location for seven years. It is completely fenced, boasting numerous structures with a 24-hour guard at the gate. Encompassed in the wide acreage are the sanctuary, the building I have mentioned in which we stayed, school facilities, and a few other out-buildings. Monies from outside Africa have been supplied and appreciated, but I noted in some of their material that one of their goals is less reliance on foreign aid; instead the development of financial independence

DSC_6175DSC_6556Both the impressive grounds and the buildings are kept in pristine condition. Workers were painting just hours before the beginning days of the conference.

DSC_6582I do not have the exact number of persons who attended the conference, but I suspect the final count to have exceeded 500. Most of these were ministers and their families, including some who had traveled as many as four days to arrive there. Several countries were represented. Although the provisions were simple, it astonished me that every delegate was accommodated on the premises. Outhouses were utilized and hundreds slept on mats on the ground. The food was cooked outside a small room on charcoal cookers; the dishes washed nearby with the assistance of a lone faucet. I highly respect my brothers and sisters in Jesus I met those few days in Kenya. Some of them, I was told, do not have enough food, and some are actively persecuted because they are Christians.

IMG_0892

I posted the following words on my Facebook account a few days after the conference ended. Those were my sentiments then . . .as they are now.

18118856_10210630097123524_7058217673962731151_n

 

I am raw. Lying open in the sun raw. The conference in Nairobi has ended. Forever in my ears will ring the words–Africa Must Be Saved–as I recall the hundreds of black people who swayed to the burden of their song, who fell mourning to the floor, who wept over the millions who are lost in the hills, the jungles, the cities of their beautiful continent. ……….I will never forget the mama of this beautiful baby who sat in the dirt long side a muddy road and nursed her darling child beside the table where she sold bananas and watermelons and corn . . .I will never forget leaders who taught their women not to be bitter as they asked God to give them food for their children. . . I am raw. Lying open in the sun raw.

Safari

The Nairobi area has experienced a significant drought, so the rain that pelted us at the airport on Tuesday evening was quite welcome, even to the animals that roam the lush savannah lands of southern Kenya. We saw hundreds of them during our safari, sleek, healthy, and beautiful. It was a breathtaking moment as we motored down a dirt trail, saw a spotted neck rise above the trees and a face thrust about, so that we could recognize this being  as an elegant giraffe. They are huge animals, ranging from 15 to 19 feet tall.

DSC_6288The landscape itself was magnificent. The weather glorious. In certain places it was safe for us to leave our vehicles and walk about.DSC_6487Indeed one of the rangers offered to guide us to a spot where a crocodile had recently hatched 15 babies.

DSC_6467DSC_6473Zebras seem impossible. They are so fine, so perfectly stripped. Sophistication with a mask on. We saw herd after herd of these beautiful creatures.

DSC_6369This fella fixed his eyes on me as we paused to consider his handsomeness.DSC_6353What of these horns?

DSC_6388“There’s a lion down the way,” someone in another vehicle told us once as we stopped for something. “A recent kill.”  The lion had killed a cape buffalo that lay beside the road. The lion was a few feet away in some bushes, but unfortunately we could not see him well. We did see his chest moving up and down, breathing hard as he digested his tasty meal.

DSC_6497

A bit of a tourist trap threatened to snag us when after walking with a guide down a trail we were led to this little business venture by some ambitious Maasai. We smiled, fingered the trinkets, but I don’t believe any of us bought anything.

Adventure personified–the day of the safari in Nairobi, Kenya on the continent of Africa.

Dancing with the Maasai

Jet lag is a reality as is demonstrated in my own life by the fact that it is now 5:06 am on Tuesday and that I have been awake since 2:00 and up since a bit after 3:00. Our delightful 12-day trip to Africa and Italy  ended on Friday with a smooth landing at LAX. Rebecca and Nathaniel were there to drive us to our home, and when I opened the car door there was Winston, our great dog, wagging his tail–indeed his entire body. Bek had tied a big red bow around his neck, and he wore a sign that read Welcome Home. Jet lag tends to be worse as one travels eastward, as certainly was the case with our entire group our first few days in Nairobi. Many of us were awake for long periods around 2:00 in the morning. East to West typically is less taxing, and I have done very well until this morning. So, since I hate to lie wakeful in bed, I’ve been up drinking coffee, reading, praying, and reviewing this glorious trip.

DSC_6255On Thursday two vans picked up our group of 11 to take us to Nairobi National Park for a Safari. After our drivers had parked the vans and before we entered the safari area, we joined with a group of persons who were entertaining near the admission gate. I first went into a restroom and when I came out, there was Jerry right in the middle of the dancers, who I learned were of the Maasai tribe. Many Maasai live in the Kenya area. As we traveled into the city proper one day on what is considered a main highway I was startled to see numbers of cattle roaming about. I learned then that the cardinal means of living for the Maasai is cattle herding, and that they consider any open ground as fair game to graze their herds.

DSC_6256They are beautiful, tall lean people who are extremely agile as is demonstrated by their high leaping and jumping.

Someone pushed me into the dance group. The dancers circled us and dressed us in their garb and soon began chanting, leaping, and dancing. Jerry and I did our best to dance the African steps, but a couple of videos I have seen of our efforts were little short of abysmal.

DSC_6273DSC_6264DSC_6267The dancers gathered about Jerry at the conclusion of the dances, and as he dug around in his pockets for tip money and considered a shilling of 10, they indicated no. Two 10s would be better. And so it was!

The People, The Market

We’re so attached to Winston, that both Jerry and I were sad when we dropped him off at Rebecca’s, but he’ll be fine, for Rebecca’s dog, Paisley, is Winston’s sister, and they love being together. Sweet Nathaniel loaded our things into his car, and we were off to LAX. Horrendous traffic, but finally we were there. Met up with Steve and his group, checked documents, obtained boarding passes . . .and we blasted into the sky on a magnificent 747. I’ll never get over my amazement that such creations holding 400 people can move with great precision across the globe.

A trip such as this one has been described as brutal, for it calls for virtually traveling from one side of the world to the other. A few details may help you see this. We left LAX at 11:00, flew up the coast to San Francisco. From there a ten-hour to Frankfurt, and from there to Nairobi, an 8 hour flight. By the time we arrived in our room, it was Tuesday evening, and we had left our home 24 hours before. It definitely was the longest time of air travel for me, but I was surprised at how well I felt when I plopped into a comfy bed at midnight. Worth every second of the grueling day.

Before I finish writing of this trip I will endeavor to express my love and appreciation for our hosts here, Brother and Sister Aston Ngota, and will strive to describe to some extent the compound here; the printing room, the beautiful church, the kitchen, the chickens, the building in which we have a 2 bedroom suite, as do Steve and Dearrah. Gracious and godly people.  Brother Aston and his staff picked us up at the airport, midst a mild cool rain; Sister Aston met us at our rooms in which she had placed hot chicken soup, fruit, sandwiches and other fine things.

The picture below is of the building in which we’re staying, looking back on the trail that leads to the kitchen where we have been served delicious meals.

IMG_2617DSC_6224DSC_6230

The conferece does not start until Friday, so we have a couple of days for some sight-seeing. Wednesday the church graciously supplied two church vans, along with drivers to show us around a bit. Highlight of the day was a visit to one of the markets.

An interesting moment occured when the young girl in the white shirt pictured above beside me complained that I did not buy anything from her stall and that I was just taking pictures and would probably charge for them. I am careful of people’s feelings when I take pictures in such situations, and if I am close range to a person and want to photograph them, I ask their permission, as I had done of the lady in the booth to which this young girl referred. Steve joined the conversation and offered to have me photograph them. They declined, then their vibrant friendly brother pulled on a hat and said, “Take my picture.” I did and told him I would send it to him if he gave me his email address. The conversation with all of them became sweet and tender as you can see. Bottom line: We gathered about them, Steve led in prayer, and they have promised to attend one night of the conference.

Thursday plans: A safari!

Holiday “Doings” at the Buxton’s

A few days before Thanksgiving, I opened the closet in the study where much of our Christmas decorations are stored and began setting out boxes. At ground level of our front deck, I ducked my head, walked under, opened a storage door and pulled out a couple of boxes that hold outdoor lights. Never before Thanksgiving had I festooned our home for Christmas. This was a first–a glorious first. I reasoned (in case someone would complain, which they did not) that last year because of my cancer surgery, my Christmas celebration had been limited. I’d make up for it this year.

What a season it has been.

dsc_5169

Rebecca brought up a lighted bare-limbed tree and felt leaves on which each of us could write down one blessing, and at the table before the sumptuous Thanksgiving meal, we read aloud our thanks. (Imperial Sir Winston knows he is a major treasure in our lives, and thus positioned himself.)

dsc_5181dsc_5229

The weather described perfect winter holidays. Cold, foggy and snowy. Some of us piled into our trusty Jeep and drove the mile or so down to the lake, where Andrew and I braved the cold and ice to take pictures.

dsc_5253

A soup so great that at the end my guests were tipping the huge crockpot to scoop out one more bowl was central to the food we served at our “almost annual” neighborhood party the first Saturday of December. Twenty-six relatives and other friends graced our home.

dsc_5259Among them was this gorgeous baby boy who resides with our new neighbors who live just around the corner on the street that leads to the woods.

dsc_5153            Mrs. Claus dropped by, as did the “real” Santa, another new neighbor, but I didn’t get a good picture of him. You know how sneaky Santa can be sometimes

And . . .wonder of wonders . . .for a few hours before Christmas Day was done, each of my children was here in our home.

Before we opened our gifts that Sunday morning, our patriarch led us in a simple time of worship. He wept as he spoke of the love of God, and for the love of his family. Each of us, except the very youngest, told words of love and blessing. Jerry asked Nate to read from Luke the story of the nativity.

dsc_5353

The gifts were distributed by a very skinny Santa. Gentry is 6’3 and almost 19 years old. These are his legs.

dsc_5366dsc_5395dsc_5372dsc_5397

Our gifts to each other were simple, for we are a simple family, and are old enough and wise enough to understand value and deep joy lie in places other than within the contents of beautiful boxes tied up with elaborate bows.

dsc_5418

Even a couple of greats showed up with their dad, Chris, and because we were out of beds, they joined the others who had stretched out camp bags and quilts, or snagged a couch for sleeping on Christmas night.

dsc_5412

dsc_5441Winston (and us) was blessed to have four of his dog cousins join us for the holidays. He liked some of them; others, sadly, he did not. You’re seeing Charley here, who lives with Andrew and his clan in San Diego.

dsc_5406

During all the holidays, no one had won a game of checkers against Cole. He is the family champ. On the day before they were to leave after Christmas, he challenged me to a game. He had beaten me badly during their Thanksgiving visit. Embarrassing, and I had escaped him . . .until now. Guess what! I beat the little rascal . . . whipped the socks off him. He grinned, and said, “Want to play another one, Granny?”

You must be kidding, I thought. “Nope, I think not,” I very wisely said.

The deed is done. The 2016 holiday season is finished, and we have moved seamlessly into the year of our Lord Twenty Seventeen. None of us know what the days ahead hold. Both joy and sorrow will visit us; success and failure; good days and bad ones; laughter and wretched tears. For us, the extended Gerald Buxton family, we put our trust, our confidence, and our faith in God, in Jesus Christ, the righteous

Blessings to you and yours.

An Unexpected Storm and Manzanita

Rain last night, accompanied by such lightening and thunder as we seldom see here in Crestline. Our forecast indicated a slight chance of rain, with no mention of thunderstorms. When I heard the first rumble, I looked across the living room and quizzically stared at Jerry. “Is that thunder?”

It was, and thus began the hours-long visual display of lightening, and the drum-like sound of the accompanying thunder.

Much earlier in the day, well before we drove away for our Sunday morning worship, Jerry and I had walked with Winston. On leaving the house, I saw that the light was glorious, carried my camera with me, and snapped these two shots of the men in my life.

dsc_4738dsc_4755Winston’s placid moments were to give way to sheer panic, though, when in the evening the thunderstorms moved in. He was terrified. Once when he went out in the back, a thunderbolt sounded so loudly, that he hid under the ground-level stairs and would not come up, necessitating my going down and carrying him into the house. He trembled for hours. Nothing we did seemed to calm him. He spent the night under our bed.

The storm raged for hours–throughout the night, and has continued today.

Between showers we took our Monday morning walk, and I snagged a treasure. I had eyed the gem from time to time as we walked between our house and the woods near Thousand Pines Camp; today I decided to take it home with me. The small manzanita branch was red, full of leaves, and when I bent to pick it up, I found it to be slightly attached to the earth on the side of the hill. With one firm tug, I uprooted the woody piece, and began the short drag to our house.

dsc_4764“What are you going to do with that?” (Guess who asked.)

“Oh, I’m not sure. Lay it around somewhere. Look how pretty it is.”

“You’re a sight dragging that branch down the street,” hubby sweetly noted.

dsc_4766dsc_4771Manzanita is beautiful wood, drought resistant, and our variety presents itself with  a rich mahogany color. My piece has small orange leaves and resides now on a table that sets on our front deck. Its final place will change over the course of the months and years, for despite its humble delivery to our home, the formation is suitable to anchor a centerpiece for the most formal of occasions, or to be plopped onto a rustic plank in the back yard for a picnic or a barbecue meal.

dsc_4775

The storm is reluctant to leave. While I have composed this piece sitting on our living room couch with a small fire burning within a few feet of me, Winston is still hiding, for numerous showers accompanied by persistent thunderbolts and flashes of lightening continue to fill the air here in the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains.

A Day of Beauty

A couple of errands I needed to run led me traipsing about the majestic San Bernardino Mountains today, in particular through Crestline and Blue Jay, then into Lake Arrowhead. The weather was perfect; azure skies against which now are flung golden leaves and red and scarlet.

dsc_4633dsc_4638Along the roadway I traveled, a rusted truck stays parked. Today I noted a person near the pumpkins that were in the back of the truck, so I pulled in beside it to say a friendly hello to my fellow mountaineer. As I drew closer I was surprised to see other “persons” in the truck cab. They were of a friendly nature and didn’t seem to mind my snapping a few shots.

dsc_4628dsc_4630A splendid cabin set nearby, and once a young man walked close to me, and asked if I needed help. “No, just taking a few pictures. Thank you,” I replied.

“Have a good day, Ma’am.” He grinned and returned to his work.

Within a couple of hours I was home again. I’m quite interested in our world, try to stay abreast of what’s going on around me, and of course current news reports are jammed with accounts of our election progress. No one asked me, but I’ll tell you anyway; the whole thing is a mess. I’m sad at the depths to which our glorious country has fallen.

So . . .tonight I checked out of all that. Jerry built a roaring fire from eucalyptus wood our son Steve brought to us a few weeks ago. Indeed, it is glorious. The perfect ending to a beautiful day.

evening-fire-2

Days 15 and 16 of 16 Days with the Grands *Preparations for Leaving*

The last two days of this great visit I encouraged the youngsters to be sure they had all their things gathered, so that they would leave nothing behind. I believe I have mentioned before that these grandchildren like to discuss what we will be having for meals. I had told them sometime before that on the 16th day, which would be Tuesday, we would have fried chicken. And so we did . . .along with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans (which they spurned !) and a green salad.

dsc_4564As she had for every meal we ate in the dining room while the youngsters were here, Ella set the table. She always does a fine job, setting the silverware properly and choosing cloth napkins to blend with the dishes we have chosen to use.

Andrew and Shawnna’s plane arrives in the late evening, so arrangements had been made that they would not come to our place until Wednesday morning, which was actually the 17th day.

On Wednesday morning, I did final laundry for them, spruced up the house, urged them to get their bags packed, and helped them remake the beds after I washed the sheets. Jerry had decided to smoke ribs for the big afternoon meal, and Rebecca and Nathaniel would join all of us. The day was warm; we set up tables on the back deck.

. . .and then they were here.

dsc_4571

I became distracted and got few photographs after that.

We spent several hours together before they had to leave, hearing a few of their adventures and seeing pictures of magnificent Hawaii on their computer. Andrew and Shawnna both have quite an artistic flair, and each of them produces beautiful photography. She uses a cell phone. Andrew has a Nikon. The youngsters told of their adventures, and Cole even snookered his dad into a game of checkers.

On the north shore of Oahu, actually within the sea, Andrew had the good fortune of finding a large piece of coral. He and Shawnna gifted his dad and me with this magnificent piece. . .and with this very touching card.

dsc_4576

dsc_4577

And then they were gone.

It is quiet now. Too quiet.