Monday, December 28, 2009

Bird Family Christmas - Happy Birthday Jesus!

Wishing you all a joyous holiday season! We had a great Christmas. Probably the best one in recent years. For once we were all in the "holiday spirit"...which translates into putting up a Christmas tree and decorations. In recent years I just haven't felt like it. Even the house fire at Zip's house on Christmas Eve didn't dampen our spirits. If anything, it made us even more aware of the blessing of family...and more thankful for God's protection on us.

We all got together Christmas morning at the home that Troy, Rachael, Jed and I share. Zip and her children had spent the night so all 10 Birds were in the same place. I'd had great plans of making Christmas breakfast for everyone, but my 3 oldest grandchildren went across the alley to play with friends and my 2 youngest grandchildren went to spend the rest of the morning with their dad. I still cooked pancakes, but for a much smaller group than first planned.

Anyone who knows us knows that our Christmas giving is always low budget. Number one, we don't have a lot to spend. Number two, that's not what Christmas is all about. I'd told my kids not to get me anything...yeah, right.

I got a cool LED camp light and a camp toaster from Troy and Rach. Both very appropriate and appreciated gifts. My old camp light had died, and I used to have a camp toaster but had lost it years ago. The girls gave me a little wooden that I'd given them after one of my Uganda trips :-). Zip, A and Caspian gave me a beautiful plaque that they'd made with A and Caspian's picture on it.

I When I got to the present from Jed I unwrapped it. It was a cute little change purse. Now, I love change purses, zippered pouches, etc. so I was excited. It was something I knew I could use. I could feel something inside so I asked Jed if it was phone bill money. I was surprised to actually find a wad of bills inside. Again I asked if it was phone bill money. He told me to read the note.

I started to cry. This is what it said:

There was $200 in the change purse...a gift of love from my son to me toward me upcoming Uganda mission trip taking place in February. As I was crying and speechless Jed grinned and said, "Score!" Zip told me that it had had the desired made Mom bawl like a baby! They will honestly never know just how much that wonderful gift touched me. It let me know that my kids believe in me and in the call of God on my life to do missions. I have the best kids in the whole world!

I'd planned Christmas dinner for around 4pm. (I didn't know Zip would have to leave before then...) We had a couple friends coming over and one CouchSurfer I'd met online in one of the groups. We'd never met him before. He was a student from Egypt studying at Virginia Tech and didn't have anyone to spend the day with (although I don't think he would normally have celebrated Christmas anyway, being Muslim), so I'd invited him to join us as a part of our family.

What a treat! Amro was a hoot! He fit in with our motley crew perfectly and we all had a blast. Pete from Troy's band had joined us as well as Jean-Phillipe (an "adopted" son of mine). Amro blessed me with a cool set of statues of the pyramids and the Sphynx. We all laughed and talked for several hours. What a great chance to make a new friend! I appreciate the opportunity that the internet and various social networking sites affords to be able to meet new people and make new friends.

I hope everyone had a wonderful a day as we did. Wishing you all a relationship with the One for whom our celebrations are about! Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Uganda 2010: Pre-mission trip journal


First pre-mission trip entry:

I'm in Charlottesville tonight. I attended the introductory meeting for the mission team with which I'm traveling to Uganda in February of 2010. It will be my 3rd trip to Uganda, and I'm totally psyched for it. This time I'm going with Mission Link International, headed up by Rick Sadler. He's been to Uganda approximately 40 times if I understood correctly. And he and his wife Cathy are preparing to move there in the not too distant future.

I was excited about meeting the team, which ranged in age from 17 to retirement age. Close to 30 people in all. The majority were veteran short-term missionaries, with many having been to Uganda 5+ times. Everyone was very friendly and outgoing. I felt at home with the group immediately. There was a group here from Smith Mountain Lake, and one of the ladies suggested that I meet them part way next time and ride up with them.

I'd heard a lot about Pastor Rick from Rocky, who's traveled with Mission Link before. The things that I was mainly impressed by were his passion for evangelism and discipleship and his willingness to sacrifice his own comfort to take the gospel to the nations. You can tell by listening to him speak that his heart is so full for the call God's placed on his and Cathy's lives.

One of our assignments was to start journaling right now, before we ever set foot on the plane. So I'm doing just that with this post.

As I was listening to Pastor Rick review the trip information, one of the first things that struck me was, “Wow! I'm not responsible for any of the logistics of the trip. I don't have to try to make sure everyone's on track with finances....I don't have to schedule planes, vans, housing or anything. Boy, that feels weird!

We're going to be based in Jinja, but the various teams will be going to different villages every day. We'll all have an opportunity to work on medical, construction, puppet ministry, evangelism, and prison ministry. I'm so excited that I don't know if I'll be able to sleep tonight. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the medical missions aspect, but the prospect of being able to go into the prisons and the streets to minister is absolutely fantastic! God is awesome!

Friday, October 2, 2009

On the road to Connecticut by way of Yonkers

I'm sitting at a McDonald's in Woodstock, VA listening to the sounds of two of my grandchildren playing with their mom in the play area. It's around 8pm and we're really far behind on the schedule that we had set for the day. My daughter, Zipporah, and I are on our way up to see my mom in CT. I only get to see her once a year, and I try to plan the trip to spend her birthday with her. Normally I do the 12 hour (one way) drive by myself, but this time I'm blessed to have one of my children and two grandchildren with me.

We're hauling a heavy load, including a bunch of stuff strapped to the roof of my overburdened Kia Sephia. We left Roanoke at 4pm and had to stop three times because of the roof load. Finally gave in and bought a couple big ratchet straps and now the load is fine. Kia Sephias are not meant to have stuff strapped on top...hence no built in luggage racks. I snagged the one bar from on top of Troy's truck and stuck it on top of my car. Everything's lashed to it.

Our destination tonight is Aleena and Ali's in 8 hour, 400-ish mile drive. We've done only 140 or so miles of that. Still a looong drive yet. The kids have been good, and since the roof issue has been fixed it's been an enjoyable ride.

We'll be posting more soon. We've got lots of stuff on the itinerary including a sunset stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Short Update

Don't laugh, it will be short! I haven't posted anything since January so I want to give a quick rundown on What's Up With The Birds...

Troy is running for House of Delegates in Virginia's District 11 (Roanoke City & the City of Vinton).

Rachael completed her CNA training and is awaiting her State Boards this month.

Jed's working for the US Census Bureau.

Zipporah's first real music video, "No, No, No," was completed a couple months ago. You can find it on YouTube by searching for "Zipporah Bird music video".

I'm preparing for my next mission trip to Uganda July 28-August 17, 2009.

All five of my grandbabies are wonderful and a blessing.

South of Sanity plays at Icthus Fest in Kentucky on June 13th, 2009 and will be in a big Battle of the Bands in Knoxville, TN the last week of May.

More later!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Night Hike to MacAfee's Knob

A couple nights ago Jed and I decided to do a night hike up to MacAfee's Knob. We hadn't had any mother-son time in a while, and my days are usually pretty full. The weather was, of course, cold, but we decided that it was worth it to have some quality time together.

Now, Jed is not normally a talkative person (unless the topic is Alien Assault or World of Warcraft), but surprisingly most of the way up to the top Jed kept the conversation going with some really cool facts about the Cold War, Germany, Russia, and so forth. I was never a History buff in school, and have long regretted that fact. So now I actually do enjoy reading and hearing about historical events. The information Jed shared was pretty interesting, and I feel like I learned more in the 1-3/4 hour hike to the top than I would have in several weeks of school classes!

We took the Fire Road up from Hwy 311 to where the Appalachian Trail crosses it. There had been a trail re-lo since the last time I'd been to MacAfee's, so the new trail was totally unfamiliar to me. I was pleasantly surprised though, in that the grade of the trail was easier than the original, and we reached the top fairly quickly.

God blessed us with a relatively warm pocket of air at the top and we lay down on the rocks for a while and watched the clouds blow by while we talked some more. The trip back to the car went by quickly due to more good conversation, and we got back to the car less than 4 hours after heading out. Not bad for a 7 mile hike that included an attempt at night-time photos and a 20 minute rest at the top.

I'm so grateful for the kids that God's blessed me with. They are all grown, but they all find time to spend with Mom...without me having to beg them to do so... In fact, it's usually them calling me saying, "Haven't seen you in a while, Mom. You ever gonna come over and see us?"

Thanks, Jed, for joining me on the hike! I enjoyed it tremendously, and am looking forward to our next outing!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A New Political Blog...

I've been meaning to start a new blog in which I can share my thoughts on politics. It seems fitting, being the president of the Roanoke Valley Republican Women and being active in grassroots efforts to promote the conservative values to which I adhere.

Well, I finally launched the new blog! It's called A Bird's-Eye View On Politics, and you can find it at: Check out my first post on the Sanctity of Human Life and the 2009 March For Life Rally that I attended yesterday in Washington, DC.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Reflections From A Night Hike On The Appalachian Trail...

I just got done with a 5 mile round trip night hike. [For my blog post on the Leadership Lessons God showed me from this hike go to my business blog.] It was such a pretty day Saturday, and I just wanted to get outdoors. I was originally going to walk somewhere in town, but after my attempt at finding a walking partner failed, I considered an actual hike. At first I thought about the trail up on Mill Mountain. But as it was already late in the day, and I hadn't hiked that trail in years, I decided to do a more familiar one.

There's a really nice hike along the Appalachian Trail from Black Horse Gap to Wilson Creek Shelter. I decided upon it, as I'd done that section within the last couple years. During berry season it is a hiker's dream! But this is not berry season. I thought it was a 2 miles hike each way, but I found out when I got there that it was 2.5 miles to the shelter. Poor memory or trail re-lo's, I'm not sure...but it's still a great section.

While it isn't berry season, it is the season where the trail is COVERED with leaves for long stretches. DEEP leaves. And, while hiking along an 18-inch wide trail on the side of a mountain carries with it a certain amount of risk anyway, when you add calf+ deep leaves and night time it adds an extra dose of "excitement" to the mix.

OK, so traversing said 18-inch wide path while "cross-country skiing" through deep leaves in the dark is probably not of interest to most of the people I know. Maybe that's why I have a hard time getting hiking companions... ;-)

When I realized that there was heavy "leaf-fall" on the ground it made me think back to March of 2000 when I had a bad fall on the AT while solo-hiking and spent an extra night out on the trail, because I couldn't put any weight on my one ankle. I thought I'd broken it, but it was only a bad sprain. My second night out I had to sleep on that lovely 18-inch wide trail somewhere between Tinker Cliff and Cloverdale/Daleville with my back against a rock and my legs dangling over the side of the mountain...I'd learned a valuable lesson on that hike - don't hike through deep leaves on a steep descent without paying attention to your footing. I have to admit, deep leaves on the trail still cause a little unease.

But with my new "cross-country skiing" leaf-technique, I managed to travel the 2.5 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Wilson Creek Shelter without incident. It took me a LOT longer than normal - 1 hour 20 minutes. But slow and safe is better than fast and falling down the mountain. (Oh, yeah, been there, done that before the rain and fog at night on a never-before-hiked-by-me trail...and, of course, by myself! You've never lived until you've clawed your way up a mountainside in the rain, mud and dark with a 45-pound pack on your back...)

I thought I'd still had my hiking poles in the trunk, but much to my dismay they weren't I promptly found this little stick whose sole purpose was to make sure there was actually solid ground underneath the leaves before I attempted to plant my weight there. I figured that was a pretty good thing to do! LOL!

Each bend of the mountainside gave me a different view of the valley below. The distant lights twinkled a happy greeting to anyone blessed enough to be on the trail at that moment. The sky was clear. The air was crisp and clean, and only the occassional call of an owl broke the stillness of the night. My only regret at times like that is not having someone special to share those moments with...being single is wonderful most of the time, but... I guess that's one reason I love to blog. It gives me some hope of maybe even one person catching the same sense of wonder and excitement that I feel during times like this.

When I got to the Shelter I set up my trusty Whisperlite International 600 backpacking stove. I've had it since 1998, and it has been very dependable. I'd planned my meal based on the HCG Diet that I'm on, so I poured the bag of shredded cabbage in one cookpot and browned the Laura's Lean Hamburger in another. After adding the container of seasonings I'd prepared ahead of time to the meat, it all got dumped into the pot with the cabbage. Within just moments I had a BIG steaming hot bowl of Cabbage Beef Soup in front of me...all 240 calories worth! I love this diet! I get totally stuffed on massive quantities of food...all for less than 500 calories a day.

After my yummy meal, I spent some time in prayer and Bible study. Then I pulled out my trusty laptop...YES, I brought my laptop on the night hike! Did I hear you call me a Geek?! I resemble that remark! I worked on the report that I have to have turned in from the Health Care Community Discussion last Sunday until my laptop battery died. I was actually going to video blog a few minutes while sitting there at the shelter, but didn't get a chance to. :-( (Yes I brought my webcam with me too!)

I wanted to make a short entry in the Shelter Register before leaving. (The register is simply a notebook where people who pass through can write their thoughts, shout to other hikers, etc. The person who leaves a new notebook usually puts their address on the cover, so whoever fills in the last page and leaves a new notebook can send it to them.) I couldn't believe my eyes when I opened to the first page to see who'd been through lately...Rockfish & Turtle, whom I'd hiked with on my attempted thru-hike in 1999, had been through on November 4th! Oh how I wish I'd known they were in the area! (Turtle is actually a small stuffed turtle. My hiking companion that year was Mouse, a small, stuffed, green dinosaur...Mouse & Turtle got along well!) Oh well, maybe this year I'll get down to Trail Days or over to The Gathering and catch up with old friends.

Anyway, the temperature dropped dramatically while I was sitting there at the shelter, and I was glad to get back on the trail to head for the car. I was really glad I'd brought an extra fleece shirt, but was missing my polypro long underwear! :-) The 1-1/2 hour hike back (where did all of those UPHILL sections come from on the way back?) warmed me up nicely, and I arrived back to the car without incident. It was a great night, and I'm so glad I went.

I know there are those of you who are shaking your heads as you read this...most of my friends do that too. Life is a gift from God to be lived to the fullest. I've never wanted to get to the end of it with dreams still left unfollowed and years worth of regrets over things left undone. There is an element of risk in almost anything we do...just hop in your car and pull onto your nearest freeway or try being a student at your local high school or university! And statistically more people die in car accidents within a couple miles of home than do anywhere else. Yet that doesn't stop us from piling into the car to head to work, the grocery store, or wherever. So until that time when I go home to be with my precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I'll continue to follow my dreams along whatever precarious paths they may lead me. I live my life to the fullest with No Regrets! And I hope that sharing my journeying will inspire you to do that too!