Iowa Trip

Danish Windmill in Elkhorn, Iowa

One of the Bridges of Madison County, Iowa.

"Land, freedom, and hope. In the narrow stony valleys of Norway and the heavily taxed towns of Saxony and Westphalia, in Ukrainian villages bled by the recruiting officers of the czars and Bohemian farms that had been owned and tilled for generations by the same families; land, freedom, and hope meant much the same thing in the last quarter of the nineteenth century: America.
(all quotes in this blog from "The Children's Blizzard" by David Laskin)
John Wayne's Birthplace in Winterset, Iowa
And so they came as steerage passengers, packed into unventilated bunk rooms below decks where they slept on boards side by side with 650 other immigrants, all dreaming of a new life in the mid-west and the plains of America. Evidence of their courage, imagination, and ambition is present everywhere we traveled. In towns like Winterset, Keota, Elkhorn, and Villisca where Mary's mother lives. In the countryside one sees vast fields and rooster tails of dust as farmers hurry to till and plant before the Spring rains make it impossible to get into the fields. Many are working the same land that their great grandparents settled in the 19th century.
Postoffice in Nodaway, Iowa
"The Homestead Act, signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, was the first color-blind, sex-blind equal opportunity piece of legislation on the American books. White or black, male or female, foreign born or native born, it made no difference. As long as you were twenty-one or older, could muster $18 for the filing fee, and lived on the land and farmed it for five years, 160 acres was yours. "
Mary, John, and I flew into Chicago on April 18th and then drove across Iowa to Villisca where she grew up and where her mother, Bette, 80, still resides. We saw freshly planted fields, budding trees, and blooming flowers. We accompanied Bette to the Senior center where she serves lunch daily, to the Nursing home where she serves the afternoon snack, and to church on Sunday morning followed by a community dinner at the community center. John was invited to play piano and harmonica and sing at each of the venues. It was wonderful to see how proud Grandma was of her talented Grandson. We ate to much, sat on the front step and waved to everyone who went by (that's what you do in small town, USA), read, went for walks in the evening, attended the "walk-in" for the High school prom, and I even got in an afternoon of fishing at a farm pond filled with hungry bass. We drove to Keota on the 24th to visit Mary's brother and then on to Chicago to fly home on the 25th. I really enjoyed taking "blue highways" across the state and visiting the small towns. Enjoy the photos.John entertaining at Nursing HomeMary and John at "R's Place" in Western IllinoisCatching a big one in a farm pond

Here is a great quote to begin a new week no matter what challenges you might be facing.
Somehow I can't believe there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man (or woman) who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C's. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy and the greatest of these is Confidence. When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.
Walt Disney
Mr. Disney certainly demonstrated the truth of these words in his own life. Think about all the people who have experienced happy moments because of his vision and confidence. This week I will be reading, studying, experiencing, and sharing the events of this week that we call Holy. Through those events I encounter one whose vision and confidence transformed the world. With faith in the One whose footsteps we trace this week we can face whatever challenges lie ahead. See more contemporary images of Jesus like the one below by clicking here.

Virginia is for Lovers!

The state of Virginia has been using the motto, Virginia is for Lovers, for 37 years. We discovered on a recent trip that Virginia is a place for people who love history, airplanes, and good food. Mary and I celebrated my 61st birthday on Saturday, March 25th, by running away from home. We took an early morning flight that got us into Dulles International airport before 8 am. After a delicious breakfast at the IHOP we made our way to The National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. What an awesome museum housed in a aviation hanger that is 10 stories high and the length of three football fields. The planes displayed include the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gray, the Air France Concorde, and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Also on display is the Space Shuttle Enterprise along with various rockets telling the story of space exploration. We spent a fascinating three hours wandering through the hanger and experiencing an IMAX movie that put us in the cockpit of an F15-Eagle.
Our next stop was an Arts and Crafts Festival that was in a building almost as big as the Air and Space museum. Hundreds of artisans displayed their creative products that included photography, quilts, woodwork, hand crafted furniture, jewelry, paintings, and hand woven baskets. It was like being in a very eclectic gallery for over two hours. Now exhausted we checked into our hotel and took naps. In the evening we had supper at The Potbelly Sandwich Works where we had old fashioned milkshakes and delicious sandwiches while listening to acoustic guitar played by a fella sitting in the loft above our heads. Check out their
web site to find a Potbelly near you. We concluded my "birthday" day by seeing a movie at an enormous theatre in Fairfax. (Why is everything so large in Virginia?) The movie was the new Spike Lee film, Inside Man, starring Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster. This is the first "commercial" film that Spike Lee has made and it has many of his unique trademarks. Denzel gives a very laid back performance that brings a lightness and humor to what is a very intense story. It was a fine ending to a very busy and exciting day.
The next day we treated ourselves to the Sunday Brunch Buffet at the Blue Iguana
in Fairfax. Omelets made to order, fresh sliced turkey and roast beef, waffles, fresh fruit, seafood pasta, and more. So elegant and so good. Then we were off to George Washington's home, Mount Vernon. American history came alive as we stood on the very floor that Washington stood on when he received news that he would be the first president of the United States. Even more significant, for me, was to stand next to the chair that he sat in when he decided to give up the presidency so that it would not turn into a monarchy. Thank God for the vision and courage of this man and his colleagues. It was a great trip and a lovely way to celebrate a birthday.

Ah Spring!

It was the first Sunday of April and granddaughter, Kaylyn, climbed a tree with a good book. The warm sunshine, chirping birds, and awakening earth encourages us to go beyond the ordinary and explore new possibilities. They call it "Spring Fever", this urge to escape the shackles of winter and embrace the promise of new life and new adventures. In his book, Guerrillas of Grace, Ted Loder prays the following.
It is spring, Lord.
and my blood runs warm with the song of the sap.
for a beauty I would become.
And there is the mystery
and the smile of it.
The buds are swelling on the bush,
the sun is beginning to coax the color
from where it's been curled against the cold,
the air is sweet to the nostrils;
even the city seems to be rubbing its eyes
from a long sleep.
It is spring, Lord,
and something stirs in me,
reaching, stretching,
groping for words,
peeking through my defenses,
beckoning in my laughter,
riding on past my fears,
pulsing in my music.
Ah Spring!