Thankful for 2014

November 28th, 2014

It’s Thanksgiving! Time to look back on my year and remember all I have to be thankful for!

And here’s my Christmas letter for my online friends:

First, here’s wishing you joyful holidays in every way!

Looking back, this was one of my happiest years in a long time. I’m still loving my home by the lake, still photographing the birds who live by it, and still enjoying being near my church.

Egret

I had three wonderful trips this year. First, my New Year’s trip to see my family in California. That included going with my high school friend Ruth to get my ears pierced. Better late than never!

Pierced Ears

When I got back home, I signed up for online dating! So far, I haven’t dated many different people, but I did make one very good friend, and because of him have enjoyed many Sunday afternoon games of Dominion with a whole new group of friends. All around, I think of it as a big win.

Tim got to spend the beginning of his summer studying in Prague. When he got back, he interned at my library in the Virginia Room. Then when he returned to William & Mary as a Junior, he was able to get a job in Special Collections at the campus library.

Josh and Tim

In August, we went to Oregon for the 75th annual Bates Family Reunion – begun the year my mother’s parents got married! It was good to see family I hadn’t seen in years – and also to see my older son Josh (still in Portland) and my parents and my five youngest siblings (the four youngest now live in Portland area as well) and my two toddler nieces, whom I fell completely in love with!

Reunion

This was also the year I turned 50 – and in September, during the two weeks that all three of us were 50, my childhood friends Ruth and Darlene and I all got together and celebrated with a week of adventures.

Ruth and Dar

And for the rest? I’m still Youth Services Manager at the City of Fairfax Regional Library, still loving my job, and still writing book reviews in my spare time. I’m a judge again for the Cybils Awards. And be sure to google “prime factorization cardigan” (in quotes) to find out about my latest mathematical knitting!

Wishing you a blessed holiday season,

Sondy Eklund

Thriving, Faith, and James

September 2nd, 2014

This morning, I was listening to Casting Crowns’ song “Thrive” on the way to work. I love the way the music makes you feel joyful. And I realized that, yes, I am thriving now, and life is good.

Then I realized it’s now been 10 years since my ex-husband met the other woman. (Or at least when I met her. He said, “There’s someone I’ve been wanting you to meet.” Which I figure means I was still his best friend. Unfortunately, that changed.) As my marriage fell apart, I NEVER would have guessed how thoroughly I’d be thriving now. God is SO good! And I guess I can trust Him if things in the next year or so don’t go as I hope they will!

I can’t emphasize enough how dark that time was for me. I couldn’t imagine ever being happy again. Yet now life is very, very good.

I wouldn’t be a Librarian, wouldn’t live in my own lovely condo in Virginia, wouldn’t have a son who’s graduated from the best high school in the nation, wouldn’t attend Gateway Community Church, wouldn’t be up for my dream job if all of that hadn’t happened. God can bring good out of even horrible things.

And God also used it to show me how MUCH He loves me. Our pastor said once that great faith comes from desperate need. No glory to yourself, but when you’re desperate, God comes through.

And that gets me thinking about Faith. Our church has been going through James this summer, and Faith is a big theme in James. In fact, they’ve titled the sermon series “Faith That Works.”

I think when I was a kid, the “double-minded man” passage in James 1 kind of disturbed me. Were you supposed to ask for something and then screw up the ability to believe that it would happen, and if you doubted, then it wouldn’t? When my marriage fell apart, I prayed earnestly, for years, that it would be restored, and that my husband would come back to me. And I thought God was telling me that would happen.

And when I did file for divorce, I was afraid I was lacking in faith. But when I was praying about it, asking for direction, God’s answer was in Hebrews 11 — “By faith, Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar… even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.'” I felt like God was saying to give Him my marriage and my hopes for the future. I was still hoping, like Abraham, that the end result would be resurrection. But I had to make the offer genuine, either way.

Abraham believed God had promised him abundant offspring. But he didn’t cling to his own view of how God would do that.

And I noticed that the double-minded man passage in James comes right after the verse about “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God.” That’s what we’re supposed to have faith about. And faith in James is always about what we do. So I really think that James is saying, “If you need direction, ask God. And then do what He tells you, or you don’t really trust him.” I don’t think it’s about holding onto your own ideas of what God will do, but trusting God enough to do what He tells you.

This actually fits with the study of Psalms I did last Spring. I noticed that David pours out his heart to God and tells Him what He’s feeling. He is bold about asking God to act — but he just doesn’t tell God what to do, like we tend to do.

So a better way to pray for my marriage is to tell God how my heart was broken and that I’m lonely — and trust Him to figure out what to do about that.

And when I look back at what I thought God was telling me as I prayed — everything I thought He was telling me to do was good advice. Okay, maybe He wasn’t telling me the future. Maybe the promises about my ex-husband are that he’ll come back to God some day, not to me. Eventually, I felt that God was telling me that I shouldn’t be yoked together with someone who wants nothing to do with God.

A year ago, I started thinking about dating. I prayed about that as well. The pastor was doing a sermon on Abraham, and I thought Hagar would come up, and I’d hear about “Plan B living,” and I was afraid no longer hoping to remarry my ex would be lacking in faith and going for second best.

But the pastor brought a chalkboard up on stage and drew a diagram. He made a line across the board which he said represented a continuum. On one end was just letting things happen. On the other end was trying to completely control everything. He said where we want to live is right in the middle, on the Path of Trust.

I realized that “Standing for my Marriage” and trying to pray my husband back was trying to Control things. If I couldn’t have the perfect marriage, well then I’d be the perfect little martyr and pray until he gave in. But that was all my idea. I decided it would take a lot more trust to start dating again. (It still took me six months to actually do it. But that was when I decided that doing so would take more faith rather than less.)

In Hebrews 11 again, the author summarizes what, to me, Faith is all about: “And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” You have to believe that it’s worth it to follow God.

And that means doing what He tells you. When you ask for direction, don’t ask for advice, which you can take or leave. If God really knows best, then do it.

And the really cool thing? He works all things together for good for those who love Him — even truly horrible things like divorce can bring great good things in your life.

Isn’t He amazing?

Sunday Songs

April 6th, 2014

Our pastor is doing a series on Finding Jesus, and today’s topic was Simplicity of Identity.

Alyssa got up and talked about all the different ways we find our identity — from our physical qualities, our job, our hobbies, what our friends say, to quizzes on Facebook. Then they showed this music video:

Pastor Ed’s sermon was from John 6. When we read John 6, we can see how secure Jesus was in his identity and how firm he was about it. And Jesus’ identity is firm and secure because of his connection with the Father.

But the point of John’s biography isn’t to help us identify Jesus. It’s to help us find our identity in Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t ask for us to understand him — He wants us to come to him, to eat and drink of him.

In our lives, we have identity indicators and identity anchors. My identity will be secure if my anchor is my connection to Jesus.

The only way to get free from the crippling identity messages that come at us is to find our anchor in Jesus.

I was especially touched by this sermon because before and after they sang a song that was sung at my wedding — “Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”

But my marriage ended badly, and many messages were flung at me that I was unlovable, a failure, and a cruel person.

But I had honestly prayed on my wedding day, “Take my love, my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store.” Things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, but what a nice reminder that God considers me His Beloved.

Beloved. We are beloved by God. He will never let us go.

Thanksgiving Letter

November 28th, 2013

I decided to send a Thanksgiving Letter this year, rather than a Christmas letter. I have much to be thankful for!

The big thing that stands out for the year is my new home! With my Dad’s help, I purchased a condo in South Riding, less than 10 minutes from my church. After another place fell through, at just the right time for me, this home came open — with a beautiful view of a lake! I feel so blessed living here.

I’m thankful for church friends who made me feel so cared for and helped me through the moving process.

I’m thankful that my sons are doing well. Tim is a Sophomore at the College of William & Mary and enjoying it. He’s declared his major — English and Computer Science. His Dad lives near Williamsburg, so they see each other during the school year, and I get Tim for his vacations. He recently heard about some exciting Study Abroad possibilities for next year. Of course I would have to go visit!

Josh is still living in Portland, Oregon, and now has a salaried job as a computer programmer, which he’s enjoying very much. I’m so happy for him!

I’m thankful for a place to walk. With my lake to hike around, I’ve been much more regular about exercising than ever before, and I’m treated to beautiful scenery, including a great blue heron.

I’m thankful for my job. I’m still working at City of Fairfax Regional Library as Youth Services Manager and still love my job. I’m also going to be a Cybils judge (Kid Lit Blogger awards) again this year. And, yes, I’m on my 13th year of writing Sonderbooks book reviews and still love it.

What else am I doing? Plenty of mathematical knitting, like this prime factorization blanket for my niece, and regular board games with a group that meets Saturdays close to the library. Life is full, and life is good, and I’m so thankful for what this year has brought me!

May you have a blessed holiday season!

Sondy Eklund

Sunday Songs – You’re an Overcomer

October 6th, 2013

Recently, I finished a headache that lasted for 30 days. It did vary in intensity during that time, but I did have at least some head pain every waking moment of those 30 days. I’m super super happy that it’s over. In the middle of it, several times this song by Mandisa came on the radio, and helped so much.

No, the pain did NOT last forever. And yes, I overcame. Thank you, God!

Two Herons at the Lake

August 17th, 2013

Thursday is my late day to work. I hadn’t been feeling good, but I wanted to go for a slow walk to try to get back into the groove. When I got to the lake, I saw not just the great blue heron, but a great white heron, both on the wall. I decided it would be a good day to substitute a photo shoot for my usual walk. I went back for my camera.

The great white heron didn’t tolerate my snapping for long:

And soon he was so good as to pose by the rainbow in the fountains on a sunny day.

I love the way the wildflowers blooming by the lake change every week. This is one of my favorites, because it reminds me of a flower we had in Gundersweiler, Germany.

I love the bunnies I see every day on my walk. It’s getting where they aren’t scared of me, which feels a little pathetic.

And more flowers and lake.

Next, it posed by the gazebo.

I love the way the great white heron and its reflection shine in the sunshine.

I should mention that the weather was also fabulous. Bright and sunny, but cool and breezy. Even though I wasn’t feeling good, that time at the lake started off a great day.

Hiking at Great Falls

June 17th, 2013

When I go on a beautiful hike and take more than a hundred photos, I like to try to challenge myself to choose the top ten. And then if I stop at 19, well, that’s okay, too.

Friday was my birthday, and the weather was wonderful, and I went for a lovely walk along the River Trail at Great Falls National Park. Here are 19 of my photos.

There were lots of great blue herons flying around and also sitting and posing. I’ve already posted about the Great Blue Heron of Happiness.

These first several are from the Overlooks at the start of the River Trail.

The parts that weren’t looking at the amazing river were wonderful for being a peaceful walk in the woods.

Though mostly, it was both: Peaceful woods overlooking a majestic river.

I could *not* resist retouching this photo a tiny bit:

And I finished up back at the Overlooks:

Simply a beautiful day!

Sunday Songs – Bluebird of Happiness

June 16th, 2013

My birthday was Friday, and I received an amazing gift from my friend Lauri Ann.

I woke up with a vestibular migraine, which I’d had more than a week. I was feeling rather down. Lauri Ann’s gift was the only thing I had to open. (No offense to my family — I am always late with their presents, too. And this time, I didn’t get my new address out to people.)

It is an antique locket, owned by singer Jo Stafford. It was given to her by Gordon MacRae when they recorded the song “Bluebird of Happiness.”

Lauri Ann included the words. What a nice reminder that I have so many things in my life to be happy about now!
“Remember this: Life is no abyss. Somewhere there’s a bluebird of happiness.”

In fact, I remembered that I’ve been enjoying seeing lots of birds from my balcony. I thought it would be nice if soon I’d see a bluebird.

But I didn’t end up reading on my balcony Friday, like I’d planned. People (not me! Yay!) were doing noisy yard work. So — I went to Great Falls National Park. And had a wonderful hike along the River Trail. And my migraine left before I got there.

And you know what? I saw many, many great blue herons. Now that I know what they look like, because of the one that lives on my lake, they were easy to spot. One was right below me when I looked down from the overlook.

So you know what I decided? I’ve got not just a bluebird of happiness, but a Great Blue Heron of happiness! Whenever I see him — and I spot him almost every day now when I walk by my lake — I get a reminder of how much I have to be thankful for. And the locket is a lovely reminder as well.

“Hold your head up high,
Till you find the bluebird of happiness.
You will find greater peace of mind
Knowing there’s a bluebird of happiness.
And when he sings to you,
Though you’re deep in blue,
You will see a ray of light creep through,
And so remember this, life is no abyss,
Somewhere there’s a bluebird of happiness.”

Correction

June 6th, 2013

Turns out … the Egret is not an egret. He (or she) is a Great Blue Heron. And the story about them mating for life is not true. This is what happens when you tell a story like that to a Librarian. My coworker, James, made me look it up. (I’m ashamed I didn’t think of it myself. He gets the Librarian points there!) We used books first — field guides, and once the basic identification was made, websites helped.

But the important thing about the story is absolutely true: A big awesome water bird lives on the lake outside my window!

In fact, this morning I went walking by the lake, thinking I had gotten out of my system any need to bring my good camera along.

Today the Great Blue Heron was very near the path, wading in the rocky part by the sidewalk. While I watched, he caught a fish! He then walked onto shore to eat it, to the part of the shore I’d recently left.

I took pictures with my phone, but he’s merely a speck. But I thoroughly enjoyed watching him.

Another fun thing that happened at the library:

I was sitting at the reference desk next to James, this young co-worker who had me look up the Great Blue Heron. (Clearly a very intelligent guy is what I’m saying here.) A patron walked up to him and said, “I’m looking for The Beautiful and the Damned.

I couldn’t help myself. I said, “You’ve found us!”

Walking by the Egret

June 1st, 2013

I haven’t posted on Sonderjourneys in a long time. I was too busy journeying!

In April, I purchased my first home — a two-bedroom second-floor condo with a lake view. I’m still settling in — not unpacked yet. But I have started doing a walking program. My first regular exercise program in my life! I’m using the book Walk Your Butt Off! It’s got a 12-week program in which you gradually increase your speed. I have completed the 4-week preliminary program for sedentary people, and today started the second week of the main program. It is just not a chore to walk beside my beautiful lake! Feels like a privilege to have a reason to walk there!

And today my walking got slowed down when I spotted the egret posing on the wall. I snapped some pictures with my phone, but it doesn’t zoom, so I knew the bird would be hard to make out.

Mind you, one of the selling points of the place was that my realtor told me that an egret lived on this lake. She said that egrets mate for life, and when one dies, the other will nest forever after in the place they were last together. This is a solitary egret, and he’s going to live here until he dies. (I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s sure a nice story! And I have indeed seen him several times now.)

Anyway, when I came back after walking to the other end of the lake, the egret was still there. Since he was staying so long, and since it is my day off, I decided this would be the perfect time to come back with my good camera. I did, and he was still there!

I thought it was a good time to also snap some pictures of the pretty flowers growing around the lake.

(You may not notice, but there’s also a mallard duck sitting on the wall.)

And did I mention, this is right outside my home?

After I took the first and best picture above, my batteries instantly died, and he flew away. But he obviously didn’t fly far, so I thought maybe I could find him. (While first taking more pictures of flowers.)

Sure enough! He was right by the path a little farther on.

I loved the way the fountain had a rainbow this morning.

And I kept snapping pictures of the egret until he got tired of me and flew to the other side of the lake.

Such a beautiful way to start my day!