Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park (New England Road Trip #3)

“Thunder Hole”
by Virginia Knowles

we came to scatter her ashes
in the ocean at Acadia 
hundreds of miles from home
searching for such
beauty and majesty
as would well honor
a mother’s memory
in the autumn
season of her birth
we journeyed together
to Thunder Hole where
high tide surges and crashes
into a cleft in the boulders
with a resonating boom and
a spurt of sea water 
into the sky

in the solitude of dawn
we climbed carefully down
a quieter cluster of boulders 
amid the gentle tide pools
and toward the sun 
shimmering on the horizon

then singing and speaking
words of comfort and honor
we released her ashes
toward the foaming waves
which danced across
the rocky shore to greet us
a breeze rose up swift and
a lacy gray veil of ashes
fluttered in the sky
then drifted down to the sea
to travel wherever
the currents will take them
ashes to ashes 
dust to dust 
we mourn the years 
without her yet
I know her spirit is
sheltered in the cleft
of the Rock of Ages
along the celestial ocean
of Beauty and Majesty
and Love



Our parents loved to travel and took the three of us children all over the United States, several national parks, and even a few other countries. Traveling to a Acadia National Park in Maine seemed a fitting tribute to my mother’s spirit of adventure. My sister planned this 2015 trip for us; we were joined by one of my daughters and one of hers. You can read more about our New England travels here:

I will try to post soon about the rest of Acadia National Park, as well as the National Gallery of Art in DC.

My mother, Mary Quarrier, passed away in July 2013 from complications of spinal surgery. You can read more about her here:

Mom and I on a big rock
when I was a teenager
a family trip to Crater Lake
in Oregon in the 1970’s
Mom in 2013

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Posted in Art~Beauty~Creativity, Authentic Life, God's Good Creation, Grace and Wonder, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Life Transitions, My Parents ~ My Childhood, New England Road Trip, Photographs, Pilgrimage and Jubilee, Traveling North | Leave a comment

Boston (New England Road Trip #2)

Hello again!

This is the second post in my New England Road Trip series. The first one is The Adventure Begins.

We wanted to spend more time in Boston, but arrived later than we expected in the evening. We only had a few hours in the morning to explore.

Our first stop after parking in an underground public garage: Boston Public Garden.

Barb and I

The Public Garden is the setting of Robert McCloskey’s classic children’s picture book Make Way for Ducklings. This is duly commemorated with sculptures.

Next up, the adjacent Boston Common, established in 1634 and the oldest city park in the United States. British soldiers camped out there prior to the Revolution. I’ll stick with the patriots.

Rachel’s dude was a little wackier.


Several statues honored vital facets of life.

Learning…


Industry…


Religion…


We bought a tourist map and decided to walk part of the Boston Freedom Trail.


The Massachusetts State Capitol is visible from Boston Common.


The Park Street Church, built in 1809, played a notable role in American history, too. Now it is nestled among modern buildings.


The Granary Burying Grounds, dating from 1660, is where patriots Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, James Otis, the parents of Benjamin Franklin, the victims of the Boston Massacre and many other famous people are interred.



Old City Hall, which is now houses modern commercial office space and a steak house…


Statue of Ben Franklin at Old City Hall


Bronze panel on other side of statue base.


Old South Meeting House, where the Boston Tea Party began…





On our way out of Boston, we stopped for a glimpse of the War of 1812 battleship USS Constitution (also known as Old Ironsides), but it was covered with scaffolding.


Goodbye, Boston! Someday I hope to stay longer and explore more history!

Leonard P. Zakim
Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge

Next up in the series: Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park!

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

Posted in Education for Life, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, New England Road Trip, Photographs, Traveling North, Vintage | Leave a comment

The Adventure Begins (New England Road Trip #1)

I like to think of myself as a rather adventurous and spontaneous person.

But if you told me two weeks ago I would go on a New England road trip this month, I’d have thought you were crazy.

My sister Barb has been talking for quite a while about scattering the remainder of our mother’s ashes in a beautiful place. She dreamed of Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine. I suggested me driving up next summer with several of my kids and picking her up in Maryland on the way. Then on a Friday she messaged me and suggested a sister trip: “If you think quick and don’t blink, we could go up next weekend while the leaves are gorgeous.”

Say what? My immediate answer was “No way!” Too hard to arrange things at home if I were to come alone, especially since my youngest daughter is home schooled and wouldn’t have anyone to watch her during the day. Plane tickets would be way too expensive on short notice. I couldn’t even handle that much time behind the wheel on the road trip, and my sister can’t drive much because of migraines. So seriously? Um, no!

Then my daughter Rachel called on Saturday saying that she was thinking of flying to Maryland on her week off to visit my family. What a coincidence! She told me she had found really cheap flights. She would do most of the driving to New England. And family and friends were willing to help out with my 10 year old daughter. Wow. We made reservations that day and left on Wednesday. Talk about spontaneous?

Here we go!

In the air
bright and early…

This Pepsi reminds me of the
autumn colors we’d see
Two surprises on our arrival 
at National Airport outside of
Washington D.C.
My friend Curt had been on
the same plane as us!

And a jazz quartet was there to welcome
a plane load of Liberty Flight veterans

Washington Monument
and Jefferson Memorial

That day we visited with my father and his lovely wife Anny at their house, as well as my niece Carrie and her dog Mags.

Barb, Rachel, my teenage niece Amy, and I hit the road in Barb’s PT Cruiser the next morning. It was a really tight fit. Before we left, my dad suggested that we avoid NYC traffic by driving through Pennsylvania.

Beautiful country side, with the roadway cut into the rock hills!

Who could resist Maple Donuts?

Peppermint chocolate donut
and hot cocoa with whipped cream

I love that Maple Donuts
has a heart for victims
of domestic violence.

I’m not sure it saved us any time, but I loved just being in northeastern Pennsylvania. I have strong family ties there, since it’s where my mother (and her parents and grandparents and even further back) were born and raised. We’ve had Hess and Ransom family reunions in the Dallas/Scranton area for as long as I can remember. At the last reunion in 2014, we had a memorial and ash scattering service for her and my grandparents at the family grave site. I wish I’d had time to arrange a visit with some of our Hess relatives on this trip.

I bought this Wilkom (welcome)
sign in honor of my
Pennsylvania German heritage.

We did stop briefly in Scranton since my daughter and niece are fans of The Office TV show which was based there.

In the Chamber of Commerce
office in The Mall at Steamtown.

The iconic Welcome sign seen in the show
is now in The Mall at Steamtown. 

Cutting across New York into Massachusetts, we managed to make it to Boston at nighttime. That’s where I will continue this series in the next post!

In the meantime, enjoy one more photo of the autumn colors which this Florida girl rarely ever sees up close!

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

Oh, the next post is up now! Here it is: Boston.

Posted in http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Life Transitions, Making Memories, My Parents ~ My Childhood, New England Road Trip, Photographs, Traveling North | 1 Comment

To the Young Woman with Bruises



To the Young Woman with Bruises

I had not intended to be 120 miles from home
Late on a Sunday night in an unfamiliar city
Sitting in my van with a Monster drink in my hand
Trying to wake up enough to drive 
Back to my cozy bed.
I also did not expect to see a young woman: you
Standing there in the parking lot
Asking for gas money outside my window.
At first I said no.
I do not often give cash to strangers.
You silently turned and slowly walked away
It was then I saw the bruises and scrapes
On your bared back, and I knew.
“Hey! WAIT!” And you turned back to face me.
“Are you OK? Has someone hurt you?”
You nodded. Your boyfriend beat you again and again.
Broken ribs, broken glass, in and out of the hospital.
Three years you have been with him. 
Gone back five times. And I thought, 
Five times too many. Five times to hell.

You needed gas money to leave town. I gave you $20.
You asked for a hug. I wrapped my arms around you.
Then I rummaged around for bandages and salve.
I wished I could heal your wounded heart but I can’t.
I could only do my small part with love.
And I said to you, and I say again now:
Do not go back! You are precious in God’s sight.
You deserve better. He is not worth it!”
And you wept: “I know. But I love him. I keep hoping…”
Oh no, sweet one, no. Your monster will not change.
If you keep going back, he will keep being cruel.
It is his permission to do as he wishes.
Why should he change if you come back for more?
This is not love. It is bondage.
It is far better to be alone than to be abused.
Do not go back. No matter what, do not go back.
There is a different life ahead of you,
A life of freedom and wholeness.
Reach out and walk forward with open eyes.
You can do this. I will help.

~~
Last night my daughter missed her bus back to college because she had forgotten her motorcycle helmet on my dining room table. Her older sister offered to drive her the two hours but I knew she had studying to do, so I went instead. We took along an Ecuadorian lady who had also missed the bus and was hoping to get to the other station in time for a connection to her final destination. We didn’t make it in time, so after my daughter put on her gear and climbed onto her motorcycle, we followed her over to the pastor’s home where she lives. My new friend would wait there for her daughter to come get her and drive her to Alabama. She speaks very little English and I speak very little Spanish, but with a radiant smile she told me “Jesus is my life!” and our fellowship was sweet. We ate brownies and sweet tea, exchanged e-mail addresses, and after I was sure she was settled in comfortably, I left. By the time I stopped for my Monster drink on the way home, it was 11:30 PM. After talking to the young woman with bruises, it was past midnight. Exhausted, I eventually ended up pulling over at a rest stop to sleep for a while. I finally got back to my cozy bed at 3:45 AM and slept until noon. It was a crazy night-into-the-morning, but somehow, at each moment, I knew I was in the exact right place at the exact right time. 

Most of all, I hope that this dear young woman finds safety, peace, and a new life.

A word to the rest of you: Open your eyes. Be aware. Don’t be afraid. Offer compassion, not judgment. You can make a difference. 



Domestic Violence Hotline: (800)799-7233


Related posts on Watch the Shepherd

Articles on Other Web Sites
Basic Information for Victims and Survivors
Posted in Abuse in Families, Do Justice ~ Love Mercy, Domestic Violence, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post | 2 Comments

War Room: Hope or Hype?


Dear friends,

So the War Room movie hit #1 status in the box offices, and that’s pretty amazing for an overtly Christian film. Immediately, my Facebook feed filled with glowing endorsements from my friends. “This movie is awesome! You must go see it!”

But I haven’t. Maybe I’ll rent it from Redbox when it comes out on DVD. Or not.

Not seeing it yet hasn’t stopped me from posting reviews on Facebook, all of them less than favorable for various reasons.

Some ask why I bother if I haven’t seen the movie. They question whether I have the right to an opinion since I obviously don’t know what I’m talking about. This amuses me.

Others are upset that I post links to articles that supposedly bash Christian efforts at making wholesome films. They diss and dismiss the very valid theological and relational concerns that the reviewers bring up. Critique against a Christian ministry or movie is seen as tantamount to the work of the devil, bordering on heresy, maybe? (Why does this remind me so much of the Duggar fiasco?) This does not amuse me.

Hello folks. We are big people. (I think.) We can hash through big ideas, even controversial ones. (I hope.) If you appreciate the movie, fine. I know it has encouraged many and that there are a lot of positive aspects. But at least acknowledge where others are coming from. At least be sensitive to why this movie might trigger fresh trauma in someone who has suffered deeply even in the midst of prayer.

I think what I have read about the movie has been corroborated enough to warrant a thoughtful discussion of the positive and negative aspects. Here are most of the reviews I linked along with a few extras I just found.

[Disclaimer: I offer this to read at your discretion. I do not endorse everything in these articles or the blogs on which they appear.]

War Room: Pretty Little Lies by Kay Bruner, a professional Christian counselor


Why I Refuse to See War Room at A New Free Life: Rising from the Ashes of Domestic Violence

Genie Jesus and the War Room Problem by John Mark N. Reynolds

War Room review at ScreenIt

The War Room Review: Shut Up and Pray He Quits by Jordan Hoffman at the Guardian

The “Faith” of Faith-Based Films: On Moralistic Therapeutic Deism in Christian Movies by Joel Mayward

Movie Review: The War Room by Jessica B. Fry 

Here is my bottom line after reading these reviews, keeping in mind that as I have repeated over and over, I have not seen the movie! 

Prayer is not the cosmic vending machine to get you what you want. Prayer is a relationship, not a formula. He is not duty bound to give us what we want, and we might never understand why this side of heaven. The life of prayer is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Like our relationship with God, human relationships take a whole lot of work. Difficult and dysfunctional marriages take even more work. And time, lots of it. And professional intervention by people who don’t spout trite platitudes. And there is still no guarantee that they will be fixed. An offending spouse can change their tune and act like they have reformed for a while to get what they want, and then go right back to pig slop behavior. This is sheer manipulation and hypocrisy, not true repentance. Time and discernment and firm boundaries will prove what is true. It can be a long and messy ordeal. You can’t trust mere words, even religious ones. It takes a long time to rebuild trust.

One more thing: I am well aware that there was no physical abuse in the movie marriage and that the wife had her issues too. However, this must be said: If a marriage is dangerous or destructive, the emphasis has to be on the well-being (safety and sanity) of the victim, not reconciliation or sticking it out in the hopes that prayer will solve all of the problems.  You say this doesn’t happen in devoutly religious families that value the Bible and prayer? Oh yes it does! I have spoken with many Christian domestic violence survivors who sincerely asked God what to do about their marriages and clearly heard him say, “Get out now. Run for your life!” Looking back, they realize they and/or their children would be dead if they hadn’t. In many cases, their husbands were very religious, some of them pastors and missionaries. But this kind of “run for your life” ending doesn’t play well with a triumphant Christian movie plot, does it? Too bad.

It is misleading and cruel to insinuate that someone with a failing marriage can do a snappy U-Turn to Happily-Ever-After-Land by rebuking Satan and storming the gates of Heaven with fervent intercession. To gloss over the realities of life for the sake of a movie plot or to “put in a good word for God in the middle of a dying world” is a crying shame. It is no credit to God to misconstrue his grace. Christians, let us pray more. But let’s also get real about what else we need to do. That’s what people are really watching to see if our faith is authentic.

I can’t end this post without a good word from the Lord. Two passages that are on my heart right now:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

Grace and peace, 
Virginia Knowles

P.S. Here are some related links on my blogs:

Real Life Relationships:

Prayer and Spiritual Growth:




“For Those Who Suffer”

You are love,
and you see all the suffering,
injustice, and misery,
which reign in this world.

Have pity, we implore you,
on the work of your hands.
Look mercifully on the poor,
the oppressed, 
and all who are heavy laden
with error, labour and sorrow.

Fill our hearts with deep compassion 
for those who suffer,
and hasten the coming of 
your kingdom of justice and truth.

Eugène Bersier (1831-1889)


Posted in Abuse in Families, Authentic Life, Bible~Theology, Do Justice ~ Love Mercy, Domestic Violence, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Peacemaking~Forgiveness, Reviews, Spiritual Warfare, Web Links | 4 Comments

A Clump of Sadness :: Suicide Prevention Week


This afternoon and evening I have been feeling a bit moody and sad.

I was (and still am) tired from not choosing the right amount of sleep and balanced nutrition these past few days. I missed my thyroid pill in the morning. I am hormonal and though I’m heading toward menopause, it’s not here yet. Enough said on that part.

It is 9/11. Thinking of that, remembering and reprocessing what happened 14 years ago, yanks at my heartstrings. For me it’s not so much about patriotism or even the evil enemy. It is the thought of so much suffering, so much grief, so much wreckage, so much fear.

I am angry and angsty at what is in the news these days, too. Foreign tragedies and terrors. Refugees. Wars and rumors of wars. Children being abused in churches and families. Patronizing and pious answers. Excuses and lies. I want to shriek. Make it stop!

I am disappointed with a bunch of things in my own experience. Yes, despite many challenges, my life is manageable, I savor my joys, and I am thankful for so much. Yet I also look around and see those whose life circumstances are so much better than mine. This juxtaposition, this contrast of mine against theirs – well then. Sigh. I had so many ideals and sweet dreams for life that others seem to attain with ease. And I haven’t. And it is not likely that I ever will. I can hear in my head someone accusing me of the sin of jealousy. It is not that, at least not much. I am glad for others and I really can enjoy the goodness of the life that I do have. But it is still bittersweet.

So right now… a clump of sadness sits in my soul.

I know this of myself. When I grieve for one thing, or two, it all comes rushing in, a least for a little while. When I think of the loss of my sweet mother two years ago, I say, “I’m grieving for my mother.” This is true, but not complete. Grief can be like a vacuum that sucks all of life’s other losses into the void. Misery loves company. So what starts as one single simple grief becomes a tangled mess, and I may or may not sort out the strands.

I also know this of myself. I will feel better. Soon. Maybe just after a good night’s sleep. (Trust me, I’m about to go there.) You don’t need to be alarmed. I am not at risk of hurting anyone. I have an awesome support system. Hugs and affirmations from my family, and even writing this, have made me feel so much better already. So I am not complaining.

I just want to acknowledge that sadness is a real thing. Depression is a real thing. Unfortunately, for so many people, depression does not lift as easily as my fleeting sadness. No matter how they try to lift their spirits and think happy thoughts and pray faith-filled prayers, it can spiral down down down out of control. This doesn’t have to happen. There is help and hope.

This year, September 6-12 is National Suicide Prevention week. I don’t know if your life has been touched by suicide. Mine has. Years ago, a dear Christian friend, who loved and led others from the bottom of her heart, committed suicide. She left a huge hole in a community of hearts. I keenly remember the phone call, the funeral, the questions and regrets. Why was I not more aware? Why couldn’t I have done more?

I cannot intervene for my sweet friend. It is too late.

Yet I hope that these thoughts can make you more aware of depression, whether it is you or a loved one, an acquaintance or a stranger. Open your eyes and ears, open your heart, and as you are led by love, open your mouth. Your attention, understanding, compassion, and action can help save a life. It may take connecting them with professional counseling or medication. But it can start with a word or an embrace from you.

Two music videos, an article, another of my essays and a few of my poems to get you started… 

https://player.vimeo.com/video/138372200?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0
Joy (a film for World Suicide Prevention Day 2015) from White Raven Productions


“Beautiful Things” by Gungor



Why Churches Need to Talk about Suicide by Jamie Tworkowski


Melancholy by yours truly

The poems:

Oh, let me just put a whole one right here…

Your Kindness Gave Me Courage”
by Virginia Knowles
Your kindness gave me courage 
A gentle conversation
A thought-filled gaze
A good deed done 
A warm embrace
A place at your table  
A long letter, short note, silent words
A prayer for wisdom and strength
A gift from the heart.
Surely you did not fully know
(How could you?)
What that would do in me.
Could you sense my soul’s burdens:
The dark and doubt and defeat?

Then, just then, y
our kindness came as
Light: luminous
Love: lifting and leading me with 
Steady steps toward faith, hope, and joy.

Even though you could not fathom
Its deep reach and widening ripples
I knew then what I know now
And what I live a little more each day.

The very remembrance
Keen and bittersweet
Still fills me with dignity and wonder that
I can see, speak, serve, sing and
Bring light and love to others.

I bless you, my friend, with all my heart.
May the Lord Almighty bless you beyond
Full measure, pouring over the rims, for
Your kindness gives me courage.
If you know of other resources, be so kind as to leave a comment?

Posted in Authentic Life, Church, Communication, Do Justice ~ Love Mercy, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Poetry, Stress~Weariness, Web Links | 1 Comment

Tie Dye Radiance


For our first day of the home school year, my youngest daughter and I decided to make tie dye t-shirts for her. We bought the materials at Walmart.


She’s mixing up
the soda ash to soak
the white t-shirts.
It is supposed to make
the cloth more color fast.
Traditional sunburst method


Another sunburst shirt

  

This one will be more striped



A few days later 
we made a t-shirt
for her dad’s birthday

One for me

Two t-shirts for
my grandson’s
first birthday.
Lots of fun! I think I’ve found a hobby to continue!

Right now on my desk I have one more tie dye project tightly wrapped in a plastic bag. I just made it this evening, so it needs to sit for several hours before I rinse. I didn’t use soda ash this time, so I’m curious to see how it will turn out. It’s a turquoise (mixed aqua and green) sunburst wall hanging for my bedroom, but I’ll show you the finished product in another post!

If you’d like to read about the start of our school year, click here: First Two Weeks of Fourth Grade Home School.

Grace and peace, 
Virginia Knowles



Posted in http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, My Children, Photographs | 1 Comment