Thursday, October 10, 2013

Seasons of Life

 Ever notice how things seem to be in cycles. Take dishes for example - the need to do them seems to roll around quite often (grin). Sometimes they pile up, neglected. Other times they seem to be such a bother, gotta do the dishes, AGAIN. Yet, when I stop to think about it, dishes are a blessing. In my case, just the beautiful colors make me smile. But beyond that, dishes mean I've had something to eat! Perhaps something to share with others. Maybe even a celebration! Or more than not, just routine of daily life...still! Dishes mean life is continuing, normal or not, there is something to be thankful for.

Days, like dishes, sometimes pass by unnoticed. Soon the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months. Before you know it, seasons have changed. To my regret I don't always pause long enough to enjoy the blessings of the day! Time passes by quickly and before ya'know it, summer has turned into fall and fast approaching is the holiday season.

One day last month my daughter in law, Katie asked if I'd help her get started on a special Christmas project....seems there's a fabulous tradition in her family that everyone has a special made stocking from a certain craft manufacturer's kits using felt, embroidery, and other embellishments. Wanting to make a new tradition of her own, Katie ordered a Christmas tree skirt from this same company. Eager to get started she was a tad overwhelmed by the 400 step instruction sheet! She brought it over to the studio and we deciphered the instructions (actually Katie had them 99% figured out) and I taught her a few embroidery stitches and she was on her way!

In keeping with the mood of the day I put on Christmas music and began working on a Christmas project of my own - tropical santa....details on him later as he's not complete yet.  Katie worked hard that afternoon and after what seemed a thousand small steps she had a beautiful peppermint candy as the first deposit of multiple embellishments on what I know will be a treasured family heirloom.

Yes, the cycle of the holiday season is fast approaching!  Not too long after my craft day with Katie I went to visit my mom and sister. I brought along my bag of fall tricks and soon had each of them working diligently on making fabric pumpkins.

In case you missed the tutorial last year you can revisit and have fun making your own pumpkins.

Seasons come, and seasons go. Sometimes I wish my life were as simple as my sweet Pixxie's. She eats, she sleeps, she does dishes! (well, if you consider licking the plate 'doing dishes'), she chases squirrels, she poses with quilts - still my Professional Quilt Model, how be it, with age she seems to be caught on camera sleeping with my old quilts instead of the "ta da" poses with new quilts. And she loves. Unconditionally. This pup loves me. She's always eager to greet me when I come home, she's sad when I leave. She cuddles up to me when I need a hug...this is one season I hope never changes.

That said, there have been some significant changes in the past 24 hours....a new season in not only my life but the lives of our entire family....

Tuesday morning was bitter sweet as Eric and Katie closed the door (literately on the U-haul) to their lives here in the Houston/Galveston area to begin a great adventure in the Dallas area. 303 miles seems so far, and yet that's where God has called them.

A new season - for them as well as the extended family they leave behind. The cycle of seasons continue. You raise your children to be independent and to love God...and they do just that, move off to serve Him.

If they obey and serve Him, 
they shall spend their days in prosperity, 
and their years in pleasures. 
Job 36:11 

Seasons come, seasons go. Dishes pile up. Sometimes there's been a celebration, sometimes just a simple meal. Reminders that we should never take a single day for granted. He's placed us here, today, to love, be loved, and to do His will. This is the day the Lord has made! We will rejoice and be glad it in!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Seeing Stars

 I love stars, and star quilts! Perhaps it's because I inherited this beautiful block hand pieced by my great grandmother, Roxie Reynolds Brown 1885-1924. This is a pattern sometimes known as Snow Crystals.

Early on when the quilting bug bit I decided that I wanted to make these 8 pointed stars, referred to as Leymone Stars. I remember in 2001 collecting almost 200 fat quarters of purple fabrics with the plan of making a huge quilt just of Leymone Stars. I went to the Houston Festival and purchased Marti Michell's templates and started cutting out hundreds (or was it thousands) of little purple diamonds to make 6 inch stars.  And then there was....realization...not only did I have to cut out the diamonds but also the setting squares and triangles...enter in procrastination... sigh. Truth was, I was a beginner way over my head!

Fast forward to this year, 2013 (yes, I can do the math too - 12 years later!) I decide that I truly need to be working on some UFOs and I had such history with those purple prints....surely it was time for them to come out to see the light of day.

What changed you ask? Simply that I found a method to strip piece and eliminate the y be it, I was having to adjust the method a tad since my diamonds were now considered "fussy cut" and the real beauty of fully strip piecing wasn't a walk in the park as it should had been had I started out with this method.  Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained.  I'm proud to say with the use of a fantastic ruler by Deb Tucker, The Rapid Fire (TM) Leymone Star ruler, and her pattern Pop Stars I have pieced a project that was long over due. Now it enters the line of "quilts in waiting" (as in waiting to be quilted) hopefully it won't be as long as the piecing!

Eager to try her method "the right way" I quickly pieced her pattern Crown Jewels and actually quilted it all in the same weekend (It was Labor Day and I was working for myself GRIN)


Thought you might like to see the close up on the quilting.

I've always been one to want to share my new discoveries so I arranged to have a few friends and their friends for piecing classes this past week.  Here's how a longarm studio gets turned into a classroom.

Thursday's  class had 4 lovely ladies. I was so pleased that after a long day in the saddle they each were able to complete the center block of Crown Jewels (the snow crystal block)...And of course, my ever famous professional quilt model, Pixxie had to share "her block" when it came time for bragging rights. 

A day to catch my breath and then it was time for Saturday's class of 6. Table "A" had some "smokin' needles" and they were the first to complete their center block (one of them had to leave early for a previous engagement so she really was a speedy on the machine!)

By the end of class everyone had a center square. With detailed instructions in their pattern and ruler to be able to finish at home.

Sunday afternoon came and I found myself with lots of hands on demo parts and pieces...I'm a "see one do one" type of teacher... hum... this looks nice...

But I wanted something a tad different...but still with no Y seams...I remembered a class I took in 2004 with Nancy Johnson-Srebro and went to find my autographed book "Stars by Magic"  Her method uses squares and rectangles....

yep. A design change...that's what I'm talking about...add a little twist of shocking pink and by the time its quilted and bound in hot pink I think it will find a place in my kitchen!

Time for my final class, Tuesday's class had 3 ladies with my friend Annette returning from Saturday. Unfortunately Trish had to leave early so she's not included in today's photo....Pixxie missed her.

I just sent out "class photos" to all the ladies and I'm getting reports in that several from the earlier class have already finished their piecing! Way to go girls!  I told you once you got the hang of it you'd be addicted!  I know I am....

Now what to do with my parts and pieces from teaching.....guess what! I do have a plan, but it's going to take more - can't wait until another Sunday afternoon to do a little quilt therapy with the hum of the sewing machine!

Congrats to all my "students" for choosing such gorgeous fabrics for your quilts, and for your hard work with this slave driver of a teacher! You were all so much fun to work with, love the fellowship of quilters!  But I think we wore Pixxie out (grin)

Me? I'm still seeing stars!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

All on a Sunday Afternoon

 I love Sundays. Not only was today the first day of a new week, but the first of a new month. I smiled as the DJ on the local Christian radio station said "where has the year gone!"  My sentiments exactly, I found my thoughts agreeing as I drove to worship this morning. Yes, I love Sundays. A day of worship and rest. Rest, or cease from labor. Oh not in the strict sense of the word, but cease from "have to's" know. nothing that has to be done, just a afternoon to relax and piddle, an afternoon with no restrictions or to do list.

Sometimes that means ignoring the customer quilts, the dishes, the laundry, and just doing something I enjoy. Like playing around with fabric (grin) - now that's relaxing! A little quilt therapy to the rescue!

Why not make something little? A "quilt in a day" so to speak. Why not indeed. I had stumbled across a pattern on the internet this past week (Moda Bakeshop) and decided that would do well to occupy my thoughts today. The example was 15 inches, mine turned out to be 18...their's was scrappy, surprisingly mine wasn't. No restrictions!

Piecing was a breeze and I quickly found myself at the longarm, quilting away with the most delightful yellow thread creating texture on the background. I had fully planned on "matching thread" in the hot pink but hate to admit was a tad lazy and didn't want to get up to change thread...once committed....sigh...I can't help but wonder if it would have looked better with hot pink thread on the stars. At least the back had the texture I desired.

The afternoon has past by most pleasantly as I pieced, quilted, and then prepared the bias binding. Oh what was I thinking? One more personal project that needs the binding hand sewn on the back! At least it's small, and doable...

 I think this little quilt matches my bright mood of the day! A day of singing and rejoicing. I love Sundays. Times of corporate worship with fellow believers and times of quiet worship as I delight in the work my hands find to do.

"The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Design Wall Tuesday

Thought  I'd share what I'm currently working on...I have both a design wall and a design "floor" - for those of you who may not have wall space here's my little $2 tip - go to Wally World or somewhere economical and look for the flannel backed table cloths - they should be on sale as it is end of summer. Here I have two laid out on the floor to be my "design floor" for a customer t-shirt I am working on today, These are also great if you go to retreats or sew ins  -  when you are ready to pack it up, just roll it up!

 For grins I thought I'd share a personal project that may be hanging for months on my design "wall" - I recently finished piecing these blocks at my guild's sew in  (started over a year ago). The "white space" of my design wall is where I will put a narrow inner border. Eventually. Like I said, it will probably hang for a while, but it adds a colorful touch to the studio and makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Something in common

Know what these quilts have in common besides me making them? They all need binding! And actually, there's one more I forgot to include in the photo..sigh.

The top two on the quilt ladder actually have quarter inch steam 2 seam on them sticking them together in place of hand stitching thanks to my friend Trish - tradition dictates that she does this for me annually in the hotel prior to the Dallas show so they can hang in the A1 booth. What can I say, there's never enough time to get ready for a show! The S2S  really works in a pinch - you should try it - Trish uses this all the time...but I do want to eventually hand stitch them down anyway. The blue one was a couple of years ago, the black one this past year. 

The 3rd ad 4th quilts on the ladder technically aren't  quilts even though they are quilted... You see, I didn't use batting, only a fabulous fleece backing.."Technically" a quilt is three layers..ah, but they certainly cuddle like a quilt! So in my studio I call them quilts, and they too have the binding machine sewn on one side awaiting the hand sewing on the other. The top one of the two actually has about half of it's binding sewn down thanks to a recent road trip - nothing better to wile away the miles when a passenger on a long road trip...

The purple and green next to the last on the ladder just got the binding cut out tonight - the pieces aren't even sewn together yet - but its going to be a beauty! Striped bias!  The quilt was pieced in 2009 and finally quilted last month as part of my summer goal of taking time to catch up on personal quilts.

The bottom one on the ladder was made around Memorial Day of this year, and actually quilted the same week it was made! I took a holiday (grin) and quilted just for me. The binding was put on during that same time too, and it's actually half hand sewn down. A rarity for a quilt to be pieced, quilted and bound in the same year, well, almost bound. It has potential!

The midnight stars on the stool to the left was another 2013 creation - pieced and quilted this past week with the binding on one side to be hand sewn hopefully this week. It's a class sample. Yep, I'm teaching piecing classes in September - if you are local shoot me an email and I'll give you the details. "real" Leymone Stars without y-seams - the trick is in the ruler - and if you are like me, you can never have enough rulers!

The parrot has been waiting for years for me to finish coloring it  (inspired by a real parrot found on my studio window sill after hurricane Ike in '08 - you can read about him in the archives if interested). Anyway he isn't even close to getting a binding yet - but he's been brought out of hiding because I have a place in my living room I'd like to hang him so perhaps by being "in plain sight" he will be completed soon.  I have such lofty goals!

Actually that's the hope of all of these.  Goal is  to have them completely bound before the end of the year. Labels? That's a whole 'nuther story, that and all the "quilts in waiting" that have been personally pieced but waiting to be quilted... and we won't even mention how many project boxes with partially started piecing....

Is this something we have in common? Personal quilts needing to be finished? Either pieced, quilted, or bound.  Leave a comment and let me know if you are as bad about unfinished projects as I am....and do tell if you are faithful to label your labors of love, inquiring minds want to know - actually, I just want to feel 'normal' (grin).


Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Boarding Pass


It has been way too long since I've blogged. First of all, thank you to those who either emailed or saw me in person and inquired if all was well. Your concern has touched my heart. Sometimes it seems that we lose touch with not only ourselves but those around us. Doesn't mean anything in particular is wrong, at least for me, but rather just a time to come away and reflect, regroup, and recharge.

If you have followed me on facebook I want you to know that I didn't "unfriend" you. I deleted my account. Woke up one Sunday morning and this was what I was inspired to do...

I believe that this is what I needed and am now ready to start blogging again...

The Boarding Pass:

I wasn't planning on going to MQS this year - The Machine Quilting Showcase held annually in May. Usually I attend as part of the A1 Quilting Machine team.....but this year I'd decided I was just too busy to go, just the thoughts of one more thing on my to do list had me way over stressed. Funny how we think we are "in control" of our lives. As the time drew nearer some of my  fears of over commitment began to diminish, some of the obligations no longer became an when Stewart Plank (owner of A1) text me about 3 weeks prior to see if I could attend I text back "YES!"  After all, how could I miss the opportunity to see a show that specializes in machine quilting and miss the opportunity of introducing the public to our new A1 Elite Platinum (new touch screen and stitch regulated machine), much less miss seeing some of my quilting friends whom I only see at national shows!

So the tickets were purchased and I worked diligently through my "to do list" and worked on my "what do I need to pack list" and before I could blink it was the night before I was to leave for Witcha, Kansas.  

Have I ever mentioned that I'm a procrastinator? How's this - the airlines asks that you check in online 24 hours prior to flight....8 hours isn't too bad, is it? And oops, my procrastination of going to the office supply store resulted in no ink to print out that boarding pass on my way to the airport that morning. Oh well, they say you can print it at the ticket counter, right?

I just thought I got up in plenty of time....wrong again. Without a boarding pass I had to go through the full service line to check in my baggage AND get a boarding pass. Oh my! The line was incredibly long for 4:30 in the morning! I began to get really nervous. Why wasn't there a line just for people who arrived less than the suggested one hour before departure?!?!?! All I could do was pray.

Seriously, why do we say "all I can do is pray"  when that should be the first thing we do in a crisis! And not just in a crisis, but daily communing with our Father?

Praying led me to be more calm and removed the stress I felt climbing. I knew I just needed a good dose of patience.  They opened another line and asked all those who already had their boarding pass to go to a new line (oh how I wished that were me!) But it did reduce the line in front of me. Hope, yes there was hope.

Then they called on the loud speaker for boarding of my flight. Oh my!  Again I prayed and was given the boldness to ask to cut in line. How embarrassing! I caught the attention of a lady across the rope line from me and said "my flight is boarding, do you mind if I cut in front" (while ignoring all those wrapped around the line between she and I). She said "I don't mind" and I crawled humbly under the rope, not without some difficulty I might add, I don't pack light.

There were still 4 groups of people between me and the clerk at the check in counter. Swallowing my pride I asked them if they minded....rolling their eyes they gave me consent to go ahead of them. Or was it I took their no comment as consent?  I turned around to all the people who were paying attention that I'd cut in line and humbly apologized for my tardiness to the airport and my rudeness in asking to go in front of them. I didn't wait for a response of approval or disapproval, I just quickly made my way to the nice gentlemen who took my bag (thank you Lord I wasn't overweight which would have meant either repacking or money). He told me I'd best have on my running shoes because the plane wouldn't wait on me. 

One hurdle down, the next was the TSA line.....Oh my, oh my!!!  This time I didn't hesitate, I went right to the roped end of the zig zagged line nearest the front of the line and said "my plane leaves in 15 minutes, may I go ahead of you?"  I was trying to give my best smile and my most pleasant pleading know, that southern woman in distress look that generally calls out to gallant  men (but doesn't work with other women).  I didn't make it to the top of the line, but it was the first zig of a 4 to 5 zag (oh so many rows!).  

Take off the shoes...put the purse, boarding pass, carry on luggage on the conveyor belt.....silently wish they could go faster....breath...pray...put on the shoes, grab the carry on, run, run, run! Thank goodness I can maneuver well on those walking sidewalks!

It was then I noticed I didn't have my boarding pass! I'd left it in the container from the TSA conveyor belt. About the same time I hear "KAREN OVERTON!" and turn to wave at the TSA officer acknowledging I was she - oh my! Thank you Lord no one else was on the walking sidewalk or I'd of gotten a ticket for going the wrong way in a one way lane! Or worse, had a head on collision!  Breath...pray...grab the boarding pass and run, run, run!  

Once I was safely in my seat I realized that I'd been humbled but the Lord answered my prayer and I was on my way to MQS! I laughed at myself when I realized that this looked like something I'd seen in some Sandra Bullock movie....don't you just wonder what I really looked like and how many people got a good laugh out of my crazy appearance. Hum, scratch that thought...


For sake of time I will blog in the future about my experience at MQS....but believe it or not, there's MORE to the Boarding Pass story....

Return Trip Boarding Pass:

All to quickly my time at MQS was drawing to a close. Due to flight schedules I was returning to Houston on Saturday, prior to the show closing that afternoon. There was only ONE flight on Saturday, the next available would be the following day...

So Friday morning I decided that I really should check in as near to the 24 hour suggested time frame as possible. No free internet connection at my hotel so I use my iPad with my iPhone as a hotspot (thank you to my eldest son who is Apple certified/Verizon wireless genius who can help me out in any phone or internet situation) and confirm my flight - saving my online boarding pass as PDF and then emailing it to myself to be able to print from the hotel's business center later that evening...long story short, somewhere between printing it off Friday night and my 5 AM shuttle to the airport I misplaced my boarding pass. This is so unlike once again to the full service ticket counter I go.

I had to smile when I saw the red case it's not obvious, I have an A1 Elite and the A+ Elite logo was just the encouragement I needed at the moment.  They might as well have been personally welcoming me as a VIP for that's how I felt. Yep. It was going to be a good day!

Check in was pretty routine, I was a pound overweight - my luggage, not me (we won't discuss me!) - and had to readjust an item from the suitcase to the carry on. Boarding passes printed (two planes to Houston) and I was on my way to the TSA line, this time reminding myself to check everything in the container before I head towards the gate....

There was a problem with my carry on luggage...oh my! I was detained and they asked permission to search my bag (ever wonder what would happen to you if you said no?). The nice TSA  lady shuffles around in my belongings saying there was a container of liquid....oh my! Had I forgotten to take out that water bottle I was going to drink on the shuttle? But she can't seem to locate it. After the second search she pulls everything out of my bag - my pillow, my flannel sheet (I always bring my own when I travel), my makeup water bottle...The lady TSA officer takes my bag back to the scanner...and the TSA officer  monitoring the screen shows the search officer that indeed there is something liquid in my case and to re-search's then I speak up and say to check the outside pocket (somewhat camouflaged ) and there is the offending contraband. It's removed and I'm released to head to my gate. How embarrassing!

That's when I heard over the loud speaker "Will passenger Karen Overton please return to the Air Tram ticketing counter for your boarding pass" What? I have it in my hand!?!?!?! It's then I realize that I should have two boarding passes. The one for my second flight is missing. oh my!  Can this really be happening to me?  If I go back to the ticket counter I have to go back through TSA and the line is long and of course they are within minutes of boarding my flight....After consulting with a TSA officer concerning my dilemma it was decided that the next airport possibly could print out a boarding pass for me at the gate, IF I wanted to take the chance...if not, he'd make sure I went to the head of the line to go through security again.

I decided to take a chance.... I was assured by a fellow vendor friend from MQS (who rode the same shuttle to the airport and heard my name called over the loud speaker after we had parted at the security check in)   "If they can't print out your boarding pass at the next destination then you weren't suppose to be on that plane."  Truth, so plainly spoken. Time to trust God again with my situation.

So on to my gate I went, arriving right on time for my "zone" to board. Once safely seated with my seat belt on I shared my story with the gentlemen sitting next to me. He asked,  "That was you? I heard your name called over the loud speaker." "Did you laugh?" I said. "Of course." he replied with a chuckle. Humbled matter, I breathed a sigh of relief that I was on the plane home - the only plane that day going home.

Home. I was reminded of one of my favorite songs (its actually my ring tone on my iPhone) "All I know is I'm not home yet, this is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus, this is not where I belong". And then I remembered something from a book I read in the early 70's called The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom....after experiencing death for the first time in her young life Corrie was disturbed and cried to her father before being tucked into bed....

" 'I need you!' I sobbed. 'You can't die! You can't!' ....Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. 'Corrie,' he began gently, ' when you and I go to Amsterdam - when do I give you your ticket?' I sniffed a few times, considering this. 'Why, just before we get on the train.' 'Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of Him Corrie. When the times comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need - just in time.' "

God provides our needs, just in time. His protection and love go before us, guiding along the way.  God is sovereign and He knows what is best for me and will always provide His best for every situation. He will always give me my ticket, whether for death or in life - just in time.

Including my boarding pass!


I arrived home safely - and later learned that God protected me from harsh weather conditions by leaving the show a day early. Truly truly, He knows what's best for me.

As I've been AWOL for several months I have lots of Quilt Rambler tales to tell. I will catch up! In the meantime here's just a taste of what I've been up to lately on this journey of life...

 Bike riding in Galveston and around the neighborhood.

I've started juicing - and not just fabulous fruit juices
I'm learning to "drink my greens"

I love the rainbow in my kitchen on grocery shopping days!

I've started teaching piecing classes again in the Quilts 'N Kaboodle studio. 

So hang around, there's more to come.  Karen, The Quilt Rambler

Special thanks to Elaine, Darsie, and others (you know who you are) for encouraging me this week. I cherish the hugs and the out pouring of love. So glad we are forever friends through Jesus!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Week Off

 We returned last Sunday from a cruise with our church – no, we weren't on the one that was stranded…here’s some thoughts I wrote the last days at sea….

Friday on the cruise:

Sitting on the pool deck enjoying the late afternoon sun. Shortly it will be time to get ready for our formal dinner. As much as I enjoy the dining with our friends from church I truly dislike having to cut the afternoon relaxation short to have time to prepare for early dining at 5:45 – this time of year, that’s the sunset hour…However this has been the only regrets on this most relaxing of all the cruises I've been blessed to sail.

We left Galveston Sunday in a rush. True to my habit I was still packing just hours before we were to leave. Fortunately the only item I forgot was sunscreen - actually I didn't forget it - we just ran out of time to make that last minute shopping trip on the way south . No worries, sunscreen is readily available in all the cruise shops for a simple swipe your "sea pass" to purchase ANYTHING on board! (Day of reckoning comes later!)

Sunday was the discovery day - discover your cabin, discover the location of the main dining, and most importantly the where’bouts of the free frozen yogurt machine  as well as the free pizza.  Yes, some things in life are truly free (or at least included with the price of admission!)

Monday morning we joined our fellow Calvary Chapel couples for a time of worship and morning devotions. Then it was on to continue exploring the ship and spending a little time on the deck poolside enjoying the Reggie band. Again, the afternoon was cut short as we donned our best clothes for the formal fine dining followed by evening entertainment.  With the exception of dinner and show times we were on "island time."

Tuesday we docked in Cozumel. We always enjoy returning here as its sorta our roots. April 1980 we honeymooned in Cozumel and each cruise year we like to scan the horizon to search for "our" hotel. (It’s the small one in the center with the tiki huts – maybe that’s what began my love for a tiki hut) 

A lot has changed in 33 years - hurricanes  as well as tourist industry growth. Yet the downtown shops still have the same allure.

 I love the colors of Mexico. In years past I've come home with a collection of bags/purses or items to decorate our tiki hut. This year I had no theme, no quest, no agenda for my shopping. I reminded myself that I'd just bought a bike therefore forfeited my shopping budget for something more lasting than bags or trinkets. I was doing pretty good too until I saw it....the colors spoke to me, the price was right, But just to be sure I passed it up not once but twice. If it was still there at the end of the day it was "meant to be."  

Yes. I'm going home with a sink! Not a kitchen sink, but one that I plan to have in my bathroom. Someday. The challenge is transporting it home! Pottery is fragile - and heavy!

Wednesday  our port of call was Georgetown Grand Cayman. Again, no agenda - just enjoy the island. 

While walking down the city streets I spied a sign that said "artist here today - second story". We were at Guy Harvey's studio! I've always admired his work, but have not been privileged to own any, not even a T-shirt with his art. And there he was in his studio surrounded by his legacy of fabulous nature paintings graciously signing autographs. I quickly found a small 5x7 print for him to sign. My plans are to frame this to hang in the bathroom.

As exciting as this was I believe the highlight of the day was finding a small cove where we could actually see the water and stand on the shoreline. To say that the water is breathtaking would be an understatement. We observed with wonder a local fisherman skillfully preparing his catch – then throwing the discarded parts in the ocean where a school of sharks were feasting. I'm not an expert on sharks but they reminded me of the small nurse shark variety. Obviously they were more interested in being feed fish parts than to be concerned with the snorkelers who happened upon them. I was content to be on dry land! 

The evenings on board are a blur of fine dining, fabulous shows and evenings visiting the various nooks and crannies with wonderful live bands, sometimes joined by new friends . Oh the joys of not setting an alarm in the mornings!

Thursday's destination was Jamaica. I have to admit I didn't have a lot of expectations for Jamaica. In fact we were a little late in leaving the ship (as previously  mentioned, no alarms).  However, Jamaica stole my heart.

Upon deporting at each of the destinations we are herded through what I call the "tourist trap" – the cruise line sponsored shops. This is a good thing as it allows those going on excursions to still shop some of the local fair. This was the plan for the day, just shop the tourist trap and perhaps go back to the ship and hang around the uncrowded pool deck. Well, through the years I've learned the word "flexible" ... Upon impulse we decided to take a trolley ride to tour the city.

This was the real Jamaica . We drove through streets that would definitely be considered third world as well very colorful homes with wrap around verandas, windows open with flowing curtains dancing in the wind. Our tour guide enlightened us about local sayings such as explaining "here in Jamaica we have no problems - only situations". She also shared history of the island's plantations growing sugar cane for export and the import of slaves to work the plantations. One such plantation owner was known for treating his slaves with dignity and respect so much so that after the emancipation his slaves chose to remain with him and to continue to work the plantation. In my thoughts I concurred that this man must have been a Christian and followed the teachings of Christ in treating your slaves well and even more so if they were a brother in Christ. True of this man or not it was interesting to learn that Jamaica has more churches per square mile than anywhere else in the world. Of course the term “church”, I think, was used rather loosely because she also mentioned that there were all faiths represented on the island ... And not all Christian.

Part of the tour included a stop at one of the historical churches where we were allowed to disembark to go inside as we did our best to shuffle past the street vendors. It's difficult sometimes to be in a strange country and discern if you are being taken for a con, especially when you see poverty around you.

We went inside and learned several interesting facts about the church - viewing different relics such as a hand carved lectern from beautiful mahogany . Our guide also pointed out a painting on the side wall - from a distance it appeared to be a painting of Christ but upon closer examination the picture was made up of multicultural faces representing, perhaps, that no matter our nationality or our status in life we are one in Christ.

I have to admit viewing this was an emotional moment for me and I felt led to put a small contribution in the offering box. A middle aged woman was standing at the collection box and smiled as she nodded her thanks and "God bless" to which I whispered "I will see you again in heaven" and she said "Yes!"

Again I was a tad emotional and wanted to wipe my tears before joining my fellow tourists on the trolley. Prior to entering the church I has noticed a graveyard on the right side so I ducked that way to regain my composure.  On my path to the graveyard  I saw an old woman begging. As I quickly walked past her she pleaded "look at me, look at me” in a voice that reflected don’t ignore that you are walking past a person who needs help. I rushed past her. I wasn't being rude I just couldn't speak at the moment…

I went around the side of the church and took a picture of the goats on the grave markers as I discreetly opened my wallet for my return trip past the old woman.

She saw me coming back and pleaded once again holding out her hands. I took her hands in mine and that's when she felt the bill that I was passing into hers. Her pleads quickly turned to praise as she said "God bless you" and I replied "He already has". She continued to speak blessings over me and thanking Jesus. I began speaking to her and then offering prayers up to Jesus to bless her  as the  tears were steaming, now freely, down my cheeks .  

Then I said "I will see you in heaven one day."

Her reply, "I am working to be there, I go to church all the time."  

"No, it's not working that get you there, it is a gift from God. Do you understand that? It's a gift, you just need to reach out your hand and take Jesus."  

Yes, Jesus is free".

My concern was did she really understand?  Was she misinformed that her salvation was determined by what she did in this life (works)  or had she really accepted the free gift of salvation that only comes through  Jesus.  I will never know for sure this side of eternity - but I am hopeful that I will see her again and somehow I feel that we indeed were sisters in Christ. Just like that painting - different nationalities, different situations in life, but one in Jesus.

At that point we were both crying and hugging and I knew I had to go before the trolley left me. I looked into her sweet face with those missing teeth and thought she was the most beautiful woman.

Somehow I managed to regain my composure once again (sunglasses are wonderful things) and find my way to the trolley. As we drove 
off I searched for her near the building where I had left her, behind the street vendors. I saw her and saw that she was trying to move to a position to search the trolley for me too. Simultaneously we saw each other and waved the biggest farewell wave that continued until we were no longer in each other’s sight. 

 It was then that I was reminded of my sweet Ma-Ma, who has been with Jesus since 2009. Whenever we left her and my grandfather’s house after a visit we would wave out the car window until we were out of sight while she would stand at the carport and wave just as big and as long. It always brought tears to my eyes, as it does now.

Then it registered, this beautiful lady was perhaps someone's grandmother, and she certainly reminded me of mine! Yes, Jamaica stole my heart. Such joy, such color, such a need for the Savior.

 I think I could have just been satisfied with my morning encounter with my Jamaican Ma-Ma, but The Lord continued to bless our day. A crafts market, island music and dancers, and THE BEST souvenir ever - parrots for my own tropical paradise back home. I found the small one first and am pictured with the artist who carved it. My larger one was found later as I wandered the rows of the crafts market

Friday was a day at sea, and as mentioned, formal night:

It is now Saturday afternoon as I have attempted to continue my thoughts - it's not easy typing on the iPhone as I'm listening to the poolside Jamaican band. The past two days at sea are a blur - a time to recoup from the three days of ports of call as well as a time to reflect and be relaxed and refreshed. Throughout the week we've shared times of worship, prayer, teaching, and wonderful fellowship with our fellow Calvary Chapel couples and we've had some much needed time to ourselves. The weather has been beautiful - but the further north we are going to more I realize it’s still winter on the mainland.

I am thankful for the time away, and I am looking forward to coming back to "real life" hopefully a better person for having had this Caribbean adventure.  I’ll leave you with the song now playing poolside …Don’t worry, be happy


For those wondering how I got my parrot home (grin)