4/16/2015

Cattle Rustling for Death and Profit







As I've written before, Cochise County doesn't have a long history of law and order. From the early days of the Apache wars to wild times in Tombstone, there's a healthy supply of interesting tales.  Cattle rustling was one enterprise that the Indians, Mexicans and Americans seemed to enjoy.  The terrain is well-suited because of the multitude of canyons, arroyos, and undefined borders which benefited rustlers. 

Black Jack (Photo: Wikipedia)
Curly Bill's gang (of the OK Corral shoot out fame) headed an active bunch of rustlers whose most famous exploit was killing a group of Mexican smugglers in Skeleton Canyon. After that awful deed, they proceeded to steal 300 head of cattle in Mexico and jubilantly returned to the Tombstone area with their catch. The Mexican vacqueros pursued the bovine bandits back into the U.S. and recovered the cattle and managed to rustle 200 more head on the way back across the Mexican border.  This only escalated the whole affair with Curly Bill, who wasn't going to accept defeat. He rushed into Mexico and re-stole the cattle.  The vacqueros followed them back into the U.S. and proceeded to kill the new "owner" who was "Old Man" Clanton. Several of his companions met the the same fate in Guadalupe Canyon. 

Not all of the rustlers had such a violent reputation as Curly Bill.  Black Jack Christian was well liked and known to help with round-ups and shoe horses.  Mrs. Hunsaker who ran an outfit in Leslie Canyon was fond of the outlaws who would help with chores and leave their guns outside, unlike posse members who stomped into her house, spitting tobacco juice on the floor.  Jacob Scherer, another rancher was willing to obstruct justice to give the rustlers a chance to get away. When questioned on Black Jack's whereabouts (the rustler had spent the night at the Scherer cabin) he denied ever seeing the man. 

After the complex and bloody incidents  in Skeleton and Guadalupe Canyons, things began to change. Law enforcement and the ranchers on both sides of the border took more precautions and reduced rustling significantly. American rustlers stayed on U.S. side for the most part and Mexican rustlers stayed on their side. When John Slaughter became sheriff in 1887, the whole rustling industry was pretty much shut down, although small ranchers were not adverse to appropriating random calves from the larger ranching enterprises. To avoid detection, the rustlers moved the unbranded little dogies up into secluded, natural mountain corrals where they were branded and allowed to heal before freed to the range. The Arizona Rangers were formed in 1901 and finally got a handle on this type of rustling. They made 1800 arrests in the first two years, which was pretty effective in discouraging any others who might consider this as a career or pastime. 

Lest you think that we've outgrown stealing cattle, Cochise County still has some notoriety in that department. In 2007, cattle rustling charges were brought against a rancher in Willcox, AZ. In the modern age, DNA was used to prove ownership. Here's the link if you're interested in more information.

The pioneer time period was brief, albeit colorful in Cochise County. For photos and more information that may be of interest click the LINK.

4/06/2015

Bloom Where You're Planted

The high desert spring is in overdrive. Because of some significant winter rains, our area is unusually lush. The roses are especially nice, the first blooms just emerging. I was counting the buds on the bushes along with the red yuccas, excited about the potential of so many blooms all at once. The buds are tightly wrapped cones of color, expanding each day toward the burst of full flower.

Montezuma Rose
Photo: L. Wallace

















The roses, iris, yucca, prickly pear, salvias, etc., etc. give everything they have to bloom. It's their crowning achievement and singular task that accomplishes a dual purpose. They produce the beautiful flowers that feed the bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, plus reproduce despite windy, dry weather and pests. And so it should be for us, using the gracious gifts God has given us to build up the body of Christ--the church--our brothers and sisters. These gifts disciple believers and bring others to Jesus.

In the church, we need to be using whatever gift we have to strengthen the body. Your gift may be maintenance, fixing meals for the sick, caring for babies in the nursery, writing notes of encouragement, teaching a Bible study, praying consistently for others, just to name a few.


In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (Romans 12:6-8 NLT)

Our lives need to show the beauty of Christ in us to those who don't know Him. Be ready to give an answer for the hope you have.
Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. (Philippians 2:15 NLT)
I was reminded of the timeworn phrase, "bloom where you're planted."The rose's gift is to bloom where it's situated, despite drought or beetles. It accomplishes the mission with all its energy and focus. It's vulnerable to the elements and enemies. But a half-hearted rose that stays budded simply doesn't deliver. Wherever you may find yourself, use your gift(s) well for the benefit of others, a bud unfurled into the flower you are meant to be.  Don't hold back--bloom with all your heart.
Peace Rose
Photo: L. Wallace


3/30/2015

From Eden to Gethsemane

 T
he Creator of the universe planted a perfect garden in Eden for Adam and Eve to enjoy. He walked in the garden with them every evening. Then they believed Satan’s lie and their relationship with God was broken. They lost the garden. The Creator came back to this sin-filled earth to rescue us and as He finished his earthly ministry, it was in another garden—the Garden of Gethsemane. 
Jesus knew what faced him in the next few hours.  He would be arrested. He would be beaten and spit upon.  He would be accused by the religious leaders of his day, who would lie through their teeth about him.  And then he would be nailed to a cross and hung to die like a common criminal. It was all for you, and it was all for me.  Jesus didn’t run away and he didn’t give up, even though his most trusted disciples fell asleep during their Master’s greatest time of need.  He could have said it wasn’t worth it anymore, especially since the men he’d spent the most time with and invested so much in couldn’t even keep watch with Him. Jesus was still willing to go through with the Father’s perfect plan to save us from our sins even though we most assuredly did not deserve it. 

White Bleeding Heart
Jesaro Photos
















His sacrifice provides the only way to a restored relationship with God. It is eternal life—there is much more to come after life here on earth. His resurrection guarantees we will get back to the perfect garden of God, which Revelation 22 tells us is where the River of Life flows and fruit is always in season. Will you be there? Have you received His gift of eternal life?  


They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, "Sit here while I go and pray." He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. "Abba, Father," he cried out, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."

Mark 14:32-36 NLT

Excerpt from Gardens of the Heart

2/24/2015

In His Likeness

Bonsai is the fascinating Japanese art of shaping trees into miniature works of art. Tiny trees are potted, then trimmed, wired, and slowly formed into stunning displays. The process is not weeks or months, but years. Long years, patient years. It requires an artistic touch, understanding form, balance, and negative space. The gardener must understand the tree--diseases, light requirements, fertilizer. The gardener must also know how to bend the branches and know how much the tree can take. The gardener already sees in his or her mind what this tree can truly look like at its maturation. It's not for the faint of heart, nor the hurried. As a gardener, I admire the skill of master gardeners who painstakingly create such beauty.

The photos bear out the long process from the 10 year-old azalea on the left to the mature trees below that are 50 years or more.

Azalea - 10 yrs old Photo: E. Morse
I can't help but compare these intricate works of gardening art to the patient tending of the Master Gardener, who desires to shape our hearts and lives into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. His tools are trials and blessings to transform our minds, our desires, and our actions. He sees what we can truly be under His tender care. Are you willing to be transformed?


For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  James 1:3-4




Larch - 50 yrs old Photo: E. Morse






 









Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.   Romans 12:2





Japanese Yew - 100 yrs old Photo: E. Morse
























But the godly will flourish like palm trees
and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon

For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!” 
Psalm 92:12-15



Cherry  Photo: E. Morse






 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. Philippians 1:11 

















2/18/2015

Death and Taxes or How to Plan for the Eventual With a Minimum of Fuss

Ben Franklin is credited with the quote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." Cheery thoughts from one of our more colorful founding fathers. In this season of tax preparation--the gathering of documents and frustration of deciphering forms and convoluted formulas, preparing our taxes forces us to take a look at our finances for the past year. In that same vein, it's also a good to time to take stock of our preparations for when we are no longer around to work on those tax forms.

I worked as a paralegal for many years, handling the probate of estates both great and small. Preparation is the key for your family to navigate those choppy waters. Emotions run high and even the most mild-mannered can become unreasonable, argumentative, and yes, surprisingly greedy.  Take some of the drama out of this inevitable situation by gifting your family with a well thought out plan. Here's how to accomplish that dreaded task.

1.  Have a Last Will and Testament. No arguments that you don't have enough money to warrant one and it'll cost too much. Nonsense. It was my experience that more fights ensued over estates of $10,000 or less because there was no will. Everyone needs one. Young or old. Male or female. Married or single. If you have minor children, you certainly need one to appoint guardians for your offspring. You don't want a messy family fight in the funeral home parking lot over who gets the kids. And if you think that couldn't possible happen, think again. It does happen in even the most delightful of families.  An attorney is highly recommended for the drawing of a will, but there are online sites that can draft the document for a low fee if your estate is truly simple. Wills should be reviewed and updated as necessary. Your attorney can retain the original for safekeeping or you can keep it in a fireproof safe. A safe deposit box is not usually the best repository since it requires a court order to open upon your demise.

2.  Have a Durable Power of Attorney. A power of attorney enables your designee to handle a myriad of business transactions, from paying bills to selling real property. You can choose exactly what your POA can or cannot do. Usually spouses designate spouses and you may have an alternate or co-POAs. Should you be incapacitated, this document can be worth its weight in gold to handle day-to-day life. If you cease breathing, the POA becomes worthless and your will kicks in.

3. Health Proxy and Living Will. The marvelous medical technology we enjoy has created some complex end-of-life scenarios that require our attention. Who can make healthcare decisions if you should be unconscious or otherwise unable to make them yourself? What kind of end-of-life care do you really want? Feeding tube? Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order? No extraordinary measures? Every extraordinary measure?  Don't place a spouse or family member in a situation to try and guess what you would want. Healthcare providers want specific instructions--legal documents. Have the conversation ahead of time. It's not exactly a fun topic, but necessary. Once again an attorney is your best source for the drawing of these documents. They will also need review and updates as necessary.

4.  Online Accounts and Passwords.  Our lives are woven into the virtual fabric of online business accounts for banking, insurance, investing, memberships, and social media.  Usually one spouse handles the finances, while the other may blissfully ignore how to sign in to the bank account to pay bills or transfer funds. This can be one of the most frustrating and scary processes for a spouse or loved one who must now try and figure out how to gain access when they have no idea where to start.  First, keep a list of all your online accounts, including Face Book with the passwords. If you keep the list in a spreadsheet, print it off and update when you change passwords. A password document is highly sensitive, and I recommend that you store it on a flash drive rather than the hard drive of your computer. Second, sit down with your beloved spouse and show them how to log on to the various sites, pay a bill, etc. if he or she isn't familiar with the process.

5.  Life Insurance and Sundry Documents.  Corral any life insurance policies, beneficiary information for pensions and annuities in a file for easy access. Do the same with deeds, mortgages, car titles, loan papers--you get the idea. Make it easy for you and your family to locate important documents.

You're absolutely correct that it'll cost some time and money to put your affairs in order.  Consider it quality time and money well spent that expresses your love and concern for your family. A clear estate plan will eliminate a plethora of possible problems. And, it's also a good idea to talk about ... ahem ... those final arrangements.  Even Yogi Berra had that uncomfortable conversation with his wife.


“Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?” -Carmen Berra, Yogi’s wife. “Surprise me.” – Yogi



1/02/2015

Finding the Way in the New Year

Thick fog settled in over the high desert this morning. Fog so dense, mountains to the east and west couldn't be seen. How appropriate for the beginning of the new year.  As exciting as it is with fresh calendars, goals to lose weight, or get organized, we do not even know what this day will hold, much less what six months from now will be like. Maybe that's why we cling to the past. It's safe in a way. We know exactly what happens and how it turns out. The year now lying before us is unknown territory, shrouded in the mist, hidden from our eyes. A bit scary and exciting all at once.

The fog will lift today, its veil dissolving in the sunlight. It's much like the layers of each day being revealed as we do the living of them, trusting in the One who does know the future.  The dissipation of the fog is all about the light that clears away the grayness. The sunlight overcomes the fog one step at a time, and before you know it, the mountains are visible again. 

Take the light so necessary to living as you step out into a brand new year. Commit to read God's word daily,  put it into practice, and let its wisdom make all the difference in navigating this year. You can trust the Author every step of the way.

Photo by PF Flyer
The psalmist says it best:

Psalm 119:105 - Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:130 - The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.

Psalm 119:133 - Guide my steps by your word,
so I will not be overcome by evil.


as well as the prophet - Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

12/11/2014

Christmas Miracles

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell of the miraculous circumstances and birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I never tire of reading about the angel visiting Mary, Joseph, and Zacharias. Or of the verses about the shepherds being scared out of their wits by an angel invasion, and taking off for Bethlehem to verify the angel's proclamation. And of course the passage about the wisemen heeding the angel's warning in a dream, sneaking out of Judea by an alternate route. Read the first couple of chapters in Luke and Matthew to see for yourself.

Miracles do happen during the Christmas season, although technically Jesus was most likely born sometime in September. This year marks seven years since our own December miracle, which was actually a double miracle. Our grandsons turn seven this week. And yes, the birth of a baby is always a miraculous thing, but quite frankly these boys are exceptional miracles.  Because of Twin-to-Twin Tranfusion Syndrome they were born eight weeks early, Austin under three pounds and Brayden just over four pounds. Our daughter had spent six weeks on bedrest in the hospital alternating between having labor stopped or amino fluid reductions over that time. Two days shy of 32 weeks they were delivered by emergency C-section. Breathing and heart issues were some of the most immediate problems. The doctors gave our daughter and son-in-law bleak news on what outcomes were possible--significant physical and mental disabilities or worse. Those tiny boys in their incubators hooked up to all sorts of machines were even too fragile to hold.

The next few months were a roller coaster of emotions as the boys struggled to get well. Brayden came home after four weeks and continued to progress, although reflux and apnea were concerns. Austin languished in the NICU, diagnosed with chronic lung disease, severe reflux, a hernia, and then MRSA. It seemed like there was a new complication every day.

During that time, we learned about the power of prayer from a network of family, friends, and strangers literally from around the world, who prayed for the health of the boys. God  worked in each of our lives strengthening our faith and giving extraordinary grace. The prayers of so many were answered graciously, miraculously, but in God's time.

I was finally able to hold Austin in the NICU and feed him a bottle for the first time at the end of February, 2008. His big bright eyes locked onto mine as he ate. I marveled that he was getting better--finally. He would go home in the next week after three months in the hospital, although he would be on oxygen until he was eight months old and suffer with painful reflux until he was two.

Today, you'd never know that they ever had any health issues. They're healthy and happy first graders with none of the predicted ill effects from such a traumatic entrance into the world.  I am reminded of Matthew 19:26 whenever I see their smiling faces.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible."



 Grandpa & his boys - Mar. 2014
 

                                                        
                                                                        Brayden, Dec. 2007

                                                                     Austin, Dec. 2007

"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Luke 2:14

For more information about TTTS visit www.fetalhope.org.

SimplyLife

Positively encouraging

4/16/2015

Cattle Rustling for Death and Profit







As I've written before, Cochise County doesn't have a long history of law and order. From the early days of the Apache wars to wild times in Tombstone, there's a healthy supply of interesting tales.  Cattle rustling was one enterprise that the Indians, Mexicans and Americans seemed to enjoy.  The terrain is well-suited because of the multitude of canyons, arroyos, and undefined borders which benefited rustlers. 

Black Jack (Photo: Wikipedia)
Curly Bill's gang (of the OK Corral shoot out fame) headed an active bunch of rustlers whose most famous exploit was killing a group of Mexican smugglers in Skeleton Canyon. After that awful deed, they proceeded to steal 300 head of cattle in Mexico and jubilantly returned to the Tombstone area with their catch. The Mexican vacqueros pursued the bovine bandits back into the U.S. and recovered the cattle and managed to rustle 200 more head on the way back across the Mexican border.  This only escalated the whole affair with Curly Bill, who wasn't going to accept defeat. He rushed into Mexico and re-stole the cattle.  The vacqueros followed them back into the U.S. and proceeded to kill the new "owner" who was "Old Man" Clanton. Several of his companions met the the same fate in Guadalupe Canyon. 

Not all of the rustlers had such a violent reputation as Curly Bill.  Black Jack Christian was well liked and known to help with round-ups and shoe horses.  Mrs. Hunsaker who ran an outfit in Leslie Canyon was fond of the outlaws who would help with chores and leave their guns outside, unlike posse members who stomped into her house, spitting tobacco juice on the floor.  Jacob Scherer, another rancher was willing to obstruct justice to give the rustlers a chance to get away. When questioned on Black Jack's whereabouts (the rustler had spent the night at the Scherer cabin) he denied ever seeing the man. 

After the complex and bloody incidents  in Skeleton and Guadalupe Canyons, things began to change. Law enforcement and the ranchers on both sides of the border took more precautions and reduced rustling significantly. American rustlers stayed on U.S. side for the most part and Mexican rustlers stayed on their side. When John Slaughter became sheriff in 1887, the whole rustling industry was pretty much shut down, although small ranchers were not adverse to appropriating random calves from the larger ranching enterprises. To avoid detection, the rustlers moved the unbranded little dogies up into secluded, natural mountain corrals where they were branded and allowed to heal before freed to the range. The Arizona Rangers were formed in 1901 and finally got a handle on this type of rustling. They made 1800 arrests in the first two years, which was pretty effective in discouraging any others who might consider this as a career or pastime. 

Lest you think that we've outgrown stealing cattle, Cochise County still has some notoriety in that department. In 2007, cattle rustling charges were brought against a rancher in Willcox, AZ. In the modern age, DNA was used to prove ownership. Here's the link if you're interested in more information.

The pioneer time period was brief, albeit colorful in Cochise County. For photos and more information that may be of interest click the LINK.

4/06/2015

Bloom Where You're Planted

The high desert spring is in overdrive. Because of some significant winter rains, our area is unusually lush. The roses are especially nice, the first blooms just emerging. I was counting the buds on the bushes along with the red yuccas, excited about the potential of so many blooms all at once. The buds are tightly wrapped cones of color, expanding each day toward the burst of full flower.

Montezuma Rose
Photo: L. Wallace

















The roses, iris, yucca, prickly pear, salvias, etc., etc. give everything they have to bloom. It's their crowning achievement and singular task that accomplishes a dual purpose. They produce the beautiful flowers that feed the bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, plus reproduce despite windy, dry weather and pests. And so it should be for us, using the gracious gifts God has given us to build up the body of Christ--the church--our brothers and sisters. These gifts disciple believers and bring others to Jesus.

In the church, we need to be using whatever gift we have to strengthen the body. Your gift may be maintenance, fixing meals for the sick, caring for babies in the nursery, writing notes of encouragement, teaching a Bible study, praying consistently for others, just to name a few.


In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (Romans 12:6-8 NLT)

Our lives need to show the beauty of Christ in us to those who don't know Him. Be ready to give an answer for the hope you have.
Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. (Philippians 2:15 NLT)
I was reminded of the timeworn phrase, "bloom where you're planted."The rose's gift is to bloom where it's situated, despite drought or beetles. It accomplishes the mission with all its energy and focus. It's vulnerable to the elements and enemies. But a half-hearted rose that stays budded simply doesn't deliver. Wherever you may find yourself, use your gift(s) well for the benefit of others, a bud unfurled into the flower you are meant to be.  Don't hold back--bloom with all your heart.
Peace Rose
Photo: L. Wallace


3/30/2015

From Eden to Gethsemane

 T
he Creator of the universe planted a perfect garden in Eden for Adam and Eve to enjoy. He walked in the garden with them every evening. Then they believed Satan’s lie and their relationship with God was broken. They lost the garden. The Creator came back to this sin-filled earth to rescue us and as He finished his earthly ministry, it was in another garden—the Garden of Gethsemane. 
Jesus knew what faced him in the next few hours.  He would be arrested. He would be beaten and spit upon.  He would be accused by the religious leaders of his day, who would lie through their teeth about him.  And then he would be nailed to a cross and hung to die like a common criminal. It was all for you, and it was all for me.  Jesus didn’t run away and he didn’t give up, even though his most trusted disciples fell asleep during their Master’s greatest time of need.  He could have said it wasn’t worth it anymore, especially since the men he’d spent the most time with and invested so much in couldn’t even keep watch with Him. Jesus was still willing to go through with the Father’s perfect plan to save us from our sins even though we most assuredly did not deserve it. 

White Bleeding Heart
Jesaro Photos
















His sacrifice provides the only way to a restored relationship with God. It is eternal life—there is much more to come after life here on earth. His resurrection guarantees we will get back to the perfect garden of God, which Revelation 22 tells us is where the River of Life flows and fruit is always in season. Will you be there? Have you received His gift of eternal life?  


They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, "Sit here while I go and pray." He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. "Abba, Father," he cried out, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."

Mark 14:32-36 NLT

Excerpt from Gardens of the Heart

2/24/2015

In His Likeness

Bonsai is the fascinating Japanese art of shaping trees into miniature works of art. Tiny trees are potted, then trimmed, wired, and slowly formed into stunning displays. The process is not weeks or months, but years. Long years, patient years. It requires an artistic touch, understanding form, balance, and negative space. The gardener must understand the tree--diseases, light requirements, fertilizer. The gardener must also know how to bend the branches and know how much the tree can take. The gardener already sees in his or her mind what this tree can truly look like at its maturation. It's not for the faint of heart, nor the hurried. As a gardener, I admire the skill of master gardeners who painstakingly create such beauty.

The photos bear out the long process from the 10 year-old azalea on the left to the mature trees below that are 50 years or more.

Azalea - 10 yrs old Photo: E. Morse
I can't help but compare these intricate works of gardening art to the patient tending of the Master Gardener, who desires to shape our hearts and lives into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. His tools are trials and blessings to transform our minds, our desires, and our actions. He sees what we can truly be under His tender care. Are you willing to be transformed?


For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  James 1:3-4




Larch - 50 yrs old Photo: E. Morse






 









Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.   Romans 12:2





Japanese Yew - 100 yrs old Photo: E. Morse
























But the godly will flourish like palm trees
and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon

For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!” 
Psalm 92:12-15



Cherry  Photo: E. Morse






 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. Philippians 1:11 

















2/18/2015

Death and Taxes or How to Plan for the Eventual With a Minimum of Fuss

Ben Franklin is credited with the quote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." Cheery thoughts from one of our more colorful founding fathers. In this season of tax preparation--the gathering of documents and frustration of deciphering forms and convoluted formulas, preparing our taxes forces us to take a look at our finances for the past year. In that same vein, it's also a good to time to take stock of our preparations for when we are no longer around to work on those tax forms.

I worked as a paralegal for many years, handling the probate of estates both great and small. Preparation is the key for your family to navigate those choppy waters. Emotions run high and even the most mild-mannered can become unreasonable, argumentative, and yes, surprisingly greedy.  Take some of the drama out of this inevitable situation by gifting your family with a well thought out plan. Here's how to accomplish that dreaded task.

1.  Have a Last Will and Testament. No arguments that you don't have enough money to warrant one and it'll cost too much. Nonsense. It was my experience that more fights ensued over estates of $10,000 or less because there was no will. Everyone needs one. Young or old. Male or female. Married or single. If you have minor children, you certainly need one to appoint guardians for your offspring. You don't want a messy family fight in the funeral home parking lot over who gets the kids. And if you think that couldn't possible happen, think again. It does happen in even the most delightful of families.  An attorney is highly recommended for the drawing of a will, but there are online sites that can draft the document for a low fee if your estate is truly simple. Wills should be reviewed and updated as necessary. Your attorney can retain the original for safekeeping or you can keep it in a fireproof safe. A safe deposit box is not usually the best repository since it requires a court order to open upon your demise.

2.  Have a Durable Power of Attorney. A power of attorney enables your designee to handle a myriad of business transactions, from paying bills to selling real property. You can choose exactly what your POA can or cannot do. Usually spouses designate spouses and you may have an alternate or co-POAs. Should you be incapacitated, this document can be worth its weight in gold to handle day-to-day life. If you cease breathing, the POA becomes worthless and your will kicks in.

3. Health Proxy and Living Will. The marvelous medical technology we enjoy has created some complex end-of-life scenarios that require our attention. Who can make healthcare decisions if you should be unconscious or otherwise unable to make them yourself? What kind of end-of-life care do you really want? Feeding tube? Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order? No extraordinary measures? Every extraordinary measure?  Don't place a spouse or family member in a situation to try and guess what you would want. Healthcare providers want specific instructions--legal documents. Have the conversation ahead of time. It's not exactly a fun topic, but necessary. Once again an attorney is your best source for the drawing of these documents. They will also need review and updates as necessary.

4.  Online Accounts and Passwords.  Our lives are woven into the virtual fabric of online business accounts for banking, insurance, investing, memberships, and social media.  Usually one spouse handles the finances, while the other may blissfully ignore how to sign in to the bank account to pay bills or transfer funds. This can be one of the most frustrating and scary processes for a spouse or loved one who must now try and figure out how to gain access when they have no idea where to start.  First, keep a list of all your online accounts, including Face Book with the passwords. If you keep the list in a spreadsheet, print it off and update when you change passwords. A password document is highly sensitive, and I recommend that you store it on a flash drive rather than the hard drive of your computer. Second, sit down with your beloved spouse and show them how to log on to the various sites, pay a bill, etc. if he or she isn't familiar with the process.

5.  Life Insurance and Sundry Documents.  Corral any life insurance policies, beneficiary information for pensions and annuities in a file for easy access. Do the same with deeds, mortgages, car titles, loan papers--you get the idea. Make it easy for you and your family to locate important documents.

You're absolutely correct that it'll cost some time and money to put your affairs in order.  Consider it quality time and money well spent that expresses your love and concern for your family. A clear estate plan will eliminate a plethora of possible problems. And, it's also a good idea to talk about ... ahem ... those final arrangements.  Even Yogi Berra had that uncomfortable conversation with his wife.


“Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?” -Carmen Berra, Yogi’s wife. “Surprise me.” – Yogi



1/02/2015

Finding the Way in the New Year

Thick fog settled in over the high desert this morning. Fog so dense, mountains to the east and west couldn't be seen. How appropriate for the beginning of the new year.  As exciting as it is with fresh calendars, goals to lose weight, or get organized, we do not even know what this day will hold, much less what six months from now will be like. Maybe that's why we cling to the past. It's safe in a way. We know exactly what happens and how it turns out. The year now lying before us is unknown territory, shrouded in the mist, hidden from our eyes. A bit scary and exciting all at once.

The fog will lift today, its veil dissolving in the sunlight. It's much like the layers of each day being revealed as we do the living of them, trusting in the One who does know the future.  The dissipation of the fog is all about the light that clears away the grayness. The sunlight overcomes the fog one step at a time, and before you know it, the mountains are visible again. 

Take the light so necessary to living as you step out into a brand new year. Commit to read God's word daily,  put it into practice, and let its wisdom make all the difference in navigating this year. You can trust the Author every step of the way.

Photo by PF Flyer
The psalmist says it best:

Psalm 119:105 - Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:130 - The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.

Psalm 119:133 - Guide my steps by your word,
so I will not be overcome by evil.


as well as the prophet - Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

12/11/2014

Christmas Miracles

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell of the miraculous circumstances and birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I never tire of reading about the angel visiting Mary, Joseph, and Zacharias. Or of the verses about the shepherds being scared out of their wits by an angel invasion, and taking off for Bethlehem to verify the angel's proclamation. And of course the passage about the wisemen heeding the angel's warning in a dream, sneaking out of Judea by an alternate route. Read the first couple of chapters in Luke and Matthew to see for yourself.

Miracles do happen during the Christmas season, although technically Jesus was most likely born sometime in September. This year marks seven years since our own December miracle, which was actually a double miracle. Our grandsons turn seven this week. And yes, the birth of a baby is always a miraculous thing, but quite frankly these boys are exceptional miracles.  Because of Twin-to-Twin Tranfusion Syndrome they were born eight weeks early, Austin under three pounds and Brayden just over four pounds. Our daughter had spent six weeks on bedrest in the hospital alternating between having labor stopped or amino fluid reductions over that time. Two days shy of 32 weeks they were delivered by emergency C-section. Breathing and heart issues were some of the most immediate problems. The doctors gave our daughter and son-in-law bleak news on what outcomes were possible--significant physical and mental disabilities or worse. Those tiny boys in their incubators hooked up to all sorts of machines were even too fragile to hold.

The next few months were a roller coaster of emotions as the boys struggled to get well. Brayden came home after four weeks and continued to progress, although reflux and apnea were concerns. Austin languished in the NICU, diagnosed with chronic lung disease, severe reflux, a hernia, and then MRSA. It seemed like there was a new complication every day.

During that time, we learned about the power of prayer from a network of family, friends, and strangers literally from around the world, who prayed for the health of the boys. God  worked in each of our lives strengthening our faith and giving extraordinary grace. The prayers of so many were answered graciously, miraculously, but in God's time.

I was finally able to hold Austin in the NICU and feed him a bottle for the first time at the end of February, 2008. His big bright eyes locked onto mine as he ate. I marveled that he was getting better--finally. He would go home in the next week after three months in the hospital, although he would be on oxygen until he was eight months old and suffer with painful reflux until he was two.

Today, you'd never know that they ever had any health issues. They're healthy and happy first graders with none of the predicted ill effects from such a traumatic entrance into the world.  I am reminded of Matthew 19:26 whenever I see their smiling faces.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible."



 Grandpa & his boys - Mar. 2014
 

                                                        
                                                                        Brayden, Dec. 2007

                                                                     Austin, Dec. 2007

"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Luke 2:14

For more information about TTTS visit www.fetalhope.org.

Copyright 2011-2015 Laurinda Wallace. Powered by Blogger.