Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Happy Easter!–Beth Trissel


Easter Eggs Hidden in Crocus“On Easter Day the veil between time and eternity thins to gossamer.”  ~Douglas Horton

“Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life.”  ~S.D. Gordon

“Where man sees but withered leaves, God sees sweet flowers growing.”  ~Albert Laighton

It is the hour to rend thy chains,
The blossom time of souls.  ~Katherine Lee Bates

“The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances.”  ~Robert Flatt

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“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”  ~Clarence W. Hall

“For I remember it is Easter morn,
And life and love and peace are all new born.”  ~Alice Freeman Palmer

“The story of Easter is the story of God’s wonderful window of divine surprise.”  ~Carl Knudsen

“I lied on my Weight Watchers list.  I put down that I had 3 eggs… but they were Cadbury chocolate eggs.”  ~Caroline Rhea

In The Presence of Angels–Beth Trissel


When my friend, Liz, was a child and very ill she says she awoke from a fevered sleep to find an angel seated at the edge of her bed.  Its face was human-like but the features were more angular than ours and silvery. The rest of its body was luminous and seemed neither male nor female, but she remembers the eyes, green, and the reassuring feeling of being watched over. You may think this divine visitation was the figment of a child’s fevered mind, or you may believe that she saw an angel. I believe. Once when I was asleep I heard a beloved voice call my name, a voice as familiar as my mother’s or husband’s and yet it was neither of them. I think this was an angel and someday I will see and instantly recognize this being as though meeting with an old friend, and understand that he has always been with me.

Angels are messengers of God and bearers of his comfort in a hurting world.  Sometimes they even intervene in our lives and lead us to safety, though not always. When my 16-year-old niece Kristy was killed in a car accident some people at the scene said they saw a great ray of sunshine stream down from the sky and spill over the mangled car in a kind of holy benediction.  As though God wanted us to know that he saw and was winging Kristy’s spirit up to heaven in that wonderful light, enveloped in peace that passes anything we can imagine. Were there angels with her?  I have no doubt of it.  Still we ask why God didn’t send an angel to prevent this tragedy, and so many others.  But it seems that why is not for us to know on this side of heaven.  Anymore than we can know why our first grandbaby,  Adam, so infinitely precious, was not somehow saved, but stillborn. Though I trust with all my heart that Adam is in heaven and we will see him again.

I have no answers to these tragedies, only the promise of God’s eternal love and presence. And I am watching for angels, tuned to the whispery touch of unseen wings and those in human form. God uses people, particularly those who have known grief, to minister to others.  If your heart seeks the light, you are never really alone.  If you yearn for comfort, keep watch, angels will come to you.  Remember, they can look like anybody, be anybody, young or old, can even be you.

angelsHebrews 13:2, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

“Be an angel to someone else whenever you can, as a way of thanking God for the help your angel has given you.” ~Quoted in The Angels’ Little Instruction Book by Eileen Elias Freeman, 1994

Who Truly Are the Most Beautiful People?


My daughter Alison shared this quote with me from the renowned psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and I loved it, so am sharing her wise words with you.

Spooky Tale for Halloween and A Giveaway


This seems like an appropriate time of year to repost the account of the poltergeist in our old farm-house.  Settle in for a ghost story and keep the lights on. About nine years ago, my young adult son moved into the big white farm-house on our other farm. We have two farms located near each other in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and both homes are well over one hundred years old, going  on two.  Some of his guy friends moved in and everything was fine, then he and his fiancée (now wife) started remodeling the house. At first, no one thought much about the noises. Neither of them even mentioned a thing to me.

Then one night my son called, alone and uneasy. He was hunkered downstairs with his cat. Seems there were footsteps he couldn’t account for and a certain bedroom upstairs with a door that wouldn’t stay shut. No matter how many times he closed it, come morning it was always open. Earlier that week, his fiancé had been distressed when the bathroom doorknob turned and the door opened on her.  No one was there.  It freaked the cat out.  Didn’t do her much good either.  She was promptly converted from a disbeliever in ghosts to one strongly considering their reality.
Now, she’d gone away on a trip with her church and none of my son’s other friends were around. The last of his roomies had moved out. I suspected all the remodeling they’d done to the house had stirred something up. So, I went over. Here, I’ll digress to say I’d dreamed earlier of a small grave plot way back in the fields behind the house and of a restless spirit associated with both. As it turned out there is just such a cemetery, an antiquated one. After I arrived that evening, my son and I went upstairs to the suspect bedroom and shut the door. The sensation that came over me was of wanting to scream, and not just because I’m claustrophobic.
We held hands and I repeated the Exorcism prayer sent to my mother from an Episcopalian woman in England.  She’d written mom about visiting the church manse at the invitation of the new priest who was plagued by a poltergeist–one so violent, it had flung portraits down from the upstairs hall, shifted heavy furniture in front of  doors, and hurled a saucepan lid across the kitchen. But the congregants, along with the priest, had prayed it out. As this was a Christian prayer, my son and I did the same in the old farmhouse. Never again did he or his fiancé hear footsteps or have any more trouble with doorknobs turning. That bedroom door remained as they’d left it and the chill feeling I had in the room is gone.
*Here’s the Anglican prayer. Do not try this alone if the presence you sense is evil, only with a strong group of Christians, the more, the better. And join hands. Even if you think I’m nuts. “In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, may this distressed soul be relieved of his obsession with this world and sent to where he belongs.”  I added, ‘go to the light,’ although a truly evil presence won’t, but a troubled, restless one may. Seems only right to offer that as an option. ~
This is one of the experiences that influenced the writing of my light paranormal murder mystery/ghost story romance novel Somewhere My Love.  To win the eBook of Somewhere My Love, pdf or kindle (or mobi) your choice, leave me a comment.  The more comments, the more winners there will be.
“As I read Somewhere My Love, I recalled the feelings I experienced the first time I read Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca long ago. Using deliciously eerie elements similar to that gothic romance, Beth Trissel has captured the haunting dangers, thrilling suspense and innocent passions that evoke the same tingly anticipation and heartfelt romance I so enjoyed then, and still do now.”~ Joysann, Publishers Weekly
 

Old Order Mennonites in The Shenandoah Valley


Yesterday I worked in the garden as horse and buggies clipped by on their way to a wedding in the Old Order Mennonite Church.  Many of our neighbors are Old Order Mennonites, gentle, hard-working people, and good friends to us.  The sight of a horse and buggy passing our farm, or meeting one, or a stream of buggies, on the back roads is a frequent occurrence here.  Little girls and small boys in the hats the men wear peering out from the back window of a buggy is always a delight, as is seeing women and children collected on a wagon on their way to a gathering…or riding old-fashioned bikes, at work on their farms, and sometimes even at play.

Long lines of wash flapping in the breeze with pants and dresses in graded sizes from large to tiny is a picturesque addition to the community.  Across the meadow and up the hill from our farm is a small Old Order school.  Last fall I spotted a line of children holding hands out for a walk along the country road  with their teacher(s).   Darling.  At the end of recess and lunch time, I hear the bell ring to summon the students back indoors.  Reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her ‘Little House‘ books.

The Old Order neighbors on the farm up the road from us have a produce stand with fresh vegetables from their garden for sale.  They use the honor system for customers to leave money in the box; the prices are listed on a handmade sign and the produce ready and waiting.  If you have a question, likely you can find someone about on the farm or wielding a hoe.  Normally I grow my own veges, but if I run low or have a crop failure I know where to go.  Their garden is always perfect. They have many children and a great deal more help than I.  Sigh.

I admire The Old Order Mennonite’s unique way of life and very much hope they are able to continue as they are.  The economic hardships facing many family farms, including ours, and the growing demands made by a burgeoning federal government with all its rules and regulation imposes yet more stress on a people already struggling to survive.  Imagine trying to live like it’s the 1800’s in 2011.

For example, they have no health insurance, but band together and support each other in times of illness and injury.  Doctors and hospitals make some concessions in regards to billing Old Orders, but the cost of medical care is still staggering.  These people do not, however, want to be forced into a government health plan as this goes against their religion.  They have as little as possible to do with government and the secular world in general.   I believe their unique way of life must be respected and protected or the day may come when buggies no longer pass our house.~

*Old Order Mennonites are one of the aspects of rural life in the Shenandoah Valley I touched on in my nonfiction book entitled Shenandoah Watercolors

*Pics of Old Order Mennonites and their farms by my husband and mother.  Old Orders do not like to have their pictures taken if their faces are visible so we are careful not to reveal them.

The Ghost of Christmas Past


When I was new and the world was young, at that wonderful age of six,  my younger brother and I celebrated our first Christmas in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia at the Churchman family home place where my Dad was born and raised.  Called Chapel Hill (all these old Southern homes have names) the gracious Georgian style house has been in the family since 1816.  In those early days, brother John and I had only just grasped the concept of Santa Claus because our family had spent the previous three years in Taiwan where my parents taught English and only returned to the states that previous summer.

Everything about an American Christmas was new and wondrous to us, especially the amazingly generous fat guy in the red suit who was just waiting to give us presents.  But it seemed that he required snow, the cold white stuff we had not yet witnessed, for sleigh travel with his flying deer.  A bit eccentric perhaps, but I was an imaginative child and willing to indulge him.  It wasn’t lost on us, though, that this weather phenomenon didn’t fall from a clear blue sky.

Our parents hadn’t made much of Christmas in Taiwan.  We were tiny tots and toys  scarce, the few there were being some that other missionary families shared with us from those their children had outgrown.  There were no toy stores in Taiwan then like there were here.  Chewing gum was a major treat.  We caught our breath at the delights we saw in the American shops.

Barbie dolls had just been introduced and I longed for one with hair to comb, an endless perfect wardrobe, and furniture of her own. John had his eye on a racing car set.  We’d seen picture books with Santa in them and there was always snow.  What to do, what to do?  Nothing but wait and hope.

The journey to Virginia began in the mountains of Tennessee, jolting along in our old Ford on Route 11 to Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley.  Our grandmother, whom we all called Mommom, Aunt Moggie, Uncle RW and our five cousins awaited us on the family farm.

Dad spent what seemed like days in preparation for the trip, packing and repacking the car.  Finally we got underway.  I’m amazed as an adult to find that the trip normally takes about six hours, or less, because I have vivid memories of this ride going on all day and far into the night, playing ‘I Spy with My little Eye,’ and singing carols until we were hoarse and my parents must’ve been nearly half mad.

Mom taught us a song on the way about Santa, ‘You’d Better Watch Out,’ a worrisome ditty.  I wasn’t an exceptionally naughty child, but knew there were the occasionally times when I had been what, in some person’s minds, might be construed as bad. What if Santa, this wonderful provider, had seen me at less than my best?  What if I got switches?

My father told us about his Uncle Gus who’d received switches.  Horrors of horrors.  Deep down I felt it was no more than I deserved if my every move had been carefully noted. I hoped Santa was a forbearing fellow, but doubts lurked, a new worry on top of the snow thing.

Eventually we arrived in the Valley and the paved highway turned into bumpy dirt roads as we wound deeper into the country with its unique smells.  My father pointed out the lights of Chapel Hill glowing in the distance, then unbelievably we were driving up the long lane and the yard filled with family to warmly welcome the weary travelers.

The first night we went straight to bed.  I slept upstairs in the yellow room––every room has a name––with my two cousins, Margaret and Elizabeth Page.  In the morning, John and I got our wish.  We awoke to heavily falling snow, a magical world.  We went sledding down the lane, made a giant snow bunny with my father and had the time of our lives, clambering back into the kitchen ravenous and soaking wet.  We peeled off layers of pants––no snow pants back then––and took our wet clothes and mittens to hang them by the stove in Mommom’s room, before downing bowls of homemade soup.

The day before Christmas finally came and the old brick house filled with tantalizing smells.  The kitchen door opened periodically, the sleigh bells on it announcing the arrival of yet more friends bringing yet more gifts.  Friends, neighbors and family all exchanged gifts, even if it was only a plate of cookies exchanged for yours.

Presents were stashed in every corner of the front room, covering the old piano and stacked beneath, wrapped in paper and ribbons which I found almost too beautiful to bear. I knew there were some for me among them, that I was not in total reliance on Santa.  Even so, I longed to be kindly remembered by him.

As any child can attest, Christmas Eve is the longest day of the year and one in which we made extreme nuisances of ourselves, asking endless questions and climbing over and under the furniture to see which gifts were ours.  At last we gathered together in the front room in the presence of the magnificent pine decorated shortly before our arrival.  My uncle cut it from a nearby woods and I loved its fresh smell, also new to me.  A stern glance from him quieted us down and my grandmother read the Christmas story from The Book of Matthew.

The ancient story evoked a new found sense of awe at the holiness of this night as I gazed at the little wooden creche and the figures carved by my father.  I felt the love in the room and understood that it had something to do with this sacred child whose birth we were celebrating.

All right, Jesus loved me, so did God, but what about Santa? After all, he was the one to fill the stocking I’d hung carefully in between my cousin’s on the mantle under the portrait of our great-great grandmother.  All of our stockings had been knitted for us by an elderly relative and had a scene of Santa on one side and a reindeer on the other with little bells that jingled when I lifted it.  A reminder of his imminent arrival.

After the stockings were hung and The Night before Christmas read, we heard sleigh bells ringing far off in the meadow.  Good heavens, Santa was that close.  We tumbled over each other in our haste to get to bed lest the old guy should discover us still up and promptly leave.  Touchy fellow, peculiar ways, but ours was not to question why.  We scampered under the covers and did not dare to peep until dawn.

After that, it was every child for him or herself.  We launched out of bed, vying to be the first one to wish each other “Christmas Gift!” then paced about in acute impatience while the adults had a leisurely breakfast.  Who could eat at a time like this?  And dressed with slow, careful deliberation.  I was wearing the same clothes I’d donned two days ago.  As for bathing, only under duress.

We practically gave up all hope of ever seeing inside the front room and paced outside the closed double doors where no child could enter until everyone had gathered.  Mommom, her blue eyes twinkling, reported that Santa had come and relieved our troubled minds.  Uncle RW told us he’d seen reindeer hoof prints in the snow on the roof of the house.  Imagine that.  We never once questioned what he’d been doing on the roof.  Not that this would make the slightest difference if we eked out our days waiting in the hall.

Then, glory hallelujah, the family assembled and lined up according to age, as required by the law of our clan.  The all-important doors opened.  Great was our wonder.  There was the tree lit, the stash of presents sorted into individual piles, and the stockings filled.  Mine bulged with promise.  Praise be!  The old fellow was extremely tolerant.  I’d truly feared to see those switches.

It’s ages later now and Mommom has gone on before us.  Lining up outside those omnipotent doors with my brother, cousins, parents, aunt, uncle and her at the end is a distant cherished memory.  Christmas is a place I return to in my thoughts whenever I need the sense of joy and reassurance it brings.  And I remember that time so long ago when my brother and I despaired of snow.

*Pics of Chapel Hill

Caroling In Christmas Past~


Caroling, a Christmas tradition contemplated with nostalgia and fondness can, in reality, be an exhausting ordeal for the carolers as well as the carolees. One December, many moons ago, my husband cleaned up our big old farm truck so that the young parents and children from our church could brighten that wintry evening for the elderly and shut-ins.

Bundled against the frosty air, we clambered into the back of the truck. Some of the less agile women and small children had to be lifted by a few of the husky men and pitched into the bed, still smelling of manure (the truck, not the women and children). Then my husband revved up the motor and off we lurched into the starry night, singing merrily.

As our crowd of carolers overwhelmed the smaller homes and apartments, some of the shut-ins had to be assisted out of their cozy chairs, or warm beds (at least one was down for the night, or so they’d thought) to stand on frigid porches, leaning on canes, clutching a shawl to their shoulders, to smile and wave, expressing their pleasure that yet another group brimming with Yuletide cheer had remembered them. I wondered if they later requested that the church remove their names from the list of shut-ins.
Those individuals with ample room invited us in for refreshments, insisting we share the trove of cookies we and other groups had brought them. It wasn’t long before the children launched into sugar highs and we adults, who hated to disappoint our hosts, began to feel rather ill from all the  treats we’d consumed–worsened by the jouncing truck.

And then there was the problem with our route.  Not having planned it very efficiently, a member of our zealous band would suddenly remember some neglected soul across town which meant a long chilly ride in the teeth of the biting wind. Despite our exhaustion and rising queasiness, we felt compelled to push ever forward, dragging our fussy children along, to bring the joy of Christmas at last to the needy folk in the nursing home.

As we trooped up the hall, I overheard one elderly resident, weary but resigned, comment, “We’ve had carolers every night this week.”
A second woman replied, ‘But it means so much to them.”
And that, my friends, is the last time I ever went caroling.  But for those of you who insist on this holiday undertaking, I suggest giving your route some thought beforehand, limit the number of homes you visit.  Here’s a wild thought, maybe even call ahead to see if people actually want carolers.  I don’t–unless you’re wearing costumes like the ones  in A Christmas Carol and sing those lovely Old English tunes.  Also,  find some other transport besides the back of a freezing cold  farm truck, and bring treats you actually want to eat because they will be offered to you.