When the lost is found


During my morning devotions, I try to include a brief time of meditation. A recent theme focused on observing rather than reacting with anger, fear, or judgment to human interactions.

Little did I know then that before the day would end, I would personally apply that lesson.

The day was foggy in the Shenandoah Valley. Random openings in the haze allowed the morning sunshine to poke through. The Blue Ridge Mountains, however, were socked in. I wanted to go there for one last chance to capture the beauty of a Shenandoah fall.

With the hope that the sun would eventually burn off the overcast, I headed to Shenandoah National Park. By the time I arrived shortly after noontime, that is precisely what happened.

Driving along the park’s extolled Skyline Drive is a joy at any time of the year. It is an absolute privilege to experience the fantastic colors of the fall foliage.

 


The park burst with scarlet, red, yellow, orange, amber, russet, brown, and crimson. Each hue complemented the others. I drove in the fresh, moist mountain air with the moon roof open and the windows partially down, taking in the autumn’s sights, sounds, and pungent fragrances.

I made several stops to photograph the scenery and finally recognized my fatigue at Big Meadows, where I stopped for lunch. The combination of my emotional exhilaration and the numerous times of exiting and reentering my vehicle had tired me. It was a reminder that my leg still had healing to do.

I retraced my route. Fog still rolled up out of the hollows and dissipated before my eyes. I continued to pull into nearly every overlook to capture the gorgeous splendor.

At my last stop, I reached for my camera, but it wasn’t there. I quickly searched in the vehicle, but the camera was gone. I must have left it on a stone wall at the last overlook where I had paused for an afternoon snack.

 

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In the five-mile backtrack, my thoughts ticked off the options. It could still be there. Someone may have turned the camera in, or it was gone.

For most of my life, I have been my own worst critic. I berate myself when I err or let my emotions control my mood because of a negative situation. Not this time.

Remembering the morning’s meditation, I mentally weighed the consequences of my lapse of concentration by leaving the camera. I also accepted the situation without self-judgment.

Where I lost my camera.

I had captured dozens of photos of the incredible scenery. Now, they could be lost. I still had the day’s experience, however. That would be serenity enough, camera or no camera.

When I arrived at the overlook, the camera was nowhere to be found. I used my best option. I returned to the Big Meadows visitors’ center and reported my camera missing.

I headed south again, making a couple of more stops before I arrived at the Swift Run entrance station, where I access the park. I asked the ranger if anyone had turned in a camera. To my amazement, she said a young woman had given her a camera only 30 minutes ago. It was mine!

Of course, I was ecstatic to have the camera back, but not as delighted as I was with my self-control. No anger, no negative thoughts, no self-blame had arisen.

It had been a fulfilling day. A morning lesson, time in nature, a senior moment, a trustworthy person, and a personal watershed breakthrough brought deep contentment. I could not have been happier.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

A loving mother’s love lasts forever

familybybrucestambaugh
My brothers and sisters and I, along with other family members, gathered to celebrate Mom’s 90th birthday.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My brothers, sisters and I were extremely fortunate. Our mother cloaked her love in grace and mercy. I wish everyone could say that.

Our late mother loved in so many ways. Compassion was a gift she abundantly shared.

Mom’s calm demeanor didn’t keep her from taking care of business when she had to, however. With five active cherubs on the loose, her hand of justice reached out and touched someone whenever needed. Mom fairly disciplined simply to teach right from wrong.

As was the norm in the post-World War II era, Dad was the family breadwinner. He was an engineer by trade. Mom was an engineer, too, a domestic one, though the proper term back then was housewife. Mom masterfully coordinated all the cooking, cleaning, washing, planning, nursing, and entertaining.

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Our mother, three months before she died at age 90, always had a smile.
Mom had an uncanny, almost instinctive ability to adapt to many situations. With her five ornery children and one needy husband, it must have been her survival mechanism. Our hyperactive, always on the go father likely had something to do with that.

Dad was the prototypical Type-A personality, joining sporting, civic and church activities that often took him away from home right after he had finished the supper Mom had prepared. Mom seemed to take it in stride.

However, I remember some rather heated discussions occasionally punctuated the night air when us kids were supposed to be fast asleep. Speaking the truth in love was the thread that stitched Mom’s compassionate mantle.

I always admired that spunkiness. It perfectly balanced her more tender side, which was the one she wore so beautifully most often.

I have fond, vivid memories of us kids exploring boxes full of black and white photos that documented our parents’ early years together. I always chuckled at the one with Mom holding a shotgun. Dad claimed he and Mom did go hunting together, and Mom never denied it. But it was just so unlike the mother I remember. She disliked cooking the game Dad brought home.

Mom was always there for us, especially if we were sick. News of the latest mumps outbreak brought back vivid memories for me. I was miserable lying on the couch, covered in a homemade afghan, Mom trying her best to get me to drink and eat something, anything, instinctively knowing my painful discomfort.

And yet, she soldiered on with the rest of her household chores, making sure supper was ready, and everyone had clean clothes for the next day’s activities.

Despite all she had going on, Mom wouldn’t hesitate to stop what she was doing and play catch with us or dig a flower for a teacher or visit a sick neighbor. Mom lived her love.

landscapebyBruceStambaugh
One of the many watercolor landscapes done by Marian Stambaugh
Mom was very artistic, and blossomed into an award-winning watercolor painter. She and Dad even went on annual weeklong art junkets to the mountains of the Carolinas.

When Mom accompanied Dad on special archeology digs, she painted while he dug or hunted for artifacts. One of her landscapes graced the cover of a book. Mom was that good.

Mom’s paintings now adorn the walls of friends, family, and extended family members all across the country. They are beautiful testimonies to her artistic abilities and to the passion that she invested into all her efforts.

Mom lived 90 remarkable years. This is the third Mother’s Day without her. We greatly miss her. Mom’s gracious love lasts not only in our memories and her lovely paintings, but also in our hearts.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Pre-release special price on Fifty Shades of Grace

I am pleased to announce that I have a chapter in a newly published book, Fifty Shades of Grace, by Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia and Waterloo, Ontario. The book will be released May 1.

fiftyshadesofgraceAs a special introduction, Herald Press is offering a 30% discount on the book until May 9. The book sells for $12.99. To order the book, contact MennoMedia at 800-245-7894 or click this link, MennoMedia.

The book is a collection of true inspirational stories about experiencing God’s grace in the midst of everyday life. Each of the fifty essays explores what grace looks like in action—even in a world jaded by violence and unforgiveness—and how grace can triumph over tragedy, or the daily annoyances of family life.

The chapter I wrote, entitled “Testing my Peace Stance,” tells about accompanying my late father, Richard, on an Honor Flight for World War II veterans. Stories are also included from noted writers Jim Wallis, John Powell, John Perkins, Lovella Schellenberg, Christopher Kennedy Lawford and many others, mostly from the Mennonite/Anabaptist tradition.

In his foreword, Donald Kraybill says, “The stories compel, mesmerize and strike again and again with wonderment for the many colors of God’s lavish love. These contemporary stories of grace all rub against the grain of popular culture. They offer a redemptive counterpoint to the darkness and oppression lurking in the shadows of bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey.” Kraybill, an authority on Anabaptist groups, is a co-author of Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy and author of many other books.

©Bruce Stambaugh 2013