In an effort to give my brother and I a wholesome country upbringing, when I was six years old, my family moved from a lovely four bedroom home on a few acres in the Poconos that was built by my grandfather to our 77 acres of hunting land in Potter County, Pennsylvania. The mile-long “driveway”, which our Vermont relatives affectionately named the “goat path”, wound it’s way to the cabin at the top of the mountain (pictured above). It was one room (12′ * 24′) with two sets of bunk beds built into the walls. Warmed by a wood stove in the corner that was welded together by my dad and lit by either candles or a gas lantern in the evenings, the only water it boasted of was carried by hand from the spring below. And if you needed to use the facilities, that meant a walk up the back path to the outhouse.
We did have a shower though. Water from a spring could be fed by way of a generator on the back of my father’s pick up truck into a 55 gallon barrel mounted with a slight tilt high upon a wooden frame. There was a propane tank underneath that got the chill out of that cold spring water before being manually released from the spigot welded into the lower end of the drum. One more detail worth mentioning about this “nature spa” is that it stood about fifteen feet behind our cabin on the edge of the woods. The pink, plastic shower curtain stapled to the frame only stretched around three of the four sides, giving the bather an Eden-like experience among the deer, the birds, and oh yes, the gypsy moths gorging themselves on all things leafy and green. Our food was stored safely out of mouse-reach in an old-fashioned ice box inside, and we had a gas “kitchen” on the front porch.
Like it or sometimes not, my brother and I were our only regular playmates, since the nearest neighbor children were miles away, but there was no shortage of amusement. We had tire swing bumper wars, woods to explore, trees to climb, and forts to build. That mile-long driveway proved to be a fantastic bike path, and even better, some fierce sled-riding. Even the typically mundane routines were fun. Brushing your teeth on the porch, for example, provided for great competitions of seeing who could spit the farthest.
We lived in that cabin from June of 1983 until the first hard snow (see below) chased us into the far-from-finished home my dad was building at the “yonder” side of the field below the woods that surrounded it.
Growing up in that environment instilled in me a deep fondness for God’s handiwork. I loved taking walks through the woods laden with ferns and drinking in the delicious aroma from wildflower bouquets of buttercups, paintbrushes, black-eyed Susans, and Queen Anne’s lace that could be found in abundance on the edges of the tree line. There is not much that can rival witnessing an evening firefly show on the mountain top or being serenaded to sleep on a summer night by a cricket and peeper chorus. (Oh, how I miss my peepers!)
Many of you know I’m a bit of a singer, but my first concerts looked very different than now. The field in front of our house was the venue where no microphone was necessary with God-engineered acoustics. My voice traveled through those mountains creating the most exhilarating echos, and I was free there to sing at the top of my lungs without a thought of being overheard.
I remember shouting things like:
“Hi!… Hi!… Hi!”
“You’re pretty!…You’re pretty!…You’re pretty!”
“Thank you!…Thank you!… Thank you!”
It was fun to hear my words bounce back. And knowing they would, I was sure to say something I wanted to hear!
I no longer live in rural Pennsylvania, although I must admit that my heart often longs for a walk through those lush woods. But I still have echos. And my children hear them most. For better or for worse, there is no one we influence more. Have you ever heard yourself and thought, “I sound just like my mother (or father)? Our children will too someday. This is a point to ponder…
David wrote in Psalm 141:3,
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.
James, the brother of Jesus said,
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. ~James 3:7-8a
Because our children are shaped by and so often repeat what they experience in their formative years, may we often take a step back, and pray along with Moses who said,
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” ~ Psalms 90:12
Our time here is fleeting. What impact will we leave? What echos will be reverberating long after our voices fall silent? I pray for each one of us, myself included, that we gain a heart of wisdom and become more intentional than ever to create echos that leave a blessing on our children and all whom our lives influence and impact.
Usually this is the place where I try to bring home the message by posting a song. But I have something else to share with you today. Speaking of echos and repeating what we hear, I am so delighted to announce that my first children’s picture book, entitled Love Bird, will be available for purchase on Amazon, October 10th! It’s the first in my Fruit Fables series. Here is your sneak peak at the cover, as well as the blurb and an early endorsement!
If you are “that mom” who hides pureed kale in your children’s chocolate smoothies, or if the idea, “Aesop meets Bob and Larry” gives you a thrill, then this series is for you!
Fruit Fables is a collection of nine children’s stories that uses the adventures of talking animals to illustrate the godly character traits the Apostle Paul talks about in Galatians, known as The Fruit of the Spirit.
In Love Bird, the Squirrel family faces a dilemma when the new neighbor – a boisterous and snarky mockingbird – moves into their tree. Their warm welcome is met with sarcasm and rude behavior. Before long the whole neighborhood takes offense. What should they do?
The Squirrel family calls an emergency backyard meeting and the neighbors agree to their plan of action. In the end, peace is restored to the backyard, and everyone learns that love is more than just a fuzzy feeling, but sometimes a choice we must will ourselves to carry out.
Shelleen’s writing is a banquet of spiritual truth in a playfully rich recipe of rhythms and words. Your child will choose this book from the shelf, climb onto your lap, and snuggle in for times of captivating tales of truth in action. It’s fruitful, and it’s FUN! Fruit Fables brought smiles to a grown-up like me and will positively delight the young!
~Jeff Bender, Sight & Sound Theater Producing Group Writer/Director/Producer
You likely won’t be surprised to see (throughout this book and those that follow) many references to forest critters, cricket/peeper choruses, and the like. And although these stories are both beautifully illustrated, rhythmic, and fun, they preach – especially to me. I don’t write these from the perspective of someone who has mastered the simple, yet deep truths they impart. But instead as a daughter, inspired by the handiwork and influence of my Father, both from his Word, as well as from the still, small voice I sometimes am quiet enough to hear. And although I undoubtably fail miserably more than I succeed, my desire is that when others look at (or someday, back on) my life, they recognize who my Father is, because the fruits of his Spirit are evident in me. May we all take more time to hear his voice and make room for his Holy Spirit to grow more fruit in the garden of our hearts.
One more thing:
If you should decide to get ahold of a copy of Love Bird, I’d be delighted to hear your feedback. You can reach me via my website anytime at www.shelleenweaver.com.