Painted Churches of Texas – Hostyn and Ammansville

Mention Texas and the first things that might come to mind are cowboys, horses, oil wells, Tex-Mex and barbecue. Or maybe it’s our love of all things football and our flare for doing things BIG.  While all of that is true it only describes a portion of who we are here in the Lone Star State.

The reality is Texas is very diverse culturally.  And, one of those cultures I recently experienced is the Czech heritage.  I was born in Dallas and have been back in Texas since 1979 and yet, I had no idea what a strong influence Czechoslovakian immigrants had on Central Texas.

First arriving in Texas in the mid-1800’s they built some of the most beautiful European influenced churches I have ever seen.  Who knew Texas contained such amazing dwellings for worship? Still in active use,today they are known as the Painted Churches of Texas.  My mom, having seen a piece on television about them, encouraged us to take a weekend trip and begin exploring.  A total of eight were in the area of Shulenburg which is off of I10 – smack in the middle between San Antonio and Houston.

We were overwhelmed by their beauty and the heritage which has been preserved so lovingly.  For this piece I bring you the first two churches we saw located in the towns of Hostyn and Ammansville

Our first stop was not actually one of the painted churches.  However, we were in the mood to explore and so we followed the signs to see what was what.

We were not disappointed.

The Queen of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Hostyn had something going on and we did not step inside.  That was okay, though, because the outside was enough to make us say, “wow”.

The Lourdes Grotto was the largest.

Smaller grottos dotted the church property.

The cemeteries at each church were similar and different from a typical American style.

From there we went to St. John The Baptist in Ammansville.

As we pulled up we saw a sweet little country church.

The quaint white building gave no hint as to the beauty inside.

The detail was amazing and intricate.

The back of the church – containing the choir loft – was also pretty.

Wandering around this sweet and holy property we were in awe of the magnificence we were experiencing.  Knowing we were at the beginning of the tour we couldn’t wait to see what other beauties were out there.

Tomorrow – St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption in Praha, The Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church in Moravia and St. John’s Catholic Church in St. John, Texas

 

 

 

 

 

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WPC: Reflecting

It is wonderful to walk into the church when it is packed with parishioners ready to worship.  It is also amazing to visit when it is completely empty.

I took this picture of the crucifix reflecting  in the baptismal font with my iPhone.

It was just me and Jesus.  The peace was overwhelming and the beauty of the moment wondrous.

WPC: Atop the Circle of Life

Life ends, life begins and life goes on.

Feeling atop the circle of life with the death of my aunt followed closely by the birth of my grandchild, it has been a hectic week. As they always do, each of these life happenings kindled those deep emotions reminding me, once again, how I need to love deeply.

My aunt was a favorite and my childhood memories are filled with her laughing, joking, making smart-aleck remarks and her family famous German Chocolate Cake.  The last several years, especially since the death of her husband, finding joy in daily life seemed to be more of a struggle but, she still made us smile with her constant repetition of phrases like, “I’ll tell you for durn sure” and “well o gosh o Friday”.  (I never knew what the second one meant or where the saying came from but it was a staple)

She had a full life – even went parasailing at the age of 80.  And, while I know she is no longer suffering, and has been reunited with those she loved so dearly, I will miss her.

And, so, as death passes a new life begins with the birth of Colette Grace this week.  Colette is apparently a very laid back and relaxed baby who is in no hurry to go anywhere fast.  She took her sweet time introducing herself but, when she arrived, her birth was beautiful and filled with a quiet that was broken only by her first breaths and a good cry with the doctor announcing, “it’s a girl!”.   As Colette’s life began on the outside of her mother’s womb, there was a peace prevailing in the room.  A peaceful beginning for Colette and a peaceful ending for my aunt.  A lovely way to end and begin life.

When they got home I watched her sleeping in the bassinet and I was surprised how tiny she looked.  It really is so easy to forget how little they are as newborns and how fast they grow.  This was driven home that evening when we got to video chat with our grandson in Japan.  At 3 1/2 months old he is already getting big and is smiling, talking and changing everyday.

Birth, life, death – it is all closely entwined and serves to remind me how lucky I am to have so much love in my life.  I hope those around also feel deeply loved by me.

 

 

Waiting for Baby

The ‘official’ due date for my baby girl to deliver her baby girl has come and gone so now we are all sitting around staring at her, waiting for her to announce, “this is it!”

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  We aren’t actually sitting.  Or staring.  We are keeping busy and carrying on with life as usual.

Yesterday, in an effort to remain occupied we took advantage of some beautiful springtime weather and spent time at the Dallas Arboretum.

I’ll tell you – no matter what the season this place never fails to amaze me with its beauty.

In the fall you have Autumn at the Arboretum with pumpkins galore

For the Christmas season, it’s the Twelve Days at Night

Right now, it’s Dallas Blooms.  A beautiful array of springtime flowers punctuated with carpets of amazing tulips in vibrant colors.

It is stunning.

This years theme is ‘Peace, Love, and Flower Power’ and showcased Volkswagon’s covered in blooms.

Texas-sized games were available that kids and grown-ups alike enjoyed.

Cute grandkids and lush backgrounds made for great photo ops.

In hopes that a lot of walking would help jumpstart labor we stayed for a long while. Apparently, Baby is quite comfy and all we managed to do was wear mom out.

A lovely family waiting for a small bundle of joy to join them.

Any time now Baby K…

I wish, for my daughter’s sake, that Baby comes sooner rather than later.  Even though she feels, at this point, like she might be pregnant forever, we know she will go into labor.  For now – we continue to pray for the blessing of a safe delivery and the joy of new baby snuggles.

Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.

 

WPC – What’s In A Shanghai Name?

A trip to Shanghai provided many opportunities to see names in English and the character equivalents in Mandarin.

Shanghai hotelOur hotel in the Shanghai ‘suburb’ of Jiading

Ikea and Amway

Grocery items at the local Auchan (equivalent to Wal-Mart)

A wealth of western shopping opportunities in downtown Shanghai

Shanghai street sign

A street sign on a side street

McDonald’s quarterpounder and KFC/Pizza Hut

A wonderful trip!

 

The Sacred In My Life

Jesus said to him,“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me  John 14:6

Groom, TX

My faith is more than just Sunday Mass.  It’s keeping sacred every single day the realization of how Jesus suffered and died for me.

Groom, Tx

Along with remembering and rejoicing in His triumphant victory over that death.

Groom, TX

These pictures were taken in the Panhandle of Texas in a town called Groom. The Stations of the Cross are depicted in life like bronze sculptures with a 190 foot tall cross which can be see from 20 miles away.

High Lights

Our church hosted a carnival this past weekend.  The kind with a Ferris Wheel, rides that sling you around, inflatable obstacle courses, haunted houses for scaring and state fair food like corny dogs and funnel cakes.  It was a great, fun-filled weekend.

I did not ride any of the rides.  Not for any particular reason – it’s just that as I’ve gotten older I have discovered that I like keeping my feet on the ground.  And, oddly enough, my life still feels complete even without the thrill of a roller coaster.  A couple of people encouraged me to ride the Ferris Wheel telling me how pretty the lights would be when I could see them from the top but, I opted to enjoy the sights from the ground.

Then as I drove the boys to school at Oh:DarkThirty I found myself at the top of the **High Five Interchange in Dallas.  Twelve stories up I realized I was getting a pretty good glimpse of the lights displayed by North Dallas.  When I exited the highway and turned back south towards their school I looked back left.  Dawn was just beginning to break resulting in the first hints of orange and pink on the horizon.  Against a dark backdrop it was magnificent.  Then, more to my delight, as I looked south again, I could see the lights of Downtown Dallas – 11 miles away – lit up against the still mostly dark sky. I was in awe of this urban beauty I was experiencing.

Turns out – I didn’t even need a Ferris Wheel to enjoy the sights Dallas has to offer.

Since I could not safely drive and take photos I pulled these pictures of Dallas-at-night from my archives.

Downtown Dallas  Eating on the rooftop at Gators in The West End in Downtown Dallas

Omni Hotel

The Omni Hotel, Dallas

Margaret Hunt BridgeMargaret Hunt Bridge at dusk

***you can read a blog I wrote about Driving in Dallas by clicking on the link.

Daily Post – Perplexed

A Wedding and Minnesota Mosquitos

I had heard stories of Minnesota mosquitos but, as our plane left Dallas and pointed north I forgot them.

My mom and I were going to the wedding of my niece, Kelli, and, once we landed –  and the rain cleared out – we were left with weather perfected.   Lows in the high-50’s and highs in the low 80’s and low humidity made for a wonderful, and much appreciated, break from the oppressive heat and high humidity we had been experiencing.

The wedding was beautiful and joyful – as weddings should be – and I loved watching as Kelli was happily wed to Erik.  They – along with two year-old Jace, are good together and make a super sweet family.

Finding myself with free time the next day the cool morning beckoned me outside to do some exploring.

Elk River had lots of natural settings to enjoy and my soul was filled with appreciation for this little piece of heaven.  An abundance of huge evergreens conjured up visions of Christmas trees covered in snow and laced with twinkling lights.

Elk River, MN

Quaint landscapes with red barns and the meandering Mississippi River invoked feelings of tranquility and peace.

But, relaxing landscapes and Christmas dreams aside, I wanted to do some hiking, and, lucky me, trails were easy to find.  There was an abundance of choices, all within a 10 minute drive.

Looking at a map of the parks I settled on one described as “home to six miles of challenging trails through 80 acres of oak forest”

Perfect!

My exuberance apparently fogged my brain and in the excitement of my impending adventure I didn’t remember that Minnesota had received a lot of rain in the previous weeks.

And, I didn’t remember that bugs tend to be worse near bodies of water.

And, I didn’t remember that when you combine standing water – or streams or rivers or lakes –  with a canopy of trees that mosquitoes tend to multiply exponentially.

And, I didn’t remember that, as a general rule, mosquitos LOVE me.

Most important…..I didn’t remember bug spray.

Can you tell what’s coming?

Yep, as I hiked into the forest I discovered there were plenty of those pesky parasites and each time I stopped moving they were determined to move in for the kill feast.

The hike was now forgotten and the race was on as I began running.  They wanted to eat me alive?  Well, first they were going to have to catch me!  I foolishly felt sure I would win this contest.

Oh I was so wrong.

Each time I stopped I resembled a wild woman – waving my arms all around while slapping myself.  Obviously, I wasn’t going to be stopping too often, or for very long, so checking my gps was going to be a challenge.  As a result, I took a wrong turn and went deeper into the woods instead of out.

Forty-five minutes – and what felt like four thousand bites later, it was the pests who got the win.  Dragging my sorry bit-up butt out of the forest I admitted defeat.

Mosquitoes – one, me – zero.

And, okay, let’s be real – four thousand might be a bit of an exaggeration.

Kelli & ErikOh well. What’s an adventure without a little adversity?  The wonderful time I had with family while enjoying beautiful sights and amazing temperatures made my potentially serious lapse in thinking a minor nuisance.  Overall – I had fun and that was worth dealing with a few bug bites.

Minnesota….I still love you.  I may have lost the race but the beauty of the area – and some Benadryl – made my not-so-clever choice well worth the aggravation.

 

Countless Bluebonnets

Summer is around the corner and the countless bluebonnets of 2016 are past their peak.  Always a beautiful sight to see here is one more look before barbecues, beach parties and bug catching ( that is, lightning bugs) sets in.

Ennis, Tx Bluebonnets

See you next year Spring.  Hello Summer!

Eighth Gradeitis

Senioritis: that time of year when seniors in high school or college are so close to finishing but aren’t there quite yet. When time slows to a crawl, and it seems like graduation day will never arrive.

Eighth Gradeitis: Senioritis for 8th graders.

The next generation of 9th-12th graders are finishing their middle school years and are on the cusp of that great big new exciting world called high school.

My own 8th grader, Ben, said to me a couple of weeks ago, “I am soooo ready to be in high school.”

“I know you are – but you still have to get through these next few weeks of school.”

Saying that also prompted me to remind him to slow down and live in the moment.  Don’t forget about today because you’re so focused on starting high school.

After all – as an 8th grader he is doing many things for the last time.  Like the sports in which he participates.  High school will be much more competitive, and chances are he won’t be able to play volleyball, basketball, soccer AND baseball.

Also, for now, he and his classmates are the BIG kids on campus.  Next year….it’s back to the bottom of the heap.

I told him, “Be excited about your future but don’t live just for tomorrow.  Enjoy today and relish all the things you have going on right now.”

Isn’t that a good lesson/reminder for all of us?

The 8th grade class of 2016 – blink and it will be 2020.  Just like that they’ll be graduating high school.

May 6 8th grade class
copyright and photo credit to Don Chamblee Photography

Reminder to self – enjoy this remarkable young man now.  The next four years will go by way faster than I think they will.

Joshua 29:11 For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.