Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

October 15, 1971

This was the beginning of the People of Praise community – a very important day for thousands of people.  Not all of those people were yet born on the day, but it was the ground-breaking for a new “mansion” in the Kingdom.

What began with 29 people in South Bend, Indiana, United States, has grown to “2,900 people in 21 branches across the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean”!  The rate of growth is no small thing; neither is the spread across North America.

I am humbled by the scope of the Father’s work, yet thrilled to be a part of it all.  It’s helpful to keep in mind that the community IS a WORK OF GOD!  The following are examples of how that work is taking place in Northern Virginia.

The past week we had several celebrations.  One was the annual picnic last weekend – the Father allowed the weather to be “picture perfect”.

Children enjoying the Moon Bounce at Nottoway Park, during the Community Picnic

Animated conversations took place

Grilling of burgers and "dogs" filled the Autumn air with the odor of promise

And the children delighted in the candy when the "Pig flew"

The men celebrated on Monday night at the Ridenours’ house.  Both the host and hostess were confined to bed for various reasons, but they saw no reason to relocate the celebration.  Heroic hospitality is sometimes displayed in the People of Praise – this was an example.

The women’s celebration was held at Good Shepherd Church with outstanding desserts lovingly prepared by sisters and beautiful decorations provided by several women.  One of these sisters stayed till the last decoration was in place then had to return home with a migraine headache.  Another who is the expectant parent of two young children, stayed and ensured all was in readiness.  Later that night, she was up for hours with a sick child and she herself came down with a virus.  More heroic service.

Sisters enjoyed generous times of fellowship, praise and worship, a newsy history of the community delivered by handmaid Barbette Brophy, and a time of “standing-up” if you fit certain categories.  The stand-up portion was for things like:  Which of you has lived in household?  Who has ever attended Trinity school?  Who in this room came from the John the Baptist community in San Francisco?  Have you visited another branch?  (two branches?  three?  up to eight?  One sister was left standing.)

Music ministry leads us in "Love So Strong"

Afterward, there were two skits, one that revealed sisters learning valuable lessons in their group and the other a “final return” of the POP tarts – a lip-sync trio of Nanci Panos, Barbette Brophy and Maria Elliott.  This skit ended with the POP Tart concept being passed on to the next generation of sisters – Theresee McNichol Rosenthal, Julia Fraga Shek, and Rebecca Feeks.  Glory!

Patty Whelpley, Cathy McAleer, Julie Rubio, and Carolyn Bassett

The POP Tarts LIVE

Do they still have the "old sparkle"?

Gals, it's time to "pass the baton on" to the next generation!

Welcome the HIP ...


Sisters! Glory to God!

Finally, last evening, my husband and I were literally on our way to a “date night”.  Stopping to write a note, we answered a phone call.  It was our neighbors one street over who are also in the POP.  They asked if we had dinner plans and we said “yes” but do you want to join us?  They were ready to go momentarily so we all met at a local restaurant for an unexpected shared meal.  The evening was very uplifting to us all and could be considered one of the multitude of blessings we find together in the People of Praise.

Happy Anniversary, People of Praise community!


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What a joy to celebrate the covenant of the People of Praise!  In a way, every anniversary reminds us of the day we began, but each time, the making of the covenant recreates the community again.  We joined together in praise, worship, and rejoicing that the People of Praise has existed since October 15, 1971.  We gathered from “NoVA” and “PoVA” (the Northern Virginia branch of course, and a good number of guests from the Portland Vancouver branch as well), as members of the community, their children, and in some cases extended family and friends.  Our ecumenical, Christian community came into existence on that day when 29 men and women – of various Christians denominations, freely chose to covenant themselves to one another before the Lord and the world, forming a new entity – the People of Praise.

NoVA (and PoVA guests) enjoying the Covenant sharings

Our joy was greatly multiplied by the decision of four vibrant adults – who have been serving the Lord as fully active members of our community for many years – to join in the covenant life as well.

Tony Fraga – Nadia Fraga – Matt Harris – Mary Beth Harris

Matt Harris said it well when he remarked that he had never seen or heard of any other organization in the world in which Catholics and Protestants care for and live with each other and work together to build the kingdom like we do.  (my paraphrase of his remark.)  I do not know whether or not this is strictly true; however, the ecumenism lived out with the love of a “family of families” IS a unique characteristic of the People of Praise.

Being “camera-less”, I took photos with my cell phone.  Take a look by clicking on the following link:

Covenant in NoVA Branch 2010

Click on “Detail” to view the captions.

Praise God the Father, God the Son, and Holy Spirit!

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Bless the LORD, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, my soul; do not forget all the gifts of God,
Who pardons all your sins, heals all your ills,
Delivers your life from the pit, surrounds you with love and compassion,
Fills your days with good things; your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…
As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful.
As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on the faithful…
…the LORD’S kindness is forever, toward the faithful from age to age. He favors the
children’s children of those who keep his covenant, who take care to fulfill its precepts.
The LORD’S throne is established in heaven; God’s royal power rules over all.
Bless the LORD, all you angels, mighty in strength and attentive, obedient to every
Bless the LORD, all you hosts, ministers who do God’s will.
Bless the LORD, all creatures, everywhere in God’s domain. Bless the LORD, my soul!
~from Psalm 103

Bless the LORD, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name…

Last night the women of the NoVA Branch gathered to “shower” Julia Fraga in honor of her upcoming marriage to Alex Shek.

Do not forget all the gifts of God…

Julia was the youngest child born to Charlie and Carmen Fraga, the first principal branch coordinator and principal handmaid of the NoVA Branch.  She was a “jewel” amidst the blossoming of community here, and took her place alongside all the other children of community who grew to be very close over time.

Who fills your days with good things…

The women’s groups brought gifts to give the couple as they prepare for their life together.  But more than that, we celebrated the multitude of good things our Father has done for Julia and all of us.

Who surrounds you with love and compassion …

A bridal shower is always a happy time, but in the People of Praise there is another dimension of the love of God being shared freely among those who are present in conversation and sharing of life.

As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful…

Her women’s group had planned all the usual ways of honoring Julia, light snacks, praise and worship, and sharings. Though the décor was simple, the love of God for all His children was greatly evident.  But there was more to come!

Bless the LORD all you hosts, ministers who do God’s will…

The music was exceptionally joyfilled on this occasion – which was very appropriate as Julia is a member of the Music Ministry.  In a true explosion of gratitude and praise, we sang Unto the House of the Lord and Sing for Joy (by Don Moen).

As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us…

When it was time for the honoring, we turned our attention to the large screen on the stage.  A special video honoring had been recorded by Julia’s mother, Carmen, who now lives in the Portland /Vancouver branch.  Several of the women became tear-y as the video-honoring began and we saw the beloved face of our sister who we wished so dearly was present.  Shortly into the honoring, we saw Carmen step out of the camera’s view to “check on something”. The next we knew, she was actually walking out from behind the screen.  She had come after all to surprise Julia!  The applause erupted and many more shed tears of joy with Julia as she rushed up to embrace her mother.

The LORD’s kindness is forever, toward the faithful from age to age.

The honoring proceeded in real life(!) as Carmen recounted the many ways Jule had served & comforted her and made her proud with her diligent work for the Lord.  Other honorings were given by sister Maria-Elena via sister-in-law Nadia Shek, Theresee McNichol, and Bridget Brophy.  A beautiful prayer was offered by Julia’s pastoral head, Suzanne Lokke.

He favors the children’s children of those who keep his covenant…

Theresee, the leader of Julia’s women’s group with Becca Feeks, had prepared another video “honoring,” a sort of televised skit based on a popular reality show.  This clever and imaginative piece turned out to be a real highlight with special appearances by many of the fine young men and women who grew up with Julia, including Billy Brophy as Alex and of course, Theresee as Julia as they competed in the “Amazing Race”.  Their runs and missions were interspersed with “interviews” of family and friends, played by members of the McNichol, Brophy, Rooney, Brand, and Cedergren families.  The result was hilarious, complex, well-acted, recorded, and edited for our viewing.  The formal part of the evening ended with a spirited rendition of I will Remember the Kindness of the Lord followed by fellowship.  How fitting!

Bless the LORD, all creatures, everywhere in God’s domain.  Bless the LORD, my soul!

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B rands  &

E lliotts  (+ friends)

A t

C orolla (Outer Banks, NC)

H ot trip!  (meaning, it was cool, real cool!)

Other words to describe:

  • Hazelton beach house has a bountiful layout for people aplenty
  • ya just gotta love the beach
  • sunrise on Sunday (day 1) with John – it just popped up over the horizon
  • beautiful skies, refreshing waves
  • 2nd sunrise with Kathryn
  • excellent weather
  • climbed Currituck Beach lighthouse (http://www.carolinalights.com/north-carolina-lighthouses/currituck-beach-lighthouse)
  • Kress family arrived “in the nick of time” to refresh our sagging merriment on the one rainy evening!  (we played the Name Game; some memorable ones were “Wizard of Oz”, “Chad”, “Jesus Christ”, and Roger Federer)
  • a truly engaging time  😉
  • spectacular sunrise from the deck

Maria appreciating the OBX - yeah!

Psalm 107 (excerpt)

21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love.
Let them give thanks for the miracles he does for his people.
Let them sacrifice thank offerings.
Let them talk about what he has done as they sing with joy.
Others sailed out on the ocean in ships.
They traded goods on the mighty waters.
They saw the works of the Lord.
They saw the miracles he did on the ocean.
He spoke and stirred up a storm.
It lifted the waves high.
They rose up to the heavens. Then they went down deep into the ocean.  …

29 He made the storm as quiet as a whisper.
The waves of the ocean calmed down.
The people were glad when the ocean became calm.
Then he guided them to the harbor they were looking for.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love.
Let them give thanks for the miracles he does for his people.

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It’s a Wonderful Life…

One year ago today, I turned fifty – five oh – 5 0 – the jubilee year – YES, fifty.  It seems that it happens to everyone, if they live long enough.  Anyway, the interesting part was:  I and most of the family were living in England (Cheltenham, United Kingdom) at the time.  It’s a completely different life from America when you wake up in the Cotswold area of the British Isles.  First there are cows on the hills, stone-walled cottages, changeable weather, and lots of lovely chaps who are inclined to say, “That’s BRILLIANT!” when something goes well.  But I digress…

Since we were in England, I knew that I would not be celebrating my day with the usual troupe of culprits, my extended family, community brothers and sisters, and friends from the years.  But, I understood this, and some of those same friends had made great efforts to mitigate any disappointment I might feel on account of the discrepancy.  (see our England blog,  http://ukpop.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/birthday-in-britain-with-snow/ ) Besides, it was Sunday, and we were going to Mass at our beloved Church of the Immaculate Conception in Stroud where I would worship with all my new friends from England, and a Birthday Tea Party (the British and best kind) was going to occur a couple of weeks in future to mark the occasion.  I was content.

A year passed (362 days to be exact).  We moved back to our house in Virginia.  Life went on…

Then, this past Friday evening, an amazing thing happened to me.  My husband had asked me a few weeks earlier if I would enjoy going out for my birthday with our dear friends, Frank and Carolyn, to dinner.  It sounded good, and I agreed.  I was feeling quite blasé about my birthday and thought going out with friends would be even more than I might actually plan to do.  As the time drew near, John informed me that we would need to go earlier than normal because our friends had a meeting they needed to attend at 8:00.  I put up some resistance because it meant missing the basketball games of both of the boys (decidedly NOT brilliant!), but he managed to convince me that Jane would represent us.  Then he said that our friends and we would return to our house for the dessert by 7:00.  I thought this timing was quite tight, and besides, didn’t want Carolyn to have to make dessert.  But diplomatically, John said, “Well, let’s just ask them,” and proceeded to make the call. (In retrospect, the diplomacy should have been a tip-off, but we won’t go there …)

The bottom line is, his plan was set in motion, with my total buy-in, and the dinner occurred with great fun and enjoyment by all four of us.  Afterwards, we hopped in the car – Carolyn and I in the back, Frank driving and John riding shot-gun in the front – and proceeded back to the house (which I had spruced up for the occasion and was therefore pleased about), knowing that the boys and Jane would be eating leftovers after the basketball game.

As we pulled in to the driveway, I was surprised to see that the house was dark, and had a momentary jerk of motherly concern for the kids not being in the kitchen.  But Frank said airily, “Oh maybe they are downstairs…” so we headed for the front door with me in the lead.  As I turned the handle which was unlocked, I felt sure that the children were within, and I reached for the light when it turned on as if by magic!  And I saw first 3 – then 6 – then 10 – then a roomful and overflowing hall-full of people who all yelled, SURPRISE!

And I was.  I felt my jaw drop and my eyes widen and a grin grow as I looked around at all the people smiling and clapping and looking to see my face, whether or not I had been surprised.  It WAS a total shock, a marvel to me because it was so – from my perspective – unexpected.  But I have one of those brains that make connections, and I immediately connected this surprise to my 50th birthday.  I saw those little, shiny 50’s dangling fetchingly from the ceiling along with crepe paper and a decorated table.  But mostly, I saw people:  my extended family (those that were able to come) including Grandpa, Kathie and Greg, and my parents; I saw some friends I met in England who now live in Illinois, but were visiting this weekend;  also, there were many of my closest friends some with children whom I have known from their earliest days, but who have grown into friends in their own right.  Not everyone I have known and loved was there by any means, but such a prodigious number of close friends, that I felt they represented the dear ones of all my years.

And somehow, I felt the expanse of God’s love for me and all those who have been in my life.  It was George Bailey with Clarence and everyone showing up in his own parlor all over again.  And it made me feel quite grateful to my Father in heaven (and John, Jane, and my women’s group here on earth!)  I know that there will be more greetings today because that’s the nature of things.  (Facebook friends sometimes help the process!)  But that party was a miracle of love to me.  And I was grateful.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?

For Auld lang syne my dear, for auld lang syne?

We’ll drink a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Eric&Diane in from Illinois and Erica from A.U. with Maria

Dad Carlos, Maria, Mom Marijane, and Sharon on Feb. 1, 2010

Photos from Party (click here)

May the name of the Lord be praised.  ~ Job 1:21

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Last night we had dinner with Rose, Chris, and Phyllis.  They are our friends from Minne-SO-ta, having been born or lived a long time there.  Rose and Chris attend the U of Minn. where Kristin and Kathryn also go.   The boys were very excited to have Chris over; he is Mr. Cool as far as they are concerned.   I learned a little about Chris’ family and decided he IS pretty cool and not just because he is from the chilly state of MN!

We have known Rose and Phyllis for many years, 18 to be exact.  Rose’s family moved here from MN when she and Kristin were 3 years old.  Wow!  Phyllis is Grandma and a worthy one at that.   So now that the introductions are over, let me get to the point.

Last night, our fun dinner served the dual purposes of enjoying being together AND covering for Rose’s surprise 21st birthday party.  It worked well on both counts.  So after having a generous visit over the Lord’s Day meal, we said “Goodbye” and “Hope to see you soon”, and 15 minutes later did just that.  We Elliotts missed the surprise part, but that’s the breaks.

I didn’t get to honor Rose as completely as I would have liked so I am going to do it here.  Rose is a fine actress which we have witnessed many times over the years.  Some of the highlights I have seen are Widow Paroo in Music Man, Constance in Three Musketeers, Alice (in Wonderland), and a choreographer/ cheerleader for High School Musical.    She always excelled in her role whether it was a lead or a small part or mostly behind the scenes.  Rose gave each part her all, and whatever it took to make the play effective and wonderful, she applied it with enthusiasm, skill, and best effort.  Her role as Constance was believeably full of drama and pathos; her Alice entirely wide-eyed and innocent; and Widow Paroo was as endearing as she could be.  She worked hard on singing (which did not come as easily as acting) when it was necessary.  Her roles in college have been more avant-garde and demanding, and unfortunately too far away for me to see, but I understand she maintains her excellence.  This is the attitude that will serve her well in life.  Finally, Rose does well in the role of person.  She is one of those to whom I would trust my life.  An outstanding Christian, she displays integrity, compassion, kindness, and moxie.   Young as she is, she is moving in the right direction and has a lifetime ahead to become an even better Rose!  It is a privilege to have watched her develop and blossum!

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet…

~Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet

May the name of the Lord be praised!  ~Job 1:21

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(To listen while reading, right click link below; then click on Open Link in New Tab)

A Taste of Honey -The Beatles (British invasion … very appropriate)

It is a sad day in Annandale, Virginia.  The last bit of honey is clinging to the bottom of the special jar Brenda gave me to take home.  Brenda is my former neighbor from the house next-door to Blackhedge Farmhouse where we lived for almost 11 months.  Brenda kept bees and collected their honey.  She also collected honey from her son’s bees.  Then she would uncap the frames (removing the wax the bees had put there to store the honey), put the frame into a cylindrical shaped extractor that uses centrifugal force to get the honey out of the frame, and catch it below where it flowed down in a large bowl.  Then Brenda would sieve the honey through cheese cloths until it was purified of the wax bits and other impurities.  She showed us Elliotts the process.  The final product was put into jars, and if it was of good enough quality, a proper label proclaiming it to be Cotswold Honey would be applied to the jar.  Every step of this process was done by our darling 82-year-old friend.  She also kept the equipment and cloths in good order and clean.

Somehow, seeing what a private beekeeper/honey processer goes through makes it taste so much better.  It certainly looks different from the really clear and uniform honey “bears” in our groceries.  I don’t know why exactly, but it seemed to taste better as well, “a taste of honey, tasting much sweeter than wine…

How can the honey be gone?  Isn’t it hard enough that we are gone – I mean we have left our beloved Cotswold home on Leckhampton Hill?  “I’ll return, I’ll return, I’ll come back for the honey and you” …

Cotswold honey

… Britannia …

May the name of the Lord be praised! ~Job 1:21

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