Mainiac For A Weekend!

  I am always surprised by how God grants me exactly what I need, when I need it. Recently I needed inspiration. Here’s my story:   

  On the 3rd of July I left Massachusetts to go Down East. For those of you not from New England, that means I went to Maine. How that ends up being down and East to anybody other than Canadians I have no idea… but there you have it.

     I began feeling a push in my spirit to visit my northern brothers a few months ago. So when my brother-in-law invited me up, I decided it was time to go. I wasn’t really sure about the why. But I did plenty of praying about it on my journey up, and as usual the Spirit answered full measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing!

     My Brother-in-law Cliff and his wife Andrea live on a tree farm in the little town of Waldosboro.

     As you travel north along the coast, the sandy beaches of York and Ogunquit give way to the rocky ocean outcrops Maine is so famous for. Here in the bays of Camden, Waldosboro, and Wiscasset the great ship building industry of Maine was born early in our nation’s history. This is where I travelled too…though when I started I didn’t really know why.

     Holy Spirit began to show me almost as soon as I left that this was going to be a weekend of refreshing for my heart and a time of inspiration for my mind. 

     As I started out, God told me to take my time. Then He proceeded to make sure I would obey His command by sticking me in a traffic jam for three hours! 😎 When my arrival time came and went and I hadn’t even reached the Maine border I called Cliff and told him I would be along as soon as I could leave the NH parking lot.

     Through it all I felt so much peace. I prayed and God was my driving companion. He shared His thoughts and I descended deeper  into His presence even as He and I had a heart to heart that evidently was long overdue.

        I’m so thankful that God always knows what we need and when we need it. As a Maniac for a weekend I learned so much and I have much to share with you all!

     See you tomorrow!

I Am Become Disney World!

     There are many interesting changes which come with mid-life and the empty nest.

     Some of the changes have been rather jarring. For instance: the inability to get back to 200 hundred pounds without amputation of limbs, or this new thing about not being able to drink coffee after 9 without getting heartburn (truly terrifying).

    Certain changes, on the other hand, have been very gratifying: The idea that I am no longer “the rookie”. The respect that comes with that perception is truly wonderful. Then there’s this whole thing about becoming Disney World….

     When the kids were growing up Tina and I tried to give the kids a wide variety of exposures to the world. We took them all over and showed them as much of our country as we could. The kids have been to Maine and Maryland. They have travelled as far away as Texas and Florida. We have pictures of them bathing in the Gulf waters in Galveston and walking the humid pathways of Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania.

     All those years vacation to our family meant going to a destination. Now suddenly two years into the empty nest I have become the destination! I am Disney World! Go me! Granted, I am not exactly Space Mountain or the Tower of Terror. I am more like It’s A Small World but the kids don’t seem to mind. Then there’s the added bonus that vacations no longer cost an arm and a leg. Hey! Maybe that’s why I can no longer lose the weight…hmm.

What changes has life brought you recently?

Two Roads To Beavers

A hundred years ago Morton Converse ran a toy factory in our town that supplied most of the country with wooden rocking horses. The toy business  gave Winchendon its nickname, “Toy Town”, and made Converse a wealthy man.

     He built a mansion in the center of town on a steep hill that overlooked the Miller’s River. His home and garden terraces ran all the way to the river’s edge and spread across to several islands on the waterway. 

    The factory burned down when I was a kid. All that is left of the mansion is a few stray concrete walls which have withstood the encroaching forest and the tides of the River.

     A few well-meaning souls have tried to push back the undergrowth and plant a garden along the edge of the road where part of the foundation still remains.  I cannot say they have met with success. But where men have failed to tame the hillside beavers have commanded the water’s edge to bow to their will.

     I have known about the beavers for a few years and have wanted to spend some time watching them. But the opportunity never presented itself , that is until my daughter Melanie’s last  visit home. She suggested that we should take some time and visit the Converse beavers. So last Thursday we did just that.

     The rain let up for a few hours in the morning. So we put on long pants to guard against the tics and the cold and set out.  We hopped the fence and headed down through the foundation garden. The grass had grown in along the side walls all but obscuring the foundation stones as we set out down the steep hill. We quickly lost the rock pathway  in the foot deep grass. Grasping onto limbs to guide us down the steep hill Melanie and I quickly realized we were not dressed for the task. The hill was  nothing but mud and grass, wet with three day’s rain.

     By the time we reached the chapel wall we had slipped several times and our jeans were soaked up to the knees.  But we had a good view of the little critters who maintained the river. We watched for quite a while despite our chilly discomfort, mostly because we dreaded the thought of climbing  back up the way we had come. That’s about when we realized we were actually standing on a muddy trail that seemed to lead further up towards town. We decided we had little to lose; So when we were finished watching the beavers build a new island we took the pathway to its end which by golly was a set of stairs that led directly to the street.  Apparently someone a hundred years ago had been bright enough to figure out that people would want to go down to the river and that perhaps there should be a better method of getting there than to repel from the back-end of the mansion.

     Of course I, being a modern guy and all, never thought once to look for a set of stairs. Oh no… if it had been my mansion I would have strung a rope from the bathroom window and said to my guests “don’t forget to flush before you climb down to the gardens!”

     Makes me wonder how many other things in life I am doing the hard way.  I hope one day I will learn the lesson” work smarter not harder.”

What lesson is life teaching you these days?

Making the Markers Matter

       I like Saturday morning sunlight better than week day sunlight.     You see, I used to spend Friday nights at my Grandparent’s camp.  I remember every Saturday I would wake up and savor for just a few moments the yellow light that poured through the chintz curtains onto the bedspreads around me.  

      Saturday mornings were always the same. Eggs and toast with orange juice followed by grocery shopping and a historic tour of Athol MA.

     On those morning drives I wrote my first poetry and I memorized the locations of Sentinel Elm, and the homesteads of the Tandys, and the Lillies. I saw almost weekly the three houses my great- great-grandfather built for his daughters and sister. I can still point out the cellar hole of the house my great-grandmother burned down while drying her sons’ clothing over the wood stove.

      On certain special Saturdays my grandparents would take a little longer to complete my education. On those Saturdays Grampa would skip his candlepin bowling and we would make the drive to Erving Where the “first Joseph” was buried.

      I can still hear Gramp’s  gravelly voice litanizing our family history. “You are Joseph Elon Lillie V but we call you the III because your mother didn’t want you to be likened to whiskey…The first Joseph was a wood cutter…father Caleb Elon… his father Caleb senior…all the way back to the revolution…Joseph’s mother-in-law was Susannah Clark they called her “Little Grandmother”…Shay’s rebellion.”

    At least that’s the way I heard it as I phased in and out of consciousness without my grandparents even knowing.

     I didn’t realize it at the time but Gram and Gramps were training me for a job that would become mine in the fullness of time. When they passed, watching over the family grave markers fell to my Aunt Joan and Uncle Walt. Now that they have moved to Seattle to live with their kids I may be the only Lillie who remembers where everyone is!

          This year I took my sister with me to check on the graves. We didn’t stay long. Talking to the dead isn’t our thing (at least not since we came to Jesus) but that really wasn’t the point. I wasn’t there to grieve. I went to make sure the markers still stood, could still be read, to show that the lives they represented still mattered.

     Maybe it’s because I am now on the edge of that phase called middle age, maybe it’s because all my kids are grown and out of the house but I find myself wanting to make things count more than ever. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and say “Well that was certainly a waste!”

     My desire to leave a legacy that matters got me thinking about what those who went before left to me:

     As I stood before my father’s marker I could still hear him chiding me “Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear. Give me an answer you can live with.”

     What can I live with? I feel like I am just learning the answer to that now twenty years after his death.


     As I visited the cemeteries this year I realized that these people effected who I am, some of them without ever knowing me. One of them spoke a name that would echo down the generations to their grandson’s grandson. A “little grandmother” lost somewhere in the folds of history has birthed a family that stands for freedom and personal responsibility. Gosh, a couple of these folks have even influenced the way I look at sunlight. They mattered…at least if my life does!

     What will the markers I leave behind matter to those who come after? I want to be more than a potted geranium some grandson I never know buys at his generation’s version of Wal-Mart.

     I’ve been thinking about what I want on my tombstone should Jesus tarry (the way things look that ain’t likely but just say I get hit by a bus or something). I think I want people to say of me “He was someone who really knew how to love. Not the gushy, fake, T.V. romance, messed up love but the real Jesus type of love.”

    I want them to write this in the dash between my years.

      I want people to say “He did it. so can I!”

      As I stood at the graves of my ancestors I realized it’s not the size of the rock that matters but the making of the marker that can only be done by the living of a life.

    I am writing my gravestone as I live each day not so that people will come and leave me pretty plants but so that lives that come behind mine will be changed.

What legacy are you choosing to leave?

The Pseudo- Elizabethan

So dear reader, you know I have been working hard at putting in my new gardens. Muddy (that’s mom) has a beautiful side lot which for the most part is uncultivated.

I started moving the plants from my old house over to hers several weeks ago. So far I have moved strawberries, blueberries, plums, grapes, raspberries, lilys, iris, hosta, lady’s mantle, lilac, and a plethora of herbs.

    I also moved three raised beds a few pillars and two trellis’. With these I have set in place a small pseudo-elizabethan garden. I say pseudo because I don’t have a sun-dial or a fountain and Lord knows I am absolutely refusing to put in more hedges. Good grief can you even imagine?! I am not even managing the hedges already on the property! Instead using the  raised boxes I have made a great enclosure. Not terribly traditional but an acceptable accommodation for me.

   Vegetables will go in the flanking boxes. Herbs are at the back. So far I have planted oregano, fennel, Echinacea, lemon balm, sorrel, and mint (in its own box of course). In the center I have a small box of strawberries and a dwarf cherry tree to keep with the tradition of having fruit at the center.

    The pillars and trellis at the back support grape vines and the trellis at the front supports a honeysuckle on one side and a rose on the other.

    I cannot even tell you how much satisfaction I have in getting this far in my garden plans! And… I HAVE LOST FIFTEEN POUNDS IN THE LAST THREE MONTHS!!!!

How are your garden plans coming?


     So all this week I have had a problem with my WordPress account. I have not been able to log on and WordPress was having a little difficulty figuring out why. Finally today Anthony at tech support was able to get me back on.

     It hasn’t been all bad though. I got to finish the second draft of two more chapters in my novel!

    And so the blogging begins…again!

    I never did find out what happened. It was weird…sorry.

     But thank you WordPress!

Helping Change Along

Things change. Nothing can stop that. Life is a river that keeps flowing. We’re in a boat that cannot find the shore to pull out of the constantly passing scenery.

     We are left with two options: Row with the current and enjoy the ride; Or fight the current and try hopelessly to keep the same scene in our sights for a while.

    I try to be a row with the current guy. I try to find the joy in every circumstance. There are certain things I wish I wasn’t losing sight of.  But who knows, this river twists and turns on itself a lot. Maybe I will get to see those certain sights, I long for, from an even better angle a little further downstream.

    In the meantime I am keeping myself really busy. I’ve decided to help change along by making where I am the best I can make it. Now that’s different from making it the best it can be. Others, I am sure, could do more with what is before me. But with what I have inside of me I am making my best.

In February I planted tomatoes and peppers. Muddy said it was too early.

  “What does she know” I said to myself.

   Apparently she knows more than me. The tomatoes have gotten a little out of hand. I can no

longer put my bedroom shades down! Good thing I live at the back of the house.

    Note to self: When helping change along always take your mother’s suggestions into consideration.

I got tired of waiting for the peppers. So I stuck some butternut squash seeds in the pots. That was the week the peppers started growing. Second note to self: When helping change along don’t rush others who don’t move at the speed you would like. You will be sorry!

     In March I decided it was time to cut down the dead and tangled brush from the side lot. I took two days off to cut down this

And this

And this

And this

In planning to remove the forest I forgot there were trees in it. Trees are big. Chopping’s hard. I’m fat. Third note to self: When helping a big change along,  don’t try to do it all in a day…little steps man…little steps!

     So I figured out I needed more time and I have taken the forest in stages.

     I chopped one day

I burned it up on two days.

I raked it clean another day.

 Then I brought in the trellis.

This probably wouldn’t have taken a whole day if I had actually planned in advance what I was going to do and shared my “infinite wisdom” with the owner of the house.

Fourth note to self : When helping change along, don’t bring big black garden ornaments and slap them in the middle of the lawn willy-nilly without a plan. It makes others nervous.                                                            

Once we made the plan the rest went pretty smoothly. I won’t be chopping down anymore forest this year. The tomatoes are getting too tall and my body needs some time to recover from all this hard work.  Fifth note to self: Before helping change along buy stock in Advil.

How are you helping change along this year?

Fuddy, Duddy, and Muddy Go To The Concert

     What do I do for fun?

     So glad you asked!

     First I get to serve Jesus as a pastor!

I can honestly say there is no better job if you are called to it. I get to pray, preach, and equip the saints of God to be all they can be in Christ! What could be better than that?

     If you have been reading my posts you already know I love to garden. I just moved into my mother’s house. So I have started a massive gardening project to get her house ready for the famine (read all about that in my post, “The Untimely End of the End of the World bunnies”).

     Of course I spend a good deal of time reading and writing.

    Other than these things I love to sharpen my razor wit by sparring with my mother and sister over the latest crossword puzzle, T.V. whodunnit or who’s going home on the evening reality show.

    Now you know why this post is called “Fuddy, Duddy, and Muddy Go To the Concert”.

   Recently the three of us had an opportunity to go see my youngest daughter perform in a chorale at her Bible college. My oldest daughter who stays with me at Muddy’s (my mom’s) several times a week quickly opted to drive down early with a friend. She said it was because her sister had invited her to dinner. I think it was because she didn’t want to ride with Fuddy (me) Duddy (my sister) or Muddy (her you have already met).

     No matter we had a grand time all by ourselves once we acclimated ourselves to the fact we would miss the reruns of NCIS.

    We left early and drove through the snarling traffic on 495. We had Muddy ride in the back. Someday I will think driving an hour to get to a place is too long too. I hope someone is kind enough to put me in the back seat so I can nap on the way. Come to think of it that would be nice now. Kids if your reading this next time we go somewhere far away…DRIVE ME AND LET ME NAP!

     Duddy and I practiced not using our sarcasm bones (read up on sarcasm bones in my postings) on the other drivers.

    We got to Haverhill (which if you’re in Massachusetts is properly pronounced “Hayvrull”) and stopped to eat at. the Longhorn

     We took so long over dinner we were almost late to the concert.  But we made it! And the sounds of those young Bible College students praising God in harmony was thrilling to our hearts.

     Honestly to me this was much more fun than, say, base-jumping!    

     Now I have never been accused of being the most exciting person in the world. In fact most people probably think me boring. I think I am OK with that. As I approach mid-life I have learned three things:

1.Life is not about the recognition, acquisition, or achievement of position. It’s about enjoying the journey day by day.

2. Joy is found by letting God create your moments rather than trying to make life the object of your own creation.

3. If you’re enjoying who, where, and what you are the flash of the world with its offers of recognition, acquisition, and achievement of position lose their allure.

     This Fuddy-Duddy living with his Muddy may sound a tad boring but I am learning the value of godliness with contentment and to me that is one of the most exciting things in the universe.

The Twisted Thornbirds

My family is a little like the thornbirds minus the lecherous old woman, the fornicating priest, or his femme fatale…. OK, so we are nothing like the thornbirds except for the fact that my sister decided to become an actress and I became a minister. It did seem for a while we were following in the foot steps of Meggy’s children, Justine and Dane. For that reason alone I never go swimming in the ocean.

      Anyway our life imitates art scenario was going along very well until my sister got saved and then received a call to the mission field. Soon she will be Rev. Brenda Lillie and will be headed to the Netherlands to work with missionary Judy Mensch, who runs a children’s evangelism program called KIDZARK. Hallelujah! Praise God for great changes!

     Recently Brenda went for an exploratory of the area in which she will be ministering and building the KIDZARK & Co family theater program.

      Her trip went well. She visited Lisse and saw the tulip fields.

     She also walked the canals of Zaanse Schans.

     She walked past this  famous hotel in Zaandam.

     Most exciting though, she got to help Judy put together an outreach in which three people gave their hearts to Jesus!

     So my sister is becoming a pastor! Wouldn’t it be an odd twist of thornbird fate if I suddenly got approached to go to Hollywood?! Oyve!

     If you are interested in finding out more about Brenda’s adventures or how you can help her, go to :


      Every year as I finish laying out my garden beds I tell myself that this will be the last year of major botanical construction.

     I told myself that last year. I harvested in the fall thinking what a great system I had built. I looked forward to “tweaking” my beds this year and spending a goodly amount of time sitting in my lounger watching the perennials grow.

     Now I am at a totally new house considering  starting my gardens from scratch.

     Mom has a great piece of property that someone at sometime worked diligently. It was not Mom. She has lived in her “grand old mansion” for thirty-three years. During that time the extent of our family gardening (except for my indoor planting) has been mowing the lawn and  my dad scattering a huge package of wildflower seed onto the side lot to see what would happen.

    All past promises to myself aside, tomorrow starts another season of garden design and construction! This plot is too beautiful not to cultivate. It is definitely my biggest project to date.

     And in the morning I am really starting from scratch. I will begin with a massive blackberry hedge on the side of the house.

    The stand has run rampant and is nearly 50 feet wide and easily 25 feet deep! It trails all through the woodsy side grounds, wrapping around the crab apple tree and mixing in with the wild rose. My hope is to cut the suckers down to size and shape so that we will actually be able to pick some of the berries without needing a blood transfusion because of the thorns. I would also like to salvage the wild roses from the death grip of the pernicious canes.

      On the other side of this plot we have a huge stand of black raspberries. They are also a little out of control. This use to be our picnic table.

     Some people may think I am jumping the gun a little since there is still snow on the ground but I am going to start building the raised beds in two weeks time. Before that I am going to need to have a good bonfire to burn up the refuse. With only a day a week to garden I had better get a move on!

Where are you in your garden plans?