Marilyn's Musings

Wisdom from my heart to yours…

Gazebo Seasons


It’s been over a year since I returned to America.  Seasons have come and gone. Come sit with me – swaying gently to the rhythm of the swing in a gazebo – one season at a time.  Perhaps . . . , we will just imagine that we are gliding smoothly in the swing.

Image   Winter

Cold winds moved in with a force – bending trees under the weight of icy snow.  Life became treacherous to venture out of the warmth of our houses.  And yet, many warm memories wrapped around me during the season of winter.

One of my sweet friends from Taiwan had met and fallen in love.  I had the privilege of watching that transpire while I was still overseas.  She and her intended decided to marry in March of this year in Iowa where he is from.  Because none of the bride’s family was able to come, they asked if I would represent her family for her.  My heart was so full to see two precious people promising their love and life to each other – combining two very different cultures.  I was honored to be able to go for that.  Even in the cold of winter, their love for each other was like a fire that warmed the hearts of those who were able to celebrate their vows with them.



Image  Spring

Hope was rekindled as the weather warmed by the sun brought the robins back, encouraged the flowers to peek out of the ground.  Spring was such a welcoming sight.  New sounds – songs of birds that I had not heard for years.  What a delight to listen to feathered ballads being sung to celebrate the new season.

With the promise of new life that comes with spring, I was anticipating an ending of a long chapter of my life.  I was nearing the completion of my thesis written from research that was conducted while I was teaching in Taiwan.  Hope was dashed that I would be able to complete it by the deadline for the spring semester, but was able to extend my time into the summer semester.  I was relieved.

One of the main reasons I came back to America this year was so that I would be home for the graduation of my daughter from college.  She had been in the military during her college career, which made her four year college experience turn into a six or seven year experience.  When she walked across the platform, my heart was so full.  During her time of study, she was able to study abroad in Sweden and Lithuania, too.  I am so proud of her for getting that degree – a long journey to completion.

Image  Summer

Summer always meant  V A C A T I O N – time to spend with extended family, and this summer was no different.  I was able to go to Michigan for my Brown family reunion, held at my son’s house. Potluck – amazing surprises from great family cooks!  My son even deep fried a turkey! Who says you can only  have turkey on Thanksgiving! The time was sweet, but so short. It was refreshing to be with all of my siblings, my son and his family, my youngest daughter and her family, as well as the rest of the family – some of which I had not seen for years.  I am grateful for the relationships I have with my extended family – sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews – treasures for sure!  I am blessed.

Shortly after returning to Arkansas, I was able to participate in my oral defense for my Master’s degree.  My advisor and the others on the thesis committee asked some very good questions in regards to the methods and results from my research. I was very honored to have a professor on that committee who was originally from Taiwan, but had been in America for many years.  She had some specific insights because of her experiences in education in her country.  When the professors had discussed their observations with me, I was overwhelmed with relief, gratitude, and amazement.  Their words were such an encouragement to me – beyond what I ever imagined they would say.  If you would be interested in reading through my research, it is published online at

The finale for the summer was the wedding of my son where he promised himself to his bride at a beautiful little church nestled along the foothills of the Rockies in Fort Collins (Heart of the Rockies Christian Church).  Their love warmed our hearts, too.  That was a family reunion as well  – – of grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, combined with new friends from my now daughter’s-law’s family and friends.

The warmth of the summer finally drew to an end – but left behind milestones and new chapters in lives of those who are important to me.

IMG_0009  Fall – Autumn

The changing of the guard is similar to the changing of the colors on the trees.  This year, autumn marched in like a color guard – delighting me in the variety of foliage that is still one of my favorite sights to enjoy.

God has promised us that He will give us the desires of our hearts.  Many years ago when we lived on top of a mountain in Madison County, I would have some serious conversations with God.  I was reminding Him of how much I enjoyed people, and that I would really enjoy the privilege of sharing some of my life lessons with some ladies (not that He had forgotten, of course).  The bear that went through our yard periodically didn’t really seem like the audience that I was referring to, nor did the scorpion that ran across the dining room table, or the tarantula that the kids put in a terrarium.

Before I went to Taiwan this last time, a friend of mine had asked me to pray about being on her team for a women’s retreat that she was leading.  I did pray, and I was on the team even while I was in Taiwan as a prayer partner.  Last year when I came back, I was invited to be a part of the team – not really sure what I was going to do, but I went.  This spring, while talking with her one day, she asked if I would consider being on the speaking team with her.  I cried!  God was giving me the desire of my heart!  In October, I was honored to share some of my story at the Captivating Heart Women’s Retreat alongside Cari Kaufman. The retreat is based on the book, Captivating, by Stasi Eldredge, looking at our true identity in Jesus.


What will this next year usher in?  I know it is not the official new year, but from my perspective, autumn often signals the end of the year.  This year held many major life events that included checking off several ‘bucket list’ entries, seeing the arduous hours of study coming to fruition when my Master’s degree arrived in the mail, and feeling wrapped in the incredibly strong arms of my Father who has been showering me with gifts.

I’m finally home – in America.  I’m thankful to be home – which now includes a new house.  I’ll tell you about that later.

The gazebo, by the way, is at the apartments where I lived before I bought my house.  The swing was an invitation to enjoy. Maybe we could have some tea together there some day.







Bucket List

Just write out 101 things you want to do before you die – you know, a bucket list. I remember in January 2007 I was encouraged to do that.

No problem – I can do that!! Well, after about #37, I wasn’t so sure. I do remember that one of the first ones on the list Bucket listwas to teach overseas for a year. I also wanted to get my Master’s degree – not sure quite why, but it was something I had wanted to do for a long time.

Within a couple weeks of writing that list, our school district sent out an email to all the teachers about an opportunity to teach in Taiwan. Whoa! Was that coincidental? After seeking counsel from friends and family, I did decide to apply. Some day I may share more details of the journey from that point to actually landing in Taiwan in August of 2007, but suffice it to say, I was happy to check that off my bucket list.

I returned to America after that first year, but left half of my heart in Taiwan. The people of Taiwan are so gracious. In the fall of 2010, I was able to return to Taiwan to teach again. Shortly after the school year began, an email from the college where I originally started my education after high school was offering graduate courses online. After doing some comparison shopping and researching the options, I applied to the graduate program that Cedarville University was offering. A month ago, I completed my research project, and gave my oral defense which was accepted by the thesis committee. Their words of encouragement were actually more than I ever expected.

So, another thing checked off my bucket list.

May I encourage you to consider a list of things you would like to accomplish in your lifetime. Begin today – you will be one day closer.

Do you remember?

Last month, our country celebrated Memorial Day – a day to remember.


When you think of memories, what comes to mind first?

I have been doing a presentation with some senior citizens dealing with brain exercises = and it incorporates all five senses.  The sense that I focus on the most is sight – I have pictures of things from years gone by.  Like a picture of JFK (John F. Kennedy), the man on the moon, a Sears Christmas catalog, a wringer washing machine, the football team, a summer garden, and many more.  Good pictures for prompting memories from days gone by.

A while ago, one of my granddaughters came over for a visit.  She has some favorite singers and was showing me some of their videos on youtube.  One of them, Mike Donehey from Tenth Avenue North, was talking about remembering as it relates to God.  The video is talking about remembering, or forgetting.  He says that God is not like an elephant because elephants don’t forget.  It’s worth watching.  You can check it out here –










Springtime Spills into New Beginnings



I have been out of the country for the last three springtimes.  I was reminded this morning on my way to work how beautiful changing seasons can be.  I was impressed by trees framed with a halo of red from new buds.   I heard birds singing songs I had forgotten.  My heart was so full, it spilled out of my eyes!


Springtime – synonymous with new beginnings.  This year is a new beginning for me, now that I am back in the United States again.  I miss my friends in Taiwan a lot – sometimes so much it spills out of my eyes.  But, I know that for this chapter, I am to be here in America – in Northwest Arkansas.  I’m thankful.

New beginnings – what will start this year in a new way for me?  I know that God has given me so much this year – many new things.  I want to ask Him to help me to see with new eyes this year.    Each day is a gift.  Each person is a treasure.   Change, although at times challenging, can result in growth for our good.  I don’t want to become accustomed to people, things, and changes around me.


What has this season brought for you?  I would enjoy hearing about some of your new beginnings.


  • The spring and fall equinoxes are the only two times during the year when the sun rises due east and sets due west,

Weekly Photo Challenge – Street Life

Weekly Photo Challenge - Street Life

The street in front of the train station in Douliu, Yunlin County, Taiwan. Familiar and not so familiar.

Time Change Sunday

It was a few years ago that my eldest daughter had been called up for active duty in Afghanistan.  Her unit was leaving on the Sunday when time changed.  Here are my thoughts and feelings on that day.


Time Change Sunday

Spring ahead – lose an hour

Not enough sleep

Spending time together

Not sure when the next opportunity will be.

Be at the base by 6:30 a.m.

No, that has changed

Will send a message

With the new time.

Text says to be there at 14:00

I wonder . . . what if they decided

To leave early

Would you be left behind?

Trip to the base to drop you off

Will be back

To wait with you until

It’s time for you to leave.

But the time has changed

Now it is at 18:00

So we play Phase 10

Good way to pass the time.


Halfway through the game

Time to head to the airport

The busses have arrived

Time for soldiers to board.

Head to the airport

To get some food first

There’s what – a parade??

Through town??


Waiting with anticipation

There they are!

Lights flashing

Motorcycles with flags flying.


Cars, trucks, motorcycles

Riding with lights blinking

To signify the importance

Of this incredibly long train.

This entourage continues

Slowly carrying precious cargo

Our own – on to the next stop

Fulfilling their duty to our country.


Traffic comes to a halt

To honor the troops riding to the airport

My daughter is on that bus

My heart is full, my eyes full of tears.

Busses, bikes, cars

File into the airport

Overtaken by family and friends

It’s just us and our soldiers.


Families standing together

Couples holding each other

Smiles, tears, laughter, silence

Today is time change, for sure.


The plane arrives

A long time coming, and yet…

Did it have to come so soon?

Shouldn’t it be an hour later?

The troops line up

Ready to make the final trip

Up the ramp – ready to leave

Today our time has changed.


What does the future hold?

What changes in the lives

Of each of these soldiers

Lord God, You know.

Thank You that our times

Are in Your hands

You are the One Who makes

All things new.



Thank You that on this day

We can trust You

With every time change

In the lives of our soldiers.

                    -Marilyn Hodgin, March 23, 2010


Anyone older than a microwave oven . . .

I saw this description on a Facebook page – made me pause.  Sure enough, I thought, I’m  older than microwaves – because they weren’t around when I was growing up.  But then, I had to look it up.  And wouldn’t you know it!  I was not around yet when they were first invented.  Check it out and let me know whether you were or not!!  I’ll help you a little bit – here is a link about how they were invented – and when!



It was an accident.  Well, maybe unplanned.

Have you ever had any of those – accidents, or unplanned somethings?

This winter has had many unplanned somethings – like lots of days with snow and ice here in NW Arkansas. Today was one of them.

Last week at my Perspectives class, Dr. Maxie Burch from John Brown University was talking about the Eras of Protestant Mission History.  In his notes, he said, “Most of history is the history of the unintended.”

That also made me stop and think – how much of my own history was unintended?  Did I intend for each chapter to happen and finish as it did?  Probably not.  Were there some good things?  Definitely!  Were there things where I would have chosen a different ending to the chapter if it was my choice?  Of course.

So, who knows what in the world is going on in my life?

In Psalm 130:13-18, it says that God knows what is going on.  Written by King David, he said this:

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.  

There were times when I thought that maybe I was just a puppet on a string – “all the days that were formed for me.”  But David doesn’t respond like that.  He marvels in how precious it is that God thinks about us, and knows us.  I want to do that.

If you are one of God’s children, then look at this next passage.  From Ephesians 2:7-10, Paul is talking about God’s plan for us – a gift to us.  This is from The Message –

7-10 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.


It makes my heart full to know that our lives are not an accident.  We do have unplanned, or unintended, history in our lives, but we can rest in the character of God – each day is a precious gift.

I’m thankful for microwaves!  I’m working on being thankful for unintended history.

How about you?



A Can of Tomatoes and the Sovereignty of God

I had heard that a storm was coming – like another one we already had. I had been thinking about the tomato soup at Atlanta Bread Company, and with a storm coming, it seemed like a good time to try out the recipe that was said to be very much like theirs.

Only a couple of things on my list, enough to just put on the ‘seat’ of the cart. Looking forward to the completion of this tasty task.

All of a sudden, all I could feel was pain. The huge can of tomatoes had slipped through the leg holes on the seat, and landed just behind my right toe. Barely able to stand, I tried to keep my tears inside, attempting to stay standing while leaning on my cart.

No one saw the can fall. No one was in the aisle at the time of the impact. Did anyone care?

And then, I got a little upset with God. If He makes the sun rise and set every day, was He in charge of that can?  Why did that can have to fall just at the time that my foot was taking the next step on the mission that I had set out to accomplish? Couldn’t the can have just slipped off to the side – – I mean, why did it have to hit my toe? And why did it have to hurt so bad? And why was no one there to see if I was ok?

Psalm 37:23 says that “the steps of a good man (lady) are ordered by the Lord.”   What??!! Did that mean that God knew about the can?  Did He know whether my toe was broken or not (it wasn’t)?  Did He know how much it hurt?

It seemed as though God wrapped His arms around me and said, “I saw the can fall. I was in the aisle when it hit. I do care – more than you can ask or think.”

He is a good God – even when it hurts.


New Years Predictions

I was looking through the front pages of my Bible on Sunday, and found some predictions for the year – well, actually it could be for any year.  I wanted to share with you, just in case you were wondering what the year would hold.  If you want to read more, check out the addresses online for the rest of the story.  And, I just want to say that I hope you have an incredible year ahead of you.

These came from Chuck Swindoll (

How to have a miserable year

1.  Worry a lot

2.  Make hard and fast predictions

3.  Fix your attention on getting rich

4.  Compare yourself with others

5.  Lengthen your list of enemies

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

5 Predictions Worth Remembering (

From 1 Peter 2:11–12, 18–25

  • I will be watched by an unbelieving world
  • I will encounter unreasonable people
  • I will endure unjust treatment
  • I will need unusual patience
  • I will have unfailing protection.

Keep this list of predictions handy, refuse to be surprised as they transpire, and make certain that your trust remains in the Lord.

Christmas Advent

In my growing up years, I don’t ever remember hearing about Advent.  It wasn’t until I was an adult when I first heard about the idea.  This year, there was a challenge on Facebook from Rethink Church ( to post a picture each day that went along with a word for the day.

Although I did not complete it before Christmas arrived, I wanted to share the pictures with you, along with the word for each day and the verse from the Bible.  Some of the words were challenging to come up with something visual to represent it, but with a bit of thought and creativity, I was able to come up with one that worked for me.  Any of the photos that you are wondering why they were chosen, just ask.  If you click on the pictures, you can see them better.

Have you ever celebrated Advent?  I would like to hear some of your stories and thoughts about Advent.

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