Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Birthday Month

Much to Zachary's chagrin, his 21st birthday turned into "birthday month."  

Zach prefers simplicity. Maybe a gift but no full-on attention.   

In fact, since he chooses not to be on social media, last year his dad and I posted his number and invited our friends to wish him a happy birthday. It turns out that he was in court that day, with the law firm he works for, and a buzzing phone in the courtroom causes a disturbance--who knew. ;) 

But this year, because of the snow that turned to ice on the 17th, he was unable to get McKenzi so he wanted to have a cake that included her last Sunday. My niece also has a January birthday and so we planned a full family dinner with another cake on Friday night. So, his 21st birthday was celebrated three times! 

Our house was full of laughter and fun!  Happy birthday, dear ones. May each year be better than the one before!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Happy 21st, Zachary!

Snow flurries danced in the headlights twenty-one years ago this morning as we drove to the small, regional hospital in Indiana, Pennsylvania. At 9:45, I watched Dr. Stever lift you up high and into my view over the partition in the operating bay. Nurses handed you to me within a couple of minutes.

Pastor Rick, standing beside me, asked if Mom and I had chosen a name for you. Zachary: “Remembered by God.”

As you celebrate this milestone birthday, my mind replays a thousand memories in an instant, recollections of mountains here and valleys there. This constant remains: God has remembered. His mercy towers above all surrounding landscapes.

The next 21 years will pass even more quickly for you. You will become middle-aged; I, old. Money will come and go, as will many relationships and fads. Conventional wisdom will change with the wind. Amid fomenting change, this principle must be your north star: God always keeps his promises.

Happy birthday to my son, who has been becoming a man for a very long time.

Remembered by God--Happy birthday, Zachary!

The warmth from the August sun absorbed by the concrete blocks of the parking garage of the Allegheny General Hospital was not enough to ward off the chill that David and I felt as we clung together. Clinging like shipwrecked survivors to a dinghy --quite sure we were NOT ready to face the storm of the diagnosis just given to us by the doctor. 

An ultrasound is usually a happy event, that first peek at the life not yet seen. But not that day. The grim face of the physician spoke volumes, even in his silence. They suggested that we terminate and quickly as "he" was already 23 weeks.  We walked away knowing that God, in His sovereignty, could redeem even this, but in my flesh, I was terrified. We had no further ultrasounds.  The months passed agonizingly slow, yet somehow they flew by. David named him Zachary because the name meant, "remembered by God." 

We were extremely protective of this potential diagnosis and with the exception of a few close friends and our family, we told no one. But, in those months when fear would paralyze me, I learned how to pray. And, how to surrender. 

Hours before daybreak, we made our way through the Pennsylvania, snowy, bitterly cold January morning. And, about 9:45 AM on Friday, January 17, Zachary entered our lives. 6 pounds and 15 oz and perfect.  I fell in love with this creation, who had huge dimples like his dad and a smile that melted my heart.

21 years have passed. Zachary makes me proud every day as he manages two jobs while he endeavors to graduate from Liberty University in May 2018 -- debt free. He regularly studies for his LSAT, which he plans to take in June.  And yet, with all his responsibilities, he always finds time for his family. I love the way he comes in from work and seeks me out and asks me about my day, the way he asks me to have coffee with him. The texts that say, "I'm praying for you." I love that his dad and his brothers are his best guy friends. 

He's becoming everything I'd dreamed he'd be: just like his father, who was like his father, all seeking to become like their heavenly Father--another Balty to leave a legacy, "remembered by God."

Thursday, November 9, 2017


Today required something of me that I didn't want to do. Not a bit. I knew I needed to, but everytime I thought about it, I got a little nauseous. But, I did it. Or, at least I started the process.  It's not the first time, I had to pray my way through something.  

Roughly 18 months after an accident that required a lengthy recovery,  I finally climbed on a bike again to ride 17 miles of the Virginia Creeper Trail with my supportive family. 

I am intentionally grateful for courage. Today, 18 months ago  and everyday in between. 

Psalm 56:3 "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you."

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Good Literature

 Yes, these ladies know that a balding, middle aged, hemorrhaging man is looking over their shoulders. 

Last month I extended extra credit to students who were willing to invest in a Macbeth performance at the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern. To claim their extra credit, students had to take a selfie with a cast member following the performance. I am not sure of the identity of the head-banded hero, but the gentleman on the left is the valiant Macduff.

Having taught this play over twenty times, I find that the story of Macbeth has become an old friend. I know where the students will laugh (with the drunk porter), where they will be aghast (when Lady Macbeth evokes the image of bashing the skull of a nursing infant), and where they will see themselves (when Macbeth describes being trapped by his choices: “I am in blood / Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o'er”).

Macbeth is my favorite Shakespearean play because it provides a vehicle for discussing life’s greatest questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here?  Where are we going? As a teacher in a Christian academy, I am providentially positioned to provide answers to those questions. So I answer by discussing creation, the fall, restoration, and ultimate redemption.  The prospect gets me out of bed in the morning, puts a spring in my step.

Yet teaching Macbeth is a humbling, soul-searching project, because in a sense he is an Everyman (or woman). In full knowledge of what he is doing, Macbeth destroys his own soul. He is a man on a fast track for the very highest honors, yet he chooses the slavery of sin. His choice leaves him with this predictable consequence wherein he faces the absurdity of an empty and meaningless life:

Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

At play’s end, Shakespeare has opened simple truth and invested it with tragic splendor. 

Great books take us to places that we were not willing to acknowledge, to hidden rooms of the heart, to realizations that we live as immoral humanity in a moral universe, to the discovery that a moral universe proclaims a moral Creator.

Today, I am intentionally thankful for great literature.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017


"The greatest masterpieces were once only colors on a palette." Henry Haskins 

When you see creation in all of its magnificence, you cannot deny the Creator, you can only suppress this truth (Rom 1:18). 

Intentionally grateful today for a colorful world! 

Monday, November 6, 2017


In a world of brokenness, I'm thankful that we've been learning how to forgive for 25 years.  

Intentionally grateful for forgiveness today (and everyday!). 

Colossians 3:13
"bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."


Sunday, November 5, 2017


David and I had been married 5 years when we moved to Louisville, KY, for David to teach at Highview Baptist School. Zachary was 7 months old.  It soon became our custom to walk the sidewalks of our neighborhood, Ashbrooke Gardens, after dinner. Zach was as happy-as-a-clam in his stroller and it gave David and me an opportunity to catch up on our day. He was a rookie in his teaching career and had the stories of the day to prove it. I was at home with Zachary, and was always anxious to share the newest milestone or development that he had achieved.

Three years later when Samuel joined our family, we were still walking and talking each evening after dinner.  And three years after that, when Seth joined Team Balty, we were still walking together.

Over the years things changed of course; Zach outgrew the stroller, then rode a bike, and then drove a battery operated truck. As soon as Samuel could hang on tightly enough, he was not content to be in the stroller either and he joined Zach in the "Mighty Mac" and off we'd go. Evening after evening. Us walking and talking.  Our neighbors told us that from their supper tables, they watched our boys grow up, as we'd walk with our boys.

David and I learned something really important to our marriage in those years: We learned to remain connected, not only as spouses, but also as friends.  So, as the boys were growing up, we were growing together and not away from each other as would have been easy to do in the busyness of day-to-day raising a family.  I treasure those memories. But, even now, I  still treasure our walks.

We walk without the boys now. There's no distraction, no reminding a little one to watch out at the intersection, Just David and me. Still walking and talking.

Still growing together.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up."

Today, I'm intentionally grateful for growth.

Saturday, November 4, 2017


Hats. Today I am intentionally grateful for hats. I love hats--whether it's a basic baseball cap, a 1920's cloche hat, a Derby Day fascinator, or almost everything in between. But, my favorite hats are those ones that aren't visible to the eye. 
I've worn a mom-hat since 1997, and it is my favorite hat. But with that came a closet full of corresponding headgear to complete my uniform. There was the nurse hat that came out to clean abrasions, lovingly kissed boo-boos, wrapped sprains or splinted fractures. Also, over the years, I've had the chauffeur hat. I've chauffeured to and from the library, school, piano, field trips, baseball practices, marching band events, friends' houses or swim. 
I've worn the hat of a teacher. I taught them how to pray, how to use good manners, and how to properly brush their teeth. I taught them how to read and how to write. And, as they grew, so did the other subjects. 
I've worn a firefighter's hat, too, and extinguished the occasional flame of ugly words that shot across the room. 
I also wear a chef's toque, creating meals that are healthy and good for growing bodies. I've worn the hat of advocate, and counselor, a laundress, hair sylist, and sometimes felt like a maid.

Some of the hats have been retired--I no longer kiss boo-boo's--but there are more hats  waiting to be worn. With each hat comes an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ in my home to my children. There were times I've considered the glamorous hats that I could have chosen, certainly those that come with better salary. But, then I think of all the time invested into these souls who call me, "Mom," and  I wouldn't exchange that hat with all its corresponding duties for anything. 

"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands." (Psalm  138:8) 

Friday, November 3, 2017


Laughter.  I am intentionally grateful for laughter today! Our home often rings with laughter, and nothing can cheer a weary heart like the sound of happiness springing out of the soul. My husband makes me laugh everyday. And, often when I'm on the phone with my sister, I laugh until I'm crying. In addition, David's sister makes me laugh every time we're together. Laughter. Listen to it. Enjoy it. Be grateful for it. Proverbs 17:22 -- A merry heart does good like medicine.#intentionalgratitude #november #givethanks #baltyfamily #baltyboys #laughteristhebestmedicine

Thursday, November 2, 2017


Wisdom. There's no biological connection in this picture, but I don't recall a time in my life before I knew her. My "Granny."  She is the one that patiently combed out all of the goop that was in my waist-length, thick hair after spinal surgery. She is the one I've sought out when I've needed spiritual guidance throughout the rough places of life. It was her house that I went to the night mom died and it was in her arms that I sobbed like I was a small child. It's her voice that, even today, tells me every time that I talk to her, that I am special to her. She represents so many characteristics to me, but today I am especially thankful for her wisdom.  Psalm 37:30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom and their tongues speak what is just. #intentionalgratitude #wisdom #granny #love #thanksgiving #givethanks #everygoodandperfectgiftcomesfromabove

Intentional Gratitude

As I begin this month of intentional gratitude, I'm overwhelmed. I have so many blessings that it's difficult to know where to kick off! But, today I'm choosing beauty.  I'm thankful for the beauty of God's earth! Whether I have my feet in the sand at sea level, standing at 10K feet above looking over the handiwork of our Creator, or viewing my lovely home state, I'm thankful for what I can see. psalm 96:11-12 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound and all that's in it. Let the fields be jubilant and everything in them, let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. #intentionalgratitude #beautyoftheearth #givepraise #november #jekyllisland #bloodmountain  #amishcountry #pennsylvaniaisbeautiful

Friday, October 6, 2017

To Suture or Not to Suture: That was the Question

Like most mothers of boys I have a box full of first-aid supplies! Most of the time (thankfully) they sit unused in my cabinet. But, have you ever noticed how accidents happen at the most unexpected time?? Seriously.

The marching band director called last evening to say that the gong fell over on Samuel and cut his head. A what, you say.  Yeah, that was me a few years ago, so here's a visual.

After the blood stopped flowing, a one-inch laceration, greeted me.

It was almost 7 pm and my only option was urgent care, as I don't deem "needing stitches" Emergency Department worthy, unless of course, you're losing a limb. Then, that's fine! Go on in! 
I've taken my boys to urgent care before, but they've only used glue or in one case, nothing. And, that time was worse than this! But, I digress.

After cleansing it thoroughly and spraying Banda-Sil on it, I was still lamenting that, in my opinion, this still needed closed. I felt certain that I could protect it against infection, but it was going to leave a nasty scar.  Samuel, at age 17, was quite opposed to my shaving his head and using steri-strips to hold it together. And, while a scar is fine hidden by lovely locks, what about when those locks begin to fall out?  They might not, but we do have a genetic tendency toward male-pattern baldness, and I'm always thinking ahead.

My local pharmacist told me that it's the same chemicals in the medical grade Dermabond as in plain-ole super glue. and he felt confident that I could use that.  But, there was that "sterile" factor and I wasn't keen on putting super glue into his scalp! And, Samuel wasn't keen on me shaving his head. Impasse!

My 13 year-old thinks like most kiddos his age these days: Let's look on YouTube.  It can, after all, answer most of life's problems, or in this case, close his brother's head.  But, he found it! By tying Samuel's hair together, I could then put super glue on the hair, thereby protecting direct contact with his scalp. And, here's what it looks like today:

I'll keep monitoring it for redness or other signs of infection, but here, on day one, I'm happy with the results. His vaccines are up-to-date so I think I can rest assured he won't get tetanus from it.  

Samuel-dear, someday if your hair falls out, and you see a little scar, thank your mother  brother!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Travel First Aid

Jekyll Island, September, 2017

Seth has been looking forward to his school field trip to Jekyll Island for months.
 He's my THIRD child, but my baby and, oh, I find this hard.
 So, I came along.
 Kind of.
 I'm staying nearby,
The blades are whirring just in case he needs me.

 I packed my usual "just-in-case" first-aid kit.

Here are some of the items that I might have packed in his suitcase:

An assortment of bandages, gauze, and tape
3M Coban wrap
cleansing towelettes
syringe of saline to cleanse a wound
antibiotic ointment
insect repellent
cold medication

I'm too embarrassed to say what else I've also packed  "just-in-case."
 I'll just leave it at there's no need to call in medical supplies for anyone.
I have enough for the whole middle school.

Have mercy, I need help. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Day 6: Mind the Gap

Zac and I have heard this phrase so many times this week that it has become a running joke. Whenever one of us messes up, the other one says,  "Mind the gap." We hear the expression at least 100 times a day while riding the tube. Sometimes the train station platform is not completely level with the train itself, leaving a high step, or a gap of several inches. For those of you following along in "American," the warning means to watch your step. We have found that the phrase applies nicely to all sorts of situations with which we are intimately familiar: spilling drinks, dropping coins (which happens a lot because I have to stare intently at every coin to determine its value), to actually making a misstep. Yesterday while staring intently at a landmark, I failed to "mind the gap," stepping off a curb and nearly falling. 

 But that was yesterday.

Today we began at Tower Hill, looking out at the infamous Tower of London. 

The sky was uncooperative and a bit foreboding, the perfect backdrop for this location.

The tower has been standing for nearly 1000 years, but it was not the oldest brick structure that we saw today. Adjacent to the tower is the remaining section of the original wall around the city of London. When the Romans invaded present-day England (approximately 15 years after the resurrection of Christ), they quickly built bridges across the Thames in order to control the flow of river traffic and to make money from tolls.  Then they enclosed 2 miles with a wall. Here stands the remaining vestige of that nearly 2000-year old wall.

The Romans left 450 years later, but the wall remained intact. 300 years later, the Vikings attacked and were able to conquer most of the rest of England, but never London. 

Even after William of Normandy defeated the English king, Harold Godwinson, in the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066, William never attempted to take London because he considered it virtually impregnable. In fact, when he marched up to the city in 1066, he famously threw his sword on the ground and made a deal with the Londoners: William would not fight against London, nor would he kill any of the people, but in return, the Londoners had to proclaim that William was the King of England. 

King William built the Tower of London as his way of being able to look over the walls and observe London. Although William lived in the Tower, it was not intended to be his Royal residence.

The manner in which the people of the city of London flex their muscles against the monarchy will be repeated before the story is over.

 When people refer to London today, they are referring to the world's largest city, spread over hundreds of sqare miles. The original city of London can be distinguished today by these markers. Whenever you pass one of these markers you know that you're in the old city.

The sword in the upper left quadrant represents William's sword.

After leaving the tower, we walked past All Hallows Church. The church was erected in 675 A.D. and has had many famous attendees. Sir Thomas Moore attended this church before he was beheaded by Henry VIII in 1535. In 1645, William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was baptized here. In 1666, William Pepys, the father of the British Navy, stood in the belltower and watched the fire of London. Our sixth president, John Quincy Adams, was married here in 1797. In the 20th century, Albert Schweitzer made musical recordings in this church.

I mentioned that Samuel Pepys attended this church. Directly across the street is an area where criminals were hung and their bodies mutilated. Notice the quote on the plaque.

From church we went to Monument Hill, the area where London remembers the great fire of 1666. One reason that the fire was so distructive is because some of the politicians underestimated the extent of the blaze. 

Pardon my language, but I must share a quote. When the Lord Mayor was asked what he was going to do to try to contain the fire, he said (on the record), "The fire is so small a woman could piss it out." 

Apparently the Lord Mayor could never find that woman, because the fire burned 80% of London. 

(Note: bad language isn't bad if it's historical.)

Christopher Wren, the mathematician/architect who designed so many structures, also designed the monument that commemorates the fire. The huge monument, 102 feet tall, has an area where Wren has inscribed in Latin that nobody should be blamed for setting the fire. Then in the last line he says that the Pope  and Catholics are responsible. That last line has been chiseled off.

I did not have a good angle to get a picture of it, so I included this Google pic:

After leaving the monument, we encountered three "oldests."

Here is London's oldest tea and coffee shop, "Jamaica Wine House." And would you believe that King Charles II tried to close down this coffee shop because he said that coffee was making the British women too "excitable and hedonistic." 

Almost next-door to the Jamaica was London's oldest men's suit making shop: "Cad and the Dandy." Our tour guide said that it is not uncommon to walk past and see parliamentarians standing inside in their underwear ("dressed down to their knickers"), being fitted for suits. Sad.

The last "oldest" was the oldest restaurant: Simpsons. 

We walked through several of Old London's narrow streets 

until we came to the dome of Saint Paul's Cathedral. 

I could not stand far enough away from the church in an unobstructed area where I could get the entire church in a single picture. I have never seen anything like it.

I did see a couple of interesting signs today.

I'm not exactly sure what constitutes a good vehicle, but driving one seems a distinct advantage in England.

And then there was the 30 pence restroom.

I want to note out a couple of literary points, too. If you have read Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, you may remember the name of this pub. It was a pub frequented by Charles Dickens.

At the very end of the tour, I found this statue of Samuel Johnson, a man who painstakingly compiled a dictionary.

Johnson is described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history." 

Johnson struggled against tremendous odds. As a baby, Johnson did not cry, prompting his aunt to observe that young Samuel was such an odd child that she would not have even picked him up in the street. He was extremely eccentric and had few friends. At 26, he married a widow 20 years older than himself. They lived in extreme poverty. Johnson was accepted into Oxford, and succeeded brilliantly as a student, but never had enough money to finish his degree. That lack of a degree kept him out of many jobs.

That Johnson was unique, nobody disputes. One biographer notes that children and adults would gather around Dr. Johnson and laugh in derision at his words and gestures. In fact, researchers suspect that he had Tourette's syndrome far before the condition was ever labeled.  

But Johnson persevered. He spent years writing definitions on little scraps of paper and organized them into the first great English dictionary. In fact, before the Oxford English Dictionary was published, Dr. Johnson's dictionary was the greatest in the English language. 

One of the finest biographies ever written was by James Boswell. It is titled, Life of  Samuel Johnson.

And then there was a "that was cool" moment today. Zac, a huge guitar fan, sponges up any information about the guitar industry. Case in point: today in a guitar shop, we looked at a case with at least 30 guitar pedals. Zac told me the city in which each of those guitar pedals is manufactured.

On a whim, Zach asked if we could go down to Guildford to visit a guitar shop called Anderton's Music Co. The shop had several guitars that were very expensive, and Zac  wanted to play them. He has followed the website of this guitar shop for a long time, and watches videos made by a guy connected to the shop -- a guy called Captain. 

Captain walked in while we were there. 


I conclude with a short story and three pictures. 

The first picture is of a massive structure called the Royal Courts of Justice, dreamed up and designed by Queen Victoria. I could not get the entire building into a single picture.

Queen Victoria dreamed of having that building inside the old city of London; however, the Londoners did not want monarchal influence in their city in the 1800's  any more than they had wanted King William's Tower 700 years earlier.

The queen relented. As a sign of goodwill, the  City of London asked if they could create a statue of the queen. Loving both goodwill (the sentiment, not the second-hand store) and self portraits, Queen Victoria agreed to the idea.

Here is the sculpture of Victoria, the queen.

And then the Londoners added a bit more:
Look again at the top figure -- a dragon.

With this statue the city was saying, "The monarchy will NEVER be in a position of authority over London."

And so ends our last evening in London. I just got off the phone with Seth, and he asked me if London was all that I had dreamed it would be. 

I told him, "Yes, and so much more."