“Breaking” News from Branson

Dear friends, October 2017

I write this month’s letter from a Panera restaurant. That’s nothing new. Panera frequently serves as one of the coffee shops I use as “regional offices.” But on this early Thursday morning, I’m writing from the wonderful Panera in Branson, Missouri. And I say wonderful because it’s a tucked-away little haven where they play classical music softly in the background, where they heat your coffee mug before they hand it to you, and where the Ozark locals who work here are remarkably cheerful as they welcome me back every fall. I love it.

We are here in Branson for the working vacation that has become an autumn tradition for us. However, this year was very special as the first 4 1/2 days of our stay were taken up with a Hartford family reunion. It took some doing but all five Hartford siblings and their spouses made it to Branson. From San Jose, California came my older sister Linda and her husband Jon. From Wichita, Kansas came my younger sister Sherry and her husband John. From Deltona, Florida came my younger brother Highway and his wife Tenna. And from Denver, Colorado came my youngest brother Ric and his wife Ellen. It was the first time we’ve all been together since my Mom passed away 6 1/2 years ago. But that’s not all. We enjoyed extra blessings because of extended family who live down this way. My 94-year old Aunt Farris (Farris Ellsworth, the widow of my mom’s beloved brother, Thomas) lives with my cousin Belinda in the little town of Crane about 20 miles away. We usually visit them a couple of times when we’re down here. But our family reunion this time around included visits with them and with several cousins and their spouses and kids. It was really terrific.

The reunion highlights? Well, they started with the “opening ceremony” which was a chili and hot dog party at our condo. Not only were all of the Hartford group present but 10 of the Ellsworths too! It was a very fun crowd. Later that night, we watched a PowerPoint presentation I had created featuring music and family photos from over the decades. It was a big hit. So too were several family-oriented trivia games that we played on other evenings. 6 of us were blessed to attend Sunday Services at New Hope Fellowship up in Aurora (about 85 minutes northwest) where my cousin David gave a stirring, enlightening sermon on the prodigal son. A picnic at Table Rock Lake was a lot of fun as was a hike for a few of us afterwards. We enjoyed lunch and a campus tour and a very moving patriotic play at College of the Ozarks. Ric set up a painting class that made for a very unusual but entertaining party.

And let’s see, what else was there? Working on a Christmas jigsaw puzzle, a bit of shopping, a spectacular performance of Moses at the Sight and Sound Theater, breakfasts we made for the gang at our condo, 18 holes of miniature golf, a traditional breakfast out at Billy Gail’s in Branson West, and an awful lot of warm-hearted conversation. Lord, thank You so much for granting us such a meaningful time together, for all the memories shared, and for all the new memories created.

And speaking of memories, it’s time to tell you now about one memory from this trip that couldn’t exactly be called pleasant. Just two days after all the other Hartfords had left Branson and we were heavily involved in the working part of our working vacation, Claire suffered a serious accident. As she was going into the grocery store on a rainy Saturday morning, she slipped and fell, badly wrenching her ankle. She was in considerable pain and could hardly put weight on it. We drove to one place but learned that their X-ray machine wasn’t working and they directed us instead to the Urgent Care connected to Cox Health Center. We were greatly relieved when they got us in fairly quick. Eventually they took X-rays and wrapped it up, telling Claire she needed to follow the R.I.C.E. regimen: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

However, the PA called us early Sunday morning with some bad news. He told us the radiologist had looked at the X-rays and determined they revealed not a mere sprain but “possible evulsion fractures on the dorsal aspect of the talus and navicular.” That sounded scary enough but then they told us we needed to come back to the hospital as soon as possible. We drove immediately back to Urgent Care where they put Claire’s ankle in a firm splint and gave her crutches to get around. But the crutches didn’t work out so well. So we improved her stability (not to mention her mobility, comfort, and confidence) by renting a knee scooter the next morning. (See the photo on page one.) In fact, we went ahead and ordered one from Amazon which arrived yesterday afternoon. I set it up and she likes this one even better than the rental. Hooray! Also, please know that because of the rigidity of the splint which keeps her ankle from moving at all, she’s pretty much free of pain. Lord, thank You for all Your graces to us.

By the way, Claire is handling this trial really well and I am (as always) so proud of her. She sent out a Facebook message after the accident when she was still hobbling around on crutches quoting G.K. Chesterton from “On Running After One’s Hat,” perhaps our favorite of all his essays. The quote goes, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” And Claire added to her post, “So let the adventure begin!” And that’s the upbeat, patient, and creative way she’s been taking it. Atta’ girl!

Ironically, the very day before Claire was hobbling around on crutches, she had recorded her longest hike ever – 9.6 miles. We did this at Dogwood Canyon where we walked more than 6 miles on the path that takes you through the forested hills, along the stream, by pools and waterfalls, and down into Arkansas. However, we added on an extra hike up an “off trail trail” where we had an encounter with a 2 1/2 foot long black rat snake. You know the old line about the snake being more frightened of you than you are of the snake? Don’t you believe it!

Anyway, as you can imagine, Claire’s injury has shaken up our schedule. Something as simple as taking a shower now becomes quite the event. Plus, I’m learning how much time it takes to prepare meals, do laundry, grocery shop, and clean the place up. But we’re doing fine…even better than fine… as we spend time in prayer, adjust priorities, exercise patience, and discover the rich significance and satisfaction of accepting God’s will.

And, I am pleased to say, we are still accomplishing many of the things we had on our working vacation agenda. For instance, Claire is working on the Darrell Scott Sentence Sermons project, creating DVDs of my reunion program, corresponding on social media, typing up a good deal of my stuff, and reading books by Charles Dickens, Rush Limbaugh, Jan Karon, and Joni Eareckson Tada. For my part, I’ve finished the quarterly review of my 2017 resolutions, written letters and a few exhortational essays, and had some challenging times in Bible study. I’ve also got some reading in too — a G.A. Henty novel, a commentary of Zechariah by G. Coleman Luck, Joni Eareckson Tada’s Holiness in Hidden Places, and Eiji Yoshikawa’s long, epic novel of Japan, Musashi. Oh yes, I’ve also got several days of walking in over at Table Rock Lake which is 10 minutes from our condo. By this evening, I will have logged 65 miles while here in Branson, bringing my year’s total to just under 1,000 miles.

We only have a couple of days before we head back to Omaha where, among other things, an overgrown lawn awaits us. Other items coming up soon on the agenda are a visit to Ralph Kramper to have Claire’s foot checked out, the showing of the Martin Luther film at Harvey Oaks Baptist Church on Friday, October 20that 7:00 PM, and 5 presentations of my talk on Piety on the Plains: A Religious History of Omaha at different senior care facilities yet this October. But until then we have a little time yet to rest and reflect, to read some more, to work on some of the projects, to plan, and to enjoy each other’s company in the serene beauty of the Ozarks. And, not to be overlooked, of course, I’ve still got a couple of early mornings to spend at this oh-so-cozy Branson Panera!


But be doers of the word,
and not hearers only.