Friends and Family

The trip Dave and Jan took recently to Prescott for the memorial service of Dr. Al and Sheila Diddams put them in contact with some other very special friends besides those in the Diddams family.  Two people who have been close friends and ministry partners served as the Balsleys’ hosts after the hotel stay associated with the memorial service.  Bill and LaVeta Sparks were the CAM International missionaries who moved from Mexico to Tucson to help care for aging parents and served in the pastoral role for the Hispanic congregation which was a part of Mission Park Baptist Church for many years.  After moving from Tucson to a retirement community in Prescott, Bill and LaVeta became acquainted with the Diddams, so Dave and Jan enjoyed visiting with both families whenever their travels took them to Prescott.  While they spent some time together during this visit in Prescott the Sparks introduced Dave and Jan to Lynx Lake in the hills near Prescott for a picnic and a short walk.

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Jan also took a short hike up the trail to Thumb Butte for a few pictures.

Among the people who traveled to Prescott for the Diddams memorial there were a number who were a part of the Gallup Baptist Church family in New Mexico when the Balsleys were there in the 70’s and 80’s.  Traveling the farthest for the occasion of the memorial service were Steve and Peggy King, founders of the UIM (United Indian Missions) International camp south of Gallup – Summer Park Ranch (now Broken Arrow Bible Ranch).  Steve was also serving as pastor for the Gallup Church prior to the Balsleys’ arrival in Gallup,

After the King family moved from the Gallup area to Shingletown, California – and because their son Rusty was a Downs Syndrome son – Steve and Peggy founded another significant ministry for handicapped adults, Mountain Jewels Home (which became Mountain Jewels Ranch when the home moved from Shingletown to a ranch setting in Little Valley, California).  The amazing story of the Kings’ lives and the significant ministries they founded is told in a book which Peggy wrote entitled “Like Salt and Pepper” which is probably available at  Traveling with Steve King were his wife, Peggy, and their son Rusty – now living with them in their retirement years.  So it was great to see Peggy and Rusty as well as Steve King in Prescott.

Of course, while Dave and Jan were in Prescott their first granddaughter, Erin Lauren Balsley, was born to Stephen and Meagan, so it has been fun getting acquainted with her since returning to Brea following the Prescott trip.

Jan enjoyed taking a picture of Erin in a doll crib which first held her dolls as a child – then years later son Stephen and daughter Alissa, and more recently grandson Ryan and now granddaughter Erin (lovingly guarded by Lola).

It has also been fun introducing grandson Ryan to his first bicycle – a skill which Dave hopes Ryan will master in days ahead so they can ride their bikes together!

Our lives have been enriched in so many ways over the years by the friends and the growing family the Lord has blessed us to enjoy.  The joys and blessings of family life are among life’s best – and that certainly includes the joys and blessings which come from our experiences with people like the Diddams and the Sparks and the Kings who are a part, with us, of the family of God!

Going and Coming

Dave and Jan were honored to be asked to take part in the memorial service for two very special friends who were key players in the life of the church they served in Gallup, New Mexico (Gallup Baptist Church, now Grace Bible Church) forty years ago. Dr. Al and Sheila Diddams were two people who played a significant part in the Balsleys’ lives in the early years of their marriage and family and ministry. The Diddams were a rich source of wisdom and knowledge on many subjects, so Dave and Jan turned to them for help with church life and family life (especially when children came into their lives) and medical questions (for which Dr. Diddams, a highly respected surgeon, was a valuable source). Here is a picture of the Diddams at their home in Dewey (near Prescott) Arizona several years back.

Sheila Diddams headed for heaven on Christmas Eve of 2016 due to diabetes complications. Her husband, Al, died two months later (February 26th). They were living at the time at King Bruwaert House, a senior care home in Burr Ridge, Illinois – and services were held in that area at the time of their respective deaths. But, because their last lengthy residence was in the Prescott area, where they were active at First Baptist Church of Prescott (now Solid Rock Christian Fellowship) and had many friends, they were interred at the National Cemetery in Prescott and a memorial service was held in their honor on April 21st. Their five children (young people when we were together in Gallup) and their spouses were all present for the service (along with other friends from Gallup days), so it was a special time of family reunion for them, and Dave and Jan thoroughly enjoyed seeing them all once again.

                                      (Susie, Steve, Scott, Shannon, Stan)
Dave and Jan had just checked into the motel in Prescott and gotten dinner when they received a text from son Stephen saying that he and Meagan were at the hospital (7:00 p.m.) because Meagan was nearing the time of the birth of their second child. They were admitted at 8:00 and Jan spent sleepless hours wondering what was happening (while Dave slept soundly, of course).  At 12:08 A.M. on April 21st Erin Laurel Balsley made her appearance – the first granddaughter for the Balsleys after five grandsons.

Meagan is enjoying some time off for recovery and to get acquainted with the new addition to the family.

Gramma Jan, of course, is in “Gramma Heaven” with the arrival of Erin!

And “big brother” Ryan is getting accustomed to the arrival of his sister.

Our lives are rich with special relationships. We are grateful for the 4 South Dakota grandsons we have been blessed with and are looking forward to connecting with them this summer. We thank the Lord for the blessing of family – both our immediate family and our extended family who make up the family of God! We rejoice that loved ones in Christ, like the Diddams, now “absent from the body” are “at home with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8).  And we are very thankful for each new entry the Lord brings into our experience – especially the addition of grandchildren!

Sunday’s Coming!

The Church at Green Hills, where we are among the newest members, has been presenting “The Living Nativity” – the Christmas story – for nearly 30 years running.  It is an excellent retelling of the familiar story of the birth of Jesus – with several well-attended showings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings one week-end before Christmas.  With an attractive staging – including live animals – it is a very nice production.

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This Easter season, for the first time, the church has presented “The Road to Resurrection” – taking groups of twenty people from scene to scene from the week leading up to Easter.  The presentation began with a Palm Sunday scene, when Jesus arrived in the city of Jerusalem to Messianic acclaim by the crowds gathering for the annual Passover celebration.

IMG_6677Our next stop found us in the Upper Room with the disciples of Christ at the celebration of the Passover, where we had the opportunity to taste each of the elements of a traditional Passover Seder meal.

IMG_6680Our host explained the significance of each of the items which make up the traditional Passover meal.


Our next stop took us into the dungeon where Barabbas was imprisoned, awaiting the decision of the people whether he should be put to death for his crimes, or should be set free because the crowd insisted on having Jesus crucified in his place – though Jesus was innocent of any crime.  When Barabbas learned that he was being set free, he wondered aloud how it could be that an innocent man was to die a cruel death in his place – as he very well should have wondered!

IMG_6687From the dungeon we made our way to the scene of Christ’s crucifixion where one of the soldiers who was assigned to put Christ to death explained his amazement at the scene which unfolded as he told of the cruelty of Christ’s death and his surprise at His demeanor when, from the cross, He extended forgiveness to those who were demanding His death.



Following the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, we were introduced to Mary Magdalene as she prepared spices to take to the grave out of her desire to express her devotion to the Savior, who so dramatically changed her life, by anointing his body according to the custom of the Jews in that day.


Because Easter had not yet dawned, we were left to ponder all that Jesus experienced in that final week before the truth became evident that He could not be held by death!  As the Apostle Peter expressed it to the Day of Pentecost crowd in Jerusalem fifty days later – “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.”  As a southern preacher appropriately announced to a Good Friday crowd one year, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

More Green Hills

We are very grateful to the Lord for this year’s healthy winter and spring rains which have been so beneficial to our drought-stricken state of California.  Predictably, they have resulted in lots of grasses and flowers for our enjoyment – and we have been enjoying them very much!  Dave has been taking advantage of his full retirement to get in some very nice bike rides to some of the many area parks and open spaces – like nearby Chino Hills State Park (a four-mile ride which still puts him in Brea).


Lots of colorful mustard blossoms decorate the hills at Chino State Park.


And occasional patches of California Poppies add their gold to green hills.


Dave couldn’t get “Bob” to pose nicely, but he did get his first look at a Chino Hills Bobcat (though he has seen them in nearby Powder Canyon before).


Weir Canyon Regional Park is located in the Anaheim Hills southeast of Brea.



The ride from Weir Canyon to Irvine & Santiago Oaks Regional Park was a challenge!


DSCN1983The Orange County Nature Conservancy stretches for miles south of Weir Canyon.

DSCN1988Dave and Jan enjoyed a Monday afternoon hike at Black Star Canyon further south.


It was refreshing to hike to the sound of running water – a little unusual for the area.


And there were tree blossoms to enjoy along the Edwards Ranch road which passes through Black Star Canyon.


But we didn’t even need to leave Brea to enjoy some amazing blossoming trees!



We are enjoying Southern California’s pleasant early spring weather.  But there are always things to enjoy for those who see the Lord’s creative genius in the created order which surrounds us – wherever and whenever we happen to be!

Green Hills

After years of drought in Southern California it has been a very pleasant experience to receive frequent rains throughout the current winter season.  As a result we have lots of green hills to enjoy and in a few places even some golden poppies to re-energize the thought of keeping California “green and golden.” Here are a few pictures to document the blessing of recent rains – beginning with a bike ride Dave enjoyed mid-February to Stephen and Meagan’s condo-apartment in Foothills Ranch.  A stop at Irvine Park, along the way, always brings back memories of a college group outing Dave and Jan enjoyed with others many years back – in the early days of their acquaintance.



Just south of Irvine Park the road down Santiago Canyon is a popular ride for cyclists.


Irvine Lake, which has been low on water in recent years, is looking much better this season.


It is a pleasant change to see normally dry stream beds flowing with water.



Closer to home, Carbon Canyon Regional Park is a favorite destination which Dave often enjoys on bike rides – and especially when the hills are green.


And speaking of green hills, the Church at Green Hills will apparently be Dave and Jan’s new church home after changes with the arrival of new leadership at Temple Baptist have made Green Hills church (Southern Baptist), where Dave and Jan have attended evening services for several years, a more comfortable fit.



Jan is still teaching the Ladies’ Bible Study (Women of the Word) for a few more months at the former Temple Baptist (now Branches Fullerton), but Dave is enjoying the freedom of full retirement as the Balsleys find their place in a new and refreshing church family.


Fall Beauty

Southern California has been blessed this year with some exceptional fall colors.  Some of the brightest colors were on display in less than perfect photo conditions, but we did manage to capture some very nice and varied colors for our photo collection.

Right in our own front yard we enjoyed some of the Lord’s fall artistry.img_6383

Even the ground became a work of art as leaves descended from trees above.


It is amazing to see how much color can come from just one tree in nearby Craig Park.


Dave has taken a young man from our church family hiking on two occasions recently – one with Jan as well.  The most recent hike took us to the hilltops above Schabarum Regional Park in nearby Puente Hills.


Returning to the car through the park the trees along the trail at the lower elevations were showing their colors.



Some of our favorite colors of the season, of course, are Christmas colors – like the colors of the very large “candy canes” on display in downtown Brea which Stephen and Meagan’s Ryan was enjoying as Jan gave him a tour one recent day.


We enjoyed celebrating Christmas two days early with Stephen, Meagan and Ryan – and a granddaughter still in formation!


One of Ryan’s Christmas gifts is intended to help him come to understand the true significance of the Christmas celebration.


And we wore some Christmas colors for our choir’s Christmas day presentation of the musical “Jesus Changes Everything.”


We hope you have enjoyed fall colors and Christmas joy – and that the new year ahead will be happy and richly blessed!




Our Back Yard

Dave and Jan have spent many happy hours in their back yard during the years since they moved back to California to care for Jan’s parents at their Brea address. It has been a nice place for relaxing activities like reading and praying – and keeping up the lawn and landscaping has provided plenty of exercise as well.  The back yard has been a good place for casual connections with family and friends. It has been quite a while since their visit now, but Dave and Jan enjoyed a back-yard visit with Dave’s cousin Hal and Yvonne, from the Denver area in June. img_5523

In August they enjoyed a birthday celebration with Stephen and his family – and extended family (left to right – Dr. Bruce and Connie Seymour; Chip and Heidi Clampitt with Benjamin in the highchair and Amos next to Heidi; Meagan, Ryan and Stephen; and Jan, of course).
In September the back yard was the setting for a barbecue with the members of the church’s choir and the opportunity to sing (for the first time) through the Christmas musical for 2016.
When Dave and Jan first moved from Arizona to Brea the neighbor to the south left his back yard pretty much in its natural state – as this view through the chain-link fence indicates.
The next neighbor turned his back yard into something more like a garden, so the view through the fence took on a new look.
More recently, the neighbor decided he wanted to replace the chain link fence with a brick wall, so the back yard has taken on a new look.
Dave and Jan will miss the visits with the neighbors, and it will take some time for the landscaping to mature, but the back yard will continue to be a place of refuge and fun with family and friends.
And there will still be beauty to enjoy in other parts of the back yard while new vegetation is filling in along the new brick wall.