Legos Day in Birmingham

My grandson, Benjamin, has a gift for solving spatial puzzles, problems, and conundrums of most any kind.

From his earliest days Legos have been his “toy of choice.”  Now ten, he’s still going strong.

Sheryl and I sent him a small gift recently (a Legos helicopter kit). He called to thank us for it and told us how the moving parts on this kit intrigued him and brought new challenges.

Four years ago this summer he and his sister, Katarina, came to Atlanta for a month to stay with Lynda and me. Prior to their arrival, Lynda and I discussed things we could do with each of them that we thought they each might enjoy.

Katarina had announced that she wanted Lynda to give her some sewing lessons.  We had no problem fulfilling this request.

But Ben did not state a preference.  What could we do?

I turned to Legos.

I purchased one of their fairly expensive architecture kits featuring the Frank Lloyd Wright Pennsylvania residence called “Fallingwater.” The kit had a large number of pieces and came with the company’s recommendation that it be purchased for Legos builders at least sixteen years old. I knew that Ben would welcome the challenge…but for a six year old???

On the day after his arrival we started the project by sorting out the many pieces by color and shape putting them into small bowls.

He did use the printed instructions. However, his instinct told him which kind of Lego he needed for his next move. The project progressed quickly.

By noon on day TWO, the house was completed and he could proudly show his sister and grandmother the finished version. Our Legos  project (that in my mind would last us the entire month) was done in just two days.

July 4, 2011---Ben with Fallingwater made with Legos

July 4, 2011—Ben with Fallingwater made with Legos

I was reminded of Ben’s spatial gifts today when Sheryl and I went to the nearby Galleria Mall in Birmingham to see the Lego Americana Roadshow.  The American icons were brought to Birmingham in a 16-wheeler. Their next stop is Atlanta.

We walked the mall and observed American icons that Lego master builders had created.  (Legos Master Builders are specially trained and gifted Legos staff members.  They remind me of Apple computer “geniuses.”)

Note some of the items we saw.

U.S. Supreme Court Building

U.S. Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court building is built to scale and is designed to include even the sculptures on each side of the steps.




The U.S. capitol was built by a team of eight Legos master builders and took over 1700 hours to complete!  It was designed on a scale of 1:29.  The model is 25 feet, 7 inches long while the capitol itself runs 751 feet, 4 inches.  And while the capitol stands 288 feet tall, the Legos model is about 10 feet tall.

U. S. Capitol

U. S. Capitol



The Legos company and the Galleria Mall sponsored a contest for a $200 mall gift card.  They asked patrons to guess the number of Legos used in the capitol.  I knew it was a lot so my guess was high…2.8 million.  The mall plans to take the fifty closest guesses and do a random drawing next week.  Could Wally Buckner possibly win?

My Guess




Sheryl’s great grandfather was not born in 1664.  He came to Virginia from England in 1664.

Thanks for reading the blog and your interest



Exploring the Past—Dreaming the Future

Exploring Past US History

The past two weeks, Sheryl and I have been in Virginia. While there we toured several US historic sites, learned new facts, and were reminded of things we learned long ago.

Our stops included Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.  While visiting Yorktown, we went to the field where Cornwallis surrendered the Royal troops to the American revolutionaries—bringing an end to the Revolutionary War.

The Yorktown Surrender Field

The Yorktown Surrender Field where the Revolutionary War ended


At each we saw interpretive movies and heard talks by National Park rangers. Ever since my sister was a National Park ranger at the Ulysees S. Grant home in St. Louis years ago, I have always looked to attend a ranger talk when visiting a national park.

In Charlottesville, we toured Monticello and were (once again) impressed by the life of Thomas Jefferson. His tombstone states three accomplishments which he requested be inscribed there: Author of the Declaration of Independence, a Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia. Not bad!  You’ve probably heard John Kennedy’s famous line said while dining with a group of  Nobel Laureates from the Western Hemisphere, “I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”  He was correct.

Jefferson's Essay in Architecture---Monticello

Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture—Monticello


In the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, Appomattox was a very special visit. Our ranger talk there focused on the last 50 miles the troops hiked en route to Appomattox. We learned that as fellow graduates of the US Military Academy in West Point,  Generals Grant and Lee had great respect for each other. Grant (following Lincoln’s wishes) offered generous terms of surrender which Lee and the Southern armies accepted with dignity.  A sign in the Visitor’s Center summed up the events with the phrase:  “Honor Answers Honor.”

The road at Appomattox where Confederate troops surrendered and laid down their arms to end the Civil War.

The road at Appomattox where Confederate troops surrendered and laid down their arms to end the Civil War.


Reconnecting with Our Missions Past

Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon (December 12, 1840 – December 24, 1912) was a Southern Baptist missionary to China with the Foreign Mission Board who spent nearly forty years (1873–1912) living and working in China. As a teacher and evangelist she laid a foundation for traditionally solid support for missions among Baptists in America.  She is the “patron saint” among Southern Baptists for foreign missions.  As children growing up in a Southern Baptist environment, both Sheryl and I were nurtured on Lottie Moon stories.  This trip gave us two chances to link up with her story.

In Scottsville, Virginia, we stopped by the church that Lottie’s father began.  It houses the “Lottie Moon Room” the church keeps in her memory.

The Lottie Moon Room at First Baptist Church, Scottsville, Virginia

The Lottie Moon Room at First Baptist Church, Scottsville, Virginia


And in Crewe, Virginia, we visited the site where her ashes are buried.

The Lottie Moon gravesite in Crewe, Virginia

The Lottie Moon gravesite in Crewe, Virginia


Reconnecting with Friends from the Past

With Billy and Marlis Kruschwitz at Williamsburg, VA

With Billy and Marlis Kruschwitz at Williamsburg, VA


In Williamsburg, we had lunch with International Mission Board colleague Billy Kruschwitz and his wife Marlis. We had a great time at Shield’s Tavern.

With Bill and Judy Smith in Charlottesville, VA

With Bill and Judy Smith in Charlottesville, VA


In Charlottesville, we stayed with long-time San Francisco friends Bill and Judy Smith.

With Bill Bangham in Richmond, VA

With Bill Bangham in Richmond, VA


And in Richmond, we had lunch with International Mission Board colleague Bill Bangham. (You probably saw the picture he posted on Facebook of the three of us.)

This part of our trip we call the  “Billy, Bill, and Bill” portion.


Exploring Our Personal Past

Sheryl’s seventh great-grandfather, William Churchill, was born in 1664 and died on November 18, 1710 in Middlesex County, Virginia. I find it amazing to be able to trance her genealogy that far back and not learn that he died “around 1710.” Instead we have his will and the exact date of death.  A highlight of our trip was an outing to his large farm on the Rappahannock River which he called Bushy Park after his home in England. Our time at the Middlesex County Library yielded much additional information which we will be processing during upcoming days.

Field at William Clark's farm in Middlesex county Virginia

Field at William Churchill’s farm, Bushy Park,  in Middlesex county Virginia

Street Sign for Bushy Park

Street Sign for Bushy Park


Dreaming About the Future

We are settling into a routine of married life in Birmingham. Sheryl’s friends (largely from Vestavia Hills Baptist Church) have welcomed me and been enthusiastic about our marriage. We’ve been to Atlanta twice in past weeks to bubblewrap the art and begin packing books and dishes at my condo. We continue to work on Sheryl’s townhouse.

This weekend we are thinking about the past and the impact that those who went before have had on our nation.  Memorial Day is a time to be grateful for both the lives lost and lives lived that have helped shape our nation.

VIRGINIA IS FOR LOVERS Thanks for the history and hospitality we received while there.

Thanks for the history and hospitality we received while there.



Churchill-Buckner Wedding PHOTOS…February 28, 2015

Churchill-Buckner Wedding Vestavia Hills Baptist Church Birmingham, Alabama February, 28, 2015

Churchill-Buckner Wedding
Vestavia Hills Baptist Church
Birmingham, Alabama
February, 28, 2015

Some of you have requested seeing photographs of our wedding.

Our photographers, Butch and Joy Oglesby at Blue Moon Studios, have helped us by providing a web-link to see photos from the wedding.

Simply click on this link and you’ll be taken to a spot to view the photos.

We’ve had fun reviewing them in the past couple of weeks.




Taking My Breath Away

Early in my new relationship with Sheryl, we took a weekend trip to Asheville, North Carolina with friends.  In one of Asheville’s junk stores, I bought a reproduced sign that read:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take

but by the moments that take our breath away.

During my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to have my share of moments that do just that.  Like the beautiful clear blue sky I saw while on a picnic at the Meriweather Lewis historic sight near Columbia, Tennessee.  Or hearing a John Philip Sousa march on the Fourth of July.  A Wendell Berry poem has taken my breath away as has Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto.

On a Sunday night while sitting alone in my Atlanta condo, I had another life-measuring moment.

I logged onto the web site of a Nashville art gallery owned by a family friend.  When the web site opened, an x-ray photograph appeared on my screen.  Simply put:  it took my breath away. The melding of the photographer’s scientific creativity (his love of x-rays) with his passion for photography resulted in a beautiful floral photo.

On that Sunday night, I sucked air as I viewed the photo.

The next day, I called my Nashville friend and bought the photograph.  I then had it framed, carried it to Birmingham and talked Sheryl into hanging it on her dining room wall where (I hoped) it would remind her of our blossoming relationship.  The photograph was on “permanent loan” from the Wally Buckner Museum in Atlanta.

Very early in this round of our relationship, I had sent Sheryl a bouquet of white tulips upon her retirement.  Not wanting to embarrass her, I had signed the accompanying card with these words:  “Thank you for your 37 years of service.  W.”  It was only after several days passed that she figured out who had sent the tulips and she emailed me  to thank me for the flowers.

When we eventually became engaged and began talking about wedding plans, Sheryl asked:  “Do you think we could take out those tulips in this photo and use them in some way as a wedding motif?”

That’s when I called the photographer, Knoxville-based Don Dudenbostel, and we chatted about our using the photograph.  I found Don to be engaging, kind, and open to our using the tulips as a wedding motif.  “The photo is yours,” he said.  “Use it in your wedding in any way you think is appropriate.”

So with the help of a friend and outstanding graphics design artist in Atlanta, Laura Nalesnik, the tulips became our symbol.

The tulips have appeared throughout our wedding communications and at the wedding reception on February 28, 2015.

We utilized the tulip design on our Save the Date card, our wedding invitations, and Thank You cards.  The photo was a focal point at the groom’s table at our wedding reception

Dudenbostel photo on display at our wedding reception

Photo by Don Dudenbostel

Last week, I received an email from The Arts Company stating that Don Dudenbostel would be present to discuss his photography with anyone interested in attending a Saturday afternoon session.  Sheryl and I took advantage of this and drove to Nashville to meet Don and to thank him for the impact his photograph has had on our journey.


Sheryl, Wally, and Don Dudenbostel at The Arts Company, March 14, 2015

Sheryl, Wally, and Don Dudenbostel at The Arts Company, March 14, 2015


It’s not often that you get to thank someone in person for giving you a moment that took your breath away.  We’re grateful, Don.

Two Christmas Eves

Three shepherd yard decorations under the Star of David

Three shepherd yard decorations under the Star of David

This Christmas I went to two Christmas Eve services.

In two different cities.

In two different states.

Held by two different denominations.

On two different days!

I know…how could I attend two different Christmas Eve services on two different days?

The first service in Kansas City was held on Tuesday, December 23rd.  I attended with my daughter and grandchildren.

They worship at the downtown campus of the Church of the Resurrection—a  Leawood, Kansas Methodist Church.  Held in a large former bar, the crowd filled every available space on two floors.  So many people attend that they had to schedule Christmas Eve services on multiple days!

The service was led by the local campus pastor, staff, and musicians. It largely consisted of Scripture lessons and carols sung by the congregation. The sermon focused on the coming of the Light of Jesus into the world’s Darkness.

As one example of extending Christ’s light in today’s world, the pastor showed a clip from a recent CBS Sunday Morning program that told the story of a wealthy Kansas City Secret Santa who “deputized” the local sheriff’s department to assist him in distributing cash to unsuspecting recipients through random acts of kindness. Here was a true Christmas story! (To see this short, heart-warming clip, go to YouTube and search for Secret Santa Saves Christmas and CBS Sunday Morning.)

After church the four of us continued a family Christmas tradition by going to Starbucks and then driving around neighborhoods enjoying many houses decorated with Christmas lights.

It was great spending this time with Elizabeth, Katarina and Benjamin!

(Left to Right) Benjamin, Elizabeth, and Katarina at Resurrection Church, Kansas City, Missouri on Tuesday, December 23, 2014

(Left to Right) Benjamin, Elizabeth, and Katarina at Resurrection Church, Kansas City, Missouri on Tuesday, December 23, 2014

On Wednesday, December 24th—true Christmas Eve—I flew from Kansas City to Atlanta and then drove to Birmingham arriving in time to attend a service with Sheryl at her church—Vestavia Hills Baptist.

The service—filled with carols, Christmas meditations, communion, and music from the bell choir—included a homily by the pastor on how the Christmas season reminds us of the importance of using imagination. I recalled once again that the biblical story tells how utterly amazed the shepherds were when they received word of Jesus’ birth. The news they received that night was truly startling and life-changing. It could have only been received by people who imagined the possibility of a completely new future.

He reminded us of a verse of Scripture that Sheryl and I have cited many times along our journey. It states that God is “able to do far more than all we can ask for or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

Like the night before in Kansas City, after the service Sheryl and I had our own “light date.”  She introduced me to one of her favorite yard decorations which depicts three shepherds viewing a lighted Star of David with a manger below. (See picture above.)  We recalled her pastor’s meditation on Ephesians 3:20 and the shepherd’s response.

It was wonderful spending the evening with Sheryl!

My hope is that your Christmas was filled

with light that comes

from familiar stories,

family traditions,

the love of family and friends,

and the hope of a new year filled with imagined possibilities.

Mine was.

Sheryl Churchill and Wally Buckner at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama on Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sheryl Churchill and Wally Buckner at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama on Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Banking Family Memories

"Little Thrifty" Hummel Figurine

“Little Thrifty” Hummel Figurine

Many of you know that I’m an inveterate archiver of all kinds of family documents, photographs and memorabilia. I have my grandparents’ ration booklets from the 1940’s. I have photographs of more than one set of great-great-great-grandparents. I have toys my father played with in the 1920s.

All of these items are in folders filed in plastic bins in my garage.  My computer database helps me easily find an item’s location and retrieve it.

This weekend I discovered some family memorabilia I didn’t even know I had.

I spent some time moving my Hummel figurine collection. That’s when I picked up a Goebel bank called “Little Thrifty.”  When I moved it I heard a small rattle from inside. The rattle was too small to be coins so I turned the bank upside down and shook it.  That’s when a baby tooth fell out…and then another…and then another…until there was a total of four.  These were the first baby teeth that Elizabeth “lost.”  Lynda had ‘banked’ them away (i.e. archived them) in her own way by depositing them in “Little Thrifty.”

Elizabeth's first baby teeth

Elizabeth’s first baby teeth

The apostle Paul wrote—When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways (1 Corinthians 13:11 NIV).

Elizabeth certainly outgrew her childhood and gave up her childish ways becoming a fine woman and mother. But Lynda knew that one day we would want to remember this part of Elizabeth’s childhood so she ‘banked’ these tiny memories away for the future.

On Monday I’m flying to Kansas City to spend a few days with Elizabeth and my grandchildren. “Little Thrifty” and it’s treasure will be traveling with me.

Merry Christmas and hoping you find some ‘banked’ treasures this season as we celebrate the birth of God’s Son!

A Memorium to Lynda at All Saints’

Lynda;s Memorial Flowers

Lynda;s Memorial Flowers December 14, 2014 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church

Today brings to a closure this season of special remembrance of Lynda.  Friday, December 12, 2014 was the first anniversary of her death.  This morning she was honored with flowers on the altar at our church, All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta.

For the past few blogs you have joined me in remembering her through photos and words about her life.  Her memory will live on through the relationships she had with our daughter, Elizabeth, each of our grandchildren, Katarina and Benjamin, her mother, Margie Whitaker, her brother, Rob Whitaker, her colleagues, and extended family and friends.

Thank you for your prayers during her bout with cancer and throughout this year.  I am grateful.

Now, as she would say to you, “Have a very merry Christmas!”

Lynda and Elizabeth

In recent days, I have posted essays and photos focusing on Lynda and her grandchildren…Katarina and Benjamin.  It’s time now, to focus on Lynda and our daughter, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was born in our sixth year of marriage.  We, of course, were thrilled with her upcoming birth—as were our parents.

Here are three favorite photos of Elizabeth and her mother from different stages in Elizabeth’s life—as a young girl, as a near-teenager, and as a young adult.

Easter Sunday 1979

Easter Sunday 1979

This photo was taken at our home in Lubbock, Texas.  The glass basket of Easter eggs helps me date the photo (April 15, 1979).  I love Elizabeth’s quizzical expression and Lynda’s “teaching posture”…the holding of hands.  Though I don’t recall—because of the chocolate eggs—my guess is that Lynda is “explaining” the Easter bunny.  This is a special Buckner Family Photo…and I hope it’s special to you too.


On the Seattle Ferry

On the Seattle Ferry, March 1986

During spring break in 1986, Lynda, Elizabeth and I went to the Pacific Northwest.  We rode inter-tubes down Mount Rainier…we hiked in a rain forrest in the Olympic Mountains…we visited with friends…and we rode the ferry from Seattle to Victoria, Canada.  This photo is a favorite because of its composition.  Lynda and Elizabeth show the comfortable, relaxed fun we all were having.  It was a special moment on a very special trip.


At a Mary Kay Cosmetics Convention in Dallas, Texas

At a Mary Kay Cosmetics Convention in Dallas, Texas (July 2003)

In the summer of 2003, we joined Elizabeth and several of her team members at the Mary Kay Convention in Dallas.  Here you see our grown up daughter and her mother…both dressed up for a party banquet.  My recollection of the event was the enjoyment Lynda had being with Elizabeth and her friends.

There you have it…three slices of Elizabeth’s life with her mother.  She continues to make me quite proud.

We both miss Lynda (especially this week). There’ll be at least one more posting about Lynda in a few days.  On Sunday the flowers at our church in Atlanta will be placed upon the altar in her honor.  I’ll post a photo.

Thank you for your long time friendship, love, and prayers for all the Buckners (current and future).