Wednesday, June 13, 2018

When grace carries you through. And a special "Guest Blogger"!

This has been an exciting week for me.  I have spent the last several days with Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna while Gwen and Tim are on their church's Mission Trip.  I have done this for the last 8 years.  This is always a special time for me to spend lots of time with each one of them.  This year, everyone is so much more independent and able to function without help.   I have actually been getting MORE sleep this week than I normally do, since nobody wakes up much before 7:00am!  So far, I have colored many pictures, made lots of meals, done lots of laundry and played LIFE many, many times! 
Today is actually one of the "busy" days for us since Lia has Ballet (actually Ballet, Jazz, and Tap) and Ellie, Zeke and Anna all have gymnastics.  So I will be driving from one place to the other and keeping some busy while waiting on the others.  The beginning of my time here, the weather was really raining and cloudy.  So we had some inside days of more television than we would normally allow.  Thankfully, the sun is out today and it is warm and summer like.  Which will make our waiting time lots easier.  There is a farmers market in the town with Ballet and Gymnastics so I am sure that we will be visiting there for part of the time.  It is really exciting to see the "pre-teen" that Lia is becoming.  Lia has been asking me about this blog and has expressed a desire to be a "guest blogger".  So this is her chance.....

Hi, my name is Lia. I am the oldest of the 4 kids. So my Grandma is brave and she is letting me be a "Mini blogger" on her blog. I am going to tell you my perspective of how the week is going. So normally in the Fall (When Mom and Dad work and Anna has school) somebody has to take care of  us Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. So Grandma takes care of us on Monday, I take care of them on Wednesday and, my other Grandparents take care of us on Friday. So anyway Grandma is here from 6:30-7:00 A.M. to 3:30-3:45 P.M. which if you count isn't very much time. (Plus we do school in that time) So this mission trip week is and amazing opportunity to spend as much time as I can with Grandma. After Grandma leaves on Monday I always beg my Mom to set up a play date with Grandma.

Ellie and I have the same bedtime and our bedtime is 9:00-9:30 P.M. but Zeke and Anna are younger than us and so they have to go to bed before us (7:00-7:30 P.M.) and so Ellie and I get to spend some time with Grandma without Anna and Zeke. So Grandma, Ellie, and I play "The Game of Life" (Which Anna and Zeke can't play) and every time we play it Ellie and I get cars full of kids and Grandma gets one at the MAX. Yeah well Ellie and I don't have children in real life and Grandma actually has kids. Grandma thinks that it's sad but I think it's hilarious. 

When Mom and Dad are away I am sad... but I am also glad. (Grandma doesn't give us a long list of chores to do) anyway it's good practice for college. for some reason I get better sleep when Grandma is here. Grandma also gets us treats at the store and she brings us to McDonalds play place and Baskin Robbins. My best friends birthday party is always during the mission trip and she always has a pool party because she has a pool and so I get to relax and get to be away from my cray family. 

This year for the mission trip my Mom and Dad and the churches youth ministry (Boulder) are at St. Louis. Yesterday they went to a HUGE ball pit with HUGE balls. I am in Boulder but I am still too young to go... you have to be going into High school to go on this years mission trip. They always change the age restriction (It depends on where they are going that year) next year I am going to be able to go! I am super excited. It is also my last year with Grandma though. I am really sad.

So tonight is going to be CRAZY. First we are dropping off Anna and Ellie at gymnastics at 4:00, and then we are going to my dance studio "Dance Connection" for my 4:30 class, and then Grandma goes back to gymnastics to pick up Ellie and Anna at 5:00, and then they have 1 hour to eat and then Grandma has to drive back to gymnastics to drop Zeke off at 6:00 and then Grandma, Ellie and Anna have to wait in the car until 7:00 and then they are going to go to a park after they pick up Zeke while they are waiting for me or  and then at 9:00 they are going to pick me up from dance. Crazy huh? This is my first Ballet class and tap class and jazz class this summer and this is Ellie's and Zeke's first gymnastics class for the summer and this is Anna's very first gymnastics class EVER! I am so excited for her and also really proud of her. Anna is really into front rolls AKA somersaults so I think that she will be really great at those. She wouldn't go to sleep last night because she was so worried that she wouldn't do her somersaults right tonight. Well that's all for me I hope that I will get to be a "Guest -Mini"  blogger again! It was really fun! bye!
Yes, I know that the extra grace from Jesus is what carries me through this week.  I sure have a great appreciation for Gwen and all that taking care of four kids entails.  There are so many times in my "normal" life that I feel that blast of an extra touch of grace.  But this week, I have been living in that grace.  I love that the kids are learning about serving others by the example of their parents.  They have first hand knowledge of going into strange places to share the love of Jesus - even when it is outside of their comfort zone.  We saw a homeless person while we were driving, but unfortunately did not have anything to give away!  The kids were very sad that they couldn't help.  I was just glad that they even wanted to help!  This week is a growing week for me.  Growing in patience, growing in love.  Being with the kids and seeing how they maturing and learning is such a gift.  One thing is certain.  I would not miss out on this week for anything!

Jesus, thank you for the joy and wonder of children.  Holy Spirit, I could not get through this week without your extra measure of grace.  Jesus, bless all the children, adults and senior citizens that are being touched by Gwen and Tim and the team from Fellowship of Faith.  Help us all to approach our full and busy days knowing that we need more of your grace.  Thank you for all of your blessings.  Amen

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Getting an answer to prayer (in the midst of things)

This weekend was the big "Dance Recital Weekend".  This year all three girls danced in this recital. This was Lia's 9th dance recital!  Yes, that's correct.  She is 12 years old and has been dancing since she was three.  This year, Lia was in a Jazz number, a Lyrical number and also Ballet.  It was her first year in the big Ballet production that is a central part of the recital.  Ellie had two dances - a Jazz and a Tap. It was Anna's first recital and she had a Jazz dance.  I was so proud of these girls!  They have worked so hard to learn these dances and spend hours practicing at home.  Lia will be adding (back) tap to her schedule next year, so she will have at least 4 dances to learn.  I forgot to mention that there are different shows (since this studio is so large) and Lia was in all the shows.  Ellie was in two of the shows and Anna was in one.  Thankfully (mostly due to Gwen's careful planning) all three girls were in the first show on Saturday.  Then Lia and Ellie were both in the second show on Saturday, and just Lia was in today's production.  I can't count the number of times Gwen had to drive someone to dance (and then pick them up several hours later) in the last week.  And then she had to sit through two days of dress rehearsals and then three performances.  Oh, the love of a mother (and father - Tim does some of that crazy driving)!  I actually went to two of the three shows (it's a grandma thing!)

 I have mentioned this amazing studio, "Dance Connection" in Grayslake, Illinois a couple of other times.  At the close of the program today, Bridget Blake, the owner of the studio, mentioned that dance is about so much more than this production.  These kids are learning so many valuable lessons while they spin and twirl and leap.  They are learning to persevere and work hard to accomplish goals.  So much of this recital was about team work.  Not only do they have to know where to be on the stage, they have to be aware of everyone else.  They are building confidence and character as they practice those really hard steps, over and over, until they get them just right.  (I watched Ellie practice "up, up, down, down" over and over - even when it hurt her ankles!)  The mentoring of the older students to the youngest is wonderful to see as "Student teachers" help with all the younger classes.  Lia has been so looking forward to the chance to fit into this role!  Such a refreshing and uplifting event, seeing so many helpers pull off this amazing show.

I can't end without telling a bit about the ballet production.  I have to admit, when Lia told me that she was going to be an Ewok in the ballet production, I was skeptical!  Really, how do you have a Star Wars ballet???  It was simply amazing!  It was clear that so much thought went into the dance choreography and the costumes.  Each one of the main characters was clearly recognizable by their (still beautiful and flowing) costume.  I believe it was the best Ballet production that I have seen (remember that I have seen NINE)!  And I just have to say, Lia was simply the cutest Ewok on the stage!

But now let me tell you a bit more about the title to this blog. Yesterday, I drove to the recital, listening to my music most of the way.  Gwen called me to give me final directions to meet up with her and my blue tooth in the car was working perfectly.  Somehow, during those hours of the recital, my car decided to throw me a curve ball.  When I got in the car to go home, I had no radio and no sound on the blue tooth.  Everything seemed to be ON, but I had no sound.  At all.  I turned off the car several times, thinking that might fix the problem.  But no luck.  So I began the drive home, in my very silent car.  While this might not seem like a problem, it is more than just an aggravation for me.  I have several very long car rides every week, back and forth to Gwen's and also Doug's house.  I admit that I really need my music to keep my focus where it needs to be.  And the blue tooth is necessary since it is illegal to hold your phone and drive!  After several minutes of lamenting that it figures that the radio would break when I am just about to make the last payment on the car, I decided to just shoot up one of those quick prayers about the situation.  Within a few moments, I started thinking about the fuses.  Now, I can't tell you the last time that I even thought about the car HAVING fuses!  When I mentioned it to Ken, he seemed to think it was doubtful that it was a fuse since the display was working for the entire system - just no sound.  I decided to "google" the problem, and sure enough, there was the answer.  Pull out the audio fuse and leave it out for several minutes.  Put it back in to reset the audio system.  A few short minutes later, the radio and blue tooth on my car were working fine.  It wasn't until a bit later that I realized that I had heard the answer to my prayer!  The Holy Spirit gave me that thought of the fuse to bring a solution to my problem.  I just got confirmation from google!

What a great reminder that we can all EXPECT to receive answers to our prayers.  We just have to be aware that sometimes that thought that pops into our heads, is really the Holy Spirit speaking to us.  Or sometimes that "gut feeling" that we get is a message for us.  Every one of us can hear from Jesus.  It is part of the reason that he left the promise of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus knew that we would need help - the Holy Spirit is called the helper.

My encouragement to you today is to expect to get help when you need it from the Holy Spirit.  Even in the midst of a very busy times.  Even if you don't think you have ever actually gotten a direct answer to a prayer.  Even if you doubt that you can really hear from Jesus.  Trust this testimony, and so many others, Jesus wants to communicate with you and He will!  You just need to listen more carefully.

Thank you Jesus for knowing how much help we would need, and giving us the great gift of the Holy Spirit.  Help us all to be more present and aware of the ways that you show us answers to prayers and give us directions when we need them.  Thank you for dance and the joy and laughter of children.  And Jesus, thank you for caring about even the very little things!  Amen

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dream small....

It has been a long time since I managed to get a blog post out there.  What a really busy month May has been.  Ken and I took a few days to go away to a relatively nearby Tulip festival. There were miles of amazing tulips to see.   We have had birthdays, mothers day, and our anniversary.  And there were several end of the school year events also.  By the end of each day, I AM TIRED!  So, therefore, my blogging has suffered.   Beginning with today and going backwards, here is a photo recap of this very busy time!
Today was Anna's last day of preschool (for this year).  She had a "crossing the bridge" event today and this also marked the end of Gwen's teaching for this school year!  It was a big day for Anna - her first real "school" experience!
Last Sunday, Gwen ran a half marathon and Tim ran a marathon - IN THE POURING RAIN WHILE IT WAS ONLY 40 DEGREES!  These two are amazing.  When they have trained and trained for an event, it happens rain or shine.  So proud of their perseverance! Because they were running this race, I took care of Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna.  

It was a special day for Zeke and Ellie at their Sunday School.  Because they had done all their memory work, they were treated to a special Limo ride to see a movie.  As I said, it was pouring rain. So this is the best picture I could get of the event.  I was a proud grandma when Zeke said one of his memory verses in church before this fun event.  
Lia, Anna and I spent a couple of hours together and had a nice lunch. After we picked up Ellie and Zeke, we all went out for ice cream.  It was a a good way to spend a really icky weather day.

Zeke's birthday party fell during this crazy busy time.  A jumping gymnastics party was fun for all. Really hard to believe that Zeke is 7 years old.   Even Grace had fun at this party.
It is so wonderful to see the cousins together.  At fifteen months old, Grace is running everywhere.  She seems so old now, so much more a toddler than a baby.  We might have to stop calling her "Baby Grace!"
Just before Mother's Day, Anna's preschool had a Mother's Day Tea.  She invited me to attend (Gwen class had a tea at the same time so I was a "substitute mom").  Gwen spent a few minutes seeing Anna sing with her class, but I got to share the treats with her.  
While we were seeing hundreds of tulips, we also took some time to visit this lighthouse on Lake Michigan.  Ken took hundreds of pictures of flowers and other sights along the way.  It was a relaxing time away for us. 
Lastly, I wanted to share this really neat picture I captured of Ellie blowing bubbles on an early Spring day in May.  It just feels like spring to me!

So there you have it.  My last three weeks in a few pictures.  Actually, there are a couple events that I missed in this recap!  Ken and I celebrated our 44th Wedding Anniversary.  It was also Ken's birthday.  No wonder I didn't have much time to blog!  But during this time, I heard a new song that really "fits" these last weeks for me.  It is Dream Small by Josh Wilson.  The first time I heard this song I was in tears.  As you can see in this blog, my life right now seems to be lots of "small" moments.  I so needed this reminder.  
Dream small.  Don't bother like you've gotta do it all.
Just let Jesus use you where you are.
One day at a time. Live Well.  Loving God and others as yourself.
Find little ways where only you can help.
With His great love. 
A tiny rock can make a giant fall.  Dream small.

Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, Keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping,
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things, watch them grow bigger
The God who does all things makes oceans from rivers.

These simple moments change the world.
Of course there's nothing wrong with bigger dreams.
Just don't miss these moments on the way to bigger things.
Cause these simple moments change the world.

So if your life is anything like mine - you are running from one thing to the next - don't forget this message.  These simple moments change the world!  

Jesus, thank you for all the fun, wonderful times we have had in the last few weeks.  Thank you for reminding me that it is okay to be doing these "small" things.  Help us all to keep this attitude in the daily grind we face.  Holy Spirit, help us all to live well and to love others with Your love.  Amen

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Rain down on us.... more thanksgiving!

We are in the midst of a rain storm and some much needed rain as I begin this blog.  In one of my last blogs, I was crying out for spring or some promise of a soon to come spring.  Today it was 87 degrees and very humid and now it is storming.  But we also have been having warnings of fire danger since things are so dry.  It seems that we have passed right by spring and into our typical summer stormy season.  Sigh.  But, as I said, we really need this rain.  The trees and flowers need it.  The farmers need it.  All of us really need a bit of springtime rain.  I am so thankful for blooming flowers and trees and warmer weather.  Yes, this past couple of weeks have been thankful weeks for me.  

I was telling some friends today that Ellie asked me to accompany her to her dentist appointment this week.  I had previously gone with Gwen to take both Ellie and Anna to have a filling.  Gwen wanted to stay with Anna and she didn't know how Ellie would be without her.  So I willing went and sat in a chair in the corner while Ellie had her filling.  This time Gwen would have been able to go with Ellie, but she asked me to come with her instead.  While this might seem a bit strange to some people, knowing that Ellie trusts me and know that she can count on me - even in scary and hard situations - is really a special thing.  I have blogged in the past about how close I feel to the grandchildren.  I don't know if I have really thought through how they feel about me.  I was a privilege to take Ellie for her second filling.  She didn't even seem nervous during this visit and their dentist does a great job with the kids.  The hygienist noticed that Ellie didn't have her "bunny" with her (this is her special security item) and she said "Oh, I see you brought your Grandma instead!"  I thought that was really nice.    I don't think Ellie realizes how much it means to me that she wanted me to sit in the chair in the corner during her appointment. What a blessing for me to be able to be a part of these little things with them.

Several months ago, I had purchased a Groupon for a bounce place.  Gwen and I thought it would be a good idea to visit BEFORE school let out for the summer.  So we spent a great morning letting the kids jump to their hearts content.  There was hardly anyone in the place, so these four cuties had it mostly to themselves.  Anna managed to get me to jump, something I would never have done if there were more people in the place!  And I am so thankful for this time just celebrating JOY and FUN with them.  Afterward, Ken joined us all for lunch.  What a wonderful time together.  Really, you can't beat a great Portillo's lunch (anyone from the Chicago area will agree) with those you love.

At the end of that day, Gwen and the kids came to a Photography Exhibit where Ken had three photos on display.  That beautiful pink tulip is one of Ken's photos.  The kids had a great time.  They are very thoughtful when looking at art of any kind.  I am so thankful that Gwen and Tim have always taken them to art museums.  They were all engaged and thoughtful as we looked at every photograph on display.  They each had their favorites and especially loved the photographs of animals.  Even after such a long day, they sure made both Ken and I proud.  It poured rain on the opening of the event and the artist reception.  In spite of the rain and very cold weather, so many people came to view the photos and greet the photographers.  The building was packed with people.  The exhibit continued for the entire weekend and over 800 people viewed the work of these talented photographers.  I am so thankful that in this transitional time of retirement, Ken has found a wonderful hobby with great opportunities, and wonderful friends.  
I snapped this very (unprofessional Iphone) photo of this Japanese Magnolia Tree blossom, that is right near the parking lot we used for this exhibit.  I was just so enamored with the beautiful purple buds right in front of my eyes, on each trip to the event.  I was stunned by how amazing each bud was.  Some of the buds were still tightly closed (it was only 34 degrees on the first night of the exhibit!) but there were a few that were more open.  Such a picture of the hope of springtime to come.  A bud poised to open when the rains come and the temperatures increase.  I am so thankful for the creation that surround us.  In every season of God's handiwork, there are pictures of the promises of God for us.  There is hope in the buds on that tree.  A promise of beauty to come.

So, as the rains are falling tonight, with thunder and lightning, and the air conditioning is running (since it is still in the 80's), I am filled with so much thankfulness.  I have been reminded more than once that thankfulness is more about perspective than anything else.  After looking back at the words on this page, that sure seems true!  While Ellie's need for a filling in her tooth is not a "thankful" thing, I am so thankful that she knows I love her!  And I am thankful that we have ready access to good dental care.  Ken being out of work before he was really ready to retire could have been a really bad thing.  But I am so thankful that he gets to spend more time with our family because he is not working.  And he had time to prepare for this wonderful photo exhibit that, most likely, would not have happened if he were still employed.  Yep, I'm thankful for retirement!  Finally, I am so thankful for spring this year.  It has been a long, long, dark winter.  Everyone of us needed the blue sky and warm weather that we have had the last week.  Even the rain is a welcome reminder that spring is truly upon us.  

I stepped out into the rain for just a minute this afternoon and it was wonderful.  The air was warm and the rain was softly falling.  The sun was sort of peeking out from behind the clouds.  It was one of those moments when you just know that you are blessed.  And very thankful.

Jesus, thank you for the wonders of creation.  Holy Spirit, thank you for raining down your presence on us every day in every season.  Give us all eyes to see the things we can be thankful for - even in those really tough situations.  Thank you for rivers of living water that refresh and renew us all.  Amen

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Telling the truth in all things... even the weather!

Last week was one of those silly weeks when you simply do not know how to dress.  On Thursday morning, I scraped about 2" of snow and/or ice off of my car before heading to watch Grace.  At some point during the day, the sun came out and by the time I left for home, it was 59 degrees.  I had worn my winter coat in the morning and a fleece over a long sleeved shirt.  I carried my coat to the car and before leaving the driveway, had taken off my fleece.  Over the next few days it was impossible to decide exactly what kind of coat or jacket you might need when leaving the house.  Friday was a bit cloudy and windy and felt cold at times. But then the sun came out and it warmed up. Saturday was also overcast - until late in the day again.  Let's face it!  It is just time for some good old spring weather.  Today I confidently hung my winter coat in the back of the closet.  I am trusting the forecast for the next 15 days - lows in the high 40's and highs in the 50's and 60's.  

So apparently Grace had decided it needs to be springtime - or at least warm enough to have a picnic!
On Thursday she spent the better part of the day setting up her little picnic set and then putting it all back.  Over and over and over and over.  You gotta love these little ones.  They just never seem to get tired of the "in and out".  
She found the cups and spent a bit of time "practicing" drinking from a real cup.  She does a pretty good job drinking out of a glass if you hold it for her.  But she loves these little plastic tumblers.  Part of the day the "picnic" was on the ground, until she discovered that she could set it up on the table! This was especially interesting to me since Doug, Susie and Grace were leaving for a camping vacation just a few days later!  It was almost as if Grace understood that there was a picnic in her future!

So, just like Grace, Ken and I decided to proceed with our patio enhancements, as if it will soon actually be warm enough to use it.  After our "situation" with our gazebo almost flying away, we purchased some really nice, specially designed weights for the legs.  We also got an outdoor heater and some very festive lights. We also spent some time actually attaching the canvas top to the frame much more securely.  All in all, we should be set for some good relaxing time IF the weather ever gets above 60 degrees!

Over the last few weeks, the subject of personal testimony has been coming up over and over.  The interesting thing about doing this blog is that it is my personal story and no one can disagree with what I have written!  The same is true of each person's testimony of their relationship to Jesus.  In this blog, I have written about various different times that have changed the course of my life in some way.  The common thread of each of these events is that I had a very real encounter with Jesus.  He spoke to me, brought revelation to me, came to me in dreams, sent someone else to speak a word to me, brought a song to me, caused the Bible to come alive to me,  really so many different things.  I am always amazed by people who want to dispute that Jesus can speak to each one of us.  Not only CAN he do this, but it is His plan for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.  And that relationship would be pretty one sided if Jesus did not have an active role in it.  The entire time that Jesus was explaining the Holy Spirit to his disciples, is really the groundwork for us all to understand the lines of communication that Jesus was leaving with us.  It would be better for us all when he was in heaven because then ALL of us could communicate with Him.  Such an amazing plan by an awesome God.  Yet, here we are some 2,000 years later, and really good people - some of whom have studied "religion" for years and years want to deny that Jesus speaks to us ALL!  So, here is my soapbox of truth telling for today!  Jesus has, does and will continue to speak to me and I have, do and will continue to listen to Him.  Hey, that news is so much better than the weather! You can depend on that truth!

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that you desire a relationship with each person.  Thank you for the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit.  Open the ears of those that are afraid to hear your voice.  Give courage to us to share this truth with those around us.  Help us to teach our children and grandchildren the truth that you speak to us all.  Thank you Jesus for warmer weather and the approaching of springtime.  Amen

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Can't believe what happened this morning....

So, I was on my way to my small group meeting.  I was internally lamenting the still terrible weather (we are expecting rain/sleet/snow today) and decided that I needed a cup of coffee.  I stopped at a local McDonalds to pick up a carry out coffee that does NOT give me stomach problems.  Seriously, I can not drink Dunkin or Starbucks, or really any other coffee places.  Even just their plain old regular coffee bothers me.  McDonalds is my go-to coffee stop.

Needless to say, this stop for coffee has been on my mind for the entire day.  Here is what happened. As I was at the "pay" window, a car quickly pulled right in front of me and drove to the "get your food" window.  The lady at that window just handed over my coffee.  The car quickly sped away.  I sort of watched this happen before I realized...."Hey!  What just happened?"  At this point I just pulled up and the lady proceeded to try to give me the order for the car behind me.  I explained that I had just ordered coffee and clearly the car that had pulled in front of me had never ordered or paid for anything.  They apologized to me for the wait, as they poured another cup of coffee for me.  The manager came to the window and said that unfortunately, this scam has been happening to them often.

As I pulled away, with my cup of coffee, so many thoughts were running through my head.  First of all, how hungry was that person who was doing this scam?  I was suddenly sorry that I had not ordered a breakfast meal.  I wondered how often this person pulled this trick and how long they had searched for a drive through that had a long stretch between pay and get your food, and one that also had traffic flowing right next to the drive through lane.  I will never know if this person was just trying to get something for nothing (in which case I am not sorry that I only ordered coffee) or if they were truly unable to pay for their breakfast (and in that case, I would have gladly bought them a breakfast combo meal).

I was a church secretary for over 15 years and I experienced many, many people coming to the doors of the church asking for food and/or money.  I learned that sadly, 7 out of 10 times, the stories being told were not true.  I was often alone at the church and I learned to be very wary when approached for help.  I learned to keep a stash of McDonalds gift cards and also Grocery gift cards to give them.  I have fallen out of the habit of keeping these gift cards in my car (something that I always did, years ago) to give to people holding signs asking for help.

I guess you might be saying, "What's the big deal?  It was only a couple of dollars and a cup of coffee."  For me, I guess this has left me wondering what the message for me is in this event.  I have been trying to figure out why this bothered me so much.  This idea that there are people who are so needy in my suburban area, really troubles me.  On the other hand, if it was someone just trying to beat the system, I am concerned that they doing this so near my home.  I guess this was a wake up call for me.  I am going to be more mindful of people around me who might need more than just a kind word or a smile.  They may be hungry and need a meal.

Lately I have been praying to have eyes to see things as Jesus does.  Today might have been one of those times to see something that I might have missed.  There has been talk of "pay it forward" events including one that I read with 280 cars, each paying for the car behind them.  I guess my story is sort of the opposite of that.  I am choosing to keep my eye on the GOOD that is in the world and will remember the pay if forward events.  And the next time I am in the drive through, I plan to pay for the car behind me.  Help me turn this event today into something good by joining in this challenge.  Can we all pay it forward just one time?  See the world through the eyes of Jesus and make someone's day.  Pay for that car behind you and share the love of Jesus!

Jesus, thank you for today and that cup of coffee.  Lord, put someone who will share your love in the path of that person that took something from McDonalds that was not theirs.  Holy Spirit, remind us all of the blessings that fill our life.  Give us courage to step out and share your love with the world around us, one person at a time.  Amen

Monday, April 16, 2018

What a crazy weekend!.

Ken and I had a pretty crazy weekend.  And it wasn't JUST the weather that was crazy either.   Some of you might have seen my Facebook post showing a really nice gazebo that Ken and I put up on our patio - with the hope of having some relaxing time, sitting in the bug free zone, protected from the sun, while gazing out at the park behind our house.  Since it was nearly the middle of April, we assumed (note to self - never assume) that the weather would be SPRING.  We were sadly mistaken. 
Friday the temperature dropped rapidly and then the rain started.  And then came the 45 mile per hour winds with gusts to 60 miles per hour.  And the rain became sleet and then snow.  Sigh.

And there we were, in the freezing rain, trying to secure that blasted gazebo so that it would not take flight.  We filled every water jug that we had to weigh it down, along with several large garden pots filled with rocks, an umbrella stand and I am really not sure what else we stacked around the legs to keep that thing in place.  It looks rather silly now, sitting on the patio (somewhat askew) with snow all around.  I mean, really, what were we thinking?  This is Chicago after all!

After all the fun we had with our backyard patio, we drove to Wisconsin (in all honesty, just across the border near to Gwen's house) for a family party to celebrate Ellie's birthday.  Her choice of an event was a tour of the Jelly Belly Factory! 

I think our entire family really enjoyed this little excursion.  We were very thankful that we had not planned anything outside since winter had returned.  Those murals behind the kids are all made out of Jelly Bellys!  They have a resident artist that creates some really amazing murals.  Even Grace had a great time.  
The tour of the factory is a fun little train ride around the warehouse.  The highlight of the tour, is of course, that it drops you off in the STORE!  And they fill your paper hat with little sample bags of free Jelly Bellys.   I have never seen so many different types of jelly beans and other candy.  And they have a "sample bar" where you can try any flavors that you want.  There was also some really wonderful fudge of all different flavors.  Grace was not so sure she wanted to taste anything until she got her first mouthful.  And then she couldn't stop signing MORE!   We ended the morning with lunch at Ellie's favorite place.  Wendy's.  She loves those Frostys.  It was a fun morning, being together and doing somethings new.  If you are ever near Pleasant Prairie Wisconsin, it is worth a visit.  A great way to spend several hours.  

I know that I really should not complain about our weather.  We ended up with a very small amount of snow compared to Wisconsin and Minnesota.  My drive to Gwen's this morning was pretty nasty, however.  There were parts of the road that were snow covered, parts of the road that had black ice, and also some parts with ruts of ice that were really nasty.  Additionally, since it IS after April 1st, the other season in Chicago has begun - CONSTRUCTION! (We often say that Illinois has two seasons - winter and road construction)  I told Ken that it is just not fair that you have to deal with lane closures and orange barrels when you are trying to avoid the snow piles.  

No matter what the weather is like, my sunshine is my family.  Spending time together, laughing and talking is the very best thing.  Getting to hug and kiss those sweet faces makes up for any April snowstorm.  Today at  Gwen's house, I assisted Lia making a batch of cookies.  She is really a very good baker.   Zeke and Ellie were sitting at the counter doing their school work as Lia and I worked on the cookies.  I turned on the radio and the song playing was How He Loves by David Crowder Band.  Let me tell you that it warms this Grandma's heart to have all of the kids singing along.  I stopped to really listen to the words.  Amazing.  

Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves us, how He loves us. All

He is jealous for me.  Love's like a hurricane, I am a tree
bending beneath the weight of His wind and his mercy.
When all of sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions, eclipsed by glory.
And I realize just how beautiful You are.
And just how great your affections are for me.  

We are His portion and He is our prize.
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.

There were the exact words that I really needed to hear today.  The weather seemed to be battering us all.  But, there in the kitchen, singing this song, everything melted away.  The snow outside didn't matter.  Our battle with the gazebo didn't matter.  The road construction didn't matter.  I was just filled with knowing...... Oh how He loves us.  

No matter what you are facing today.  A health crisis.  Finances.  Family troubles.  Whatever it may be.  Just rest in the knowing just how much He loves us all.  Let the truth that His affection for you is great.  Close your eyes and see the grace in His eyes.  Jesus is our prize.  

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that, no matter what, You love us all.  Holy Spirit, when it is cold and dark outside, draw us all into the exact right song to lift our spirit.  When we feel battered and near to breaking under the cares and troubles of this world, give us courage and boldness to speak truth to ourselves.  Thank you for songs that fill us with your truth.  Amen