Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A family is many things.... beautiful together

Last weekend, Ken and I went with all of the kids and grand kids to a nearby water park.  We have made this a yearly event and it is always eagerly anticipated.  We took a bit of a risk this year because we planned the event for the last day this park was open for the season.  So we were ready to go - no matter what the weather forecast was!  It was a happy day with bright sun and warm temperatures.  All of us had a great time, in the pool, in the lazy river, under the sprinklers and/or on the tube slides.  We ended the day having dinner at one our all time favorite pizza places.  There is nothing better than making reservations for 11 people!  Other than some really tired kids and a bit of sunburn, we were a happy bunch. 

I was reflecting on the previous day together during my time with Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna on Monday.  While Gwen was tutoring (no rest for her over the summer. She takes on extra teaching!)
the kids and I walked to the nearby park.  It was actually so hot that all of the playground equipment was burning their hands, so we set about having a little scavenger hunt. 
This mash up of stuff was the result of their hunt for treasures around the park.  We have pine cones, bark from the trees, rocks, sticks, leaves, flowers, berries from a tree, and even clover.   Anna made a little bouquet with the flowers and berries and leaves wrapped in some of the bark.  It was not how we intended to spend the hour, but it was very enjoyable. 

As I was thinking about this picture of the collage of our park finds, the thought of the 11 of us around the table the day before came to my mind.  I know that this might seem like a real stretch, but let me explain.  All of these items were actually at home in the small park.  They were, indeed a type of family!  They had all been living together.  Each item, so different, yet connected to the others. 
Isn't that exactly what a family is?  Some of us share similar interests, others are very different.  Each person in our family is amazing and beautiful, some look similar to each other, but each is unique.  I love that I can see that unique characteristic in each of the kids.  Lia is a friend to all and a careful rule follower who is interested in photography.  Ellie is a powerhouse of creative energy who is always coloring or drawing.  Zeke is a dare devil who looks for a mountain (or a tree or something) to climb.  Anna is a confident and independent girl who can play by herself for hours.  Grace is happiest outside, loves all animals and has smiles for everyone.  Gwen is a passionate follower of Jesus, a leader who loves to teach, mentor and sing.  Tim is happiest with a project to complete and would help everyone if he could.  Susie has a passion for the environment and loves hiking and camping, Doug loves to fish and camp but also loves making music.  Ken has a passion for and a desire to share photography.  And my passion is sharing about my family and my faith through this blog and through scrapbooking.   This is just a small snapshot of the uniqueness of each person in my family.  And we do have so many overlapping interests and passions.  Both Susie and Gwen love photography (shared with Ken) and both of the girls also scrapbook with me.  All of the kids and grand kids love camping and often go camping together. Ken and I much prefer the "hotel" camping.  I am sure that each one of you could make this kind of a list for your family.  I just love how the plans of God are revealed all around us in nature.  Each of those items in our nature collage are interesting, but together they paint a beautiful picture.  That is the way families are.  Each member different and unique, yet together they paint a beautiful picture. 

Make this a day for your own family collage.  Think about each member and the things that make them unique.  Celebrate those things,  And then find the ways you all overlap and share interests.  Rejoice in the connections that are special in your family.  Take a few minutes and look around your neighborhood.  Find items to make your own collection of beauty.   Be thankful! 

I love to see the relationship between the members of my family as they grow and change over the years. I especially love those times when we are all together.  The smiles, the laughing, the joy and the celebration of just being a family are food for the soul.  So much to be thankful for in this blog.  For those smiling faces, for the beauty of nature. For all that makes us a family.

Jesus, thank you for revealing who you are through your creation.  Holy Spirit, give us eyes to see the unique beauty around us - in nature and in people.  Keep us open to those shared connections that help bind us together in your love.  Give us all space to create collages when we feel so far apart from those we should be closest to.  Thank you for loving each of us - just how you made us.  Amen

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Even AFTER a vacation, a get-away is nice!

Last weekend, Ken and I spent a short get-away at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  Doug and Susie gifted us this time away in thanks for watching Grace while they took time away.  While totally unnecessary, it was so much appreciated.  Here we are, just a couple of weeks home from a big vacation.  Yet, this time away, close to home was really nice.  We had such a relaxing enjoyable time!
We spent the first day on the beach.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I love the water!  And this beach was wonderful.  The water temperature was just perfect.  The weather was warm and not too hot.  While there were lots of people, it was not over crowded.  We even found a parking place somewhat close to the beach entrance! (No small thing if you knew just how popular this place is.)  After our long beach time, we found a small local diner for a late lunch.  We always try to find local places to eat and this one did not disappoint!  We actually liked it so much that we had breakfast the next day at the same diner.  Ken really wanted to get some sunset pictures, so we checked in to our hotel, rested for bit and then took a driving tour around the lake.  We had to drive by the hotel where we honeymooned.  It was a long, long time ago (44 years!)  
This picture was taken as we were leaving our wedding, headed to our honeymoon!  Things have really changed around that resort and it was fun thinking back and remembering.   We had scoped out a couple of potential spots to get some sunset pictures, so we headed to those spots.  Thankfully, there was a restaurant, across from the lake with outside seating.  So we opted to have dinner there with the plan to walk across the street to take sunset pictures.  We were surprised to actually get seated outside with a marvelous view of the lake.  That picture of Ken above was taken there.  If you look carefully at the picture, you can see the reflection of the sun in the window as it was dropping to the horizon.  We had perfect timing, finished our meal and then strolled across the street to get some amazing pictures.  
After spending about an hour at the sunset, we started back to the hotel.  But not before we stopped for some delicious Wisconsin Ice Cream.  I don't eat a lot of ice cream, but I had a strawberry milk shake that contained more fresh berries than you can imagine.  Ken said he was watching it being made and about half the cup was berries.  It was amazing.  

After breakfast at the diner, we headed to  Yerkes Observatory   Yerkes Observatory says they are the birthplace of "Astro Physics".  If you take a moment to look at the web page, you will be amazed.  I certainly was.  Ken has been there a number of times and we have driven by, but I never realized the significant discoveries made at this place. 
The tour was amazing.  This is the largest telescope of its type IN THE WORLD!!  And the building has the largest elevator in the world (the elevator actually lifts the entire floor around the telescope from the basement to the height needed to view from the telescope.  Sadly, the University of Chicago, who owns and runs this facility has decided to close it in September, due to funding issues.   Right now there is a move to privately fund and keep it open.  Given the long history (it was built in 1893) and the telescope and other items in the museum, I am praying that they find a way to keep it open.  
Yes, Ken and I love to find these museums and unusual places to visit.  But I am just so thankful that we do.  It is really sad to think about the many people who live in the Chicago area, who do not visit the many important sites that are close by.  

We managed to pack quite a bit into a short time away.  I had so much time away from the usual distractions.  I spent a lot of the beach time just people watching.  I had several good conversations with kids who were swimming near me.  Somehow, I am always identified as a safe "grandma" and the kids always talk to me.  We had peaceful car rides, mostly free of traffic and noise.  Our hotel was quiet and calm.  The time we spent watching the sunset was just what I needed.  Watching the boats skim across the water and seeing the small waves tickle the beach.  The time with this telescope, trained at the heavens was just the perfect ending to our trip.  This whole "retirement" season is new to us.  We are making adjustments in so many ways.  Sometimes it seems like we are entering into that "awaiting the sunset" period of our life.  But as I was sitting on the beach, soaking up that view of the sparkling colors on the water, I was reminded that the sunset is actually the BEGINNING of the new day!  There is a new day for Ken and I now.  Free of the responsibilities of 40 hour a week work.  And now there is time to train our eyes on the heavenlies.  Looking up and seeing the plans, and designs that Jesus has for us in the years ahead.  While the purpose of that telescope is to view the stars, all I could think about was He who created the stars!  

Psalm 147:4-5 -  He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.  Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.

Sometimes, all it takes is a few hours on a beach, a couple hours waiting for the sun to set and a couple hours touring a really old building, to hear the Lord's gentle reminder that there is more ahead and it is a new day dawning!

Jesus, thank you so much for these wonderful opportunities that you provide.  Thank you for Ken and his willingness to explore new places.  Holy Spirit, help us all to remember that the sunset is the beginning of a new day.  Keep our eyes trained on you Lord and keep our thoughts on your greatness and power.  Amen

 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Sharing from one generation to the next and to the next....

Beginning again.  I started a blog post on Sunday but never finished it.  So yesterday I purposed to finish it and get it published.  After working on it for two hours, I tried to publish and it would not work.  I tried to save the post and exit to try again.  When I exited, the post was totally gone.  Sigh.  About four hours of work, just gone. This is very frustrating since the program generally saves your work every few minutes.  For some reason, the save was not working either (which I clearly didn't know).  But, I have learned my lesson and I will SAVE manually many times while typing each post.
So, to begin again.  
It's hard to get back into the swing of things when you return from vacation.  And the last couple of weeks have seemed very busy.  On Monday, Gwen and I took the kids to a new Jump place that was closer to my house than theirs.  The kids love these places and get tired of the same old thing, so a new place is always fun.  We watched the kids climb, jump and slide for a couple hours and then took them to lunch.  We went to one of Gwen's favorite places from her childhood - Colonial Ice Cream. Unfortunately the building is new, but the business is the same.  Gwen and I were reminiscing about the many, many times we went to Colonial after youth group and/or church activities.  There is something special about seeing the grandchildren enjoying the same things that your kids did.  It was just a little bit of sharing one generation to the next and then to the next! 

Over the last several years, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about and documenting (scrapbooking) my ancestors.  Having grandchildren really changes how you think about your place on the family tree.  In so many different ways, there have been lessons learned and new insights as I have discovered the deep spiritual heritage sown by long ago relatives.  On arriving home from our recent vacation, I was surprised by this package in the mail....
These two books were sent to me by a distant cousin of my mother.  Both books are written in German and were published in the 1850's.  One contains an inscription by my grandfather, Arnold Toensing and the other by his sister, Lydia Toensing.  The cousin, Delwin Mahn, who sent me these books, has no children or grandchildren.  So I am sure that he is trying to keep these very precious items in the family.  I am delighted to have the book belonging to my grandfather, and will be sure that it is passed along to the next generation.   Holding the book in my hand that belonged to my mother's aunt Lydia, caused me to really stop and think.  

Aunt Lyd was particularly important to my mom.  Next to her Aunt Anna (who helped raise her after her mom died) she was closer to Aunt Lyd than any of her other aunts.   Aunt Lyd's daughter Jeanette (my mom's cousin) was the same age as mom and they would spend many summers and vacations together.  
I couldn't help but think of this picture.  This is the only picture my mom ever had of her with her mother.  Pictured are Aunt Lyd and Jeanette on the far left, then my mom with her Dad and Mom, and the four kids are Delwin (Jeanette's brother) and my mom's sisters Beatrice, Phyllis and Eunice.  The owners of those two books - in one picture!  My grandfather and his sister.  Sadly, my grandmother Nora died around a year after this picture was taken.  My grandfather's family stepped in to help a young widower with 4 little girls (ages 8, 6, 5 and 2).  Considering this was 1917, not an easy thing.  
The most interesting thing about this story to me, is that I actually have memories of Aunt Lydia!
For my mom, one of the best parts of moving to St. Paul was that we would be close to Jeanette.  And we certainly did get to spend lots of time at her house. It was such fun to meet and get to know Jeanette (who was so much like my mom).   My grandfather and Aunt Anna had both died before I was 3 years old.  So I only have a few memories of them.  Every little grade schooler wants grandparents and I was always sad that I didn't even really have stories of my grandparents, let alone memories.  So being with Aunt Lyd was really special for me.  I even remember visiting her at her "apartment" in a senior living facility.  It was very sad when she died when I was around 8 years old.  
But here I am, holding a book that actually belonged to a very young Lydia.  And while the book is special for me, I would love to find one of Jeanette's children to pass this book along.  Sadly, our family has lost touch with all of them, so I am hoping that internet connections will be made to get this book to those that might treasure it the most. 

I am sure that in the early 1900's no one was thinking about saving things for future generations.  Times were so different and life was so much harder.  Even photographs were few and far between.  Only done for very special occasions.  I am so thankful for the pictures that we do have.  It makes sharing these stories with my grandchildren, so much easier.  Every time I think about ending this blog, I am reminded that WORDS are important.  Pictures are great, but if you don't know anything about the scene, it is pretty meaningless.  That is why it is so important to journal along with scrapbooking.   I am in possession of a very old scrapbook of un-labled pictures from Ken's side of the family.  No one knows who these people are.  Clearly they are relatives, but exactly who, is a mystery.  By the time Ken's dad gave me the album, he had no idea who the pictures were of.  And in the age of Instagram and digital pictures it is my fear that so many of these pictures will remain with no identification and no story.  So I will continue to blog and tell stories about pictures, to preserve in some small way, a bit of our family heritage.  

So after amazing views off of mountain summits, I have come back down to earth.  Down where blogs sometimes don't save and vanish at a push of a button.  Back to normal life.  But that panoramic view of the clouds and sky and valleys left an impression on me.  No matter what small thing goes wrong, there is always a blessing around the corner.  I love spending time with my grandchildren.  I love finding connections to my ancestors.  And I love that I can share stories and memories with all of you and with my family to make sure that at least some pictures have words with them..  

Storytelling is an important art and it has been lost for the most part.  The entire Bible is stories that share the great spiritual heritage we have been given.  Each one of us has stories to tell and we need to discover ways to share with those around us.  I am sure that there are many reading this who just might be bloggers or writers but you have never started out!  Make today a day so sharing.  There is so much love and so many powerful lessons when we start telling our stories.  

Jesus, thank you for the plan you have had for families since Adam and Eve.  Thank you for photos and computers and all the amazing developments that we take for granted.  Holy Spirit, nudge us all to share stories of your presence in our life and give us courage and boldness to speak!  Keep us all aware of the importance of being connected - to each other and to our ancestors.  Thank you for surprise packages that come with memories.  Amen

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Off the beaten path with the "mountain man"!

We have had a wonderful vacation.  It has been so unlike our "normal" vacations (which tend to be beach and/or museums/attractions).  Neither Ken or I tend to be "outdoor" people.  Yes, we do like to visit botanic gardens/arboretums and parks.  This vacation spent mostly in wooded mountains was something new and amazing for us.  A number of people asked me why we would ever consider a vacation to North Carolina. It has been a wonderful, peaceful time spent in nature. And the best part of the trip is that nothing was more than a two hour drive!  You really can't beat that!
Yesterday we decided to drive across the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to visit Gatlinburg TN and see the top half of the National Park. To start the day, we stopped at a very hidden waterfall that is actually on the Cherokee Indian Reservation.  By the way, that reservation is worth a visit!  We were surprised to find all of the signs written in Cherokee!  The Soco Waterfall is not shown on most maps and we just happened to see it on Google Maps (when we happened to have phone service - which was spotty at best).  There was only one small sign for the waterfall from one direction.  There was a small pull off and then a trail between the guard rails.  It was a short walk - straight down - and Ken was thankful for that walking stick we purchased a few days ago.  ***Side note - we both totally forgot that we are FLYING on this trip and really didn't consider how we are going to get that very big stick home!  
The Soco waterfall was so worth the walk.  Ken and I were totally alone on the viewing platform - just the sound of that water.  It was awesome!   So secluded and unspoiled.  By the time we left the viewing area to walk back up that treacherous path, a stream of people were on the way down to see the falls.  It felt like such a gift for us to be there, alone and have time to soak it all in.  
We proceeded into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We had visited a few days before and were planning on just driving through (as I mentioned before).  We didn't get very far into the park when we found out that the only road through the park was closed!  Apparently there had been a serious accident and there was an ongoing investigation.  The only way to get to Gatlinburg was a LONG way around the outside of the park.  So, the best laid plans of man sometimes don't work out. 
We decided to drive another stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway instead.  We had already driven several different sections.  But this stretch has the highest point of the Parkway. 
When we got to this viewing site, there was a path leading up to a viewing platform.  It was almost straight up!  We never made it to the top.  We stopped at this point and took a few pictures.  The actual high point of the parkway is 6,200 feet.  So much beauty and so many breath-taking views.  The clouds are so close you can almost touch them.  The mountains go on and on.  Around every turn is another picture perfect view.  I can't wait to actually see the photos that Ken took.  My Iphone pictures will be nothing compared to his, I am sure. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway was a surprising, wonderful part of this trip.  This two lane road zigzags up and down through the mountains in North Carolina and Virginia.  The average speed limit is about 35 miles per hour, so this is not a "quick trip" route.  We drove from mile 460 to 390 and that 70 miles took us about 3 hours including many, many stops for photos.  But there is literally NOTHING along the road - very few spots to get on or off of the parkway - no gas, no food and also only a couple of "comfort stations" (think restrooms).  What there is - TREES AND MOUNTAINS.  Also lots of wild flowers, butterflies, bees and even an occasional bird.  Also very frequent overlooks. 

All in all, this was a really wonderful trip.  We managed to snag a great deal on a really nice hotel in Asheville, that provided a "base camp" for some of our adventures.  As I mentioned, we never had to spend more than a couple hours in the car (with the exception of the Blue Ridge Parkway - which was worth it).  Today we began our trip back to reality with a drive mostly on the interstate.  It was also raining.  What a contrast to the wonderful days of sunshine and quiet roads. 

I am very glad that we have a couple of "buffer" days between those mountain days and our arrival home.  Tomorrow Ken will be visiting with a friend and former co-worker.  And then we will be driving (two hours) back to our airport location for our trip home.  It has been a long time since I visited mountains.  As a matter of fact, other than a few short trips through smaller mountains, driving on interstates, the last time I actually saw mountains was when I was 9 years old.  I needed this trip to remind me just how majestic mountains are.  And also just how deep the valleys are.  One morning Ken and I had breakfast at a really fancy McDonalds (that may seem like a contradiction of terms -but it was the Biltmore McDonalds) there was a grand (player) piano filling the room with music.  Suddenly "How Great Thou Art" began playing.   Yes, a perfect song.  Listen to How Great Thou Art performed by Home Free to catch a bit of what I was feeling.

I have done so much praising, just thanking God for the beauty of His marvelous creation. Everything seems so green and so fresh and the air is so clean and crisp.  We had some twists and turns and some of our plans didn't work out.  But it was a wonderful time of rest and relaxation and lots of photo taking.  All in all, just a wonderful vacation.

Jesus, I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend time in your creation.  Holy Spirit, remind us all to step outside, to look up and down and to see and celebrate the world around us.  When things are moving so fast around us, give us places and spaces for rest.  Thank you for waterfalls that remind us of your living water.  Thank you Jesus.  Amen




Friday, July 13, 2018

When the path you are walking is not what you expected....


Ken and I are just a couple days into our vacation  So far we have done much more walking/hiking than we had expected.   A few weeks ago we purchased a book that includes descriptions of state parks in each state.   We actually decided to visit this area so that we could see these parks.  That book has certainly paid off, since we have enjoyed two days in amazing countryside, seeing parks that would never have been on our radar.  As a matter of fact, the park we visited yesterday was so far off the beaten path, we almost couldn't find it!  We had no cell phone service and no GPS (except our phones).  Fortunately, we were close enough to the park to find our way in.  We were a bit concerned about getting back OUT to our hotel, but fortunately we got cell phone service briefly by the visitor center and were able to map our route.  The narrow back roads zigzagged up and down, through valleys  and up steep inclines.  There were breath-taking views that would just pop up as we crested over a hill.  It was awesome.  We were pretty tired by the time we entered the park, after starting our day at 4:00am in Chicago.  So we only took a short walk yesterday.  The map in the picture is actually from our "walk" today. 

We felt pretty rested after a good nights sleep, and ready to hit the trails in the second park.  This park was actually easy to locate.  There were signs showing the way into the park - even on the interstate!  We did not have cell service (again) but it was not a problem to find our way today.  We stopped at the visitor center and picked up this map and actually had a helpful guy mark out that path in yellow.  The trail lengths were marked on the map, but I am sure that those figures are WRONG!  We only took the trails marked "easy" or "moderate" and not those marked "difficult" or "expert".  When we started out, we thought the path was only about two miles to reach the waterfalls.  Boy was that ever wrong.  First of all, the paths were not flat and level. They were uphill and rocky.  And twisty!  It was quiet and peaceful.  There were trees and small streams.  But it was also HOT and HUMID!   We did see some amazing cascading streams and we saw "Stone Mountain" (the name of the park).  However, we were most excited to get back to our (rental) car and discover that it has air conditioned seats!  I guess we don't live far enough south to see this feature on cars in our area.  All I can tell you is that having that cool air blow on your seat and your back is a most pleasant experience.  For all of my northern friends, just remember how wonderful it is to hop in your car on a subzero morning and have that heated seat warm you up, this is exactly that kind of wonderful. 

I was sitting in the car, (letting that air conditioned seat cool me off) watching Ken take some pictures of this pretty stream.  I was enjoying the sound of the water flowing over the rocks and looking at the map (in all honesty I was wondering how that path was so much longer than they claimed).  It dawned on me, just how many times I feel exactly like that about the direction my life is going!
The path of my life is much harder than I thought it would be.  There are so many twists and turns and some days it feels like every step is all up hill.  There are those moments of quiet wonder and also those times when the views are amazing.  But squashed right along with the good times are those times when you just feel like giving up and not going one step further.  While I may not trust or believe the maker of that trail map above, I know that I can count on Jesus, who has created the path for my life.  Even with those difficulties along the way, the destination is assured.  The best part is knowing that that flowing water of the Holy Spirit is always with me. 

If you have not planned some time to just be outside and soak in the wonder of God's creation, you need to do so today.  There is no better way to settle your spirit, to get revived to face those twists and turns of life, than to walk on a path in nature.  Even if that path is not exactly what you expected when you started out.  Even if the walk is more difficult than you thought.  Trust me, it will be worth it!  When you get to the end of that trail, the views are amazing!

Jesus, thank you for knowing  that we would need your creation to restore us.  Holy Spirit, what a wonderful gift those flowing streams of water were for me today.  Remind us all of your presence with us.  Thank you for surprises found in books.  And thank you for mountains and air conditioning!  Amen

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A tribute.....

I was just sitting here, thinking about the last week.  It has been a time of shock, contemplation, memories, as well as a time to look ahead with confidence and hope.  Last Sunday morning, Rich Fick, one of those "giants of the faith"  who have such a huge influence on your life, stepped out of this earthly life and into eternal life.   It was a total shock to everyone.  He had not been sick.  In fact, he was getting ready to go to church and preach a sermon, when Jesus called him home.   If someone were to ask me to name people that had a direct effect on my spiritual growth, Rich would be on the top of the list.  For over 25 years, the teaching, prayer and ministry of Rich and his wife Kay helped build a strong foundation in my life and truly shaped who I am today. .  Rich and Kay's children and my own kids were good friends.  Gwen and Doug both spent many sleepovers at the Fick household and their kids spent time at our house also.  So this was a shock for them as well.   The funeral service yesterday was filled with so many memories, so much laughter, and many tears.  Dan (Rich and Kay's son) preached an amazing sermon.  As Gwen later remarked,Rich would have been so pleased with Dan's words.  Katherine and Tim (Rich and Kay's other children) also shared about their dad. And there were other tributes as well. 

As I considered the tribute that would be shared in this blog, I remembered this....
Oh so many years ago, I created this "scrapbook" frame for Rich and Kay and their ministry, Cyrus Ministries International.    For me, this represents a snapshot of the heart of Rich's mission to follow Jesus.   It may be hard to see in this picture, but the words around the outside of this frame are the foundation of Rich's teachings.   Rich was called into full time ministry after hearing the words, "feed My sheep".  With that charge from Jesus, Rich set out towards that purpose -to share Jesus.  First, speaking the Word.  Everything was bathed in the Bible.  Next, declaring the cross.  Jesus was the main thing.  After these two "biggies" - everything else followed.  There was freedom and broken chains from so many different things that can keep us from experiencing everything we have through Jesus. Seeing Jesus, hearing His voice and staying connected with Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit, were part of this path to freedom.  The kingdom glory of heaven is to be brought to earth - exactly as we pray in the Lord's prayer.  And as that glory fills us and the atmosphere, healing (physical, emotional, spiritual) naturally follow.  Included in bringing heaven to earth is Communion.  The very real presence of Jesus, left as a gift to renew, recharge and empower us.  Finally, go to the nations.  Every one of us is called to share the Gospel message and Rich did exactly that. His international travels touched so many people around the world.   

The single line "Serving God as He unites heaven and earth in Christ" sort of sums up Rich's life. He loved Jesus and expected to live and serve for many, many more years.  But Jesus had other plans.  Now Rich is sitting with all of the famous Bible folks, seeing Jesus face to face after hearing "Well done, good and faithful servant."

In all of the pain and sorrow of this loss, there is hope.  Hope because of Jesus.  Knowing that those who believe in Him will be with Him eternally.    What a comfort that is through the Holy Spirit! 
After this last week, I can't help but remember to be thankful for each day.  To treasure those closest to me and to make each day count.  There is a plan and purpose and destiny for each one of us and we all need to be taking steps towards that destination every day.  Especially now, with technology everywhere, we need to put down our phones and see each other.  Talk to that neighbor.  Call that old friend you haven't spoken to in months. Make a difference for Jesus.  Speak what is on your heart - even if it is hard or uncomfortable.  Above all else, love people with the love of Jesus.  Even the people that are hard to love!  Death is so often a wake up call, isn't it?  And it is not just for us "old" people.  None of us knows the day or hour of our last breath.  It is in God's hand.  Lets all become seed planters, sowing seeds everywhere we go.  And those that water dry ground, pouring out the Holy Spirit all around us. 

Jesus, thank you for all that Rich brought to me as he fulfilled his destiny.  Help me to share with others, to plant seeds and to water them.    Help us all to keep walking towards our destiny.  Fills us with your words so that we can scatter them abroad.  Fill our belly's with the living water of the Holy Spirit.   Keep Rich's entire family close in this time of great loss for them.  Surround them with your love, your comfort and your peace.  Amen


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Time with "GRACE" .... but she is too young to be a guest blogger!

I just spent the last few days taking care of this little cutie while her mommy and daddy are on a much needed "adults only" getaway with some friends.  This is the first time I have been with her overnight and for a few days but as far as Grace was concerned, this was just like a normal day when Grandma Lyn is there.  The first couple of days was rain, rain and more rain.  The poor girl kept asking to go outside, but there was no way we could go out.  Even Sammy and Kylie (the dogs) had to be kicked outside when necessary!  But yesterday was a glorious return to summer with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures.  So we spent the better part of the day outside, enjoying the time together.

The little water table that Grace is playing in was handed down from Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna!  It is a testament to just how well made some of those "Little Tykes" items are.  In spite of almost constant use in the Johnson household, this table is almost like new.  I remember seeing those kids play inside with it filled with rice and outside during every summer.  Now Grace will be enjoying it!  She is the perfect height for it right now.  Most of her "pouring" happened back into the table.  Needless to say, she was not happy when I told her it was time to go in for lunch!  As soon as her nap was over, she was standing by the door, pointing to her shoes and hat and she made a beeline to the table as soon as her feet hit the ground!
Being with her for several days (after not seeing her last week when I was with the older kids) she just seems so grown up.  She manages a spoon all by herself - even with Kix cereal!  And it melts this grandma's heart when she call out "Ga-ma"!  She is learning to say new words almost daily now.  What a blessing it is to be able to see, hold and hug this precious little one.  

Last week, in my few free days between "grandma time", I managed to finish my scrapbook for Grace.
I have made a book for each of my grandchildren that  includes pictures of their first year.  I try to include events that are important to me and pictures of Ken and I with them.  It is always hard to pare down the (way too many) pictures that I have taken and to just use my favorites.  It was hard to not compare this album to Lucas' album.  Until you experience the loss of a baby or child, I don't think you appreciate the fact that although they are not physically with your family, they are still very much a part of your family.  Lucas is so "present" at Doug and Susie's house.  Grace will grow up seeing and knowing all about Lucas.  His pictures are all around the house.   The fact is, no one in our family will ever "get over" the loss of Lucas.  We will always miss him and think about him.  And remember him.  His album is in the stack along with Lia, Ellie, Zeke, Anna and Grace's album.  

Watching Grace playing at the water table, pouring water from cup to bowl, was mesmerizing.  She never seemed to tire of this water play.  And the flowing water reminded me to my life verse...
(from the Passion Translation)  John 7:37
Jesus stood and shouted out to the crowds - "All of you thirsty ones, come to me!  Come to me and drink! Believe in me, so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!"

And there it is, the source of the grace and hope and joy and life that fill my days.  I honestly don't know how you can go on after a loss, without that source of living water filling you every day.  I am so thankful that Doug and Susie decided on Grace's name.  I can not imagine calling her anything else.   And I pray that she continues to grow into the goodness and generosity, beauty and joy that are a part of the meaning of the name Grace.   She is off to a great start!  

Jesus, thank you for time with  my grandchildren.  Help us all to slow down and take time to reflect and remember just how precious life is.  Thank you for leaving us physical things -- flowing water -- to draw our eyes back to what is really important.  Give us ears to hear the waterfalls.  Eyes to see the flowing water.  Hands to touch the coolness of the water. And hearts to receive all that you are speaking to us.  Amen