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

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