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

Friday, April 13, 2018

Reflections on being a grandma.....while missing my mom

 Yesterday was (apparently) our one day of spring here in Chicago.  It was a warm and windy morning, followed by an even warmer afternoon.  Grace and I went for a walk in the morning and stopped at the park near their house.  It was so windy that Grace actually got blown over several times trying to walk around the playground.  I could barely push the stroller home in the strong wind!  Later in the afternoon, we ventured outside again and thankfully the wind was gone and it was beautiful.  No sweater needed on this excursion.  We sat on the grass, played with Sammy and Kylie (who were also so glad to be outside) and watched bubbles float by!   I had lots of time to reflect on being a grandma....
Yesterday happened to be 7 years since my mom died.  I thought about her a lot during the day.   In our family we never have to stop and think about how many years it has been since she died because Zeke was born on her birthday, just a bit over one month after her death.  Zeke will soon be 7.  So much of what I know about being a grandma, I learned from my mom.  She had such a special relationship with my kids, in spite of us living a distance apart.  There were many years that we only saw her once or twice a year.  But she stayed connected to my kids and really understood who they were.  It was somewhere around the time of this photo that I remember having a conversation with Gwen.  Through tears, she insisted that Grandma Nona just HAD to be at her wedding someday.  I think she had just come to realize that there was a possibility that my mom may not be alive when that  day came.  Not only did my mom attend Gwen's wedding, she had a close relationship with Lia and Ellie!  It is so interesting to hear Anna talking about Great Grandma Nona who is heaven with Jesus.  Neither Anna or Zeke have any of their own memories of my mom, but Lia and Ellie talk about her all the time. 

Mom was the "silly grandma" who laughed and played games with the kids.  She always seemed to have one of the kids either on her lap or sitting right next to her.  Just this week, Doug was talking about Grandma always having a dish of Reese's pieces next to her chair. Along with her knowing the kids well, the kids also knew what Grandma Nona loved.  Doug said he could see her with her crossword puzzle and cup of coffee sitting in her chair, and he added "at like 4:30am" since she always got up early!  She always had your favorite cookies when you visited and really cared about what you wanted to do.  She loved Yahtzee and Skipbo and Solitare and played a mean game of crazy eights or kings in the corner.  She would shop where the kids wanted to go.  She bought "surprises" and was always up for a Dairy Queen run.  Yes, she was a fun Grandma!

I am so thankful that I live close enough to my grandchildren to really get to know them.  I am thankful for things like texting that allow me to stay in touch with Lia and Ellie - even though they are only 9 and 11!  The legacy of Grandma Nona is a hard act to follow.  There is a lot to live up to!
She prayed for all of her children and grandchildren. She believed that Jesus had a big role in how her family had turned out.  She often remarked that she never knew how to be a mother since she never knew her mom.  And she never knew any grandparents either. 

When I am sitting on the grass with sweet little Grace, letting her put pieces of grass into my hand, I am thinking about my mom filling her pockets with the acorns my kids were picking up in the park.  When I am sitting on the floor playing a game with Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna, I am remembering my mom patiently explaining Yahtzee to my own kids.  When I suggest Wendy's for lunch when I am at Gwen's house, it might be because I know that those kids love Frosties.  And I am remembering those sometimes light night trips to Dairy Queen that always included the kids.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my DNA test and some surprises around that.  It has been interesting to get in contact with some of the cousins from that testing.  It has actually been so fun to finally be in touch with some of my mom's side of the family.  My mom was always sad that we did not stay close with our cousins from her side.  I have often said that I could sit next to my cousin and not even know we are related!  I have 17 cousins that I have no real memory of ever meeting! I actually only saw two of my mom's sisters a few times.  That's what happened when you lived across the country from one another in the 50's, 60's and 70's.  I know that my  mom would have be so pleased that through this DNA, we have connected. 

My mom's legacy includes 5 children, 9 grandchildren, 26 great grandchildren and 3 great-great grandchildren.   While I miss my mom, I am so thankful that she is with Jesus and finally getting to know her own mother.   It is interesting how, as you age, you see things so much more clearly.  I am so thankful that my children were blessed with such a special grandma.  I am trusting that the love and the caring of my mom is helping me to continue her legacy of love. 

Jesus, thank you for my mom and her love and caring that filled our family.  Holy Spirit, remind us all to be present when we are with our family.  Keep us connected to each other, rather than distracted by social media.  Thank you for the opportunity to know my grandchildren.  Jesus, encourage all adults to get to know some of the young people around them.   Amen

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Well Ken and I had a really whirlwind day today.  We left the house at 8:00am and just now returned at 7:00pm.  Quite unusual for us.  The highlight of the day was a really special musical that our sweet Lia presented with her co-op friends.  I just can't say enough about this wonderful co-op that Gwen and Tim found for their home schooled kids. 
There is something so special about watching our Lia, with her friends, put on such a cute performance with an amazing message.  The show was a 1950's take on the Bible story of Joseph.  She did such an incredible job as one of the main characters, with many lines and solos.  Ken and I were just shaking our heads at the fact that she is almost DONE with 6th grade and will soon be a 7th grader!  It hardly seems possible that she will be 12 in a matter of weeks.  We were remembering our own 6th and 7th grade experiences and then talking about Gwen and Doug at 12.  And here is Lia, our granddaughter, so grown up.  Where does the time go?

On our way "up north" (Gwen and Tim live an hour north of us), we decided to take a side trip to the Chicago Botanic Gardens.  Ken had been there last week and  currently a photo exhibit is  there that he wanted to show me.  It was another bitterly cold day - sunny but the temperature was only in the 20's with a slight wind.  The exhibit was held in a building that also includes wonderful tropical gardens. 
There were so many blooming plants!  It was a wonderful taste of spring that was so needed!  We had snow showers on Friday and there is actually 1" of snow predicted for tomorrow and more on Monday.  Being in those hot houses certainly was a break from our dismal weather.  

After Lia's show we took the very long way home.  Ken decided to drive through some of areas that both he and I frequented during our high school years.  So much has changed that we could hardly recognize it.  It was fun to talk about those "good old days" and see some familiar sights.  

After a quick dinner, we decided to swing by the Morton Arboretum to see if any of the spring flowers were blooming yet.  Sadly, it is still brown and winter like there.  The daffodils are up about two inches, but not very close to blooming yet.  

On our way out of the Arboretum several deer crossed the road right in front of us.  They were so beautiful and it is interesting just how difficult it is to see them among the undergrowth.  Since it was almost dusk, I think that they were surprised to see a car driving down that road!  

So, yes, it was a full and busy day.  As I was putting these thoughts onto the page, I was thinking about three Bible verses.  First this verse about grandchildren.....
Proverbs 17:6   Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.
Yes, our grandchildren are certainly a joy.  Each one seems exactly like a beautiful gem stone that might embellish a crown.  They are all so different, yet each cherished for their unique shape.  It is exciting, as a grandparent, to watch your grandchildren grow into their destiny and purpose.  

The second verse that came to my mind was 
Song of Solomon 2:11-12a  See!  The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.  Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come.
Actually, I was singing a song in my head that is from Paul Wilbur, Dance with Me.   This song has always spoken to me and contains the line "winter has past and the springtime has come".  Right now this is really a prayer for the WINTER TO BE PAST!  

The third verse in my head was 
Psalm 42:1  As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  

That Paul Wilbur song is all about being close to Jesus.  It is exactly what David was talking about in Psalm 42.  Even when he was feeling down and despondent, he was hungry and thirsty for God.  This winter has been long and cold and snowy for so many of us this year.  It has seemed dark and dreary for oh so many months.  We all need some of that hot house sprinkle of spring.  We need hope!

I'm closing out this blog with a stanza of one of Lia's songs from her play today.  Even when the winter seems way, way too long, even when those flowers don't seem to want to bloom, no matter what.  Here is your dose of hope....

When I hear... (boom) I know my God is near.
He won't leave me when the storm is raging.
When I hear... (boom) I know my God is near.
He won't forget me when the earth is shaking
Rain or shine, he'll follow through
cause all of his promises are true.
When I hear....(boom) I know my God is near.

Jesus, thank you so much for your words of hope.  Thank you for children and grandchildren.  Thank you for musicals and songs that bring us hope.  Holy Spirit, remind us to look around and see the amazing world and all of creation.  Remind us to look for you to be near us when things seem dark.  Thank you Jesus for this wonderful day.  Amen

Monday, April 2, 2018

Post Easter reflection....seeking truth!

We had a busy and very chilly Easter Sunday.  You would never know it by looking at this picture of Zeke during our family Easter Egg hunt.  It was COLD!  So cold that Doug and Susie didn't keep Grace outside for very long - just long enough to find her eggs.  The older kids took a fairly long time to each locate their special colored eggs.  Zeke managed to find his quickly.  Ellie was the last done with one egg being particularly hard for her to find. Tim did a great job hiding those eggs this year. 

I love the thought of looking eagerly for something.  I used to spend a great deal of time searching for Bible truths that would speak to me.  In the last months I have lost some of that zeal to look for new revelation.  Yes, that is a sad but true statement. So it was exciting to come across a story on the internet about John 20:7.  This is a verse that I have read many times since it is smack dab in the middle of the resurrection story in the book of John.  That is a curious verse that reads....
while the cloth that had covered Jesus' head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.

In the past, I mostly just sort of skipped over that verse.  It really did not seem that significant.  So when I read the article on the internet last week, it sparked my interest.  The premise of the article is that the disciples would have seen something very important in the appearance of the folded up face cloth.  According to the article, it would signify to a servant that the "master" intended to return.  So then there would be an additional "Ah Ha" moment for the disciples.  Not only was Jesus raised from the dead, but he intended to return to them.   This sounded like it could be true.  

But, like everyone should, I searched further on the internet and found that this is a totally UNTRUE interpretation of that verse.  There is nothing to support the premise that the disciples saw the folded face cloth to signify Jesus' return.  Most of the reliable sources say that the reason that these "eye witnesses" to this event included this information is to dispel the rumor that Jesus' body was stolen and taken somewhere else.  If that had happened, the cloth would not have been carefully folded and laid aside.  So that is the best and most likely true reason for that verse to be included in the scriptures.  

The interesting thing about this for me, is that this one story has really encouraged me to once again, dig deeper into the scriptures.  I found myself going between multiple Bible translations and looking at multiple sources of information.  If for no other reason, I am so thankful for finding this story on the internet.  Don't you love how the Bible is such an alive book that one little sentence can speak so much?  And isn't it amazing how the Holy Spirit will use a less than accurate story to get me back into digging into the Bible?  

Today I am grateful that the Holy Spirit reminded me to seek truth about a story, rather than just accepting that it was actually fact.  In this day and age, it is really necessary to seek truth in EVERYTHING you read on the internet.  Even when it SOUNDS right and especially if it is related to a Bible verse.  So I am sharing my discovery to encourage you to be excited about seeking the truth.  Even if a "good story" ends up to be false.  The truth is always better.  

Jesus, thank you for a renewed excitement to search the Bible.  Holy Spirit, help me to stay on track as I seek to discover truth.  Give us all those nudges to investigate things we read, before we accept them as fact.  Thank you for your resurrection story - for you great sacrifice for us all.  Jesus, remind us to seek truth with the excitement of children on an Easter Egg hunt.   Amen  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A book that is sure to make you cry....

Yesterday Lia handed me a book and said "Grandma, I think that you really should read this book.  It is really good and it made mom cry."  Now when an eleven year old gives you a book recommendation, there is most likely a very good reason.  I am a "reader".  You know, one of those people who reads for pleasure and really enjoys it.  This book was included in Lia's home school curriculum and Lia and Gwen had read it together.  

I started reading the book while the kids were doing their school work and finished just after Gwen got home.  The book is a true story (in part) and fictionalized (in part) that tells a story that everyone should hear.  The "main character" is  Salva Dut, a member of the Dinka tribe and a Sudanese Lost Boy.  This book is his story of being forced out of his home in Sudan during a civil war and the journey of his life.  Side by side the author also tells the story of a young girl from a rival tribe in the Sudan and her struggle to provide water for her family.  The girl represents an amalgam of girls from that tribe.  Although this part of the story is fiction, it is based on truth and facts.  Because I want you all to read this book, I will not share the share the ending.   The author has done such a wonderful job with this book, that both Gwen and I were totally stunned by the ending.  We never saw it coming.   I can assure you, it will make you cry.  

I have not been able to get this book out of my head since I put it down.  I knew a bit about the Lost Boys of Sudan.  Over the years I have read accounts of these boys, who were brought to the United States out of refugee camps in Kenya.  I remember that there were some of these boys brought to a boarding school very near to my home.  The newsworthy part of the story was a fight over whether or not they would be allowed to play basketball (which they excelled at) and the school was accused of "recruiting" them specifically for basketball.  In the end, it was determined that the placement of these boys had nothing to do with sports, but was simply humanitarian.   This book about Salva Dut is special because of who Salva is.  The kinds of adversity that he overcame and his strength and determination to go on are awe inspiring.   I was impressed with him before he ever made it to the United States.  

His journey was all about being reunited with his family.  He was separated from them because he was at school when the battle started and he was forced to flee without ever knowing what became of his family.  On every leg of his twisted path to New York, he was thinking about finding his family.  By the time he arrived in New York, he is certain that his entire family was killed in the war. Yet he persevered and finished his education and got a college degree (with the help of his sponsor family in New York).  I don't know how many miles he walked on his journey of exile, but he never gave up.  He just kept walking.  

I am so thankful that Lia has read this book.  The story of the girl who walked miles for water everyday is important.  The reality that 1.8 BILLION people do not have access to clean water is staggering.  This book brought that reality to life through an 11 year old girl's perspective.  If Lia had just read the part of the book about this girl and the lack of water, it might have seemed like such a hopeless situation.  (Spoiler Alert) Instead, there is an actual, genuine answer to that 11 year old girls situation, because of one strong, determined boy, who kept on walking.  

I am hopeful that Lia will continue to be moved by this book. She has been praying for something that she could support that would really make a difference.  And I believe that helping to bring water to those without access is making a difference that counts!

If you would like to actually listen to Salva telling his story in a Ted Talk just click this link.  There are many other YouTube videos also that tell more about this story. You can just search his name.  Don't miss reading the book.  Even when you know the story, it is so worth reading.  The book is available on Amazon.  More than that, make sure that all of those middle schoool/high school kids you know, read this book.  There are so many lessons for life contained in these pages.  

So I am ending today, so thankful for the clean, clear water that flows freely out of spigots and spouts in my home.  I am seeing so much more in my glass than I did before I read this book.  I am seeing God's plan to use some children to change a small part of the world by bringing life giving water to the people.  What an amazing testimony of God's handiwork and a picture of the flowing water of the Holy Spirit that brings eternal life to all who believe in Jesus!

Jesus, thank you for this book and for Salva Dut.  Continue to bless him as he works to bring clean water to South Sudan.  Holy Spirit, instill in us the courage and boldness to keep walking, especially when it seems impossible. Remind us all to see blessing in clean water.  Thank you for Lia and her desire to make a difference that counts!  Amen  

Friday, March 9, 2018

When DNA results don't tell your story.....

This picture from 1912 is my maternal grandfather with all of his siblings at the funeral of their father.  My grandfather, Arnold Toensing, is second from the left, back row, in this picture.  Aunt Anna (who was like a grandma to my family) is on the right in the front row.  My grandfather and Aunt Anna both died before I was three years old.  I have a couple very sketchy memories of them.  However I have very clear memories of Aunt Lydia, pictured on the far left.  We visited her several times after we moved to St. Paul when I was six years old.  It is interesting to look at a picture and see people that you have heard so much about, but never met and you KNOW that you are related to them.

Well, a few months ago I decided to do an Ancestry DNA test.  I thought I knew exactly what would show up on this test since I have clear family tree records.  I know that my dad was 100% Swedish (both his parents came to the US directly from Sweden) and I know that my mom's mother was 100% Norwegian and her dad (pictured above) was 100% German.  Therefore, my DNA should be 75% Scandinavian and 25% German.  Apparently, you really can't believe your DNA tests!

My results actually do not show any German at all!  What????  I have the most detailed information about the Toensing family, including photos of relatives that still live in family homes in Germany.  My mom knew all about the Toensing family since both her dad and Aunt Anna told many, many stories of their parents immigration to the United States along with four of their siblings!  Yes, four of those people pictured above were actually born in Germany.  So what gives???

Well, to start off, my sister Julie has also done this DNA test and believe it or not, we do not share enough DNA to be siblings.  We have several first cousins, out of our 34 first cousins, that have also done this test and at least one of these does NOT show up at all as a relative of my sister.  We have totally different results.  And strangely enough, she DOES have German included in her results. 

However, in spite of this DNA result, I know that my German ancestors sowed many Spiritual seeds into my life.  I am so thankful for the detailed written and photographic evidences I have of my true heritage.  The son of one of my mom's cousins actually has traced the entire Toensing family tree.  He has visited relatives in Germany and also in South Africa.  The photo above was given to me, along with many others, by this man.   More than that, I am blessed with the knowledge through oral history (stories told to my mother and then retold to me) of the faith journey of our family.  I love that I know the connection - one generation to the next - and the way that the faith journey of these past generations are influencing me today.  This has given me a renewed desire to write, to tell and retell all of the precious memories from the generations before me, so that they are not lost to my children and grandchildren.  Exactly what I wrote about in my last blog post. 

I actually decided to do the DNA test after Ken did his.  Since he is adopted, we were more curious about what the DNA would show.  There was nothing very exciting on his results and no close relatives were found.  After seeing my results I really don't put much stock on the results of these tests anyway. 

So now I have another reason to continue to do this blog.  These posts about my daily life and memories of the past are being done for the future.  I am hopeful that there will be a time when my grandchildren will be interested enough to look through these posts and find a connection to their long ago generations.  I am praying that they will see the fruitfulness and the faithfulness of Jesus in my life when they read these words!

Jesus, thank you so much for photos and stories from the past that keep us connected to our ancestors.  Holy Spirit, help us to remember the importance of oral story telling, as well as written and photographic memories.  Jesus, thank you for the spiritual heritage that is woven into my family.  Amen