Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Entering a new season....

Yesterday at Doug and Susie's it was pretty clear that Grace has entered into a new season of life...walking!  She is finding it quite difficult to carry items from one place to the other while crawling and therefore, she is forced to walk.  This is a slow and unsteady process for her, but still she has to resort to this mode of movement if she wants to bring an important item with her on her journey. 
She wanted to show me this special book, but I was sitting way across the room.  After several attempts at crawling and not being able to hold on to the book (she even tried putting it in her mouth without much success) she finally stood up and walked the 7 or steps over to me.  She was very pleased with  herself when she finally delivered the book onto my lap. 
This special book holds pictures of our family that she can page through .  You can see that she has found her mommy and daddy, as well as our family picture.  **Side note - special thanks to Aunt Gwen and family for this great 1st birthday present!  She loves this book so much.  It is soft and "chewable" and also as a handle which makes it much easier to carry! 

I also noted yesterday, that all of a sudden she is using so many "baby signs"!  We have all been using these signs for many months - things like milk, more, all done, water, bye-bye, please and thank you - and now Grace is actually making her wishes known through sign.  She has grown into a toddler and left baby behind.  Yes, it is a new season for her and for all of us!

Today is also the beginning of another season - Lent.  With my Lutheran background, Lent was an important observed time for me.  I would usually being a Lenten Journey devotional and also considered "giving something up" for the 40 days of Lent.  We would be encouraged to spend extra time considering the life of Jesus each day as we contemplated His sacrifice on the cross.  Honestly, today I was thinking about how incredibly meaningful Lent has been for me over the years.  I loved helping kids understand this connecting season between the birth and the death of Jesus. During those years of bringing the message to kids, I encountered Jesus in such a deep and meaningful way.  Isn't it interesting just how many times teachers learn and grow just as much as the students?  

One of my very favorite Lenten memories is a very special time with two amazing ladies that happened to work with me - one as a parish nurse and one as a youth director.  I was the church secretary.  We had our own sort of "small group" and often prayed together and encouraged one another.  We were all reading the same devotional that Lent and one particular day, the message was on worship.  We were alone in the church and decided to go into the sanctuary and worship together.  It was a blessing that the youth director was also an amazing worship leader and singer.  There we were, just the three of us in a large room, an unlikely trio, singing our praises to Jesus.  For me that was a game changing moment.  Lent became a time of offering more worship and praise to Jesus.  It became a time of a deepening understanding of fellowship and friendship.  Instead of "giving something up" for Lent, each Lent that followed that experience became a time of growing closer to Jesus and to those most precious to me.  

It was fitting that today, Ash Wednesday, was also my small group meeting.  As I sat there and looked around at those women, I was reminded of that long ago worship time with Lynn and Jade.  And my heart was very full.  What a blessing to be moving into this new season - here in 2018 - growing closer to Jesus and being surround by my shield-sharing prayer warriors.  I believe that this new season we are all called to give out rather than give up during Lent.  Give out your love to those near and dear to you.  Give out your praise and thanksgiving to Jesus. Give out a smile to the clerk at the store.  Give out a kind word to a neighbor.  You get the idea.  It is really easy.  

I am challenging you and I am challenging myself to this 40 days of giving out.  My small group today was such a blessing, leaving me feeling filled up with warmth and love.  I can't wait to see what Jesus has in store for the next 39 days.  Won't you join me?

Jesus, you are the author and creator of seasons.  You have given us rhythms and changes in the natural to guide us through our lives.  Holy Spirit, draw us ever closer to Jesus during this season of Lent.  Remind us when we have a moment or two that we can spend it in worship and thanksgiving rather than on Facebook.  Thank you Jesus for friends who impact us so powerfully.  Amen 

Friday, February 9, 2018

When winter brings snow.....

Since it is February, Chicago should not be surprised to get some snow.  But this snow was predicted to be a "BIG" snow (think 9-12").  There was enough confidence in the forecast to get all of the schools in the area to close.  We were in the high end of the snowfall and as of right now (according to the national weather service) we have had between 6 and 7".  There is another 1-3" predicted for overnight and then more on Sunday.  So I guess this does qualify as a big snowfall.  I just love the quiet calmness of this view from our living room.  The snow is so puffy and clean.  One of my all time favorite banners in church had a snow scene and part of Psalm 51:7 that said "wash me and I will be whiter than snow".  Every time I see a snow scene, I remember those verses from David's heart.  He was deep in the pit of sin, and he knew his sinfulness could only be taken away by God.  It was a plea for help.  It is such a powerful thing to realize that we need the sacrifice of Jesus to bring that clean, white, snow-like, freshness to us - that only His shed blood can accomplish.  A true paradox - being covered by the blood, makes us white as snow. 

Isn't it funny how easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking that you have everything under control?  I don't know if it is our society, or just humanness, but I believe most of us struggle in some way or another with trying to handle "life" in our own strength.  This week Gwen sent me an amazing verse from the Message and I just love the clarity it brings.....

"Jesus looked hard at them and said, "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself.  Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it."   Matthew 19:26

Well, there is so much to think about in that verse!  In the translation that I normally use (NIV) the verse says "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."   This verse falls right in the middle of the disciples asking Jesus how to enter the kingdom of heaven.  I have always thought about this verse showing just how powerful God is.  I know that is most certainly true.  However, the verse from the message opens up the need to trust God in those situations where I have decided that I can handle things MY way.  You know, be in control.  I have been reflecting on the times when there wasn't any chance I could pull off my plans, and also those times when I did fully trust God to handle things and then they worked out great.  Because, let's face it, things work out much better when we realize that when we are weak then He is strong. 

You can't control the weather and you can't stop the snow in February.  Your life might seem dark and dirty right now.  Look at that snowy scene.  Jesus has made a way for us all to be as clean as snow.  You just can't get there on your own strength.   But  there is every chance in the world if you trust God to do it. 

Jesus, thank you for bringing us into the Kingdom of Heaven by the shedding of your blood.  Holy Spirit, remind us to trust God to do the impossible things.  Give us eyes to see your plan of salvation when we look at the snow.  Fill us with your love.  Help us have the courage to let go of control and rest in your peace.   Amen

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Come to the table.....

Last Saturday we celebrated Grace!  She was an amazing champ for her birthday.  She got passed from one person to the next, with everyone wanting a turn to hold and love on her.  She smiled and loved her way through the day.  She just beamed as everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to her.  And then she dug into the cake.  She didn't smash it, as some kids have been known to.  She rather daintily stuck one finger into the cake and ate it finger full by finger full.  She was in no hurry to stop.  Doug and Susie finally called a halt to the cake eating after several minutes.  The highlight of the party was an unexpected one.  After cake and presents and pinata for the kids, some of the party goers were gathered in the living room.  Grace was intrigued by the strings from the pinata.  And with her adoring fans watching, (unfortunately none of us with a video running) Grace took 7 or 8 steps across the room to get to her mom, who was holding those strings.  We tried to get her to do this again with videos running, but alas, she was having none of it.  But mark my words, it was an accomplishment.   And for the crowd of Grace lovers, it was a wonderful and treasured moment. 

This week I have been listening to a song that has really been speaking to me.  It is Come to the Table by Sidewalk Prophets.    It is interesting how a song can immediately grab your attention and this song did that on the opening lines for me......
We all start on the outside, the outside looking in
This is where grace begins
We were hungry, we were thirsty with nothing left to give
Oh the shape we were in
Just when all hope was lost, love opened the door for us.

I have been in two very different places with this song - both meaningful to me for very different reasons.  ***Side note - isn't it amazing how one song can speak to so many people, in so many different ways? 

Starting off with Grace and her birthday.  Her name couldn't be more perfect for her.  I have blogged about this before.  After Lucas' death, our family suddenly found ourselves in a world we never imagined.  It was a hard, difficult couple of years for me, and I can only imagine just how much harder it was for Doug and Susie.  Then, just as this song says, love opened the door for us - where Grace begins - when our sweet little Grace was born.  On Saturday, at her party, it was little Grace that drew everyone to the table to celebrate not only her birthday, but the love that has filled our family since her birth. It was Jesus who was the giver of hope for us during those dark days.  He continued to call out to us to come to Him, no matter what shape we were in, Jesus kept that door open for us to sit down at the table with Him.

The second reason that this song has been on my heart is that opening line.  Being outside and looking in.   Many years ago I struggled with this exact thought.  I felt like I was never invited to be on the inside.  I would see a wonderful banquet/party happening - but I would be looking through a window and never welcomed inside.  It was such a cold place to be.  This song would have been so helpful THEN!  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit managed to find me in that place, and show me that ALL are welcome at that party.  I just love how clearly the song expresses that invitation to all of us, no matter what is in our past.  No matter where we are right now.  I love the line in the song that says...

Come meet this motley crew of misfits, these liars and these thieves
There's no one un -welcomed here - no

The chorus of the song says it all.  Just come to the table. Come join the sinners, you have been redeemed.  Take your place beside the Savior, sit down and be set free.   

Just come to the table.  

Jesus, thank you for the invitation you give to ALL!  Holy Spirit, reach out right now to anyone who feels on the outside of this amazing party.  Thank you for your grace and mercy that finds us in those hard places.  Thank you Jesus for providing the table of  Communion so that we can enter into your presence more fully each time we come to the table.  Thank you for family, for birthdays and for your love.   Amen

Friday, February 2, 2018

One year old cutie pie and a "senior citizen"!

Yesterday was this sweet little Grace's FIRST birthday!  I had the pleasure of spending the day with her while her mommy and daddy work.  I tried all day to get a cute picture, but when you are one year old you are either asleep or constantly on the move - or eating.  This was the best of the blurry pictures that I captured on my phone.  At any rate, we had a really fun day of play.  She is not quite walking by herself, but she can cruise really fast and crawl like a streak.  Doug and Susie have a really interesting gate setup in their larger than a doorway opening to the family room.  The problem with this larger gate is that the dogs have figured out how to push the gate aside to get into the family room.  So Grace, being the smarty pants that she is, watched the dogs and now pushes the gate aside to get OUT of the family room!  So I spent a large part of the day trying to keep the dogs OUT and trying to keep Grace IN!  The funny thing is that she high tails it directly to the dog bed and toys in the living room when she escapes and the dogs high tail directly to Grace's high chair (hoping to find a stray cheerio on the floor) when they get into the family room.

Here it is, another birthday of a grandbaby and I can't help but reflect in a somewhat similar way on Grace as I did to Anna on her birthday just a few days ago.
This is the "name frame" that I completed for Grace.  These words represent the picture that Jesus gave me before she was born for the plan and destiny for her.  I had a really interesting dream that was sort of like Jack and the Beanstalk.  I saw a large vine extending up to heaven. All of the treasures of heaven would be available through Grace.  And just like Jack in that tale, Grace would he able to fight the giants in the land with a weapon of joy and through song.  I saw her worshiping from the top of that vine, with songs that reached all over earth.    And here she is one year old.  I can tell you that this sweet little girl loves everything musical.  She will dance to any little bit of music she hears.  It is really clear that music is in her blood.  There is no doubt to our family, that she has brought joy and laughter to us.  Grace almost always has a smile on her face.   And she has a large group of people that love her.  When we most needed it, Grace brought hope to our family.  I can't wait to see her destiny play out in the years ahead.  

This has been a week of birthdays.  Grace actually shares a birthday with my sister Karen, who would have been 80 years old yesterday.  Sadly, Karen died in 2007 and I've found that I seem to miss her more each year.  I've been missing my mom also these days.  Along with Ken's retirement, I have just been "feeling" old.  At my small group this past week, we talked about how important it was to know and remember that our life is not over because we are over 60.  It is so easy to fall into the trap that there is nothing left for you to do or accomplish as a senior citizen. We talked about finding ways to discover purpose for the years ahead.  I am so thankful for the time that I get to spend with my kids and grandchildren.  Getting a chance to really know them, to know how to pray for them and to have time to enjoy them and be an influence in their lives, is a wonderful part of my purpose.  The key to finding this purpose is to remember that we are always moving forward into the future, therefore, our purpose can and will change.  In other words, DON'T GET STUCK!  Keep moving forward.  

So, there is Grace at 1 year old - with so much ahead for her.  And here I am, over 60 with so much ahead for me.  Yes, birthday's are a great time to celebrate the time that has past and look ahead to the future.  I am thankful for the reminder that it is good to keep looking ahead.  

No matter where you are in you life - young or old - single or married - celebrate!  This day is what we have been given.  Live your life with purpose.  Make a difference where you are.  Smile and laugh.  Make today count.  Walk forward with confidence into tomorrow.  

Jesus, what a wonderful and amazing God you are.  You shower us with your grace and peace and fill us with your love.  Holy Spirit, help us to be present in our life each day.  Remind us to be grateful for the small blessings.  Thank you Jesus for Grace and the destiny you have for her.  Amen

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Amazing how quickly time goes by...

Yesterday we celebrated Anna's fourth birthday! Her actual birthday is on Tuesday, so she will have a few days long birthday celebration.   She had a "Shopkins" party at "the gymnastics place" (as she calls it).  Each one of her older siblings has had a party at this spot that provides a large bounce house room, lots of obstacle/gymnastics floor fun, and a foam pit that you can swing and/or slide into.  You can imagine that it is a dream party for all ages of kids.  The party ends with cake in a party room.  It is a relatively quiet finish to the party since most of the kids are just plain tired out!  It was an interesting mix of kids - some from school, some from co-op and then family friends, as well as her cousin, Grace!  It just doesn't seem possible that she is already four years old.  This seems like it was only a little while ago...
She was such a snugly baby!  I was thinking about Anna and how her personality has developed over these four years.  In so many ways she seems much older than four.   I know that is because she has those older siblings.  But some of it is just her natural "bent".  She engages in imaginative play for hours at a time with little people, barbies, her peppa pig figures or her dolls.  Anna is incredibly self sufficient.  Last week she told me that she can reach everything she needed for her breakfast as long as she had her stool.  (She actually said the Ellie stool, since it IS Ellie's stool and has her name on it).  She is fearless and bold in most situations.  I remember that she insisted that she could ride a two wheel bike without training wheels, just because all of her siblings were doing it.  I did a little "interview" with her last week and got these responses to my questions....
What is your favorite color ----  pink and purple and I like blue
What is your favorite animal ----- dog cuz I love Chandler
What is your favorite thing to play ---- Peppa Pig
What is your favorite food ----  spaghettio's and cinnamon rolls (only daddy's)
What is your favorite place to go ---- ballet!   I love ballet! But I like co-op also and school

Yes, ballet.  She was so ready to start ballet classes with "Miss Bridget".  She has spent her entire life watching both Lia and Ellie go to dance class and practice dances at home.  I love the video we have of her doing both Lia and Ellie's dances from last years recital.  She not only knew the dances, she knew the names of all the steps.  So when she started "pre-ballet" last September, she was more than ready.  She is anxiously awaiting her first dance recital - on the BIG STAGE, which will happen in late May.  

Watching each of my grandchildren grow, change and become exactly who they are supposed to be is one of the best parts of being a grandma.  I am so thankful for the revelation of destiny for each of my grandchildren.   Before Anna was even born, I felt that she would really be a forceful and strong girl.  It is her destiny to bring everything that is heavenly into our world.  She will shower the world with the love that comes from God.  She will be a peacemaker in truly supernatural ways.  And she will seek justice and truth in all situations.  I simply can't wait to see how Anna grows and changes in the years ahead.  What a privilege to watch as her destiny unfolds.  

In my last blog, "called but not qualified", I described an early calling on my own life.  Each person has a calling, a destiny and plans given by God.  The best and most interesting thing about about being "unqualified" for this calling and destiny and plans is that Jesus ALWAYS provides exactly what we need as soon as we take the first steps towards that calling.   He gives us supernatural wisdom to accomplish tasks that we do not have the "natural" or "learned" ability to do.  Jesus will place us in the exact right places to meet others who will play a part in our walk towards that call.  
There is always revelation given, as we seek it and ask for it, along the way.  There is a certainty in your spirit, when you are pressing towards an accomplishment and you just know it is so far above anything that you could ever do in your own strength.  That certainty is that Jesus has given you the strength and power and wisdom to do HIS calling and complete HIS plans.  One thing is certain, it is always good to have people around you who can encourage, guide and aide you are you are on this journey called life.  And being an encourager, a guide and a helper is exactly what a grandparent can be.  

Today look around you and see the people that Jesus has placed in you life to help you along the way toward your calling. Now send them a message or a phone call to thank them for being there for you. And then stop and think about those who YOU need to support in their walk.  We need each other so much as we live out our days here on earth.  No one can go it alone.  Do it today.  For time is going swiftly by......

Jesus, thank you for all that you speaking to us today.  Holy Spirit, help us to carry out the challenge to see the helpers you have placed around us.  Even more, help us to see those who need us to accomplish their destiny.  Jesus, thank you for your call and destiny for each of us. Thank you for Anna.  Continue to give her courage and boldness to walk out your calling and destiny.   Amen

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Called but not qualified

I have been thinking about this picture all day today.   I have started to write a blog post several times over the last week, but they are sitting in the "draft" mode and most likely, I will never publish them.  Nothing that I have put on paper has seemed to be just right.  After my last blog I was determined to blog more and to put all of my thoughts out there.  No matter what.  But that is so much harder than it sounds. 

This picture represents one of my very first memories.  I don't actually remember having this picture taken when I was three years old.  But I do remember that outfit.  The jumper was a deep blue and the trim on the ribbon was red.  The embroidery on the blouse was also red and the little bow was red.  I don't know why I remember this so well, but I am sure about the colors - even though the picture is black and white.  I've been thinking about this picture after spending some one-on-one time with Anna on Monday.  Gwen had a crazy, busy day so she asked if I would come and pick Anna up after  preschool.  I was quite happy to get just a bit of time to be with Anna without the older kids around.  As the youngest of four, Anna is usually not that much of a conversationalist.  When you get her alone, it is just the opposite!  What an amazing little girl, who will be four years old next week.  She was happy to tell me all about her day in preschool.  She even shared that her teacher was "really bummed" that she forgot to sing the dinosaur song. What an amazing little girl - she seems much older than three going on four all of a sudden.  She was very excited to ride in my car and insisted on hanging her "pack pack" (her back pack) on the hook in the back seat.  On my way home from their house, I was reflecting on my time with Anna, and wondering just how much she will remember of days like this.  And that led me to think about this picture.  Memories are really funny things. 

Somewhere around the time that this picture was taken, I had a life changing dream.  In this dream, Jesus and I were walking in a beautiful garden.  There were all kinds of flowers and birds and trees. Even as a little girl, I remembered how incredible the place was.  We were walking on a path that seemed to just go on forever.  Jesus was holding my hand.  Even now, when I think about this dream, I can feel his hand holding mine.  Jesus had a very important message for me.  A very simple message.  Jesus was the Son of God and he had died on the cross to take away all the bad things we had done.  And he did not stay dead.  He came alive again and is in heaven with God.  Easter is not about the candy and the Easter bunny.  It is a true story about Jesus.  I was supposed to tell everyone about Jesus. 

I can't explain this dream.  While my family attended church, we did not really ever talk about things like this.  I don't remember ever having a conversation with anyone about Jesus, the cross or Easter prior to this dream.  I do remember talking to my mom AFTER this dream and telling her I was going to tell everyone about Jesus.  Her response was to tell me that we don't talk about this to other people.  It was not something I should share with anyone else.  So, I did not go and tell everyone about Jesus at that time.  It was many, many years later when I realized that the dream was really the point when Jesus called me to be a truth teller and a sharer.  I just never felt qualified to do that!
In total truth telling, I don't feel very qualified right now!

It really is a mystery how God really doesn't look around for the most qualified people to do His work.   It is also interesting how many times He calls on children to carry out his plans.  Lets face it, if we are qualified to do a job, we often don't have to have any help.  When you can accomplish something in your own strength and power, you don't really need God, do you?   Once I acknowledged this call on my life, and also just how unqualified I was for this task, it was quite easy to call out to Jesus for help.  It has been a slow process towards acting on that first call on my life. 

This blog is just part of me finally fulfilling that first call on my life.  I am telling everyone who reads this blog that Jesus is real.  He really died on that cross for you and for me.  And He really rose from the dead and is now in heaven with God the Father.  If you believe in Him you will be saved.  It is that simple.  There is nothing that you have to do.  Jesus has done it all for you. 

There are so many very qualified people out there, with training and theological degrees.  There are well known, world traveling evangelists that are much more qualified than me to carry this message.  Tonight I am very thankful for the means to write this blog and the method to transmit it out into cyberspace.  Only Jesus could have planned to use someone as unqualified as me to share this message.   I am sure that each person reading this blog, has a destiny and calling unique to you.  That is just who God is.  He loves us each so much.  We are all pieces in the puzzle of His plan.  We each have an important destiny to fulfill.  Don't hesitate is you feel unqualified for the calling.  Remember, nothing is impossible with God!

;Jesus, thank you for this very powerful memory through this picture that brought me back to the dream that needed to be shared today.  Holy Spirit, give us all clarity as we consider what Jesus is asking of us.  Help us to know your presence with us.  Jesus thank you for being patient with us as we walk on towards your calling. Thank you Jesus for children.  Amen

Monday, January 15, 2018

Thinking the middle of a snowstorm!

Ken came home from the store with these really amazing tulips.  Don't they just scream SPRING?  The problem is that the truth is very far from that.... we are having a snowstorm!  As of right now we have a bit over 4" and more is predicted. It's not a blizzard or anything, but still, it is enough snow to have to bring out the snowblower.  Our back yard looks like this...
Ken and I were both thankful that we did not have to leave the house this morning.  It is a holiday, but it is also very nice for Ken to be able to sleep in and not worry about cleaning off the cars and the driveway and then driving to work in nasty conditions.  So, for today, he is enjoying retirement.  I got to stay in today since Gwen has the day off of school.  We had planned a fun activity with the kids for today, but the roads and weather caused us to cancel   The kids were quite sad, but we promised them a reschedule soon.  

Today I am so grateful to be able to live my life in the "think spring" in spite of the circumstances looking very wintry, mode.  With hope, with vision, you can see beyond what is right in front of you.  Somewhere around Christmas, I passed over another blog milestone - 700 blogs.  That hardly seems possible!  When I started this blog way back in 2013, I really had no idea where it would take me.  I just received my 5th blog book in the mail - one for each year I have been blogging.  I am so thankful for these printed evidences of the work and time that I have put into this blog.  More than that, it is a printed record of the pictures and words that I have shared.  I realized early on, that there was more to this blog than I originally thought.  People all over the world are somehow interested in what I have to say.  It had to be a God thing, since I am just an old grandma, sitting in her craft room, typing words that I thought were only for me!  Along the way, I have interacted with some amazing people.  Comments and emails have come from almost every corner of the world.  I have had readers in places that I had to look up, since I had no idea where they were!  (For example Macao, which is actually part of China).  I've said it before, there is more to this blog that what I thought.  

Recently, I received an email from a gal who lives in Australia.   It was an encouragement for me to continue to write and even expand what I am writing.     I don't know her personally, but we have corresponded several times over the last few years.  This certainly was the push that I needed to both continue blogging and also work on some other writing projects that I have had in the works for quite a while.  It was certainly a "God thing" to me when I read the email.  So I am finding that I have a renewed vision for this blog.  And it feels a bit like a springtime break through.  Just like those tulips are bringing a bit of a break from our wintry weather.  

No promises, but you might expect to see more frequent blogs from me in the weeks ahead.  Suddenly it feels like I have so much to share.  That is a welcome feeling after weeks feeling like I should stop putting words on a page.  Please pray for me.  I am sensing those angels surrounding me, even more clearly than before.  Going forward, I want to be sure that it is the correct words being shared, not just words to fill a page.  Guess I don't have to understand all of this to just KNOW that Jesus has called me to this and so I will obey.

If you are feeling "stuck" right now, or in the  middle of a winter funk, take heart.  Spring is just around the corner!  And you can look ahead to that warmer, sunnier time that is really just a few page turns away on a calendar.  Buy yourself some spring flowers, it is guaranteed to change your mood! One thing is certain, the weather is bound to change!

Thank you Jesus for the means to reach the world from my warm cozy house.  Holy Spirit, help me stay true to the message you would have me share.  Remind us that we are all moving ahead, into the future. Give a renewed sense of purpose to all those who choose to share in print.  Thank you Jesus for all around the world who read these blogs.  Bless them!  Amen