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

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Birthdays, tea party and really freaky snowstorm!

On Monday, I celebrated Ellie's 9th birthday a day early.  She turned 9 (and Doug turned 36) on Tuesday!  I had a long discussion with Ellie about her wishes for her birthday presents and she was quite specific about what was on her list.  Of course, her greatest wish was also the "toy of the year" for girls her age.  This grandma had a bit of a stressful time when I thought that I would not be able to find any of the items on her list. Even Amazon was sold out!  It was a miracle that I happened into the local ToyRUs on the day that they received a shipment of the exact items that she wanted!  So it was a happy grandma that was able to give Ellie exactly what she wanted. And it was a very happy Ellie. 

 (Side note, this toy of the year is LOL dolls.  They are a series of little collectible dolls that have "accessories" like clothes, shoes and jewelry, as well as "little sisters" to each of the big dolls. And by "big" dolls I mean they are about 2 inches tall and the little sisters are about 1/2" tall.  Of course you don't just get the doll.  Each item is packaged separately in "blind bags" that you have to open.  Now that you know the size of these dolls, imagine just how small the accessories are!
Oh, and the big dolls don't just come in a bag.  They are hidden in a foaming bath bomb ball that you have to place in water and let fizz until the doll is revealed!  Listen, I could not make this stuff up!  I am telling you the honest truth!  And this is the toy of the year!)    

It was especially wonderful to see just how delighted Ellie was with her gifts.  She has really grown up in the last year and suddenly just seems so old!  This girl has the biggest heart I have ever seen.  She would give away her most prized thing if she thought that you wanted it.  She is the most loving and caring girl.  She has a creative gift that is extraordinary.  There is no trash to Ellie.  She takes boxes and packaging and creates amazing things.   She is cutting and creating from morning until night.  Usually making something for someone else.  Right now she is working on making bracelets for all the girls coming to her birthday party.  When she is not doing that, she is working on large jigsaw puzzles.  As I am writing this, and thinking about what makes Ellie who she is, I am reminded of the clear message I received for her of God's plan and destiny for her life.  She is a warrior who will be praying for others.  Her gifts will bring her to places and people that will need God's love. She will be there, declaring and sharing Jesus will everyone around her.  I can't wait to see what Ellie accomplishes in the years ahead.

After all that birthday celebration, I was helping Anna clean up her bedroom.  She was very clear that all the cleaning was being done, just so that we could have a tea party.  After everything was put away and things were exactly right, Anna prepared the tea for us.  She did not need any help (of course) getting the water from the bathroom for our "tea".  We each had a doll that would need help and I was given very clear instructions for the help that was needed.  The highlight of the tea party for me was Anna's great surprise that this "old" grandma was able to sit "crisscross applesauce" on the floor!
It is so wild for me to spend time with Anna since it feels like I am in a time warp and back to spending time with Gwen.  Anna is so much like Gwen in so many ways.  In typical Grandma fashion, I manage to call Anna, Gwen more than once!  

Then on Tuesday, Grace and I had a fun day of play.  Our Chicago weather was typically crazy beginning on Monday evening.  We had rain, followed by sleet, followed by little icy pellets, followed by more rain and finally snow.  By Tuesday midday, the ground had basically cleared.  The sky had a really funny cloud bank and it was pretty windy and cold.  But the sun was shining!  Then out of nowhere came this burst of a blinding snowstorm.  And there were giant flakes of snow - like half dollar size!  The snow was swirling around and you couldn't see very far for all the snow.  This is how Grace stood for over half an hour!  She wanted to get to those snowflakes in the worst way. 
Pretty quickly the ground was once again covered with snow.  But as quickly as it started, it came to a halt.  And within another hour or so, all the snow was gone!  But the wonder and joy of Grace stayed with me.  Seeing snow in the eyes of a one year old really changes things!

This couple of days has just reinforced for me how incredibly blessed I am to be able to spend time with my grandchildren.  Being with them on regular days, just doing normal things, allows me to get to know who they really are.  I just love seeing all of the wonderful gifts and talents in each of the kids.  Being able to share birthdays, and tea parties and snow showers with them is not only making memories it is sowing seeds into future generations.  Our life is influenced by our ties to past generations and we have the ability to leave a lasting legacy for our family.  Gwen sent me this quote out of her current Beth Moore Bible Study ....
I loved this paragraph so much!  Yes, it is God's way for fruitfulness and faithfulness to come from being connected one generation to the next.   Knowing and receiving from our past generations and then being intentional to sow into those around us will bare fruit in the future.  

During our tea party, Anna started talking great grandma Nona (my mom) she called her "great grandma Nona that I never met".  She knows all about her.  She talks about her and she knows that she is in heaven with Jesus.   She is connected to her  through me, through her mom and through her sisters.  When she gets older she will hear many stories about her.  But she knows, already, the most important thing.  Great Grandma Nona loved Jesus and is in heaven with Him.  Her faith is being shared with Anna because of the spiritual lineage of our family.  

My encouragement to you today is to take this short paragraph to heart.  Look at the spiritual seeds in your past generations.  Think about taking time to share with those around you what is happening in your own spiritual journey.  Start right now leaving a spiritual legacy for future generations.  

Jesus, thank you so much for all these special times.  Thank you for the gifts and talents that you have placed into each of us.  Holy Spirit, give us courage to look at our past generations and open our eyes to the spiritual legacy that was given to us.  Jesus, help us to connect to those around us in open and honest ways.  Give us grace to share our spiritual journey with others.  Amen

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Walk in the sunshine.....thanksgiving is at the "root"... It's all about perspective!

Yesterday and today were days of glorious promise of springtime to come weather.  Grace and I took our first walk in many, many months.  I don't know which of us was happier to be outside getting some fresh air and sunshine!  We spent an hour exploring the neighborhood and then came home and sat in the backyard watching Sammy and Kylie (the dogs) romp around the yard.  Sammy came out and immediately spread out in the grass, in the sun.  That outside air made for a long afternoon nap for Grace!  We are so thankful for the little taste of warmer weather. Since this IS Chicago and tomorrow is only March 1, we most likely are not totally done with winter just yet.  But this burst of sun and warmth was wonderful. 

Today at my small group, we had a guest presenter and got to paint a picture!  I was worried when I saw that I would have to paint a tree.  Trees are HARD!  But I pushed through and finished my painting.  It is not my favorite painting, but here it is...
I am sure that you can not see what this is SUPPOSE to be.  I am very thankful that I know the story of this tree. 
Here is the "original" picture painted by our guest presenter.  Rebecca painted this after seeing olive trees during a recent visit to Israel.  I don't think that I have ever really considered olive trees, but she told us that they are mentioned many times in the Bible.   She showed us a picture of the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane - some of which have roots that were there over 2,000 years ago when Jesus walked there.  Today was supposed to be about painting - which it certainly was.  But I gained so much more from all the discussion about the olive tree.  Thinking about the roots of that tree that survive and flourish over and over again.  Even when it may seem as if they are dead, the roots spring forth new life.  Rebecca shared that there are wild olive trees in Israel, but they do not bear fruit.  They must be grafted into a fruit bearing tree!  What a picture of God's plan to bring all of us into His family.  In Romans 11:17, Paul makes a clear reference to this, reminding the gentiles that we have been grafted into the tree that is supported by the rich root that brings fruit bearing.  Looking at my very feeble attempt to duplicate her picture, I am reminded of God's amazing plan.  That not so clearly defined olive tree brings thankful praises to my heart.  I love that the sea of blue behind the tree is the Sea of Galilee. Although I have never been to Israel, it is my dream to someday walk in those places.  

I told Ken this evening that I painted my tree too big.  The perspective is wrong.  I did not leave enough of the sky showing.   It is as if I am standing closer to the tree than in the original painting.  Yes, there is my message of the day.  My painting is exactly right for me.  I have been seeking to draw closer to Jesus.  It has been my desire to shift my focus and see only Jesus.  And thinking about my painting with that in mind, I see a wonderful answer to my prayers.  Suddenly my vision is totally that tree.  If I could, I would run up and hug it right now!    My too big tree painting has gained a spot on the wall in my scrap room where I will look at it every day.  And everyday I will be reminded that my prayers to draw closer to Jesus are being answered. And thankfulness will flow for being grafted into God's family!   

Springtime weather, very hard painting project, revelation of answered prayers and thanksgiving.  It's been a pretty full couple of days.  I could use more days like these!

Jesus, thank you for speaking to me through this painting project.  How amazing it is that we can see your plan for all of us in your creation.  Holy Spirit, help us all to see your answered prayers in unexpected ways.  Thank you for the promise of spring and new life.  Thank you for warm days and walks and sunshine.  Amen

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Family bowling day.....winds of change.

It was a beautiful sunny day today - except for the crazy wind!  These high winds actually started during the night last night.  At one point Ken even commented that it sounded like "blizzard wind".  I believe that we would have had a genuine blizzard if the temperature was 20 degrees colder and if there had been precipitation.  The wind blew all day.  Even though it was close to 40 degrees, it felt much colder.  In typical Chicago weather, you never know how to dress or what kind of coat/jacket to wear.  It certainly felt like March was coming in like a lion!!  A roaring lion at that.

Anna's birthday was a bit ago, but for her family get together, she decided we should go bowling!
The last time we bowled together (which was last year for Lia's birthday - I think), Anna was really not interested in the game.  But four is so much older than three when it comes to these events!
We have found a really nice place to bowl sort of equal distance for all of us.  So we meet there for a fun lunch time bowl. 
Grace was so interested in all the lights, the large screen monitors all over the place, the flashing lights - really all of what makes a bowling alley a bowling alley.  I just love seeing the kids together and we had a wonderful time.  Watching Anna actually bowling today reminded me just how quickly these little ones grow up.  Last year at our bowling outing, Grace sat in her car seat, not at all interested in what was happening.  Oh the difference a year makes!

Last weeks news was flooded with stories about Billy Graham after his death.   Rev. Graham's life and legacy are so amazing.  I read that he has preached the Gospel to more people than anyone else, EVER!  What an awesome party there must be going on in heaven right now.  The song that has been on my mind is Thank You for Giving to the Lord, by Ray Bolz.  The point of this song is that each one of us will have made an impact on many people that we do not even know about.  Imagine just how many people will be there to thank Rev. Billy Graham.  The lose of Rev. Graham was certainly felt around the world.  And there has been a shift in the Spiritual realm also.  Many, many people are believing that there will be a new wave of evangelism and new powerful preachers will step up to fill the void left by his death.  Yes, winds of change are blowing.  If there was ever a time when the United States needed those winds to blow, it is now in 2018.  I had an interesting conversation with someone who is especially concerned about the issues and problems facing inner city youth.  After a long discussion, it became clear that knowing about all the problems does not get you any closer to solving them!  With such a large and complex issue like this one, there is no quick and easy solution.  While I applaud the desire to make a difference and to see things change, I also can see the enormity of the problems!  I went to bed, thinking about that conversation.  I woke up with an assurance that Jesus was the only answer to that situation. Yes, we need those winds of change to blow across our inner cities, and change the hearts of the people.

In my small group we have been discussing the opposite of "love" is not "hate" - it is FEAR.  Fear is the root of all that comes against love.  Every emotion, every action, every deed that is not love, comes from a place of fear.  All of us - our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, our countries - need more love!  And God is love! As the seasons change, as March comes blowing in like a lion, as Billy Graham has graduated into glory, let us all pray for a powerful move of God.  Let there be open doors for evangelism and even more important than open doors, let there be open hearts to receive the love of Jesus.

"There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear.."  1John 4:18

Jesus, thank you for reminding me that you are what is needed.  Holy Spirit, show each of us our part of this amazing plan for our world.  Give us all courage and boldness to share Jesus with those around us.  Draw us closer to you Jesus, especially when the problems seem so overwhelming.  Thank you for children, for family and for fun times.  And Jesus, thank you for winds of change.  Amen

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