Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of year review

So end of the year.  Wow - 2013 just seemed to fly by.  I am so glad that I have this blog to remind me of the amazing things that have transpired during this year.  I had been thinking of starting a blog for several months.  Even after I started actually writing this blog, I wondered if it was something that I was supposed to be doing.  It didn't take long to see that not only was this blog for me, it was also touching other people.  My second blog post was about being "stuffed".  Hearing so many things from Jesus and not having any way to share them.  Yes, this blog has allowed me to share over and over the words, dreams, visions and thoughts that the Holy Spirit has spoken to me.  I love that I am not in charge of who sees and/or reads these blogs.  I simply put them out there and trust that the right people will read them.  Then I realized that Jesus was showing me something about my generational roots.  There is so much power in knowing and understanding your family.  As I looked at pictures and began to share stories from my ancestors, I realized that I was doing something important.  Not only for me and my children and grandchildren.  But for others.  I have had more emails and comments on the stories about my great grandparents and grandparents than anything else.  I believe that our society has lost the art of "storytelling".  Years ago most family stories were "oral" stories, told over and over at family gatherings.  The sharing of photo's and stories on this blog are stories and I am just telling true stories in a different written format.  I am thankful that this important family history will not be lost. Someday my grandchildren can read these words and know about their family.  And then I love that I can share the little things, the insights from my everyday life.  I just spent some time reading over some of my posts and I am thankful for this open journaling I have done through this blog.  I have years and years (1988 -2013) of journals - I mean storage boxes full of notebooks.  They are very valuable to me and reflect the long and winding path I have taken and reflect years of ups and downs.  The biggest thing in those journals is the overriding provision and protection and guidance of Jesus.  Those journals are for my eyes only.  So I have to tell you, it has been very scary to put myself out there through this blog.  But I have really learned and grown in the process. 

Thank you for reading, for commenting, for giving me your feedback.  It has really been a most wonderful part of my 2013.  As I've said, 2014 is about expecting the unexpected.  It is about seeing from a different perspective and with new Spiritual eyes.  It is about seeing a new path and a new direction.  I am filled with expectation and peace as I close the door on 2013 and open the door to a new year.  I am praying that you will be blessed and prosper as you follow your own path into the future.

Jesus, thank you for all that you have shown me and all the changes and insights you have given to me in 2013.  Holy Spirit, keep our hearts open and our spirits sensitive as we step out in 2014.  Thank you for your great provision, direction and care.  Move us onward!  Amen

Monday, December 30, 2013

The UPSIDE of my job and READING UP!

One of the hardest things about my new job is the constant changes.  Nothing is ever the same.  My schedule changes ALL THE TIME!  And I mean all the time.  I never know what my hours will be from week to week and then actually from day to day or even hour to hour.  For instance, today I was SCHEDULED to work 7:30 - 4:00.  When I got to work at 7:15 I discovered that my schedule had changed and I was now working from 7:30 - 5:00.  And WHERE I am working also changes just as often.  I was supposed to be with the school age kids all day.  That is what my schedule said.  However, when I got my changed schedule this morning, I was now being shifted around between 3 different rooms with 3 different ages of children.  Then about a half hour later, that changed again and I was only going to 2 rooms.  Then at noon time today, I was told that my schedule had changed AGAIN, and I would be going home at 4:00.  And everyday is like this.  This job has been a lot about learning to be adaptable and willing to change - constantly.  FLEXIBILITY!  That's the name of the game with this job. 

But, the upside of all of this is that it is never boring!  Things are always changing.  I am with lots of different children.  And also work with many different people.  The different schedules also mean that some days I don't have to leave the house until much later.  And some days I get home earlier.  I also always have one day off each week.  Now that is a BIG upside to this job.  Once again, it is all about perspective. 

Today I saw this on Facebook.  I really like this because again, it is about perspective.  In this case, when you read it down the page, you see one message.  And when you read UP the page, you see a totally different message. 
This is another great reminder to be looking UP as well as READING UP!  I like this!  There is a totally different meaning to these words when you read them in the correct order.  What a great reminder. 
Jesus, today I am so thankful for the job that you provided for me.  Thank you for showing me the importance of being flexible and celebrating the UPSIDE of my job.  Holy Spirit, I love that you remind us to keep looking up in so many interesting ways.  Thank you for this visual that reminded me again that perspective is so important.   Help us all to keep our eyes on Jesus even as we are in our day to day life.  Jesus, give us all a new upward perspective as we go into 2014.  Amen 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Seeing more clearly..........in 2014

Even though New Years is a couple of days away, I have been feeling the "end of Christmas" today.  I can't really explain why, it just seems to be there.  I am already thinking about taking down the Christmas tree.  One of the very best things about the holidays is the being together.  I know that I have said that over and over, but when I think about the year in review..... what comes to mind is the time we have spent together.   I simply adore the picture above.  It was taken at the end of our family Christmas celebration (which actually happened on the 21st).  Nothing makes me smile more than this picture.  Those sweet little ones cuddled up to us.  Yes, this is smile stuff!  It has given me a greater appreciation of how my mom really loved being around her grandchildren and great grandchildren.  There is something really special about holding those babies on your lap and seeing a part of yourself, continuing on. 
I love this picture of my mom and Gwen and Doug.  It resonates with the picture above.  It was taken as we were "celebrating Christmas" just after Thanksgiving when Grandma was here visiting.  I want to have the same close relationship with my grandchildren that my mom had with my kids.  And I love that I see it in that picture above.  It's as if I am seeing new things through these old pictures.
Recently there was an Elijah list post    that included this.....
The Lord says, "I am expanding your spiritual perception. In the same way that binoculars are adjusted to see in magnification, wide angle or panoramic view, I am going to open My people's eyes to see things in a new way. For some of you, The Seer anointing will open up to you and you will receive visions and dreams, and your eyes will be opened as the blinders are lifted. There is a door standing open in Heaven. It is not a natural door and I am calling you to come up here and I will show you things that must take place. You shall declare a thing, and it shall be established."
Sometimes I feel as if I have been given a totally new perspective as I look back at pictures of my family from the past and reflect on current events.  I love that Jesus is changing how I see things.  I can't wait for an even bigger, clearer vision in 2014.  I have the sense that all of us only see the very small surface of people and events.  There is so much more beneath the surface and around the edges and behind the scene, if we would only take the time and look more carefully.  One thing that I will be doing in 2014 is praying for an expanded view!  Won't you join me?
Jesus, thank you for grandchildren and smiles and family and love.  Holy Spirit, will you help me to have that expanded view in the days ahead.  Thank you for those word from the Elijah list.  Give us all a changed perspective and the desire to see beyond the surface.  Thank you for Christmas and celebrations and wonderful time together.   Amen

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feeling a bit under the weather....

So I spent a part of today in bed!  This is really unusual for me.  Its Saturday and I have a lot to do on the weekend.  Yesterday I was feeling a bit worse than the day before with my head stuffy but today I woke up coughing and with a very sore throat.  I really need to kick this crummy cold.  We went out this morning and did a couple of errands but it became clear to me that I just needed to get home and lay down.  So that is what happened.   We came home and I went to bed.  This evening I think I am feeling a bit better.  I can certainly tell when my medicine wears off, but it is helping.  So I am thankful for a quiet day.

It must be because we are moving into a new year, but suddenly Ken and I are thinking of more projects around the house.  Right now he is converting what was our "exercise room" into a camera room.  I can't complain since I appropriated the other spare room a LONG time ago as my scrapbooking room.  So this is only fair!  I love that Ken supports my love of scrapbooking and I am very glad that Ken has returned to photography.  When I first met Ken in high school, he was already a camera guy.  He was in AV and had a dark room at his home.  Somehow, over the years he moved away from photography.  I was happy several years ago when he asked for a new camera.  And I am so proud of all the wonderful pictures he has taken over the last couple of years.  So, I am very willing to clean up that under-used room and make it work for his hobby. 

There is a lot to the "New Year" thing.  This is a good time to clear away the old and get ready to move into the new.  I am glad that we are doing some cleaning and clearing out of our house.  And I am also glad that this is a time to clear away and move into new things in the Spiritual.  I love that this is a "New Year" time.  I just realized that November was a time of great Thanksgiving for me.  December was a month of celebration and memories and joy.  I am looking forward to January and the new things that are in store for me.

Jesus, thank you for healing and health.  You are a God of restoration and new things.  Holy Spirit continue to bring to light all the changes and new things that are coming.  Speak clearly to us and help us to be willing to clear out the old and unused things to make room for the new.  Thank you for Ken!  Amen

Friday, December 27, 2013

A color filled day........

Tonight Ken and I went to an amazing light show at the Morton Arboretum near our home.  Even though I have the end of this nasty cold and my nose is running and I'm coughing, we decided that 37 degrees was the best we were going to have (our predicted high for the next couple of days is single digits!)  So after I completed work today, we left for the show.  The sun was still setting when we got there, but unlike our first attempt at this event, we were directed to the main parking lot.  There were lots of people and cars, but we found a parking spot fairly quickly and only waited in line a few minutes to get our tickets.  There is a mile long walking path with various light displays around every turn.  It's amazing how different the place looks with spot lights and flashing lights of every color.  While it was chilly, it wasn't unbearable.  There were fires burning (which smelled just wonderful) and little concession stands around every turn.  We treated ourselves to a wonderful cup of hot cocoa, which certainly made the last half of the walk more enjoyable.  It was a really neat capper to our holiday celebrations.  Ken mentioned that he would like to put in a suggestion that they have an "adults only" night for members.  I told him it sounded like a good idea! 

Today at work, I was painting with the kids again.  This time we are making snow flakes and mittens to display on the front windows of the center.  Jackie got a great idea off of Pintrest that actually worked quite well.  We made masking tape snowflakes on white paper and had the kids paint the entire paper any color that they wanted.  Then when it drys you peel off the tape and you have a really cool looking white snowflake on a colored background!  So now there will be giant mittens catching snow flakes on the windows. 

I was just thinking how these two things are similar.  Both involve using amazing colors in unexpected ways.  You don't expect to see trees with such vivid colors and you also don't expect to see a snowflake emerge from a painted piece of paper. Both require creativity and thinking outside of the box.    I love that the snowflakes were hidden from view as the paintings were drying.  I loved that kids were so excited to see the finished snowflake.  I love that the trees looked like sculptures and not trees when painted with lights.  Yep, I had a colorful day today.

I am so glad that even when our lives look dark and bleak, much like those woods at the Arboretum actually are, the light of Jesus can change everything.  When Jesus shines his light in us and through us, we become those amazing dancing lights filling the world.  And I am also glad that when we try to just "put on a happy face" when things are not going well (just like those pictures were painted over with bright colors), Jesus knows whats underneath that fake smile. His love and care and compassion can turn our attempt to hide our problems into a beautiful picture when he strips away our false emotion.  Then His joy and love can change that fake smile into a genuine grin.

Jesus, thank you for reminding me that your light changes everything!  Thank you for your love and joy and peace that turns our feeble attempt at false happiness into genuine joy.  Holy Spirit, I love that you show me so much in paintings by 3 year olds and in glorious light shows.  Amen


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Some things never change...... and some do!

Today I was thinking about our Christmas and the different years when our own kids were little and then I saw this picture of Ken from the early 1950's.  There he is, in front of the tree with all of his trucks.  And I was remembering  Zeke with this year's special toy from Uncle Doug and Aunt Susie.  It was a battery operated Backhoe that shook and moved and lights flashed.  Yes, it was a hit with Zeke.  There is something about boys and their trucks.
Sadly I didn't get a picture of Zeke with that truck. Or the cars and the ramps that he also received.  What I did get a picture of was this sweet shot of Zeke with the doll and blankets and bed that we gave him.  You know, Zeke is going to be a big brother and with a new baby coming soon, he needed his own "baby".  I love the look on Zeke's face.  He was really happy with this little doll.  I was thinking about how grateful I  am that some things DO change.  When Ken was little in the 1950's, no little boy would have been given a doll.  I am so thankful that in 2013 it is totally okay to let boys learn how to nurture and care for babies.  Actually, Doug had a Cabbage Patch doll in 1985.  I guess when you have older sisters, you expect to be able to have your OWN doll to play with. 

After looking at these pictures I was thinking about how much things have changed in the last years.  I am very different than I was a few years ago.  How I view the world and my life has taken a very different direction than I would have thought.  And I know that it is because of Jesus in my life that my perspective has shifted.  I know that even 10 years ago I would never have imagined I would be working in a daycare center.  As a matter of fact, this would have been the LAST place I would have imagined working.  Yet, I know that in this season, it is exactly the right place for me to be.  I am so thankful for the children and the people that I work with.  The days go quickly and I am grateful for the paycheck.  I know that there are many things that Jesus is teaching me in this season, and things that I am to be doing.  As the year winds down and you begin to think about what the new year holds, it is good to remember that things DO change!   So over the next week I will be thinking about the things that I would want to change and the things that I hope will not change in the new year.  I really think that this is a very different process than making "new years resolutions". Or even setting goals for the new year.  Its all about perspective! The most important step I will be taking is to be listening for the direction of the Holy Spirit as I make that list.  I know that is the only way that I will see the true path for the year ahead.   So right now, I am celebrating that some things don't change and little boys still love their cars and trucks (and so do BIG boys!).  But I am also celebrating that some things DO change when I see that sweet expression on the face of my grandson with his baby.  

Jesus, thank you for reminding me that I need to evaluate the new year from your perspective.  Holy Spirit, thank you for once again, using photos to trigger the thought process that leads me to the subject that you are speaking to me right now.  Jesus, thank you that you want to open our eyes, and ears and our spirits to your direction. Help me to continue to look, listen and be aware of all that you are speaking to me in the days ahead.   Amen 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Not your typical Christmas Day.....

Well Ken and I spent a really nice, yet not so typical Christmas Day.  We got up late.  I made a big breakfast.  We watched some Christmas movies on TV.  I made a pork tenderloin in the crock pot (which actually got done sooner than expected) so we ate our big meal at about 3:00pm.  Then we watched a couple more movies.  And here it is, the end of the day.  Yet, this was really a nice day.  I have a bit of a cold so I really appreciated being able to sleep as long as I wanted.  I don't often get to do nothing. So today was wonderful in that regard.  While it did not resemble Christmas' of the past, it was nice.  And I feel as if this might well be the new normal for us. 

So today I was looking through the books on my bookshelf.  I found this devotional journal that I have never started. 
 I have decided that this will be my devotional for the first 90 days of 2014 (or longer if I get "stuck" at some point).   I like having a jumping off point for the new year.  I love that this is all focused on Jesus - exactly where I have been hearing that I need to be looking - UP at my LEADER!  I mentioned last week that I had received some revelation and answers while driving home.  One of the things that I heard really clearly, was that I needed to be doing more journaling in the year ahead.  I haven't done much in the last three months.  It has really been a time of unrest and upheaval.  And I have found it very difficult to put words to paper.  I am praying that this book will be the clear path to further revelation for me.
One more thought........today I passed 10,000 hits on this blog.  I really see that as a gift - a wonderful Christmas gift.  I started this blog because I felt very called to share the things that Jesus was saying to me.  I had felt so stuck and like there was tape over my mouth preventing me from sharing.  I have been able to share not only what is happening in my life, but what Jesus is saying to me about this.  Remembering a conversation I had with Gwen.  She said it was my job to write the blog and then not worry about who might read it.  I honestly could not imagine who might care to read this or how people would find this blog.  But the response has been more than amazing.  I have had readers in 35 countries.  There has been many, many comments and emails that have encouraged me.  I started this blog because I felt that I had "canned" the things I was hearing - you know, just stored them up.  It has been simply amazing to be able to share with you WHATEVER is on my heart that day. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.  I pray that Jesus will bless you as you read these words. 
Jesus, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Thank you for the amazing gift that has been given to us all through your birth!  Thank you for revealing yourself to us.  Thank you for speaking to us and showing us the path to fulfill our destiny.  What an wonderful and loving God you are!  Bless all who take the time to read this blog.  Give them clarity and vision and most of all your love and peace.   Amen

Christmas blessings and memories

Late last night all I could think about was a very special memory I have from a Christmas Eve in 1994.  The picture above is of my sweet Lia (in red) from 2009, when Gwen used the same format for her church Christmas program.  Here is my memory for 1994.....

I found this program in the late 1980's but never had a chance to use it until the early 90's.  The idea is that it is a "no practice" Sunday School program that lets kids decide what part they play.  During those years it was quite typical to do large, performance based programs that unfortunately excluded kids who, for whatever reason, couldn't make multiple rehearsals.  Someone quite brilliant came up with this format, and I loved it!  You prepare about 6-8 simple props for each of the "parts" of the Christmas story.  A paper heart necklace for Mary, a strip of cloth that become either a belt for Joseph or a headband wrap for the shepherds, a circle of tinsel for the Angels head piece, paper headband "ears" for the animals, and simple paper crowns for the Kings (we used Burger King crowns - they were perfect!).  I finally got the chance to actually use this program in 1993 when my church and Pastor always had a simple family Christmas Eve service where the Pastor dressed as a shepherd and told the Christmas Story interspersed with the singing of Christmas Carols.  (Thanks Faith Lutheran Church and Pr. Dave Dorpat).  I set up several rows of little chairs around the wooden manger, some for the Marys and some for the Josephs.  The first year was magical.  We had about an even mix of kids choosing the parts and the front of the church was filled with the faces of the sweet children.  So many thankful Grandmas and Grandpas and moms and dads sat in the pews watching these little ones act out this familiar story.  Yes, it was a big hit.  Many said that they never thought that their children would have a chance to be in something like this.  It was a blessing.  Then, the next year, I was asked to help with the same program.  So, I willingly prepared all the props and got ready for the service.

But something really extraordinary happened during that Christmas Eve service in 1994, First of all, the weather was terrible and it looked like the attendance would be very low for this service.  It was a weekday and many families had to work and the service was quite early in the afternoon.  Pr. Dave did not seem the least bit worried.   Families started to fill the pews and the service started.  When it was time for the Marys to come forward only one little girl came to the front.  I thought this was strange since you would expect 4 or 5.  Then the Josephs were called and again, only 1 little boy came up.  We had 1 little animal and 1 angel.  And then the shepherds were called to the front.  When 6 children stood there waiting for their headbands, I realized what an amazing gift we were witnessing.  That night, Jesus reminded us all that we need to listen and hear the message of the ages.  "Fear not, for unto you is born this night, in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord". 
And then we need to drop everything and go and tell everyone what we have heard. 

I remember reflecting on that particular Christmas Eve service so many times.  You see the shepherds were really the lowest of the low in this story.  They were sitting out in the cold, in the fields, doing a job that not many wanted to do.  It was most often the youngest and the least favored in the family who drew the lot to do that job.  Yet, the most important and world changing message was sent FIRST to these common men.  I loved that the children were drawn to be shepherds.  I wanted to be a shepherd right along with them.  Thankfully, Pastor Dave also saw the miracle of this event.  He spoke at great length that night, himself dressed as a shepherd, about the gift and the reminder that we had been given through these little children.  It was a teary and wonderful service that I will never forget. 

So, today, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  I pray that you will all spend just a moment reflecting on those shepherds, doing their jobs and going about their business out in the fields. Take just a few breathes and then be amazed by the Good News from the angels. 

Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to all!   

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Perfect Present and thoughts from Martin Luther

So my "unexpected" today was this wonderful, oh so cute, little Nativity shadowbox.  I received this gift from a sweet gal that I work with.  She said that when she saw it, she thought of me and that I would like it.  What an amazing gift!  I loved that she already knows me so well!  I loved that she thought of me!  I loved that she picked the perfect present for me.  Isn't it true that nothing tops a great present!  Especially an unexpected present!
Which brings me to the thought on my mind today.   How thankful I am for the books and writings that remind me about the events of the first Christmas.  Today I was reading from Martin Luther's Christmas Book.  After talking about the likelihood that Mary had WALKED all the way to Bethlehem..... yes WALKED the three DAY walk!  While so close to having her baby.  Luther then supposes that Joseph had thought that they would have relatives in Bethlehem who would take them in.  Yet when they arrived, they were treated as the lowest and most despised.  They were shown to the stable.  Luther says (of Bethlehem) ..

 "They did not recognize what God was doing in that stable. With all their eating, drinking and finery, God left them empty, and this comfort and treasure was hidden from them. Oh, what a dark night it was in Bethlehem that this light should not be seen. Thus God shows that he has no regard for what the world is and has and does.  And the world shows that it does not know or consider what God is and has and does."

I was thinking of how "secular" Christmas has become around us.  There is more Santa than Jesus and more getting than giving.  In so many ways it seems like we are living like Bethlehem.  Instead of welcoming Jesus into our homes and our hearts, we simply leave him out in the cold.  I am so thankful that my family heritage included passing on a faith and belief in Jesus. And I am so thankful that my grandchildren are hearing and learning about Jesus in their home, church and school.  Over the next couple of days of celebrating Christmas, I will be seeking to welcome Jesus into my heart and home and making sure that I do not leave Him out!

Jesus, thank you for the reminders you give to us to keep our eyes on you!  Help us to open our hearts and homes to your light and life.  Holy Spirit, open our eyes so that we can see with greater clarity those around us who need to be welcomed.  Give us a greater measure of your love so that we can share it with the world.  Jesus, help us to be your light to the world.  Thank you for Jackie and this wonderful, unexpected gift!  Amen

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Memories, lights and Christmas joy!

After looking at my yesterday's post, I was thinking about this picture of Gwen and Doug sitting in front of our tree in 1982 when Doug was about 9 months old and Gwen was 3 1/2 years old.  Yes, being with the family yesterday certainly brought memories to the surface.  I love that I saw the same sister/brother thing yesterday between Gwen and Doug as I saw when this picture was taken.  I was thinking about how special the bond is between Lia, Ellie and Zeke.  Those kids are close!  They play together, they really want to be together.  It is amazing.  Gwen and I were talking about next Christmas when Anna will be around 11 months old.  It will be an interesting Christmas for sure! 
Today was a busy day.  I finished making some candy, made another batch of Butter Cookies and then made the cookie of the year..... Ken's Grandma Baker's famous Raisin Cookies.  These are certainly his favorite cookie and one that he remembers so fondly.  They are not easy to make (think 1950's not 2013!).  You have to make a raisin filling that requires letting raisins and other stuff cook on the stove until you get a thick paste.  And the cookies are a rolled out sugar cookie that you have to cut out.  Then you have to top one cookie with the raisin filling and then add another cookie on top of that and seal the edges.   The entire recipe makes only about 18 cookies - although they are large and actually are two cookies!  Ken loves these so much.  So it was good to make him so happy! 
Tonight we tried to go to the Morton Arboretum to their big light show.  Notice that I said TRIED.  We did not actually get there.  The line to park was way outside of the entrance.  There were so many people trying to get in and buy tickets.....well let's just say it was not happening.  We turned around and left.  Maybe we will get there some other night.   Last week we drove about 30 miles to see a house that has this amazing light show.  They actually won a big TV show prize for the best house in the USA.  We never got to see that house either.  The cars were parked solid for several miles.  So we just kept driving.  It seems that we will just have to do our usual drive around and look at lights - just normal lights on houses.  I believe that we will do that on Christmas Day! 
It's been such a wonderful Christmas season for me.  I love that joy and peace have just been filling my heart and spirit every day.  It has been such a great time of seeking Jesus and spending time reflecting.  I am so thankful..............
Jesus, thank you for today.  Thanks for cookies with special memories, for candy and for joy and for love and peace.  Thank you for light shows and lights on houses.  Thank you for everything that surrounds this season.  Amen

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas a bit early....

So today we celebrated Christmas with our family.  What a wonderful, joyous time we had.  We were all together by around 10:00am and spent the day just being together!  Of course part of the time was spent opening gifts. 
Photo: Christmas at the Rowleys and Johnson's!
I can't say enough how thankful I am for my family.  Every time we are together my heart just swells with joy and love and gratitude.   And today was no different.   I got to play several rounds of UNO with Lia, got lots of hugs and kisses from Zeke, had some great talks with Ellie (who is now writing her name all by herself!) and lots of great conversations with Doug, Tim, Susie and Gwen.  I also got lots of doggie kisses from Sammy, Kylie and Chandler.  After the present opening, the kids were quite happy to play with their new toys, Grandpa took a nap on the couch in the living room, and the big kids and I played a couple of really neat games (both on the WII and a fun board game).  We had a great dinner (thanks Tim!) and then even managed to get a really good family picture.  A full day.
I am always so amazed at the thoughtful gifts that the kids find for Ken and I.  I especially love the gifts that the kids make for us.  Today we received a photo ornament of the three kids (which I am sure will be on my favorites list next year), and these.............
These are the coolest thing.  They are paintings done by the kids on a canvas - but get this - they have a sticky but repositionable back.  So they can be stuck and moved where ever and when ever you want!  Isn't that so neat!  I love the colors.  I love the joy and wonder in these.  I simply love then.  The minute we got home, they went up on the wall.  And right now they are inside the front door where I will see them each time I come in the door.  I didn't have time to ask Ellie (who did the top art work) or Lia (who did the bottom picture) exactly what they were painting.  Every time I look at them, I see something different.  And they make me smile! Isn't that what Christmas is all about? 
Another great thing today was listening to the kids talk about Christmas memories from their childhood.  The one that sticks out in my mind right now is the time I nearly burned down the house with the Advent Candles on Christmas Morning.  I was busy cooking breakfast and suddenly there were flames from the top of the TV cabinet.  The candle wax had started the wreath on fire and melted the top of the cabinet!  Doug recalled Ken running for the fire extinquisher and putting out the fire.  I guess for a grade school age boy, this was a pretty great Christmas morning!  I will never live that one down.
The weather even cooperated and the "winter weather advisory" and the ice and snow predicted didn't happen. Ken and I drove home in 34 degree weather with rain. So much better than ice and snow that we had feared. So, now LET IT SNOW! Ken and I are at home with no where to go!
Yes, it was a wonderful day! 
Jesus, thank you for this full day of blessings.  Thank you for Ken, Gwen, Tim, Doug, Susie, Lia, Ellie, Zeke (and Anna)!  What a joy it is to gather together and celebrate Your Birthday.  Holy Spirit, spread your love and joy and wonder to all during this next week and let us celebrate with the excitement of children.   Amen
PS -  I blogged in November about getting those stacking cups for Lia.  Well, they were a great success.  I can't tell you how amazing it was to watch Lia do this stacking in many different patterns.  Ken and I were guessing that she spent over 1 hour playing with these cups today.  Who would have thought that 10 plastic cups could bring so much fun???? 

Friday, December 20, 2013

It IS a wonderful life.............

Well, here it is after 10:00pm and I just finished watching the movie "It's a Wonderful Life".  Unfortunately, it was cut up with tons and tons of commercials, but I still enjoyed it very much.  I don't think I ever actually sat and watched the entire movie until tonight.  I think I really needed it today. 

This was supposed to be my last minute shopping day and I had many, many plans and "expectations" for today, but alas, things did not turn out as planned.  First of all, I woke up with a headache.  This doesn't happen to me very often, but I decided to just take it very slow this morning.  So I didn't actually leave the house until around 11:00.  The weather was less than wonderful - a steady rain (but thankfully not the ice that was happening just to the north of us).  But I got soaked walking into the first store.  I also got very wet at the ATM doing my deposit.  Then, at my last stop before coffee with a friend, my car was totally dead.  I mean nothing when I put the key in the ignition.  Now this was extremely unexpected!  We just got a new battery and less than two months ago, a new starter.  I thought I was set for the winter.  Thankfully Ken could leave work and come to the rescue.  When he opened the hood to "investigate" he found that the battery connection was so loose that it just slipped right off!  The car started right up!  I was extremely grateful!  While I was waiting for Ken to arrive I sent off a prayer request to my praying friends and I know that those prayers helped make this situation less of a problem. Thank goodness for praying friends! 

By the time we got home with the car and got the battery cables tightened and the battery charged, the day was over.  We really didn't want to leave the house this evening since we were expecting a couple of packages for Christmas via UPS.  This morning both packages were tracked as "out for delivery".  By 6:00pm we were slightly worried that they might not arrive.  Fortunately, at 7:05 our doorbell rang, and there were our two packages.  Yes, I am thankful for those UPS drivers who work long hours during this season. 

And then, I decided to put on the movie.  So we watched this Christmas Classic.  And, once again, I was thinking about "expecting the unexpected".  I just hadn't realized that I would need to be doing this in my day to day life.  Funny isn't it that it seems easy to think about things from a spiritual perspective but much harder to think about them in regular life.  Today I learned that I need to roll with the bunches and go with the flow.  I also feel so thankful for the reminder of all the blessings in my life.  I am ending the day looking forward to our family Christmas celebration tomorrow. 

Jesus, thanks so much for friends, for movies, for Ken, for reminders to be grateful, for the UPS drivers, for the warmth of home and the sparkle of the Christmas tree.  Thank you that in this unexpected day, I was able to keep looking at my "leader" and see the path that you  for me today.  Thank you for the message of the movie "It's a wonderful Life".  Thank you for the plan and destiny that you have for each one of us.  Amen

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas 1980 and help from another blog!

Today I was thinking about the Christmas pictured above.  This was Christmas 1980.  Gwen was 18 months old.   I have a lot of special memories of this Christmas.  If you asked Ken, I am sure that he would not remember anything about this year, but I sure do!  First of all, I made the dress that Gwen is wearing.  It was a soft, velour fabric and I loved that the color of the dress matched Gwen's eyes.  The little pinafore was made out of a soft velvet.  It was warm and sweet and she loved to twirl.  If you think Gwen looks a bit out of it in this picture, it is because it was at 10:30pm.  Ken and I decided to go to candlelight service at church.  So we woke Gwen, dressed her up and went to church.  If this wasn't crazy enough, you need to know that it was below zero.  WAY below zero.  Like freezing cold.  But, I remember her cuddling and falling back to sleep in my lap during church.  And then I remember her mesmerized by the candles.  I think this is one of my favorite of all times, Christmas memories.  

Then, there was the presents on Christmas morning.  Ken and I didn't have much money that year and we had decided to spend only $25 on Gwen.  I remember I went to the Woolworths because they had a "big sale".  That year Gwen got a set of play plastic dishes, a set of play pots and pans (and the back of the box was a "stove"), a kid sized broom and dust pan, a set of wooden blocks and a doll (that we had bought the day after Christmas the year before).  When I say that Gwen played for HOURS with these presents, I am not exaggerating.  She was so excited about each thing and she played and played with everything.  For weeks following Christmas.  Our living room coffee table was her play kitchen area and she swept the carpet over and over.  I had felt sort of bad about spending so little and not getting her anything very "fancy" but this was really a wonderful Christmas.  We didn't have any family for a big celebration, but it was an amazing holiday for me and I think for Gwen. 

I was thinking about this Christmas today when I was considering how I need to move ahead into 2014.  I remember that I wanted a very fancy dress for Gwen that year, but our small budget made my choice very clear........ I would have to make the dress!  That was the arrow pointing the way for me that year.  So I made that dress!  And I loved that dress - even more than the very fancy dresses I had seen in the stores.  I had a limited budget for presents, so I had to choose very carefully.  I "went with my gut" about what she would like.  And I made good choices.  I went to Woolworths instead of ToysRUs.  The circumstances dictated the path I walked.  It is like that old saying "If you get lemons, make lemonade!" 

I mentioned last night that I have felt encouraged by some recent revelations and/or answers to prayer.  Today I read one of my favorite blogs, Momastery. (www.momastery.com)  She was writing about John 2 and Jesus' first miracle - water to wine.  Then I hit this paragraph......

Anyway, this is all to say that if you don’t feel ready- if you are waiting to Get Started Doing Your Thing- you are in good company. Even Jesus felt unprepared to begin. But look- I want you to picture me looking directly at you trying to convey this message: “I am unsure of what your lack of readiness has to do with the fact that the world needs the little miracle that only YOU can perform. The world needs you to use your gift – ready or not.”

Thank you very much Momastery!  I have felt a lack of readiness to move ahead into whatever it is that I am supposed to be doing and I needed this "Kick in the Pants".  Yesterday I heard very clearly that I would have clear confirmation in the next two weeks and all I needed to do is just be listening!  So I am considering this reminder from Momastery that being unsure and not ready, is no excuse!  And I know I will be getting more of the picture in the days ahead. 

Jesus, thank you for reminding me that you use circumstances to guide and direct us.  Thank you for speaking to me in so many different ways.  Holy Spirit, help me to remember who I am in Jesus. I know that it is YOUR gifts that need to be used and shared!  Thank you for memories, for Christmas and Momastery.  Amen

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The end of a "sugary" day.... good food, good work, good friends!

This is going to be just a really quick post about my very long day........ It was the kid's Christmas Party today at my work.  So we had a room full of over excited, over stimulated, over junk-fooded, crazy kids!  Yes, it was a busy, busy day that sure had some "moments"!  Here is a shot of the "snacks" at the party!  Yep, cookies, donuts, chips, more cookies, cheese and crackers and yes fruit.
Most of the kids only ate a cookie or two and some of the fruit, but there were several that cleaned their plates!  It was most certainly a "sugar overload".  (And most of the kids hardly touched their lunch either).  But hey, Christmas only comes one time a year, right?

Okay, I have been working on "expecting the unexpected" and I sure had some more "unexpected" things happen today. 

1.  I started the morning by dropping a container of white finger paint onto a tile floor.  The lid popped off and I had GLOBS of thick white paint all over me!  Down my pants leg and covering the front of my fleece and the right sleeve.  And did I mention that I was wearing BLACK corduroy pants and a BLACK fleece?  And I was "dressed up" for the parents who would be attending the party that started at 9:30.  The unexpected part of this story is that with lots of water and paper towels, the white finger paint vanished from my clothes.  I mean totally gone!  Now THAT is really unexpected!

2.  I received so many wonderful cards and gifts from the children today..... I was totally overwhelmed.  I have only been working at this job since mid-October and was not expecting this at all.  I am not the "teacher" in the room, just the assistant.  This was an unexpected thing that makes me so thankful for this job!

3.  It is very hard not to get excited and happy about Christmas when you are surrounded by 15 or 16 little faces, all filled with joy and happiness over a simple little party.  Yes, I was not expecting to feel so HAPPY today.  It was a surprise.  A very pleasant surprise, I might add.

4.  Tonight I got to spend the evening with some very dear friends.  You know that feeling that you are so tired and you don't want to go anywhere or do anything?  Well, I had that feeling earlier tonight.  But I pressed through, went out to meet with my friends and I was so blessed!  The unexpected part of this is that, on the way home I had several very clear revelations and answers to prayers that I have been seeking for weeks.  This was an unexpected ending to this day.  (I am sure I'll be sharing more about this in the days ahead!)

Jesus, thank you for the "miracle" of finger paint that dissolves away with water.  Thank you for the kindness and generosity of the families I work with every day.  Thank you for joy, for wonderful sugary snacks, for Christmas time and for children.  Thank you for good friends, amazing prayers, and wonderful revelations.   Amen

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The importance of a clear path........and knowing the path maker!

Today I have been thinking about paths..... First thing today, it was snowing when I got to work.  I had to navigate a snowy, icy path through the parking lot to get in the door.  I was thinking how good it would be to have a clear path to walk on. Instead I was jumping from foot print to foot print to try to keep my shoes dry.  Then early in the day, I was trying to get 14 somewhat uncooperative three year olds to walk in a line from one room to another.  This required walking through the open room (which was set up for a gymnastic class) and had lots of distractions.  Needless to say, it was not a clear path.  It took more than the usual amount of prodding to get them to walk the 50 feet or so into the other room.  Yes, the path had lots of distractions and obstacles, but still.....all they needed to do was "follow the leader"!   Then a bit later, I was in yet another room full of children (and just as a side note, all of the children seem to be crazy and excited and it is still a long time till Christmas), and we were trying to get them to lay on their cots and go to sleep.  As I have said before, this is quite an experience to try to get 12 or 13 two year olds to lay down on a cot and go to sleep - all at the same time.  We do everything we can to make the way clear for this to happen.  We feed them, we toilet/change them, we shut the blinds, we make it nice and dark, we put on soft, sweet music, we cover them with their favorite blankets and give them their lovies.  And then we even pat/rub backs.  Yes, we created a clear path for sleep, but today several children just would not go down that path.  Instead they chose the path of kicking, talking, laughing, etc.  Very frustrating to the path makers! 

When I finally had a couple of minutes to think (after the final hold outs fell asleep), I realized how much I had learned today about choosing a path!  First of all I learned that even if the path is not totally clear, you should look for the footprints.  Secondly I learned that it is very important to follow the leader.  And then I learned it is important to respect and honor the path maker!

WOW!  Quite a bit of information in one mornings adventures!  I was thinking of the first verse that I ever memorized.......    "Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path" Psalm 119:105.  The most important thing is that you have a lamp pointing right at your feet so that you can see the next place you need to put your feet.  That is exactly what I was experiencing walking in from the parking lot.  And then, when you have a clearer path, you can look up.  But you need a light to show you the direction that the path goes.  I am so thankful that Jesus is my "leader" and He is the light of the world.  So when I am walking on that path, I just need to be looking up, and THE light will be illuminating my path for me as I "follow my leader"!  Lastly, I realized how necessary it is to acknowledge that Jesus is the path maker for all of us.  If we think that we are in charge, we will likely run into lots of obstacles and get distracted and never end up where we are supposed to go.  Additionally, we will be very, very tired and cranky when we don't rest when we are told to rest.

Don't think there is much I can add to this............. 

Jesus, thank you for once again, speaking to me through my work.  What an amazing gift. Holy Spirit, continue to write these truths into my heart.  Speak to all of us when we are veering off of the path or refusing to rest.  Give us guidance and wisdom to look up and let you light our feet and reveal our path!   Thank you Jesus.   Amen

Monday, December 16, 2013

Where did the time go???

This evening I was finishing up wrapping Christmas presents and I don't know why, but I was suddenly hit with the passage of time.  I was sitting on the floor in the room that actually was both Gwen and Doug's at one time or another.  My scrapbooking room was the nursery - and also was both Gwen and Doug's room.  I looked around the room and flashed to what the room looked like at various points through out the years.  I was remembering when we moved Gwen into that room as a young toddler - about 2 1/2 years old - when Doug was expected.  I could see the little wooden kitchen that sat in the corner, as well as the kids picnic table.  Then I was flashing to the later years when Gwen had the walls covered with photos.  And then the last years when Doug had a full drum set and a futon as well as other various musical instruments.  I guess it was one of those "mom" moments when I got a little teary thinking about the kids. 

The Christmas Ornaments above are some of my very favorite.  Gwen's has a picture from her Baptism in October of 1979.  Doug's has his 7 month picture from November of 1982  I am glad that I have these ornaments on my tree.  I get to look at their sweet faces every Christmas.  I am very thankful that I get to be with my children and grandchildren on Christmas.  But, still, where did the time go??

There are times when it feels like just yesterday that Ken and I moved into this house...but gee it was 36 years ago.  And is it possible that Lia is 7 years old?  I have heard it said that the passage of time seems to accelerates as you age. And I guess I am suffering with that adage today.  Time flies when you are having fun.  Yep, I guess my life has been lots of fun since the time has been flying! 

Remember my post of a couple of days ago?  Expect the unexpected!  Yes!  So I am going to look ahead to what is in store in the next years.  Yes, it is good to celebrate and remember and reflect on the past, but it is important to keep on looking forward.  And not only looking forward, but walking forward.  This has been an unusual season in my life.  Things are changing and shifting in many areas.   But tonight I am feeling excited and expectant for the new and different and amazing things that are in store for me. In the 15 days left in 2013, I will be taking a deep breath (or two or three) and just being expectant!  I encourage you to join me in taking a breather in the next couple of weeks.  And during that breather, look ahead and expect the unexpected with me!

Jesus, tonight I celebrate that you are the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow!  Thank you for all of the amazing ways you have blessed me and my family.  Holy Spirit, speak clearly to me in these next weeks and quiet my spirit so that I can grab hold of the new things you are showing me. Bless all of those who join me in this breather time and give them wisdom and discernment for their own lives.  Jesus, thank you for your plans for me and my family.  Amen

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Spritz Cookies, my grandma and Communion.......

I had another really busy day today.  My weekend has been spent going from one task to the next.  But in the midst of that, it has been very "Christmas-y"!  Today in addition to the usual weekend stuff that needs doing (you know, things like groceries, laundry, cleaning), I managed to make some candy, one batch of my favorite Christmas cookies (more on these later), and I wrapped about 2/3 of my Christmas presents.  Not bad!  I've had a couple things on my mind today.  First of all, these Christmas Butter Cookies.  They are made with a cookie press and just melt in your mouth.  The recipe that I use was my Grandma Johnson's (my dad's mother).  It's very simple.  1 cup of butter (and it has to be REAL butter), 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 egg, 1 tsp of vanilla, and 1 tsp of almond extract.  The interesting thing about these cookies is that I don't really have many memories of these cookies when I was growing up.  My mom told me (when I was in high school) that her original cookie press had stopped working at some point, and she just never replaced it.  Then, my dad brought home a new cookie press.  Suddenly these cookies were made every Christmas! 
The problem that I have with these cookies is that I can eat them non-stop!  I just can't eat one and it doesn't end up with just two or three.  I love these cookies!!!!!  You only get about 50 small cookies and they have 1/2 pound of butter in them, so you know that they are rich.  Just let me say, you need to try out these cookies. 

 This is my Grandma Betty Johnson.  I'm not sure when this picture was taken but I am guessing sometime in the early 1950's.  My only real memory of her is visiting her at her house (which is near to Lake Maud).  She had a candy jar and always gave me a piece of candy.  And I remember that she had a kitten and she let me hold the kitten.  She died when I was 4 years old.  Today I was thinking about these cookies and wishing that I had known her when she was making these cookies.  I am so thankful that I have this recipe and that it has not been lost.  I have passed this recipe on to my daughter and my daughter-in-law so that our future generations can  continue to enjoy these amazing "Spritz Cookies" from Sweden.  So today my thoughts are on my own grandchildren.  I am more convinced of the importance of the little things that we can give to our family.  It is interesting that food is often a trigger to our memories. 

I can understand why Jesus decided to use food and a family meal to help us remember him.  I love that Communion is about remembering all that Jesus did for us.  I love that Jesus knew and understood how important gathering together around a meal is.  And I love that this amazing tradition of the Bible is something that I can pass on to my children and my grandchildren.  What an amazing blessing the Lord's Supper is to us. 

Jesus, thank you for food, fellowship and memories.  Thank you for the blessing of Communion.  Holy Spirit, thank you for using food to bring memories to our mind.   Thank you for Spritz Cookies, for Christmas and special treats. And Jesus, thank you for rest and time to enter into all of the fun of the season.   Amen

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kind of a snowy, busy day... and thinking about my dad!

Today started off with the sound of the snowplows going by the house.  Never a good sound.  We got around 3 to 4 inches of snow overnight, on top of the 2 or so that we had from last week.  It was still snowing when Ken and I left the house to start our shopping.  I have to admit, it does put you into that Christmas mood when it's pleasant (not below zero) and lightly snowing and things do look very pretty with a snow cover.  Of course the best thing was that it is Saturday!  At any rate, we got lots of small errands run, found a couple of last minute gifts, shopped at SAMS, and came home.  Ken was able to clear our driveway in a very short time, thanks to our handy little "Electric Snow thrower"  (this is a very small snow blower that works great for our small drive.  Thankfully we also own a bigger snow blower that we got from Ken's dad when he moved to Florida.  This was just a small snow and didn't require the "big guns").  We then ventured out again and picked up a couple more odds and ends that we needed.  When we got home, I had a job to do for my work.  I needed to make ANOTHER batch of those crazy "applesauce/cinnamon ornaments".  You see, this is the 4th batch that I have made.  The first one, at school worked quite well and we had about 12 usable ornaments.  However, somehow all the candy canes kept breaking!  So we decided to make another batch.  Well, I forgot to stir the already opened jar of applesauce and the ornaments were wet and never turned out right.  SO, I made another batch at home.  My candy canes broke in the same way as the previous batches.  So today I made a 4th batch with REGULAR applesauce and NEW cinnamon and these seem to be much better.
As I was making these, Ken yelled at me for using my "old" rolling pin instead of the wonderful new marble rolling pin that he bought for me.  And then I got to thinking about my dad.  You see this small little wooden rolling pin was made by my dad.  I don't know exactly WHEN but I have always used this rolling pin since I can remember.  I suppose that it was made for one of my siblings (this is one perk of being the youngest!) but I got custody of this when I got married.  I really took a close look at it today.  It is worn, and there are some stains and water marks on.  But you can see the detail that went into this wonderful little rolling pin.  It is really sized for a child and not meant to be a regular rolling pin.  But it just feels "right" when I am rolling out dough.  So today I used this rolling pin to make this 4th (and I hope final) batch of ornaments for the Blue Room kids at my work.  Join me in praying that they dry well and that we don't lose anymore candy canes! 
I just love that I have been blessed with these many physical reminders of my mom and dad.  I loved holding that rolling pin and thinking about my dad and how he loved to work with wood.  Even in the last years of his life, he was wanting to go to the lumbar yard to get some "supplies" for projects.  Since he was already in a wheelchair at the time, there was no way that he could build anything.  Yet his heart was to work with wood and build something.  When I picture my dad I don't usually see him dressed up in a suit (although for most of my life he wore suits and ties to work everyday).  The picture I have of him is in his favorite clothes - "uniform pants" (think cotton work pants) and a tee shirt.  This was his usual attire on weekends and at the lake.  He even had some "work shirts" that were uniforms with his name on the front.  He was really just a repairman at heart.  What a blessing that was for our family.  Dad could fix just about anything around the house.  He was great at plumbing, and every appliance could be fixed by him.  He could repair our tv's and stereos.  The only thing he never worked on was the cars.  We took those to the dealer!  I really think he was happiest with his head inside of a washing machine, doing a repair or sawing wood on his table saw.  I am thankful that he got to spend all of his working career doing something that he loved.  That is a tremendous blessing. 
So, one more blog about my dad.  I honored him in August, around the time of what would have been his 100th birthday, with several blog posts.  But this just sparked my memory today and gave me another reason to be so thankful for my Dad.  Even though he has been dead since 1985, I am grateful for the memories that come to my mind so frequently.
Jesus, thank you for my family.  For my mom and dad.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the gentle reminders of the great gifts I have received from my parents.  Thank you for the direction and guidance that you give to us.  Thank you for Christmas and ornaments and little children.  Thank you for snowy days and time to shop and time together.  Amen

Friday, December 13, 2013

The blessing of great pretzels..............

Tonight as Ken and I were sitting at dinner at our local Chili's restaurant, I realized that today was Friday the 13th.  I happened to see something on my phone about facts on Friday the 13th.  And I was thinking about various superstitions that hold so many people hostage.  Friday the 13th is certainly on that list.   Since I don't believe in "luck" either good or bad, this seems very silly to me.  I know that nothing happens by chance and that our destiny is part of God's plan for us.  So it really doesn't matter to me WHAT the date is, since everyday Jesus is in charge of my life.  The interesting thing that happened was that after dinner, the waitress accidentally dropped a plate holding several small dishes of various sauces.  They smashed to the floor and splattered EVERYWHERE including up and down the side of my leg and on my shoes.  Since I was going to be going straight home and really didn't care about my clothes, this was not a big deal.  When I heard the waitress say "It figures, it's Friday the 13th!"   I kind of chuckled!   When we found out that the manager had taken our appetizer off of our bill (By the way....wonderful, warm, fluffy, tasty pretzels - that make going to Chili's worthwhile) I realized what a blessing this little accident was for Ken and I.  Free Appetizers!  It's all about perspective.  From the perspective of that waitress, it was a "bad luck" occurrence because of Friday the 13th.  From my perspective, this was just an accident that ended with a blessing for us. 

So, these pretzels were a wonderful "unexpected" surprise.  And yes, I am still "Expecting the Unexpected".   I had another "unexpected" surprise at work today.  I got to spend my entire day in my favorite classroom, with my favorite kids and my favorite co-worker.  And today I got to paint a bunch of kid's hands with brown finger paint (making cute reindeer out of these), helping assemble a really cute owl (for "O" week), helped create a sign up sheet for next weeks Holiday Party (this included coloring and cutting out pictures of reindeer - in the dark- when the kids were asleep), read a really cute book to the kids that was an age appropriate book based on "Christmas Carol" and finished up the day watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas".  Really, could there have been a better day? 
Yes, all in all, this was a really good day.  And now, I am going to bed because after re-reading this blog, I understand why I am tired!  Good night!
Jesus, thank you for surprises and blessings.  Thank you for work, for children, for friends, for family and for food - especially pretzels!  Bless that waitress and help her to know that accidents happen and that you are in charge Jesus!  Amen

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Interesting follow up on yesterday's post!

Today, Lyn, we believe God wants you to know that .
when you expect nothing, you always receive a lot.
No matter how much you receive, if you expected even more, you will be disappointed. No matter how little you receive, if you expected even less, you will be happy.
When I got home from work tonight and started checking my email and facebook, this was a "notification" on facebook account.  At first when I read the header line.... when you expect nothing, you always receive a lot... I was thinking how strange this was after just posting yesterday that I am going to make my new motto "expect the unexpected"!  After I read the detail following the quote, I realized that this was saying just about the same thing!  If you EXPECT to get something great and very specific and you don't get this, you are disappointed.  HOWEVER,  I really don't agree with expecting nothing.   Like so many things, balance is important when talking about "expecting".
I don't want to expect nothing since then I may well miss out on what is out there.
I don't want to expect MORE since then I may well be disappointed.
So.......I think I will stick with "expecting the unexpected".  I just love the confirmation! 
Today I finished my work day with a little "unexpected" surprise.  I actually got off half an hour early.  This rarely happens - since the kids usually do NOT get picked up early.  But for some strange reason, the room I was in today cleared out and by 4:55 there were only 2 kids left.  So instead of working till 5:30, I was able to clock out at 5:01.  Yep, this was an unexpected treat. 
Jesus, thank you for all the ways that you speak to me, including through this crazy Facebook application "God wants you to know".  Thank you for using the things in our life to show us that you are the provider of all things.  Holy Spirit, help us all to keep on expecting the unexpected. And remind us of who the provider is for all those amazing surprises!   Amen

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The best "last minute", wasn't on the list, Christmas Present....

I am assuming that I am not the only person out there that struggles with trying to "top" that "best ever" Christmas present from years past.  Well, today I was thinking about the year I bought these crazy strap on skis for the kids.  I remember  being at the Stride Rite shoe store in the mall picking up some new shoes for Doug.  Then I spotted these plastic skis on a rack near the cashier.  They were ridiculously cheap - about $5 a pair.  So I just couldn't resist them.  Ken told me that they were junk and would never work.  There were plastic straps that Velcro closed over the kids boots.  I sort of thought that they might just be a novelty that got a few spins around the house.  The picture above doesn't do justice to the hours and hours of fun that Gwen and Doug had with these ski's.  They were actually really great.  They lasted through 2 winters and so many runs up and down the hill in the park behind the house.  And I think every parent in our neighborhood asked me where I got those skis.  Yes, it was the best "last minute", not on the list, Christmas present that I ever bought. 

I've done really good this year sticking to my list.  And, as I just blogged about this week, I've even made a few of my gifts.  I don't have much time to wander the stores so I am not apt to see that "special" item, either.  While I was doing my Bible reading today (yes, I am still managing to sneak in a few precious moments of quiet time each day, in spite of my new schedule), I was reading in Luke and there was the familiar Christmas story.  Oh, how I just love that scripture.  Today, I was taking it very slowly, and really looking at every verse.  There is so much in that chapter.   During my drive to work today I had the memory of those skis along with Chapter 2 from Luke running through my head.  Both of these had an "unexpected" quality about them.  Now I am not, in any way, saying that any Christmas present can compare to Jesus coming as a baby.  But, for all of us, this unexpected baby is the best present we could ever receive.  And I will continue to celebrate all of those times when we delight someone else with a great unexpected present or when we are surprised by someone else giving us a great gift!  And part of my thought process today was that having a list may not be the best thing at all!  I have been wondering how many amazing "best, last minute, not on the list" items I might have missed because I was so focused on my list! 

All of this is just another reminder that we need to be EXPECTING the UNEXPECTED!  I think that will be my new motto in the months ahead.   And it is a good one. I want to keep an expectant heart for all that Jesus might have in store for me.  I think that this thought might be the best, not on my list, thing that I can both give and receive! 

Thank you Jesus for prompting me to buy those skis for that long-ago Christmas.  And Holy Spirit, thank you for showing me that I need to EXPECT the UNEXPECTED in every way and in all of the days ahead.  Please slow us down and remind us to see what you did for us in the birth of Jesus.  Thank you for the Christmas season and the lights and the joy and the music.  Amen

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The laughable weather today.......

So remember when I talked about "date significance"?  You know, when you remember a long-ago date and everything that happened that day?  Well, today is one of those days for me.  December 10, 1966.  I am sure that there are some in my family who will remember this day as well.  The weather today reminded me so much of that day, I just had to write about it.  Well, that day was my sister Julie's wedding day.  I was 12 years old and in the 7th grade and I was the Junior Bridesmaid.

Now just a little background on this event.  My sister got married on a Friday night at 7:00pm.   It was a "winter/Christmas" wedding.  She had an amazing (and I mean AMAZING) white velvet wedding dress with fur trim.  Our bridesmaid dresses were Burgundy velvet and we carried a white fur muff with roses pinned on. My sister had this amazing "frozen" ice punch bowl that had roses inside of the ice.  Here's the part that caused me to remember this event TODAY!  It was VERY COLD that night.  Like below zero cold - in St. Paul Minnesota.  And it had already snowed quite a bit so there was ice and snow all over.  The temperature this morning when I left for work was 4 degrees with a wind chill of -15.  And I spent my drive to work thinking about my sisters wedding.

The story that my mom loved to tell about the day of my sister's wedding was what happened AFTER the wedding.  My sister got married in an old church on the east side of St. Paul. There was only street parking- no parking lot and we had to park several blocks from the church.  We were in charge of taking all of the wedding gifts from the "gift room" at the church and then delivering them to my sisters apartment.  Somehow my mom and I got left at the church to do this job.  My dad and brothers went home to welcome the guests that were gathering there after the wedding ended.  I don't know why things worked out this way, but they did!  So it was my mom and I who carted all the gifts down 2 flights of stairs in the church and then carried them over snow covered sidewalks to be loaded in the car.  After we were all loaded up, we drove to my sister's place and then began the very treacherous walk through the back yard and up an outside wooden staircase to the upstairs apartment.  The steps were icy and scary.  And did I mention that it was COLD..... and it was 10:00 at night???? And now for the real reason I remember this sooooooo well.  I was wearing my first ever pair of high heel shoes.
And a floor length velvet dress.  At some point my mom and I started laughing and we laughed until tears were running down our faces.  And we continued to laugh about this event for years and years afterward.  By the time we got back to our house, many friends and family were celebrating in the basement rec  room.  And all my mom and I could think about was taking our shoes off!  Yes, it was quite a night.  I am including this picture of my mom, my sister Julie and I from 2009!

I am so glad that no matter what happened, somehow we always laughed together. I am so thankful for all of the "laughing" memories I have with my mom. And I am glad that my kids shared some of these memories with us. If you ask Gwen I am sure she can recount the time that the three of us (my mom, Gwen and I) almost got thrown out of an Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service because we were laughing (or should I say trying to NOT laugh).  Yep, we did a lot of laughing.       

So today was another day when I was missing my mom and so thankful for Gwen. And I was chuckling a little on the way home from work, just thinking about this really cold weather.  Yes, it was a laughable weather day today.  And now there is is "winter weather advisory" for 4 or more inches of snow overnight.  Looks like tomorrow will be a "laughable" day also!
Jesus, thank you for my sister Julie and my mom and all of these amazing memories.  Holy Spirit, keep on showing me all of the ways that you have been working in my life even years ago.  What an amazing gift to remember and recount these treasures from the past.  Jesus, help us all to listen carefully as you speak to us and help us to connect the events from the past with the things you are saying for today.  What awesome and wonderful Savior you are!  Amen

Monday, December 9, 2013

It's been a "crafty" day today........

Today I spent the better part of the day making some special things for my grandchildren.  The end result is that I have several sore fingers and a good sized blister on my pinkie finger from my scissors. However I did actually complete my presents and I am quite proud of them.  This is not the usual way that I spend a day, but quite honestly, I loved it.  That reminded me of this ornament.  I still have several of this set of ornaments that I actually made in 1973 when Ken and I were engaged.  I cut the felt, sewed them together, sewed on the sequins and stuffed them.  This bell has been one of my favorites always.  Hard to believe that these are 40 years old. 

Over the past years of my adult life I have made more than my fair share of crafty projects.  Most had something to do with the children I was working with.  Like the year I decided it would be a good idea to spray paint white poster board stars with silver and gold..... That would be the year that I spray painted my kitchen curtains!  Yeah, that didn't work out so well.  However, those stars looked amazing in the Sunday school Christmas program.  I still have one of those stars in my ornament box.  I decided NOT to hang it on the tree this year.  I have cut out more advent candles from felt than I can count.  And more felt holly pieces as well.  Many years I recruited my mom to help me cut out and assemble various projects when she was here visiting over Thanksgiving.  She actually started to expect this and even said it wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving unless we had some kind of craft project to cut and/or assemble. 

My scrapbooking has sort of filled the void left by my lack of children's programs over the last 5 or so years.  And while this does require some of the same skills and thought process, it really is not the same.  I have been happy to be back in the crafting mode since I started working with preschoolers again.  Just last week, while attending that fancy women's dinner, I glanced down at my hands and noticed that I had blue paint under my fingernails.  And it made me smile! 

So this year I am celebrating "craftiness" and paper and glue and glitter and scissors and paint and color crayons and markers.  And most of all, I am celebrating the wonderful feeling that comes from creating a hand made gift for someone you love.  You just might want to try it! 

Jesus, thank you for reminding me about the things that are really important.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the joy and freedom and laughter of children.  Thank you for my job and the wonder of working again with little children.  Holy Spirit, bring us all back to the basic of gift giving.  Help us all to look for ways to create and bring joy to others with our own hands.  Jesus, thank you for loving the little children and blessing them.  Amen

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

It's snowing in Chicago today!  Really the first snow of the season.  I was just thinking yesterday that it would really feel a bit more like Christmas if there were some snow.  Now I am the first one to say that I hate to drive in the snow.  But it really does make it "seasonal"!  The picture above is one of the first memories I have of "winter".  It's from that same time in Aberdeen, South Dakota that I have been blogging about.  That's my brother Greg and I am 4 years old.  I've come to realize that, for me, lots of important stuff happened in those years when I was between 3 and 6 years old.  When I saw this photo I was remembering the snow.  We had LOTS of snow!  If you notice, I am wearing really big and ugly boots (my brothers hand me downs).  But they kept my feet warm and dry.  I remember that this same winter I learned to ice skate in the ditch next to the highway that was just a couple of doors away from our house.

Everyone talks about the years of the "big snows".  And there are always different years for different people.  In Chicago, there was a BIG snow in February 1967 (which was before either Ken and his family or my family moved here.)  For me one of those "big snow" year memories was the winter of 1978-79.  That year we had snowstorm after snowstorm after snowstorm.  It seemed to snow every week.  And the snow piled up and up and UP!  I especially remember this year because I was pregnant with Gwen and I shoveled lots of snow that winter.  Our neighbor across the street would always run out and insist on finishing up the shoveling if he saw me out there.  Ken was working 45 miles away and was gone from home more than 12 hours a day.  So clearing the drive was left to me!  At one point we had to shovel the roof because of the weight of the snow!   And our small yard had so much snow that I could no longer throw the snow on the pile.  All you could see of our house was the snow and the second floor windows.  Yep, that was WAY TO MUCH SNOW!

When I look out the window today I am so thankful that Jesus has washed my sins away and now I am "white as snow". I love Psalm 51- especially verse 7 -  "Cleanse me with hyssop and  I will be clean, wash me and I will be whiter than snow"  And I was thinking about those really ugly boots I have on in that picture.  Isn't that just like the ways that we try to cover up our sins?  We find things to hide behind and think that our sins are hidden from Jesus. Sometimes the cover ups make us feel warm and safe, but that is always a lie.  The only way we have to be free of our sins is by the blood of Jesus.  And then our sins are not covered up or hidden.......... they are TAKEN AWAY! Yes, I love the way snow reminds me of the best gift I have ever been given - Jesus.  So today, the snow is really making me feel "Christmas-y"  Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Jesus, thank you for your plan to bring us not only forgiveness of our sins, but also FREEDOM from our sins.  Holy Spirit, what an amazing gift you give us as you draw us to Jesus.  Thank you for Christmas, for snow and for your great love.  Amen