Thursday, July 31, 2014

Grandma and Grandpa much I don't know

I've been reflecting on my recent post about my Uncle George and Aunt Mable.  I mentioned in that post that they sort of acted like grandparents for me.  So this got me thinking about my grandparents - my dad's mother and father.  I know that I have blogged a bit about them as I have talked about my dad and his life.  But the combination of thinking about my grandchildren and how fortunate they are to have BOTH sets of grandparents as well as great grandparents that they will remember, has brought me to this blog post. 

I don't know when this picture of my grandparents was taken, but I can be sure it was before 1946.  My grandfather died in 1946.  Since I wasn't born until 1954, obviously, I never knew him.  My grandmother died in 1958 when I was 3 1/2 years old.  I have two memories of her.  First, she had a candy jar that was always filled with candy, and she would always give me candy!  She also had cats and they usually had kittens.  And she would always let me hold the kittens.  So anything that I know about my grandparents beyond these two silly things, I learned from other people.  I sure wish that I had something written by them. 

This is what I heard from my mother about her father-in-law (my grandfather).  He didn't speak any English.  Apparently, although he had been in the country since the late 1880's, he never learned to speak English.  (And I have a problem with some people who don't speak English today?  I guess things never change).  He also only read the "Swedish Newspaper" whatever that was.  He thought farming was the only "valuable" career.  Apparently he did NOT like my mother because she couldn't speak Swedish OR Norwegian OR German (her heritage).  He thought it was terrible that she only knew English.   And he did NOT approve of my father serving in the Navy during WWII.  I remember being told that he had decided to come to America to avoid being drafted into the Swedish army during a conflict with Norway.  He couldn't believe that HIS son would be DRAFTED in the United States!  My mother also told me that she believed that he stayed alive until my dad got home after WWII, even though he was so sick.   I actually less about my grandmother.  I do know that DID speak English, although not well.  She liked to listen to the radio, especially some program in the early 50's about Swedish people.  She had one sister that lived in Nebraska.  And she had other relatives in Sweden that she wrote to.  Okay, that's about all I can come up with about her.  Isn't that sad?  My sister Karen spent a far amount of time with her.  I wish I had asked her more about my grandparents.  Sadly, she is also dead. 

I think that is one reason that I am so intent on sharing stories and spending time with my grandchildren.  I "get it" when it comes to the importance of keeping these memories and sharing them with others.  So, I have some cousins that are reading this who might be able to share a few more facts with me! 

Tonight I am thankful to really get to know my grandchildren.  I am also thankful that my children got to know their grandparents (although Doug doesn't remember my dad who died when he was 3).  And I am thankful that Gwen and Tim took their kids to visit with their great grandpa. 

Jesus, thank you for extended family.  Thank you for reminding me to appreciate exactly what I have.  Holy Spirit, help us all to stop and be thankful for our families.  Help us to put aside any thing that might be keeping us from celebrating and being close with our family.   Jesus, your love is amazing!  Thank you for loving us so much.  Amen

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Knowing what is really important......

Today we were on our way to tot swim.  As we got out of the car,  Gwen was getting Anna ready, the older kids saw these geese on this little lake.  It was quite a big thing for them!  Lia was quick to explain to her younger sister and brother that the "big duck" in the front of the line of floating birds, was the "mother duck" and she was leading all of the babies behind her.  Ellie and Zeke were, of course, hanging on her every word.  They are quite happy to believe their older and much wiser sister whenever she is sharing information.  Here's the thing.  We have parked in pretty much the same place every week when we come to this pool to swim.  And this little pond with this fountain is always just in front of us.  It was this large flock of geese that caught the attention of the kids today.  And I don't know about you, but I DO NOT LIKE THESE MESSY CREATURES!  In fact, most of the parks and public areas are really horrible to walk through because of these supposedly endangered birds that have taken over!  But it was show for the kids this morning.  I don't think Lia's telling was entirely correct since all of the birds seemed to be the same size.  They were, however, swimming in a line, just as Lia had pointed out.  All three of them were totally invested in watching the geese swimming across this little pond.  It was interesting enough to draw them away from the planned activity - swimming (which they all love). 

On the way home tonight, I was thinking about how many of these "right in front of my face" things I miss because I am so focused on the activity at hand.  I think this is just a part of "older age".   Of course we know that we must be "as little children" to enter the kingdom of heaven.  And part of that being like little children is stopping to watch a flock of geese swim across a pond.  Also part of this is listening intently to those who are older and/or wiser than us. 

So tomorrow I will be looking around more carefully.  I will watch for those unexpected surprises and look more carefully at those pesky things around me.  I am convinced that there is a lot that I need to learn from this short little encounter as I watched my sweet grandchildren take in the sights.  And there is a lesson for all of us in this.  Slow down and watch the things that are right in front of you.  I am convinced that in this process, we will have an opportunity to connect and hear exactly what we have been needing from the Holy Spirit.  Here's trusting that I will have that answer to my question from yesterday in tomorrow's blog! 

Jesus, thank you for reminding me to stop and look and listen.  I love that you use these everyday things to straighten me out when I have wandered off of the path.  Holy Spirit, give me that nudge that I may need tomorrow to stop, look and listen.  And thank you for knowing exactly what I need!  Help us all to appreciate these small events and celebrate with joy, the interruptions in our intended plans.  Thank you for a wonderful day that did include swimming!  Amen

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dreams and Visions restored

On Sunday evening, I was at a meeting with wonderful worship.  During the worship set, there was a point when the leader stopped the worship. He said that he had the sense that there were people in the room who had given up on their dream.  They might have had a dream or vision or prophetic word prayed for them, but it had been a hard season and the dream seemed just impossible.  And then he asked for anyone who felt this speaking to them, to raise their hands.  Others gathered around them to pray for the release and restoration of all these old dreams and visions. 

I had my hand raised, and boy were there some powerful prayers prayed over me!  One women spoke as if she knew my entire life (isn't the Holy Spirit just awesome to bring revelation like this)!  I certainly felt the power and presence of Jesus during this remarkable prayer time.  I confess that this has been a season of wondering what the dream even was!  So much so, that I don't think I even know exactly what the dream is anymore!

During that prayer, this women prayed that more than an "old dream restored" that I would receive "a brand new vision" that would propel me into the new and higher and different season of my life.  She said that she sensed that everything had changed for me and I had been turned in a new direction.  And even more than turned, I had gone up higher, like a circular staircase. 

As I have been thinking about this prayer time, I confess that I didn't have an immediate "Ah Ha!" moment when I knew exactly what this new dream was!  I remembered the time I saw this amazing double rainbow in the picture above.  It was much clearer and brighter than you see in this picture.  And both rainbows were full arc.  And I heard that there was a double blessing on the path that Jesus had for me.  I have not really seen a "double" blessing since I saw these rainbows back in 2005!  And the fact that the Holy Spirit brought this back to my mind, tells me that this is for now!  So now I am expecting!  I can't wait to realize exactly what the new dream is, as well as knowing that there will be an extra anointing on this new thing.  I love that even though the women praying for me said that it was something totally new, the Holy Spirit reminded me that, in fact, it was a restoration of this older word about a double blessing. 

Please pray that I will have clear direction and revelation of this new dream!  You can be sure that it will be shared here on this blog as soon as I have something to share! 

Jesus, thank you for powerful worship and leaders that are sensitive to the moving of your Holy Spirit.  Bless all those who were bold enough to ask for prayer during this service.  Thank you for those who stood with me and prayed for me.  Holy Spirit, would you please guide and direct me towards this new dream.  Help me to continue to walk in the correct path towards this new thing.  Thank you for your great love!  Amen

Monday, July 28, 2014

My memories of summer vacation

I found this picture tonight and I have been thinking about my own memories of summer vacations.  I've mentioned that "the lake" (our family lake home) was the sight of almost all of my vacations as a child.  I guess this has been on my mind as I have been celebrating Gwen and Tim's family vacation.  Really, is there anything better for making memories with your kids?  This picture is really special to me.  Pictured are most of my aunts and uncles on my dad's side.  Left to right - Hank, Alice, John (peeking from the back), Svea, Agnes, my mom, George, and Mable.  And this picture was taken at the lake. 

I've been thinking about my Aunt Mable and Uncle George.  They had a farm not far from the lake.  And they also had the cabin right next door to our cabin on Lake Maud.  Take a close look at the background of this picture.  See all those terraces made with those rocks?  You can't get the full scope of this terrace work in this picture - it was amazing.  And George built this entire thing.  And he brought all of those rocks down from the farm.  Can you imagine the work of that project?  They had a REAL farm.  Some of my earliest memories are going into the barn with George and him handing me a baby pig to hold.  I loved to watch him milk the cows.  And they had sheep that lived right next to the door to the house in a fenced in area.  There were chickens and he always had some crop in the fields.  I remember my dad going up to his place to help during harvest time.  I loved seeing my dad on a tractor.  They had a big farm house with a "farm" kitchen (think a BIG square room with a BIG table and lots of room).  The house had a sun porch which was really sort of a "junk" room.  But, boy did I love that room.  My Aunt Mable stashed years of magazines in that room.  I loved looking through them and would spend hours in that spot looking at clothes from the 1930's and 40's.  Mable was a fantastic cook and I remember lots of wonderful meals at their table.  Mable also always baked my dad's favorite birthday cake - a traditional Swedish Tea Ring.  All of these are wonderful memories of Mable and George, but the best thing for me was that they taught me how to play cards!

I know that this might sound like a silly thing.  But these amazing people let a little 8 or 9 year old, sit with them in the evenings and play cards.  They taught me how to play rummy and canasta and 500.  And here's the thing.  All of the other kids at the lake were just a bit older than me by two or three years.  And they NEVER let me play cards with them.  I was always excluded.  But my Uncle George would see me outside by myself and call me to come in to their cabin for cards.  I loved this special time.  Often Aunt Mable would serve "coffee" later in the evening and invite my mom and dad to join us.  She would serve me milk in a coffee cup and whatever wonderful treat she was serving that night.  She used those wonderful glass plates with a little slot for the cup.  I am so thankful for having these special memories.  Mable and George were also the only one of my aunts and uncles that ever actually came to MY house.  I mean my home after Ken and I got married.  They visited my mom and dad in 1976 and we got to host them for a dinner at our apartment.  Yes, I love remembering these special people. 

Isn't it great to have memories to match up to pictures?  I am so thankful for my extended family.  You don't always see these people when you don't live in the same area.  But I treasure these vacation times that I spent time getting to know them.  In many ways, Mable and George took the place of my grandma and grandpa that I never got to know.  Because of the 18 year age difference between Mable and my dad, her grandchildren were actually OLDER than me!  I love that they "adopted" me as one of their own.  On their vacation Gwen and Tim actually spent time with both of Ken's sisters and their husbands.  And they saw Ken's dad.  I am so thankful that Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna will have the photos  (and in some cases) the memories of their vacation. 

Mostly I am thankful that I am close to my grandchildren.  I get to spend time with them every week.  And I get to make memories.  The fact that I have been able to spend time with them has made not working really a very amazing gift.  I love that negative things can turn into positives.  Isn't that just like Jesus?  I needed to have people in my life that will fill the void left by my grandparents death, and He provided wonderful aunts and uncles.  I am making memories and enjoying all the time with my grandchildren BECAUSE I am not working right now.  I love that this gift of extra time has come with an added measure of peace and calm and trust in His provision. 

Okay -  enough about vacations from the past.  My next blog post will be about the amazing worship time I had last night, and the revelations from that time! 

Jesus, thank you for memories of vacations and special times with Mable and George.  Thank you for your provision that extends well beyond what we may first think.  You provide the PEOPLE that we need in our life.  You give us time even when we don't know how much we need that time.  Help us all to see the way that you provide for us.  Give us a new perspective of the everyday things so that we can see your care and concern for us.  Thank you for your great love!  Amen

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Holding on to the TRUTH!

Doing this short series on testimonies has been interesting.  At first I had no intention of doing a long bunch of posts using these true stories.  But the response was, at first so encouraging that I decided to continue telling stories from my own life.  However, somewhere around day 14, I started to get some private messages and comments about these.  It seems that it was disturbing to some people that I would "boast" about these things.  One anonymous reader even said it was so "ungodly and not a very good Christian witness" to talk about what I had done and experienced.  Was I surprised to get a response to these blog posts?  No.  This blog is public and I welcome sharing.  As I have said before, I have readers from all around the world.  But I was surprised at how negative some of the comments were. 

At my last small group meeting, I was reminded of the highlighted verse above.  In another translation it reads "And they glorified God because of me"!  I had shared about this verse several months ago after being at a meeting where we were all challenged to tell a story that could conclude with.....and they glorified God because of me.  We talked about the false humility that is in the western church that is not Biblical.  Paul was very clear in this verse that the people praised God because of what Paul had said and done or what they had experienced through Paul.  All to often we are quick to say, "it was all Jesus" or "Praise Jesus".  But we are missing the point that it is all part of the master plan of God to use US to accomplish the work in the world.  Not to say that this is something we can do without Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  But it takes our actions and our spoken words to effect the world around us.  Part of that has to be retelling stories and giving our testimony.  That is one way we "go and make disciples" as Jesus instructed us to do.  Let me tell you it is difficult to do this.  Many people had a hard time sharing anything that ended with this statement.  I have really changed my own viewpoint since that night.  I am not so afraid to make the statement that what I have said or done has caused someone else to glorify God. 

Being fearful of what people will think or feel about me - the fear of man - is something most of us struggle with.  It's lots easier to put these words on paper and just shoot them out into that "invisible cloud" and never have to see anyone's face or hear any immediate comments.   But in all truth, these negative comments did make me take a step back and wonder if this blog was something I needed to continue. 

Then yesterday at our High School reunion picnic a former classmate told me, with tears in her eyes, just how powerfully she has been affected by reading my blogs.  She said that she can really relate to the things I have written and she just "knows" that they are true.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.  Isn't that just like Jesus to answer our need, even when we haven't really spoken it out? 

So today I am thankful for all of you, the ones taking the time to read these words.  And I am grateful for those that respond to me - even those with comments that are sometimes hard to hear.  It is evidence that someone is actually reading and processing these words and in some way, taking them to heart.  I began this blog with a clear sense that it was what Jesus was asking me to do.  And today, I am continuing it with a renewed and increased sense of purpose. 

Jesus, thank you for who you are.  Thank you that you answer us and hear those unspoken prayers of our heart.  Holy Spirit, thank you for all that you bring to see and read these words.  Pour out your message to them, through my words.  Thank you for computers, the internet and blogging.  Amen

Friday, July 25, 2014

High School Reunion Time.... yes it's been 42 years for me!

This is the house I lived in during my high school years.  I actually took this picture tonight on the way to Ken and my high school reunion.  (By the way, that giant pine tree in the front yard was a little twig that my Dad brought back from Montana after a trip to visit my sister Julie!  I can't believe how tall it is now!) We have quite a neat group of classmates from Ken's class that plan this yearly summer reunion.  And since so many of Ken's class married people from my class (or the girls married guys from the classes ahead of theirs) they have actually opened up this yearly event to anyone from 68-76 graduating classes!  So thankfully, there are many people from my class and it is fun to catch up and reconnect. 

Tonight I was thinking about all of the different groups of kids that I called my "friends" over the 4 years of high school.  Our high school was one of the largest in this area.  Ken's class had 550 kids and mine had nearly 700. So with nearly 2,000 kids in the building, there were lots of potential "groups" to join.  And I don't mean formal "Clubs" or activities.  I mean those sort of groups that always sat at the same table in the cafeteria or met at the same spot in the hallway.  And here is the thing.  I was a pretty unremarkable girl all through high school.  I was not one of the popular kids.  I was not a cheerleader, did not play in the band, act in plays, or play any sports.  I also was not one of those "other" kids - you know that ones who hung out in the "smoking" bathroom or ditched classes.  I was just pretty average.  I had lots of different friends that each had groups of friends that I just blended into. But I would say that I had a really good high school experience.  I always had something to do and someplace to go.  I did not feel "left out" even though I never went to single formal dance during my high school years.  Yes, it was a good four years.

I think that my experience with all of these different people was really a training ground for my future.  With hindsight I am able to see just how Jesus used this time of my life to prepare me for the years ahead.   Tonight I was telling someone about my first real "car date".  A guy from Ken's class asked me to go to a Campus Life meeting.  He picked me up at my door and we drove to someone's house about a mile from my house for the meeting.  After the meeting we went to McDonalds for a coke and fries.  Yes, a Campus Life meeting!  And we went to lots of Campus Life large group meetings.  And I also went to youth group meetings at several different churches.  Without really appreciating what was happening, Jesus was directing my path. I was exposed to many different theologies and styles of worship.  I am so thankful for these years. 

Tomorrow we have the Reunion Picnic.  It is always fun to go to the same forest preserve that we spent so much time in as teenagers.  Yes, I will be doing more reflecting on these years and all that Jesus brought me through.  And I will be extra grateful for where I am right now!

Jesus, thank you for the chance to reconnect with old friends and get to know people that we did not know in high school.  Holy Spirit, remind me of your guidance and direction during these years.  Jesus, bless all the classmates that plan and carry out these events every year.  And thank you for drawing me into friendships that included church and youth group activities.  Amen

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 18 - TODAY'S answer to prayer

So most of the last few weeks have been testimonies from years ago.  Not today!  This is not the best picture of my sweet little ones (I lifted it off of Instagram - sorry Gwen), but I needed to share this!

Gwen and Tim took their 4 children on an airplane to visit my 94 year old father-in-law whose health is failing.  Now, this kind of a trip is not for the faint of heart!  Just the sheer amount of "stuff" that they had to bring would scare anyone!  Think car seats for all the kids, a playpen for Anna, not to mention, clothes, cups, bottles - you get the idea.  And four little ones on an airplane -  well, lets just say that Gwen and Tim are a hearty lot.  But still, I figured that they could use prayer coverage for this trip.  So I put out a request on my small group "text prayer chain". 

Now let me tell you that this texting thing is really amazing when it comes to sharing prayer needs.  I was just telling a couple of people how much I feel the very real presence of the Holy Spirit each time I get one of those text prayer requests from a member of our group.  I have no doubt that this use of cell phones and texting is just one thing that Jesus is using today.  Recently I saw a sign on a church near my house that said  "Prayer - the ultimate wireless connection".  And I think that the combination of using texting to pass prayer requests is just taking this one step further. 

So on to the story of today.  Well, everyone prayed for Gwen and Tim's airplane travel and it was a very good trip.  So, yes, an answer to prayer.  Let's face it.  A good three hour trip with four children is a miracle! 

However, I neglected to ask for prayer for some other details of this trip.  Like a rental car big enough to hold 4 car seats and 6 people and all the stuff - even though there was a prepaid, confirmed reservation for one! (I know, anyone who knows the show Seinfeld is now saying "They know how to TAKE the reservation, they just don't know how to HOLD the reservation!"  Ken and I were saying the same thing).  Thankfully, although NOT quickly, a different company found a suitable vehicle for them.  They were 3 hours later getting to their hotel than they expected.  You would think a good nights sleep was all they needed.

But early this morning I got a text from Gwen that Ellie was very sick and throwing up.  Now this is really no fun in a hotel.  And really not good when you need to go visit an elderly person who should not be exposed to anything!  I immediately put out an URGENT prayer request via text to my group.  And they all assured me that they were praying.  It was not looking good after 3 hours of Ellie getting sick every 30 minutes like clockwork.  Gwen and Tim were trying to decide what to do and then I got a text from the leader of my small group.  It said "been praying and feeling that a break thru is happening".   And I am not kidding you, within 2 minutes I had a text from Gwen saying Ellie was up and out of bed getting dressed.  And then they were on their way to see Great Grandpa.  Within another hour Ellie was swimming in the pool at my sister-in-law's house. 

By this evening, they were on the beach.  As you can see in this picture, they are all doing well - including Ellie.   And I am convinced that Ellie's quick bounce back was due to this wonderful group of prayer warriors who stood with me and prayed! 

My encouragement to you is to find yourself a group of people who are willing to form a "text" prayer chain.  You will be blessed.

Jesus, thank you for your protection and covering over Gwen, Tim, Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna.  Holy Spirit, bless their time visiting with Great Grandpa and the rest of the family.  Thank you for my friends and their willingness to pray when the need arises.  Holy Spirit nudge us all to pray for those close to us even when there is not an urgent need.  It is a miracle that we can connect through cell phones to connect TOGETHER to you.   Thank you for the quick healing for Ellie!  Amen

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 17 - a couple more stories from 20 years ago

So continuing from yesterday. I was on a mission trip to a small village in northern Mexico.   We were doing lots of  fellowship with the moms and the kids who came to the Vacation Bible School program.  We had outdoor activities like bubbles, balls, jump ropes and a parachute.  And we got to speak with many of the women - a few who could speak English.  This was an eye opener for me in so many ways.  First of all, these people LOVE their children.  The children were all clean and neat, even though they did not have new clothes (in most cases), they had on their best for us.  You could tell that the children had a wonderful relationship with all of these women.  This sweet little baby's name was Pearl Jasmine.  I got to talking to her mother when I asked her name.  She told me that it was unusual for a baby to have a name before they turned 1.  Usually their "naming" ceremony happened on their first birthday.  The reason for this was that many, many times the children didn't survive infancy.  It was easier to lose a child that did not have a name.  This mother had gone against the norm and named this baby because she believed that Jesus was taking care of her.  We also heard a sad story that 6 years earlier they had experienced a bacteria in their water reservoir and many of the children under 6 had died.  There were far fewer kids between 6 and 12 than there should have been and this was the reason.  Wow, we are so removed from this kind of thing in our comfy life in the United States.  It was a sobering reality for these people and experiencing it in a small way, changed how I looked at my own life.  I remember Pearl Jasmine's mother and her resolve to trust totally in Jesus.  What a testimony that is.

Then there is this testimony of multiplication......  The majority of the food for the team came with us on that bus.  We ate lots of peanut butter and jelly.  And a lot of canned food.  On the final night in the town we prepared a meal for all of the people from the church who had hosted us in their homes and also all of the elders of the church.  Many, many people turned up at the church for this meal.  As a matter of fact, the people just kept coming down the road.  It became very clear that we would not have enough food to feed everyone.  We told all of the kids to wait to eat until given permission and then we prayed over the pots of food.  We had several large cans of Spaghetti pasta "0's" that we had not intended to use that night, that were opened and heated.  And the people ate.  And the team ate.  ALL of the people ate.  And that pot of pasta was about 1/3 full at the end of the night.  It was a multiplication miracle.  I don't think I appreciated the scope of this miracle until after we were home from this trip.  I know that this miracle happened because I held the spoon in that pot and scooped out plates of food for people.  Yes, it was an amazing testimony of the provision of Jesus.  And it was also an expression of Jesus' great love for these people. I later found out that this kind of multiplication of food happened often on these mission trips.  It was certainly the first time I had ever seen and experienced this.

I was greatly blessed and changed by this trip so long ago.  Thinking about this trip has made me remember that I have so much to be grateful for.  And I am reminded that Jesus is faithful and He cares for and provides for His people. 

Jesus, thank you so much for who you are.  You are an amazing God who provides for all of our needs.  You cover us with your love,  you empower us with your faith and strength and you do miraculous things every day!  Holy Spirit, thank you for prompting me to share these stories each day.  What a great blessing it has been for me to remember your faithfulness and goodness to me.  Again, bless the people in this town in Mexico and remind them of your love.  Amen

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 16 - When you know you've been sent

I think I mentioned that in 1994 I went on a mission trip to Mexico with the youth from my church.  Gwen was actually one of those youth.  This was my first real experience with any kind of mission experience.  My job was to plan the Vacation Bible School program that we would hold in the village we visited, and to train the youth to lead this program.  This was certainly interesting since I do not know Spanish!  I confess that I really had no idea WHY I was on this particular trip.  It was also the first time I had ever been out of the United States. 

We traveled to Mexico in a VERY OLD BUS..... think very old school bus.  Not one of those comfy kind.  This was just an old bus with plastic seats and a metal floor.  And it was a LONG drive from Illinois to Mexico!  We drove through the night several times and sleeping was just a joke.  Not to mention the fact that there were 25 high school kids as well as 8 adults crammed into this space. 
It was a memorable trip.  Then, when we finally arrived in the small village in the mountains near Monterrey, Mexico we received the first of many surprises of the trip.  The Pastor and his family had gone into Monterrey to get supplies for our team.  While there, they were killed in car crash during a very bad storm.  So this small little town had just lost their pastor and his entire family.  Yet, they rallied together and welcomed us.  The elders who greeted us and gave us this news, told us that they knew our time in their village was important since Satan was obviously trying to stop what Jesus intended.  They were upbeat and committed to whatever God intended. 

On these trips, all of the team were divided up and stayed with "host families".  The home I stayed in had a roof (some did not) and an actual outdoor toilet facility (some homes had just a hole in the ground).  The water supply was a rain barrel with a large system of pipes to catch the rain water.  The first morning I saw a bird swimming in the barrel.  Yuck!  Needless to say, we did not drink their water or eat their food.  The picture above is of all of the host senoras.  It was a very big deal for these women to open their homes to all of us. 

We had a wonderful week. There were over 200 kids from the town that came for our program.  We had a great time playing and just being with these children. One of the projects that we did was the construction of two banners for their church that the children helped construct.
On the fourth day of our stay in this village, this women found our translator and came to see me.  She was one of the "Matriarchs" of this church.  Through tears, (and the translator) she told me that she had praying for ME to come to her church for the last 15 years.  She knew that the children were not getting the education that they needed and Jesus had told her that He would send someone.  When she found out that the banners had been my idea, she knew that I was the one Jesus had sent.  I was stunned.   She grasped my hands and cried and cried as she prayed for me.  It was an experience that I will never forget.  Yes, I knew that I had been sent.

I don't think I had ever thought about why I was there.  And I sure didn't have any idea that I could have been the answer to prayer.  I will never forget this women's faith.  She continued to pray and seek even when she didn't see an immediate answer.  She touched those banners and spoke about all of the love that went into them.  And she told me she loved all of those children. 

That's it for tonight.  I am thankful for the chance to reflect on this.  There are a couple more things to share from this amazing trip.  So watch for future posts! 

Jesus, thank you for using all of us to complete your plans.  Holy Spirit, thank you for reminding me of the great faith of that dear woman.  Give us all a renewed faith in your power to work through us.  Keep us all moving forward in your plans, even when we don't realize that it is your purposes being fulfilled.  Thank you for this village and these people.  Continue to bless them and meet all of their needs.   Amen

Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 15 - Putting thoughts on paper

I remember exactly where I was when I first did an outline for this booklet.  It was on the 19 hour flight back from Africa in 2004.  As I said in my last blog, that trip changed everything for me.  Instead of just DOING programs for children, suddenly this message needed to be shared with the adults. 

I realized while writing down the words in this little booklet (click here to read the booklet) that it was the youth leaders, the parents, the pastors, the leaders that most needed to hear and embrace this message.  If I had to give a short synopsis of this booklet it can be found in the conclusion .............

Much focus is placed on youth and youth ministry. Yet, if the churches were building a strong and solid foundation for the youngest child in the body, the youth ministry would be happening and the youth would be leading this ministry.
Children who have a personal relationship with Jesus and are taught to hear and respond to the voice of Jesus, who are encouraged to share, who are filled with the Spirit, and empowered to serve, can change the entire dynamic of a church family.

These are the children who can walk boldly into their world - the schools, the playgrounds and the sports fields - and bring others into the kingdom. They are not the FUTURE of the church - they ARE the church.

So, the booklet was written.  Copies were made and the booklet was read- at least by a few people.  However, I am not so sure that there was any real impact from this book.  I know that it is another one of those lessons in seed sowing.  I felt that the words needed to be said.  So I did that. 
From the perspective of my testimony, however,  the years leading up to this were a very confusing and challenging time for me.  I had resigned from all of my duties doing Children's Ministry.  I made that decision after much prayer and discussion.  It was a time when I really felt adrift with no clear direction.  I wasn't sure exactly WHAT was going on.  But when I was sitting on that plane making that outline, everything seemed to make sense.  Certainly it was good to provide the programs that would meet the needs of the children.  But far more important was the message of this booklet.  The mindset of the adults needed to be changed.  If that happened, then in the future many more children would benefit. 
However, once you have been "pigeon holed" into a position, it is very difficult to get out.  Over and over, it was assumed that I should be with the children.  And even harder for me, was that I have not seen much change in the attitude of most of the church towards children. 
But, here's the thing.  In looking back at the past 10 years, I know that I have grown so much.  Right now I can say that this time of turmoil and unrest and no fulfillment has been so good for me.  I love that we all can learn during these times of walking in the valleys of discouragement.  While it is wonderful to be up on those mountains of success, I think more is gained during those hard times. 
So my story for tonight is all about walking through some tough times when things didn't go the way I thought they should.  And it was a time when I felt that I had missed my own destiny. The truth about these years is that Jesus was working on me during these years.  And He was walking with me through that valley.  I am grateful for the last 10 years.  And I am also thankful that the valley has ended and I am walking up that mountain! 
Jesus, thank you for always giving us exactly what we need, even when it seems to be the opposite of what we thought we wanted.  Holy Spirit, thank you for walking with us when we go through these dark and discouraging times.  Thank you for you plan and purpose for us!   Amen


Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 14 - Go to the Nations!

Kenya - 2004
So during the time that I was immersed in Children's Ministry, I received several very clear prophetic words about going to the nations.  I really couldn't make sense out of these words! I had no desire to go any where (except possibly to Israel) and most of all, I could not understand WHY I would get this kind of word.  Because I had been working closely with a Ministry that had an International focus, I figured that was the reason for the words.  I was quite happy to stay at home and pray for the leaders of this Ministry as they traveled the world.  Until 2002.  I had the amazing experience of being in a room with people from Mexico, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, and India.  I was sort of like a "fly on the wall" as I listened to them just talking.  They discussed how many languages they could each speak.  What common languages they had.  Where they had traveled, etc.  At some point on that day, the Holy Spirit, quietly spoke into my spirit, "Go to the Nations".  Suddenly it seemed possible that SOME DAY I might go to the nations! 

Now the interesting thing about this was that in 1994 I had gone on a mission trip to Mexico.  My purpose on that trip was to coordinate the Vacation Bible School program for the children in the villages that we visited.  That experience propelled me into the Children's Ministry that I have described over the last couple of days.  But somehow, that message in 2002 to go to the nations, was very different.  I just couldn't imagine how or when this might happen.  It seemed IMPOSSIBLE!

I forgot that Jesus is the God of the impossible.  Unbelievably, the entire trip to Kenya and Uganda, just fell into place.  I left the USA thinking that I was going to speak to children about their eternal destiny through Jesus.   When I returned from that trip, I knew that my message was for the ADULTS rather than to the children. Suddenly, the people that I needed to be reaching were the parents and the teachers and the pastors and the leaders, rather than the children.   Somewhere on that trip, Jesus gave me a clear message that I knew I needed to share. 

I wish that I could say that I have been successful sharing that message in the last 10 years.  But, sadly, I never really felt like I have accomplished that task.  But I do know that I was changed by that trip to Africa.  I made some amazing friends.  I understood much more clearly how Jesus was using me, just as he uses us all. 

Jesus, you are the God of the impossible.  Thank you for your provision that sent me to Africa and keeps me every day.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the reminder that even when we don't feel successful, you ARE successful.  Continue to remind me of all that has been sown into me through the years.  Thank you for reminding me that you will accomplish your plan in spite of our failings.  Amen

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 13 - And then there was M&M's!

So after a couple of years of doing Sontime on Sunday mornings, and HizKidz as an after school program, the leadership of the church started talking about having a "family night".  The idea was that there would be something for everyone.  Bible Studies for the adults, the youth program for the high schoolers, a confirmation program for the junior high school kids, and something else (including a nursery) for the rest of the children.  It was decided that this event night would include a simple meal for a small charge.  The hope was that people would come and have a dinner together and then each go to their own area.  I remember coming up with the idea for "M & M's" - Meals and Ministry nights.  So, once again we were "inventing" a program for the children.  We wanted to do something different than our Sunday program. It had to look different because we only had 4 adults from our leadership team to lead the small groups.   So after a brainstorming meeting we decided to do a worship focused hour at the beginning of the time.  We taught the kids songs that we were singing on Sunday mornings during worship.  There was also lots of education about worship.  And we also did some quiet times of just listening to Jesus.  It was during one of those times when a little 2 year old girl raised her hand when I asked for kids to share what they were hearing or seeing from Jesus.  She had a limited vocabulary, but she said " many colors".  We all knew that she was, indeed, seeing Jesus.  After worship, we did Bible study for the kids - (Nursery, 2-4 year olds, K-2nd grade and 3rd-5th grade).  I taught the 2-4 year olds.  During that time I discovered just how much these very little kids really understood about Jesus.  I began to see how the church - including me - had underestimated these little ones.  Somehow these hungry little soles memorized the books of the Bible - including knowing a basic one sentence statement with the subject of the book!  I was amazed.  We talked about prayer and started prayer journals that were just simple drawings that had the words added by the adults as they were spoken by the children.   There were some powerful prayers and answers to prayers from these kids. 

It was around this time that I knew that Jesus was calling me to be a voice for the children.  While it was about teaching the children, it was more about speaking to the parents and the leadership about the importance of including the children in all aspects of the church.  Somehow it seemed that the children were just to be kept out of worship and entertained until they were somehow supposed to WANT to be in church when they hit confirmation age.  What??? This was a real mystery to me.  It was no wonder that so many youth just endured church until they were old enough to leave.  

Yes, this revelation really changed my life and led me down some very different paths than I could have predicted.  And, of course, there is STILL more to this story!  I am being so blessed by these blogs.  Each memory reminds me of the faithfulness of Jesus.  Every story brings to mind the working of the Holy Spirit in my life.  It feels like I am putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle and every story is a piece of that puzzle.  I can't quite see the finished picture yet, but I think I am growing in understanding that there is a "big picture"! 

Jesus, thank you for this blog and all who take the time to read this.  Bless them all as they take time to share their own stories.  Holy Spirit, what a joy it is to know that every day you are guiding and directing me.  Thank you for helping me to see the big picture you have for my life!  Amen

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 12 - And then what happened....

So picking up where I left off yesterday.  After a couple of years of doing Hiz Kidz, I was anxious to begin a "Station Rotation" model for Sunday School.   We had seen the great need to reach the children of our church with more than they had been getting.  For years and years our church had gotten curriculum donated to us and it was "Evangelical" based material.  That donation had ended and we needed new material.  We were a Spirit Filled Lutheran church.  I had problems with what was NOT included in the curriculum.  I spent a very frustrating 6 months on a committee trying to choose the next material.  There were SO many issues and it just seemed like an impossible task. And the current Sunday School Superintendent was resigning.   I went out on a limb and made a proposal to the Pastors and Elders to do a very different kind of program and volunteered to be fill the spot of Superintendent - IF I could do this new program with curriculum that I would write and assemble (much like the HiZ KidZ program).  I think they agreed because they really didn't know what else they were going to do!  Most of the staff of teachers were not interested in doing anything new.  There were a number who were excited about this new thing and were willing to give it a try.  This program took off and was extremely successful.  We had over 125 children from 2 year olds - 5th Grade enrolled in the first year.  Using a bunch of resources and lots of brainstorming with a leadership team, we wrote a  6 year plan (exactly what we were going to cover) and I developed most of the curriculum. 

I can't begin to tell you how much I learned during these years.  In spite of hours and hours of work and lots of time away from my family, it was so worth it.  To see the kids run happily into church each week.  To hear those memorized Bible verses each week.  To see the singing and joy on the faces of those kids -  yes it was amazing.  Around the end of the second full year of the program, one of my pastors tried to encourage me to publish this curriculum and the HiZ KidZ curriculum.  He realized that we had developed a program that was sort of a "niche" program that was so good it could be marketed. To this day, I regret not following his advise.   I just felt that I did not have the time or energy to accomplish getting this material ready to show to publishers.  I was working full time, my kids were still young and I was still running this program every week!  But, I confess that there are times when I wonder what might have come from this.  Within five years there were many published curriculum's that used this "Station Rotation" model.  Yes, we were ahead of the pack with this program. 

During the first 5 years of this program, we also did quarterly family events as well as Vacation Bible School.  And this was a full year program!  We did not take a vacation in the summer.  And there were also "special events" each year that needed children's activities.  It was a busy, busy time and I was fully immersed in this ministry.  In looking back, this time period was one of the greatest growth periods in my walk.  I knew that I could never do this on my own and I had to rely wholly on Jesus to accomplish this.  I was active in another ministry also and participated every week in a healing service.  I learned more scripture and more about the Holy Spirit during these busy months.  I experienced some deep inner healing and learned about forgiveness and restoration.  And every week, those children were a part of what Jesus was doing, working on me! 

There is still more to this part of my story.  I will continue this sharing on another day. 

Jesus, thank you for your healing and restoration power that changes everything!  Holy Spirit, thank you for your power and grace that brings us inspiration to carry out your ideas!   Give us all encouragement to step out and act on the thoughts and ideas that you give to us.  Remind us that it is your strength that helps us bring your visions to life!  Amen

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 11 - Let the little children come

Believe it or not, it wasn't until last night that I really saw the connection between Vacation Bible School and the path I took into Children's Ministry.   While I had been a Youth leader and Sunday School superintendent and teacher, I was never really satisfied with the program.  There was always something missing.  As my own relationship with Jesus grew deeper, I was more and more dissatisfied.  I remember hearing about a new model for Sunday School called "rotation" that was being done as an experiment.  It really sparked my interest and in reading about the program, I began to have some ideas and changes that could really work for this kind of program.  For several years in the early 1990's, I was not involved in any kind of leadership with children or youth.  Then in 1992, I was asked to plan a short evening program for children that would basically "entertain" the kids during an adult event with special speakers.  So I planned and carried out this event and it was an amazing success.  Shortly after that, I was asked to formulate a program for 3rd - 5th Graders that would run at the same time as the Junior High youth program.  I really didn't know if it would be successful, but there were 12  kids in that first session.  I loved seeing these kids get excited about the topics and stories.  And most of all, growing deeper in Jesus.

It wasn't long before I was hooked, line and sinker into Children's Ministry.  A friend and I came up with a plan for an after school program for Kindergarten through 5th Graders.  We called it "HiZ KidZ and planned 8 week sessions on different topics.  Once again, we thought that if we had 20 kids, we would be pleased.  Let's just say we were shocked when 60 kids registered for our first session.  We basically did a "rotation" model and grouped the kids in small groups of mixed ages.   We used the 5th Graders as "junior leaders", which ended up being one of the best things about this program.  These HiZ KidZ sessions have been used over and over and rewritten for various situations.  I know that this program was true inspiration.  I did not have any training to write, plan and carry out this venture and everything about this program was Spirit led.  This program was the springboard for a Sunday morning program that changed my own life.  More about that program tomorrow. 

I love that I am being reminded of just how faithful Jesus is by telling my own story.  I love that I am seeing with new eyes, each step that has helped me walk out my destiny and get me to where I am right now.  Once again, I encourage you all to share your stories!  It is just amazing what YOU will gain as you recount how Jesus has worked in your life. 

Jesus, thank you for the path that you laid out for me to walk down.  You knew that it was not always a straight, flat path and I am so grateful that you continued to draw me along and make a way for me to follow your leading.  Holy Spirit, continue to encourage us all to share all that you have done for us.   Amen

Monday, July 14, 2014

Day 10- Vacation Bible School

Today I've been thinking about Vacation Bible School.  Last week my grandchildren attended a VBS program with some of their friends.  This week they are attending "Bible Boot Camp" at their own church.  I've had quite a bit of experience with Vacation Bible School - almost all of it as a leader.  The only experience I had at Vacation Bible School as a child was when an adult neighbor invited me to attend with her and her small children.  I was in 3rd Grade and it was a wonderful experience for me.  There are 2 things that stand out for me about that week.  The plaque above (which is some kind of stones glued on corrugated cardboard) and the fact that they gave me a Catechism.  This plaque hung in my room until I got married.

Beginning in 1989, every summer I was somehow involved with a Vacation Bible School program.  I have helped coordinate Ecumenical programs with several churches, I have written programs and adapted others.  During the years that I was Children's Ministry Director  we held some really amazing programs.  One year I used 100 yards of blue fabric (that I had purchased at a surplus factory for a "by the pound" price) to create a river that ran throughout the halls of the church and ended in a large pool in the front of the church.  On another year Ken helped me build an elaborate "robot" that was part of a large puppet theater.  Yes, creating the environment was always a big part of the program.  Oh how I loved to see all of those kids!  And I always tried to include one very special craft each year, just in case there was a little girl or boy that may hang it up and save it for 50 or more years. 

But the thing is, this week was always important to me because it was the one week of the year that children were welcomed into the church, allowed to sing and dance and have fun learning about Jesus, invite their friends, make crafts and hear Bible stories told in new ways.  It was also a time when the older children and youth were allowed to help and use their gifts and talents in service for Jesus.  This never made any sense to me. If it was okay for kids to learn this way one week, why not always?  I believe it was Vacation Bible School that got me thinking about ways to change this pattern of "one week only" and open up the church to children all 52 weeks of the year. 

Yes, I am thankful for Vacation Bible School.  I am thankful for all of the children who learn about Jesus every year in these programs.  And I am thankful for churches that welcome children into all parts of their building, including worship, every week of the year. 

Jesus, thank you for these special times of learning and growing.  Holy Spirit, continue to bring children and youth into their destiny as they experience church in new ways during Vacation Bible School.  Jesus encourage us all to see children and youth as you do.  Jesus, thank you for Bible Boot Camp and the ways that Lia, Ellie and Zeke are learning to serve others.  Amen

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 9 - Sowing and watering

This picture is actually from around 1900.  The young man on the right, with his hands on his hips and that awesome hat, is my grandfather (my mother's father) Arnold Toensing.  This farm belonged to his older brother Henry and his family.  It was during this time on the farm, that my grandfather decided that he was not cut out to be a farmer.  That decision changed his life forever.  It was after this time that he decided to go to North Dakota with a friend to open a general store.  It was there that he met my grandmother.  The interesting thing about my family is that there are many, many farmers on my family tree.  The fact that I choose this photo (one of my relatives that was NOT a farmer) is kind of odd!  I have so many great memories of being on the farms of my aunts and uncles. 
This photo was taken at my Aunt Agnes and Uncle Hank's farm in 1957.  I cherish all the memories I have from Uncle George and Aunt Mable's farm.  I am thankful for these experiences.  That brings me to my story today.  (I actually found a couple of different pictures today, that brought me to this blog post.)
Well, I was thinking about that time in the prayer group I mentioned in an earlier blog.  We also had a Sunday morning Bible study that was working through the book of John.  There were several people in that group that challenged and argued every line we studied.  There is one week of that study that stands out for me.  I was just the "substitute" leader that day.  The verse was John 14:6
Jesus answered, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father, except through me".
What a day that was.  There were comments from all sides.  "What about GOOD people?"  "What about people who are following the religion that they think is the right one?  Who are we to judge" For the entire hour all I did was to repeat this verse over and over and over.  Most of the people in the group were not very happy with me.  They did not want to hear this verse over and over.  And they did not want to hear what was behind this verse.  Needless to say, it was a LONG hour for me. 
My mom happened to be visiting at the time of that Bible class.  She could not believe my response.  And she couldn't believe that people DID NOT believe this verse!  I know that Bible class on the book of John was all about sowing seeds.  There were some people in that class that were being drawn into Jesus.  And I was just one of the "farmers" sowing the seeds.
For a couple of these people, the next few years was all about watering those seeds.  We continued to meet week after week.  We finished the book of John and moved on to Hebrews.  Over and over there was a challenge to really give their life to Jesus.  Every week we would pray.  And every week we would ask if they were ready to say yes to Jesus.  We poured the water of the Holy Spirit on those seeds.  But, alas, there was not a positive response.  After two years of meeting week after week.  I was privileged to watch SOMEONE ELSE hear the "YES" response from my friend.  I was not the harvester. 
I learned so much in this event!  It is not just about the harvest.  It is also about sowing those seeds.  And also all that time of waiting.  Of watering and tending and caring that brings forth the harvest.  I had the wrong idea about "Evangelism".  I thought you could just say the right words and people would all want to say yes to Jesus.  But it does not work that way.  It is the job of the Holy Spirit to work this out for each person in a very individual way.  I am so thankful that this happened in my life.  It has helped me to see that the seed sowing is an amazing gift.  And I have learned that it is only with the watering of the Holy Spirit that seed can grow. 
Jesus, thank you for this amazing way that you let us participate in your plan.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your encouragement and prompting that helps us to let your life giving water pour forth from us.  Thank you for friends that stick by us, even when we are not sure exactly what we are doing or where we are going.  Jesus, thank you for who you are and what you have done for us.  Amen

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Day 8 - Following a nudge of the Holy Spirit

I just had to start this blog with the sweet, sweet picture of my little Anna.  I was glancing through Gwen's recent pictures, getting ready to print some for my wall, and I was suddenly reminded of the following story.  (This is the way these blogs have been going.  I never know what I am going to share until the last minute!  Isn't that exactly like Jesus?)

Okay.... the story.  One day I was walking through a large "department" store (you know, the kind that has everything - groceries, clothes, housewares etc, - you get the point).   When I walked in the store I saw a young women with a small baby in a carrier with a cart full of diapers and groceries.  She was sort of wandering around near the checkout counters.  I went about my business of choosing my own groceries but I could not get this women off of my mind.  I kept asking Jesus to give her peace and whatever she needed.  Suddenly I knew that I was supposed to give her $20.  I rarely carry any cash, but I had just gone to the ATM for some cash for Ken and kept $20 for myself.  So, I made my way to the front of the store and there she was.  I approached her and just said, "I'm a Christian and Jesus told me that you really need this right now!"  And I handed her the $20.  She broke down crying and explained that she couldn't believe that I was there.  She told me that she was also a Christian, and her support money for the baby had not arrived the day before as expected.  She had no family in the area and simply did not know what she was going to do.  She needed things for the baby that could not wait until Monday when the money might arrive.  She prayed and Jesus told her to go to the store and what she needed would be provided.  So, in faith, she did exactly what she was told.  She selected the items that she needed and waited.  She told me that she had been in the store for 2 hours and the baby would soon be needing to eat.  So she was getting desperate.  She was just about to leave the cart of items and take the baby and go home when I approached her.   I asked if I could pray for her, which she greatly appreciated.  I waited as she went through the checkout line to make sure that she had enough money.  Her bill was $19.72.  I wanted to make sure that she could get home okay and she assured me that she had a full tank of gas and a short way to travel.  Yes, this was a good day for me!

Isn't it so amazing when we see how Jesus can use us?  I didn't just "happen" to be in that particular store - I was sent there.  Just like Maria (the women) and her precious little baby were sent to that same store.  And then it was all dependent on both of us listening to the Lord.  I learned a valuable lesson that day.  All of us need to be aware of those everyday moments when Jesus might want to use us to do His work.  For many, many months I always looked around when I walked into a store.  Looking for that person that I might need to reach.  But as time went on, I forgot about this.  And now, I don't remember the last time I actually did this.    Yep, I am sure that I needed to be reminded of this story.  Today Jesus used that picture of my little Anna to remind me of a mother in need that Jesus helped!

Jesus, thank you for your body of believers.  Keep us all ready and available to reach out and help others as the Holy Spirit prompts us.  Jesus, please bless Maria and her child, wherever they may be.  Thank you for Maria's faith that got her to the store that day.  Jesus, it is amazing how you use us!  Thank you for your provision that we can share with others.   Amen

Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 7 - An unexpected answer to prayer!

My story for today is actually TODAY'S story!  Not from a few years ago, or many years ago.  But actually from this week.  This picture of Ken and I with his dad, was taken last year when we visited him.  I have been feeling so strongly that we needed to get to Florida to see him again this year.  But we had many, many obstacles in our way.  Even before I lost my job, we just were not seeing any way to plan another trip.  We had decided that we did not want to do the "same old trip" to celebrate our 40th anniversary.  That is why we ended up in Canada.  Another obstacle to an added vacation was that Ken's company is relocating to a different building.  This move is really a big deal (think big, expensive, delicate and fragile equipment that has to be packed, moved, set up and recalibrated.  Yes, this is a lot of stress.) And of course, the exact dates of this move kept changing, which certainly added to the stress.  So anytime I tried to approach the subject of going to Florida, Ken was just unwilling to talk about it.  I understood why he was reluctant.  Then when I lost my job, it sort of made the thought of a trip, well impossible. 

As I have mentioned, I have been looking for a new job.  But there has been nothing out there!  Applications have been filled out, resumes sent, emails and faxes, yet there have been not calls.  I have had the feeling that the exact job just was not ready yet.  And I have had peace in it all. 

Then, Ken came home and mentioned that he has to travel to a business meeting in North Carolina, in the beginning of August.  I started to think about the possibility of combining this trip with a vacation to Florida.  Before I could even mention it, Ken suggested it!  Suddenly, I was very glad that I wasn't at the beginning of a new job.  That would have made it impossible for me to take two weeks off. 

Isn't it amazing how Jesus works?  All this time, the reason that I haven't found work, was to allow me the freedom to travel to see Ken's dad.  And since Ken's travel is already work related, it wasn't a problem to add some vacation time to this trip. 

The icing on the cake answer to prayer was finding out that a gift certificate we received for an ocean resort was going to be honored!   This was amazing because the certificate actually expired YESTERDAY!  I called yesterday and explained that we were going to be able to be in Florida in August and asked if they would honor this, and they said YES!  With no hassle, no trouble, nothing!  It was just a simple, "Sure, we'll honor that!"  Wow, I was overwhelmed.  Ken and I will be able to have some time at the ocean to just relax.  What a gift.

So, this is truly an answer to prayer.  Not only will we get to see Ken's dad, we will get a much needed rest at my favorite location - the ocean.  And Ken will get some much needed time to recover from the stress of his work situation.  I am sure that the exact right job for me will show up after we get back from our trip. 

Jesus, thank you so much for knowing our hearts and making those sometimes hidden things come to pass for us.  Jesus, thank you for this amazing gift of time away to spend with family.  Thank you for Ken's job and for your grace and provision during this stressful time.  Thank you for favor for us with Ken's company and also favor at that resort.  Bless all who had a part in making this trip possible.  Thank you Jesus for unexpected and joyful surprises!  Amen

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 6 - Writing - An important part of my testimony

You can't see very well in this picture, but this is my first journal, and it was started on December 2, 1988.  Up on the top shelf of my closet are a couple of storage boxes filled with these journals.  I stopped numbering them at 59 and then I switched to just dates.  And now, many of my "journals" are actually saved on my computer.  In the last year and 3 months, this blog has been a journal of sorts.  But rest assured, these journals are far more than just words on a page.

It was during that prayer group that I mentioned this week, that it was suggested that it is a good idea to write down your prayers and your thoughts.  So I decided to give it a try.   I guess that writing has always been a part of what I was supposed to do.  Within a very short time, I discovered that many, many answers to my questions came though the words I wrote down in my journals.  A couple of years later, I complete a study called "Communion with God".  This revolutionized my journaling.  I began to wait and let the Holy Spirit speak to me as I wrote words on the page.  I can't describe how much closer this brought me to Jesus.  I am so thankful that I started this memory keeping.  I have gone back many, many times to be reminded of a word or a revelation that would have been forgotten had it not been written down.  I have kept notes from conferences and events and speakers and retreats.  What a blessing these little books have been to me.

I have learned so much about myself through this journaling process.  It has been the best sorting out of feelings and emotions and thoughts that I could ever have had.  There has been so much growth and change and I am sure that there is still much, much more I have to learn. 

If you have never kept a pen and paper with you during your quiet time, I encourage you to give it a try.  Or start an electronic journal.  Just don't miss out on the insight and revelation that  comes with putting words down on a page as you pray. 

Which brings me to the following devotional that I wrote many, many years ago for a Sunday School newsletter.  It's a good message and I need to point out that I would not have it to share today if I hadn't kept a written record of it.

Making a “PB & J sandwich

Almost every child in the USA knows that a “PB & J” sandwich is peanut butter and jelly on bread.  As a matter of fact, this is such a staple in the average home, by the time many kids hit 12 or 13 years old, the LAST thing that they want to see is a “PB & J”!  Today the Lord spoke to me about a very different kind of “PB & J” sandwich that should become a regular part of everyone’s diet.

Every good sandwich starts out with good bread.    A trip to the supermarket bread aisle is enough to confuse and confound even the most dedicated shopper.  There are white breads, wheat breads, whole grain, seven grain and even “mixed” grain breads. Sandwich sliced, thick sliced, round loaves, short loaves, and even “1/2 loaves”.    Fortified, vitamin-added, no sugar, low-carb, low-calorie.  Raisin bread, cinnamon bread, Italian bread, French bread, and Roman bread, to just name a few of the choices.  It is quite possible to spend many minutes making a decision before any bread actually hits the shopping basket.  We need the best daily bread that you can have – THE Bread of Life – Jesus.  

In John 6:35, Jesus declares “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry…”  Any sandwich made with this bread, will be food that truly satisfies!  

When we begin to think about Jesus not only occupying a place in our hearts, but also covering and holding together and protecting everything we do in our daily lives, just as the bread holds the sandwich together, we begin to get a deeper understanding of Jesus saying that He is the “bread of life”.  So our sandwich must start with Jesus.  Every family must choose this bread for themselves.

Now, for the makings of the sandwich.  In this Bible verse in John, Jesus makes it clear that we are to come to him for all that we need.  The best way to do this is Prayer!  That is the “P” in our sandwich.  With the knowledge that Jesus is in us and all around us, it becomes easier to talk with Him.  The most important thing you can know about prayer is just to do it!  Any words work!  Any time and any place.  There is no right or wrong way to pray.  Just picture yourself spreading that prayer around on that piece of bread.  Cover all the areas of your life.  Anything that is important to you, is important to Jesus.  Take your time!  

Once you have taken time to talk to Jesus through prayer, you need to add the most important part of this sandwich.  Just as it would be very hard to spread peanuts on bread without the butter
consistency, prayer is more than just you talking to Jesus!  The “B” in our sandwich is beholding!  Webster defines behold as “to look, to hold in view, to see and to regard”.  Don’t just end your prayer time with Jesus without taking time to look at Him!  Behold Jesus!  Picture Him sitting across from you at the table.  Hold him in view.  Listen to him and regard what he is saying.  Prayer is a two way conversation.  Don’t miss out on the beholding.  

The sweet finish of the traditional “PB & J” is the jelly.  It doesn’t matter what kind of jelly – each person may have their own preference.  Jelly provides the complimentary flavor.    Our “J” is for journaling.  After you have talked with Jesus, looked at Him and listened to His response, make this sandwich complete by writing down your thoughts, feelings and emotions.  Don’t just focus on keeping a list of the things you prayed.  Although this can be a good way to record answers to prayer, you will be missing out on the more that is possible.  Think about how you “beheld” Jesus.  What did he look like and what was his emotion?  Write about this!  Record how you felt as you were beholding Jesus.  Make note of anything you heard Jesus speaking to you.  Journals are like the “icing on the cake” of our sandwich.  Cake is good without frosting – but it is SO much better with it!   Prayer and beholding Jesus are good. When we make record of these times, it is even better.  

Make this “PB & J” sandwich part of your family diet.  You will be satisfied!   

Jesus, thank you for reminding me today about my journals.  Holy Spirit, motivate us to keep a record of the important things that you share with us.  It is a gift to grow and learn about you and ourselves through writing.  Jesus, thank you that you draw us closer to you.  Amen

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Day 5 - When you need a job..... another story

I am so thankful that I was reminded of this story today!  I really needed to remember that Jesus is in charge of the job search, and this testimony should help me hold on to that truth!

Well, I had been a part time secretary in a church for 7 years.  It was a good job while the kids were still in school.  It allowed me to work hours that matched their school hours.  As a matter of fact, I was able to start at 7:00am and be done by the time they got home from school.  But suddenly, Gwen was going to college and it was clear that I needed to find a full time job.  I had been looking for a few months, but had really not found anything.  It was a busy, busy time.  I was preparing to lead a mission trip with 12 youth to an Indian Reservation in Minnesota.  I also had a vacation planned to visit with my mom before that trip.  We were packing Gwen's stuff, and basically, things were just crazy.  One day I saw an ad in the local paper for a full time secretary at a church in a nearby town.  Here's the thing.  I was once a member of that church and both of my kids had been baptized there!  I had a bit of a history with them.  So I quickly dashed off a cover letter and faxed my resume to them. 
The next day I got a call for an interview.  Needless to say, I fit this into my very crazy schedule. 
After that interview I wasn't very confident that I would get a call back.  The person who interviewed me didn't seem very excited when she heard that I was a former member.  But the next day, I got that call to come in for a second interview.  I was leaving for Minnesota the next day. 

I put the interview out of my mind and left for a very crazy and hectic two and a half weeks.  It was sometime in the second week, that my mom's phone rang with a call for me!  They were offering me the job.  There was flexibility to give two weeks notice on my current job, and to also work the new job in the afternoon hours!  (They were desperate to have a new secretary.  They had lost 2 people in the last six months and had been using volunteers for most of the summer).  I gladly took this job. 
And it ended up that I actually stayed at this job for the next 12 years! 

Now here is the part of this story that makes it such a JESUS story!  During the first week I worked in this office, I noticed that the fax machine was not working.  I tried to get it to work, without success.  When I mentioned it to the person training me (who happened to be the person who interviewed me) she seemed so surprised.  It turns out that my resume was the only response they got to their ad for the job!  They had no idea that the fax machine had mysteriously broken AFTER my resume came through.  I am certain that Jesus has a way of making sure that the right person ends up in the right job.  Or should I say, that I got exactly the job that I was supposed to have. 

Yes, this is an encouragement to me since I am, once again, in a job search.  So I will continue to send out those resumes and trust that everything will align when it is the exact right job for me.  But as a reminder, I need to point out that I still need to do my work.  I have to keep on looking and keep on applying.  With that, I know that the doors will open when the time is exactly right. 

Jesus, thank you for showing me your hand in my job searches.  Holy Spirit, encourage all that are job searching right now.  Jesus  you are willing to guide and direct us when we ask.  Thank you for your care and concern for every detail of our day to day life.   Jesus, thank you that you will use everything - even Fax machines to accomplish your plan for us!  And, thank you, once again, for the encouragement to share these stories.  Amen

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sharing - Day 4 - When a book is NOT just a book!

So this story is really about how important a couple of books were in my walk with Jesus!  Way back in 1988 I was part of a prayer group meeting at my church.  Needless to say, this was a really big deal for me.  As a matter of fact, I had sort of "made a deal" with God that got me involved in that prayer group.  There was a notice in our weekly bulletin at church that a prayer group was going to be formed.  I looked at that notice, week after week, all the while knowing that I was supposed to volunteer for this.  I finally told God that if the notice was still in the bulletin that week, I would call and find out more about this.  Alas, there it was again.  So I called.  And I was fully prepared that I was far to busy to do this group.  I was working full time.  My kids were involved in many, many activities and I was SURE that I would not be available to attend these meetings.  Imagine my distress when I was asked when I WAS available since I was the only person who had called about this group!  I actually told them 9:15pm on a Thursday and they agreed!  Yes, it's true!  God will get you to the exact place that you need to be, in spite of yourself!  In that group, I met a man that talked about Jesus like he was his best friend.  He prayed like he was on the phone with a friend.  And I knew that I wanted to know Jesus like that!   One day, this man gave me a box of books.  And these two books were on the top!  When I read these books, Jesus came alive to me.  I actually discovered exactly who the Holy Spirit really is through these books.  Suddenly Jesus was much more than someone from the Bible or from my dream when I was four.  He was alive and real and He loved me!

But, here is the thing.  My church was not much interested in this crazy, Holy Spirit stuff.  It was just for fanatics and people who were "over the edge".  And I had a real crisis of faith at this point.  I thought that I knew exactly where I belonged and suddenly, I didn't feel that I fit in anymore.  Couple this with a less than wonderful pastor who was in the midst of his own crisis, and I was in trouble.  There was one day I was so depressed and really didn't know what to do or where to turn.  I decided to go to a Christian Book Store to see if I could find a book that might help me.  I walked into a store in the middle of the day, walked over to a book shelf and started looking down the rows.  I noticed that this book had an "Augsburg" publisher. 

And any good Lutheran would know that if it's Augsburg, it is Lutheran!  So I pulled it off the shelf  and felt that rush of excitement and knew that this might be the answer for me.  When I took it to the clerk to pay, he seemed very surprised that I was buying this book.  It had been a "special order" book that had never been picked up.  It had sat unclaimed for several months.  Just THAT DAY they had decided to put it out on the shelf, not thinking that it would sell.   I know that this book was on that shelf, that day, JUST FOR ME!  It was because of that book that I remained in the Lutheran Church.  Several years later I actually met the author,  Larry Christenson and got to share with him just how important this book was for me and my family. 

Yes, these books are an important part of my walk with Jesus.  I am so thankful for these people who took the time to put words on pages that change people forever.  More than that, I am thankful for Jesus leading me to exactly the right place. To exactly the right people. And to exactly the right books.  I love knowing that there was a road map for me that was right in front of me.  And all I needed to do was follow that nudge of the Holy Spirit.  And as I am talking about sharing our testimony and telling our stories, I am so thankful for that man who was willing to share Jesus with me in that prayer group.  It is way I am sharing these stories this month.  Because you just never know, who might be reading these words, that Jesus might touch.  There might be someone who needs to hear your story.  They might be changed forever by your words.  Be encouraged to share with boldness and courage. 

Jesus, thank you for books.  For authors that you empower to write and publish.  Bless us as we step up with boldness to share our stories and give our testimony.  Thank you for your great love that draws us into a deeper relationship with you. Thank you for people who are  follow your leading, even when it is not easy.  Holy Spirit, bless all those who gather together to pray and study your Word.   Amen