Sunday, August 31, 2014

When it's so close you can almost touch it.......

I was thinking about the title of this blog, and suddenly this picture popped into my mind.  I took this picture while standing on Canadian soil.  And that point in this picture is New York, USA.  It is so close and yet, so far away.  Separated by the Niagara River, two countries with very different governments and laws.  I was on foreign soil, seeing my homeland but unable to get there.  Now I was not in anyway distressed by that fact at that time.   I was on a wonderful adventure, anticipating seeing Niagara Falls.  I had no fear of being out of my country.

I thought I was close to finding a new job.  It seemed like it might really work out.  But, alas, even though it was so close, I just couldn't touch it.  This was my call.  I decided that this job just would not work out for me.  I actually was offered the job, with some conditions.  But some things are just not worth it.  And this is one of those times.  So, I will continue with my job search and trust that Jesus will provide exactly the right job at the right time.

I had this show up in my email today....another one of those messages from that Facebook sight.

Today, Lyn, we believe God wants you to know that ...
the quality of life is a result of many small actions.
It's not New Year resolutions, nor big promises that make or break life,
 it's the innumerable small actions you take every hour that compound 
into a life well lived.  Look at how  you are living moment to moment to know whether
 at the end of your life  you will be looking back with pride or sorrow.

I love when these things hit at exactly where I am - right at this moment!  I've been thinking a lot about the quality of life recently.  I have also been thinking about the end of life after visiting with Ken's dad.  And here is the thing, right now Ken's dad is doing a lot of looking back with sorrow.  He seems to be locked into a place of only seeing the negative and bad things from his 94 years.  Now I know that this is due, in part, to dementia.  But it has caused me to think about how I am living my own life.  I love the thought above, that it is every little small thing that makes the difference.  After I first read this thought, I have been thinking about the little things in my life right now.  And there are many.  The special times with Anna, Zeke, Ellie and Lia.... and Gwen.  I don't think I could ever make so many great memories any other way than spending time with them.  I am so thankful for the time that I get to spend with Ken. We seem to always find ways to laugh - usually at ourselves for some silly thing that has happened.  Tomorrow we are spending time together - all of us - including Doug and Susie - and I know that there will be many small things that will become wonderful memories.  

I don't know about you, but I want to remember this lesson and hold on to the message.  This is really a BIG thing!  Isn't that just like Jesus?  So many truths seem like an oxymoron.  You know, things like "when you are weak than you will be strong"  or "you need to die to live".   In this case, it's the little things that are really the big thing.  This is one truth that will stay with me, thanks to the timing of the message, I really get it.  I encourage you all to see the small things in your life and appreciate what might be happening in those things.  Let's all decide to keep our eyes on the moments that will bring us long term happiness.  

Jesus, thank you for giving us concrete ways to understand your truths.  Help us to grow in understanding this important truth that the small actions we make can have long term consequences toward a well lived life.  Holy Spirit, give us eyes to see the little things that really matter.  Thank you for your grace and discernment that steered me away from a bad decision about a job.  Jesus, I know that you have something for me.  Increase my patience, and help me wait and search with a spirit of peace and joy.   Amen

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Small town happenings......

I love living in a small town.  While it is a "suburb", it still has much of the same feel of a small town that it had when we moved here 38 years ago.  It was a wonderful place for our kids to grow up and we have really been very happy living here.
Today we went "downtown" (I use that term very loosely, there is really no "downtown" in this town) so that Ken could get some photos of the many firetrucks that were on display to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Fire Protection District.  When we moved into town it was an all volunteer fire department.  We did get a discount on our homeowners insurance because we lived within a mile of one of the 2 stations in town.  Ken and I were a bit surprised, not that long ago, when we discovered that fire station 2 (the one closest to our house) was closed and FOR SALE!  Somehow we missed the memo that they were closing that station.  In truth, that small station was really not necessary since the remodel and build of the new station that is only slightly further away from us.  And many years ago, we gained full time paid firefighters and paramedics. So this event was exactly what you would expect.  There were lots of fire trucks, lots of people and vendors selling food.  And there were also "water fights".
I snapped this picture of Ken taking a picture of the Warrenville Team #1 winning a round against Lisle/Woodridge Team.  The kids were having a great time.  They were running and playing everywhere that the spray was going.  They had also assembled a "pool" from a large tarp that was about 2 feet deep and most of the kids were soaking wet from head to toe.  Yes, this was a kid friendly event.

I was thinking about that saying that you always hear... "it takes a village to raise a child".  In so many ways, this town has been a blessing to our family.  I never had to leave town to find daycare for my kids.  They were always cared for in our neighborhood, in the homes of their friends.  They went to schools that were really state of the art.  Their elementary school had a "computer lab" when Doug was in Kindergarten and Gwen was in 3rd grade. (This was thanks to Bell Labs being in our back yard and they provided a donation of computers for the school)  Thanks to that keyboarding training, both of my kids could type 50 words a minute before they entered middle school.  For the most part, we were happy with the schools, the teachers, and the education provided to our kids.  And, of course, it is the people who make up the village.  We have had some really wonderful neighbors.  Our favorites, Mr. and Mrs. Sweemer, lived next door for more than 15 years.  This wonderful retired couple really were a bit like having a grandma and grandpa living next door.  Things have changed in our neighborhood.  There are not as many kids as there used to be.  We have more renters around us.  And there have been some divorces among our neighbors. But it stills makes me smile to stand on the sidewalk and look up the street.  Yes, its a nice place to live.  This town was certainly part of that "village" that provided a foundation for Gwen and Doug.

I think it is good to look around and appreciate all that you have, where ever you live.  I know that I am not the only one who can find many, many good things about the town, village, or city that you live in that bless your family.  I love that Jesus planned for Ken and I to live in this town.  It was part of the design he had for us.  Some people might look at my small town and miss all of the positive things.  It seems that it is always easier to see the negative rather than the positive.  Today, I was reminded to see the GOOD through this wonderful celebration.

Jesus, thank you for bringing us to this town.  Thank you for all of the men and women that serve our community as Firefighters and Paramedics.  Guard and protect them as they carry out their duties in our town.  Holy Spirit, help all of us to see the positive benefits of our home towns.  Change our perspective to in all things to respond to the good rather than the bad and to appreciate all that we have.  Amen

Friday, August 29, 2014

Celebrating an anniversary.....

Today would have been Ken's mom and dad's 72nd wedding anniversary.  Here they are on August 29, 1942.  I can certainly see Ken's sister Sue when I look at this picture of his mom.  I think it is especially hard this year, knowing that Ken's dad is doing so poorly.  I am not sure if it is a blessing that he really won't be aware of the importance of this day.  That does mean that he will not be missing Joanne.  What a blessing it is that Gwen and Doug got to be a part of celebrating past anniversaries with Grandma and Grandpa.  
This was taken in 1992 on Mom and Dad's 50th Anniversary.  (I just noticed that we are sitting on the sofa that is currently in our house!  The one we just had recovered last year.  Wow, I didn't realize it was quite that old!)  
This picture was taken on their 60th Wedding Anniversary.  As you can see, Tim has joined the family by this point in 2002.  
And finally, this was their 65th Anniversary in 2007.  And we have added Susie and that cutie in the front is Lia (age 1).  Ken's mom died about 2 years after in 2009.  

I am so thankful that we were able to be a part of these celebrations.  It is a wonderful memory and more than that, I am grateful to have these photos.  These are events that need to celebrated, remembered and honored.  

Yes, it is a bittersweet thing to look at these pictures.  I am glad that we just saw dad and I got to give him a hug.  Even this year, I loved listening to his stories, in spite of the fact that not much of what he said was making sense.  It reminded me of the years and years that Ken and I sat around their dining room table, listening to amazing stories of people and places that he had encountered. I am blessed to know Mervin T. Rowley, and truly honored that he is my father in law.  

Jesus, thank you for your plan and destiny that brought me into Ken's family.  What a blessing it is to remember important dates and watch, through pictures, my own family grow.  Holy Spirit, continue to bring peace and comfort to dad.  Fill him with your love and surround him with your arms.  Help us all to appreciate what we have in our extended family.  Keep us aware of our blessings!   Amen

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Some things never change!

I just had to use this picture tonight!  I'll let you in on a little secret of our household.  Ken eats lots of Popsicles.....STILL!  As a matter of fact, he was sitting in his recliner, having a popsicle when I came upstairs a bit ago.  Granted that the ones in our freezer these days are "sugar free", but they are still popsicles!  Apparently he has always liked them!  This picture is Ken and a cousin at somewhere around 2 or 3 years old.  Yes, some things never change.

I accomplished quite a number of things today, including applying for several jobs.  It was a very pleasant surprise to receive a call to schedule an in-person interview for Friday afternoon for one of these jobs.  So, I will continue my patient waiting and trust that if this is the job for me, all will work out.  Prayers are appreciated!

I have been thinking about one of those silly Facebook "tests" that so often come up on your newsfeed.  "What career were you meant for?"  I got WRITER!
Just a couple of years ago I would have said that this was ridiculous.  But here I am writing a blog. And in truth-telling, I have had more than one prophetic word and several dreams about writing a book.  And I have written a small booklet (which I talked about in a previous blog).  But actually thinking of myself with a "career" as a writer, seems......well unreal.  I am really mystified by this small exercise that came up with this conclusion after my answers to 13 questions.  If it is just random, it is pretty amazing.  Several of my Facebook friends have gotten "therapist" and more than one of them actually DO that job.  I think it was interesting to me especially in this time of job searching, since I am really not exactly sure where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing!  

In light of the "title" I put on this post tonight, I guess that a career IS something that can change.  I have been a babysitter, cashier, secretary, loan processor, loan closer, loan shipper, secretary, nanny, and teacher assistant in careers that actually paid a salary.  I have also been a youth leader, Sunday school superintendent, children's ministry director, small group facilitator, and countless other "volunteer" positions in various churches and ministries.  So, looking at that list, my "career" has certainly changed many, many times.    This funny thing about this is that with the exception of my last rather short lived job, I have stayed at my three previous jobs 4 years, 13 years,  and 6 years.  So I am not exactly a "job hopper".  Given the test above (and this blog), I guess I should add writer to my list of "volunteer" jobs.  

All I can think about is Jeremiah 29:11-14a.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,  and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you," declares the Lord.

I love these Bible verses for so many reasons.   He knows the plans he has for me!  They are good plans for now and the future.  He will listen to me!  And when I look for Him, I WILL find him.  So I don't have to figure out the best career I should have.  I just need to seek Jesus with my whole heart and He will take care of the rest.  What a great thought to end this busy day.  

Jesus, thank you for bringing me full circle today on my job search.  You are in charge of the details of this and so I will trust.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the reminder that it is good that some things never seem to change.  But also it is good that we DO change and grow.  Thank you for wonderful childhood treats that can still satisfy us today.  Amen

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Times of transition - hard on us and others!

This picture is Doug's first day of Kindergarten and Gwen's first day of 3rd Grade in 1987.  I was thinking about this picture while waiting for the bus this morning with Ellie and Lia.  Ellie has just started Kindergarten and Lia is in 3rd Grade.  I had Zeke and Anna in a double jogging stroller.  This is quite an experience for this grandma!  It's been a long time since I went to a bus stop!  Ellie marched happily on the bus (after giving both Zeke and Anna a hug and a kiss) grabbing Lia's hand.  This is, in itself, pretty amazing since Ellie wasn't so sure she wanted to go to school.  After a week, she loves it.  All of these transitions are really a big deal and I don't think that we appreciate just how difficult it is for these little kids.  Zeke looked a bit sad as we walked back to the house after the bus drove away.  He wanted to know when he could go on that bus.  When I told him that he needed to be 5 he kept saying, "I'm 3!"  Don't think he really understood what I was saying.  Zeke and Ellie are great playmates.  Ellie always seem to include Zeke in whatever she is playing.  So without her, Zeke is a bit lost.  He found his cars and all his ramps and finally played happily for a long time.  Later Zeke managed to get Anna laughing and laughing.  They will be good buddies as she gets older. But boy was he missing Ellie!

Here's the thing about transitions.  They are rough on YOU but they also effect other people around you!  Ellie is having some trouble with this big adjustment to full day school, and Zeke is having problems because Ellie is not home anymore.  Isn't it true that when we are dealing with the stress and shaking that comes with changes, we are NOT thinking much about others and how they are effected.  Nope, it is usually all about us.  I believe that most, if not all, of my friends are in some kind of transition or time of stress right now.  There is a lot of shaking and uncertainty.  And because we are ALL in this, each of us are in some way touched by the stress of our friends.   This reminder today will cause me to have a bit more grace for those around me.  I'm going to take more time to consider how my transitions are making waves for others.  Of course, the first thing that comes to my mind is how Ken is being effected by me not working.  I am sure this has been just as rough on him.  But I am so thankful for him!  Last night, after working all day, (with a storm approaching), he replaced the brakes on my car!  Yep, he was out there on that hot driveway, covered with grease, just so that I would have a safe car to drive.  WOW!  That's all I can say about this.  I am very blessed.

Jesus, thank you for Ken and those new, noise free brakes on my car.  Thank you for the reminder that other people may be just as upset as we are with the transitions we are facing.  Holy Spirit, give us grace to be patient with ourselves and others.  Jesus, you are the rock and our stability when things are unstable around us.  Help us all to stand firm on you and hold fast to the truth that you are in control!  Amen

Monday, August 25, 2014

Started the day feeling a bit uneasy but ended the day in peace!

Since we were visiting Ken's sisters I have been doing a lot of thinking about my siblings.  This picture is from 1973.  It is one of the few pictures of us together like this. I really miss my birth family.  During the last years that my mom was alive, I visited her in Minnesota at least 3 times a year.  And during those visits I usually saw both of my sisters and one of my brothers.  After my sister Karen died in 2007 and we sort of lost touch with her family, my mom often spoke about her fear that we would all lose touch and never see each other after she was gone.   Unfortunately, that has proven to be true.  I keep in pretty close touch with my sister Julie.  We talk fairly often.  And Julie was actually here for her granddaughter's college graduation last year.  Since this has come up, I know that this is something that I need to be thinking about some more. And I will be considering what I might need to do to change this situation!

I was thinking about that high school time for other reasons also.   Today I spent some time applying for some part time jobs.  I was thinking back on other times when I have been job hunting.  Quite honestly, I have been working most of my life.  I started babysitting when I was 13 and in 8th grade.  I had several regular clients and spent most weekends sitting.  I was earning $.50 an hour.  And that was good money.  When I turned 15 I was offered a job at the IGA grocery store.  I never actually applied, the manager just stopped me in the store and asked if I wanted a job.  My brother had been working there, so they knew my family.  By the time I was 17, I had gotten a job working at the Walgreens.  They had just started being open until midnight and I wanted more hours.  For a college kid, this sounded really good.  After some time off when I had been sick with mono, I happened to see an ad in the local paper for a full time secretarial job in the Industrial Park.  I called, got an interview, and was hired on the spot.  I worked at that job for 5 years.  The only reason I left that job was because Ken and I bought our house.  While we were applying for our mortgage, the loan officer offered me a job as a loan processor (making almost twice what I had been making).  I spent 15 years working in mortgage banking, taking just a bit of time off when my kids were born.

Quite honestly, I have not really applied for many jobs.....that is until this year.  It seems that I have sent out lots of applications and have not gotten any calls.  I have also applied in person for several jobs, and so far, have not gotten an interview.  But I have to look back on my job history and know that Jesus has been in charge of my jobs and what I am doing and where I am working.  This is one of those times when you need great patience and faith to wait.

Today I was talking to a friend about a revelation I had last night.  You know when people are told to "just see yourself joyful" or "just speak the truth about who you are in Jesus".  Well, the truth is that when you are faced with depression or difficulties it is NOT possible to "just" do these things.  WE CAN NOT DO ANYTHING!  Only Jesus can do these things.  It seemed so clear to me that what we need to do is to stop talking about ourselves and start talking about Jesus and who he is and what he has done.  As we praise and talk about Jesus, the Holy Spirit begins to work out all of these things IN us. That is how we are strong in Jesus when we are weak.  So with that in mind, I am going to start talking about Jesus who knows exactly what Ken and I need.  And remember his faithfulness and his provision.  Even as I type those words, I am feeling more patience and greater faith to believe that He will provide my job. What a great lesson for me. So thanks to nudges to remember Jesus' faithfulness to me in the past during job searches, and the reminder to praise HIM for all that he is and does, I am feeling more peaceful and have greater faith to believe that I will find the exact right job.

Jesus, thank you so much for bringing me through today.  I love how you work in my life and bring reminders from the past, along with Holy Spirit revelation to transform a stressful day into a peaceful evening.  Thank you for my family and keeping them in the forefront of my mind.  Holy Spirit, help us all to hang on to the things your have sown into our families and keep us from forgetting those now distant from us.  Jesus, keep us out of busyness and draw us closer to you. Amen

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Leaving a mark......

I just got back from my home group meeting and we had a really interesting discussion tonight.  You just never know exactly how that meeting is going to go, but one thing is sure, you will leave with lots of things to "chew" on.  The picture above is from Ft. Pulaski.  You might recall from one of my previous blogs, I mentioned that Ken and I visited there while we were in Savannah, GA.  On the way home tonight, I was thinking about this picture.  I purposely took this picture with the intent to scrapbook it.  At first glance, you most likely can not figure out what this is!  That track in the floor is the mark from the cannon being slid back and forth to be positioned to fire a specific direction.  I touched that mark in the floor and thought about the mark that had been here since 1863.  I imagined all of the people who had a part in shifting that cannon that made this mark.  Yes, this was a lasting mark.

I had a really interesting experience on Saturday.  Ken and I, having just returned from vacation, were at our local Sams store to restock our cupboards.  I was really just thinking about what we needed, when suddenly, there right in from of me, was one of the kids who had been in my care as a nanny, for over 4 years.  This tall, grown up 2nd grader was just a little two year old when we first met.  I haven't seen him for almost a year.  He ran to me and hugged me so tight.  With tears he told me that he prays for me every night. And then he told me that he has the Bible storybook that I gave him, and because I inscribed that book to him, he always "has Ms. Lyn" with him when he reads that book.  WOW!  The fact that the book means so much to him is really neat.  And that my inscription is important is such a surprise.  I did not realize that I was "leaving a mark" when I gave that book as a gift to a sweet little boy.  It was so good to see him and get that hug!  I have really missed him.  After seeing these kids nearly everyday for 4 years,  not seeing them for a year has been very difficult.  I am going to make plans to get together with them soon.

Isn't it amazing how Jesus will remind us that we are actually making a difference when we do His work?  I really felt called to be a nanny for that family and knew that my work there was the work of Jesus.  It was such a blessing to be a part of the destiny and plan for those families.  But I never really thought about leaving a lasting mark.  It was an unexpected revelation.

Tomorrow I will begin the search for a new job.  I have a bit of a different perspective right now, even different than just a few hours ago.  While I know that the exact place and type of work has already been prepared for me, finding it is something else!  I know that the timing of running into sweet little Sean was not an accident.  Jesus is reminding me that He is charge and I just need to follow his leading.  That is exactly how I ended up as a nanny.

Jesus, thank you for all the ways that you touch us through everyday events.  What a joy and surprise it was to see Sean!  Please bless those families with your care and love.  Holy Spirit, guide and direct me tomorrow and help me to find the exact right place to work. What a wonderful reminder that we can all leave lasting marks on the people we encounter.  Help us to leave the most important mark - Jesus - on all that we meet.
And thank you again, for my small group.  Amen

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hidden beauty... and a great reminder!

Yes, I was very frustrated yesterday while trying to blog about finally being at home.  I started trying to upload a photo to my blog (something I do all the time) and every time I tried, the page would freeze and I would lose everything that I had written.  I did this several times (I know, I should have figured it out after one or at the most two times, but I really wanted to write the blog).  Then I tried a couple of other things, like restarting my computer (also tried lots of times) and restarting the blog program (many times).  I looked on line for help (not much available), posted a comment in a blogger forum (no one responded) and then tried several other browsers and still nothing worked.  I finally posted that short blog, shut off my computer and went to bed very frustrated.  This morning I tried my usual browser and it did not work.  So I decided to try another browser AGAIN.   And on the first try, it worked.  I have no idea why, I am just feeling thankful and blessed that it did!

This picture above is one of my favorites from vacation.  At first you might think that this is just a picture of sand.  But look closely.....very closely, right in the center of the frame and you will see the crab!  He would dart out of his hole and if we moved, he would shoot back in.  Ken actually laid on the ground in the sand with the camera poised to get this picture as the crab ventured out of the hole.  I love how he is so camouflaged that you can almost not see him.  He is truly, hiding in plain sight!   What a great gift it is for these crabs to be able to protect themselves, just by getting so covered in sand that you can't see them.  I was thinking of a recent Facebook post I saw, that called for all Christians to be OPEN and obvious about their faith.   It  is time for us to declare to the world that we are here and we are fighting in a war against evil.  The time for all of us to hide and blend into the background of society is gone.  All that strategy has done is allow evil to walk all over us and advance their plan. So I am going to purpose to NOT be like the crab in this picture.  I will not hide and blend in.  I know that it will take practice and lots of covering and prompting of the Holy Spirit, but I am going to do it.

Last night, as I lay in bed, very frustrated by this blog, I was thinking about the last post I had done.  I blogged about Ken's dad and his end of life struggle and our family.  After that post, I got many comments from people thanking me for being honest about this.   One person said they thought it was the best post I had written on this blog!  And then I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit reminding me that Satan wants to prevent me from sharing encouragement and truth through this blog.  I went to sleep thinking that there would be an answer today.  And there was!  Isn't Jesus just amazing?  So I will keep blogging.  Sharing and truth telling through these writings.

Jesus, thank you for providing that little crab to remind me not to hide YOU from the world.  Give us all courage and boldness to strip away the covering and let your light shine through us.    Holy Spirit, thank you for reminding me that even when it seems like evil prevails, you will provide another way.  What an amazing and wonderful caring God you are, that even understands us in all of those frustrating moments. Thank you for the internet, Facebook, and blogging programs that allow your words to go forth to the nations.   Amen

Friday, August 22, 2014

Home at last........Phew!

It's been a tiring couple of days.  We started out for home and drove a long way on the first day.  As a matter of fact, I was simply much too tired to write a blog last night.  Then we drove the rest of the way home today.  It was kind of funny, but every time I got behind the wheel so that Ken could rest, there was road construction and it started to rain!  Sometimes, you just have to laugh. 

But now, I can't get this blog to work right!  I can't get a picture to load, and every time I try to save something, it totally locks up.  I don't know exactly what is going on, but I know that I still have much, much more to blog.  So I am going to assume that this is just more of that construction and rain........... little obstacles that are just sort of bugging me.  And I will laugh, for now.  I am committed to continue writing this blog, so say a pray that I can figure out what is going on and I'll be back writing again soon.

Until then.........

Jesus, thank you for all the people who have read this blog.  Holy Spirit, thank you for those readers that have commented and shared with me how much they have been encouraged and inspired by the words that you have given to me to share.  Please help me figure out what is wrong with this blog, so that I can continue to reach out in this way.   Amen

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

End of our visit and more memories of my own dad.........

Here is a picture that I love, although it is kind of rough to see.  It is Ken and his dad in July of 1953.  I love this picture. Our visit today with dad was kind of sad.  I don't think he really knew that we were there.  We tried to engage him in several conversations, but he would get frustrated and not be able to finish his thought.  It was both good and bad that he didn't seem to care when we left.  It wasn't emotional since he just acted like it was no big deal.  I was glad that he was not upset.  That was good.  But it was very sad that he didn't really appreciate our leaving.  I am really thankful for this visit.  And I know that it was important for Ken.  
Today was Ken's sister Sue and his brother-in-law Wayne's 48th wedding anniversary.  We started talking about the date and I realized that today would have been my dad's 101st birthday. 
 I decided to include this picture of my dad.  I love this picture, it just captures my dad's personality.  And I can't get over how much Doug looks like my dad in this picture.  Yes, seeing Ken's dad at the end of his life, had made me miss my dad more.  My dad actually died in 1985 so I have been without him around for a long time - almost 30 years.  And I think this is why I have been already feeling the loss of Ken's dad - at least the way he always was.  

It's no doubt, dad's are an important part of our lives.  They provide us with our first real picture of our heavenly father.  It is often our dads who have the hardest time accepting that fact that we are no longer little children.  And dads give great hugs. 

Yes, it's been a hard couple of days emotionally.  But it has also been a few days of good times of fun and laughter, catching up with Ken's sisters and brother-in-laws.  I am really glad that we got to spend this time moving through this chapter for our family. 

Today there was a serious group of tropical storms that moved through this area.  There was thunder, lightening and wind as well as periods of hard rain.  The lights flickered and faltered and then finally went out all together.  We watched an alligator patrolling the lake behind Ken's sister's house, seemingly un-phased by the storm.  A flock of Ibis flew in and settled on the lake.  If it weren't for the storm, it would have been simply amazing.  We had a wonderful dinner and then, as we were leaving their home for the hotel, there was an amazing sunset.  The thunder was still rumbling but the power was restored.  I love that this was quite a picture of what is happening in our family right now.  This is a dark and stormy period at the end of dad's life.  It is a time of uncertainty and stress.  It seems pretty dark.  and a bit nervous right now.  The lights are flickering right now, and soon they will go out for dad.  But Ken and his sisters and all of us who love dad, will find that the lights will come back on for us.  There will be beauty and peace and joy when we move through this time.  And I love that I can picture both of my dad's, happy and at peace, filled with joy, celebrating in heaven.

Jesus, thank you for the assurance that we have that your care for us continues even when our life here ends.  Thank you for this time to come together with family as we all walk through this transition.  Father, there are many other families going through exactly the same thing that we are.   Please cover them all with your love and give them joy during this time of impending loss.  Holy Spirit, reach out and touch those facing death.  Surround them and draw them close with the assurance of your presence and promises.   Thank you for storms and sunsets after the passing of the clouds.  Amen

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The purpose of the trip.... what a blessing!

Here we are with Ken's dad, who is 94 years old and failing.  We made this trip to see him.  And I am so glad that we did.  You know how you really don't know how much you miss someone, until you see them again?  Well that is true with dad.  Ken and I spent lots of time with his parents.  They lived quite close to us and we would often just stop by on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.  I have really missed being able to just drop in and talk with dad.  He had been in Florida since 2009, shortly after Ken's mom died.  We have seen him once each year since then.  And the change in him since last year is quite dramatic.  He wasn't so sure who we were, although  Ken's sister Sue had told him over and over that we were coming.  He seemed very confused  most of the time and often interjected odd comments.  Clearly his time with us is very short.  Being 24/7 caregivers has really taken a toll on Ken's sister and brother-in-law.  They have finally added nighttime caregivers and also nurses that come daily to help with his care.  But still, dad wants Sue to do most things for him.  And he depends on her.  Being here this year, makes me appreciate our visit last year so much!  I blogged about our time here and a conversation I had with dad that assured me that he knew Jesus and what his ultimate destination was.  I couldn't help but replay that conversation over in my head tonight, when he was so confused and distant.  So once again, I will encourage you to have those conversations NOW with the people you love.  Don't wait.  None of us knows exactly the length of our days.  I can rest easier tonight knowing that Jesus will soon call dad home, to a place that is wonderful and free from pain and suffering.  And I know that I will one day be there to see him again. 

Seeing Ken with his two sisters, laughing and talking made me miss my own siblings!   The way this world has become, everyone is so distant and so busy it is hard to stay connected.  I think that my disconnect from my siblings is part of the reason why I am so connected to my own children.  I do not want to let being busy or a bit of a drive away, keep us from spending time together.  And I am grateful that our kids want to spend time with  us. 

We have another day to spend with Ken's family.  And I am feeling blessed for this time.  It is a long, long trip, but it is worth it.  I know that even though dad may not know that we are here visiting him, deep in his spirit, he does know.  And more than that, I KNOW! 

Jesus, thank you for the provision for us to be able to make this trip to see dad.  Holy Spirit, bring your comfort and peace into dad and into the entire household.  Thank you for Sue and Wayne and their loving care for dad for these last years.  Continue to bless them and give them peace and rest.  Thank you for providing people to assist in dad's everyday care.  Jesus you know exactly what dad needs and you know the number of his days.  Thank you for your great love for us. Amen

Monday, August 18, 2014

The difference a day makes.....

 Ken and I could not believe the difference a day makes.  This was the beach view today.  At one point Ken and I were the only ones for a long stretch of beach.  And Ken commented that it was a bit eerie being in the water alone.  You were sort of taking your life in your hands yesterday in the surf - between the surfers (most of whom were on rental boards) and the boogie boards, you had to watch out for all the activity AND the waves!  Yesterday the beach was PACKED!  As a matter of fact, we don't think we have ever seen it as crowded as it was yesterday.  Part of the reason is that there was a big sand volleyball tournament right on the property that we stayed at.  Not only was the beach full, but so was the parking lot.  We couldn't find a place to park on Saturday night when we came back from dinner.  It was crazy.  This morning when we went out there were only about 12 cars in the entire parking lot.  Apparently everyone left after the live music ended at some time last night.  We really don't know exactly when that was, since it was still going on long after the "end time" of 7:00pm. 
Yes, what a difference a day makes.
This was the gorgeous sunrise this morning.  I loved how the sun shined through the clouds.  What a great reminder that no matter how bad things look, the SON will break through the clouds and the darkness will leave.  Yes, we had our share of difficulties over the last couple of days, but we had that wonderful sun filled time on the beach anyway.  As this sunrise continued, there was a period of darkness as the sun was hidden behind the cloud bank.  But there was that glow behind the clouds that reminded me that there was so much more sun to come.  And then, suddenly, there was the sun, in it's full glory.
I am so thankful for this reminder.  All of us go through these dark times and sometimes we are just hanging on when a hole appears in the fog surrounding us.  And then the light of Jesus breaks into whatever the situation is and reminds us that we are not alone.  More than that, we also remember exactly WHO is really in charge.  And then, even when it seems to get dark again, suddenly we experience a breakthrough that brings the full, shining light and dispels whatever has been covering us in darkness.  And then we get to experience that full wonderful, warm SONLIGHT of the love and care of Jesus. 

So that is my thought for today!  Thank you Jesus for sunrises that speak volumes.  I love how you show me so much in not only the good times, but also the crowded crazy times.  Thank you for the suddenly times when you burst into our life and change everything.  Jesus, you are so amazing and loving.  Thank you for changes from day to day.   Amen

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Another even longer day on the beach....and more.

Here I am, under that blue canopy on the right of the picture.  On the far left, the last balcony on the top floor, is our room.  We had such a great day sitting on the beach.  We were actually out there for more than 6 hours.  Ken went to the hotel snack bar and got us some lunch, so we didn't have to leave the beach.  I spent more time in the water today than I have EVER.   For some reason, on this trip, I have just loved being in the ocean.  Usually I just walk in, get wet and get out.  Not so this time. And, unfortunately, my body shows it today!  My face got burned around my swim goggles.  Apparently they rub the sunscreen off and I must not have applied quite enough.  I also got burned on my upper arm area, just one crazy spot that must have missed the reapply of the sunscreen.  I look pretty silly. 
And here is the evidence that I was actually in the water.  Ken took this picture as I was coming out of the water.  I never thought I'd be posting a swimming suit picture, but here it is.  I love the two little birdies in the background.  They are my favorite kind of little beach bird. 
Part of the reason I am posting this swimming suit picture is that I recently saw a blog and facebook post that included a picture of a mom laying on the beach in a swimming suit.  She was so angry and just appalled at the picture that she found on her phone.  Apparently her children had taken the picture.  When she asked them about the photo, they both exclaimed that this was just a wonderful and beautiful picture.  They saw her as beautiful.  And they were remembering the great time that they had with her on the beach.  She saw all of her flaws, but they saw her as beautiful.  I want to remember this vacation and the great times that we have had.  I also want to keep the perspective of thankfulness - not only for the vacation, but for the fact that I can still BE in the water, walk on the sand, and enjoy life so much. Whatever I look like in a swimming suit.   Isn't it true that we are our own worst critics? 
Today I saw some families having wonderful times together on the beach and in the water.  There was one little boy, around 8 or 9 years old.  He had a baby brother who I would guess was around a year old.  There was also a sister around 4 or 5 years old.  Mom had her hands full with this bunch!  But that little boy held his baby brother right at the edge of the water and let him splash and play in the water.  What a picture that was.  And then mom finally got sister to join them and she snapped some photo's on her phone.  These will be keeper pictures for sure.  In the same way, the pictures that Ken took of me today, are all keepers!  I am so thankful for all of the pictures I have!  Pictures are a memory treasure. 
This morning I was reading Isaiah 45.  I love this particular chapter of Isaiah.  And as I was typing this blog, I was remembering this passage verse 3 of Isaiah 45.......
"I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am Yahweh, the God of Israel, who calls you by name."
Yes, all of these great memories are treasures and riches.  And I am so thankful that all around us are reminders of the love and care of Jesus that includes treasures and riches that sometimes go unnoticed.  I am going to be more aware of the little things around me and watching for the wonders that come from Jesus.
Jesus, thank you for the ocean, the sunshine and time to relax with Ken.  Holy Spirit, help me to hold on to today's lesson.  Give me eyes to see the ways you bless me with treasures and riches.  Help us all to have the perspective to see and feel your love and care for us.  Jesus, thank you for calling me by name.  Amen

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Surprise on viewing a sunset

 Ken loves taking pictures of sunsets.  So needless to say, we set out to find a spot to view the sunset over the intercostal waterway.  At first it didn't seem that we were going to find a good spot.  But then Ken remembered a little park we found last year.  We had actually gone there to see Manatees.  But it was a perfect sunset viewing spot. 
When we got to the park, we thought we might not be able to go in since the entire parking lot is being redone.  But thankfully they were allowing you to drive and park on the grass. (Ken commented that if it were Illinois they would have constructed a temporary parking lot and entrance that would cost thousands of dollars.  In Florida they just rope off some grass and let you park there!)  We arrived with about 15 minutes to spare.  I caught this first picture of a pelican against the sky.   And then this surprise.......
Right in front of us, not 15 feet off of the shore, in very shallow water, there was a dolphin. We watched it swim slowly past us, cresting the surface.  It was breathtaking. 

I know that this might seem like a really little thing. But to me, it was such a gift.  We had seem some dolphins this morning, why out in the ocean.  I had thought to myself, "boy I wish I could see those dolphins up close".  I hadn't thought much about those dolphins.  Over the years, we have seen them from time to time.  I know that they run "dolphin tours" here and even have a "swim with the dolphins" place near here.  But for me, this was much better and even more personal.  I really felt this was for me.

Isn't it great how Jesus seems to know the desires of our hearts?  I was just stunned after I saw that dolphin.  If anything, I was expecting to possibly see a manatee.  But as soon as I realized that it was a dolphin I was seeing, I remembered that thought from earlier today.  How amazing.

We had a really nice day.  We spent about 5 hours on the beach, (remember my request from yesterday for sunshine? Well, we had those 5 hours of wonderful sun) leaving only when dark threatening clouds announced rain and storms on the way.  We had a wonderful lunch of fresh seafood at our favorite restaurant, came back to the hotel and relaxed for several hours.  And we finished the day with this great time seeing this sunset. 

Yes, I love the smell of sunscreen mixed with insect repellant.  And the feel of sand under my feet and the sound of waves crashing on the shore.  Perfect end to a great day. 

Jesus, thank you for that dolphin that just showed up.  It is your hand that paints the sky with colors and fills our hearts with joy as we see the beauty of nature.  Open our eyes to see the many ways you touch our everyday life.  Keep us all aware of your presence with us and around us.  Thank you for the ocean and the sunshine!  Amen

Friday, August 15, 2014

What I've been waiting for...........

These are my feet in the Atlantic Ocean!  Yes, this is what I've been waiting for.  I can already feel my spirit just settling with the movement of the water and the waves.  Even though it was raining, Ken and I had to take a walk down to the beach.  It felt wonderful.  Our room is gorgeous....a third floor suite with a private ocean view balcony.  This room is truly a gift.  I did a survey last summer after our stay at this hotel and noted both some positive and negative things about our stay.  I got an email from the manager who asked for further clarification.  I took the time to respond to him, and received a certificate for a stay in this amazing room.  Ken and I actually stayed in this same type of room at this same hotel in 1999 when we came here for our 25th Wedding anniversary.  Back then we were using points from Ken's constant travel so we also didn't pay for this room.  I simply love this place! 

This morning before we left Savannah, we decided to go to the "Mighty 8th Air Force Museum".  It was just a few miles from our hotel so felt we didn't want to miss it.  I am so thankful that we made this choice.  We were the only ones in the place, except for the workers.  It was much larger than we expected and once again, I learned stuff that I never knew about history!  Kinda makes me wonder what I DID learn in school.  The first part of the museum included film strips and narrative about the destruction of London by the Nazi air strikes.  I just didn't realize the scope of the fighting and the amount of damage that London (and all of England) had.  I was honestly upset when they ran some newsreels showing Roosevelt before a large crowd and the people were all chanting "we won't go".  There was no way that the United States wanted to get involved in this battle.  Yet, just a short time later, after Pearl Harbor, our Mighty 8th Air Force, stepped in and finally turned the tide against Germany.  There were some amazing artifacts, clothing, and pictures through out the museum.  In one room there was a frame on the wall that contained small embroidered pieces of fabric that had been made by the Dutch women of the resistance in the concentration camps.  The idea that they could make such amazing work with NOTHING!  They used small broken needles and tore thread from their clothing.  I couldn't imagine the skill and patience of these women in such a horrible place.

 There was also a Memorial Garden outside of the museum.  Again, amazing.  And in the garden was this chapel.
It was designed to resemble an English Chapel.  I was surprised that I could go inside.  Ken was taking photo's of some airplanes, so I had the chapel to myself.  There was such a sweet spirit in that small space. 
This stained glass was behind the altar.  I loved that it was Jesus and a depicted airman of the Mighty 8th.  There were stained glass windows lining the side of the sanctuary also. 
I took pictures of each of the windows, but this one really stuck out to me.  I love that Jesus is walking on the ground below the plane.  These men truly believed and knew that Jesus was going ahead of them.  I love the power and strength that Jesus shows in this window.  Yes, they were on a mission.......... a mission from God. 
There was instrumental music playing and I sat in the quiet.  It was so powerful.  The way things are in 2014, it is easy to forget that such a short time ago, Jesus was in a prominent place in our military.  I was so thankful for this permanent reminder that these men who fought and many who gave their lives.  And I was reminded, as I sat there, that even if we can't see the obvious presence of Jesus today, He IS there in the same way.  I am feeling so grateful for the powerful Jesus that is the foundation of our country.  Yes, this was a highlight of this trip for me. 
Even though it was storming as we arrived today at our favorite spot, I am just filled with thankfulness.  I am just letting the sound of the waves wash over me.  And breathing deeply. 
Jesus, thank you for your guidance and protection of our military.  Holy Spirit, I am so grateful that you directed us to that museum today.  Thank you for the chance to grow in understanding of the great sacrifices that were made to maintain our freedom.  Jesus, thank you for provision that is allowing us to have this wonderful vacation.  But Jesus, could we see the sunshine tomorrow, please!   Amen

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Exploring Savannah!

We had a wonderful day today exploring Savannah.  We started out going out to Tybee Island.  We were not impressed.  Its very crowded and not what we thought it was going to be.  We did see the lighthouse (which I posted a picture of on Facebook).  We did not pay the ridiculous amount to go up in the lighthouse - it just didn't seem worth it.  As we were leaving Tybee Island, we saw a National Park called Fort Pulaski National Monument.
I admit that my total recall of Civil War history is somewhat sketchy.  Today I know that I learned things that I had never been taught!  This amazing monument was a strategic fort, captured in 1862 by the Northern troops and became the southern most base for the Union army throughout the Civil War.  It was so interesting to see how the fort was constructed and actual pictures from that time period.  Yes, we were so glad we stopped here.  An added bonus was that the entry Ranger told us that Ken could purchase a lifetime pass to ALL National Parks that only cost $10!  That's right - lifetime pass for Ken and 3 guests to every National Park.  We could hardly believe it.  I'm sure we will be using that pass in the future.
From the fort, we went to historic downtown Savannah.  Ken's coworker had told us that we HAD to visit the famous "Leopold Ice Cream Parlor".  So we made that our first stop.  We had great sandwiches and finished up with some really good ice cream.  Again, so worth the stop.   We walked all around the historic district.  There are all kinds of "town squares" and I was surprised to see this...........

Yes, John Wesley was actually a minister in Savannah from 1736 - 1737.  The streets are mostly cobblestone or even actual stones!  Really interesting.  We walked to the river front and watched lots of big cargo ships coming and going.  And I loved this...
All of the Spanish Moss hanging everywhere.  Even on the lights!  I did feel like I was in a different time and place. 

There is an element all around Savannah about the occult, ghosts and hauntings.  They run several "ghost" tours that go to all of the "haunted" places around town.  I was surprised and pleased to see that they are honoring John Wesley.  There are a couple of churches in the downtown area, but the overall spiritual tone is heavy and dark.  I was glad to leave the area.  I did lots of praying as I was walking the streets, or sitting on benches waiting while Ken took photos.  I would say that I am glad we visited Savannah, but we will most likely not coming back here. 

Tomorrow we leave for Florida and the best part of the trip, in my estimation!  We will be spending several days mostly just sitting on the beach.  I love the ocean and I can't wait! 

Jesus, thank you for the spiritual roots you have in Savannah.  Thank you for John Wesley and the work that he did in this area.  Holy Spirit, give grace and strength to all of your people in this area.  Pour out your love and power over all who know you.  Jesus, give us all boldness and courage to be your representatives wherever we are, letting your light shine through us into this dark world.   Amen

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

South Carolina to Georgia......time to start this vacation!

Very quickly after leaving Ken's meeting, we were also leaving North Carolina.  I really didn't realize that we were so close to the border!  We only had about a 4 hour drive today, which for us, is just a short little trip.   We had some construction, but all in all it wasn't a bad trip!  Most of the trip is just a long stretch of road between tall trees.  There weren't many billboards and very few towns along the way.  And then just before you cross into Georgia there is a National Wildlife Refuge.  For about the last 40 miles, all you could smell in the car, were the pine trees!  It was heavenly!  Such a cool, wonderful smell. 
The smell of pines always reminds me of Christmas, of course.  But more than that, I love the symbol of the evergreen for eternal life.  It was a peaceful and relaxing way to REALLY start our vacation.   So, as of right now, I am in Savannah, Georgia.  Ken and I are looking forward to doing some exploring in the morning.  It looks like we will have good weather, at least until the late afternoon.  What we have seen of this area is really pretty.  There are lots of waterways and as I have said, forests of pine trees.  So get ready for some pictures beginning tomorrow! 

I wanted to share from my morning devotion....Psalms 13: verses 5 & 6
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing the Lord's (Yahweh's) praise, for he has been good to me. 
What really struck me about this particular Psalm is that the first four verses are about being "forgotten" by God.  They talk about the enemy triumphing.   I immediately thought about all of the press on the death of Robin Williams. Yes, it seems that the enemy did triumph over him.    I am so glad that this Psalm ended with the verses I quoted above.  I WILL trust in the unfailing love of Yahweh!  I WILL rejoice in HIS salvation!  I WILL sing Yahweh's praise!  He HAS been good to me! 

I was glad that I read all the way to the end of that chapter.  That was my lesson today.  Not to get stuck after verse 4, but to keep reading to the end.  Isn't that an important lesson for all of us?  We need to remember the end of the story is simply GOD!  He is the beginning and the end.  And because of Jesus, the end of our story is also GOD!  Yes, He has been good to me!

Jesus, thank you for speaking to me today through my reading in your Word.  Thank you for the reminder that it is good to read all the way to the end.   Holy Spirit, you provided us with travel protection and great weather.  Thank you for your care during our trip.  Jesus, thank you for the amazing smell of those pine trees.  And thank you for the gift of eternal life!  Amen

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What I've learned about North Carolina

So we arrived in North Carolina for Ken's business meeting.  Some things we have seen, heard, or experienced in the two days we have been here.........
1.  There is a very, VERY large lake just north of Charlotte (right where we are staying and the location of Ken's company).  Lake Norman is a man made lake formed by a dam on a river and it consists of miles and miles of shoreline around all of the "fingers" of the lake.
2.  Because of this lake, this entire area is basically a tourist area.  A very wealthy tourist area. 
3.  Apparently they have some very restrictive sign policies in this town because you can't find anything just by driving down the road!  And to top it off, our GPS seems to have a hard time finding things also!  We spent quite some time looking for a place to eat last night.  It was frustrating!  We finally ended up at a sort of fast food place that did turn out to be pretty good.  Just not where we thought we were going.
4.  We aren't sure if it is just a local thing or if it is all over North Carolina, but they have this weird flashing YELLOW arrow for left turns.   We finally figured out that it means that you CAN make a left turn, you just have to watch for traffic (it is not a protected left turn).  But we had never seen this before! 
5.  When it rains here, it really rains!  HARD! But for a very short time.  It is always very humid so it seems like it is either going to rain, raining, or just rained.  Basically a lot like Florida.
6.  Apparently this particular town doesn't like Walmart either (see number 2) because I was shocked to learn that it was 12 miles to the closest Walmart.  I would have had to drive all the way through Charlotte and then further south to get there. So much for thinking that there was a Walmart in every town (see my previous post).
7.   On the up side, the people have been very friendly and pleasant to deal with.  As a matter of fact, one lady even rolled down her window to talk to us in a parking lot after another not-so-great driver really cut us off.  I can't imagine that happening at home!
8.  Everyone here seems to love this area.  It is about 3 hours to the coast and 2 hours to the mountains and then there is the lake.  The weather is very moderate (no snow or ice - no tornados, no earthquakes, no hurricanes) although it IS very hot.  Doesn't make me want to move here however. 

With all that said, we will be leaving late tomorrow after Ken completes his work meetings, headed for Savannah, Georgia.  There is a pretty good chance that it will rain the entire time we are there.  We are just hoping for a break in the weather so Ken can do some photography and we can sightsee in Historic Savannah district.  So, pray for a break in the weather for us please!

My thought for today comes from a little encounter I had at a Goodwill Store that shares a parking lot with our Hotel.  I went into the store mainly to kill some time, and to look for a light weight sweater for our dinner out (which by the way, was fabulous). The store was packed with people, but was neat, clean and very well stocked.  As a matter of fact, this particular store had about 90% clothes, which is very different from the stores at home.  In my experience, you find more household stuff than clothes.  Anyway, there was a women with 4 small children (2 in the shopping cart and 2 walking) and she was looking for clothes for the older 2 for school.  I heard the oldest girl saying she really wanted a princess shirt. But it didn't seem that there were any on the rack.  I was just sort of wandering around and found exactly the right sweater. As I was going to the checkout, I noticed a worker bringing out a rack of clothes.  And there first on the rack, was a pink Disney princess shirt that looked about the right size.  I grabbed it off the rack and scanned the store for that women and her kids.  I finally found them in the shoes, and presented the shirt to the little girl.  She was so excited that she just jumped up and down.  The mom gave me the biggest hug and thanked me for finding that shirt.  She said that she was trying to figure out how to pay full price for a new shirt so she could have it for the first day of Kindergarten.  When I heard this I told her my own granddaughter Ellie was starting Kindergarten also!  She almost dropped her armful of shoes!  The happy little girl's name was Ellie!  The mom said "Now I know that Jesus put you here today so Ellie can have the desire of her heart!" It was all about being in the right place at the right time.  Thank you Jesus!

Yes, Jesus, thank you for these little breaks in our everyday things that remind us that you are in control!  Please bless that women and her family and help BOTH Ellie's have calm and peaceful first days of school.  Thank you for your provision for our family through Ken's work.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your guidance, wisdom and protection, even when our GPS fails.  Jesus, what an amazing plan you have to bless us as we participate in your working for others.  Amen

Monday, August 11, 2014

Goodbye Scrapbooking, Hello West Virginia.........

One of the very best things about scrapbooking at a hotel is that the husbands bring the kids to swim in the pool!  That means I get Grandma time with my little sweeties.  I just love the above picture of "Mermaid Lia"!  She has really learned how to swim this summer and loves to swim underwater with her goggles.  She went from being a bit timid in the water, to full on swimmer in just a matter of weeks.  I guess this is another one of those "when they get it, they get it" things.  I managed to finish 46 pages of scrapbooking.  Not a record for me (I think I once did 58 pages on one of these weekends), but I was very happy to complete what I did!  I left from the hotel, drove home and unpacked MY car, only to turn around and PACK Ken's car for our vacation.  It was a bit crazy, and unfortunately, one of my fears came to pass.  We stopped for lunch about 125 miles out from home and Ken said "Didn't we have a garment bag of clothes?"  Well, it is still hanging in our closet at home.  And in that garment bag were all of Ken's work clothes for his meetings over the next few days, plus the dress I was going to wear to the dinner on Tuesday night.  There was no way we were turning around.  So we stopped at Kohls and bought Ken some new clothes.  I tried to find a dress, but this is not an easy task for me.  So I decided I will wear something that is already packed in my suitcase (black pants and a new top I just bought) and they will have to like it!  As I said, it is not the end of the world, but kind of a crazy start to this trip! 
Yesterday we drove to the middle part of Ohio and spent the night and then this morning we drove into West Virginia!  This was especially meaningful to me since I got to cross another state off of my "states I need to visit list"!  I still have 15 states to get to, Ken only has 7.  Unfortunately there are only 4 of these that we BOTH need to see!  And if you take out Alaska and Hawaii, the two we both need are Nevada and Maine!  We are hoping to be able to complete all the states before we are too old to really enjoy the travel.
Now back to West Virginia.  I was amazed at this state!  The mountains were amazing.  It was a cloudy, overcast day and the we actually drove up into the clouds .  It was not just fog, you could see the clouds coming down from the sky.
This picture really doesn't show exactly what I saw, but you can get the idea.  It was breathtaking. I was thinking about Psalm 144.  It begins with a proclamation that God is our rock and fortress, a stronghold and our deliverer, a shield and a refuge.  Then beginning in verse 3 it says......
Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.  Part your heavens, Lord, and come down; touch the mountains, so that they smoke.  Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy.

Yes, today, it looked like the top of the mountain was smoking and I felt as if God had reached out and touched both the mountain top and me!

We stopped at a "Scenic overview" which was just spectacular.  It was on the side of the tollway and the traffic was zipping past.  After I looked down and saw this view, I felt sorry for everyone that just drove past!  What a picture of God's beauty they missed!
I think that Psalm 104:10 speaks to the view.......
"He (God) makes springs pour water into the ravines it flows between the mountains."
I am so thankful for seeing this new part of the United States.  And I am so thankful for another day to see and experience God's creation in new and different ways!

Jesus, thank you for grace and patience and provision - that includes Kohls stores.  Thank you for your amazing love and care that just overwhelms us as we see your amazing work in nature.  Give us all courage to step out of our busy routines, and wisdom to grab on to the opportunities to stop and breath in more of who you are as you show yourself in creation.   Amen

Saturday, August 9, 2014

First part of my time away.........and there is JOY!

 So, as I mentioned, I am away scrapbooking with the gals!  I can not tell you how much being with these ladies fills my soul and just plain makes me feel good.  We are at a new location, and so far, it is really nice! 
While you might think this is the treat aisle at Walgreens, this is just the food to share section of our room. Yeah, this is not great for someone doing Weight Watchers!  Anyway, I have actually accomplished about 10 pages, so all in all, not bad!  When I went to get in the shower this morning, I realized that my shower gel bottle is almost empty.  And so was my shampoo.  I guess I should have looked at my travel kit before I left home!  Then this morning, as I was getting dressed, I looked in my suitcase and discovered that somehow I had forgotten to pack a shirt for tomorrow!  This is certainly not a great start to living out of a suitcase for the next two weeks! Fortunately, I am going to be at home tomorrow before we leave on our vacation.  So I will be able to not only change my shirt, refill my travel shampoo and soap,  but also take a quick check of my BIG suitcase to make sure that I have what I need.  This is really nothing to stress over since as we all know, there is a Walmart in every town and a Walgreens on every corner! But I would much rather be prepared. 

Last night (very late) as I was laying in bed, I was thinking about joy.  What makes me the happiest.  It really isn't about things at all.  It is always about people.  It doesn't matter what I am doing, it is always about WHO I am with.  I guess that says something about me.  I find the greatest joy being with family and friends or surrounded by others who love Jesus.  It doesn't take much to make us all laugh.  And laughter is good for your soul.  I love Psalm 126:2

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.  This it was said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them."

I think this is true.  When others around us see us laughing and having so much joy, it causes them to stop and think, "Wow, I wonder what they are so happy about?"  It may just not be so true that they realize that it is God that has helped us to be joyful.  This is a good reminder for me (and all of us) to be quick to give God the glory when we are happy and having fun.  For me, it is much easier to talk about how Jesus has helped us when things are really bad.  Somehow it is a bit harder to remember to give HIM the credit for all the laughter and joy.  I think I will be doing more of that in the future!

Thank you Jesus for the joy and laughter that we experienced in this scrapbook.  Thank you for filling our mouths with laughter and our hearts with joy.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the reminder to be ready to point people to Jesus, even when things are going great and we have lots of joy and fun.  Thank you for your Word that speaks to us in our everyday life.  Amen

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The best kind of "Tea Party" around!

Yesterday I got invited to a very special "Tea Party", hosted by Ellie.  It was sort of an impromptu party when I watched the kids at the last minute so Gwen could attend a meeting.  

Zeke was also invited!  He was quite happy to attend.  Fortunately, Anna decided it was a great time to take a nap, so she skipped the festivities and slept peacefully in the playpen right next to me.   Just that morning Gwen posted a picture of Ellie and a tea party they were having!  I commented that I would like to be there.  So it was wonderful when Ellie proceeded to set up everything and ask me to attend!  That was simply the best 45 minutes I have spent in a long time.  Ellie and Zeke both talked about so many different things!  We had some wonderful conversation about food (based on the play food that was being served!) but there was also some interesting information shared!  Regarding the food, I found out that Ellie doesn't really like anything right now and Zeke likes everything!  (This is actually pretty true -  Ellie did finally say that she likes "ice cream, Frosties, donuts, and pizza."  And after a short pause she added "daddy's pancakes").  Then the conversation got serious.  Ellie shared several versions of some books she recently read.  She told me all about her recent vacation to Florida (she was surprised that I knew that the ocean was salty and tasted bad).  And then she revealed that she is nervous to go to school in a few weeks (she starts Kindergarten and will be riding a bus with Lia and going for the WHOLE day!) It was so wonderful to have this concentrated time with these two amazing kids!  I am very blessed. 

Isn't it true that when we sit down and eat with someone, we share more if there is food on the table?  I love that the Bible is full of stories that include food and meals.  And I especially love that Jesus gave us clear instructions to include food every time we gather together, during his instructions at the Last Supper.  I suppose it is no surprise then, that most churches have food at the majority of events held.  I can assure you that I have attended more than my share of "church suppers" which ALWAYS include a "hot dish" (this is just another word for a casserole that must be "Minnesotan") and jello in some form.  And I have at least 6 church cookbooks that I use often!  Yes, I appreciate all that food has added to my church experience. 

My home group always has food and I really believe that is one of the reasons we are so close.  We talk about so many different things over our plates of food.  By the time we sit down to do our Bible study and to pray together, we are already bonded together in the meal.  I am very grateful for this special group! 

I love that Jesus gave us lots of incentive to eat together.  And when Jesus is in the center of the eating, when you are spending time talking about things that are really important, when great discussions happen, it is simply the best. 

Now don't you just want to go and find something to eat and someone to be with?  Don't you want to plan a tea party for some friends, or relatives, or neighbors?  Well, I say, GO and DO THIS!     And be blessed!

Jesus, thank you for this special tea party with Ellie and Zeke.  Thank you for that very sweet and relaxing time just listening.  Holy Spirit, what a wonderful gift you have given us to draw us together over food.  Give us all a nudge to invite others to eat together!  Give us courage and boldness to ask and follow through with this and then give us wisdom and grace to really listen and share!  Thank you for this reminder that fellowship with food is so important.  Amen