Monday, December 28, 2015

Family tree.....rooted in Love!

We had a very blessed Christmas celebration.  It was not the exact celebrate that we had planned, but it was wonderful.  We all gathered at Gwen and Tim's house in the morning and we spent the day together.  We ate.  We laughed.  We opened presents.  We ate some more.  We played games.  We talked.  We ate again.  And we laughed some more.  We made cookies and we ate some more!  And we played more games!  Yes, it was a wonderful and very full day.  

Last year I blogged about this amazing tree that we received from Gwen and Tim and the kids as a Christmas gift.  This year we received the LOVE!  These amazing metal decorations were made in Haiti out of used steel oil drums.   They are hammered and the detail is wonderful.  So last year's tree is now grounded and rooted in love!  And that sure reminds me of our family.

Making the day even more special were these amazing gifts from Doug and Susie.  Over the years, Susie has made a large frame for me with pictures of "Grandma and ......" for each of the grandchildren.  This year I received a frame for Anna and I and we also received this frame of Lucas with the family.  I know that this was most likely very difficult for Susie to spend time choosing pictures and assembling this frame.  And that makes it even more special to me.  Now our wall of frames is complete.  I think these frames represent the love that is the grounding force of our family.
Susie and Doug pressed through, and completed these difficult projects out of love.  I feel the love every time I look at these frames and each time I see those wall hangings.  

Today the weather was........well awful.  It started with a cold wind and rain/sleet.  And then there was more sleet and more wind.  And then it began to snow and sleet.  It actually built up to more than 2 inches of sleet/snow covering the ice that had formed on everything.  Yes, it was really an icky day. I canceled the plans I had to spend the day with Gwen and the kids and instead, spent the entire day in the nice warm house.  It was nice to have a day to just let the holiday celebrations "sink" into my spirit.  There were so many great memories - so many little snapshots of joy and hope. And mixed in was the reality of missing Lucas, who is always in our thoughts.  And there was so much love.

Our family has made a shift away from giving THINGS and towards ACTIVITIES that we can share.  If we have learned one thing during this last year, it is the power of just being together.  One of the things we did yesterday was "calendar coordination"!  We planned events out into the next few months.  And we made sure that there were lots of dates on the calendar.  We have much to look forward to.  Again, so much love.

I can't think of anything more important to sow into my family tree than a legacy of love.  Jesus IS love and when we share in activities together, we are sharing the love of Jesus in very real ways.  Susie and Doug brought ornaments to make together with the kids. It was so much fun watching them create Santas and Snowmen!  Watching the kids play games together - including the adults - was such an expression of love.  Doug and Zeke playing a rousing game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos.  Susie and Lia and Ellie playing a silly game of Twister.  Gwen and I playing Shopkins Bingo with Lia and Ellie.  It may seem so "ordinary" but today it feels "special" to me.  

In my "musings" today, I was thinking about these Bible verses....
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.    Isaiah 61:1-3

Yes, this Christmas was a picture of these verses for our family.  Lots of joy instead of mourning.  And our family tree is a planting of the Lord for a display of His splendor.  I know that without Jesus, our family would not be doing these "ordinary" things with so much joy.  It is because of Jesus that we celebrate His great love by sharing together in hope and joy.  It is Jesus who has turned our ashes into beauty.  And I am so grateful for Christmas and the chance to see his love in action.  

Jesus, thank you so much family and fun and fellowship together as we celebrate your birthday.  Holy Spirit, remind us all that your love brings light instead of darkness.  Jesus, thank you for hope instead of despair.  Amen 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A great way to spend Christmas Eve...........

Ken and I spent this Christmas Eve with these cuties at their church.  It was a wonderful service of Christmas carols and candle lighting. As usual, Gwen was singing and "fluting" (as her kids say). So it was Tim and Ken and I and the 4 kids, sitting together.   Is there anything better than children dressed up in their Holiday best, holding a candle, in the hushed darkness?  The best part (and the most memorable for me) was that Tim was holding Anna on his lap and she was obsessed with that candle!  Every time that Tim lit his candle off of Zeke's, Anna would promptly blow it out!  And then smile! So Tim would relight the candle.  This went on for the entire song!  All I could think was Anna would be more than ready in a month, to blow out those 2 candles on her birthday cake!  I got to have some cuddle and talk time with each of the kids.  All of them are so excited for Christmas.  Each told me about the special presents that they had opened from their Godparents.  It is such a blessing that Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna each have Godparents who are praying for them and remember them is such special ways.
And of course there are the special new Christmas pajamas for each of them.  Yes, the Christmas spirit is certainly at work tonight.  I can't wait for our family celebration on Saturday.  Today was just a little taste of the wonderful hugs and kisses in store for me!  

Now for the real "God surprise" from today!  While we were standing in the entry of Gwen's church, waiting for Tim to arrive with the kids, Gwen mentioned that they had received an email about the destination of their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  I immediately checked my email and there it was...... emails regarding the 4 boxes I had packed and sent.  Here is the real amazing thing..... some of my boxes went to KENYA!!!!!  What are the chances of that happening?  They send these all over the world to over 100 countries.  Yet the boxes I packed happened to end up going to Kenya.  This is just one more way that Jesus is reminding me that I have a tie that can not be broken to Kenya and the precious people there.  You can read about Operation Christmas Child - Kenya by clicking this link.  If you take the time to click and read this, you will see something even more amazing to me.  One of the stories that they share on this page is about shoe boxes delivered to Kakamega children.  Unbelievably Kakamega is one of the places I visited in 2004!  Really, what are the chances that this would happen?  This is not a large city!  It is just a small town. Only Jesus could arrange something like this.  
These are a couple of the kids I met in Kakamega.  We packed our boxes in honor of Lucas and I have been praying for the little boys that will be receiving them.  Now it is even easier to imagine the faces of the little ones who might open those boxes, as I remember the many, special children I met on that trip.  I have blogged recently about feeling called back to Kenya.  And this special Christmas present from Samaritan's Purse just confirms that Jesus is up to something!  I can't wait to see what is ahead for me in 2016.  

Jesus, thank you for this wonderful celebration of your birth.  What a joy it is to hear the stories and sing the familiar carols when surrounded by children.  Thank you for Samaritan's Purse and Operation Christmas Child.  Bless all those who move those boxes around the world and for each of the special connections that you are making through these boxes.   Amen

Monday, December 21, 2015

Let the force awaken!

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is driving around and looking at the wonderful lights decorating homes in our area.  Even though we have no snow this year (it was over 50 degrees today), the lights just seem so wonderful.  This was my favorite from our drive last night.  The best part of all the Christmas lights is the LIGHT!  The darkness of this darkest time of the year is dispelled by all of those extra lights.  Which brings me to my actual thought for today.....

Okay... I am a Star Wars fan.  There, I said it.  You might have guessed what the topic of this blog was going to be just from the title.  Yes, Ken and I went and saw the newest addition to the Star Wars movies last Friday evening.  The basic "theme" of Star Wars is the force - the light - verses the dark side.  Doesn't that sound familiar?  Good verses evil.
You can appreciate the light when it shines in darkness.  And that leads me to the thought that has been going over and over in my mind and spirit since Friday night.  LET THE FORCE AWAKEN!  We can all agree that the world seems to be getting darker and darker with each passing day.  It is time for all of us "children of God" to wake up and shine like stars!  We are THE force....the Holy Spirit living is us is the power we have to reveal the light of Jesus to the world.  We just need to wake up and SHINE!  Many would say that the church has been asleep in the last several decades.  The darkness has just been growing and the light has been getting dimmer and dimmer.  But the good news is that the battle between the light and the dark has been fought and won!  Jesus finished the battle on the cross.  THE light - Jesus - defeated the darkness and brought all who believe into the light eternally.  Our task right now is to shake ourselves out of the greyness and be the light.  The power of the Holy Spirit is so much more than the "force" in the Star Wars movies.  The Holy Spirit is the power that raised Jesus from the grave.  It is the power of the Holy Spirit that acted to create the world, after the Word was spoken.  That is some POWER!  And for those who believe in Jesus, that very same powerful Holy Spirit, lives within you.  So nudge yourself awake and SHINE!  Our dark world needs everyone of us to be the stars of this life.  We can each make our corner of the world brighter.  Just think of it like decorating with Christmas lights.  Let the love of Jesus shine through a big smile on your face.  Give a warm hug to someone who most needs it.  Send some light out into the darkness by sharing the bounty of your life with those who have great need.  Give of your time, your talent, your money or your things.  Today there is a simple way to make a big difference The Compassion Collective.  Take a moment, click on that link and see how a few regular people are shining a BIG light into the dark world.  Be a part of this wonderful bright, amazing love pouring out to the world.  Yes, let the force of the Holy Spirit awaken in all of us.  

Jesus, I love it when you use something like the current "big" movie to remind me of what is so important.  Holy Spirit, give us all that wake up call to let your light shine through us.  Give us creative ways to bring light into the darkness of our world.  Thank you for Christmas and this season to focus on the greatest gift....your birth.  Bless all those who are a part of The Compassion Collective. Amen

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Coming full circle..... back to Joy!

I've blogged many times about this last year.  It's been very different than any other year of my life.  It was unexpected and truly a challenging time.  It all began here....From Joy to Sorrow to Hope.  This was my blog post on November 16, 2014.  This was my first post after the death of my grandson Lucas.  I never expected to put those words on a page.  But it has been one of the most read posts that I have blogged.  Somehow people around the world are still finding that post and reading it.  Just this week a reader in Russia sent me a message that this post had touched her deeply.  I know that the Holy Spirit is using my ramblings to spread the hope of Jesus to hurting people.

Last Christmas was a bit of a blur for our family.  But for me, I was just clinging to HOPE.  Hope has been that ever present thing that has helped me to keep walking on.  As our family started planning this Christmas, there was still that strong feeling of hope.  But more than that, there was joy beginning to break through.  At my small group Christmas gathering yesterday, one of my dear friends brought gift bags for each of us.  Inside was a sweet treat, as well as an ornament.  Each was different, and it was not just chance that brought this ornament into my hands. It was Jesus.
Last year a different friend from that small group had given me this ornament and it was so perfect for last Christmas.  It was hung on my tree with many tears.  When I saw it this year, it was like a wonderful beacon....a reminder of that angel of hope that has been with me for the last year.  
When I saw that Dove....with the words "Joy to the World", I knew that the joy I have been sensing and feeling is very real.    Here are the words to that wonderful Christmas Hymn....

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Not only has Jesus, the Savior, come, but He reigns!  No more will sorrows grow.  Jesus will make His blessings flow.  He is truth and grace and His love is wonderful.  Yes, this is just a reminder of who Jesus is and all that he does for us.  It has been quite the ride, this past year.  I did a lot of clinging to the Word (reading Scripture) and was so thankful to be surrounded by supportive friends who helped me hang on to hope.  So now it is wonderful to be singing JOY TO THE WORLD THE LORD HAS COME!  No matter how dark or deep the sorrow, there is hope in Jesus.  And that hope will reveal the joy that all the world repeats......The Lord is come!  

Jesus, thank you for wonderful friends that deliver words of great encouragement.  What a wonderful reminder of who you are, in the words of a song.  Thank you for your truth and grace that reveal your love.  Jesus, most of all, thank you for being with me during this last year.  Bless all who take the time to read these words.  Help them to know the wonders of your great love.  Amen

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Just be held.....

This is a very old picture (Thanksgiving 2013... 2 years old) of me with Zeke.  But I thought of it immediately when I was considering this blog.  It all started on Monday morning.  I had the radio on to listen to some Christmas music on the way to Gwen's house.  But there wasn't Christmas music playing (as I expected).  In fact, this song started to play and I was immediately aware that I needed to listen carefully to the lyrics and hear the message that it contained for me.  I don't think that I had ever heard this song before Monday morning.  At least I had never really LISTENED to the lyrics before.  When I got in the car to drive home, the radio was still on.  When I was about half way home, there was this song again...   twice in one day.  Yes, that got my attention.  I must need to hear these lyrics right now.  And listen to the message.   Here are the lyrics....................

 "Just Be Held" by Casting Crowns

Hold it all together, Everybody needs you strong.
But life hits you out of nowhere, and barely leaves you holding on.

And when you're tired of fighting, chained by your control,
There's freedom in surrender.  Lay it down and let it go.

So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away.
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held.
Your world is not falling apart, its falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.  Just be held, just be held.

If your eyes are on the storm, you'll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross, you'll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted. In time, you'll understand.
I'm painting beauty with the ashes, your life is in My hands.

Lift your hands, lift your eyes.  In the storm is where you'll find Me.
And where you are, I'll hold your heart, I'll hold your heart.  
Come to Me, find your rest.
In the arms of the God who won't let go.  

All during the evening on Monday, all I could think about was JUST BE HELD.  Today while I was watching my little nanny twins, they just seemed to both want to be held.  ALL DAY!  And both at the same time.  So I had a twin on each leg when they were not sleeping or eating.  During one of those sleeping times, I was remembering this picture of Zeke, just wanting to be held.  And this grandma just wanting to hold him.  And then I remembered a lesson I learned quite some time ago.  I was going through a time when things seemed very dark and I felt as if my prayers were not being heard or answered.  Just when I most needed it, Jesus taught me a powerful lesson through a toddler having a temper tantrum.  He reminded me that sometimes all you could do was pick up a screaming toddler and press them close to your chest to get them to calm down.  And when they are pressed tightly to your chest, it seems very dark and they can't hear you or see you.  And that is exactly what Jesus was doing to me at that moment.  I had been throwing quite a temper tantrum of sorts and His response was to hold me close.  Even though I felt it was dark and I wasn't being heard, in fact, the truth was that Jesus had pulled me into a loving embrace.  When I was listening to this song, I was back in that lesson.    And as I listened to those words, and then actually LOOKED at the words, I realized that I have been slipping into the place of trying to control well EVERYTHING.  And it has had me feeling stuck!  So I guess that is the "chained" mentioned in this song.  I guess I need to be lay it down and just be held.  

There is so much more in those lyrics that I can relate to.  What a great reminder that we need to lift our hands and our eyes when there is a storm swirling around us.  Because that is exactly where we will find Jesus.  In that spot there will be rest and the peace that comes with that surrender.  

Yes, I am very thankful for this "radio inspired" message and this amazing song.  I'll admit that it felt very different today when those sweet little ones wanted so badly to in my arms.  All I could think about was just how good it feels to be held by the One who knows exactly what we need.  

Please take a few minutes and let those words to this song get a hold of you.  I am sure that every person out there in cyberspace that is reading these words, will relate in some way to this song.  What a great place to be during this Advent season.  Letting go and just being held!  

Jesus, thank you for the gift of this song and the words that reached so deep into my spirit.  Holy Spirit, show each person reading this blog, exactly what they need from this post.  Thank you for Casting Crowns and the inspiration for this song.  Continue to bless them as they share your love with the world.  Thank you for little children that remind us to just relax into a loving embrace.  Amen

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thinking about my legacy......

Over the last week or so I have been really stuck on the thought of "Legacy".  Exactly what is a legacy and why is it so important?  So one day I was scrolling through Facebook and one of my friends had posted this piece......

    by Susan V. Bosak
    Chair, Legacy Project


    The concept of legacy is a powerful life tool for all ages and a catalyst for social change

    Legacy is about life and living. It's about learning from the past, living in the present, and building for the future.
    Where do you think it's best to plant a young tree: a clearing in an old-growth forest or an open field? Ecologists tell us that a young tree grows better when it's planted in an area with older trees. The reason, it seems, is that the roots of the young tree are able to follow the pathways created by former trees and implant themselves more deeply. Over time, the roots of many trees may actually graft themselves to one another, creating an intricate, interdependent foundation hidden under the ground. In this way, stronger trees share resources with weaker ones so that the whole forest becomes healthier. That's legacy: an interconnection across time, with a need for those who have come before us and a responsibility to those who come after us.
    Elizabeth Elizabeth Tiam-Fook

Yes, I loved this so much.  I love the idea that a legacy is about our life and how we are living it.  It is about knowing and learning from our past and the generations of our past and then living in a way that is building for the future.  I have been so drawn to this concept of leaving a legacy for my children and grandchildren.  And after reading that short paragraph, I have a much better understanding of how I should be thinking about my legacy.  

 I believe that one aspect of my legacy has to do with children and their importance in the kingdom and FOR the kingdom.  I spent much of the last 35 or so years either working with children, writing about children, speaking about children or being with children.  My earliest testimony at age 4 is evidence for me that Jesus knows about children and speaks to children.  I am convinced that somewhere along the way, the western church has lost and/or forgotten this verse pictured above.  People have been sold a bill of goods that says all we have to do is entertain the kids - keep them busy - so that the adults can learn/worship without distraction.  Sometimes you might hear that children learn better at their own level so it is best to keep them away from "adult" worship.  It seems so funny to me whenever I hear these arguments, since that is exactly what was happening just before Jesus spoke these words!  The disciples were telling the moms and dads to keep their kids away, that Jesus had "adult" things to do and speak.  Certainly he was much to busy to spend time with the kids.
I don't only see this as unfortunate for the children, it is sad and such a loss for the entire congregation.  When we exclude children from any part of our worship experience, we are cutting off those roots of legacy.  How do we expect children to connect with Jesus and come into an active and vital worship life if they are not allowed to be "planted" in our corporate worship times, surrounded by the legacy of older saints.  It should come as no surprise that so many preteen/teenage children choose to emulate their friends and schoolmates who "worship" video games or sports, and find church boring and not relevant when we suddenly decide they are "adults" and should worship with us. They don't have roots that have taken hold in those pathways of the older people.  The good news is that each one of us, regardless of the customs or traditions of our local church, can make a difference in the life of children around us.  We can have conversations with our neighbor children, our nieces or nephews, children in our churches.  We can really live out that scripture above..... we can welcome a child into worship.    We can smile and acknowledge them.  We can offer to sit by them (and give mom or dad some much needed assistance).  We can appreciate ALL the people that Jesus is talking about in this verse.  Those with special needs (who may be aged as an adult but have very childlike behavior).  Those with disabilities. Those struggling with dementia. Those who might not understand the "rules" of behavior of your particular church.  The person who has just met Jesus. The homeless or needy.  Really, the list goes on and on.  The point is that Jesus welcomes ALL of his children.  From birth to death.   When you consider the story of the tree and where it should be planted, this makes sense.  Let's all change the legacy we are leaving.  Let us all be those strong, sturdy, deep-rooted trees that welcome those new plantings and shelter them with love and care.   Yes, this is my Advent challenge to you.  See yourself as a tree and find a new young tree to nurture.  You will be building a lasting legacy.

Jesus, thank you for Facebook that brings your thoughts and ideas to mind.  Thank you for reminding me of your heart for us.  What an amazing love you have for your children - no matter what their physical age or ability. Holy Spirit, keep this thought in our minds as we walk through this Advent season.  A time when we are all waiting for the arrival of Jesus.  Give us grace to show your love to those around us.  Amen 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A bit of a throw back blog!

I have a couple of very favorite pictures of my kids in front of the Christmas Tree and this is one of them!  Really, isn't this just the sweetest picture ever?  I know, it's a mom thing!  But look at those happy smiling faces.  And don't you love those "matching" outfits?  I'm not sure that Gwen and Doug would agree, but I love looking at this picture.  First of all, notice the paper chain on the tree!  This was one of the first "Advent" chains that we ever did.  Gwen and I were just talking about this.  I think that she made it in school and every day we took off one loop of paper.  Then, notice the cabinet on the left in the picture.  It used to be a TV!  Yes, a very large (very near to the floor) TV that had not been working for a long time.  Ken had taken the "guts" out of the cabinet and it had these amazing sliding doors that made this a perfect toy box.  We used that toy box for many, many years.  I also love that if I look closely I can see some of my favorite ornaments on that tree - and they are still on my tree this year.

I was actually thinking about this odd toy box today, while I was watching Violet and Abbott - the sweet twins that I nanny.  They seem to have this amazing ability to find very different uses for all of their toys!  Just like our very odd toy box out of an old TV set!
They have a really fun "ball bouncer" thing that will spit out the balls after they are tossed around a couple of times.  But for some reason these two will put anything BUT the balls into the bouncer!  In this picture there is a telephone, a dog, a farmer, a sheep, some eggs, and I don't know what else.  They often try to put the very large blocks into the very small basket, and they are always finding new places to put their pacifiers..... not in their mouth!  As a matter of fact, I saw Violet trying to put her pacifier into Abbott's ear!  Of course that was only after Abbott had ripped it out of her mouth! 

But here's the thing, I just loved that old toy box out of a TV set!  It hid away all of the toys when the kids were done playing.  And we have a very small house that did not need another big furniture piece, like a toy box.  This cabinet was already acting as our "TV stand" with another TV sitting on top (at a much better height to watch TV!).  So using it as a toy box was a wonderful solution for us.  Sometimes you just have to think "outside of the box" - or in this case INSIDE of the box!  
I've been challenged to do a lot more thinking "outside of the box" lately.  Even just the idea that I am acting as a nanny for twins....... yes, that is thinking outside of the box for this old lady.  But it has been such a blessing for me.  I am so thankful that I didn't pass up the chance to do this.  The path I have been on in thinking about Kenya again.... yes that is outside of the box.  And on Sunday night I had a really out of the box experience.  I was at the Sunday night worship that I often attend, and in a very unusual set of circumstances, I ended up stepping out of my comfort zone by praying for a young women sitting behind me. I ended up sharing a bit of my testimony and even had a chance to encourage and bless her.   It was an out of the box experience for sure!  

I think that we all need to watch for the chance to have these out of the box experiences.  If we just stop and look around us there are most likely many wonderful things that we can encounter if we just let them happen.  Yes, I love that I have been taking that extra time to consider Advent (see my last blog).  It was during that time that this blog was born.  I was thinking about all of the very good times I had with my children during the Advent season.  I am so grateful for the memories and the time to let the Holy Spirit bring them to mind.  It is good to have these few minutes each day to just focus on the whole message of Christmas.  It makes me so grateful for Jesus.  It makes me so thankful for the many blessings in my life.  It makes me so aware of all that is ahead.  If you don't take this time each day, I strongly encourage you to do so.  Just set in the quiet and remember the Christmas story.  And then wait and see what the Holy Spirit brings to your mind.  You will be blessed!

Jesus, thanks so much for all of the many blessings in my life.  Holy Spirit, thank you for helping me understand the benefit of thinking outside of the box.  Thank you for babies and the way that they help us to think differently.  Thank you for photos that preserve the past and help us remember.  Jesus thank you for the Bible and your amazing story.  Amen

Friday, December 4, 2015

Very busy few days..............

Yes, it is December and it seems like the days just go by so fast!  I really don't know where the last week has gone.  After this weekends decorating, it feels like Christmas in the house.  I love driving around at night (by which I mean anytime after 4:30pm when it is pitch black out) and seeing all of the lights.  It feels festive and happy.  Last night, as an extra treat, I got to go to an amazing performance of "Disney - Peter Pan, Jr".  The cast included both Lia and Ellie.  Really it is so much fun to see them singing and dancing on stage.  What a wonderful experience for these girls to be doing these big productions at their ages (9 and 6). But it did make for a late night for me.  Today Doug came over and helped us out by installing a new "smart" thermostat for us.  Let me tell you that he quickly (and I mean quickly) in a matter of minutes had run the new wire and had the thing installed and operational.  I know that this job would have been a much longer process if Ken and I had tried to do this on our own.  Susie came over right from work and then we were able to have a wonderful dinner together (something that doesn't happen often enough)!  I managed to get my Christmas cards ready to mail and did a little bit of shopping also.  So, yes... it has been a busy few days!  
While I was going through the Christmas decorations, I came upon this guy!  While I know that he looks a little "worn out" he deserves to look a little tired.  He is more than 50 years old!  Ken got this Santa when he was 9 or 10 years old!  It always was on the front door of their house.  It looks home made but he is not exactly sure where it came from.  For many years, when Gwen and Doug were small, he spent time hanging on our closet door - exactly where he is right now!  Somehow we lost track of him for many years and I only recently found him again.  It is really nice to have these small bits of years gone by that blend in with all of the new things around us.  

Last night, after the play and the flowers and the excitement, the kids asked me to stay at their house and participate in their nightly Advent devotions!  I was honored to be asked and of course stayed for this event.  Gwen and Tim have several different Advent activities.  They have a really neat count down string that hangs from their fireplace mantel.  Each day they read a portion of the "Jesse Tree" story from the Children's Storybook Bible and then a corresponding picture is added to the countdown line.  Yesterday the story was Adam and Eve.  They also have an Advent Wreath (that includes a small piece of candy for each child) and a "story book" ornament for each day.  The book yesterday was about Mary.  Then these little books get hung on a special little Christmas Tree.  To complete their Advent activities, there are special Christmas books that are wrapped as presents.  Each night someone chooses a book to unwrap and then that book is read!  Wow!  That is a lot of stuff!  But even at a very late hour for these four little ones, and even after the excitement of the play, all four sat and listened through all of the readings.   There were some great comments and questions about Adam and Eve, about the fruit and about the real problem - disobedience. What a great reminder it was to me of the importance of just MAKING THE TIME - even when you might not feel like you have the time, to stop and remember the reason for the season.   What really warmed my heart was hearing Gwen recount the Advent traditions from her growing up years.  And I saw and felt again, the importance of sowing into the generations to come through our own children.  

Yes, that was the perfect end to that day, and it was exactly what I needed to remind me to stop and really contemplate the season.  With the decorating and the shopping and the extra things of the holiday, it is easy to jump on that busy-ness treadmill.  And after a short time, you realize that you are running faster and faster and getting further and further behind.  I believe that it is time for ME to find an Advent devotional (or two, or three) and make sure that I set aside that time each day to reflect on the wonder of Christmas.  It is my encouragement and my challenge to each of you, to do the same.  

Jesus, thank you for knowing exactly what a most needed and showing me the way through my grandchildren.  Thank you for the wonder and joy that children experience during this season.  Holy Spirit, help us all to stop and reflect on the great love of the Father that brought Jesus to us.  Help us all to see the shadow of the cross in the light of the manger.  Amen

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thankful overload.....

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Gwen and Tim and the kids (and Chandler, the dog) arrived on Thanksgiving morning.  We visited and played some games and ate our festive "un-Thanksgiving" lunch.  We had lasagna instead of turkey.  We started this tradition when our "black Friday shopping" became "Thanksgiving afternoon/evening" shopping.  I did not want to be cooking/eating/cleaning up from a big meal all before 3:00pm!  Besides, we were having our family REAL Thanksgiving on Friday at Doug and Susie's house.  I know that there are lots of people who have strong opinions about shopping on Thanksgiving, but here is my thoughts about that.  This shopping experience is one of the BEST times that Gwen and I have together.  We laugh, we plan, we celebrate the small victories when we find that certain bargain, we work together to conquer the crowds.  We also meet some wonderful people and simply have so much fun.  I can't think of a better family time.  And honestly shopping now is so much better than when we had to get up at 3:30am!  We didn't get enough sleep before we shopped and dragged around for all of Friday.  Now we get home before 10:00pm on Thursday.  We get a great night's sleep and leave the house at 5:30am on Black Friday.  We shop for a few hours and get home in time for breakfast with the family.  So much better!

So after a very successful time shopping on both Thursday evening and Friday (very early) morning, we were ready to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Doug smoked a turkey, which is so good.  Susie prepared a wonderful spread including some flavorful stuffing.  We all sat around their very large dining room table - all 10 of us!  Before we ate, Gwen asked who wanted to pray.  With very little hesitation, Zeke volunteered.  Our little four year old prayed the most wonderful prayer....  I can't remember exactly what he prayed but it included thanks for the food and for the time together as a family.  It was simply the sweetest, most heartfelt prayer.  There was no doubt that he knew exactly WHO he was talking to.  I have decided that there is nothing better than a little one praying from their heart.

Yes, it is a thankful overload.  Great family time, great shopping, great food, and great prayer.  What an amazing couple of days.  Then came the Christmas set up.  Ken had seen a really interesting laser projector thingy but it was sold out by the time we went to look at it.  So we opted for this large tree instead.
We are used to having some kind of outdoor decoration, so it was fun to have something new and very festive.  It was no easy task putting this tree up, however.  All of the lights were tangled into one big mess on the inside of this tree.  It took us a good two hours to get the lights all freed up and in the correct spots. And Ken was working on a ladder since this is over 8 feet tall.  The lights twinkle very gently. We were very thankful that it looked good once it got dark!   Part of my Thankful overload!

After dinner Ken brought out two foam kits that he had purchased a few weeks ago to add holiday decor to his office.  One was a very large two story gingerbread house and the other was this nativity set. 
This went together really easily and is really quite cute.  I don't know what I think about the one wise man in the front that seems to be wearing a stocking hat....but it is festive!  And then we went to work on the gingerbread house.  Oh my.  What a task.  I was trying to imagine children doing this, since it was a kit designed for kids.  And there were no real instructions...just a series of pictures on the back of the box that showed 5 steps.  It was a trick to figure out which piece was which and then when we tried to put the first walls together, we realized we would need some glue.  So I got out the craft glue.  Well, that didn't work very well.  After lots of time and lots of effort and many, many pieces falling apart, Ken went out to the store for super glue.  The odd thing was that some of the pieces were adhesive and SO sticky that you could hardly deal with it.  But other pieces had no glue at all.  I don't know how they thought this would work since it never says on the package that you need glue.  
It took us over two hours to finish this project.  But it was nice once it was done.  Working together on these two kits was certainly part of my thankful overload.  

So, there you have it.  A recap of my Thanksgiving couple of days.  I have been reflecting on how different this year feels than last year.  Gwen and I talked about how fuzzy and foggy last year seems in our memory.  We did a lot of just going through the motions for the holidays last year.  It was very hard to be thankful in the heaviness of our grief.   We really did just cling together and pull each other along, step by step, through the days, weeks, and months.  As we were sitting at that Thanksgiving table, I was so aware of the missing highchair and felt the loss of Lucas so deeply.  But there were smiles and even laughter this year.  And that perfect prayer of a little boy.  And now we move into Advent.  A time of expectation and planning.  A time filled with hope.  There could not be any better ending to my thankfulness overload than that.  

Jesus, thank you so much for knowing exactly what we need and when we need it.  Thank you for time together and your great peace and love.  Help us all to enter into Advent with a thankful heart and spirit.  Keep our eyes trained on you and the amazing story of season.  Thank you for lights and laughter and the wonder of children.  Amen

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful for the OLD and the NEW!

This morning I said goodbye to my old friend.......this car!  I have been driving it since 2009 when we purchased it brand new.  It has been a wonderful car.  Ken and I have driven it on many vacations, I have driven it back and forth to Minnesota so many times I can't even count.  It was the car that I used to chauffeur the children that I nannied around to school and/or sports and other activities for over four years.  During those years, I put over 500 miles a week on this car.  So, even though it was only 6 1/2 years old, it had 129,000 miles on it!  After lots of discussion and looking ahead at our needs, we decided to BOTH get new cars that have good, long warranties.  Ken found exactly the car he was looking for.  It has a great warranty, good reviews, and we got an outstanding deal on it!
We will finally have room to transport almost anything that we would want to buy.  It will be so much more comfortable when we travel and we won't have to limit what we bring!  We drove around in this wonderful new car today and even though we were fumbling a bit with the different controls, it was so comfortable.  It is not too big and not too small..... it is just right!  

For a while I will be driving Ken's old car.  It just made more sense to trade mine in on this purchase.  It won't be very long and I will also have a new car.  Most likely before the end of the year.  Until then, I will be driving in a bit more luxury than I was used to.  Things like a back up camera and built in blue tooth for my phone! 

Yes, there are some things to be thankful for when considering getting a bit older!  Ken and I are thinking towards retirement in the years ahead and decided we did not want to worry about our cars.  Yes, there it is.....thinking about retirement.  WOW!  Just putting those words on paper is a bit overwhelming.  But it is also kind of exciting!  It just depends on your perspective.  Any change is hard and this change is especially difficult.  But I am determined to make our transition into retirement like this car upgrade. Thankful for the old and the new!  I will be thankful for the remaining working years AND I will be thankful for moving into retirement.  

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Most of us will be spending at least SOME time thinking about what we are thankful for.  Some of us will be actually talking about these things.  For some it might be difficult to feel thankful for anything.  I totally get that.  This has been a hard year for our family.  We were all reeling last year at Thanksgiving.... sort of numb from the loss of Lucas.  It was a lot of just getting through the holidays.  Going through the motions.  It was the prayers of so many that helped us navigate the waves of grief that often caught us unaware.  And it was the foundation of faith that kept us from falling over when those waves smacked us from every side.  So even in the numbness and the reeling we were thankful for the prayers and for Jesus and His constant presence with us.  

So I am heading into Thanksgiving feeling so thankful.  Thankful for the last year and all those who covered us and held us up with their prayers.  And I am thankful for Jesus.  And I am thankful for whatever is ahead!  Today I am especially thankful for a wonderful new car!

Jesus, thank you for your provision in all circumstances.  Holy Spirit, help us all to see beyond our troubles and concerns to recognize the blessings.  Jesus, transitions can be difficult so we need to see from your perspective.  Help us keep our eyes on you.   Thank you Jesus for a day to remember to be thankful for all that we have.  Thank you for family and food and health and home.  Amen

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Snowed in and loving it!

This was a weekend that I look forward to for a long, long time.  SCRAPBOOKING!!  We all arrived at the appointed spot on Friday afternoon, set up our stuff (and there is always a lot of stuff!) and got started.  At about the same time that we started our projects, it started to snow.  Not just a little, but it snowed, and it snowed and it snowed.  This could not have happened at a better time.  We were all safe and sound in our warm, comfortable scrap place.  The best thing was we could have all our food delivered.  We never went outside. By the time it was all said and done on Saturday afternoon, we had over 16" of snow!  We happened to be in one those areas that really got slammed with this first snowfall of the season.  When I got home today there was only about 4" of snow on my driveway.  This picture was taken after only about 3 hours of snow.  Trust me, there was much more snow on our cars after 16 hours more of heavy snow.  I have to give a very BIG shout-out to my wonderful son-in-law Tim Johnson.  On Saturday afternoon, after most of the snow had fallen, he braved the weather and brought seven children (don't is a very long story) to the hotel for a swim in the pool.  Really, what better activity is there on a snowy afternoon than swimming???? The seven children had spent the morning OUTSIDE, playing in the snow.  So they were ready for some warm, inside swimming.  Anyway......while Tim was "visiting" scrapbooking, he cleared off all of our cars!  Can you believe it?  He actually brought a broom and shovel along with him for just that purpose.  What a guy!  He is really amazing.

I decided this weekend that there is something that is often very under-valued.......FELLOWSHIP!  I know that the stated purpose of these weekends is to accomplish the preservation of memories through pictures, but I believe that the best part of these weekends is the relationships.  The sharing and caring and laughing and crying and talking and hugging.....well, you get the idea!  It is all of that stuff that makes this time so meaningful.  At some point during the weekend, Lia sent me a text message that she was so excited for an upcoming "sleepover" at her BFF's (best friend forever) house this upcoming week.  I realized that this weekend is really one giant sleepover!  I guess us gals never really grow up - as far as our friends are concerned!

We covered a lot of ground in our discussions this weekend.  But the most important discussions revolved around this truth..........we all know that we need Jesus in our life in order to get through whatever comes our way.  This group of gals has experienced a lot lately.......there have been family members with cancer and heart attacks, problems with aging parents and death of parents as well as having parents move in with them!  Some of us are still grieving.  There have been houses sold (some after a very long time), houses purchased and moves made - or expected to be made shortly.  There are lots of concern about our children and for some of us, our grandchildren.  And there are the stresses of our jobs.  Certainly we also talked a bit about all that is happening in the world.  Surrounding all of these discussions was the simple statement that we don't know how we could have possibly gotten through these issues without knowing that Jesus is right there with us.

It is so refreshing and wonderful to talk about real problems, surrounded by people who love you, especially when Jesus is always a part of the discussion.  Yes, I think we would all be a lot better off if we just made time to get away with some friends, to talk and share and get snowed in!  For me it was such a time of rest and relaxing.  Plus I managed to complete 84 pages of scrapbooking - a new record for me on these weekends.

The snow was truly beautiful.  It fell softly and silently and covered all of the landscape.  There was a stillness and quiet that seemed to just envelop us in a cocoon.  I stepped outside to take the picture and it was breathtaking.  Even though it was freezing cold, I stood there (without a coat) and watched the flakes fall through the glow of the parking lot lights. It was a sacred moment.  I am extremely thankful for this weekend.

Jesus, thank you for knowing exactly what I most needed.  Even the unexpected, record breaking snowfall.  What a special blessing these dear friends are in my life.  Thank you for taking our needs and concerns and bringing us your great peace.  Holy Spirit, bring these kinds of opportunities to all who need a time of refreshing.  And Jesus, thank you for Tim and the great blessing he is to our family.  Amen                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

These people are on my mind today....

All of this thinking about Africa has had me remembering and dwelling on this couple.  This is Johann and Anna Toensing, my great-great grandparents.  Have you ever thought about people in your family tree and wished that you could have met them?  That is where I have been in the last few days.....thinking about Johann and Anna.  This picture is actually a photo of an oil painting of this couple, done in the early 1800's.  It is most likely their "wedding picture".  Johann was born in 1801 and Anna was born in 1806.  They were married in 1827.  And this was in Germany.  What is so interesting about this couple is that 3 of their children went off to the "mission field".  Their daughter Marie married a man that was set to go to Africa to bring the Good News to the Zulu nation.  Their two sons set off to "the new world" - the United States of America - to bring the Good News and establish churches.  This all happened around 1870.  I don't think this was very "ordinary" for families in Germany in 1870.  In fact I imagine that it was very, very unusual.  But they were committed to mission work.  They encouraged and supported their children to GO!

I never knew my great grandparents, or even my grandparents.  So I never got to talk to them or ask them about this.  I never talked to my dad about this subject.... but I did talk many times with my mom.  She was so encouraging!  I know that the same spirit that must have made Anna Toensing be willing to send her children off into the unknown for Jesus, was operating in my mom - Nona Etta Toensing Johnson!  She listened over and over to my stories from the various mission trips I experienced.  More than that, she asked me to share with her friends and her church.  She told me that she could never have gone "out of her comfort zone" and experienced the things that I had.  But she knew that there was a mission sending seed sown in her lineage.  She had heard her father tell the history of his own family. She knew about her great aunt and uncle in Africa.  I have been so blessed by my family tree.  By those prayers prayed for the sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters and even for me.

So here I am.  With a place in my heart for Africa.  More than that, I feel that I have a message to share.  I don't know what is ahead in the next weeks and months.  But I know that Jesus is leading and directing and bringing together all that needs to happen.  And I am more convinced than ever that my life is on a path that was designed long before I was born.  And that began with Johann and Anna Toensing!

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that you have everything under control.  Even when it may seem really grey (or maybe even totally black) you have that path all laid out.  Holy Spirit, help us to see our family tree with your eyes!  And remind us to pray for all of those future branches and leaves that will be added in the years ahead.  Amen

Thursday, November 12, 2015

To honor Lucas......

Yesterday marked one year since our family was hit with the devastating blow of the death of Lucas.  It was such a shock coming off of the wonder and joy of his birth and being sent onto this path that we had never thought we would walk.  As November was approaching, Gwen and I talked about finding a meaningful way to honor Lucas' memory - something that the kids could participate in and understand.  We hit upon the idea of filling shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  This program lets you select a boy or girl and an age range and then fill a shoe box with toys and gifts as well as health items (soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, band aids, etc) and school supplies.  We decided that this would be a good way to share the love of Jesus in honor of Lucas.
I decided to fill 4 boxes for the youngest boys - ages 2-4.  It was good to purchase the small gifts and fill those boxes yesterday, even while feeling the sadness of missing Lucas so much.  It felt so right to be passing on hope and love for a child somewhere around the world.  
When my four boxes were filled (and I mean filled - I stuffed those boxes as full as I could get them) I was so happy to find out that you can actually track where your boxes go!  I was able to print a bar coded label that will send information to my email address, and I will know when and where my boxes are delivered.  I included a short note, some prayers and Bible verses, as well as a picture of our family.  Gwen's family also spent the day doing these boxes.  Six of them.  It will be interesting to see if we ever get any response to our notes that included our address.  

Yes, yesterday was a day of remembering and missing.  In the morning I went to my small group meeting.  I have said it over and over on this blog, but one more time.....I AM SO THANKFUL FOR THIS GROUP OF WOMEN!  Their prayers, their love, their support have been the glue that has helped me hold it together over this year.  They have listened and laughed with me and cried with me.  And they presented me with these......
Aren't they just beautiful?   When I look at these wonderful blooms, I see the faces of my friends.  Each of us growing closer to Jesus, each of us surrounded by the others.  Yes, we make a beautiful bouquet of fragrant prayers!  

So this year has passed and we have gotten through it.  It has not been easy, but we have done it.  Our family will always be missing Lucas.  There will always be that wondering what it would have been like.  But this is not something that is changeable.  It just is.  Yesterday I was reading another blog and I just resonated with it so much, that I decided to share it here....An Inch of Gray - Grateful.  
The writer lost her 12 year old son in a flash flood and she blogs often about grief.  I especially liked this blog, because I also feel grateful... in the midst of this last year.  It is another one of those things that just can't be explained.  

Next week I will deliver my shoe boxes to the drop off site and I will continue to pray for the little boys who will someday open those boxes.  I will pray for all those that handle these boxes along the way, and for the many other people who are putting together there own little boxes of hope.  If you want to be encouraged and lifted up today, take a couple of minutes to watch some of the videos on that Operation Christmas Child site.  They have story after story, of children who were impacted by the boxes they received.  It does make a difference and it is an easy way to send love to a child in need.  And it is a fitting way to honor our sweet little Lucas.  

Jesus, thank you for helping us to find a meaningful way to honor Lucas.  Bless all who are involved in Operation Christmas Child.  Continue to stir hearts to help and touch many through this project.  Thank you for flowers, for friends and for other blogs that bring your love and peace to us.  Thank you for your love and care surrounding our family during this year.  Amen

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Feeling a tug back to Africa......

I mentioned in my last blog that a couple of opportunities have come up for me to connect with ministries in Africa.  I have to admit that I have been praying for direction and wondering just how I might get connected in the right place.  Then, as so often happens, it has all apparently been arranged for me!  So over the last few days, I have been remembering my time in 2004 in Kenya and Uganda.   And I was thinking about this sweet girl.

I remember that we saw her walking along the road as we were driving to the church (I use that term very loosely since it was just a small mud hut).  She was holding the smallest child in her arms and had that slightly bigger child strapped to her back in that scarf you see wrapped around her.  When she finally showed up at the meeting (after we had been there about an hour), she told the translator that she had come because she heard that we might have pencils.  She badly needed a pencil to go to school.  This little nine year old girl had walked a LONG, LONG way to come to this meeting, in the hopes of getting a pencil.  The hope of a pencil was enough for her to carry her younger siblings, over dusty, dirty roads and through rough fields, a far distance, on a very hot day.   As you can see in the picture, she got her pencil!  

So much about this trip changed my life.  In some ways it was reaching that destination.... finally getting to that promised place from my young childhood when a missionary had stamped my bible and declared "someday you will be a missionary".  In reality, it was just the beginning.  I began that trip believing that I had a message to share with the children (which I had) but I ended that trip knowing that my heart and deep desire was to speak that same message to the ADULTS so that they would understand the heart of Jesus for the CHILDREN!  Over the next few years, that desire to impact the children by reaching the adults, grew and deepened.  But I never really had a platform to share what was so firmly planted into my spirit.  Years went by, and I began to lose hope and to doubt that this was even something I was supposed to do!  The dreams continued to come.  That feeling that there was more ahead, well, it never left me.  I had left a part of my heart in Africa.  And Jesus was not letting me forget it!

When I returned from Africa I realized that my "eye sight" had changed.  I had a totally different view of my world.  I saw the wealth of our country in a new light.  The amount of resources that were available around every corner.  The quality of our educational system.  The opportunities our children have.  How much water we have and how much water we waste.  How good our internet access is and how good our cell phone service is.  But I also had a very different view of the church in America.  I couldn't imagine children walking miles to hear a speaker from another country.  I couldn't imagine the adults sitting in the dirt for hours listening to unknown people sharing about Jesus.  I had seen so much generosity and sharing from people who had so very little.  But whatever they had, they were willing to give.  Yes, I learned many, many lessons on that trip.

Yes, I am feeling a tug back to Africa.  I can't forgot those faces and the warm hugs I received.  I can't forget the joy.  Mostly, I know that Jesus is calling me to share the message he has given me and it seems that it needs to be shared in Africa.  I would be quite happy to share this message right here at home, but it doesn't seem that any doors are opening for that.  So for now, I will just be taking a few steps towards that new connection and will see where that leads.

I want to remind everyone reading this blog, that there is a destiny and plan for all of you that was set in place, even before you were born!  It is an exciting and wonderful path that is there, just for you.  And along the way there might be ups and downs and turns.  There might even be what looks like dead ends.  But you can count on Jesus to direct you and to turn you exactly where you need to be.   This is also a reminder to not give up on your dreams.  You just never know where those dreams will take you!

Jesus, thank you so much for giving me a new shot of hope in the past week.  Holy Spirit, thank you for reminding me of all of the ways I was touched by my trip to Africa.  Help us all to remember and hold on to the call and destiny for our lives.  Give us courage and boldness to walk out the path that opens up for us.  Help us to dream and think outside of the confines of our small world.  Thank you for the new things you are bringing into my life.  Amen


Friday, November 6, 2015

A glimpse of the path ahead..........

This was one of those really rare, first week of Novembers.  It was WARM (like close to 70) and sunny and just a wonderful late Indian Summer days- that is, until today.  True November weather showed up today in lower 50's and windy and cloudy.  But I really enjoyed this week outside.

During my day with the twins we went on a long walk (while their mom spent the entire day collecting piles and piles of leaves from their many, many, many oak trees.)  Their street is amazing on any day of the year, but on this fall day it was lovely.
Their street dead ends into a forest preserve and when I reached the end of the road, I first saw a coyote cross the road, several feet in front of me.  Once the coyote crossed over into the trees, I walked a bit further.
And just as I got to this spot, a very large deer jumped out of the woods and ran across the road.  It seems really amazing that we live in a very crowded suburban neighborhood, yet so close to home you can step into nature.  Or have "nature" simply cross your path.  

Then, to continue my outdoor adventures, Gwen and I took the kids to a small, nearby animal farm.  When Gwen and Doug were little we often visited this wonderful park that includes an old railroad caboose.  It is small enough that the little ones can easily walk the entire park and they have lots of farm animals to see up close.  They have two coyotes and they don't look nearly as shaggy or scaring when they are in a pen! There was also a deer standing right next to the fence!  Not as surprising as seeing a deer leap across your path, but still very neat. 
Anna was interested in all of the animals and we had fun looking at the chickens! (Anna was a chicken on Halloween!)  She was a bit obsessed with the cow and several times took off running to get back to that pen.  It was just a great way to spend several hours outside in November.  I am very aware of how blessed I am to be able to spend my days like this. It is a wonderful gift.

Over the last couple of months, I have been really seeking direction and guidance from the Lord.  This week there has been so much encouragement to not forget the destiny that has been spoken for you.  So I have been revisiting the things that directed me in the past.  But there has also been a strong reminder that Jesus doesn't want us to just camp in one place.  Everything about our Christian life is a WALK.  Over and over we are reminded that you have to step out and go.   And through out the Bible, people ended up in situations that were not what they expected.  So this is a great time to keep walking and while remembering what we THOUGHT we were supposed to do, we should also be expectant for the very new thing that Jesus is doing.  

In the last two days I have received two very interesting emails.  The first email concerns a ministry to children in Kenya and the second email concerns a ministry to children and families in Uganda.  Hummm. After a trip to Kenya and Uganda in 2004, I have often said that I left a piece of my heart in those countries.  Each of these emails represents the potential to connect and move in ways that I had never expected.  Even if neither of these opportunities work out, it is still a huge encouragement to me.  

I am doubly grateful today.  Grateful for the amazing week outside, walking on those leaf covered roads and paths.  And I am so grateful for the reminder that Jesus is guiding me along the path into the next destination along the way.   And I am so thankful that Jesus knows my heart and is preparing that spot to answer the desires of my heart.  

Jesus, thank you for the wonderful weather of the last week.  Thank you for time to spend with my family.  Holy Spirit, keep us all expectant for the new things and the new paths that may be ahead for us.  Remind us of all that you have shown us, but help us to be able to imagine a change for the future.  Thank you Jesus, for your love and care.  Amen

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Remembering.....with love

Today our family gathered to remember Lucas on his first birthday.  We spent time together just talking and then we visited the cemetery.
Doug and Susie had just had the stone placed for Lucas.  It was a beautiful day to be together.  The sky was blue and the trees were losing their leaves.  The stone is really pretty.  There are shades of blue and green and flecks of crystal.  The footprints are so sweet.  Gwen and Tim had the kids make their hand prints to leave for Lucas.  I made the wooden heart that says "Always in our heart".   We had time to reflect and just stand together.  It was so peaceful and so meaningful.  I was remembering last year when Doug and Susie had to select this spot.  It was one of those unimaginable experiences to be with your children as they select a grave for their baby son.  But even in all of the emotions and the horror of that day, I knew that this was exactly the right choice.  As I was standing there today, I was remembering the last line of my blog from last night.... Lucas is in that glorious presence with Jesus, forever.  

When we got back to Doug and Susie's house, we took pictures of Lucas bear with the kids with a picture of Lucas.  This will be a good tradition and a way to honor Lucas in the years ahead.
I have had many people say "how did you get through that?"  Looking back, I know that the only way I got through was because of the powerful presence and peace of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and the prayers of so many faithful friends and family.  Let me tell you, in times like these, this is a very real thing.  And then you can put one foot in front of the other, get out of bed each day, and go by day.  Watching your son and daughter-in-law go through heartbreaking.  I fell to my knees over and over, pleading for Jesus to help them - to help all of us.  I found myself begging for hope and faith.  Jesus was there to pour out exactly what was needed each day.  A very wise person once told me that you never have the "supernatural faith" until you need it.  It is the faith that comes in those times of great need.  It was that faith that has carried us during this last year and will carry us into the future.

Lucas will always have his place in our family and in our hearts.  He will be remembered and honored always.  One day we will be reunited with him, in that glorious presence of Jesus, forever.  

Jesus, thank you for your great sacrifice for us on the cross.  Thank you for the blue sky today and the warm sunshine and the love of family.  Thank you for hearing my desperate cries of the last year and pouring out your love on our family.  Please watch over Doug and Susie and all of us in the next weeks as we go through this time of remembering.  Give us all more grace for those around us who are walking through grief.  Keep us sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit every day.  Amen