Friday, February 27, 2015

You will never walk alone!

Tonight on Facebook, I saw the following post from Faith Walters entitled "Walking Toward Your Destiny".  I have certainly heard words similar to this one, but it really hit me tonight.  Isn't it interesting when you look back at something and realize that you were being taken along a path that you didn't even see?  I'll explain more after you read this amazing word.....

Sent via Kathie Walters Ministries:
I had a dream a while ago. In the dream I was walking in the stormy rain. I was talking on the phone and there was an atmosphere around me of, "Why would you go out in this kind of weather?" As I continued to walk, I didn't seem to mind the rain or the storm. Then I stated to someone on the other end of the phone, "I may be in the rain and I may be getting wet, but at least I'm gonna get to m...y destination.”
Things around us may be messy, dirty, wet, hard work and maybe not as pleasant as we would like it sometimes but, if we are on our way to our destination than those things are just small inconveniences compared to the end result. This is like bumps in the road, but there is a road!
Keeping your eye on the prize, your goals, your dreams, your destinations, will help you go through those difficult moments along the way.
We can begin to see our journey as an adventure instead of a trial. Instead of focusing on the immediate surroundings and becoming worn out or discontented, put your attention on the destination - that place you are walking towards, that goal you will achieve.
Suddenly those difficult things can seem not so difficult after all; not so wearing, not so disheartening. They are all a part of the great and wonderful journey, and they are small things in light of the big dream God gives you.
We were never promised things would be 100% easy and perfect all the time, but we were promised His wonderful grace to walk down our road. We can have joy in the midst of sorrow, have hope in the midst of despair, have faith in the midst of a trial and love in the midst of fear. Our circumstances do not need to dictate our lives… but our lives can dictate our circumstances.
Keep you eyes on your dream and your heart on your destiny.
This song is for you, so make sure and listen - lyrics from, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”: "When you walk through a storm, hold you head up high and don't be afraid of the dark, at the end of the storm is a golden light and the sweet silver song of a lark…” The spiritual meaning of a Lark is “Daybreak." How about that!  

Okay... now here is the link for the song that she is talking about in this post, "You''ll Never Walk Alone".   Take a moment and listen to the song.

This is the program from my wedding almost 41 years ago.  Take a look at the first solo.   Yep, that's right, "You'll Never Walk Alone".  I love that there is a Spiritual message in this song and at the time, I sure didn't realize that.  I also noticed tonight the wonderful words that were on the back side of our program for our wedding.  I can tell that Jesus had a plan and destiny for us, even when we didn't know it or acknowledge it.  For me. tonight. this brings such a warm feeling.  I love that I can look back...almost 41 years.... and see how Jesus was such a part of giving my life direction.  

Yes, I can rest even more deeply, as I am riding along on that river, in a tunnel, knowing that Jesus is in charge.  Isn't it wonderful how the Holy Spirit comes along and reveals this post on Facebook so that I can be reminded of the care and concern Jesus has always had for me.  I am so thankful for "Hindsight" that brings me peace and rest.  And I am glad for the reminder that daybreak is coming!  So there is an end to that tunnel.  The end is the destiny and plan that Jesus has for me.

If you feel like you are walking alone in that storm, or like me you feel like you are in a dark tunnel, hold fast to the words of this song.  There is a golden light right there with you.  That light is Jesus.  He will never leave you or forsake you.  So walk on....

Jesus, thank you so much for helping me to see and understand so much more clearly, exactly where I am right now.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the reminders and the memories that reveal that bring so much peace and rest into my spirit.  Thank you for Faith Walters and this word tonight.  Bless her and the ministry that you have given to her.  Comfort all those who are in that storm, facing dark rain and uncertain times.  Give them assurance that you are there with them.  Thank you for your great love.  Amen

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Welcome to the river, come drink, come wade......

Today Gwen told me to listen to this song,  The River by Meredith Andrews.  The song is really good (you can click on the link above to listen to it), but take a moment and also focus on the lyrics.....

Everyone is broken  And in need of a Saviour
So He came and was broken For the mocker, for the shamed

Still our eyes are blinded By the culture, by the lies
We can’t see that we’re filthy We’re fallen and so dry

But He invites us Can you hear Him say?
He invites us  Hear Him call your name

Welcome to the river Come drink, come wade

Come find your very life Welcome to the river of God
Where your brokenness Is washed away

Everywhere is the sorrow And the pain of empty living
You can see it; look in their eyes.All the hopelessness of the world

But look closer, He is right there In the midst of every fear
Living water is the offer Restoration is the call

And He invites us Can you hear Him say?
He invites us Hear Him call your name

Welcome to the river Come drink, come wade
Come find your very life Welcome to the river of God
Where your brokenness Is washed away

Find your healing Find your freedom
In the river of God Your healing here
Your freedom there In the river of God

Welcome to the river Come drink, come wade
Come find your very life Welcome to the river of God
Where your brokenness Is washed away

Welcome to the river Come drink, come wade
Come find your very life Welcome to the river of God
Where your brokenness Is washed away

Yes, WOW!  There is so much in this song....I think I just got kind of stuck on the third line.. still our eyes are blinded by the culture, by the lies.    I sort of flashed back on so many ways that I was blinded at different times.  Sometimes the lies that I believed were just small things, but some times it was really big stuff.  Lets face it, our culture is STRONG and it is oh so easy to get blinded and miss just how wrong and unGodly something might be.  And sometimes we are blinded by thinking that "tolerance" is the answer.  Whatever someone wants to believe is okay.  When we think this way we miss the chance to share this invitation with others.  Jesus is calling ALL to come and drink and wade in that river of His life.  There are so many living with sorrow and hopelessness. There is so much brokenness.  And there is so much fear.  The answer is right here in this song....Welcome to the river of God!  Living water is the offer..Restoration is the call!  Isn't that amazing?  

I just love how Jesus leads you along, step by step.  Even when you feel like you have no idea where your are going!  I felt like I was just wandering and wondering where I was headed.  And then there was the tunnel.  Suddenly I knew that I was exactly where Jesus wanted me to be and more than that He was making sure that I get to that destination.... the destiny he has for me.  Today he is reminding me that there is a very fast flowing river in that tunnel.....a river of living water.  I have been invited to jump into that river and take a long drink.  A few weeks ago I was riding the "lazy river" at the waterpark with my family.  Today I know that I am on a totally different kind of trip.  I am sailing along on the river of living water, enclosed in my tunnel, headed in exactly the right direction.  It is quite the trip!  Welcome to the river of God!  Come on in, the water is fine!

Jesus, thank you so much for music that speaks so clearly and helps us to hear exactly what you are saying to us.  Thank you for reminding us all that there is total healing and restoration in the flow of that living water.  Jesus help us to boldly share your invitation and the great news of freedom and healing with our hurting world.  Holy Spirit, give us grace and courage as we ride your river.  Amen

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Seeds sown in the generations.....

When I got to Gwen's house on Tuesday morning, the first thing that Zeke asked me was "Where are your Grandpas?"   Now this was a strange question.  So I tried to do some investigation to find out if he possibly was talking about HIS grandpa (Ken).  But, no, he was quite sure he wanted to know about MY Grandpas.  I don't know where this question came from, but Zeke really wanted an answer.  So I told him that both of my Grandpas had died.  Then he asked about my mom and dad.  I told him that they had both died also.  He stopped for a moment and then said "Are they in heaven with Jesus?"  When I answered yes, he smiled and said, "Okay, that's good."  And that was that.

Accept that I could not get this conversation out of my mind all week.  And then tonight I found this picture.  On the right is my "Grandpa Johnson" (my dad's father) and on the right is my "Grandpa Toensing" (my mom's father).  Included in the picture are my sister Karen and brother Jerry.  This photo was taken when my dads parents visited just before he went into the Navy in WWII.  My mom had moved back home with her dad and aunt since my father was shipping out.  I believe that  this might be the only photo of these two men together.  It was taken in 1943.  Shortly after my father returned from the war, in early 1946, my Grandpa Johnson died.  This was years before I was born.  Yet, this week I have been thinking about him and piecing together bits about him that I have heard over the years.  Here are a few things that I know about him...

1.  He came to the United States as an indentured servant from Sweden and worked on a farm as a farmhand.  He met my Grandmother (who had also come from Sweden as an indentured servant) in the United States and actually completed her term of indenture so that they could get married.
2.  He had a farm and really believed that farming was the only valuable way to make a living.
3.  He did not want my dad to go high school (he didn't think it was necessary) and he really did not want my dad to go to work with Electronics (radios and other new inventions).
4.  He spoke very little English and only read the Swedish newspaper.  He was not happy that my mom could not speak anything except English!  (He felt that if she was Norwegian and German, at least she should be able to speak one of those languages)

I can't help but feel that I missed out on so much because I never really knew my grandpas.  I so wish that I had gotten to know these two men.
This is Ken and Zeke last weekend at the waterpark.  I think that being with his grandpa is what brought the thought to Zeke about my grandpas!  It was so fun to see Ken with the grandchildren.  I love that Ken and I have the chance to really sow into our kids and grandchildren.  We are blessed to be able to see them often and spend time with them.  And I love that I get to have conversations with each of them that remind me of this special relationship.  Just like this conversation with Zeke about grandpas.  Later in the morning, Anna was sleeping and Zeke was sitting next to me.  I asked him to tell me about his grandpas.  He smiled and then started to tell me about "Papa" (Tim's dad) and "Grandpa" (Ken).  He told me that Papa played ball with him.  And that he took naps on the couch.  He told me that Grandpa laughed a lot and went in the lazy river with him. Also Grandpa has a car just like daddy's (not really, but close) and that Papa has a BIG van!  Isn't it interesting that at 3 he is already noticing what car they drive???  Boys!!!!  He talked for some time about each grandpa and it was so fun to listen to him.

And then, just a bit later that day, Zeke played and sang to me (which I already blogged!).  I am so thankful for the chance that I have to not only give to my grandchildren, but also to receive from them.  Yes, I missed out on many things because I didn't have my grandparents in my life.  But they both sowed seeds into my father and mother that were then planted into my life.  The most important seed is the one that assures me that they are together in heaven with Jesus.  What a precious gift it is to know that my Christian faith is part of my lineage.  And I love that I can see those seeds growing in my grandchildren.

So follow my lead today.  Take a moment and look back.  Look at your grandparents and see the things that have been planted in your family tree.  Look at your family now and see the evidence of things that you are banking for the future.

Jesus,  thank you for reminding me that your plan is for each generation to sow into the next.  It is an honor and privilege to be able to have an impact on the future.  Thank you for my generations and all that you have given to me through them.  Family is such an amazing gift!  Help us all to look deeper into our generations to see and appreciate each leaf on our family tree.  Amen

Friday, February 20, 2015

Looking back....37 years

Ken and I have just passed another "anniversary" of sorts.  Thirty seven years ago we moved into our house.  This picture was actually taken in late January of 1978 - BEFORE the house was totally done.  There was a BIG snowstorm on January 28, 1978 and the closing was delayed.  It was an interesting time for Ken and I.  We had totally packed our apartment and had a sea of boxes with a tiny path through the rooms.  We had hardly any food in the house since we THOUGHT that we were closing and moving on the 30th.  Well, it snowed and snowed and our closing was canceled.  As a matter of fact, we didn't end up closing until the 19th of February and we moved into the house on the 21st. So it was an interesting few weeks. I am so thankful that we bought our house and decided to move out of our comfort area (which was about 25 miles north and west from where we live).

I remember when we moved into our house it seemed SO BIG!  It has three bedrooms and 1.5 baths.  Compared to our 1 bedroom apartment it was big.  But in reality, it is a very small house. Over the years it has felt very small at times.  When we had two teenagers and all their friends, it could get very tight.  When the kids moved out, Ken and I have had years of once again knowing that our house is plenty big enough for us.  Truthfully, now when the kids come home, it once again feels pretty cozy when you add the grandchildren and the dogs!
And once again, here is our house now.  With new siding and new windows and doors.  It's so interesting to see these pictures side by side (so to speak).   Yes, I am quite happy with my cozy little home!

What a great reminder today about perspective.  How big or how small something is....well it depends on your perspective.  My small little house (by the standard around here) would be a real mansion in some parts of the world.  And on the other hand, it would seem like a tiny cottage to some in other areas where large estates, castles or palaces are the norm.  Considering that many around the world live in huts with dirt floors or many don't even have a roof over their head, I feel blessed. 

I was thinking about the old adage "Home is where the heart is".  Yes, it is really true.  It doesn't matter where you live, as long as those that are important to you are there with you.   In my Bible reading this morning, I was reading in John 14.   I love this chapter that starts with these words of great comfort from Jesus....."Do not let your hearts be troubled."   Jesus then follows this up with an instruction...."You believe in God; believe also in me"   And then Jesus says  "My Father's house has many rooms, if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?"   That is a house with many, many rooms that I am very much looking forward to.  The most important thing will be that Jesus is there, along with all of the "Saints that have gone before".   Yes, that will be a home where my heart is!   

So, it has been an interesting day.  I have been thinking about perspective and in that, I have been feeling thankful and hopeful.  Yes, there has been a breakthrough in my spirit this week.  I feel as if I am moving toward the end of that tunnel.  It is a wonderful, freeing feeling.  Even though it is VERY COLD outside, and winter still seems to have a strong hold on us, my overwhelming feeling is that SPRING IS ON ITS WAY!   So that is is the message I am leaving you tonight.  Spring is coming!  It's right around the corner.  And, to just add a bit to the message...consider perspective tonight!  

Jesus, thank you for your provision that includes my wonderful home.  And thank you for the room that is prepared for me in your Father's house!  Holy Spirit, keep our eyes open to see with YOUR perspective.  Remind us when it is cold and dark that spring is near.  Thank you Jesus for leaving your Word so that we could hold fast to your promises!  Amen

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

When you get exactly what you need from a little boy....

"Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.  
Music is the soil in which the Spirit lives,thinks and invents." 
 Ludwig van Beethoven

I was treated to a long "concert" on Tuesday when Zeke sat at the piano and "played" and sang for me for over 30 minutes.  He even used the pedals (which he is quite fascinated with).  He sang some brand new, never heard songs and he sang some songs that he knows from school and learned at home.  It was the most healing and freeing 30 minutes for me.  When I saw the quote above, I realized the truth it contained.  In the last couple of weeks, I have been searching for revelation.  And anyone who has SEARCHED for revelation will tell you, when you search, you do not find.   Revelation COMES to you.  And on Tuesday, it came to me as Zeke sat at that piano and sang.  

This search for direction, an almost frantic feeling thing, had taken on a life of its own.  Sitting on the couch and listening to Zeke sing words of life, well, it just set something free in my spirit.  All of the wondering and concern and uncertainty seemed to go.  Suddenly I felt light and free.

Today during my small group prayer time, I saw a tunnel.  But it was not a scary, dark place.  It felt safe and calm.  I knew that I could not get off track - I could not go right or left - I could only go forward.  All of the thoughts I had been entertaining about being in the wrong place, just vanished.  I saw that the tunnel was taking me through the mountain.  And It was clear that this was a much easier path than climbing up and over that high, looming peak.  I was going through the mountain in a tunnel of protection and safety, with a predetermined destination.  Not one that I had chosen, but one that was certainly my destiny.  How peaceful and calm I felt at that moment.  And it started while listening to Zeke, sing "Jesus Loves Me"

It is really funny, when looking back at the last few weeks, I can see that it was getting harder and harder to put words on a page - harder to write this blog.  It was harder to tell myself the truth.  I felt as if I was never going to figure out why I wasn't finding what I was seeking!  And then the truth blasted into my spirit through a 3 year old, singing "Jesus loves me, this I know.  For the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but He is strong.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so."  Nothing else mattered.  Jesus loves me and that is simply enough.  And then the revelation comes after I simply rest in the TRUTH that JESUS LOVES ME! 

Today is Ash Wednesday.  That very holy day of remembering the sacrifice of Jesus for us.  As we took Communion together in my small group, I felt the freshness and power of the Spirit just rolling over me.  For the first time in many weeks, I knew that I was on the right track, heading toward the destiny that is mine alone.   There is something so powerful about being in a small group of friends and drawing near to Jesus.  It is indeed flowing into Jesus' life.  Again, a reminder of the power of the PRESENCE!  
On Tuesday morning I captured this shot of Anna and Zeke enjoying a snack together.  Anna is just mastering the snack cup.  I  loved that they wanted to sit together and share those goldfish and animal crackers.  I was thinking about this scene today during my communion time.  Yes, it is good to share with those closest to us.  I am so thankful for my small group.  These women hold me accountable.  They pray for me and with me.  The remind me of the truth when I forget.  And they celebrate the breakthroughs when they come.  

I am walking into the Lenten Season in a much different place. For me it will be a time of moving on, in that tunnel, with assurance and most of all, HOPE.  Yes, the return of HOPE!  And, even now, I am walking in new revelation and a new level of joy and peace.  Expect to hear much more of the revelations I am receiving!  More than that, expect to hear and see more of Jesus for yourself.  Take in those words of that simple song, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!  If you don't have a small group, I encourage you to find one!  Ask at your church.  Call a friend or two.  There is power and HOPE in being together and sharing Jesus.  Lent is a great time to consider this.  For some reading this blog, you may feel alone.  Jesus loves you, this I know!  For the Bible tells me so!

Jesus, thank you for your great care and love for us.  Thank you for revelations that bring us into places of peace and calm.  Thank you for children who know and share the truth with us, even in simple songs.  Holy Spirit, thank you for leading us and bringing us exactly what we need.  Jesus, thank you for Communion and the power of the PRESENCE that we receive.  Draw us together in you, Jesus.  Amen

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Wonderful time away... making memories and remembering

On Friday Ken and I went with Gwen and Tim and the kids to an indoor water park/hotel.  We have visited this park several times in the past (we skipped last year, thanks to Anna!).  This year we had connected rooms, which was such a blessing.  We had a great "room service" dinner together and then Ken and I and Gwen took the older three kids for a swim.  Anna was ready for bed, so Tim stayed in the room and put her down for the night.  After an hour or so of swimming the kids could hardly keep their eyes open.  So we returned to our rooms.  Zeke wanted to go to bed right away.  Lia and Ellie wanted some time to play games with the adults!  So we played several rounds of "Frozen Spot It" and also "I Spy Bingo".  After several games, Ellie was ready for bed.  So, off she went.  Gwen and I decided to teach Lia how to play Yahtzee.   Let me tell you about our family tradition of Yahtzee playing.  I can't remember how long ago Yahtzee made it's first appearance at our family kitchen table.  But one thing is for sure, it was a LONG time ago.  And it was my mom that made Yahtzee such a tradition for us.  Grandma Nona LOVED Yahtzee.  My mom and I played so many games of Yahtzee that I could not even begin to imagine what the total number would be! We played so many games that we actually both had more than one "perfect card"! (Is you are not a Yahtzee player, let me just tell you that this is not easy to do.  Since the game is mostly chance - with a bit of skill thrown in - this is really amazing).  Anytime that I was with my mom, it included games and games of Yahtzee.  We once made an "emergency run" late at night to a 24 hour store to purchase more Yahtzee pads when we ran out.  Both Gwen and Doug (and Ken) will tell you that they often went to sleep to the sounds of the dice hitting the table and laughter filling the air.   Since my mom died in 2011, I don't think I have played one game of Yahtzee..... until last night.

Gwen and Tim brought the Yahtzee game to the hotel.  They had pulled it off of their "game shelf" and the dust on the box was evidence of the number of years that the box had sat, unopened.   When Gwen opened the box, this was on the top....
This is Grandma Nona's score sheet from 2003, when she visited Gwen and Tim and stayed at their house.  Gwen had purchased this game especially for Grandma's visit.  Both Gwen and I recognized her handwriting immediately.  It was a bittersweet moment for us, holding this score sheet in our hand.  Isn't that silly?  You know, this was almost more important to me than finding a letter she might have written.  That score sheet represented so much more for me.  It was a reminder of those wonderful times with my mom.  It was a wonderful Valentine for me.  Lia played her first game of Yahtzee and beat both Gwen and me! During the game we had a chance to tell Lia many wonderful stories from years ago.  Grandma Nona would be so proud.  

This morning the kids got their own Valentines from their mommy and daddy.  And they loved the singing card and the great books that they got.  Don't you just love this picture of all four kids cuddled together?  

We had a great day today, spending hours and hours in the water.  Anna took a long nap in the stroller and both Zeke and Lia conquered the "Big Slide",  riding down on a tube!  Yes, it was a day of making new memories. Ellie and I got to spend some time by ourselves in the Hot Tub (we bent the rules just a bit since you need to be 6 to use it.  Ellie turns 6 in two weeks).  It was fun to have some one on one conversation with her.  By the time we headed home, everyone was tired, but very happy.  

The last several months have really brought to the surface for me, how important family is.  I can assure you that this weekend was the best valentine that I could ever receive.  Surround by the ones you love and filled with joy, laughter and fun.  

And here is the icing on the cake for me.  While riding along on the Lazy River during one of the many trips we took around that track, Gwen and Anna came up behind me on their tube.  Gwen pointed out that Anna was calling for "Grandma!"  And she loudly called out "Grandma" and gave me that killer smile.  Honestly, there is nothing better than that.  

Jesus, thank you so much for your great love for us.  Holy Spirit, thank you for family and fun.  As we know your love, we share that love with those around us.  What an amazing gift you give us.  Jesus, help us all to stop and draw up closer to you, and feel that love.   Thank you for signs of love from the past and new memories made and shared.  Amen

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sometimes you get a message through a deer......

You may be getting sick of me comparing Anna with Gwen, but alas, it is a mother/grandmothers prerogative!  Anna had her one year check up yesterday and got weighed and measured.  Now we all know that she is a peanut (which has been true of all of Gwen's kids), but this morning Gwen and I were comparing Gwen's stats at one year with Anna's.  Guess what?  They were almost identical.  No wonder that Anna reminds me so much of Gwen.  The top picture of Gwen was taken a couple of days after her 1st birthday.  And the bottom picture is Anna at her 1st birthday party - a day after her birthday.  You might not see much resemblance in these two pictures, but to Anna looks a lot like Gwen did.

On to other things.... during the last couple of days I have seen so much "wild life" while driving that it is just silly.  Last week I saw a large herd of deer off in the field next to the road.  Then I saw an injured deer on the side of the road.....just sitting there looking around.  I saw three hawks on a pole this morning on the way to Gwen's.  On the way home this afternoon, I saw a coyote on the shoulder of the road,,,,and it was in a residential area - not a forest preserve.  Then Ken and I decided to go out this evening and we saw a large hawk sitting on a sign.  The capper to all these animal sightings happened at the car wash....yes the car wash.  After the last snow/salt event, Ken decided to get a car wash.  There was a LOOOOONG line, three cars deep.  As we were waiting to get up to the pay area, I saw a flash of a deer just beyond the pay station.  Ken didn't see it.  When it was finally our turn to pay (and then wait some more for our turn) suddenly, a deer was right in front of the car, just beyond the fence of the car wash.  It was leaping around and stayed right in front of us.  The woman in the car next to us actually got out of her car to take a picture of the deer.  Needless to say there were many people in line behind us who were not so happy about that!   All of this is interesting since I live in a very populated area....not out in the country.  I got to thinking that there is most likely a message in all of these sightings.

I thought of Psalm 42:1..... "As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You, my God".
I wonder if the deer at the car wash was after the water!  Each of these different times that I saw the deer, the hawks, the coyote,  it was a reminder that I should be looking to Jesus for all that I need.  Those deer and that coyote might have been looking for water.  Or they could have been looking for food.  The hawks where looking for a snack, that's for sure.  It's very easy to just keep on driving and not even notice what is right outside your window.  And it is very easy to forget who actually provides the food, the water and everything that we need.  I shared that I have been in a bit of a struggle in the last couple of weeks.  I know that I have forgotten to just be "longing for Jesus" instead of looking for answers to unanswerable questions.  Today I heard a song that reminded me to just be "seeking the face of Jesus".  So I guess I have gotten the message.  It is a good thing to just be longing for more of Jesus.  Nothing can be gained by wallowing in the depths of wondering and questioning.  Quite honestly, I don't think that there is any answer to the questions that I was asking that would have satisfied me or made me feel any better.  What does bring comfort and peace and calm to my spirit is just drawing up close to Jesus.  Even when I have to remind my soul to LONG for God!  Sometimes we all have to talk to our soul to do the right thing... ("Bless the Lord, oh my soul").

So tonight I am thankful for seeing the deer, the hawks, the coyote, and more than that, I am thankful for the reminder to just draw up close to Jesus and stop the questions!  I am also thankful for yesterday's wave of mercy that helped me to look around me and see the message that was right in front of me.  It is good to breath out and rest in the presence of Jesus.

Stop.  Look around you.  Don't miss what is happening just outside of your window.  Be still.  Stop questioning. Close your eyes.  Let Jesus draw you up to him.  Be blessed.

Jesus, thank you so much for reminding me that being in your presence is really all that I need.  You are responsible for everything else that I need.   Holy Spirit, help us all to stop and look around us for your message to us.  More than that, help us to quiet our minds and to be still before you.  Thank you  for the reminder that our destiny is also carried on in our children and grandchildren.  Thank you for the deer Jesus!  Amen

Sunday, February 8, 2015

End of a very long week......

On Saturday I had the great opportunity to spend the entire day with Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna.  Gwen and Tim were at a retreat for the youth at their church, so it was Grandma up to bat. Lia was recovering from a bout of Strep Throat but thankfully was feeling back to normal after a couple of doses of antibiotics.  We had a low key sort of day.  There was lots of playing and lots of fun.  By the end of the day the picture above was my view out of the kitchen window.  (Isn't God so good to paint the sky for us?)

These pictures represent my view INSIDE as the sun went down.  Anna was still standing, but the rest of the crew was down for the count, even Chandler.  So after a quick dinner, everyone got a bath.
Thankfully Gwen and Tim have a LARGE bathtub in their master bedroom.  The three kids had a great time with the bubble bath.  It was all I could do to get them out.  And after all that time soaking, all three of them insisted on taking a shower to rinse off the bubbles!  (I guess this is standard practice at their house).  By 8:00pm all of them were tucked into bed after bedtime stories and prayers.  Yes, it was a great day.  

Today I spent a good part of the day getting my scrapbooking in order for an upcoming weekend away.  I spent hours sorting pictures and choosing paper.  But when I shut the light off in the scrap room, I felt that I had accomplished a great deal.  Yes, that is a great feeling.  Ken and I managed to get in a bit of shopping also and we found this incredible cart.
Anyone who knows us at all, knows that we LOVE THE BEACH! Any good vacation includes time sitting on the sand.  For the last several years we have been looking for a decent beach cart since lugging all the "stuff" back and forth to the beach is not one of our favorite things.  And yes, I do know that my last post was about a blizzard, so the purchase of a beach cart seems simply ridiculous! But we know from experience that you can not find a beach cart in July!  Lets face it.  When you have to buy back to school stuff in June and Halloween hits the shelf in August, followed by Thanksgiving in September and Christmas in October, its no surprised that we are buying a beach cart in February!  The upside to this purchase is that we were reminded that 1. There is a beach somewhere..... and 2.  We will be on that beach sometime,,,,,!  Yes, it was a much needed teaser to the thought of a vacation and warmth and the ocean.  

You might have noticed that my posts on this blog have been a bit sporadic in the last couple of weeks.  I confess - in honesty (which I promised when I began this blog) - that it has been kind of difficult couple of weeks.  I have been busier than normal. But it is a bit more than that.  During this time I have found myself pondering and praying and asking some questions that don't really have any answers.  You know..... all those "why" kind of questions.  And it feels like I am sitting in silence.  I haven't really said much to anyone about this.  Last Wednesday at my small group, someone told me that they felt that I was really going to experience an elevation to a new position in ministry.  I was sort of stunned by this.  How could I think that this could happen when I felt so stuck?  And then I saw this post.....
Suddenly I could breathe again.  It was as if I needed to know that I would be okay.  I felt that tender mercy wash over me.  All of a sudden my questions don't matter and I don't really need any answers.  At least not right now.  For now just knowing that Jesus is so close to me is enough.  It also seems possible that there may be something new and different for me in the future.  

It is so amazing to me how one small little bit of Scripture can change everything.  I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit uses Facebook, the internet and other people to reach us when we feel so unreachable.  Just when I needed that "wave of mercy" it was there for me.   If you are in a hard place right now, if you have those unanswered questions hanging over you, if you think that you will never get through this dark place....take courage.  Let that wave of mercy carry you through this.  Park in Psalm 34 and let Jesus take care of you!

So now....on to another week......

Jesus, thank you so much for hearing my cry.  For knowing exactly what I needed.  Thank you for sunsets and sweet hugs from little ones, for time for hobbies and reminders that summer will come.  I am simply so grateful tonight knowing that you will not let me be defeated!  Thank you Jesus.  Amen

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Getting through the blizzard of 2015.... and staying on the path!

Yes, Chicago got slammed by an early February blizzard that started on Sunday and moved on into Monday.  This photo was taken on Monday morning and that snow on my car is AFTER we had cleared it off TWICE on Sunday.  Fortunately, almost everything was closed on Monday, so we had plenty of time to deal.....again.....with the snow.  I love this picture since I have to believe that this "WAVE" of snow on our garage roof was especially for us.  I mean, we love the beach!  Ken is really not fond of winter.  Or snow.  Or shoveling.  Or grey winter days.  So this wonderful wave of snow also came on a bright sunny day when we did not have to rush to leave the house.  If you notice the snow stuck on our neighbors house, you will see evidence of the true "blizzard" that we experienced on Sunday night.  That wind was wicked!  And it was the wind that created our wave.  We were very blessed with no power outages (there were many in our area) so we stayed safe and warm and cozy in our house.  And yes, we can really feel the difference that new siding with added insulation and brand new windows bring during a blizzard.

All I could think of was the verse from Isaiah 1:18.... though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.   After this big snow (which, by the way was the fifth highest snow total for a single day - 19.6") everywhere you looked, was just white.  It was truly beautiful.  Fields of white not marked by anything.  And the surface was blown smooth and shiny by the wind.  I loved thinking about the amazing truth that we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus....and so we are white as snow!  Yes, that was a good place to focus during this storm.  I also spent some time thinking about how thankful I am that during the "storm" that has been hitting my family, we are covered by that same wonderful blanket of Jesus.  Yes, this blizzard was a great picture of the powerful presence of Jesus during any storm.
On Tuesday, it was back to work, as usual.  That meant that I was spending time with the grandkids.
Zeke decided it was a great day to play with trains.  He has a huge amount of Geotraks (which is a marvelous train system from Fisher Price).  We built a big "up and down" track, but it wasn't long before Zeke's very long train was chugging around the house - off the tracks!  Anna was having great fun crawling after the train (while occasionally taking a swipe at a car or two - much to Zeke's dismay).  You can see his face as Anna gets a bit close to the train!  Thankfully, I was able to distract Anna with her own vehicle.
When I was on my way home (in yet another snow....sigh), I was thinking about Zeke taking those trains off the track.  Boy have I ever done that a time or two.  Even when I knew that there was a path - a track - that I was supposed to be on, I have chosen to jump the tracks and go my own way.  At times it seemed fine, but then I ran into those unexpected obstacles.  And before you know it, I was longing to be back on those tracks.  Even when there were ups and downs on that path laid out there for me, I felt protected and safe.  Off of that path, going my own way, I did not feel safe or protected. Yes, this was a great reminder that I need to stay the course and keep on keeping on.  Even when I may be tempted to go off in another direction.   I love the verse from Psalm 119:105  "Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path."   Isn't it interesting that we don't get a wide-screen view, looking off into the future.  All we get is a lamp that just is enough to see where we put our next step and a little bit of light showing the path right in front of us.  Yet it is enough.  If we stay on that track!  Yes, I am so thankful to be able to breathe out a bit, and relax.  Knowing that I may not be able to see what is around that next bend, I know that my feet are on the right path.

Jesus, thank you for making us white in the covering of your shed blood on the cross.  What a great gift for us.  Holy Spirit, thank you for showing us in the Bible the direction that you have for us.  When things seem so dark you remind us that we have all the light that we need.  Thank you for a plan, a path and a destiny laid out for each of us.  Jesus, thank you for all of the times that you gently guided me back to the right track.  Help us all stay right where you want us.  Amen

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Remembering advice and .... blessings of sisters

Today is my sister Karen's birthday. Sadly Karen died in 2007.  Just last week I was talking about my sisters and brothers.... with my small group Bible Study.  You might think that the above picture is not a really good shot.  But for me, it is really significant.  I love that I am sitting on Karen's lap and my sister Julie is sitting next to her.  Here we are, three sisters.  But you can see by the picture, there was quite an age gap between us.  As a matter of fact Karen was home from college, Julie was a junior high girl and I was just 4 years old.  This picture is special to me because I actually remember this time.  On the other side of the room was a Christmas tree. I guess your memories start to really form somewhere around 3 or 4 years old.  I remember very clearly, waiting by the window for Karen to get home.  Karen got married before I was 6 and moved away.   In many ways Karen and I related a bit like she was my aunt rather than my sister (especially since her kids were closer in age to me that she was!).  But I have these times of memories of Karen that are such a blessing to me. I love this picture of us.  It was taken in 1976 at my brother Greg's wedding.  Karen was making sure that my sweater was exactly right.  I remember that I so wanted her approval.
As I got older, got married and had children, our age difference seemed to matter less and less. It was a wonderful surprise when she sent me a package in the mail after Gwen was born. It included sweet dresses for Gwen and also a note (that I am so sorry I didn't keep) but I did not forget what she said. She reminded me that I should "not sweat the small stuff" when I was parenting.  Karen told me that the best parenting advice she could give me was to let go of the little things and choose the battles with my children. I never forgot that advice.   I loved that she came to my home for a visit when Doug was a baby and Gwen was a preschooler.  We were suddenly not only sisters, but moms! One of my favorite memories was in the summer of 1979.  All of my siblings gathered at the "Lake".  Karen and I actually shared the living room, each of us on one of the sofa's, with Gwen in a playpen between us (she was 4 months old).  Karen and I laughed about the fact that this was the first time that we ever shared a bedroom as sisters!  
And here is a picture of us sisters in 1985 at the time of my dad's funeral.  Isn't it interesting how much we look alike?  Yes, I was very blessed to have these two women in my life.  Both of my sisters had a part in shaping my choices and the path that I walked as a child, teenager, young adult and married woman and mother.  It was really difficult for my mom when Karen died.  She was 92 at the time and had been very close to Karen.  It is always difficult to lose a child no matter how old they are!  And Karen was very missed during the last years of my mom's life. I  regretted that I didn't spend more time with my sister.

I have really gotten to know Karen better in these last years, by learning more about her three children... my nieces Amy, Nancy and Susan.  Thanks to Facebook, I keep up with all that is happening in their family.  This is certainly a wonderful benefit of the internet. These sisters have kept in close contact and have a wonderful relationship.  My brother-in-law Roy enjoys time with all of them and his grandchildren.  Karen's legacy lives on.  

I never forgot that advice that Karen gave me on parenting.  It was a foundation of my dealing with Gwen and Doug.  I am so thankful that Karen loved Jesus and served Him all of her life.  She sang His praises with an incredible voice.  She cared for others with a heart of love.  She was a planner and could carry out events with grace and poise.  And she loved her husband and family.  Yes, she was a blessing to me and to so many others.

Isn't it sad how we realize only in hind sight how important relationships are?  I know that the last few months have caused me to evaluate what is really necessary and what I need to devote my time and energy towards.  It is always good to have a bit of a wake up call since everyone seems to get caught in the rut of busy-ness.  Rushing here and there and packing your calendar with events that may not even be that important.  This is the time to purpose to change priorities.  Spend time with those that matter to you.  Sow seeds for your legacy.  Share and care and love above all.  Don't waste a precious moment.  

Jesus, thank you for family, for siblings for parents and children.  Thank you for reminders of seeds that have been sown into us through well meaning advice.  Holy Spirit, help us all to spend time with those we value.  Help us to keep our priorities right.  Thank you for revealing the legacy of my sister Karen through her children and grandchildren.  Jesus, thank you for the wake up call.  Amen