Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One of those important "Big" events.....

Today Ellie was one happy little girl.  She lost her first tooth. At school.  So she got a cute little tooth holder necklace and she was dancing when she came off of the bus.  It was pretty obvious this morning that this event would happen soon.  Her tooth was facing the wrong direction, yet it was holding on by a small thread.  When you are 6 this is a really big deal!  And there will be many more lost teeth in the years ahead.  Of course Zeke wanted to know when he would get to lose a tooth! Sigh.  That comparison stuff once again.

As a special treat today, Gwen was actually on one of her "spring breaks" and did not have to work (unfortunately for Gwen, each of the schools where she works, took different spring breaks. Last week she was off on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and this week she is off on Tuesday and Thursday.  Certainly not ideal....).  So we took Zeke and Anna to an indoor tot swim at a local park district.
Zeke had a wonderful time.  The water was a bit cold for Anna but she really did seem to like it.  She splashed and played and we took both of the kids on the very small lazy river.  Zeke is turning into quite the swimmer.  He really does well and even went under water today!  So for sure it was a really nice change of pace and made this day feel a bit more like a "vacation".  Here is Zeke going under water!
And coming up!  

And a bonus picture of Anna having fun in the water!  Yes, it was a super fun day!  

This has always been one of my favorite weeks of the year.  It is a week of "big events" on the church calendar.  It is Holy Week.  I love Palm Sunday.....palm branches and singing Hosanna to the King!  And I love that this also signals a change in my spirit as I focus on the events of the coming week. Maundy Thursday has always been a special day for me.  I love thinking about that first "last supper" and remembering that we are blessed to participate in this amazing meal every time we celebrate Communion.  Good Friday is one of those days that it seems almost impossible to do anything but wonder at the sacrifice, at the unbelievable gift that we are given through the Crucifixion.  The week ends with the joyous and wondrous cry of "He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!".

One of the best things about this week of big events are all the memories that are made. I have many specific memories of each of these "big event" days and I will share those memories on each of those days this week.   Today Ellie is celebrating a lost tooth that also means that she has made one more step up that "growing up" ladder.  For her it is a big event.  I am feeling happy that I got to actually be a part of Ellie's special day today and I got to swim with Anna, Zeke and Gwen. It was a day of making memories.

Jesus, thank you for memories and special times of fun with family.  Holy Spirit, help us all to stop and remember during this special "Holy Week".  Thank you for traditions and rituals that reinforce those "big events".  Jesus keep our focus on you!  Amen

Sunday, March 29, 2015

When you get confirmation........

This weekend we got to "dog sit" for Sammy and Kylie when Doug and Susie took a quick overnight getaway.  It is really interesting to see how relaxed and at home these two doggies are when they come to visit.  Within five minutes of Doug and Susie leaving, both dogs were asleep in their beds.  They both spent all night soundly sleeping in their beds and Sammy woke me up this morning with a lick to my face!  It is certainly fun to have these little doggie times.  It is confirmation to me that although I love dogs, at this stage of our lives it is better to just get our "dog fix" through our "grand dogs"!

Another bit of confirmation for me was reading this post from Lana Vawser.  It is basically the same message that I shared in my last post about all the ways we compare ourselves to others.  I believe that I am not the only person hearing this message so there must be others out there that are dealing with this jealousy, comparison issue.  It is worth reading her post for more insight on this subject.

To finish out my weekend, I totally rearranged my scrapbooking room.  I still have more to do, but I actually moved the furniture and set things up.  I really can't believe how much more room I have just by moving a couple of tables.  This is a really small room but suddenly I have room to breathe.  I had been considering doing something different in that room for some time, but it just seemed like it would not change anything.  There is nothing NEW in the room, it is all the same old stuff. Yet it feels new.  After shutting out the light in my "new" room, as soon as I sat down at the computer I realized the message that this brought to me!  Sometimes there are places in our life where we just need to "rearrange" things a bit.  Before I moved those tables, I threw out several large bags of trash.  And there may be some things that need to be removed before things can be put into new places.  I moved my work station to the opposite wall, so now I am facing an entirely new direction and I have a very different "view" of things as I work.  This was confirmation to me that the shifting that I have been feeling in my spirit is actually just some "rearranging"!  I have certainly felt that there has been some shaking out of some things that were clearly junk that I did not need to hang on to.  And I have been sort of resisting the shifting I have felt that seemed scary.  After tonight, I am kind of anxious to see where the rearranging of things in my life might take me.  I can't wait to find out what direction I might end up facing.  I am looking forward to finding out exactly what my view might be when everything is finally moved around!  Quite an interesting result of some cleaning!  

Isn't it just amazing how these bits of confirmation come to us?  I have felt so encouraged in each of these seemingly small details.  But I know that often, the most important things are contained in the little things. Yes, it has been a refreshing time this weekend.  I got to take several long walks (not that the weather was wonderful.....it was COLD and RAINY) but it was good to be out with Sammy and Kylie.  I love thinking that someone way around the world in Australia is hearing the same message from Jesus.  And then it is so fun to know that Jesus can get my attention even when I am moving furniture.  Isn't that something?  Be encouraged to stop, look and listen in your own circumstances.  You just never know when you might get some confirmation when you least expect it!

Jesus, thank you for caring for each of us so individually.  Thank you for giving us exactly what we need, even when we don't know that we need it.  Holy Spirit that you for bringing me clarity about the shaking I am feeling and excitement about what is to come.  Help us all to remember to look for the confirmations that you bring to us.  Thank you for doggy kisses and cleaner rooms!  Amen 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The green grass in someone else's yard really doesn't matter.....

Somehow, this entire week I seem to have been parked in this idea.  There has been one reminder after another that satan just loves to get us to look at other people and decide that they have it so much better than we do.  Nothing starts a "pity party" faster than feeling like your life, your situation, your family, your job....whatever it is... just doesn't measure up to someone else.  And it is oh so easy to look at a friend, a neighbor, or even someone you don't know and ASSUME that they have the perfect life.  I guess I have lived long enough to know that things are not always as great as what it might look like on the surface.  As a matter of fact, that green grass that you are looking at might actually just be some really dead, dry stubble that has been spray painted green to look good!

Let me assure you that I am not just pointing a finger at others, I certainly have caught myself coming under this same attack.  I am very thankful that I am growing and learning.  Because of that, I don't park in these feelings or have a giant pity party.  I can identify what is happening and stop it before it takes over.

It is interesting how this same jealousy issue comes up between siblings.  I think it is the root of "sibling rivalry".  And it doesn't end with childhood.  Even adult brothers and sisters seem to fall into this "grass is always greener" stuff.  Gwen was telling me that the big excitement in their house was that Ellie got a new bed!  So of course Zeke was wondering where HIS new bed was.  You can be sure that when the time comes, Zeke will get a new bed.  But for right now, it is hard to wait.  It is so easy to compare yourself to those you were raised with.  To expect to have the same level of achievement, to reach the same milestones, and have all of the same "toys".  Isn't satan tricky to even bring this discontent into families?  Let's pray against this attack on our families.

I loved this picture.  It is a reminder that it is good to look at what you have and to come to a place of being content in your heart.  Isn't it true that sometimes it is good to be a bit different than everyone else?  Our culture makes it so hard to be content.  There are reminders around every corner, on every web site, at every store, that somehow we should have more or better EVERYTHING.  And at the bottom of it all, is the thought that YOU are not enough.  Not good enough, not smart enough, and not able to achieve some imaginary level.  Clearly this problem is not new to us.... the Bible has some pretty clear words......
"But godliness with contentment is great gain"   1 Timothy 6:6 
"Lord, my heart is meek before you.  I don't consider myself better than others.  
I'm content to not pursue matters that are over my head.  I am your resting child 
and I am content in You." Psalm 131:1,2a 
"The fear of the Lord leads to life, then one rests content, untouched by trouble" Proverbs 19:23

These are just a few verses and there are more.  Paul talked about being content in whatever situation he found himself.  In good times or bad, he was content.  

So I have been reminded and will set about putting this into action. Lets all spend more time looking at all that we HAVE in our life rather than wishing we had what someone else has.  Make a list of all that is good and special and YOU and then celebrate it!  Appreciate the color of your own yard!

Jesus, thank you for this very important reminder to be content.  Holy Spirit, give us all eyes to see what is special about our own life so that we can celebrate who you have made us to be.  Jesus, thank you for making us all different in your image.  You are an amazing God that makes that statement POSSIBLE! Amen

Monday, March 23, 2015

Weekend recap and a time of contrasts and rest

So I last posted looking forward to my scrapbooking weekend.  Here is the result of the weekend.  I finished this entire book.... it was 61 pages and covered from June 1, 2013 through July 31, 2013. It included a long vacation with lots of pictures. This was a personal record for me!  Included in the weekend was a fun time swimming with the grandchildren.

Even Anna spent some time in the pool.  I don't think she totally "enjoyed" the pool since it was a bit cold for her.  But she stayed in the entire time.  The older kids had a great time.  I actually swam a number of laps before the kids got to the pool.  It was a nice time of relaxing along with lots of talking and of course, the scrapping.  I was telling a friend this morning that the time felt kind of quiet.  For some reason it was just a really calm, peaceful time yet I accomplished so much.  It seems kind of counter intuitive, but it happened.  

And then this morning...... this was out of my window...
We had about 6" of snow this morning.  Sigh,  Gone is our near springtime weather.  The grass is gone, again, and it seems bleak and dark.  The good news of this weather is that it is supposed to be 60 on Wednesday!  So this snow will not last long!  Wow, what an unusual few days!  On one hand my scrap time was calm and peaceful.... yet it was overly productive!  And then even though the calendar says that spring is here... there are inches of snow on the ground!   

Today I decided to clear out some of my massive amount of scrapbook supplies.  Since everything was already a jumbled mess after taking it all for the weekend, it was a perfect time to do this.  So I sorted and organized and I still have quite a ways to go.  I have one large trash bag of things that I wonder why I had been keeping.  And I have several stacks of items to give away.  The best part of this clear out is that I now know what I have and I can actually find it!  So I will have a little bit more time with a mess until everything is organized and rearranged, but it is so worth it!

Yes, this has been a few days of contrasts.  And I have also felt the contrasts in my emotions and in my spirit.  I have had times of feeling very joyful and upbeat, but there has also been times of sadness.  Currently there is a buzz around the internet and among my friends that there will be an amazing time of spiritual revival hitting the Chicago area soon.  There are a couple of upcoming events that have everyone feeling the mounting excitement.  I have been waiting and watching for the expectation and excitement to hit me.  I am attending one of those "big" events coming in April, but I have yet to feel anything at all.  I was talking to Jesus about that this morning and then I heard a very quiet and small simple word.  JUST REST!   That seems to be what was happening all weekend.  And even in the sorting and organizing today, I felt restful.  It is as if I am wrapped in rest and peace.  And it is a great place to be!  After I realized how wonderful this word was, I looked out at that snow and it actually seemed very pretty.  I put on my boots and went out and shoveled the driveway!  It was warm and the sun actually came out.  And melting was already happening.  I realized that I was looking out the other window (see my last blog)!  And I was filled with rest and peace.  Quite a good day!  

Jesus, thank you for this weekend and fellowship and fun.  Thank you for speaking and reminding me to just rest when I feel like there is something more that I should be feeling.  Holy Spirit, keep our focus on the things that you know are necessary and good for each of us.  Help us to except that what we need may not be what someone else needs.  Jesus, so many people are filled with anxiety and stress.  Help us all to JUST REST!  Thank you for all that you are doing in the Chicago area.  Keep our eyes and ears attuned to you rather than to people.  Amen

Friday, March 20, 2015

Making a choice.........

When I saw this picture above on Facebook, I couldn't help but stop and chuckle a bit.  I admit that I have been on quite a few of those roads.  Lately, I have been in that long and sometimes dark tunnel.  But WOW!  What a picture of perspective!  Sometimes all you have to do is look out the other window to get a totally different view of things.

Right now I am at one of my very favorite "happy places".  I am scrapbooking at a hotel with my favorite scrapper friends.  There is nothing that makes me breathe out more than sitting at a table with all of my "junk" spread out around me.  I am one of the fortunate ones that has a dedicated space at home to pursue this passion of paper.  But in some ways it is WORSE to have a room all set up because the packing up and getting ready to take your stuff somewhere else is a lot of work!  Some of my friends never really "unpack" their stuff at home so it is more of a grab and go for them.  Alas, it is one of those perspective things!  As I was lugging all of my stuff down the stairs this morning, one of my containers fell and burst open spreading everything all down the stairs.
I remembered seeing the picture about perspective and making a choice, so standing at the top of the stairs, looking down at this mess, I decided that it was a good time to clean and organize that container!  It was surprising how easy the clean up was with a little perspective change.  

Today I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Chasing Rainbows.  This blog post is "Winter of My Discontent" and boy could I ever relate to her words.  She has been grieving the loss of her special needs son, who died very unexpectedly.  I actually began reading her blog right around the time her son died.  I never imagined that her words would have so much impact in my own life.  That is until our family experienced an unimaginable loss.  I have to agree with Kate, the author of this blog.  It has been a winter of discontent for me.  Things have seemed difficult and at times, I have lost patience with myself. I have been sort of "slogging" through the grief of losing Lucas, as well as also trying to support and stand with my children as they deal with all that surrounds the death of a child.  It is comforting to know and be reminded that my path, our families path is just fine.  Even if it doesn't fit into someone else's ideas of what it should look like.  I am so thankful for the love of Jesus that surrounds me each day.  The very real presence of the Holy Spirit that fills me and comforts me.  I don't think I really understood what Jesus was saying when he said  "Blessed are those that mourn for they shall be comforted" until now.  It is a very real thing, this comfort.  It comes in all different ways.  Sometimes it is voice on the phone when you most need it.  Or it might be a song or a verse that just reaches into a deep place in your heart.  Sometimes it is a blog post by someone you have never met..... or a picture on Facebook.  But one thing is certain.  Jesus is very aware of me.  He is very aware of you and knows exactly what you need.  

I will be making a choice today to look out the window and see the sun shine and notice that the snow is melting away (even though more snow is predicted for next week).  I will listen to the birds chirping in the trees and let the breeze blow into my face.  Today, I will smile.  And I will do lots of scrapbooking.  And I will laugh with friends and I most likely will shed a few tears.  But it is well with my soul.  

Jesus, thank you for being with me everyday and in every thought.  Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit who brings peace and comfort when it doesn't make any sense.  Thank you for Kate Leong and her blog that reaches so many.  Bless her and her family as they continue on their own path of grief.  Thank you for the many who have stood with our family during this time of sorrow.  Jesus, help us to turn our eyes forward... to look to you and to make a choice to see out of the other window!  Amen

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

When you need a helping hand...........

It is amazing to watch the development of a special relationship between siblings.  One thing is certain, Anna simply loves Zeke.  We all thought that Anna would be walking by now.  She crawled early and she has this very strange ability to stand up in the middle of the room!  She will walk pushing her stroller or really anything that she can hang on to.  But she will not let go and take steps on her own.  On this day she was crawling following Zeke around and then she would stand up right next to him and lunge for a hug.  She just loves that boy so much.  And he willingly gave her hug after hug.  And then he reached out for her hands and off they went!  Zeke walking backwards and Anna walking as fast as her little feet would carry her.  I kept telling Zeke to slow down.  Anna happily let Zeke lead her all around the house, over and over.  She needed his helping hand to walk!  I imagine that before we know it, Anna will be running all on her own. For now, I am so thankful that she has a big brother who is willing to lend a helping hand.

I don't know why it is so hard to ask for help, but it sure is.  I guess it feels like a sign of weakness to admit that we can't get by on our own.  I blogged recently that Ken and I admitted our need for help and called on Doug to help us move a heavy piece of furniture upstairs for us.  It was a good decision.  When you hit our age it just seems to make more sense to have someone else do the hard stuff rather than suffer the consequences ourselves.  Right now Ken and I are making a list of all of the inside home repairs and improvements that we need done.  I am quite happy to say that we will be having someone else do the majority of the work.  In these things, we know that we need a helping hand!

I have learned, I admit after years and years, that it is good to ask for a helping hand when you need prayer.  I still know some people who NEVER let you know what their prayer needs are.  They will even ask how they can pray for you, but they will never ask for prayer for themselves.  We all know that when two or three are gathered together...when you join with others, Jesus is there.  Today on my way home from another amazing time with my small group, I was reflecting on the "good old days" of the telephone prayer chain.   I remember when I would receive one of those requests and feel so connected to everyone praying as you passed on the request to the next person on the chain.  What an amazing thing it is to glance over my text messages and see all of the prayer requests!  In an instant I can have many people praying.  Asking for prayer (that helping hand) is so much easier now!

If you are reading this and find it hard to reach out and ask for help.... or to ask for prayer... please stop right now and call a friend and share a need.  We all have needs and we all need to support each other.  If you don't have anyone to call, please comment on this blog and I will stand with you in prayer.  If you are reading this via Facebook, drop a comment or send a personal message.  Don't let some false pride thing keep you from being connected to the body of Christ.  You will be blessed and you can be assured that your prayers are being heard in heaven.

Jesus, thank you for your promises to us.  Holy Spirit, continue to prompt us to share our prayer needs and to reach out to others for help.  Thank you for the advancements that allow us to stay connected via the internet and cell phones not only to each other, but also to you through prayer.  Thank you for the relationship that you are building between Anna and Zeke.  Help us all to know when to lean on others for support, when it is just beyond our own strength or ability to go on.  Amen

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Another out of the box message....

Today I was reading from one of my many, many devotional books - the one above.  This is one of my all time favorites and I often go back to this one.  No matter where I start to read, it seems like it always hits exactly what I need for that day.  Here is my reading for today....

Yes, this in yet another "out of the box" message.  I loved the reference to Jesus taking the deaf man "Away from the crowd" to get him out of his own element.  Ummm.  This had me doing some really deep thinking today.  I had been thinking about being "out of the box" that I had been in, but out of my element is something entirely different.  In so many ways this past year has seemed like I have been taken "away from the crowd" into a totally new place.  And I have felt that unease of being out of my element.  It has been a place of discomfort with a bit of feeling really lonely.  One thing that has been very clear for me has been the increased dependence on Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I had a sudden realization that the tunnel I found myself in and that rushing river running through it were just Jesus taking me "away from the crowd"!  Clearly I was not willing to get outside of my box and out of my comfort zone any other way.  So, there was the tunnel.  And the river.  Don't you just love it when you get an explanation - even if it is hindsight - about why something is happening?  

I managed to get my hair cut today also.  For the last several months I have been really having trouble with my hair!  Doesn't this sound like a silly, small thing?  I have very short hair, but it has just been TERRIBLE!  I really started to wonder what was going on.  I changed my shampoo and still didn't get any fix.  About 4 hair cuts ago I got a really bad cut.  At the time I thought..."oh well, it will grow".  But alas, here I am 4 months later and it seems to get worse and worse.  Today I went "out of my element" to a brand new hair salon.  I got a wonderful young gal who really knew what she was doing!  She took one look at my hair and said "who cut your hair?".  There were some sections that were more than 2" shorter than others.  Apparently the last 3 people who tried to fix the first cut, had actually made it worse!  She was willing to take lots of time and much effort to really get me headed in the right direction towards my "normal" hairstyle.  After 45 minutes of very careful cutting, my hair looks great.  She told me that I would still need at least one more cut to really get things evened out, but I looked in the mirror and FELT NORMAL!  

As I was driving home after the hair cut (with the car windows down and the WARM air blowing in)
I realized that this was such a strong message for me.  Sometimes you have to just get through those really silly little things that really bug you.  And you might have to go out of your element to get relief from the issues.  This makes flowing along in that tunnel, on that river, a bit less scary.  I guess I have figured out knowing Jesus only wants the best for you lets you breathe out and relax.  So now I will focus on Jesus taking me "away from the crowd", rather than trying to figure out what is going on and more so, where I am headed.  I confess, this has been a long and sometimes confusing period of revelation for me.  But I love when I can have one of those "ah ha" moments, especially when it comes with a "normal" haircut!

Jesus, thank you so much for taking me "away from the crowd".  Thank you for wonderful devotionals and for Beth Moore.  Jesus pour out your blessings on her.  Thank you for a wonderful hair cut and the amazing gal who took so much time to get it right. I love that you can reach me in the silliest little things!  Holy Spirit, you are amazing!  Jesus, help me to stay in this place of relaxed, acceptance.  Continue to speak clearly to us all, in our day to day life.  Amen

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Soaring on wings like eagles.......

I couldn't help but think about  this photo after reading this post from Lana Vawser Insight, Wisdom, and Hindsight on March 12, 2015.  If you click on the link it will take you to her page and you just have to page down to this post on March 12, 2015.  I would love to meet this lady!  Every single post that she has resonates with my spirit.  Most of the time there is some part of the post that mirrors something in my journals for that day or impacts me because of something happening in my life.  And just after I read that post, this post showed up on Elijah List from James Maloney.  Both of these posts deal with hope and holding on to hope.  This has been a constant theme in my spirit since my grandson Lucas died in November.  I have felt hope being poured into me and also been reminded that even when I can't hold on to hope, Jesus provides heavenly messengers to hold the banner of hope over me and my family.  And then there is the appearance of the Eagle verse (which is the focus of Lana Vawser's post)
“But those who hope in the Lord, will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.” - Isaiah 40:31

This is a familiar verse for many of us.  As a matter of fact, I have a picture of an eagle with this verse in my scrapbook room.  I have to say that this has never been a "favorite" verse for me.  I know it, but I have never really felt anything about this verse.  That is until January 18, 2015.  I was at a conference with Bobby Conner as one of the speakers.  (I blogged about this on January 20, 2015 if you want to read about it).  I bought one of his books and stood in a very long line to have him sign the book.  One of the things that he does is to give each person a "prophetic verse" along with the signature.  He took one look at me, commented on my name, and then wrote Isaiah 40:31.  As he handed me the book he said, "You need to keep on hoping in the Lord!".  WOW!  That was so amazing.  I have to admit that I never really saw the word HOPE in that verse before that day.  Yes, it was another reminder that Jesus has been with me and is giving me every opportunity to know that there is HOPE.  

I had a great impromptu lunch meeting with some of the gals from my small group.  It was a wonderful time of sharing and laughing together.  Because of some circumstances, we have not been able to meet for a couple of weeks.  Yesterday there was a flurry of text messages between us, and each of us felt a bit of a struggle.  We discussed today just how important this group is for each of us. There is power and strength and covering when we meet together and stand with each other in prayer. These wonderful women represent a very real provision of Jesus for me.  I know that these last months would have been so much more difficult without their support.  I am just so thankful for them.  And when I got home this afternoon, I realized that I did feel my strength growing and I did feel less weary.  Yes, it is amazing what a good dose of hope does for your spirit.  

If you haven't already done so, take a few minutes and read more of Lana Vawser's posts on her web site.  And by now you most likely know that I read the Elijah list every day.  This just reminds me of another amazing benefit of the internet.  These wonderful words of encouragement are right there at the touch of a keyboard.  

Jesus, thank you for your provision in all areas of our life.  Thank you for friends and time of sharing, thank you for amazing words on the internet and for revelation from Your WORD!  Holy Spirit, remind all of  us to see your provision through emails and internet sites. Jesus, what a wonderful, caring, ever present friend you are.  Amen

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Get out of the box!

This morning I caught Anna in this position.  Yes, she is sitting in a box.  This particular box is one of her favorites....it hold all of the "little people".  I think these are her favorite toys.  Now for a little one, not yet walking, getting into this box is quite a big deal.  And then there is the getting out!

Anna struggled for a bit and then realized that she was sitting on a "gold mine" of wonderful toys to play with.  So she happily sat and played.....in the box.....for a long time.  When she finally decided to get out, it only took her a couple of tries to figure out how to get free of that box!

After I had just snapped these pictures, I realized that there is a message in this...a message that I have been hearing for some time.  I need to get out of my box!  Isn't this a message that oh so many of us are hearing these days?  You know, it is so interesting how easy it is to get stuck in a rut.  Happy in that place, even when things are not all that good, you still are comfortable there?  Sometimes, like Anna, there are many very good things in our box.  Things that make us happy.  But that box can be very confining.  Not much room to move around.  A place where you know you are not meeting your full potential.  I realized that I need to take a cue from Anna.  She left the box, but she also brought those favorite "little people" with her.  She was able to move out of that tight space, and really enjoy those toys.  She had many many fun things to use with those little people AFTER she got out of the box.  There were castles, swings, houses and even an amusement park!  And after she was free of the confines of that box, I saw her standing and cruising around the toy shelf.  I actually saw her take one very tentative step today without holding on to anything! For sure, Anna has an amazing world opening up to her, when she masters walking.  

On the way home I was thinking about this.  I do feel like I have been in a box for a long time.  For awhile it felt very comfortable just doing the same things over and over.  Not really going anywhere.  There were some very good things about my life, but I knew that there was so much more that I was missing.  Making the decision to leave that box is really the hardest thing.  Once you make the choice to leave, the getting out is easy.  But then it is knowing where to go next that looms large for you.  I am happy to say that I did get out of my box.  However, I know that I have been sort of sitting on the ground, pretty close to that box, and I have not really moved very far from it.  Certainly in the last few months, grief has kept me from taking steps into new things.  But spring is here and it feels like time to move on out.  So I am going to keep listening to Jesus each day, taking those steps when the path is clear.  I will be keeping my eyes focused beyond my present place.  Looking ahead and remembering to see from Jesus' perspective.  I blogged about the power of the presence of Jesus, yet I didn't really do anything with that power.  It's time for me to put some action to all of these words.  I have promised truth on this blog, so watch for a truthful reveal in just how successful I am on this new path, moving out and away from my box.  

Jesus, thank you for encouragement to try new things and also your grace and courage to move into those new places. Help us all to be like Anna....seeing those happy things in our boxes and also working to get out of those boxes.  More than that, help us to carry with us all of the good things we have gained from the places we have been.  And give us excitement and delight as we look out at new things on the path ahead of us.  Amen

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A weekend of celebrations.....

Yesterday Ken and I took Doug and Susie out to dinner to celebrate Doug's birthday.  Doug got to decide where we would go to eat.  And his choice made us ALL happy.  We went to Uncle Bub's.  Ken first introduced me to this wonder BBQ place a few years ago.  He would go there with friends from work, for an occasional lunch.  When he mentioned it to Doug, it was no surprise that this was also a favorite spot for Doug and his friends.  It was so good to sit and eat together.  To talk and share and just be with each other.  And the food was simply amazing.  It was actually the first time that Susie had ever been there and she loved it.  We went home with take home boxes and Doug and Susie went with a bottle of BBQ sauce in their hands.  Back at our house, we sat and talked over some coffee.  It was a wonderful evening.
That is, except for the coffee.  It was not so smart for me to drink a cup of regular coffee at 7:30pm on the night that we LOSE an hour of sleep.  I didn't manage to go to sleep until well after midnight (which was 1:00am with the time change).  So it was a very early morning for me today...and it was actually later than I normally get up.  And we had another big day today.  
We went to Ellie's Hello Kitty party to celebrate her 6th birthday.  It was a wild and crazy party with many, many little girls (and boys) running around.  Gwen had 4 different craft areas (which is appropriate since Ellie is a CRAFTY girl!) to entertain the kids.  There were beads to string, sun catchers to paint, scratch off shapes, and pages to color.  There was a pinata and candy bar and cake (of course).  And there were presents.  Ellie got a large assortment of Hello Kitty items - everything from a beach towel and sprinkler to a bathrobe and headphones.  Of course there were some Frozen items thrown in and also Barbie.  What else does a girl need?  It was a huge success.  

Yesterday Ken and I went into Chicago to go to the zoo.  It was the first "warmish" day that we have had.  It was around 30, but clear and sunny.  I took this shot just as we were walking into the zoo.  I love the hint of a rainbow at the top of this photo, in the sun shining down.  When I downloaded my photos and saw this picture I was reminded of those banners that I saw flying over me.  The banner of Love and IS Jesus and also that banner of hope.  Yes, we are in the midst of warming temps and the snow melting away.  Spring seems to be nearer and the cold darkness of winter seems to be retreating.  And then there are these reminders of all that is right around the corner.  I feel an increasing excitement and certainty that all of the promises and words that have been declared are bursting forth.  Yes, this is a time of the new springing up.  How amazing!

Jesus, thank you for sunshine and warm temperatures, for birthdays and family and noisy little girls and boys.  Thank you for BBQ and cake and time to just enjoy each other.  Thank you for speaking to me in rainbows and clear skies.  Holy Spirit, stir up all of those seeds sown so long ago and remind us all that this is a season of double blessings and new things coming forth.  Jesus, thank you for knowing exactly what we need.  Amen

Friday, March 6, 2015

Double Blessing Day!

Today is a special day for our family.  Today is Doug's birthday and it is also Ellie's birthday!  The top picture is Gwen and I with sweet Ellie in 2009.  Yes, she is 6 years old today!  And the bottom picture is Gwen and Doug in 1982 on the day that we brought Doug home from the hospital.  He is 33 today. This was long before siblings were allowed to actually touch the baby in the hospital.  Gwen was so excited to hold her brother.

We just never imagined that we would have shared birthdays.  As a matter of fact our family had a get together the weekend before Doug's birthday in 2009 and Doug actually told Gwen not to have the baby on his birthday.  We all laughed about this since his birthday was 4 weeks before her due date.  She assured him that she would not hit his birthday.  But, low and behold, Ellie decided to make her appearance on March 6 at 4:30am.  So, indeed, this is a double special day for us.

Today I spent some time running a bunch of small errands.  I think I made 6 stops in a bit over an hour.  I made a couple of returns, bought a couple of gifts, stopped at couple of stores but didn't find what I was looking for, and went grocery shopping.  I noticed that I felt an extra bounce in my step and had a smile on my face.  Nothing like a couple of birthdays to lift your spirits!  Tomorrow Ken and I are taking Doug and Susie out to dinner to celebrate his special day.  And on Sunday, Ellie is having a "Hello Kitty" birthday party.  It will be quite a weekend.

I kind of did a double take when I typed the title of this blog post.  Double Blessing.  I have been holding on to the word that 2015 is a Double Blessing year.  Today, it is especially easy to hold on to that hope.  Yesterday Doug stopped by after work to help Ken bring a very large and very heavy cabinet up to his new photo studio room.  (My back thanks Doug very much!)  It was so good to chat with Doug.  I am so thankful for him and the amazing man that he is.  On Tuesday, Ellie was talking about her upcoming birthday party.  I loved the big smile on her face when I told her I would be there!  I am so thankful for her caring and loving heart.  I can't wait to see what amazing, creative, artistic things she accomplishes in her life!   Yes, a day like today is evidence of the double blessings promised for this year.  I loved this post on Elijah list in January from Curt Landry - just click on the this link - The Double Portion in 2015.  This is just one of the many, many words about this year.  It is a time of great expectation of what Jesus is doing in us and through us this year.

It was really, really cold again today as I was out doing those errands.  The wind was blowing and the temperature was in the low teens.  So the windchill was well below zero.  I really didn't notice the cold until I had a cart full of food to load (and unload) from my trunk.  By the time I had gotten everything into the house I noticed that I had lost that spring from my step and didn't feel a bit like smiling.  But then I remembered this day and the double blessing.  I was able to shake off that bit of a funk from the cold weather and felt that joy returning to my spirit.  When I happened to glance out the window, the sun was shining on the snow and ice and there was a hint of a rainbow in the reflection on the snow.  It was so beautiful!  I suddenly had a flash of that really large HOPE banner sailing over me and then all was right with my world.

This has been a good start to the weekend for me.  And all of this double blessing and all of the joy and every bit of that hope is right there for you also!  No matter how cold or dark or sad your day might be, Jesus is there to turn things around for you.  There is DOUBLE to go around!

Jesus, thank you so much for Doug and for Ellie on their special day.  Thank you for knowing exactly what I would need as I looked out of the window today.  Holy Spirit would you share some of this hope with everyone who reads this blog?  Let them see and know that banner of hope is flying over them!  Thank you for joy that takes you by surprise.   Amen

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

When you feel like you ended up in exactly the correct spot....

On my current Nanny job, the little girl usually takes good naps.  This gives me several hours of each day with not much to do.  On Monday I was scanning the floor to ceiling bookshelves in the "playroom" (which obviously was an office at one time) and I saw this book.  It is a weighty tome about 3" thick.  It contained some amazing pictures of the Chicago fire and also some photos from before the fire.  As I was paging through, I realized that this was a true encyclopedia with  entries for most of the towns around me.  So I searched for my town.  And there it was.
Now I don't expect you to actually be able to read the little tiny text.  I enjoyed the entire entry, but the reason this was so interesting for me was one paragraph.... The last full paragraph on the page.   It seems that my town was a "quiet vacation spot" from city life.   And then the last sentence of that paragraph...."Montgomery Ward established a vacation home for employees in 1918".  This was so interesting to me since my dad was an employee of Montgomery Ward for 43 years!   I actually moved to Illinois when my dad was transferred here (actually the last of many times Wards moved my family during those 43 years).  When Ken and I purchased our home, my dad was quite interested in the "country" town that we selected.  And 37 years ago, this was a small country town.  We had horses stabled across the creek behind our house and several people raised chickens.  It was certainly not a typical suburban town.  My dad loved the small town hardware store in town.  It was the kind of place that had so much "junk" (which my dad would just say was great stuff) and boxes on the shelves that might have been there for years and years.  There were also people who worked in that store that could understand exactly what you needed when you came with a plumbing problem, or needed a certain kind of screw.  My dad spent many hours just "looking" in that store.  And he really liked our house.  So I found it interesting that this was a vacation spot for Montgomery Ward employees.  Yes, things have changed in the 37 years that we have been here.  The horses are gone, and so are the chickens.  The growth of the town has been something.  The population when we moved here was 4,000 and I believe that our current population is 13,300.  That wonderful Hardware store is now an Ace Hardware and has moved into a shopping center.  Not the same at all.  But I remember the first time that Ken and I came out here to look at the model homes.  First of all, it seemed so far away from everything that we knew.  But we were getting tired of the traffic and congestion that surrounded us nearer to the city.  I remember feeling "settled" when we moved here.  I can't really explain why seeing this one sentence in this book brought me down this path, but here I am.  

Over the last couple of months I have been doing a lot of thinking about where I am going, but here is another reminder that I seem to be in exactly the right place.  Today I had an amazing vision during my worship time.  I saw a very large angel towering over our house.  He was holding a large banner that said "HOPE".  And the word that I heard was that I have somehow let go of the hope that was in my spirit after Lucas died.  The message was clear.  Because I could not hold on to hope, Jesus has sent a ministering angel to me, that is holding up that banner of hope for me and my family.  And more than that, HIS banner over me is LOVE.  Jesus is a banner of love over us all.  So in the last week I have been in a tunnel of safety, there has been a river of life flowing through that tunnel and I am floating on towards that destination, AND there is a banner of hope and love flying over me.  WOW!  This has been a wonderful week that includes this reminder that I am exactly where I was supposed to be.  Yes, this gives me reason to breathe out and rest.  The good news is that this banner of hope is flying over all of us.  Right now there is so much fear and uncertainty in our world.  There is tension that fills the airways and you can't miss it no where you look.  We all need to know that even when we can't seem to hope, there is hope rising over us.  And more than that, Jesus is the banner of love that covers us all.  He IS the peace that fills us.  So if you can identify with my struggles over the last few months, if you are feeling hopeless and fearful, close your eyes and imagine that banner of hope sailing above you.  Bask in the banner of love and just rest.  

Jesus, thank you for such a great week.  I love that you give us exactly what we need and you know how to speak so that we will listen.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the peace that passes understanding.  Thank you for flying that banner of hope when I couldn't hold on to hope.  And Jesus, thank you for being that banner of love.  Amen

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Message from the past....

Yesterday Ken and I discovered this.  At first glance you might wonder, "What in the heck is that?"
Well, this was the shelf in the closet in one of our bedrooms.  Our house is on "lot 13" in our subdivision.  And while I see the word "JOY" pretty clearly, I actually think it says J O 4.  Most likely a code for the placement of that shelf.  I remember that some people told us that we should not choose this particular house because it was LOT 13 and might be bad luck.  Since I didn't believe in luck, this really made no difference to me. And I know that even if that word didn't start off as "joy", the message is clear.  There has been great joy in this house!

That bedroom and that shelf have seen lots of changes in 37 years.  It started out as our guest room.  My mom and dad spent many nights in that room and we also had friends visit from out of state and stay in that room.  Gwen moved into that room as her first "big girl" bedroom.

 It was her room for many years until she went to college.  Then it became Doug's room. That shelf showed a bit of Doug's creativity as it was notched to allow for cables to run into the attic.  Doug stayed in that room until his early 20's when he moved out to live with friends.  For several years that room was a sort of "guest room".  We didn't really have it set up as such, but it often held an inflatable bed or two when it was needed.  Now it is becoming Ken's photo studio.  Another transformation is taking place.  And in all of the changes there has been JOY.

It seems funny to be talking about joy after months of sorrow.  I am grateful for the reminders of all of the joy that Jesus has sown into our home and our family.  This is one of those times that I have felt that "wake up call".  It is so easy to get bogged down in the very real sadness and forget about the wonderful blessings that are in our family.  I would like to say that I feel that joy, but it might be a bit soon. I can hope for joy.  But I am reminding myself that there is JOY and I am also speaking joy into my spirit.  And sometimes that is enough.

Isn't it interesting that we CAN speak into our spirits and remind ourselves of the truth?  I love that David had to do this in the Psalms.  He reminded himself to "Bless the Lord, o my soul".  So I feel quite okay with saying "Remember the joy, o my spirit"!  And there is power in the things that we speak into ourselves.  Power in the words that we say, even silently, about who we are and what the truth is in our situations.  A few years ago a friend of mine made up a list of all the positive characteristics of Jesus that she possessed.  Each day she would speak those things out loud as she looked in a mirror.  Things like "I am a child of the King".  "My Father in heaven loves me".  "Jesus will never leave me."  "I have the mind of Christ".  I think that I will begin a list right now!

Jesus, thank you for using everything to speak into us....even an old shelf from a closet.  Holy Spirit, remind us all to speak words of truth into our own spirits.  Help us to hold on to these truths even in the midst of dark and sad times. Give us wisdom to know exactly what we need to be speaking to ourselves.  Help us craft exactly the correct list that we each need to help us hold on to truth.  Jesus, thank you for the years of joy you have given to our family.  Amen