Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Eve peace and hope

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve this year.  It was actually the day that we gathered and celebrated as a family. We spent the day together at Gwen and Tim's house.  We had lunch of snack things that are extra good on holidays - Taco Tray, meatballs in the crock pot, little pizzas on french bread, veggies and dip - well you get the idea!   After "snacks" we opened presents.  Before we knew it, it was time for church!  The kids got all dressed up in their Christmas outfits!

We took a family picture, but sadly it was not on my camera.  So you will have to wait to see that group shot.  I did manage to snap this shot of the four kids.  Don't you just love those fur jackets?  I sure did!  And look at that handsome boy in his sweater!  We all went to church and we have to take two cars since we all don't fit in one! I guess that is the mark of a "big" family!  After the Christmas Eve service, we returned to Gwen and Tim's house for a wonderful (and traditional - for us) dinner of Lasagna!  The time just flew by and suddenly it was time to leave for home.  It was such a good day!
Doug and Susie get the award for the best presents this year.  They gave all the kids (and let's be honest here - Tim) a set of Laser Tag guns.  The game has come a long way since the vests and guns of the 1990's.  The kids had a blast playing with these - and so did Tim!  And then Doug and Susie managed to get an amazing gift for Tim, who is certainly one of the hardest people to ever buy for!  They gifted him tickets to an event that he just loves- a gamer convention!  So yes, this was the year for Tim, for sure!  

I got some very special presents this year.  First, I got this amazing purple heart that Ellie made in her home school co-op art class!
 Ken and I also got this amazing Christmas Tree ornament that has the kids thumb prints.  I actually got to help make these ornaments this year!
 Ellie also painted me this colorful picture that is now hanging on my scrapbook room wall.  I love the bright colors and she told me I needed an "L" for Lyn on my wall! I love that it looks a lot like a waterfall that is that wonderful flowing river!
 Each year Gwen and Tim and the kids gift Ken and I something wonderful that comes from Haiti.  Their church supports a ministry that creates works of art from old oil drums.  I love that this represents both Christmas and Easter - the manger and the cross!  It is already hanging in our foyer!

There were so many wonderful gifts exchanged this year, but best of all were all the hugs and laughter that we shared.  Susie and Lia played a game of Sorry and Zeke and Anna worked on puzzles.  All the kids had Lego sets opened on various tables.  Anna spent a lot of time with her favorite present (also from Doug and Susie) a Peppa Pig camper!  So there was plenty of "snorting" going on!  So much food eaten, so much love shared.  

The day ended much too quickly for me.  We saw some great light displays as we were driving home.  There is something so peaceful about driving along roads that are mostly empty (especially when there are usually many, many cars).  Because it was late on Christmas Eve, all of the stores along the route were closed, the parking lots were empty.  There was plenty of time to reflect on the day.  I love the story of Jesus' birth.  Thinking about the journey that Joseph and Mary had to make.  The crowds of people that must have been everywhere.  But then, there was the stillness of the night.  The newborn baby.  The shepherds, out in their fields watching over the sheep.  The angels!  The star.  
The message...... (Luke 2 -from the Passion Translation)
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared in radiant splendor before them, lighting up the field with the blazing glory of God, and the shepherds were terrified!  But the angel reassured them, saying "don't be afraid. For I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard!  And it is for everyone everywhere!  For today in Bethlehem a rescuer was born for you.  He is the Lord Yahweh, The Messiah!" You will recognize him by this miracle sign; you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough!   Then all at once, a vast number of glorious angels appeared, the very armies of heaven! And they all praise God, singing: GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST REALMS OF HEAVEN! FOR THERE IS PEACE AND A GOOD HOPE GIVEN TO THE SONS OF MEN!

Yes, there is that word "PEACE" that I was feeling at the end of a day of celebration.  But I was also thinking of "HOPE".  Each day, whether we are together or not, we remember Lucas.  Lucas is always a part of our time together because he is a part of our family.  But at these times, we especially feel his absence.  Even this year as we expectantly await Doug and Susie's baby girl, the loss of Lucas is present with us.  HOPE is also there.  It is that good hope that is given to us, because of that baby born in a stable, under the shadow of the cross.  It is that hope that lets our hearts smile and sing, knowing that one day we will be reunited with Lucas.  

That is the message of Christmas.  The miracle sign of a baby lying in a feeding trough, under the shadow of the cross of Calvary bringing peace and a good hope for everyone everywhere!

Jesus, thank you for silent nights that allow us to hear your message more clearly.  Thank you for angels that proclaim your truth to the world.  Thank you for sharing this message with shepherds who were just busy with their daily tasks.  Remind us that you still speak to us, even when we are distracted and busy.  Holy Spirit, bring this message of hope to all who grieve and feel lonely in this season.  Thank you Jesus for your great love.   Amen

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Blending family traditions during Christmas...

Last night was one of my favorite events of the Christmas Season.  Gwen's church has a holiday concert that features the youth of their church performing carols and songs.  It was questionable if the event was going to happen since we were under a "Winter Weather Advisory" and also a "Wind Chill Advisory".  But, at the last minute, they decided to go ahead with the event.  Ken and I decided to brave the 40 mile drive, even with the anticipated snow and cold.  It was a wonderful time of enjoying the grandchildren and getting to hear Gwen sing!  There was a sing along, so I got to sing some of my favorite carols.   And there was amazing food to eat!  It was so worth the two and half hour drive home!  There was snow and blowing and lots of slow moving cars - and they hadn't plowed very much.  We got home and safely tucked in before the very cold arrived during the night. I would not have missed this concert for anything - it is a tradition!

I am so thankful that Gwen and Tim include us in these events.  Sadly some of my friends don't have close relationships with their adult children and miss out on these wonderful times of celebration.  I was thinking about this today as I made Ken's very favorite Christmas treat....Grandma's Filled Raisin Cookies.  This particular cookie was a staple of Ken's childhood, made by his Grandma Baker.  She knew just how much Ken liked these cookies and always made them for him.  As I was rolling out the dough today, I noticed my trusty wooden rolling pin.
This is a small, wooden rolling pin that I have had my entire life.  It actually belonged to my mom and my dad made this.  I was struck with the joining of our two families in this cookie baking event.  My dad's wooden rolling pin, rolling out the dough for Ken's Grandma's cookies.  I just love the symbolism of this.  Two families with very different traditions, yet somehow Ken and I have managed to meld them together into our own unique set of traditions.  And now Gwen and Doug are melding that set of traditions with another families and are establishing their own, new and wonderful traditions.  I love sitting back and watching which things Gwen and Doug find valuable enough to blend together in their new family units.  Gwen and Tim and the kids spent an entire day making candy to give away as Christmas presents.  Gwen mentioned that she remembers doing this activity for over 30 years!  Yes, I have many fond memories of our kitchen table piled high with candy as we divided it up for gifts for teachers, friends and co-workers.  And then yesterday Doug texted me with a question about the sugar cookies I always make.  So it seems that Doug and Susie are keeping that tradition alive in their own new set of traditions.  

Christmas is a time for blending and sharing and traditions and love.  Unfortunately, sometimes our expectations can get in the way of all of that.  It is awfully easy to expect to have events and/or activities at a certain time or in a certain place with certain people.  I learned a valuable lesson many years ago when Ken and I didn't have any family living close by.  We were forced to come up with a whole new set of traditions that didn't include being with our families.  We hung on to some things (like those wonderful raisin cookies), but we shifted our focus.  Instead of bemoaning the lack of family around us, we celebrated with our church family.  We always went to both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.  We made an entire day out of driving around and looking at Christmas lights.  We had friends who also didn't have family close by.  So we celebrated Jesus' Birthday with our own party (held in the afternoon/evening of Christmas day).  There was always laughter, fun and food at these gatherings.   When our kids reached that age when there was a "significant other" in their life, we willingly let them go to spend time with that new family.  What fun it was to increase our family size this way!  And now we are blessed with grandchildren.  Recently, while talking with a friend, she was surprised to learn that Ken and I are alone on Christmas Day.  She seemed to think that this was a horrible, terrible thing.  But it is just all part of that blending!  We have so many times when our family is all together.  And those are important and wonderful times.  We will all be together this year, on Christmas Eve.  Some years it is on a totally different day.  What matters is that we are together.  I love having Christmas Day to reflect on the meaning of the holiday.  I love listening to the story, told each year, yet always so amazing.  After all the blending of our family traditions, I love that Gwen and Tim and Doug and Susie want to establish their own ways.  And for them, it means being at home, celebrating Christmas Day with their own family units

Something wonderful happens to ingredients when you blend them together.  They take on the flavors and consistency of each other.  The end result is usually an amazing brand new thing.  There is no question that each ingredient is very much a part of the creation. And one missing ingredient can ruin a finished product.  It is an exciting thing to blend together family traditions and watch what the finished products look like. 

 One thing is certain.   Family struggles at the holiday over who will be coming and where you will meet and even what you will eat and what day and time you will be together or ending up being alone on a day that is really just another day on the calendar, fill the hearts and minds of so many.  But if you just shift your focus and think about the mixing and blending ingredients, and then remember that the love and the sharing are what really matter.  All of those struggles don't matter much and can't change the message of Christmas.  Jesus came for all of us.  Whether we have family around us or not.  Whether we keep all of our traditions from the past, or come up with new ways and new ideas.  Jesus came to earth as a baby to share His great love with the world.  It is that amazing love that helps all of those ingredients blend together into a wonderful new thing.  Jesus is the reason for the season and keeping that as the most important ingredient in your family will bring peace and harmony and happiness.   Happy Blending!

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that all of the things that feel so important in our life are really small compared to your great sacrifice to come to earth for us!  Thank you that with your love and peace in our hearts we can adapt and change our traditions, blending them together into new and wonderful ways to celebrate your birth.  Holy Spirit, comfort those that are lonely or hurting this Christmas.  Help us all to look out for the person who might need a hug or a smile.   Thank you for Christmas.  Amen 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas of long ago.....sometimes the best gift is the GIVING!

I was looking through some of my photos from my childhood and I came upon this one.  I believe it was the Christmas of 1957 (but my sister Julie would most likely be able to clarify the year for me - it could have been 1957 or 1958.)  I know it was one of those years, because of the house!  We only lived there for three years.  Just look at that tree!  Covered in Tinsel - the real stuff!   And notice that cabinet in the corner behind my sister.  That was our TV!  It had a very small kind of oval screen and we lived in the sticks in South Dakota.  I remember that occasionally we would be able to actually see some programs.  But we had a TV!

It has been interesting to me how much I have been thinking about past Christmas' this year.  I don't know if it is because I am getting older.  But I don't remember a recent holiday  when I have spent so much time thinking about my growing up years and missing my mom very much.  I haven't seen any of my siblings since May of 2015, so that may be playing a part in my nostalgia. I don't have any real memories of this Christmas in this picture - except I remember the rocking chair I am sitting in (actually in Gwen's basement right now!) and I also know the "Tiny Tears" doll I am holding.  Gwen also has that doll in a box in her basement.  But I don't really remember the holiday.  The first Christmas that I have really good memories of was in 1959.  My sister Karen's fiance Roy was at our house before the holiday that year.  And he and my mom decided to "flock" the Christmas Tree.  I remember that they used a tank vacuum cleaner and it was a really big mess!  I remember that most of my mom's ornaments had white "gunk" on them for many years after that.  But that year, we had a flocked Christmas tree.  The first Christmas that I really remember a gift that I received was actually in 1961.

My brother Jerry (who is NOT in the above picture) is twelve years older than me. Christmas - 1961 Jerry gave me two very special gifts (apparently I do not have a picture of that Christmas).  I think part of the reason I remember this so well, is that we did not exchange gifts between us siblings.   I got my first - very own to keep - hard cover book.  It was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss.  I was just a beginning reader, but to actually own a book was amazing to me.  And I loved this book so much!  The second present was a game - Stadium Checkers.  I believe that I finally got rid of that very tattered and much played game when we moved to Chicago when I was 13.  These two gifts were incredibly important to me.  Not long after receiving these gifts, my brother Jerry went in the Army and was stationed in Okinawa.  He was gone for a very long time (I believe it was 3 or even 4 years - I'm not exactly sure) for a young girl.  Having those tangible gifts from him really made a difference to me.  I'm sure that he didn't realize how important these simple things were to me.  And I don't know that I have ever shared this with him.  I believe that my original copy of that book is currently on Gwen's book shelf!  Yes, it was a very memorable moment for me.

And that brings me to the "point" of this blog.  Sometimes we have no idea just how important a gift that we give is to the person who receives it.  Over the years I have given many gifts to friends, coworkers, family and neighbors.  It really doesn't matter if we ever hear a story like mine.  It really is a blessing to be able to give something to someone else.  And that is all that should matter.  Sadly, in our present culture, we often worry about pleasing and even impressing the person receiving our gift.  Thinking about this has given me another challenge.  I have decided to just be thankful that I can give gifts.  I will make every effort to not have any expectations for the results of that gifting.
Mostly, I will take a moment as I wrap these gifts, to pray that they would bless the person that will receive them.

Jesus is the Reason for the Season!  He is the very best gift that anyone could ever receive.  I am so grateful that there is time to stop and consider this amazing story.  We are in the midst of yet another snow storm and "winter weather warning", but a nice hot beverage, a warm cozy house and plenty of time to wrap presents is at hand.  Yes, I think that I can manage to be grateful for the snow today!
Jesus, thank you for bringing this memory to mind today.  Holy Spirit, help us all to shift our focus of our gift giving towards blessing others.  Remind us all to let go of expectations and help us to stir clear of giving gifts with strings attached.  Thank you for the Bible that allows us to read and learn the amazing story of your birth, Jesus.  Amen

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Well I am tucked in all snug as a bug in a rug in my nice warm house.  And, yes, it is snowing outside.  Again.  We are supposed to have a "major" snowstorm over the next 30 hours and expect 12" of snow.  Sigh.  This is our second rather large snow of this season.  Quite frankly, we have been somewhat spoiled over the last year.  We had a pretty much snow-less winter last season.  And then this fall has been really warm.  As a matter of fact our grass was still green and growing - LAST WEEK!  But here it is December 10th and we are having our second big snowstorm.  As I said in my last blog, you need to think like a kid and celebrate the snow.  Then you can have joy in the storm.

I have to admit that the snow does help it feel a bit more like Christmas.  I spent most of the day today making candy and treats for Ken to take into his workplace.  My goal for tomorrow is more cookie baking.  A snow day is a really good time to crank up the over and pull out the baking supplies.  I'm not sure what things will be like tomorrow morning, but when you plan to stay in all day, it really doesn't matter!

I was thinking about this sweet picture of Gwen that was taken the first time she ever "played" in the snow.
She was 18 months old at the time and her first winter was a bit like our last years winter.  There wasn't any snow.  So when it snowed in November of her second year, we had to let her experience a bit of snow.  You might notice, however, that she is wearing "Rain boots"!  We had not thought to buy her any winter boots.  I remember thinking how silly it was that I had not considered that she might need winter boots.  Clearly, I was a first time mom!  But she did have a nice warm coat and mittens.  You can also see that she is wearing a dress! To play in the snow.  This one is totally Gwen's fault!  As soon as she could make her wishes known (which was pretty early), that girl insisted on wearing dresses.  I remember one time when she was right around the age of this picture that she refused to leave the changing table until I let her wear her "dress shoes" (which were black leather t-strap).  She wrapped her arms around the rail of the changing table and screamed SHOES! at the top of her lungs until I changed her shoes.  She was a determined young lady.    Now, when I see Anna insisting on the pink pants and purple shirt, I have to laugh!  Gwen is sort of getting some pay back on this.  

I've been remembering a very favorite banner that was at a church I attended.  It was a "winter scene" with a house covered with snow.  There were pine trees and it was such a pretty scene.  But the words said "Wash me and I will be whiter than snow".  I remember thinking that this was an interesting phrase to put on this banner.  It just didn't seem to fit.   Many years later, I saw another banner with the same words.  However this banner had a scarred hand with blood drops falling onto a mountain of dark soil.  Yes, this was a much better visual for these words for me.  I love the picture of the red blood that Jesus shed on the cross for me - hitting all of those dark places in my heart.  And this amazing transformation happens - suddenly that sinful, dirty, shameful heart becomes white as snow.  What a miracle that is.  

As I look out at the quiet street, covered in layers of pure white snow, I am so thankful.  It is easy to say "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"  Advent is usually a time to contemplate the coming of the baby Jesus at Christmas.  But for me, seeing the snow, it is a stark reminder of the cross of Easter.  The truth is that every celebration of the Christmas stable should include the shadow of the cross.  The life of Jesus was destined to end at the cross.  Because we know the entire story, we can celebrate the beginning but also remember the ending.  I don't know about you, but this changes how I feel about so much of my holiday activities.  Suddenly, there is great joy and much thankfulness.
Thanks to a "winter storm warning"!

Jesus, thank you for your shed blood that covers over a multitude of sins.  Holy Spirit, help us all to remember that you see us whiter than snow - especially when we are tempted to be filled with shame and guilt.  Jesus, remind us to look over the stable and see the cross.  Jesus, I love you!  Amen

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What I've learned in this very busy week...

We had the first real snowfall of the season last Sunday.  Gwen's family was not able to spend anytime outside playing in the snow on Sunday so Monday's "job" was lots of snow time!  The kids were so anxious to get outside that they were ready to go by 9:15am.  I had to beg them to come in for lunch, two and a half hours later.  Gotta love home school!  This was a perfect day.  It was sunny and not very cold and the snow was good packing snow.
Here is Zeke with his snowman.  At one point, Zeke had rolled a ball of snow so big that he couldn't push it anymore.  It almost cleaned all the snow off of their front lawn!  Anna was loving the shovel.
She made a couple of paths around the house.  All of the kids were tired and hungry by the time they came in.  Such a fun day!  

On Tuesday I actually made another trip to Gwen's house since the older girls were in a Christmas Play at their home school Coop!  It was a wonderful adapted story of the birth of Jesus.  Ellie was a really cute sheep and Lia was a villager.  This was one of the most well done plays I have seen with these young kids.  And really, what is Christmas without a kid's Christmas program?

Then on Wednesday morning my small group celebrated Christmas together.  We have such a wonderful group that prays and listens and just is really there for each other.  I don't know what I would do without this great group of gals!

And then last night, Ken and I were invited to attend a wonderful Christmas Concert at the church of some good friends.  The artist was a guy that I had never heard of - Mark Smeby.  
You can click on the link to read more about him, and hear some of his music.  It was a really entertaining evening listening to some Christmas music and even singing along.  And it is always good to connect with some great friends.  

Today I managed to complete my Christmas Cards and actually get them mailed out. And additionally I made my first batch of Christmas cookies.  PHEW!  It has been a really busy few days.

So,, what have I learned in these busy, busy times?  Well, I don't like the snow very much.  But it is hard to hate the stuff when the kids have so much fun!  As I was sitting outside with them, I was thinking of fun times I had as a kid, playing in the snow.  My mom really didn't like the snow.  She especially didn't like driving on snowy roads.  But she knew the joy of outside winter fun and always encouraged us to play outside.  We ice skated and went sledding, even in very cold weather. I was grateful for that memory of my mom.  

And Christmas programs!  Well, there is really nothing better than seeing the familiar Christmas story enacted by a new group of little ones.  I actually have no memory of being in a Christmas program, I do remember learning "O Little Town of Bethlehem" which was the song my Sunday school class sang in the program.  I was only 4 years old and the program didn't stick in my memory.  But the song did.  And now it is one of my favorites.  By the time I was in grade school, our church had eliminated the Christmas program because there was no room!  Yes, I can see the irony of that.  My mom would always talk about the amazing children's programs held on Christmas Eve and in her memory they always included me.  When I would remind her that I never did one of those programs, she would be so sad.  All of my siblings had a chance to do those programs.  Sadly, we moved out of that town before I was old enough to participate.  I am so glad that my mom inspired me to expect my own kids to always be in these programs.  And now, it brings me great joy to watch my grandchildren making their own memories.  

At my small group we talked about joy!  And we each shared and laughed and prayed.  And of course, we ATE!  There is something so powerful about fellowship.  Just being together and being real together.  Everything is not perfect.  Many of us have some really hard things going on in our life.  But even in those times, there is joy.  There is joy together.  

Last night, sitting with our friends and hearing some inspirational stories, reminded me of just how important friends are.  These dear friends were there to support us during the horrible time when Lucas died.  They came.  They called.  They continued to reach out to us.  And I was especially grateful for them as we heard a stirring message to make a difference in the world.  How blessed we are to have such good friends who live their faith by their actions.  

I was really missing my mom today, as I baked those Spritz cookies.  I remember so many years, standing by her side as she pressed out those buttery wonders.  I would dust them with the green and red sugar and stand by the oven waiting for them to bake.  These are truly my favorite cookie.  I am so thankful for all of the memories of my mom and of Christmas' of the past.  Every cookie I eat today helps me celebrate with joy, the memories of the past.  

Yes, this week has been about family, friends and Christmas, joy and thankfulness.  I know that everyone has a full calendar this month.  But I encourage you to stop and think about the events that are really important.  Take some time and go outside and PLAY!  Even if you don't have children around - go outside!  Breathe in the air.  Look at the sky.  "Waste" some time!  You will be refreshed.
Call a couple of friends you haven't talked to in awhile.  Make plans to have coffee or a meal.  Connect to someone.  Check your local paper for events happening near you.  Go to a play or program.  Gather some friends or family and go caroling. Eat a cookie - or two - or three!  Find some joy!  Expect joy!

And there it is.  Expectation.  That is what Advent is all about.  Planning and expecting the arrival of the Messiah.  Let's put the expectation for joy back into our Christmas planning and onto our calendars.  There is still plenty of time to make some changes to your plans.  Mostly this is about a change of attitude.  I plan to make these next weeks more about Jesus and more about Joy!

Jesus, thank you for being a part of all of my busyness this week.  Thank you for the wonder of children playing in the snow.  Thank you for Christmas programs that remind us of the greatest gift we have ever received.  Thank you for friends and family and fun.  Thank you for joy.  Amen

Friday, December 2, 2016

A candy memory - when you just need something sweet!

While walking through the home improvement store, on one of our many, many visits there over the last week, I saw a bag of this candy.  I just had to have it.  Nothing says Christmas to me as much as this ribbon candy.  My mom always had some of this candy at Christmas time.  I know that it is pure sugar - but really!  Christmas is just once a year!  And you can't really eat a whole lot of this stuff since it takes a long time to eat one piece.  So now this candy is in a bowl on my coffee table.  Just where it belongs!   And yes, I really did need a bit of this sweetness!  Here's why.....

Just when you think you are done with the DIY stuff, something else happens.  So Tuesday evening, Ken and were admiring the new sink, faucet and water dispenser, at the same time I was microwaving a small snack.  I managed to get the snack INTO the microwave and heat it up, but then the door wouldn't open.  Now we have needed a new microwave for some time.   But, like so many things, we have been putting it off.  Last weekend during our search for a new sink, we actually bought a microwave on a great "black Friday" sale!  We had thought we would just store it in the garage until some point when we could get around to installing it.  I guess there was a bigger plan than we knew at the time, since just 4 days later, our microwave stops working.  Now the thing is, we didn't just purchase a regular microwave.  This is an "Over the Range" unit.  And we have not had this kind before.  So, sadly for Ken, it was another project  that really couldn't wait.  It didn't take me long to realize that more than 50% of what I cook is made in the microwave.  It was a bit of an issue for me!  
Ken watched some YouTube videos on the installation process and decided we should ask for some help from "the boys" (think Tim and Doug).  Doug is much closer and more available, so we called on him.  He was more than willing to come and help us over the weekend.  So Ken started to "prepare" to install the new unit.  First of all, the vent hood had to go.  This was really not that big of a deal, but boy was it dirty!  Then we realized that the ceramic tile backsplash that we had installed 38 years ago needed to come off where the microwave would be.  This was an interesting job that Ken managed to accomplish really quickly.  I wouldn't have had the least idea how to do it.   Of course we needed to make a trip to the hardware store to get supplies.  And I figured that there would be at least one more trip after that.  When all was said and done, Ken and I managed to get the unit installed - without any assistance.  It was another one of those "I can't believe I just did that" moments for me!  But here it is.... mostly installed!
One thing is certain, Ken is really ready to be done with these projects for awhile!  So lets pray that nothing else stops working around our least until after Christmas.

I think it is interesting that we have had had this run of projects around the house in the last month.  One of the things that I have been hearing for 2017 is that this is going to be a "reset" year.  Not only because of the change in our political arena, but everywhere!  I have been sensing that the months ahead will be a time to look at everything in our life and evaluate and sift through it all.  It just feels like a time to "clean house" and "update"!   And organize.  I have been wondering what that might look like for my own life, and haven't really had a good picture of what it might mean.  But in thinking about our recent DIY stuff, a good refresh around the house would be nice!  On a spiritual level it is always good to take time each year to consider if changes need to be made.  This might be changes to your devotional time, your relationships, your areas of service.  Well, you get the idea.  
It really feels like there will be some new and exciting opportunities in 2017.  

It is good to feel excited and optimistic about what is ahead.  Last year at this time, it felt very heavy and very scary.  There was so much darkness surrounding the entire year of 2016.  I am so thankful that it is ending on a positive note and everything seems brighter and lighter for the year ahead.
During a recent prayer time at my small group, one of the gals prayed a single word for me - CONTINUE!  Just continue. She had no idea what it might mean.   You might think that seems strange, but to me it was very significant.  I have a couple of projects right now (one of which is this blog) and I was considering whether or not I should press on with these things.  And then there was this very powerful word of encouragement.  Just when I needed it.  So, yes.  I will continue on.  One word is just enough!

Jesus, thank you for knowing exactly what we need, when we need it.  Even prompting us to buy a microwave BEFORE we needed it!  And then giving encouragement through a single word.  Holy Spirit, help us all to embrace what you have in store for us in 2017.  Bring hope and joy and peace to all of us in this Christmas Season.  Help us to follow your lead as we walk into the new year.  Thank you for tastes of sweetness, just when we need them.  Amen

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

When a small project becomes more than you counted on...

After a busy couple of days enjoying Thanksgiving with the kids and the shopping, Saturday started out quietly.  As a matter of fact, Ken and I actually "slept in" and didn't get up until after 8:00am!  That is quite amazing for us.  After enjoying a leisurely breakfast, Ken announced that he wanted to make one stop - to get a new kitchen faucet.  Our faucet has been leaking for some time now.  If you happened to move it in one particular spot, you might get a spray of water misting over you.   I usually managed to avoid that exact spot.  But Ken was ready to stop the madness of the water in the face when you wanted the water in the glass!  So it was off to the home improvement store for us.

I wish that was the end of the story, but alas, it was only the beginning of a very, VERY long story.
We started off at one "big box store" and decided that every faucet they had seemed over priced.  So we headed to store number two.  While at that store, we discussed that just a few weeks ago we had wanted to install an under the sink water purification system but could not do that with our present sink!  (The need for that system was our new refrigerator which did NOT have the water dispenser - sadly).  We talked with one person that said that it was possible to drill a hole in a stainless steel sink but you needed a special drill and special tools to do the job.  Considering the cost of that stuff, I suggested that we just buy a new sink.  Ours is almost 40 years old and more than worn out.  So we detoured from the faucets to the sinks.  We found a sink that was CLOSE to our present sink in size - but all of the newer sinks are deeper by two inches.  So of course that complicates the change over.
After purchasing the sink, the faucet and the water filter and all the supplies that we thought we needed, we returned home.

I will stop right here and just add this...... every plumbing job ever done by a homeowner will require multiple trips to the store for some reason.  This job was not different.  After more trips than I can count, somewhere around 11:00pm, the new sink was finally in place.
Yes, that is still a 40 year old counter and 40 year old cupboards - but the sink and faucet are new!
One step at a time!  And I am very thankful that Ken can do these projects and save many, many dollars on plumbers fees.  

But isn't it funny that sometimes a little thing becomes a really big deal?  This has happened so many times to me.  You start out thinking that you are just going to clean off that one shelf that is bothering you and you end up with the entire cabinet on the ground and an entire days worth of work.  The end result is always good and very satisfying, but the process is less than wonderful.  I remember how my mom would always cringe when my dad decided to clean out the closets.  This would mean that every item was taken out of the closet and there would be a giant mess.  Eventually things would get organized and put back, but the process was long and complicated.  

Recently I have been doing a bit of "clean up" on some issues that have been on my mind for some time.  Nothing really big - just little stuff that hangs around and keeps my mind going in circles.  I'm sure that each of you can bring to mind your own little bothersome thoughts that trouble you.  Sometimes it is things from your past.  Or things that didn't work out as you had hoped.  I call these things the "SHOULD HAVES" the  "WHAT IFS" and the "WHYS".  What I discovered over the last few weeks is that the more I tried to get rid of these thoughts, the more I was thinking about them!  
Suddenly this seemingly small project became a BIG thing that almost seemed impossible to deal with.  I made the mistake of giving time and energy to things that were not good.  I was reminded of Phillippians 4:8  (The Passion Translation)
So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.

So I stopped thinking about these silly, untrue thoughts and ideas and turned my focus to Jesus.  There was a refreshing and renewing that happened in that process.  I discovered that I was able to let go of the these "thought stealers" simply by filling my mind with the truth.  I know that this sounds like a very simplistic thing, but for me it was really a BIG DEAL!  I am so thankful that, in the process, Jesus was able to direct me to the answer to this growing issue that had begun to consume me.  I remember hearing that satan works the hardest to get us focused on the small things.  Because when we focus on these small untruths, we lose sight of the truth.  The BIG truth.  Jesus.  

 Jesus, thank you for the reminder that you will keep us on track when we turn small things into big projects.  Thank you for helping us walk through home improvements - even when they become more than we expected.  Holy Spirit, remind us all of Scripture that will keep us from the plans of the enemy.  Thank you for your love and your guidance.  Amen

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Thanksgiving recap...

I just love Thanksgiving - for so many more reasons than the food (I love the food but it is the people that make my holiday so great).  What an amazing and fun couple of days I have had.  I actually created the smells of Thanksgiving on Wednesday this year when I cooked a small turkey.  Susie and Doug had asked me to make stuffing and I decided to just cook it the "old fashioned way" inside of the bird!  Just not the bird we would be eating for our Thanksgiving Feast!  So Wednesday was filled with turkey stuffing, roasting, slicing and chopping, and even boiling (when I made broth for some future Turkey Soup).  It was a bit unusual to NOT be having a big dinner after this work, but it certainly was a good choice for me.  The last few years I have not made a big dinner on Thanksgiving since Gwen and I are dedicated "Black Friday" shoppers who DO shop on Thanksgiving.  I know that many of you will now be scowling and even feel really angry that we would take away from our family time by going to stores on this special holiday.  But for us, this is a very real and important part of our Thanksgiving tradition.  We spent the entire day - until about 3:00pm - together as a family.

We watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and then the most favorite part of the TV viewing of the day - the Dog Show!  We watch this every year and just love to guess which dog will be the big winner.  The kids just love this tradition!  I know that it might seem odd to some people, but as far as I am concerned, anything that you do together and have so much fun doing, is a great tradition!  This years big winner was the Greyhound!  Not my favorite by any stretch.  The kids had hoped for the Beagle to win (the Chandler breed) but it was not to be.  Maybe next year!   During this time, Gwen and Tim and Ken and I are pouring over the newspaper ads for the best deals.  Gwen and I have developed quite a good "game plan" and know which stores to go to in an exact order.  This shopping day is really quite important for Gwen and Tim's family.  By shopping these great sales, Gwen is able to get most of the Christmas items for her family and all the extended family and friends for gift exchanges.  There are also purchases for next years birthdays.  She also purchases many generic gifts that fill their "Basement store"!  This wonderful stockpile allows the kids to go to the basement and find presents for their friends when those birthday party invites roll in!  With four kids this is really a big savings to find things at rock bottom prices instead of running out at the last minute and paying full price for those gifts.  For Gwen and I this shopping time is really a magical time.  We love the laughter and fun that we have as we follow our carefully laid out track of stores, checking items off our lists as we go.  We  know exactly which stores to shop and where the best deals are found.  We always meet some really nice people while waiting in lines and love to share stories of past years adventures.  We are really pros at this Black Friday shopping thing.  I know that right now some of you are shaking your heads and even feeling angry that we would shop on Thanksgiving.  But for us, this is a very important tradition and we would miss it terribly.  Even the kids love being at Grandma's house with daddy while we are out shopping.  It IS our tradition and we love it!   And our more "traditional" tradition is that we go to Doug and Susie's house on Black Friday and have our "actual" Thanksgiving!  This always includes a turkey, smoked by Doug!  There is always lots of laughter and fun and usually cookie baking.  This year our dinner ended with this really amazing apple pie, baked by Susie!  It was so delicious!
I was thinking about our very "Non Traditional" Traditions.  We don't have our big formal dinner on Thursday - the actual Thanksgiving Day.   We SHOP on the holiday (and on Black Friday in total truth telling!)  I don't cook the turkey.  Well, you get the idea.  But here is the thing.  I firmly believe that whatever is good and right for our family is just fine.   And if your traditions are all of those more "Traditional" Traditions, well GOOD FOR YOU!  I just don't understand why some people get so upset about choices that other people make that really don't impact them at all.  The gathering and the shopping and the laughter and the eating turkey on Friday, and being so thankful work for our family.  So it is good.  

Today as we were eating our very traditional turkey dinner, with all 10 of us around the table.  As so many of you probably did, we each expressed what we are thankful for.  The entire holiday is worth those minutes around the table, hearing just how thankful we are.  

Yes, I am very blessed.   We have jobs and homes and food and family and friends and health. We have a new baby coming soon to our family.  And we have each other.  I am so thankful for each of you that take the time to read my thoughts in these blogs. Your time is valuable and I love knowing that somehow in sharing my life with you, you are blessed.  

Many of the stories of Jesus include times of eating with his friends.  He loved to gather people around the table and just fellowship.  What a gift it is to have these times set aside to think about and remember how thankful we are!  No matter what your traditions are, I am praying that your Thanksgiving is filled with blessings!  Even if you are by yourself today, you are not alone!  Jesus has invited each one of us to HIS table and we can all be thankful there with him.  That is the biggest thanksgiving of all!

Jesus, thank you for preparing a table for us with you.  Holy Spirit help us to stay in this mode of thankfulness as we go on in our day to day activities.  Keep us mindful that what seems right and proper for us may not be what our neighbor prefers.  Give us grace to see from your perspective and steer us away from being judgmental when others do things differently than us.  Thank you Jesus for your love for us that brought you to the cross.  We are forever grateful.  Amen

Friday, November 18, 2016

Sometimes it's about others and sometimes it's about yourself!

 This week was the collection week for the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes,  I have had my boxes mostly ready to go for more than a week, but it is always exciting to actually pass them off at a collection sight.  I went to a different place this year so it will be interesting to see exactly where these boxes get sent.  Thanks to advanced technology, you can track your boxes and find out exactly where they were sent.  Isn't that simply amazing?  Since these gifts were created in honor of our little Lucas, these are for two to four year boys.  I love to imagine the looks on their faces as they open up these boxes and discover new and wonderful things that they might never have seen before.  Most of all, I covered these boxes in prayer.  Prayers that the children and their families would be blessed and come to know about Jesus.  Knowing how little most of these children have, it sure causes you to be extra grateful for all the blessings of each day.    This was a great way to spend some time thinking about others and spreading a bit of love around the world.

Then today, I am doing something that is really about myself!  Yes, it is another scrapbooking weekend.   I suppose that sounds a bit selfish, but all of us need time out of our usual routines.  We need time to indulge in creative endeavors that fill us with joy and happiness.  It is time to recharge our batteries.  For me the best part of these weekends away is time with my daughter and daughter-in-law.  I don't take this lightly!  There are many of my friends who would love to be able to spend this kind of concentrated time with their kids.  Just the fellowship time is wonderful.  
This group of scrapbooker gals and I have used this same location for several years.  This weekend will be a bit unusual though since the hotel is undergoing renovations!  There is construction in the entire lobby area and many roped off areas.  But, to tell you the truth, we simply do not care!!  None of this makes any difference to us at all.  We are really just in our own little world and not in tune with much going on around us.  It's good to be in that little bubble.

Yes, this has been a bit of a week of extremes. Thinking about others and planning for this getaway for me!   I have also been doing a bit of deep cleaning of my home, including cleaning the carpet!  Let me tell you it is a really good feeling to see all of the very dirty water go down the drain.  It makes you wonder why you didn't clean the rug sooner!  It feels so good when everything is spotless and fresh after all the hard work of actually doing the cleaning.  And then I get here to this great get away and they are doing more than cleaning.  They are remodeling and upgrading and improving.
The process isn't so great. I am sure the end result will be wonderful.

So here is my take away on this mish/mash of stuff!  There needs to be balance in all things.  Sometimes about others and sometimes for yourself.  And along the way it is really good to stop and  take a moment to clean things up.  Or even start to remodel and/or upgrade.  And the final result is really good!  I am really liking this week.  Boxes sent off and scrapbooking begun.

 I am going to sound a bit like a broken record - since I ended my last blog with this thought.  This balance thing is really all about love.  When we love Jesus with our whole heart, soul and mind, it is easier to have balance in our life.  That balance lets us do things for others, fulfilling the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. Yes, there it is!  We are to love ourselves!  It is good to find this balance -- especially when it comes with a side of scrapbooking!

Jesus, thank you for the opportunity to share your love with the world through these simple shoe boxes.  Holy Spirit, help us to remember that balance is what we should all strive for in all areas of our life.  Thank you Jesus for time away with family and friends.  Thank you for laughter and joy.  Amen

Monday, November 14, 2016

A guessing game....and the answer is love!

Some things in life are just guessing games.  Yesterday our family had a really fun guessing game as we all took a guess at the gender of Doug and Susie's anticipated baby.  As you can see from our "ballot" there was only one lone person on the boy side and the rest of us all guessed girl.  That is except for Doug and Ken!  They both refused to participate in the guessing.  Ken told someone that the baby would be human  and that was the only guess he would make!  And he wanted to vote for that.  Needless to say we were all delighted that the baby is a girl!  Susie is especially excited.

This is such a wonderful time, filled with anticipation for our family.  The time between now and when this baby is born will pass both very quickly AND very slowly!  That is certainly true of the last two years since we lost baby Lucas.  In some ways it seems like it was just a short while ago, yet in other ways this has been the longest two years that I have ever experienced.  If I have learned one thing in these hard two years, it is that we are called to live PRESENT in each day.  You can't live in the past and you can't just be longing for the future.  Jesus made that very clear so many times in the Bible.  We are instructed to keep our thoughts (and our worries) on today.  We are also told NOT to worry - since he has everything under control.

I've tried to stay totally out of the presidential election controversy over the last months.  It was certainly another example of a guessing game. And now there are so many people who seem to be living outside of the present.  There are protests and riots over things that simply have not yet happened and may never happen.  Now more than ever we all just need to be present in today, asking Jesus what our tasks are for today.  He's got everything under control. We need to stop the assuming what will happen in the future and stop the entire guessing game of the next four years.

The great topper of my weekend was a wonderful time, actually getting to meet and listen to Dr. Brian Simmons - the man responsible for The Passion Translation.  I have quoted from this translation many times on this blog.  My daily devotional times almost always include The Passion Translation, which speaks directly to my spirit as I read.  The interesting thing about this event was that it was also sort of a guessing game as to whether or not the meeting would happen!  The leader of the ministry sponsoring Dr, Simmons actually had a medical emergency hours before this event was to take place.
I confess that my prayers were not only for the total health and well being of the leader, but also that this meeting would actually happen!  I have been eagerly waiting for a chance to meet Pr. Simmons.  Thankfully although the leader did need to spend time under medical care, the meeting went on as planned, thanks to a wonderful group of support staff in this ministry.  What a wonderful night hearing not only the powerful testimony of this man and his wife, but also being encouraged and blessed through his words shared with us.  There were so many amazing thoughts in that two hour talk..... but here are just a couple of things to ponder.

*Everything springs from love.  Love is the epicenter of who God is and what He does. His Love for us - His Bride is revealed in the Song of Songs.

*The Hebrew word for singing is a homonym which also means to prune.  It is our worship that prunes us.  The dead things are severed from us when we worship.

*John 17 will be a highlighted chapter in the year 2017.  (I think I will be spending a bit of time meditating on this chapter)

Oh, there was so much more!  I am so thankful that I got to meet this man and listen to him for this very short time.   Love was the overwhelming topic of this meeting.  Love was the very center of our family time and our anticipation for that new baby girl.  Love is the answer to the controversy and the turmoil in our country post election.  Love.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus, thank you for speaking so clearly in the Bible about love.  Holy Spirit, help us to start each day  knowing that we are loved by You.  Remind us all to love before anything else.  Keep us mindful of our neighbors and mindful of Your great love for us.  Thank you Jesus for my newest little granddaughter!  Amen

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A well planned event...that ended with a dance

It is always such a treat to be with these cuties and Monday was extra special!  Lia had planned a special day for us - a "Grandma and Me Tea Party".  Anna was invited to join us since it is not a good idea to leave an almost three year old to their own devices!  And you certainly can not trust a five year old and a seven year old to "watch" their little sister.  The idea came from this book that I had gifted to Lia.....
For anyone not familiar with American Girl, they have quite the cult following and most girls between the ages of 4 and 12 are familiar with these much sought after dolls, clothes, accessories and books, as well as craft items and much more......well you get the idea.  There are giant magazines filled with items that always seem to appear on our girl's wish lists.  This is a really cute book, filled with ideas and things to do for a girl and her Grandma.  Lia decided that this was the week for our special day.  
We started with a special tea party that included various snacks.  Anna's favorite part of the party was pouring the "tea" (which was actually water).  Over the course of the morning she filled (and drank) that tea pot full of water more times than I could count.  Needless to say, she got more than her daily recommended water intake.  The party continued with a very complicated dance routine (this is Lia's 8th year of dance classes) that I tried my best to follow.  At the end of this dance time I had several things that I had discovered....... 1.  I am not a dancer   2.  I am pretty much out of shape   3.  Even the stuff that looked easy was really hard for me   4.  I should probably be doing this kind of thing more often.  

The girls had a great time.  They actually had me video their dance presentations and invited Ellie and Zeke to be the audience.  Zeke believes that the audience should be constantly cheering and shouting (which, of course, is really fun for a five year old boy).  Anna was able to do a very long dance routine all by herself.  It is amazing how quickly she picks up the dance moves from her sisters.  I suspect she will be a dancer also.  I was quite happy to be part of the audience and rest on the sofa by this time.  

What a wonderful, refreshing time this was for me!  Lia had made this very special plan and had everything all set up and ready to go.  How can you not just feel special when someone goes to all this trouble for you?  The best part is how much fun we had spending time together.  I am so thankful for Gwen and Tim's decision to home school the kids.  Instead of just a few short minutes before the bus on the day I am there, we have the entire morning.  This time together is so precious to me.  

Time together - just being together - doing the small things.  I needed this time.  What a reminder it was for me of the call that I have been hearing from Jesus over the last months.  All he wants is for us to spend some time with him.  He asks us to come like little children and just be with him.  It doesn't have to be a only on Sunday morning while seated in a church.  As a matter of fact, I think that Jesus is so much more desiring that we just invite him into our homes for a little tea party!  For so many years my "quiet times" were actually just forced minutes squeezed into my day for a short devotional from a book, followed by a list of my prayer concerns.  Now don't get me wrong here.  There is nothing wrong with this routine.  The problem was that I never really invited Jesus to join me in it!  Some how I had missed this really important step!  My tea party with Lia reminded me that I need to remember to set aside this precious "face to face" time with Jesus.  It might include a devotional or a bible story.  But just imagine how differently you might read that passage if you had Jesus sitting next to you on the couch.  He wants to be with us.  To eat with us - yes to have tea with us!  Even pretend tea!  And I know that he would want to dance with each of us also.  One of my favorite songs is  Dance With Me by Paul Wilbur.  

I expected that Monday would be one of those really tense days because of the election on Tuesday.  There was so much heavy stuff no matter where you looked.  I actually was thinking on Sunday how nice it would be to just skip Monday and Tuesday and go directly to Wednesday when it would be over.  Thanks to Lia, I was reminded again, that all I needed was a tea party to lighten my mood.  A dance and yes, some face to face time with Jesus.  My Monday and Tuesday were calm and peace filled days.    

If you are feeling done in by the stress of the world, your life or your situation, I encourage you to have some tea with Jesus.  And be sure and listen to that song and have a dance with Jesus.   

Thank you Jesus for knowing exactly what we need each day.  Thank you for Lia and her desire to just spend time with me.  Holy Spirit remind all of us how much we need time with Jesus.  Thank you for the faith of little children.  Amen

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Historic event when the impossible becomes ACTUAL!

Everyone in Chicago suddenly believes that the impossible is POSSIBLE!  Our Chicago Cubs actually won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. 

 Chicago is an interesting town in that it has five professional sports teams that have many, many SERIOUS fans!  The Chicago Bears, The Chicago Bulls, The Chicago Blackhawks, The Chicago White Sox and The Chicago Cubs!  There is an ongoing rivalry between the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs.  You are either a "Northsider" (Cubs fan) or a "Southsider" (White Sox fan).  In spite of the dismal history of the Cubs, there were many people who, at the end of each season, said "Wait until next year!"  Wrigley Field (the home of the Cubs) is always crowded on game day and the entire neighborhood (appropriately named Wrigleyville) is considered one of the top places to live in Chicago.  There is just something about the Cubs that inspired the fan following.  But at a time like this - a HISTORIC WIN - the entire city became Cubs fans.  
Ken took to the streets of Chicago very early on Friday morning to participate in this incredible event of the celebration parade and presentation of the trophy.  He hit downtown at around 7:00am and the crowds were already gathering.  
In the matter of a few hours, it became very clear to him that there were an unusual number of people gathering for this event.  The streets, and every part of the downtown area were jammed with fans.  People just wanting to catch a glimpse of the parade with these hometown hero Cubbies and their long awaited trophy.  Seriously, if you watched any of this on TV, it was a simply a mass of people.  
Ken decided to wait out the parade at a somewhat safe distance (the Adler Planetarium) and then make an early escape back to the suburbs - before the crowds!  
He captured this picture after the parade had passed by.  He managed to stay well away from the crush of people and got safely out of the city before mid afternoon.  It was interesting to read the news articles that showed over 5 MILLION people were at this event.  As of today, they have increased that number based on photographs and calculations made by event coordinators.   Whatever the final number, there were LOTS of people in the city of Chicago on Friday!  

It is quite interesting that my children have seen all five of these Chicago sports teams win their championships!  They saw the Chicago Bears win the Superbowl in 1985.  Then the Chicago Bulls won the championships in 1991,1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998.  The Blackhawks have actually won the Stanley Cup three times in recent years 2010, 2013 and 2015.  And the White Sox won the World Series 2005. Add the Chicago Cubs in 2016 to that list and it is really quite impressive!   Yes, Chicago is a town that loves their sports!

I confess here that I am not a sports fan.  I really don't follow any of the sports that closely.  I just have never been interested much in these games.  But something really interesting is happening with this recent win by the Cubs.  With all of the political junk just pouring over the airwaves, it has felt heavy and oppressive as the election draws nearer.  Chicago has a somewhat dark past, as far as the political scene goes and has been known for its "dirty elections" for decades.  People in Illinois have been heard to say "Illinois - the only state where the Governors MAKE the License Plates" since several of our former governors have served jail time for their unethical activities.  It just seemed like there was nothing that could break this cycle of dishonest politics.  For those of us in the outlying counties, our votes never really seemed to count much since Chicago always directed the outcome of elections.  Certainly an impossible situation.  Just like the Cubs ever winning a World Series.  

Suddenly, with all of those people joining together to celebrate such a long awaited victory, the atmosphere around Chicago has changed.  People are believing that impossible things can really happen.   This breakthrough victory after so many years, when so many people believed that the team was cursed, has broken something in the spiritual realm.  Our country is in the middle of a huge battle right now that will have far reaching effects on many areas of our life.  This election is not just about two candidates running for one office.  It is about the entire political system that has gone unchecked for years and years.  No matter which candidate wins this election, people are suddenly much more aware of the bias and untruths in the media.  You can't help but see that this impossible win by the Cubs, that broke this curse of failure over the team, has implications beyond baseball.  

The weather has been amazing this last week.  Warm, sunny days with clear blue skies.  It has really been a breath of fresh air for us.  I am so thankful for the wonderful weather and this reminder that impossible things ARE possible!  I just love that Jesus - THE GOD of the impossible being made possible - always knows exactly what we need.  Whether it is a warm, breezy sunny day in the first week of November or an impossible win by a hometown sports team, Jesus answers our needs.  Even when we don't know how to voice those needs.  No matter where you go today around Chicago, the people are happy and smiling.  Anyone wearing a Cubs hat or shirt gets an immediate response from others passing by.  There is a sense of joy and wonder.  I know I needed this change in the atmosphere and I know that I am not alone.  The election is a few days away.  Ken and I have already cast our ballots.  But for anyone out there who has not yet voted, let me encourage you to get out and vote.  Don't believe that your vote doesn't matter or that this is an impossible situation.  Take heart. Pray for the guidance that only Jesus can give and then cast your vote.  Most of all believe that anything is possible with Jesus!  That is true today and it will be true tomorrow.  It will also be true on Wednesday - no matter who wins this election.  Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords

Join me today and breathe in that fresh fall sunshine.  Stand a moment in the celebration of a long and hard won battle fought by a sports team to finally have that trophy in hand.  Close you eyes and remember that with Jesus all things are possible.  Relax and be refreshed today.  

Jesus, you are an amazing God who shows us your power in everyday situations.   Thank you for  reminding us all that we can trust in you for guidance and direction.  Holy Spirit, give wisdom to everyone who is voting in this election.  Pour out your peace and grace over us all in the next week.   Amen

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Changed lives.....

On Tuesday our family gathered together to remember and celebrate our precious little Lucas, who would have been two years old on that day.  It hardly seems possible that two years have passed since our family was shaken to the core by the sudden and unexplained death of my little 10 day old grandson.  Hearing about this kind of tragedy is far different than actually experiencing it.  I know that our family is not alone in the loss of a child.  You can hardly scan Facebook or hear the news without some report of children leaving their families way too soon.  While we have been shaken to the core, we are also still standing.  We are standing together.   And for that I am extremely thankful.

This was the view, looking up, from the graveside of our little Lucas when we gathered at the cemetery on Tuesday.  It was a beautiful day - so warm for November 1st.  The sky was a brilliant blue and the leaves were just beautiful on all of the stately old trees that surrounded us.
It was so good to be there together with Doug and Susie - grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles and cousins.  Standing together and remembering and celebrating his very short life.  Gwen and Tim and the kids had made a wonderful stepping stone that includes each of their thumb prints.  
I left a small sun catcher of a robin that I found when Ken and I were traveling a few weeks ago.  
The robin is a symbol of light.  And Lucas' name means light.  It is also the symbol for hope and the bringer of new life, since it is often the first bird spotted in the spring time.  I tied some rainbow colored ribbons onto this, to celebrate Doug and Susie's anticipated new baby, making Lucas a big brother.  This symbol of hope seemed particularly fitting to me since Jesus has been speaking hope into me over these really difficult last two years.  In the midst of this great loss it seemed impossible to imagine having hope.  But each day there seemed to be a new measure of hope.  Jesus knew exactly what I needed and every day I had just enough for that day.  

Just as we did last year, we are sending Operation Christmas Child  boxes in remembrance of Lucas.  My five boxes are sitting here next to me, awaiting delivery on collection week.  Every little trinket and toy, every crayon and health supply is packed with prayers for that little boy who will receive them.  It's just a small way to honor and remember Lucas.  

None of us knows exactly what God's purpose is for our life.  Or how He might use us to fulfill His plans to love the world.  I am convinced that the length of our life - the number of our days here on earth - doesn't matter at all to Jesus.  He sees the impact of each person in ways that we can't begin to fathom.  As I was standing there, thinking about Lucas, I was remembering this......

A tiny pebble, thrown into the water, makes rings that go on and on and never seem to end.  It doesn't take a big rock to do this.  Just a tiny, small bit will cause this effect.  Lucas has made an impact on our family that will never end.  His life changed all of our lives.  Because of our love for Lucas, because we are standing together and going on, because of that impossible hope, we will remember and his life will make a difference.  

Jesus, thank you for your great gift of hope - even when we feel totally hopeless.  Holy Spirit, continue to give Doug and Susie strength to walk on another day.  Bless them with peace and that extra measure of hope each day.  Thank you Jesus for your loving arms that hold us when everything around us seems to be shaken.  Thank you for your great love.  Amen