Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Throwing rocks and skipping stones

I had a really interesting dream last night and I woke up thinking about Lake Maud.  I have blogged before about my family lake home in northern Minnesota that we always just referred to as "the lake".  So I started to search my scanned photos for a perfect picture for this blog.  I ended up with this picture.......
I think I love this picture so much because it was one of Doug's first fishing experiences.  Now he is an expert fisherman.  It was a special time for me to share Lake Maud with Ken and Gwen and Doug. So, back to my dream......

I was standing on the shore, very close to that dock.  I was throwing rocks into the water. 

 I spent HOURS and HOURS of my life doing exactly that.  I was the youngest kid among all the nearby cabins and often I would be left to my own devices.  I often just collected rocks and tried to thrown them far out into the lake.  My dad used to say I was going to make the lake shallower because of all of the rocks I added to the bottom.  

In the dream I was watching the rocks make wonderful circles that just spread out further and further.  I heard the Lord speak these words to me......
Take a risk.  Throw your stone further.  Pick up the biggest stone you can find and throw it as far as you can.  That will make the biggest mark on the water and send ripples pouring outward that will hit the shoreline and change it.  Trust me to show you which rock to pick up.  Sometimes it is the small flat stone that, if thrown correctly, will skip along the water and make mark after mark after mark.  Each of these will spiral outward and together make a bigger change than one large stone.  Trust me.  Don't be distracted by the stones that are right at your feet.  Look up to me and I will show you what is the best for you. Trust me to give you exactly the right the stone.

Part of my stone throwing was, in fact, skipping stones.  Lake Maud had a large supply of perfect skipping stones.  I would search and search for perfect stones to skip.  I remember that one time I actually had a stone skip 10 times!  And then there was the very end of the word in the dream.......

Even though your feet never leave the shore, you are making waves that will change the world.  

This is a wonderful word picture for all of us to hold on to.  There are lots of ways that we can  have an impact on the world.  For some of us, it might be doing something that is really "big" and makes a big splash.  For others, it will be something that might seem smaller, but when it is something that Jesus has planned, just like that smooth flat stone, it will skip over the water and those rings of change will reach far and wide.   And the skipping stones are often small and very light.  The most important message of the entire dream is that each of us can have a part in changing the world.  And we can make those changes right where we are planted.  Wherever our "shore" is! 

I don't know about you, but I needed a reminder that we can't always see the impact we are having for the Kingdom.  I am always quick to see my own lack of "doing" for the Lord.  It seems so easy to look around and find many, many people who are doing big wonderful things for Jesus.  A good friend reminded me yesterday that we are own best critics.  We need to see ourselves using that exact stone that Jesus has for us.  However small it might seem.  We can stand back and watch those ripples moving outward!  

Jesus, thank you for speaking to me in dreams.  Holy Spirit, help me to remember that all I need to do is what Jesus asks of me.  I don't need to worry about throwing a big rock!  Jesus, thank you for reminding us that even small actions can have large impacts that can change the world.  Amen

Monday, January 25, 2016

A bit of "it's hard to believe"......

On Saturday we celebrated Anna's second birthday (she really turns two on the 30th).  It was the usual house full of kids type of birthday party!  We took a moment before the party to take this picture.  Anna was having none of it!  This was the only picture without her screaming!  So, it will have to do.  You might notice the penguins...that was the theme of the party.
It just doesn't seem possible that this little one is actually two years old.  It is really hard to believe how fast these two years have passed.  

I had a couple of interesting experiences over this past weekend.  Looking back on them, it is a little hard to believe, but I can assure you, this blog is about truth telling!  So, here goes..........

On Sunday morning, Ken and I were having breakfast at a local cafe.  We go to this particular place almost every weekend.  There is a really nice manager that we have befriended and a sweet waitress who always gives us service above and beyond what is expected.  As we were finishing our meal, I glanced up and just behind Ken's chair, I saw a waitress holding a tray filled with drinks, collapse backwards, hitting her head on the floor.  The people nearest to her, rushed over to her and it was clear that she was having a seizure.  Someone called 911 and it was a LONG wait for the fire engines and ambulance.  I spent the time urgently praying for the waitress.  By the time the paramedics arrived, the girl was alert and talking.  It was quite a relief to see that ambulance pull up to the door.  We could hardly believe that we had witnessed this emergency during breakfast.  

Now I spent some time kind of beating myself up because I did not rush over and pray for that girl.  I was certainly praying, but there was this question in my mind that I did not do enough.  

Then on Sunday night I attended a meeting and the speaker was a missionary to China.  I have heard him speak before, but last night I felt like he was speaking directly to me!  I can't tell you what anyone else heard, but I got the message very clearly......  you know what you are supposed to be doing....what your destiny is.  So why aren't you doing it?  It's time to take the plunge and go to the next level.  Don't say that you can't do it (whatever it is).  You have to take the first step.  

There was more, but that is the part that, well, stopped me in my tracks.  As a matter of fact, I had been hearing a very similar message myself.  After I got home, I happened to hear this message Lance Wallnau - "The Midnight Watch".   It is a hope filled message that says that Jesus will be sending us each a gift in the form of a person that will be strategic for us to fulfill our destiny.  
It's worth listening to the entire message from Lance.  This gift might be financial, it might be a connection, or it might be wisdom that will help us move forward towards our destiny. 

Pretty interesting, right?  So I'll be waiting expectantly for the person that Jesus is sending to me.  In the mean time I will worry less about what I did or did not do!  Yes, it was a weekend of hard to believe things.  It certainly left me with plenty to think about!  

Jesus, thank you for grandchildren that help us see joy and wonder in the little things.  Bless all the firefighters and paramedics who respond to distress calls.  Give us all wisdom when we are faced with emergency situations.  Holy Spirit, help us to take that first step towards our destiny.  And reveal that special person who will help us towards our goal!  Amen

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Reflection, peace, relaxing.....

I know that I have been much slower to post in the last few weeks.  I have been doing some thinking about this, which of course, has caused me to NOT be blogging!  What I have discovered is that this has actually been a time during which I have been active (think busy) but more than that, it has also been a time of reflection and peace and quiet. 

Last week Gwen and I took the kids swimming.  We had several below zero days, but that day was actually sunny and relatively warm (38 degrees).  Last year Gwen had discovered a park district near us (well, not exactly NEAR but a reasonable drive) that has a wonderful toddler, zero depth entry pool that offers a "tot swim" a couple of mornings a week.  Besides being very reasonable, it is the perfect size pool for us to manage the four kids.  And there is plenty of stuff to keep the older kids happy also.  
I confess that this couple of hours of swimming was just as much for me as for the kids.  I LOVE TO SWIM!  So being in the warm water was a treat for me also.  I think that this swimming day (coupled with a week off of my nanny job) really kicked off this time of reflection for me.  As a matter of fact, the day following this swimming outing, was a day of rest and quiet for me.  I really didn't accomplish very much.  Then I spent the next day, watching the kids while Gwen and Tim served at a youth retreat at their church.   Anna and Zeke and I spent some time playing with Zeke's train tracks.  It is really amazing that Anna (who won't be two for a couple more weeks) can operated the remote control trains better than me!  
And all of the kids spent many, many hours playing with this tub of balls from a ball pit....
The tub was big enough that even Lia could fit inside the tub and then get covered with the balls.  I don't know how many times the kids picked up the balls to cover each other, and then dumped them out.  Even Anna got into the fun, but interestingly she insisted on bringing a chair with her inside of the tub!  It fit surprisingly well.  She was not very happy when the balls got up to her head, but she wanted her turn in all this fun!  We finished off the night with this bit of joy...
And then it was bed time.  What a treat it was to read to each one, say their prayers and tuck them into bed!  As I was sitting in the quiet, waiting for Gwen and Tim to get home, I realized just how relaxed and calm I felt.  The interesting thing was that I had been not sleeping very well and also having some very odd dreams in the weeks before this.  As a matter of fact, I had spent the last week trying to figure out exactly what was causing my apparent anxiety, when I really didn't seem to have any obvious issues!

And then I came upon this in my daily Bible reading................. Psalm 16.   Here are a few verses from that Psalm from The Passion Translation....verses 7-9.  I know that I have recently blogged about this Psalm, but I have been camped in this portion of Scripture for weeks.  I love that there is so much in one chapter.  Sometimes it is good to not leave a chapter until you really see everything!

The way you counsel and correct me makes me praise you more; for your whispers in the night give me wisdom, showing me what to do next.   Because you are close to me and always available, my confidence will never be shaken, for I experience your wrap-around presence every moment. My heart and soul explode with joy-full of glory! Even my body will rest confident and secure!

I finally made the connection.   The rest I have been feeling and so secure in over this last week was my answer to all the questions I have been praying about the "anxiety" that was bothering me!  The answer is that I AM NOT ANXIOUS AT ALL!  Whatever was disturbing my sleep and my dreams was not a big deal.  But I had managed to take my eyes off of Jesus and focus on the problem.  All I needed to figure this out was a really busy week that left me feeling calm and peaceful and relaxed.  AND some wonderful life-filled words of Scripture that helped me refocus.  

At my small group meeting today we talked about knowing and praying the destiny that Jesus has for each of us (and our children and grandchildren and our entire family).  I had simply lost the focus - keeping my eyes on Jesus - and also allowed silly little things to cloud my thinking.  So I will begin again to speak the truth to myself!  And I can be sure that Jesus will keep whispering to me in the night and giving me rest.  

If you have been spending some time thinking about a problem, trying to figure out what to do or where to go, or just busy and distracted, pick up your Bible and let the living Word handle it all.  
It really doesn't matter what the situation is, I can assure you that the perfect answer is there for you.  And then you can close your eyes and sleep, knowing that Jesus - THE WORD - is taking care of it all!

Jesus, thank you for a wonderful restful week.  Thank you for time with children who help us to see joy and wonder in the smallest of things.  Holy Spirit, thank you for speaking to us and reminding us of the truth.  Help us to keep our focus on you Jesus!  Amen

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dance with me.....

Monday at Gwen's, I actually played "teacher" and did home school with the girls.  Gwen had a dentist appointment after work and the girls decided to do school in the morning rather than the afternoon.   I was just fine with this, however keeping an almost two year old busy and out of trouble while trying to do home school is really quite an experience.  Fortunately, Anna somewhat cooperated and we were able to get most of the work done before Gwen got home.  This is how Anna spent the morning......
How can you not love this little one???  She was all set for her picnic with her basket and her shoes and her hair, and of course her phone.  It kept her busy and we were able to our work.  We had about 45 minutes after school before Gwen arrived and the girls wanted to have a dance competition.  (When you are sisters EVERYTHING is a competition!)  For the first part, I was the "judge".  When there were no winners, the girls made ME a dancer!  Let's just say it was a very good laugh and they got a real kick out of my style of dance.  But I loved when they all....even Anna....wanted to dance with me!

Then, today at my small group, there was one of those moments that just stop you in your tracks.  We first listened to a song I have blogged about "Just Be Held" by Casting Crowns.  As we were talking about being held by Jesus it transitioned into dancing with him.  And so we listened to an older favorite of mine, Dance With Me, by Paul Wilbur.  Monday I was totally in love dancing with Lia, Ellie and Anna.  Today I was totally in love dancing with Jesus.  What a gift these times are!  Over and over in Scripture, Jesus tells us to be like a little child.  On Monday those beautiful girls convinced me to dance.  Today while listening to "Dance With Me" I was remembering how easy and free they were just dancing.  As the words of the song flowed over me, it was suddenly easy to see myself dancing with Jesus.

Dance with me oh lover of my soul, to the song of all songs.
Romance me oh lover of my soul, to the song of all songs.
Behold you have come, over the hills upon the mountain
To me you have run my beloved. you've captured my heart.
With you I will go, you are my love, you are my fair one.
Winter has past and the springtime has come!
Dance with me.  

The Casting Crown song tells us to just let go and be held.  When you do that, you can let Jesus lead you in an amazing dance, as He says Dance with Me!

Isn't it great how Jesus uses the children around us to help us hear His call to us?  Jesus wants to dance with each of us. I am so glad that I listened to the girls on Monday and danced with them.  Even though I felt very silly and it was out of my comfort zone for sure.  Because today, it was that much easier to see myself dancing with Jesus.

There is so much shaking and conflict in our world.  The news is full of political drama, conflicts and horrible events.  But in the midst of it all, Jesus is having a dance party!  He is calling all of us to just dance with Him and let Him take care of all the "junk" of the world.  Jesus Reigns!    Nothing else matters.  So if you are feeling the stress and heaviness of life today, listen to the song and let yourself dance with Jesus.  You will be amazed how free you will be!  Dance on!

Jesus, thank you for inviting us all to dance with you!  Holy Spirit, help us all to look up to Jesus and away from things of the world.  Remind us that there is a dance party going on!  Jesus, thank you for the carefree hearts of children.  Give us all grace to be as little children as we dance with you.  Amen

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Winding up our Christmas celebration with a slightly delayed Epiphany celebration!

Today was a special day for my family!  We actually had the continuation of our Christmas celebration.  The end of the day is pictured above!  Ken bought me an amazing new diamond ring for Christmas that just arrived today!  We have talked about a new ring on various anniversaries, but Ken decided that this was the right time.  After 43 years, it feels really different to see so much bling on my finger.  Rest assured I will get used to it.  I love that there are two diamonds that represent Ken and I and they are wrapped in a rose gold band.  This picture does not do the ring justice.  It is simply beautiful.  

We began the day at Build a Bear where Doug and Susie gifted Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna their very own "Lucas Bear" for Christmas.  It was a wonderful experience to watch the kids each pick their own bear, place a heart inside and then stuff their bear.  Susie and Doug were generous and allowed the kids to each pick an outfit for their bears.
While the girls made the choice to get girl clothes for their bears, they are still Lucas bears and will be a soft, squishy reminder of baby Lucas, who is never far from our thoughts.  Zeke gets the prize for selecting a Blackhawks hoodie along with ice skates for his Lucas bear.  
After the bears were stuffed and fluffed (yes, they have a station that lets the kids fluff and comb their bears!) and clothed, they got their birth certificates.  All the kids named their bears Lucas bear.  Even Anna wanted to do this, with a lot of help from daddy!  

After leaving Build a Bear, all of the kids got a ride on the carousel in the middle of the mall.  Then all 10 of us actually made a stop at one of the mall stores that had an unbelievable sale.  Think 75% off!  By the time we were done with that stop, we were all ready for some lunch.  We had a great lunch at a family favorite, Portillos!  What a wonderful time of just talking, laughing and eating.  It was such a great way to start the new year.  When we all went our separate ways, Ken and I picked up my delayed Christmas gift.  

We were a bit beyond Epiphany, but I was still thinking about how great it is to end our Holiday celebration with the thought of Epiphany in mind.  It was particularly fitting that it ended with some gold!  Our laughter and the many hugs and smiles were certainly a praise offering from our family in celebration of the birth of Jesus. I recently blogged that there was joy returning to our family.  Today was a day filled with much joy.  Even in missing Lucas, in remembering him with soft bears to cuddle, we have love and hope and family.  I can't think of a better way to complete Christmas.

I am so thankful for Jesus and the peace and hope that has been given to our family since Lucas died. There are so many families that have lost children and sadly, some do not have that peace and hope because they don't have Jesus.  I am more convinced than ever that sharing Jesus is the most important thing that can happen in 2016.  

As we were driving home, snow was softly falling.  This has been a warm, rainy winter so far.  So the snow was just one more tie to Christmas.  Who doesn't appreciate a tiny bit of snow on Christmas?  Yes, today ended warm and cozy, with a sparkly new ring and wonderful memories of a great day.

Jesus, I am so, so thankful for you!  For your amazing gift of eternal life and that wonderful peace and joy.  Holy Spirit, give us courage and wisdom each day to know when to share about Jesus.  Jesus, thank you for walking with my family, with me, and bringing joy back to us.  Amen

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Shopping can be quite an event.....

I just happened to catch this photo of Ellie and Lia yesterday while I was at Gwen's house.  I love this picture of these sweeties even though it is not a typical "smiley" photo.  The girls were involved in a very detailed playtime with all of their assorted "Shopkins" and a few Barbies thrown in when I surprised them.  I would bet that anyone (or a grandma) who has a girl between the ages of about 5 and 10 will know exactly what Shopkins are.  For the rest of you, this seems to be the current toy "thing".  These are small little rubbery characters that sort of resemble pencil erasers.  Each is some item that you might get when you shop!  This includes food items, clothes, shoes, makeup....well you get the idea.  Each little character has a catchy name and may be common or rare and some come in little shopping baskets.  As you might imagine, these little things come with many, many available accessories.  You can buy entire playsets for your shopkins.  There are shopkins games, cards and stickers.  The good news about these is shown in the picture above.  At least our girls really enjoy collecting and playing with them.  The surprise when they open each package and the ability to trade any duplicates that they get, reminds me of sport trading cards.  I always felt a bit left out when the boys were showing their baseball card collections and talking about trading cards.  I am sure that somewhere, there is a marketing person or an engineer who came up with this idea. I asked Lia to send me a couple of pictures of her favorites and from the many (think 10) that she sent, I selected Mixie and Maxie (common) Stella Stapler (a special edition) and .....

Ellie also had to send her favorites.  Again... way more than these two... meet Wendy Wedding Cake (rare) and Brimmy (ultra rare)

By this point I am sure that you are wondering WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS BLOG?  Here is my story from today.

I confess that I have been doing some special shopping trips to try to find the latest (Season 4) Shopkins for these sweet girls.  So I went to a couple of extra stores today, on the hunt!  I love a challenge and this was a challenge.  I was successful on my first stop and actually got a couple of packages of the much anticipated and longed for Season 4 friends.  On my last stop, where I was actually doing my weekly grocery shopping, I decided to check the toy aisle in the off chance they might have some Shopkins.  I came across a lady with three children who was stuffing her cart with all of the Shopkins that were on the shelves.  I saw one small package on the floor, so I picked it up.  The lady screamed at me...."THAT IS MINE!" I nearly jumped out of my skin!  I simply was not expecting to get into an altercation over these silly little things.  I can assure you that I did not fight this lady for these Shopkins.  In the end, I think that she realized just how ridiculous she must have looked and sounded.  I actually just placed the package in my cart and backed out of the aisle.  I even found another package laying on the floor at the end of the aisle.  I added that one to my cart, and calmly left the toy section.  

As I finished my shopping, all I could think about was the power that these little toys had over this adult woman.  She was willing to come to blows and look really ridiculous, to ensure that she got every last package of the hottest new toy. I was considering that kind of passion and thinking about things that deserved that much determination.   I confess that I have not had that zeal for sharing about Jesus.  In fact, I find it so hard to just bring up my faith or even the name of Jesus in public situations.  It's a lot easier to talk about your faith around people you know.  Or in places that are familiar.  With so many people considering New Years resolutions, I saw an article that really touched me.  And I actually decided to adapt this for myself in 2016.  The article is actually from a blog written in 2013, but it feels like it is exactly right for today.  The post is titled One little word that radically changed my prayers.  You can read it by clicking that link.  The word is "COUNT"!  Or more specifically - Make it Count!  I want all aspects of my life to count.  That even includes having a close call in the aisle at the store.  I wish I could have had a really snappy comeback for that lady.  Something that would have made the whole thing count!  But, alas, I was not successful.  The best I can do is to pray that if I should ever be in that situation again, it will count.  

So, I believe that I will pray each day that no matter what comes my way, somehow Jesus will help me to make it count for the Kingdom!  Even if it is an encounter over Shopkins! 

Jesus, thank you for wise words that help us to focus not only our life but our prayers.  Thank you for giving me reminders that with your help Jesus, every day and every event can count for you.  Holy Spirit, help me make this prayer change a part of each of my requests.  Give us all more zeal to share our faith in all situations.  Amen

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hello 2016.....Let there be light!

It is time to say good bye to 2015 and hello to 2016.  And Happy New Year!  Yes, today is 2016.  I simply don't know where the last year went.  Today Ken and I purchased new lamps for our bedroom.  Real, grown up lamps.  We haven't had real bed side lamps in many, many years.  Don't ask me why, but today we happened to find these lamps at a ridiculously reduced price.  So we bought them!
They are the perfect color and exactly the right size.  When I saw them on the clearance shelf, I couldn't believe it.  If I would have described the perfect lamp, these would match exactly.  So 2016 begins with LIGHT!

 It has been a bit of a more quiet year for me as far as blogging goes.  I only wrote 142 posts in 2015.  That was down from 244 posts in 2014.  But it still feels like there was exactly the correct number of words sent out there into cyberspace.  I've been doing a lot of prayer and considering about what the next year might hold.  And I had one of those "suddenly" moments yesterday while listening to a Periscope message! (Hey, can I encourage you to try out this amazing free addition to all things Internet?  I have been so blessed by listening to some of my very favorite pastors/teachers/evangelists/musicians......well, you get the idea!  If you haven't tried out this real time video thing, you need to do it! I can't believe the amazing teaching and wonderful music I have had access to via this wonderful new App.)

Over the last week or so I have been "parked" in Psalm 16!  I kept reading this chapter in all different translations.  Somehow I knew that my message for 2016 was somewhere in those verses.  And then I listened to Lance Wallnau on Periscope.  I have learned much from Lance and it has been so wonderful to listen to his DAILY Periscope messages.  Yesterday, Lance brought his word for 2016.  And what do you know, it was from Psalm 16!  I don't know exactly what translation he uses, but this was the verse that brought me to that "suddenly moment".  Here is Psalm 16:5 from The Passion Translation.......
Lord, I have chosen you alone as my inheritance.  You are my prize, my pleasure and my portion.  I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands.  

There is the suddenly!  Instead of trying to figure out what is ahead for 2016, I will just remember that I have chosen Jesus as my inheritance and because of that, everything else is in His control.  It was as if the light was suddenly shining.  It is a totally wonderful, relaxing place to remember that Jesus is actually HOLDING our destiny in his hand.  Right now.  At this very moment.  Somehow, I felt light just flooding into my spirit.  It is clear that 2016 will be filled with an increasing light as we just continue to press into Jesus.  So I encourage you to pick up a Bible....any translation will do and read Psalm 16.  Let it just sink in.  There is a lot more in that chapter.  Let it speak to you.  I am convinced because of verse 5, you will join me in saying LET THERE BE LIGHT in 2016.

I got to what I thought was the end of this blog, and then I just knew that I had to include the entire Psalm 16 from the Passion Translation in this blog..... so here goes...

Keep me safe, O mighty God, I run for dear life to you, my safe place.  So I say to the Lord God, You are my Maker, my Mediator, and my Master. Any good thing you find in me has come from you. And he said to me.  My holy lovers are wonderful, My majestic ones, my glorious ones, fulfilling all my desires.  Yet, there are those who yield to their weakness, and they will have troubles and sorrows unending.  I never gather with such ones, nor give them honor in any way.  Lord, I have chosen you alone as my inheritance.  You are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion.  I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands.  Your pleasant path leads me to pleasant places.  I'm overwhelmed by the privileges that come with following you, for you have given me the best!  The way you counsel and correct me makes me praise you more.  For your whispers in the night give me wisdom, showing me what to do next.  Because you are close to me and always available, my confidence will never be shaken, for I experience your wrap-around presence every moment.  My heart and soul explode with joy-full of glory!  Even my body will rest confident and secure.  For you will not abandon me to the realm of death nor will you allow your Holy One to experience corruption.  For you bring me a continual revelation of resurrection life.  The path to the bliss that brings me face-to-face with you.  

What I forgot to include in this message is the reminder from this Psalm that not only is Jesus holding our destiny in His hand, He has given us the indwelling Holy Spirit that brings us wisdom and shows us what to do next.  Even whispers in the night!   That is the icing on the cake of this revelation.  Okay, NOW this blog is done!

Jesus, thank you for not only giving us a destiny, but holding it all in your hand.  Holy Spirit, thank you for being there to bring us wisdom and direction.  Thank you for gifted teachers who help us hear your voice.  Give us grace to rest in your care.  Thank you Jesus for your light and life!  Amen