Wednesday, April 27, 2016

When the door is open..... you go through!

On Monday I happened to catch this picture of Chandler while the girls and I were playing "in the loft" at Gwen's house.  Chandler had made a bed on some blankets that were on the floor, and then had taken advantage of the "Barbie House" and found a ledge to rest his head - the window was open!  I promise you I did not make Chandler do this.... as a matter of fact, I don't think I could have made him if I tried!  Lia first noticed this and pointed it out to me and I snapped this picture.

As I was looking through the pictures on my phone and saw this shot, it reminded me of one of the themes of the recent conference that I attended.  During the worship time, we sang a song about an open door.  Several of the speakers also talked about this being the season of the open door.  When I saw Chandler pushing his head through this "window" it made me think!  Is there an open door (or even an open window) in front of me and am I moving towards it?

This is not an easy question.  There are so many times when you KNOW there is a door in front of you but it seems closed and maybe even locked.  No matter how hard you try to figure out how to get into that place, you just can't seem to make that door budge.  Even if you are really sure that whatever is on the other side of that door is exactly what and/or where you are supposed to be, you can't get there.  So you can turn around and look for another door, or sometimes you just sit down and stubbornly refuse to move away from that door of your own choosing. I know that I have sat for a long, long time in front of some very tightly closed doors.  Thankfully, before very much time has passed, I have noticed other doors and walked through them.  This seems to be one of the times that doors are open in front of us and it is time to move on into new things!

Change is never easy and it is often scary.  Even when the door is wide open you can't see EVERYTHING that is on the other side.  In order to see the entire view you have to walk through the door.  Today at my small group we were talking about this message of the open door.  Most of us have no idea what door is open before us.  A couple of gals have an idea of a direction that they might be going.   As for me, I can't even see a door right now, but because of this message, I will be looking for that open door.   Spring is a great time to looking for new things and new paths to follow.

Isn't it amazing that Jesus helps direct us into the places that we need to be?  Sometimes he helps us along the way through open doors and other times he puts people around us to help guide us.  Even through messages we hear at a conference or a sermon or even a song.  Yes, there is an excitement and great expectation in the air right now.  Jesus is on the move and if you are following Him, you will be on the move also.

One of my favorite quotes from the conference came from Evangelist Dana Morey.
His message was all about faith.  He said that faith and belief have to go hand in hand. Belief is deposited into our spirits when we accept Jesus as our Savior.  Faith is acting out what we believe!  He gave this analogy.......  Belief is the "software" that is downloaded into our spirits.  Faith is opening that software and using the program!  Isn't that amazing!  Walking through those open doors is using that program!  It takes faith!

My encouragement to you today is to look around for that open door in whatever place you find yourself.  If you have been feeling discouraged by a door that just would not open for you, turn around and look for a different door.  If you see the open door but really are not so sure you want to change things right now, I'm right there with you!  But please join me in walking towards that door to investigate what is on the other side.  I am convinced that there are many, many good things in store for all of us in this season.  Walking through the door takes faith.  Faith that there is a plan and purpose for each of us beyond that new door.

Jesus, thank you for all of the open doors.  Holy Spirit help us all to see the doors that you have opened before us and give us the courage and boldness to walk through them.  Thank you for all those who teach, encourage and evangelize for your Kingdom.  Amen

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Coming home to roost.........finding the missing piece and PEACE!

This is a really big Banyan Tree that sits on Waikiki Beach.  It is one of several very large Banyan Trees that we saw on Oahu.  They are not native to the Island but were given to the last King by an Ambassador from India in the 1850's.  They are actually a variety of Fig Trees and they send out "roots" from all the branches.  As we were watching the sunset over Waikiki, I heard this amazing sound.  It was hundred of birds flocking into that tree.  These Mynah Birds make an unbelievably loud noise as they fill the tree.  They are no where to be seen during the day, but at sunset they return home to roost.  Just another amazing thing we saw in Hawaii!

Just like those birds, Ken and I have returned home to roost.  It is really good to be home, it was a long and busy vacation.  We have been asked what we thought about Hawaii.... and that is a really interesting question.  We were surprised to feel as if we were visiting a foreign country.  I always imagined Hawaii as a sort of more tropical Florida.  But I was very wrong.  The country is very Asian - Japanese- to be more specific.  Most of the food was not what we expected.  In fact, more than once we were given menus in Japanese rather than English!  Rice and steamed fish/vegetables was the "standard" breakfast meal offered in most places.  Even McDonald's had a breakfast that looked like that!  And even the majority of the tourists were Asian with the Aussies making up the next largest group.  We expected the native Hawaiians but they were actually very few and far between.  The culmination of our trip was at the Honolulu Airport for our trip home.  Apparently all the flights are treated like "foreign" travel and there are glassed in gates that you have to show your passport to enter!  (I guess a drivers license must have been okay since that is all you need (technically) to visit Hawaii!) Even all the announcements at the airport were made FIRST in Japanese and then in English. More than once, I felt like I was outside of the United States.  

For some reason I was unable to finish this blog.  I sat in front of the screen more than once last week and the words just would not come.  There was a missing piece and a missing peace to this blog post. 

Beginning on last Thursday night and lasting through today, I attended a conference called "Women on the Front Lines" at Chicago HUB.  Sometime during this conference I figured out what I needed to complete this blog.  There was an entire teaching on BELONGING.  The truth is, most of us have feelings of not belonging.  We might not fit in a particular group or situation or sometimes it is a bigger feeling of not belonging in our family.  I realized that I did feel out of place in Hawaii and I did feel as I didn't belong there.  But here is the thing......I don't live there - I was a visitor.  So I don't belong!  Coming home settled in my spirit that this is where I belong.  At the conference we learned that the feeling of not belonging is often just a lie sown into us by the enemy.  When we feel like that, it causes us to isolate ourselves and leads to much greater loneliness and often depression.  The truth is that we BELONG to the family of God when we know Jesus.  And then we also belong to each other.  We are a family - His family and no matter what the circumstances around us might be, we always belong to Jesus.  

This was a great lesson for me.  It was totally okay for me to feel out of place in a place that was not home for me.  That was a correct feeling of "not belonging".  But when that feeling of not belonging (of not fitting in) comes, we need to be take a really hard look at just where that feeling is coming from.    At the point that I really put this all together..... a wave of great peace filled me.   So ask Jesus to show you the truth and wait for that peace!  I just love that Jesus knew that I needed to wait to finish this blog to understand about this feeling of not belonging.  I am thankful that I got to visit Hawaii... a part of the United States that is very different.  And I am thankful for the peace in the knowing about belonging.  

It was interesting to have this revelation at a large conference.  That is a place that it is really easy to feel like you don't fit in.  There are so many people and it is easy to get lost in the crowd.  But when Jesus is the focus of the conference, you are all family.  There were several times that I introduced myself to people who were sitting by themselves.  It was so fun to meet people from all over the country.  I ate lunch with a women who had come from Iowa and met several people from various parts of the Chicago.  While standing in line on the first day of the event, I spoke with a beautiful Hispanic women who lives very near where the conference was held.  We had a long conversation and we spoke again several times during the weekend.  There were also times of reconnecting with people that I haven't seen in years.  It was a great time of belonging.  

Yes, it is good to come home to roost and it is good to remember that I belong!  

Jesus, thank you for helping me to set this blog aside until I had the understanding to complete it.  Thank you for an amazing time in Hawaii and for your provision for home, family and friends.  You are an amazing God that calls us into your family.  I am so blessed to belong to you.  Amen

Friday, April 15, 2016

When you have time to think and remember and consider............


It has been a glorious week in Hawaii.  I have learned that you can not believe the National Weather Service reports here.  It was showing cloudy and windy for every day that we were scheduled to be here and I am very happy to report that it has been SUNNY (and windy) most days.  We have only had very misty showers a couple of times and they passed quickly.  And we have experienced some very different weather around the island as we drove all around Oahu.  It has been interesting to look at the map and think "well, I'd like to go there but it looks really far" and then to discover when you put the location into the GPS that it is 28 miles and 45 minutes away!  And the really BAD traffic we were warned about (around Honolulu and the airport) was just a couple of miles of slow interstate traffic.  If they want to see BAD TRAFFIC they should visit Chicago!  We did have some road construction on the two land road on the east shore and we were delayed by flagmen for about five minutes.  Again, nothing compared to Chicago.  It is all about perspective once again, isn't it?

These lovely flowers above were on our breakfast plates today at the ocean side cafe we visited. We planned our day today to begin in the "Punch bowl crater" which is just above Pearl Harbor.  The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is located there.  (Again, I was surprised at how quickly we got there from our hotel.... just a matter of minutes).  It was another awe inspiring place - quiet and peaceful.  There is an overlook trail that gives amazing views of Honolulu and Waikiki as well as Pearl Harbor.  Ken was off taking many photos of the Memorial itself (which is breathtaking) and the trees and flowers that line the rows of graves.  I had time to just pray and reflect in that sacred spot.  It is interesting that visiting a place that neither of our sets of parents ever saw has caused me to think about them so much!  Part of the reason is that April marks the anniversary of each of their deaths... my mom (5 years) on the 12th, Ken's mom (7 years) on the 15th, Ken's dad (1 year) on the 17th and my dad (31 years) on the 19th!   It doesn't matter how long they have been gone, they are always in your thoughts.  As I was sitting in the car, looking at the amazing view, I was thinking about how blessed Ken and I were to have our parents at our wedding.... and these pictures came to my mind.
It was a very long time ago (will be 42 years in May), but in my "mind's eye" this is still how I was picturing them today!  So, here we are about the same age as our parents were way back then!  
Sitting in a cemetery sure gets you thinking!  Ken and I are very, very blessed.  We have been able to travel and see so much of our country.  This trip takes another state off of our "bucket list" of visiting every state!  It is one thing to read about places or even see them on TV or in the movies.  It is quite another to actually experience them.  My mom always wanted to visit Hawaii.  Sadly she never did.  Again, I feel very blessed to be able to be here.  

I have been shocked by the incredibly large number of homeless people that are everywhere around this island.  There are men and women sleeping on the beaches, in the parks and under the trees.  They travel around during the day on the city buses or walk along the roads.  Today we even saw a place on a very steep cliff where a homeless person had erected a tent and tarps, hanging over the edge with all of their belongings around them.  Very scary.  And there are very few churches around and we have not seen any shelters or food pantries.  The most amazing thing about all of these people around, is that not a single one has been asking for money or food.  They seem to keep to themselves and don't bother anyone.  But it makes me wonder what the churches are doing to help these people.  Traveling around the island gave me a much broader view of Hawaii than just Honolulu or Waikiki.  Most of the towns we visited had many, many lower class homes and apartments and many needing serious repair.  It left me feeling that Hawaii might be a great place for a mission trip!  

Yes, it is good to remember just how blessed we are.  There is nothing like seeing another place to make you appreciate your home.  As always, it is good to go away but even better to return home.
Our time here is coming to an end.  Tomorrow we are going to a Hawaiian Luau!  And then we take the long plane ride home.  There has been so much that we have many pictures taken and so many memories to scrapbook in the future.  In this tropical paradise with amazing views and with homeless sleeping under the trees..... one thing remains on my mind....

The love and faithfulness of God in Jesus is all that matters!  It is bigger than the mountains, it is higher than the sky and more than anything!  That is the true blessing!  

Jesus, thank you for reminding me of the blessings of our parents. Holy Spirit give wisdom and provision to the churches here in Hawaii to reach the homeless population.  Thank you for sunny days and waves and quiet places to help us keep our focus.  Keep us mindful of the needs around us.  Amen

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Snapshot of the last four days..............

This was my first view of Hawaii - from the plane window!  That is Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach!  It was a much welcome sight after the very long (9 hour) plane ride.  We were delayed leaving Chicago because they had to "De-ice" the plane!  Yes, it is APRIL!  But that morning it was snowing/sleeting and about 30 degrees.  It made getting on that plane much easier knowing we were going to 80 and sunny!  

Our days have been full and wonderful!  We have sat on the beach, eaten lots of seafood, and walked a great deal.  We have seen same amazing things.  But today was beyond what I was imagining.  
This is the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.  We actually came to Oahu because we knew that we wanted to visit this place.  I made reservations well in advance of our trip and was given 2:30pm today.  Everyone said that unless you get reservations in advance you will never get in since it fills up quickly.  The weather was less than ideal - windy and rainy.  When we got to the ticket booth we were told that most likely they would be shutting down the ferry out to the memorial by noon because of the gusty winds.   We took the first tickets that they had (which were for 1:00pm) and were told that it might be possible to get in earlier "on stand by" if you waited in line.  I sent out an urgent text to my small group to pray that the weather would clear and that we would be able to get out to the memorial.  We got in the stand by line at 11:25 and the 11:30 group was lined up.  We were so surprised when the guard motioned us in saying there were 7 empty slots!  Thank you Jesus for answered prayers!  (And for the "miracle" of texting that makes prayers happen over amazing distances at the tap of a phone) The movie that is shown first was............... well words really escape me.  I guess serious, sad, amazing, unbelievable, are all words that come to my mind.  Most was actual movie footage from the events..... and some of those images will be in my mind for a very long time.  Then you take the ferry to the memorial.  The ship is visible in the water and there are rings of oil still escaping from the tanks.  It was 15 minutes that I will not forget.  Both my dad and Ken's dad served in the Navy in World War II.  I remember very clearly my mom talking about that day....December 7, 1941 and what they heard and how they knew what was ahead.  I was wishing that our parents could have had the chance to visit this place.  

The movie was interesting because it pointed out that there were a couple of mistakes made by the United States that helped make the attack successful for Japan.  The actions of just a few men brought about the United States participation in the war.  I love that the USS Missouri is docked right next to the Arizona. Japan signed the surrender ending the war in the Pacific on the deck of that ship.  This represents the "book ends" of  WWII for the United States.  The Arizona marks the beginning and the Missouri represents the ending of that terrible time. The emotions of this visit were very much like those I experienced when visiting the World Trade Center Museum in New York City last summer.  
It is never more clear -  the effect of sin on this world.  

 I was so thankful that there was beauty all around us to help refocus on all that is good and pleasing.  We took a long walk and then later, watched the sun dip into the ocean.....
There is more to share but for today, this is enough.  God is good.  He is beautiful and He reigns over this earth.  Now more than ever, Jesus needs to be revealed to the world!  And we need to be the ones to show the world just who He is!
"The entire universe waits with excitement, yearning to see the unveiling of God's glorious son's and daughters!" (Romans 8:19 - The Passion Translation)

Jesus, thank you for amazing sunsets and flowers and trees and birds.  Thank you for the ocean and the waves that wash over my feet.  Holy Spirit, keep us mindful of the power that we have to show the world who Jesus is.  Keep our hearts sensitive to the reminders of those who have gone before us.  Amen

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Changing perspective on the weather.....

We have had some wild weather here in has not been the "warm April" that was predicted.  In fact it has been downright cold.  And snowy. And windy.  And rainy.  Well, you get the idea.  Just awful weather.  We had some really nice weather in March - including the day I took these four cuties to the park for some play time.  
Last Saturday it was snowing.  And I was remembering a long ago day - on the same date - in 1975.  We had a memorable snowstorm that day.  About 12 inches.  I got stuck about half way home and finally got out after about 3 hours.  My dad abandoned his car on the interstate and got a ride to a local hotel.  Ken picked him up around 11:00pm and took him home.  The next day we helped him retrieve his car that had been towed off of the interstate.  It was really warm the next day and the snow mostly melted quickly.  But from that day onward, I have never believed that winter in Chicago is over until the END of April!  Funny how one day's weather can change your perspective, isn't it?

Last Sunday (and it was still cold and VERY windy), we had a family celebration of Ellie's birthday.  Susie and Doug had told Ellie she could choose whatever activity that she wanted and this was her choice..........

She decided that all of us "big girls" (all except Anna) should have a pedicure together!  Doug decided that it would be a great time to take Zeke fishing and Tim and Anna tagged along.  Us girls had a wonderful time and so did the guys!
Zeke caught a fish which truly made his day!  He had the biggest smile when he told us that he had "casted" all by himself and "turned in" the fish (reeled it in)!  And he was also quite pleased that he saw the fish swim away when Uncle Doug put it back in the water.  We finished the day with a very windy and chilly trip to the local ice cream store (again, Ellie's choice).  Even though it was cold outside, it was a heart warming day, being together.  

This week has continued the cold and rainy weather.  Last night there was a very loud thunderstorm.  But in spite of this bad weather, Ken and I are feeling very "sunny" about the coming week.  We are heading out for a much anticipated vacation to a warm, palm tree filled, ocean front get away.  And the anticipation of this event has changed our perspective on the current weather.  Knowing what is right ahead on the horizon makes the dreadfulness of the past weeks weather much more bearable.  

The Bible reminds all of us who believe in Jesus, that there is a wonderful place for us, right ahead on the horizon.  That place is heaven.  All of the dreadfulness of this earthly world should be much more bearable when we remember what is ahead for us.  Jesus promised that there were many rooms in His Father's house and he was going there to prepare a place for us.  The book of Revelation contains a really clear description of heaven.  Unfortunately most of us don't spend much time reading that description because that book is somewhat difficult to understand.  But since I have experienced a change in my perspective on the weather while keeping in mind what is ahead, I think I will be spending time reading this book in the next week.  If all of the current "crud" that is flying around the internet has gotten you down..... if there is anything else that is troubling you and keeping your perspective in a not so good place, join me in reading about the most amazing place that is right on the horizon.  When you learn about the God who created the heavens and the earth, who is the Lord of Lord and the King of Kings, who rules and reigns from that amazing place, I guarantee that your perspective will change!  Happy reading!   

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that heaven is close at hand and it will change our perspective when we remember what is ahead!  Holy Spirit, thank you for helping us when we are feeling overwhelmed and depressed about our current situations by turning our eyes to THE TRUTH - Jesus.   And Jesus, thank you for family times that warm my heart. Amen