Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Keeping my mind where it belongs......

I was skimming through my Facebook feed this afternoon and came across a picture one of my Facebook friends had shared. It was a picture that included my dear friend LeeAnn, who died in 2000.   I spent a few minutes looking at that photo and then I retreated to my favorite chair in my scrapbook room.  I glanced up at the wall and there was this framed verse.  It is actually a "Manuscripture" that was hand drawn.  LeeAnn actually gifted this to me in 1992 and it has a handwritten note from her on the back of the frame.  What a powerful and important gift that personal note is to me.  This is LeeAnn and I from sometime in 1985.  LeeAnn knew that I really needed peace during that time and she was there to direct me to the source of perfect peace!
As I was looking for this picture I found several dozen pictures of us with our kids.  Her oldest was just a bit older than Gwen and we were pregnant together with our second kids.  We had "opposite" gender kids, but that didn't stop the four of them from having a wonderful time together.  I know that somewhere (I couldn't find the exact picture) I have a photo of Gwen and LeeAnn's daughter MollyAnn playing dolls together.  We took side by side photos of Molly and Doug (they were three months apart).  As the kids grew up, we saw less and less of each other - especially after she moved about 20 minutes away.  But we still got together for very early morning coffee and chats or whenever we could manage a few minutes away from our responsibilities.  

Have you ever met someone and just "KNOWN" that you are supposed to be friends?  It was that way with LeeAnn and I.  She came to my house looking for daycare for her little boy for just a couple hours a few times a week.  When she sat down at my kitchen table and we began to visit, I knew that she was from somewhere close to Minnesota.  I could recognize her "accent"!  She was so surprised that I knew that and then that I even was familiar with her home (which was actually in North Dakota not very far from my family home on Lake Maud.)  From that first visit, we just got each other.  She was my support and listening ear during all of Doug's health issues (She was a nurse).   I am so incredibly thankful to have not only this beautiful framed verse, but also LeeAnn's words to me.  

Isn't it interesting how something like this can make such a difference to someone?  It is not only the "Big Name" and "Well Known" people that can make an impact on others.  Last night I heard a message that has been on my heart all day today.  It was a reminder that while the largest bone in our body is very important (it is the femur - the thigh bone) because it carries all of our weight, the smallest bone in our body is also very important.  The smallest bone is the stapes.  It is in our inner ear and is essential to our hearing and balance.  Because we are identified at the "body of Christ", we know that every part of that body plays an important role.  The message last night was to remember this important fact......  

If you feel like you are small and unnoticed and even feel like you are in a dark place...remember the stapes.  The smallest bone is just as important as the largest bone.  In fact, that stapes represents our ability to hear.  We know that " comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ" (Romans 10:17)  A very important part of the body indeed!  So don't lament that your place is not one of notice and acclaim.  Those places actually carry a lot of weight, which is not easy.  Rejoice that your place is tiny and that your influence seems small.  God has so much more for those of us "small ones"!  We just need to keep our minds on WHO is important!  And then we will hear his voice clearly and can have a great influence on those around us.  

Yes, I was reminded today to share my heart in writing to those special ones around me.  LeeAnn had no idea that I would see this frame 16 years after her death and remember her influence on my life.  She was just following her heart to give and bless others.  I am so thankful that Jesus puts people in our life that give us a chance to share the amazing Good News.  I will not let any more days go by without sharing!  Won't you join me and bless someone today.  

Jesus, thank you for friends that enrich our life and show us the way when we can't see.  Thank you for the reminder that size simply doesn't matter.  Neither does our place in the body of Christ.  When we are yours, we matter!  And you love us!  Holy Spirit, nudge us to share with those closest to us.  Give us words and actions that will bring joy and blessing to them.  Amen

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Running the race............

Today was quite the day for Ken and I.  We took several forms of transportation into Chicago to watch Gwen compete in the "Run the Drive" Chicago Half Marathon.  We drove to a place to catch the CTA into the city.  Then we took the Metra to the park on the South side of the city where the race was held.  This was the first time that I ever was on the subway!  And I have lived in the Chicago area for 49 years!  Quite the experience.  At one point, Ken and I managed to get on a train heading to South Bend Indiana!  Fortunately we figured it out before the train left the station.  This caused us a slight delay, but I am happy to say that we made it to the finish line in time to see Gwen and her friend Stephanie cross!
All of the kids were there and it was really something to watch some of the 15,000 runners come across the finish line.

The medal was really something.  It weighs over a pound and the XX in the center spins around!  It is really impressive!  One thing is certain, anyone who ran that race DESERVES this medal!  Running on the street is not that easy.  Roads are designed for cars, not people.  While it might seem like a lot of fun to run on Lake Shore Drive with the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan at your side, that is a tough place to do a long race!  Gwen and Stephanie were tired but happy at the end of this long run.

I have been thinking about Gwen and Tim and all the training they are doing for these really long races! (Tim is running a full marathon in a couple of weeks! Watch for posts!).  There have been plenty of ups and downs for them.  The weather has been especially hot this year and allergies have been bad.  Their treadmill broke down and needed a part to be ordered and installed.  They have four children and many responsibilities in addition to work and church......well you get the idea.  They have made it a priority to train.  And I was thinking about my "race" of life.  

This reminded me that we need to follow Paul's advice from Acts 20:24......
"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has give me - the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace."

There is the key to running the race of life.  Knowing that our life is worth nothing except telling the Gospel message - the Good News.  And what is the training that we have to do to run this race?  Well, that is easy.  Just read my last blog post.  Spending time with Jesus is the only way that we will be able to run the race that is before us.  Without His presence and His peace and His love in our hearts, we can not finish our race.  And yes, sometimes our training has it's ups and downs.  We have situations and difficulties facing us every day.  There are hurts and sorrows and pain and illness.  There are so many things that can detour us from the track we have been on, training for our race.  But the good news is that even these seemingly bad things can find their way into our testimony of God's grace.  And then they strengthen us to complete our task.  Isn't that amazing?  

Yes, life is quite the race.  And it is not over in 3 hours or 5 hours or even a day.  Our race is started each day when we put our feet on the floor and go about our business.  And each day is training for the next and the next and the next.  

Gwen and Tim each had a goal in mind during their training.  Gwen's was finished today.  Tim has a couple of weeks to go.  None of us knows the number of our days or how long our race will be.  What we do know is that we have one simple task - to tell others about Jesus.  

Paul goes on to later say in 2 Timothy 4:7....
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith"

And there is the goal that each of us can train towards.  Fighting what ever comes our way as we train by spending time with Jesus.  Pressing on towards the finish line of our life.  Telling others about all that Jesus has done for us.  And knowing that it is the faith OF Jesus that sustains us.  

Thank you Jesus for showing me last week how much I need to spend time with you.  Thank you for training us as we run this race of life.  Holy Spirit, remind us that our testimony along with the Good News can effect the world.  Give us all courage and boldness to run our races well!  Amen

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sometimes you just have to stop.......

Okay, it is Thursday.  And what a Thursday it has been.  I really didn't have much on my calendar for today, so it seemed like it was just going to be a slow day.  Then I started to get a flood of text messages from my prayer group.  It started early this morning.  Lots of prayer needs.  Lots of specific devotions and/or thoughts from my friends.  And this trend lasted for most of the day!  Every couple of minutes it seemed that I was getting another text with another prayer request.  And Facebook was no different!  So my Thursday became a day of prayer.  Which is never a bad thing!

During my minutes between texts and prayers, I have been trying to straighten out a few boxes of pictures that are not filed properly in my Scrap room.  I found this picture of Gwen at two and a half and could not stop looking at it.
I couldn't find a really good picture of Anna, but let me tell you that Anna looks so much like Gwen it is unreal!   
Anna makes that same face as Gwen in the picture, but I couldn't find a recent picture of her doing it. It is already the grandma/mothers curse that I manage to call all of the kids by the wrong name.  But I have found myself called Anna -Gwen quite often!   And notice in the picture of Gwen she is wearing a necklace.  She insisted on wearing one of mine to have her picture taken.  On Monday Anna had found a necklace of Ellie's and she insisted on putting it on.  I was really sorry that I didn't take her picture on Monday.  Just take my word for it, Anna looks an awful lot like her mom. These pictures sure helped me into a place of great thanksgiving and praise, during a time when I was flooded with so many great needs.  And it was just what my heart needed.  

At some point during the texting that was happening, I realized that all of my dear prayer friends seem to be having some prayer need pop up today.  We had a marvelous time together yesterday in worship and prayer and sharing.  And then today, each of us is slammed back in the world with some kind of trouble.  And in the midst of this, I saw this post from The Passion Translation..........

I hear His whisper … “I give you strength as you give Me time”
The moments that you spend with Me and listen to Me are moments filled with eternity. There is no weakness, no wavering, no doubting in My presence. This is where I energize your being. Many influences have affected your life and your thoughts, but as you come into My glory I lavish upon you what you need the most: My love and My strength. You are so easily distracted and disturbed, so you must faithfully come and be with Me.
The peace I bring to you is not comparable to the peace known on earth. It transcends your mortal life and streams to you from My river of tranquility that pours forth from My throne of grace. Peace like a river will subdue your soul and wash away the words of hopelessness and pain. Come into My river of peace and float on My promises. There you will never be disappointed. Listen to Me and peace will be your pillow on which to rest your anxious thoughts. In My love you are able to do all things, for I strengthen you with My love.
People will make demands on your time and your thoughts, but I wait for you to come and draw you closer when you choose Me above your friends and family. Come as My dearest one, and I will give you grace for your dearest ones on earth, so you may show them My love.
When you give Me your time, I give you My strength. Are you feeling weak today? Then come before Me until you are bathed in power. No human being can empower you, for their weapons are puny and helpless. Trust in My strength, not in the affirmation of others. Watch Me work in your heart as you “waste” your time in My presence. I will pour you out upon the earth as My gift and My treasure, full of My love.
Psalm 27:4, 8
"Here’s the one thing I crave from God,
the one thing I seek above all else:
I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house,
finding the sweet loveliness of his face,
filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace.
I want to live my life so close to him
that he takes pleasure in my every prayer. …
Lord, when you said to me, “Seek my face,”
my inner being responded:
I’m seeking your face with all my heart."

I am so glad that I spent this day the way that I did!  It is so good to know that Jesus hears our prayers and he cares about all those needs.  If you are feeling overwhelmed and weighed down by your own concerns or those of other people, come away with me and spend time with Jesus.  It will not be time wasted!  If you are feeling weak, know that Jesus has strength for it all.  Rest in that assurance.  Won't you join me today and just stop... and seek Him?

Jesus, thank you for this day of prayer and praise.  Thank you for knowing that I needed time away from the concerns to turn to thankfulness and praise.  Holy Spirit, remind us all that we need to seek Jesus when things seem difficult and heavy.  Thank you for friends that stand with us in prayer.  Amen

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When you are packing a Christmas box in September......

I know that Christmas seems like it is very far off, but this is where my heart has been for the last few days.  I have been assembling items to pack in my Operation Christmas Child gift boxes.  I know that I recently blogged about this organization in my blog  Sometimes they don't need a coat!  You can click on that link to read my thoughts about these boxes and also there is a link in that blog to some great videos about the children who receive these boxes.  

My family decided last year to do these boxes in honor of Lucas, my grandson who died in 2014.  It is such a wonderful way to honor his life by thinking about another little boy who will get great joy from some very simple gifts.  The most important thing in these boxes is the chance to hear about Jesus.  And that truly is the greatest gift of all.  Our family is especially looking forward to doing our boxes this year because of this very exciting letter and picture that Ellie received in the mail.....
Ellie was one of the very lucky ones (and very few) that got a response from the child that received her Operation Christmas Child box!  Her box went to Guyana, South America and this sweet little girl (who has a twin sister and a brother) responded in a letter of thanks to Ellie.  Ellie is so anxious to respond to this girl and hopes that they can become friends.  What a blessing this was for Ellie and for all of us - to see first hand how much these simple gifts mean to someone in another part of the world.  I know that this a lesson that all of the kids will not forget.  Gwen and Tim took the kids to the stores to choose all of the items that they included in their boxes. I asked Ellie what she put in her box last year.  Ellie remembers that she included a Barbie doll (since this is one of her favorite things to play).  And she included markers and paper.  Also hair bows and hair ties.  And apparently the Barbie was a big hit with the little girl, according to her letter! What a powerful lesson this is about the small things that we can do to make a difference for Jesus.  And we don't have to even leave our home.  Ellie has this photographic proof that she is a missionary and that she has followed the command of Jesus to go to the nations with the Good News! 

I have been following Samaritan's Purse and the Operation Christmas Child Facebook page and also their emails and have seen that the most wanted item - no matter what country - no matter the age of the child..... is a soccer ball.  That is evidence of just how popular soccer is around the world.  Of course you also need to send a pump since you have to deflate the ball to fit in the box!  So this year, all of my boxes will include a soccer ball and pump.  It might seem strange to send this for a little boy, but everything that I read says that this will make a small boy very happy!
All of my boxes will include a soft stuffed animal also.  What little one doesn't need something to hold on to?  And this year, I have also included a collapsible water bottle in each box (something I didn't think about last year).  You can see that I found some really neat tape that looks like a road and the box can be deconstructed and then used with the small cars I have included.  Each box also has a tee shirt and a Bandana (I guess these are used around the world for many different things).  I included soap and a washcloth, toothbrush and combs.  Pencils, markers and scissors.  A couple of fun little toys (whistles and tops) and a squishy ball.  This year I found flip flops for under a dollar at an end of summer sale, so each box has a small pair of those!

The interesting thing about these boxes is that somehow - it has to be Jesus - each one of the children who receive these boxes get exactly what they needed and/or wanted!  I am sure that there are some who might be unhappy with not receiving what someone else did, but it seems to happen very seldom.  The villages and towns that receive these gifts are often without any extra things.  So every little gift is important.   Often it is the first gift that they have received.  So it really doesn't matter what is in the box - it is the wonder of having something just for themselves.   I have been praying for each of these little boys who get one of these boxes.  And I will continue to pray for them over the coming year.  Imagine how much difference it will make as we pray.

Yes, this is a great way to, like Ellie, see yourself as a missionary.  And you don't have to leave home to reach the world.  There are so many children out there and I know that Jesus loves them all.  Recently at my Sunday evening meeting, we sang "Jesus Loves Me".  This is not your typical adult worship song.  But what a wonderful reminder for all of us...........

Jesus loves me, this I know.  For the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong.  They are weak but He is strong.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.

This is a fitting song to end this blog.  Jesus loves me.  Jesus loves you.  And Jesus loves all those little ones.  Won't you join me in blessing one of those little ones through Operation Christmas Child?
Send a box in honor of a child.  Or in memory of a child.  Or just to bless a child.  You will be blessed in the giving!

Jesus, thank you for loving us all.  Thank you for the Bible that tells us of your great love.  Give us courage and boldness to share your love with the world.  Thank you for opportunities to reach the world via cyberspace - like this blog and with tangible gifts.  Bless Samaritans Purse and all that they are doing around the world. Bless the sweet family that Ellie's box reached.  Amen

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Unexpected gift that brings a sweet memory

On Wednesday at my small group, one of my dear friends brought this lovely plant for my birthday! She has been missing our group for a variety of reasons and we were all so delighted to have her back in our midst!  And then, she came bearing special gifts for all of us with birthdays in the last month.  She would have no way of knowing just how special this little African Violet plant was to me, and that made it all the more special.  Here's why.

Ever since my birthday I have been thinking about my mom.  She has come to mind so often and I have been really missing her.  I guess there is no one who shares your birthday with you MORE than your mom.  It is interesting that I feel this on my own children's birthdays.  As a mom you always stop and remember that special time right as your kids are born.  The very first flowers I ever remember were the African Violets that sat on our kitchen window sill.  My mom usually had at least one but usually there were more than one!  I remember that she had a real knack for starting new plants by taking a cutting and rooting it in water.  What a great little "reminder" of mom this plant was for me!  I am usually not very successful in keeping plants alive, so we will see if I do a better job with this one than all the others I have tried to raise.  Isn't it great how just when you need it, these little reminders show up.  For me, it is knowing that Jesus knows about me missing mom!

In all that thinking about my mom, I am feeling so blessed that Gwen is close enough that I get to see her all the time.  I love this picture of the three of us.... me, my mom and Gwen.
In the last week I have thinking about what an amazing woman Gwen has become.  She has a full and busy life that makes me wonder where her energy comes from!  Raising four young children, a part time job teaching 16 four year olds in a preschool, home schooling her oldest three, teaching and mentoring junior high and high school youth at her church, leading a women's Bible Study, AND training to run a half marathon in a couple of weeks!  This list does not even touch on the many more ways that she supports and blesses her many friends and family members.  I suppose that her life is not that much different from many young working moms.  But she manages this all while keeping her focus on what is really important.  For Gwen and Tim, their relationship to Jesus is central for their family.  And it shows in so many ways.  

My mom just loved to listen to Gwen fill her in on all that was happening in her life.  One of her greatest joys was listening to Gwen sing and/or play her flute.  I was thinking about this last week as I listened to Lia practicing piano!  And I just love it when my "girls" (Lia and Ellie) facetime with me and I get to hear all about what is happening in their world.  Yes, it is one of those times when I feel the "generational tree" shifting and I am suddenly on the very top.  But what a wonderful example my mom was for me.   And now I really "get it".  I am beginning to understand just how important this grandparenting job is.   I recently saw this video (click the link), made for Grandparent's day called -Grandparents are important.  It is a sweet video that highlights a lot of things that I and many of my friends are experiencing.  I am so thankful that passing on my Christian heritage is part of my role as Grandma Lyn.  I love that I get to sing some of my very favorite songs and hymns with them, I get to pray with them and listen to their Bible stories.  It is a very special thing and I am very blessed.  

I know that my mom would have loved to watch all of her great grandchildren growing up.  She loved on all of her grandchildren and relished all the time she had with them.  It is so bittersweet to realize that the seasons of our life pass oh so quickly.    I think that is one reason that grandparents really enter into times with their grandchildren.  The reality of a shortness of time is really clear the older that you get.   

But along with that is also the very clear Biblical directive that none of us know the number of our days.  We are all to live as if each day may be our last. That thought can really change what is important.  Suddenly, things don't matter much at all.  Spending time together, loving each other, sharing - that is what really counts.  It is a good reminder that the time I have with my children and my grandchildren is precious and important.  

Yes, I love that this sweet flower brought such good memories to my mind.  I can't think of another time when I have felt so blessed.  It is a good follow up reminder for me, from my blogs in the last few weeks.  Even if I am not sure exactly where my path should be leading or what goal I am supposed to pursue, I know that what I AM doing, the time I am spending with Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna, is meaningful.   That is a great and special gift.

Jesus, thank you for knowing our hearts and bringing exactly what we need to us.  Holy Spirit, keep us all mindful of the important things each day.  Keep our eyes on Jesus and remind us to see each day as a blessing.  Thank you for wonderful flowers and great videos that stir our hearts.  Amen

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Feeling of accomplishment....without a fear of failure!

Don't you just love the look on Anna's face after she built this really tall Lego tower?  She was so happy and so proud.  This all started because her older siblings were not so happy with her attempts to play with the very tiny pieces of their Lego sets.  I knew exactly where her "big" Lego's were and she was delighted when I brought them out for her.  We spent a very long time building towers that sometimes fell down or sometimes were knocked down.  Which made Anna laugh and laugh.  She was just as happy when her creations fell apart as when she put them together!

And, as always, there is a lesson for me in this little activity.  She worked so hard to build those towers, yet she was not upset when they fell.  She just calming said "AGAIN!" over and over.  This had me thinking about all the times that I was not very happy when something I had worked on didn't turn out as I expected or wanted.  As a matter of fact, many times I just gave up when things went wrong.  Isn't that a pretty common response?  This morning on the radio, I heard a short story about the CEO of Pixar Studios.  He views failures as something positive.   He says that failure is a necessary consequence of doing something new!

WOW!  Isn't that a unique idea?  But think about all of those new things that we learn in life - starting when we are babies!  Not many babies stand up and walk across the room.  There are usually weeks and weeks of wobbly steps and lots of falling down on your bottom.  We don't think of this a failure - rather as learning!  Yet as adults, if we try something new and it doesn't work out right away, we are quick to say it was a failure.  And even worse, to think of ourselves as failures.  I wonder how many amazing new things are lost to us because people just called it a failure and gave up.

After our Lego building, we all went to the park.  Anna has watched all of her older siblings working on the monkey bars.  She is certainly not able to reach them.  So when she discovered this bar in the slide, she knew just what she wanted to try.  And she was able to hang there for quite a long time.  She managed to swing her feet and fly down the slide!  Quite an accomplishment for a little two and half year old!  She was once again, not afraid to fail.  

And right along with this wonderful lesson, came another bit to add to this.  I heard a teaching on how Jesus takes the failures we have - the bitter things in our life - and brings them together with the success we have - the sweetness - to bring a perfect blend to make us who we are as individuals.  
Both bitter and sweet are needed to make a balanced end product.  And Jesus always turns that bad, bitter stuff  - even when it is of our own doing, into something amazing when He touches our life.  Doesn't that change how we should view all of those past failures?  They are just part of the "spice" that makes us who we are!

I want to change this fear of failure in my life!  I would like to try and do lots of new things and not be afraid of failing.  I have three paintings hanging on my wall because I decided to try a new thing!  And I am sure that there are plenty more new things just around the corner for me to do.  I will just have to be continually reminding myself that it is okay to fail!  And more than that I, I need to re-program my way of thinking!   I need to be more like Anna and be willing to say "AGAIN" when something falls apart.  And most of all, I need to remember to laugh when things don't go right!

I think it is time to look for a new opportunity!  

Jesus, thank you for the lessons you continue to teach me.  Help us all to remember that you take our past mistakes and failures and bring your Holy Spirit to turn sad to glad and bad to good.  Holy Spirit, help us to overcome the fear of failure.  Give us courage and boldness to step out and try new things.  Thank you for new ideas, new thoughts and new concepts.   Amen

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Look for the helpers.....

Sunday was the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Center disaster.  It is another one of those dates that you just can't forget.  9/11.  September 11, 2001.  It is a date that touched every person.  I happened to be working at a spot that had television tuned to a morning news show.  I happened to be in view of the TV when they showed video of the first plane hitting.  I remember that I stood there wondering what was really happening.  By the time the second plane hit, it was clear that our country was under attack.  My first thought, of course, was for my family.  Fortunately I was able to get in touch with them and we all were safe at our homes by that evening.  There were so many people who did not have that outcome.  The strangest thing for Ken and I was the absence of airplanes flying overhead.  When you live so close to the "worlds busiest airport" - Ohare Airport -  as well as a second large international airport -   you are very used to seeing and/or hearing planes.  It was so quiet.  I remember feeling powerless to do anything to help.  

Last year Ken and I visited New York City.  It was my first ever trip there.   It was also the first week that the new "One World Trade" building's observation floor was open to the public.  We were fortunate to get tickets to this amazing place.  There are windows 360 degrees, so you can see all of the city.  We stood at this spot for some time, looking down at one of the memorial pools - which is actually the footprint of the destroyed building.  Notice the black square on the lower right corner. 
That view from the 102nd floor was breath taking.  When you see so many buildings crammed so close together, and then you consider the magnitude of the 9/11 disaster, you wonder how so many people survived.  While walking on those streets, I tried to imagine the panic and the terror that filled the hearts and minds of all of those souls trying to leave these crowded streets.  

Fifteen years after this event, I was remembering a quote from "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood".  Fred Rogers said that his mother always told him during any catastrophe to look for the helpers.  It is a good way to shift your focus away from the horror of the events and to see the humanity that presses forward to help one another.  One of my favorite spots in New York City was this church.  
 It is just a few blocks from the Twin Towers,  This place was a refuge for the first responders and all of the clean up crews in the weeks that followed.  This church opened its doors 24 hours a day and provided food, water and a place to sleep to thousand of tired and emotionally drained helpers.  This spot is the helper of the helpers!  Whenever I hear that quote from Mr. Rogers, this is the picture that comes into my mind.  How fitting that this place was preserved and used for such a purpose.

Ken and I toured the museum and walked among the many preserved artifacts from 9/11.  It is a tour that every American should take.  This is a place that we should all walk.  There were so many stories of the helpers.  It is a place to honor and remember those who died that day.  Ken and I got shirts from the museum store.
Yes, when times are hard, when bad things happen, people seem to rise up and realize that we can all help and make a difference.  That is when our lights are shining brightly and we realize that light destroys the darkness.

The outlet that I found to do SOMETHING after 9/11 was prayer.  I went to many interdenominational prayer meetings.  And it was during those times of prayer that I could feel the light pushing out the heavy darkness that had settled over the United States and also over me.  It was during those times of prayer, 15 years ago, that I understood exactly what terrorism does to people.
The light of Jesus was able to cast out fear.  And fear is the central operation of the enemy in terrorism.  Because of 9/11 and the impact these prayer times were for me, I view each new story of terrorism from a different perspective.  I always look for the helpers.  And I always look to THE helper - Jesus.  He is the light of the world.  In Him there is no darkness.  And in this dark world, those of us who carry the life of Jesus do indeed shine brightest when it is the darkest!

I realize that it is now September 13 and most people have breathed a sigh of relief that 9/11 has passed and they don't have to think about it anymore.  But I knew that I needed to wait a few days to share this blog.  It is good to step back and take another look when something is so difficult to think about.  So let this be your "another look" at this fifteenth anniversary of a terrible act of terrorism.  But I encourage you to see the helpers.  And even today, when a sad or terrible story comes across your newsfeed, look for the helpers.  And turn to Jesus.  He will fill you with His light so you can shine brightly today!

Jesus, thank you for stirring your people into action when crisis hit.  Thank you for the courage and boldness of the police officers and fire fighters who are often the first helpers on the scene.  Holy Spirit give us reminders to look for the helpers.  Stir us all to focus on your light, Jesus and guide our steps. Let us be helpers and light bringers!  Amen

Sunday, September 11, 2016

From a long ago birthday........

This very faded poster still hangs in my bedroom.  This poster (along with another poster) were given to me by Ken on my 17th Birthday, just after we had started dating.  I love that there is water in this poster.   Ken didn't know me well enough yet to know just how much I loved the water.  The second poster he gave me (which is now so faded you can hardly read it) says "I have to be me, you have to be you, that is the only way we can be us".  This one says "In the solitude of our minds we can look to the future, for we know what we are but not what we may be".   When I first got these, they were thumb tacked to my bedroom wall.  After we were married, Ken took them and had them framed for my 21st birthday. Isn't it interesting how something so small can stay with you for a very long time?

I have often thought about how meaningful and interesting the words on these poster are.  In 1972 when Ken bought these, he had no idea what was ahead for us.  He couldn't even envision us being married.  Yet, here we are 45 years later.   And that saying is still very much true!  We know what we are right now, but we have no idea what the years ahead have in store for us.

I remember so well my 6th birthday.  My mom wanted me to have something special for my "golden" birthday (I turned 6 on the 6th).  But that year was a busy, crazy year for my family.  We had just moved to St. Paul and we were staying in a hotel until our house was ready.  Three kids and a dog in a standard hotel room was no fun.  We had made a quick trip to the lake to "close up" since we were stuck half way moved.  My birthday actually fell on the Tuesday following Labor day - which was the first day of school.  So we had a cake at the Lake to celebrate my birthday.  I don't remember exactly what my present was that year, but it was nothing "golden".  Truthfully, I don't remember very many of my birthday presents growing up.  Birthday's just were not that big of a deal in my family.  I remember my 12th birthday most of all.  My dad drove up with a brand new bicycle for me!  It was purple and the first new bike I ever had!  The most interesting thing about getting this bike was just how much I would need that bike in one years time.  Just before my 13th birthday, we moved to the Chicago area and bikes were the standard means of transportation for kids.  I road the  wheels off of that bike from one side our village to the other.  If I didn't have that bike, I wouldn't have been able to get around.  Looking at this now, the Lord's provision for me seems so clear.  Jesus knew that I would need that bike and he provided it a year in advance!

Yes, birthday's are a time to reflect and also to look ahead.  I've been thinking about what might be in store for me in the years ahead.  It's funny but 62 doesn't feel very old right now.  It feels like there are lots of years ahead and so many things that are yet to be accomplished.  My bucket list just seems to keep growing and growing instead of getting smaller and smaller!   There are places to go and people to see!

More and more I realize that birthday's are not about the presents that are given.  They are not only about remembering the years past, they  are a time to look ahead and celebrate the future.  When that time of reflection on the past reveals just how amazingly Jesus has taken care of you, it is impossible to NOT celebrate and be excited for what is ahead!  And birthdays are a time to be PRESENT IN THE PRESENT!   You know what I mean by this.  Really aware of what is happening right now in this time.  Not so caught up in either the memories or the lists of things to do in the future.  But having your heart tuned in to what is worth celebrating right now!

And that is an amazing place to leave this blog.  In celebration of what Jesus is doing right now - today.  There are songs to sing and people to hug.  There are blue skies outside and white puffy clouds.  There is joy and peace and love and hope.  And it is all found in Jesus.  In His PRESENCE there is the fullness of joy.  There is no greater gift - no present - that is more necessary and life giving than the presence of Jesus!

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that you are the very best gift we could ever receive.  Thank you for your love that seeks us out, even when we are not looking for you.  Thank you for knowing exactly what we need even before we know we need it!  Help us all to stay present in our busy world.  Keep our eyes on you Jesus, and off of our to do lists.  Thank you for your joy.  Amen

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

When a "Daily Devotion" just fits!

I have a couple of favorite daily devotion books that I have used for years and years.  I often find myself going back to this tried and true book by Oswald Chambers.  I have always loved that the devotion for my birthday is taken from John 7:38.  That verse is my "life verse".  It is the verse that is associated with my name meaning.  That verse says  "Whoever believes in me as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them".  I have read and re-read that days devotion over and over again.  It just speaks into my spirit in such a powerful way.  Today, however, I read the September 7th entry. All I can say is WOW!

This entry begins with the verse John 4:14. "The water I give will become in him a spring of water".
And here are a couple of sentences from the devotion......
*The picture our Lord gives is not a channel but a fountain
*As we receive from Jesus, He will pour out through us
*If life is not flowing out of you, you are to blame, something has obstructed the flow

And I love the last lines of this day's reading...."Never look at this from the standpoint of "who am I".  In the history of God's work you will nearly always find that it has started from the obscure, the unknown, the ignored but the one that is steadfastly true to Jesus Christ."

Today at my small group we were talking about the Holy Spirit and about these exact verses.  We were also reflecting on the key to this entire "rivers of living water flowing out of us".  That key is that we have to have a close relationship with Jesus so that we are getting filled up to overflowing!  So tonight when I picked up this devotional and saw today's topic, it made me sit up and take notice.  As I got to the end of the reading, I just sat and pondered that last line.  Oswald Chambers was making a case for this passage (and the one on September 6) being for EVERYONE!  Not just for the church worker.  Or the pastor.  Or the evangelist.  Not just for the bold person who can easily share their faith with others.  This pouring out of the life of Jesus happens through ALL of us.  That is pretty amazing isn't it.  And if you are thinking that there is nothing flowing out of you right now, Chambers makes the reason really clear.  It is because you have some kind of obstruction in your life that is stopping that flow.  And the answer to clearing up the obstruction is a simple one - get closer to Jesus.

A really interesting thing happened in our meeting this morning.  After all this discussion about the Holy Spirit, we began to pray together.  And suddenly, the heavens opened up and there was a downpour rain!  It was as if Jesus had heard our discussion and He was just pouring out more for all of us.  The rain continued through the entire time that we prayed.  And as our prayer time ended and we were visiting together, the sun came out!  It was a wonderful reminder for me that Jesus is ready to pour out more for us if we just ask.

We had a wonderful birthday celebration after that prayer time.  I am so blessed by these wonderful women who support me through prayer and friendship.  It is easy to feel like we are just not that important in God's plan.  To think that we don't matter.  And to feel that we have nothing to offer and no purpose to serve.  But this devotion just reinforced for me what I feel with this small group.  Jesus uses each of us.  We can never know who we might touch in our daily life.  And I loved the reminder that all we need to do is stay close to Jesus.

Sometimes we all need a wake up call.  We need to open our eyes and see all that Jesus has put around us.  The people, the places that we can let that river flow!  Today for me, it was at my small group.  And it was also the place that I got even more filled up so that I more to share!

My day included receiving these really amazing flowers from my friend.  I love that these are called "Sunset Roses".  They have the colors of the sky!  Yes, this has been an amazing few days of birthday celebrations.  I am so thankful and I am so blessed! It is a fitting end to today and to this blog.
My prayer for all of you reading today is to grow in the understanding of this river of living water that we all carry.  What an amazing and wonderful God we serve that blesses us in the big things and in the little things through our friends and our family and through amazing flowers.  

Jesus, thank you for all of your blessings.  For the rain that reminds us of your presence with us.  For devotion books that point the way to your truth.  For friends who stand with us in good times and bad.  For your amazing creation.  Thank you for your love.  Amen

Monday, September 5, 2016

What a great day!

 Do you ever have one of those days when you just think - "Wow, this was a great day"?  Today was one of those amazing wonderful days for me.  Our family gathered together to celebrate my birthday (which is actually tomorrow).  I love this picture of Ken and I with the grandkids.  Even though it was really hot and humid, we spent a bit of time outside so that the kids could run off some energy.  They managed to find a frisbee in the box of toys, so we watched a rousing game of frisbee toss!  
Then we posed for these pictures.  I love this shot of the "BOYS"!
 And this one of the girls - and given it is my birthday - I use the term "girls" very loosely!
We didn't do anything fancy.  Doug handled the grilling of the burgers and hotdogs.  We had chips and fruit.  Really nothing big.  The best part of the eating was dessert! The cookies that Susie brought (oatmeal raisin - my favorites) and my birthday cake, made by Lia!  I love this 7-Up cake and she has been working on baking this all by herself!
One of the most memorable parts of the day was watching the kids look at the scrapbooks that I take so much time to create. It was so great to see them look at album after album.  It makes me so happy that I have these on a bookshelf,, all set to be enjoyed.  Yes, it was a great way to celebrate another year.  

I listened to a really interesting message last night.   It was actually the speakers birthday and he was sharing some thoughts about that.  Needless to say, this really resonated with me, since this is my birthday week also.   Some things that were included in his message have been my mind today.
First, our births are a part of the master plan of God.  It was His plan that I would be 62 years old tomorrow.  He has specific purposes for each of us that relate to the time period we are born into.  
Doesn't that give you cause to stop and think?  I guess that since this blog is the path that I seem to be on, it makes sense that I would need to be alive NOW when the internet and blogging exist.  It really doesn't seem possible that this computer stuff is very new and really hasn't been around all that long.  
Another thing that was shared in the message last night is the interesting connection to the Jewish New Year for people born in September.  In the Hebrew Calendar this is a month of looking ahead to the New Year.   So, for all of us born in September, this is the perfect time to reevaluate where we are and what we are doing.  Sort of like making "New Years Resolutions" but not for January 1!  In the past, I have sometimes thought about goals for the next year.  But I don't think I have ever really thought about them as plans for a new year.  I think that I will be working on a list for my new year!

Yes, today was a good day.  Ken and I were really appreciating the day today because our day yesterday was NOT so good.  A simple routine changing the furnace filter, ended up causing the furnace to lose all power!  I am so thankful that Ken is really an amazing "handyman" and he jumped right in to figure out this problem and then fix it.  The temperatures were climbing yesterday and the thought of no air conditioning today for our gathering, was not good!  It took him several hours and several trips to the store, but by bedtime last night, we had a much cooler house!  We were imagining just how much  money he saved us on this repair.  Let's see..... a Sunday night, on a holiday weekend.  That would have been a really big bill!   Isn't it amazing how Jesus provides in all things?  

Today was truly a wonderful birthday celebration.  I am so blessed and feel so loved.  How thankful I am for Ken and my children and grandchildren.  I have a great home (that is nicely cool today) and good food to eat.  I don't take any of this for granted.  It is all a gift from Jesus.  Not just on my birthday but every day of the year. 

Jesus, you are so good to us.  Your plans for us include good times with our families.  Holy Spirit, remind us how very blessed we are and help us to remember those who are less fortunate.  Give us grace to know how and when to reach out and share with others.  Thank you for wisdom to fix broken furnaces and time to laugh together.  Help us all to consider our plans for the futures.  Amen

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Trying to find the place to put your feet....

This week at Gwen's the kids asked to go to "the park with the fake grass".  Needless to say, Gwen knew exactly which park they were talking about.  As you can see in the picture, the entire play area has some kind of artificial grass that is also very spongy to walk on.  It does seem odd since most of the playgrounds around here have either some kind of wood chips or rubber chips.  I can see why this is memorable for the kids.  This playground also has some really different play structures, including this one that Zeke has mastered.  He actually climbed to the very top and went down the other side!  I was watching him and thinking about just how difficult it is when you are trying to figure out where to put your feet - especially when you can't see your feet!

That is certainly how I have felt in the last few months.  I've been trying to figure out exactly where I should be putting my feet.  Not to climb - but simply to find the correct path to walk on.  I think it is especially difficult when you don't seem to have a clear idea of what the destination looks like.  I know that I want to be in the place that Jesus has for me.  But I am not exactly sure what that place is!
I have had times in the last year when I THINK I have found that open door and I begin to move towards it, only to have it shut right before my eyes.  There were a couple of times that I thought I was actually going to be moving in such a different direction that it almost seemed like I was going backwards.  But then suddenly that path faded away and I found myself standing in exactly the same spot as before..  I've been hearing that many people feel like this is a time of shaking and transition.  I can agree with the shaking since you feel that most clearly when you are standing still.  It is just the transition piece that hasn't seemed to happen for me.  At one point early this year, I blogged about feeling so called to Kenya again.  I had an opportunity to work with a church that was in the beginning stages of partnering with a ministry in Kenya.  As I got a few months into this, it didn't seem like this was the correct fit for me.  Over the summer months off from meetings,  I have been in prayer for a decision regarding my participation in this group,  Just as I had reached a decision that this might not be the place I needed to walk, I got an unexpected contact from a pastor in Kenya.  While there is no connection between this pastor and the group I've been meeting with, this surprise message was a reminder to me that Kenya is calling out to me.  So I got the message and will continue to walk forward and participate in this group.

Isn't it interesting how Jesus gets our attention?  Within hours of that decision I made to step away from the Kenyan ministry, a pastor friend that I had not heard from since 2013 decided to send me a personal message.  Sometimes Jesus knows that you need that extra bit of encouragement to make the correct decision.  I'm not sure what is on the horizon regarding Kenya for me.  I feel exactly like that photo of Zeke.  I am off of the ground and out of my comfort zone and I can't quite see my feet.  So I am just moving ahead and trusting that Jesus is helping me find the place to plant my feet.

This has been an interesting week for me also as far as this blog goes.  I noticed that there was an unusual amount of traffic reading my blog.  And the most interesting thing was looking at the map of blog hits.  There were hits from all over the globe.  The list of blog readers included the United States, Kenya, Germany, France, Portugal, Ukraine, Russia, Argentina, China, Finland, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, India and Indonesia.   I've said it before and I'll say it again -  I just don't get it.  The only explanation for this is that the Holy Spirit is leading people to read the things that I am sharing from my daily life.  In total truth telling, I was at a point of considering, once again, stopping this blog.  And every time that I begin to feel like I have nothing valuable to share, the number of readers increase.  It has to be a God thing.  So for now, I will continue to share in total honesty with all of you.  Even though I don't feel like I have any idea where I supposed to be going.  Even though I don't feel like I have anything worthy of sharing.  You are getting the real deal on this blog.  The good, the bad and the straight up real deal.

If you are in this place with me - you don't know exactly what or where you are supposed to be going, know that I will be praying for you.  The one assurance I have for you is that you are not alone!  And sometimes all it takes is knowing that there is one person out there that is feeling the same way you are to get you to take that first step.  Leave me a comment if you are in the same boat as me and I promise to pray for you as I ask that you pray for me!

Jesus, thank you for reminding me that you will get my attention when I don't seem to be getting your message.  Holy Spirit, continue to guide me and help me to find the path that I need to be walking.  Thank you for all the readers of this blog.  Give them great peace as they encounter Jesus as they read these words.  Thank you Jesus for always being with us and always loving us.   Amen