Sunday, October 30, 2016

Finding the flowing water....

This past few days I have been away at a wonderful Conference put on by Chicago HUB, the Ministry Group that I attend.  HUB stands for His United Body and this group is really a picture of that unity.  The days (and evenings and nights) were filled (and I mean filled) with top notch, well known speakers.  There was actually more than one worship team and the worship was just amazing at every session.  The prayer and intercession times, led by a really neat guy who is a part of HUB, were incredible.  It was truly an international event with people from all over the world in attendance.  The nations came to Chicago and then together, we turned our focus to Jesus and His promises!

The Conference Center where this event was held, is an amazing place.  The design is actually a Frank Lloyd Wright design.  There are all of the typical marks of his architecture including lots of angles and water!  This waterfall is in the center of the conference center.  When I had a few minutes to spare, I would stand and listen to this waterfall - either from the second story or from the downstairs area.  I have blogged before about my draw to flowing water of any kind, and this waterfall certainly works for me!  On the third day of the event, I was standing overlooking this waterfall,  in line to enter the meeting.  A man standing in front of me pointed out that there was one fish swimming in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall.   I had never noticed that fish before!  We chatted about how interesting it was that there was only one fish and also about the obvious repairs that have been made to the waterfall.  It is pretty clear that there is some damage to the base of this structure and it looks like they are trying to keep the whole thing from falling down!

After getting home very late last night, I have felt a bit "foggy" today.  In honesty, the conference is still going on!  But I was just so tired that I knew that I needed to be at home today, resting and taking in all that I had heard over the previous days.  As I sat down to write this blog, the first thing that came into my mind was that waterfall.  And that one lonely fish.  Considering everything I had seen and heard and experienced this seemed really interesting to me!  Why the waterfall and why that fish?

Well, I have often felt like that one lonely fish, swimming around in pool, all by myself.  I would think, "Wow! This is such a great place and all the things around me are so amazing!  Where is everyone else?"  But this conference was very different for me.  I was surrounded by my "tribe".  Several of my small group friends were also at this conference.  So I certainly was not feeling like that lonely fish, was I?   Well, have you ever heard that you can be really lonely even if you are surrounded by a large crowd of people?  Even people that you know well?   Yes, I guess I was feeling a bit like that fish.  And I am sure that there were other people who also were feeling sort of alone.  Suddenly I understood what this feeling was all about.  I was remembering.  

The speaker last night was someone that I had heard many, many times in the 1990's,  Dr. Rodney Howard-Browne.    If you take a moment and click on that link with his name, and read about his ministry, you will be amazed.  The man is on a mission to change the world and he is succeeding.  In those early years of his ministry, before 2002, he was known for the laughter and other signs and wonders that followed him.  In 2002 the direction of his ministry shifted to winning souls and he shared last night that he believes that his ministry has won over 10,000,000 souls for Jesus.  Yes that is 10 MILLION!  All of those amazing signs and wonders still follow this man's message. As a matter of fact, they have INCREASED!   He actually said that he has not been back to Chicago for 20 years! After last night he indicated that he just might come and do a 30 day crusade here!  That would be amazing.

Anytime that he would be at an event, during those long ago days,  there would be a flurry of activity to plan lots of car pools so that we could all attend.  We would trade off driving since the events where usually held quite a distance from us.  I recall that the drives back and forth and the fellowship in the cars was a wonderful part of the experience.  But 20 years is a long time.  As I sat there last night, listening to his message, I felt sad that I was not sitting with any of those people from the past.  We have all seemed to go our different ways.  I was thankful for my new "tribe" - my wonderful friends that surround me and pray for me.  But I was missing those old friends.  It's funny how a shared experience stays with you for so long.  Here I was, experiencing this great man, once again.  But there was no one to remember those long ago meetings.  No one to share those memories.

But in all of that, one of the BIGGEST messages of the entire conference was to leave the PAST in the PAST!  To move on and take those steps into those new places and into new experiences.  Several of the speakers talked of that river of living water that is FLOWING out of our belly.  A river that never stays in one place, that moves and flows and grows as it flows.  The message was to do something with everything we have heard.   To go and to share and to love the world.

Yes, I can see now what Jesus has been saying to me tonight.  It is a reminder to keep looking up and moving on.  Something that so many of us seem to forget from time to time.  Me included.  That lone fish had a message for me.  Stop looking down at the pool and look up!  Notice the ever flowing water.  I needed to see this man of God, to hear his story, to understand how Jesus moves us all along the path and even changes our direction.  But when we find ourselves flowing into new and strange places, away from people we have been so close to, we need to be reminded that we are not alone!  Jesus is with us and there will be new people coming along side of us to share this part of our journey.  We need to just keep on flowing.....

It has been a very full few days.  I have pages and pages of notes to pour over and digest and chew on.  But I am so thankful that there are reminders of all that Jesus has done.  I am sure that Jesus will be there with you wherever you are along that path.  Just keep looking up at Jesus and take that first step.  And I am talking to myself tonight!

Jesus, thank you for these times out of our normal routines.  We need the interruptions of daily life so that we can remember what is really important.  It is all about you. Its all about that flowing, living water of the Holy Spirit.  Help us all to absorb what you are saying tonight.  Speak it deep into our hearts today.  Amen

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

When things just go right........

This happy girl, Lia, had so much fun using her "Easy Bake Oven" to make this cake with me on Monday.  She is actually quite capable of making REAL cake in the REAL oven, but being able to do this totally on her own was just a great activity for a Monday morning.   I got to "supervise" the entire process and that little cake is actually TWO cakes that are layered into one halfway decent serving of cake.  The entire process took us about an hour by the time we let the Easy Bake oven heat up, cooked two cakes and cooled them off.  During the time that we were busy in the kitchen, Anna was quite happy playing with her beloved "little people".   She is so into imaginative play right now.  It is fun to listen to her talking for each of the little people.  This airplane "talks" and one of the things that it says is that it is "take off time"!  I watched as Anna picked up the plane and flew it around the room!  I just love seeing kids learn as they play.

At the same time, Zeke and Ellie were playing school!  Now this is not so unusual for kids to play school.  What was unusual was that they were playing "HOME SCHOOL"!  Ellie was the teacher and Zeke was the student and Ellie was helping him learn his letters and numbers.  She was also helping him learn to read.  And then, just like Gwen, she was reading to him!
This is quite the accomplishment for a girl who has had a difficult time herself learning to read!  It was so good to stand in another room and hear her read book after book to Zeke, as the teacher of his class! 

Yes, the hours just flew by on Monday and so quickly it was time for lunch and Gwen's return home.  It was one of those days when everything just seemed to go right!  Everyone got along, there were no disagreements, I don't remember one unreasonable request.  Yes, it was just a great day.

Isn't life funny that way?  Sometimes things just "click" and everything seems to go right in your day.  But then just as quickly, everything that you touch seems to fall apart and your day just goes downhill fast.  Last week, I had one of those not so good days.  It started when I got out bed and realized that I was feeling very light headed and dizzy.  Several little annoying things happened before I even left the bedroom - I dropped a bottle of contact solution, spilling out a large amount.  I ran into the foot board of the bed and broke my toenail AGAIN! (Why does it seem that you always manage to hit the same toe over and over?)  Well, you get the idea.  And the rest of the day went pretty much the same way.  One little irritating thing after the other.  But here is the thing -  I didn't stop to realize that I was letting all of this little stuff really get me down.  As a matter of fact, it was actually several days later that I put two and two together and got the message that I had let these small issues become one very large package that I was trying to carry around.   I remember hearing a story about this exact thing!  If you have a small amount of weight gradually added to your back pack, you really don't notice how heavy it is becoming until suddenly, it is very hard to carry and you have a bad back ache!  If you filled up the back pack with all the weight at once, you would never be able to lift it onto your back and would never attempt to carry it all.  

And that is how all those little things can become one really big problem.  You think that they are not bothering you.  You don't really feel the weight of each small thing.  Then another really small thing happens and you realize that you are crushed by the weight of a combined big problem made up of all the small things.  It is the "straw that broke the camels back"!   My take away on this topic is to remember to stop and think before I just let a small thing drop into my backpack.  On that not so good day I had, wouldn't it have helped me to stop and realize that I should take some allergy medicine to help with the dizziness?  If I had,  I might not have run into the bed and hurt my toe!   I also would not have been fighting a headache for the rest of the day.  And I am sure that each small thing was even more annoying to me because of that.  Most of all, I should have just stopped and taken some time to worship and pray.  I am sure that my day would have had a much different outcome if that had been my response.  It's easy to remember to pray when there is a BIG problem, but so easy to forget when it is just a few small issues.  

Yes, it is all about keeping your focus on what is really important. And remembering who can take care of it all!   We can so easily become distracted by life.  All of the small things and the big things that are clammering around us.  I know that I could not get through my days without my times of worship and prayer that remind me to keep my eyes on Jesus.  That really good day on Monday seemed even better to me, because of that really not so good day I had last week.  It is all about perspective, isn't it?  And gratefulness.  I am so thankful that Jesus has his hand on me.  On the good days!  And on the not so good days!

Jesus, thank you for your continual presence with us in all the times of our life.  When things are going well and when things are not so good.  Holy Spirit, give us those reminders that we need to not hold on to the little things.  Help us to cast our cares on Jesus and keep our load light.  Thank you Jesus for a wonderful, fun day with the kids!  Amen

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Comfort food from the past......

(This is my second attempt at writing this blog.  Suddenly, my screen went white and I lost the entire blog that I had written.  When I went back to the "saved" post, it was also blank!  UGHHH!  Very frustrating!  So I will begin again......)

I just got up from a wonderful Sunday dinner that was as filled with memories as it was with good food.  This meal was one that I could have eaten 50 years ago!  My mom made this often on a Sunday and I loved the smell of this meal cooking as much as the eating!  What is this great meal? Pot Roast, cooked with carrots in the juice, mashed potatoes and gravy.  Yep, simple comfort food.  Each bite tonight was a bit of good feelings from my past.  Isn't it funny how a meal can cause you to be flooded with memories?

While we were on our short get away last week, Ken had one of those great "memory meals".  I had no idea what this was when he ordered it, but he was so excited when he saw this on the menu....
We didn't think to get a picture of this when it was brought to the table, so what you have here is part of a "Pony Shoe"!  Yes, that's right - a "Pony shoe".  Also on the menu was a "Horseshoe".  Needless to say, I had never heard of this. If you are not from Central Illinois I will give you the actual definition of a "Horseshoe"....

The Horseshoe is an open faced sandwich originating in Springfield, Illinois.  It consists of two slices of toasted thick Texas Toast bread, two hamburger patties covered with french fries, and then covered with a "secret cheese sauce".   This can also be made with a fried pork patty, ham or fried chicken.  A Pony shoe is one piece of bread with one patty of meat, covered in the same fries and cheese sauce. 

Ken's food memory goes back about 30 years when he used to go to motorcycle races in Springfield each year.  Apparently he often ate a horseshoe or pony shoe while in Springfield.  It was fun to watch him savor this really unusual meal, while I ate a plain old hamburger!  

It's interesting how food can really bring those memories flooding back.  I don't have many foods that are memory filled but my meal tonight certainly was.  It's funny how times of missing my mom, just happen.  Tonight I understood the missing since this was one of her favorite meals also.  I can't imagine how many times she cooked that meal for her family.  Even in the last years when we visited her, she would make this meal.  Yes, special, special memories.  Comfort in spite of the missing.  

Earlier (before my screen when white and I lost my first blog post), I was thinking about another "Comfort Food" - Communion.  That special celebration meal always brings me that same memory filled experience that other comfort foods do.  Even the smell of the wine and the candles burning are reminders of that great meal to come.  That simple cup and bread bring the greatest comfort and peace of any food.  I love that Jesus knew that we would need a tangible thing to hold on to, to taste and to eat and drink.  I love these verses from Matthew 26:26-28

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying,“Drink from it, all of you. 
28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Every single Communion time is a time of comfort food.   And it is also comfort food filled with memories of all that Jesus accomplished on the cross for us.  Don't you just love that the Holy Spirit reminded me of Communion as I was thinking about my great dinner?

So a great Sunday dinner, followed by a pony shoe. Then memories of my mom and ended with some thoughts on Communion.  Not much better than that.   I am convinced that there is some reason that this blog really needs to be written.  I have found that the more difficult a post is to write, the more necessary it is for those that read them!  So for the second time........  here it is!

Jesus, thank you for all that you provide for us each day.  Thank you for food that fills our bodies with nutrients and fills our souls with comfort.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your gentle reminders that help us understand the great gift of Communion.  Jesus, bless everyone who reads these words with your comfort and peace.   Amen

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A couple of thoughts from our trip with Abe....

So Ken and I took a little get away this week to our State Capitol - Springfield.  It is also the home of Abraham Lincoln and the site of his Presidential Library and Museum.  His tomb is also in a local cemetery along with many graves from the Civil War.  Because we decided to do this trip in October and in the middle of the week, the town was mostly deserted.  We started out our tour at the cemetery and his tomb.  We were the only people there.  It was kind of odd since that location is usually full of tour buses and school groups.  It was quiet and very solemn.  Walking inside the tomb is an experience and the statues that fill the halls are amazing.  I am extremely glad that we started our day there.  By the time we were leaving, the parking lot was filling up.  We decided to use the 80 degree weather to visit some of the botanic gardens in Springfield.  Once again, we were alone to wander the trails and see the beautiful flowers that are all still in bloom.  It was a wonderful spot to stop and rest and pray.  Just as I rounded a corner, I came upon this beautiful statue....
It was called "Angel of Hope".  This spot was dedicated to all who have lost an infant or child.  It was so peaceful.  I couldn't get over how fitting it was that stumbled onto this spot.  The words around the bottom of the statue say..."With Hope in her wing, let anyone who has felt the loss of a child find this place to mourn and heal".  I sat in this spot for a few minutes, remembering Lucas and feeling so thankful for the hope that Jesus has brought to our entire family during the last two years.  This was fitting with the 15th of October being a day of remembrance of infant loss, as well as Lucas' upcoming birthday.  

As Ken and I were leaving this garden, we happened to notice this on a pine tree near the parking area....
You could actually see the sap still dripping out of the cut off branch.  It was as if the tree was crying for the cut off branch!  All I could think about was all the tears that our family has poured out after losing Lucas.  It is true that the entire family has felt the pain of this little branch of our family that was cut off, why to soon.  What a fitting reminder from nature. 

After this garden we headed to Lake Springfield.  There is another nature reserve that is really just a wooded area with trails.  We took a trail toward the lake and ended up in this amazing spot...
There was a wonderful bench right on the trail.  I sat on that bench while Ken wandered off, taking lots and lots pictures.  This was my view from that spot.  There was a large flock of white pelicans on the lake and it was breathtaking to watch them take off.  They are BIG!  I loved the sound of the water lapping at the shoreline.  The wind was quite brisk, which was great for me (the breeze cooled me off) but not so good for Ken who was trying to focus on the leaves and plants that were swaying in the gusts of wind!  I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent in this spot.  

We walked around downtown Springfield and Ken took some really cool sunset pictures over the old State Capitol Building.  By the end of the evening we were quite glad to retreat to our hotel.  That spot by the Capitol was not such a great spot to be after dark.  

Today we visited more of the Lincoln spots.  We saw the house that the Lincoln family lived in for almost 20 years before moving to the White House.  Most of the furniture was reproductions since Abe and Mary sold all of their things before moving to Washington DC.  Mary never returned to Springfield to live after the funeral for Abe and her son (who had died in Washington DC).   We toured the Lincoln Museum and also the Old State Capitol.  We saw the Law Office where he began his career, and the depot that received his body when it returned home for burial.  

This was an interesting time to visit Springfield.  In the Museum there was an entire room that had floor to ceiling political cartoons that were actually in the newspapers when Lincoln was running for president.  Let me tell you, they were not nice!  There was obviously lots of "mud slinging" going on, even in 1860!  Ken and I were talking about just how interesting it was that Lincoln was a "dark Horse" kind of candidate.  Not an expected person to run.  Someone who did not have a great success rate when he DID run.  An unknown from the back woods.  Yet, after he was elected, he would change the face of the United States of America.  And this much loved president was greatly mourned after his assassination.  It is hard not to draw a comparison to what is happening right now in our election process.  At one point in that room with all those cartoons, they had an audio track running with actual quotes from people during that election process.  Some of the quotes I heard were...
"He is a bumbling idiot and should not be in the White House".  "He is a loud mouth oaf".  "He has no formal manners"   "He's not fit to represent the United States"     

I don't think I have to say anything else about this.  But you can imagine exactly what I was thinking listening to all of those things from 1860 and feeling like I might have just turned on my television to a local news station here in 2016.  I guess not much has changed in politics in 156 years!

What I have come away with from this trip is a renewed sense of hope for the United States and this election process.  Even during such a divided time as the civil war, we managed to find our way back into a unified nation.  I needed this reminder that God was in control in 1860 and Lincoln came into the White House.  And God is in control in 2016.  

I am so thankful for the times of peace and reflection that I had in the gardens of Springfield.  Because of that time, I was able to really see and experience all of this Lincoln history.  That was a terrible time for the United States.  And yet, here we are so blessed and so privileged, compared to so many around the world.   Yes, this was a great, short vacation.  It certainly helped me to refocus and remember that Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings!  He's got me and my family.  And He's got the United States.  Time for me to relax and breathe out!

Jesus, thank you for times away from our routines that let us refocus and remember that YOU are in control!  What an amazing creator God you are that we can see your handiwork in the flowers and trees and birds that are all around us.  Holy Spirit, thank  you for providing exactly what we need, just when we need it!  Amen

Monday, October 17, 2016

A great accomplishment..........that takes lots of training!

This past weekend Tim ran his first Marathon!  This is just as he crossed the finish line.  All I can say is WOW!  We are all so proud of this great accomplishment.  Less than 1% of the population has ever completed a marathon.  And he did it well!  I can not imagine running for 26.2 miles.  It seems just impossible to me that people set out to do this in a few hours!  Our whole family came out to watch him cross the finish line.  Doug and Susie and Ken and I got there in plenty of time to  watch this happen.  Gwen and the kids had been sort of following Tim around the course to catch a glimpse of him at various mile markers.  Gwen had the kids make these signs and they loved cheering for daddy at each stop along the way.  And they were there when he crossed the finish line!
There is something so positive about the kids seeing their mom and dad finish these very difficult races.  The kids have watched as mom and dad have trained for months in preparation for these runs.  All of the kids have biked or ran or ridden in a stroller on some of these runs.  This was truly a family accomplishment.  One that the kids will not forget anytime soon.

Today when I was with the kids, we got to talking about the race and just how special it was to be there to see their Daddy complete this event.  Even Anna had many, many words to say about the race and just how good it was to see Daddy run.   This conversation ran into talking about the Bible verse "with God all things are possible".  It was an interesting discussion and they all concluded that I should be able to run a marathon because of this verse!  Of course we had a bit more talk about exactly what that Bible verse could mean.  It was good to explain that if God needed me to run a marathon, THEN he would make it possible!  It is an entirely different thing to just think I could set off and do the race without training and preparing for it, expecting God to take care of me.  I'm not sure how much of the discussion they actually understood, but it was good to talk with them about the actions required of us when we are seeking something from God.  

Today Anna wanted to look just like Lia.  So they both had pigtails in their hair.  They both had purple shirts and both wore "tutus" (skirts to the rest of the world).  Anna is suddenly so old.  She holds long conversations about so many subjects.  She remembers everything!  And she copies all of her older siblings!  Today she spent the better part of two hours riding her tricycle up and down the sidewalk.  She has mastered the art of the peddles!  Once she figured out that she could actually do this, she did not want to stop!  In followup to our conversation about the race, I reminded the kids that Anna was in training for the time that she would be able to ride a two wheel bike without training wheels!  All of this time riding her trike is helping her muscles and her balance.  Ellie and Zeke spent some time on their roller skates today and I reminded them that this is just practice for those roller blades that they would like to have.  

Yes, there is so much in life that takes lots of practice and often tedious training time.  Even as I sit here at my computer, typing away, I am reminded of just how hard it was at first to figure out a computer.  But after years and years of practice, it is easier now.  The thing is, tomorrow my computer will be out of date and then there will be another new thing.  And I will need to practice with that until I have mastered it.   It seems like with each new "update" things change and you have to get used to doing something a bit different.  But you just have plug along and soon it comes easy.  

We need these times of really extraordinary accomplishments to remind us all that we can set goals and meet them!   We can look beyond our day to day routine and shoot for that higher target.  I know that I am guilty of selling myself short.  I don't think that I can reach a goal, so I don't even try.  Tim's race reminded me that all you need is a plan and a set of steps to work towards a goal.  This was a message that I really needed to hear right now.  

Maybe you also have been thinking about an idea or goal or vision and it just seemed......impossible.  Today I believe that if you make that blueprint, if you take the time to build a solid plan, you can take small baby steps towards that goal.  Just like Anna on that trike, we can practice and practice at a much smaller scale than our completed project/goal/vision.  But we will get there!  All in due time!

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that there are steps that we need to take to reach those goals set before us.  Holy Spirit, help us all to see where we are right now, as a stepping stone towards that higher goal.  Give us grace to practice, faith to continue, and hope for the outcome.  Amen

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

It's all in the design.............

I spent the last weekend with Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna while Gwen and Tim were on retreat with their church.  Let me tell you that spending three days and two nights with four children is not for the faint of heart.  There was more than one time that I wondered if I could actually get up from my seated position on the ground!  Thankfully, the weather was wonderful and we spent a great deal of the time outside.  It was a wonderful, amazing, time that I was sad to see end.  Anna especially was more than ready for mommy and daddy to be home.  Grandma is okay - but she needed her mommy.  The kids were really good and there were no sickness' or injuries.  Really a miracle when you have four little ones.   A lot of time was spent doing this.......

The girls discovered this Spirograph and spent hours (yes hours) sitting at the table making designs.  Even Anna really loved doing this.  Zeke wasn't interested in this and actually was away at a soccer game during these hours.  This is his first year playing soccer and it has rained every single week - until this game.  And Zeke scored a goal!  Yay Zeke!  I was so thankful that Ms. Lianne and Mr. Dan picked him up so that he didn't have to miss this game.  Ms. Lianne sent me this picture of Zeke having a snack after the game - which they won!  

Lia and I even had time to make a batch of sugar cookies.  She is quite the little baker.  Her dad has taught her well!  She knew exactly how to roll out the dough and was able to really handle all the process.
She wanted to save these cookies for mommy and daddy, so we each only eat a couple!  Ellie was her usual very creative self during this weekend.  She has taken pieces of various boxes and cut them, covered them with paper and made furniture for her American Girl doll. Nothing is trash to Ellie.

She can find a purpose for everything.  She will, however, keep the tape and glue people in business!  And staples also!  Anna spent her time just following after the big kids for the most part.  She does still spend a great deal  of time playing with her "Little People". (Thank you to whoever at Fisher Price thought up this amazing concept)
Anna has quite the collection of Little People and all of the "people" are stored in a bin.  Anna spent several hours sorting that bin and put the animals and people each with their own kind!  The only "grandpa" is the Noah figure from the Noah's Ark set.  Sadly there is no grandma which really bothered Anna.  She looked and looked and never could find a suitable figure to be grandma. (I was thinking she might pick one of the princess figures LOL! She thought this was a really silly idea.  You should have seen her face when I tried to suggest that!).  Needless to say, all five  of us had plenty of fun throughout the days together.  

I was thinking about those designs that the girls had done with the Spirograph.  It's all about how each piece fits together and then exactly where you put the pen that makes each design so unique.  When the girls discovered that the colored pencils also worked, the designs took on a whole new color hue.  Spending some time with each one of these four sweeties helped me to see the unique design that God put inside each of them.   I have mentioned in previous blogs that I had some prophetic words for each of them before they were born and it is so interesting to see hints of those words coming through their personalities - even at this young age.  And these kinds of characteristics are not something that could be "created" by their parents or any other person.  Ellie is the most caring and loving child I have ever seen.  While she is extremely protective of all of her "important" things (think paper scraps that look like trash, old advertising brochures, and other junk mail plus anything that might resemble a useful object to Ellie) she will literally give you the shirt off of her back if she thinks that you need it and/or want it.  She is the first to run to comfort anyone who is hurt or scared. She looks for the one that might be alone and tries to be their friend.  But there is also this side of Ellie that is fierce and strong.  She will stand her ground and not give an inch.  This is part of that unique design that is Ellie.  When you first see Lia you might be surprised to find out that she is on her way to 11 years old. She seems small and somewhat fragile but I have never met a young girl who is as clear about who she is and what God has planned for her than Lia.  Her word as a "little bird with a big voice" could not be more perfect for her.  Let me tell you that that girl has a voice that can be heard a long way away!  Kids are drawn to her and she makes friends really easily.  And she is a loyal and trustworthy friend.  This is a girl that will have the ear of many as she gets older.  She might be small in stature, but she is BIG in her message.  Zeke has that wonderful, inventive, idea filled head of a small boy.  He is nuts about roller coasters and builds then out of any material he can find.  He thinks concretely and imagines that he can build anything that he thinks about.  But inside of that inventor heart is a caring little boy who wants to take everyone with him on his adventures.  This is exactly the kind of person who will strike a path toward Jesus and lead many along with him.  Anna, at not yet three years old just exudes personality.  No matter where you go, people are drawn to her.  It is more than that she is a cute little girl.  There is just something about her, even at this young age, that seems to know more than she should.  And in that, makes you want to know all about the secrets that she has.  She will have a following someday.  

Isn't it amazing to see God's handiwork - right in front of your eyes?  Each of us has that same unique "bent" and if we were to consider what that might be, we would be amazed.  There is a plan and purpose of each of us that is different from anyone else.  There are things that we need to accomplish and places that we need to go that are ours alone.  No matter what age we are right now, we need to accept and understand the unique set of traits that Jesus has brought together in us and then we need to boldly go forth and use these gifts and talents.  Unfortunately, our culture has taught us that we need to try to be "successful" and to fit into molds.  Seeing the wonder of the creator so clearly in these small children has convinced me, once again, how important it is for us to know our destiny!
And more than that, we have to use those gifts and talents.  

In the last few months (okay - years) I have been guilty of becoming quite happy just sitting and waiting until I was sure that I knew exactly what and where I was supposed to go to fulfill that destiny.  It took a couple of pretty clear "kick in the pants" moments to convince me that I need to take that first step out.  Unfortunately, we don't often get an entire road map or route plan when Jesus asks us to step out.  We only get a step at a time.  And then the next step.  I was reminded of this verse from Psalm 119:105 -  
    "Your Word is a lamp for my feet a light for my path."

Just enough light (knowledge and inspiration) to show you where to put your foot and then a bit of light to see just ahead of you.   But the Word of Jesus will be there as we step out. 

Okay, I'm ready to go!  How about you?

Jesus, thank you for reminding me that not only do you HAVE plans for each of us, they are good plans.  And you promise to be there with us as take that first, sometimes scary step.  Holy Spirit, remind us that the light we have is enough.  Give us courage and boldness as we seek to discover what is ahead!  Thank you Jesus for children and grandchildren!  Amen

Thursday, October 6, 2016

When a day holds many memories and thoughts on creative ideas...

For some reason I was drawn to this picture today when looking for a photo of my mother-in-law, JoAnne Rowley, to share on this blog.  This photo was taken in 1967 and I decided to use it not only because it is of JoAnne, but also because it is her in the boat that Ken loved on the lake that Ken loved - Lake Malone, KY.  Today is her birthday and she would have been 93. She died in 2009 but  I always remember this date because it is also the anniversary of my engagement (which happened to fall on her 50th birthday).  She was not happy about turning 50 and she was not happy with Ken's decision to marry me.  So in many ways this day represents some very mixed memories.  I am thankful that Ken's mom and dad were around when my children were small and I was able to use them for "emergency" day care when it was absolutely necessary.  Gwen has some pretty sad memories of being with "Close Grandma" when she was sick when Grandma had some "old fashioned" ideas of proper care of a sick child.

I was especially thinking about her creative spirit today.  She was a crafter in all senses of the word.  She knit and did needlepoint.  She sewed.  She was an accomplished painter.  She made baskets.  She did pottery.  She made all kinds of crafts.  One of the first really good memories I have of spending time with her was the year that we made the Santa and Mrs. Clause figurines.  They were made out of foam covered in plaster and then decorated.  It was quite the project that took several days to finish.  I gave my pair to my mom and they were always displayed on her TV at Christmas time.  She just loved them.  JoAnne attempted to teach me all the different needlepoint stitches (which I had never done before).  She had me make a pillow with 12 different stitches so I could practice.  That pillow is still sitting on a shelf in my closet.  It represented so much work for me that I just can't bear to part with it.  Gwen remembers that she had a large weaving loom in their family room and one year she made me a set of placemats that I still use!  As a matter of fact, one of those placemats in currently on my coffee table!  I can't imagine that she thought I would still be using these, but I really love them and appreciate the amount of time it took for her to make them.

I guess I was thinking about all of that creativity because yesterday I heard a prophetic word from a well known teacher about a new spirit of creativity that was being released especially over writers.  As you know, it is impossible to decided to be creative.  You either have that talent or you don't.   You might be able to learn some new skills and even copy what someone else has done, but that spark of true creativity has to come from deep within your spirit.  It takes a certain spark to come up with something that is new and different.  To see something from a totally different perspective and/or to give something a new "twist".  I'm sure we can all think of well known people who have changed the world through a new and creative idea.  We wouldn't have cell phones or computers if someone had not thought of them!  

Thinking about this creativity over writing is interesting.  This could mean a new approach to a familiar subject.  Or it could be a new revelation or a new idea.  Really the possibilities are many.  Many years ago I started writing a document that I thought might become a book.  And I have many notebooks full of ideas that could be shared in some way.  What I need is that spark - that new spirit of creativity to open up the path for these ideas to reach others.  I can only imagine how many other people have notebooks (or computer documents) filled with ideas that have not caught fire and made it to publication.   

Yes, remembering JoAnne and thinking about that creative spark do compliment each other.  It is not an accident that these two ideas came on the same day.  JoAnne did not believe that her creativity came from God.  As a matter of fact she told me that she didn't believe in God.  But I know that Jesus was seeking to reach JoAnne with every painting she painted.  Each of the flowers and landscapes that she painted were a testament to the creator.  And as she captured them on canvas, the Holy Spirit was showing her a glimpse of Jesus.  Even the word "creative" harkens back to THE creator - God.  It is just that creative part of His character that is being expressed through us in any creative thing we do.  

So much to think about and consider in this today.  Remembering who the CREATOR is and honoring Him!  And longing for that new anointing of the creative spirit to spark into new written creations that will bless the world.  

Jesus, thank you for JoAnne and all of Ken's family.  Holy Spirit, continue to show forth the character and nature of God through creation.  Pour out that creative spirit on each of us and fan into flames that spark of creativity.  Unleash new projects and ideas that will change the world and bring many to know Jesus.  Amen

Monday, October 3, 2016

We are all winners.....

Just look at that sweet face!  And that smile!  All of a sudden, Anna looks so old.  I guess that might be because (as she will tell you....) she is "two and half" years old!  I needed that smile today and all those hugs from all four kids!  It is prime time allergy season for me - a fate that happens each fall when we open the windows and shut off the air conditioning.  My head doesn't like this wonderful  fall like weather that is cool and crisp. I seem to have a constant pressure vise around my head and my eyes feel like they are going to pop out of my head!   So I needed those smiles and hugs to get me through this day.  Anna is so ready to be as grown up as her brother and sisters.  She wants to do everything that they do and she is willing to try it all!  The driveway has a slight downward slant - just enough to get a riding toy going at a good clip.  The kids love to have "races" down the drive.  Today it was Zeke and Anna on the track.  Anna had just managed to "lose" her helmet (by saying that she was done on her bike) and before I knew it she was off to the races - without her helmet!  I managed to snap the picture above after I had pointed out that she needed her helmet!   Don't you love that grin?  She knew exactly what she was doing.  And before I could pick up the helmet and get it back on her head... they were off......... 
Anna started the race  "Six, seven eight, GO!" and they were down the driveway.  I snapped the picture with her helmet in my hand.  Fortunately the "race" was pretty tame and she actually stopped about half way down and let me put that helmet on her head!  And the best thing was that Zeke announced that they were both winners!  

In the last few weeks, Ellie and Zeke have been learning about knights in their home school curriculum.  Both have made wonderful books with all things castles and coat of arms and shields.  And on the way home I was thinking about my favorite armor verses - Ephesians 6:10-18.  I was thinking about how many times, like Anna, I don't put on my helmet in what could be a dangerous situation.You know what I mean don't you?  I've let those thoughts fill my head that are not the truth.  I have entertained some very old lie about myself or others.  I've let the enemy distract my thinking. Don't we all do this from time to time?  After I got home, I looked at these verses in my favorite Passion Translation and I was stunned at the clarity that this translation gives to these verses.  I just need to share them with.

Ephesians 6:10-18 - The Passion Translation

Now finally, my beloved ones, be supernaturally infused with strength through your life-union with the Lord Jesus.   Stand victorious with the force of his explosive power flowing in and through you.  Put on the full suit of armor that God wears when he goes into battle, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser!  Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms.  For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage.  Because of this, you must wear all the armor that God provides so you're protected as you confront the slanderer, for you are destined for all things and will rise victorious.  Put on truth as a belt to strengthen you to stand in triumph.  Put on holiness as the protective armor that covers your heart.  Stand on your feet alert, then you'll always be ready to share the blessings of peace as you subdue your enemies.  In every battle, take faith as your wrap-around shield, for it is able to extinguish the blazing arrows coming at you from the evil one!  Embrace the power of salvation's full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies.  And take the mighty Spirit-sword of the spoken Word of God. Pray passionately in the Spirit, as you constantly intercede with every form of prayer at all times.  Pray the blessings of God upon all his believers.  

Man, I will take that tonight!  I need to be infused with that strength!  I love that this entire passage begins with the ultimate ending - who wins!  Notice that in the first two lines it is clear that we are victorious!  Yep, we are winners because of the power - the explosive power (Isn't that just an amazing word picture?) flowing in and through us.  We are the winners!  In the daily battles that we all fight we need to hold on to and know this truth.  Even before the battle begins, we are the winner!  And that is all because of Jesus' work on the cross.  He finished the battle for us.  I know that I needed this reminder today.  No matter what we face, we know that, in the end, we are the winners.  We are destined and will rise victorious!

I just love that Zeke was sharing this truth - even though he didn't even realize the importance of it. He and Anna were both winners.  We are all winners! When we are in this battle called life with Jesus.  My head seems a bit clearer now and I feel much more ready to fight the battle again tomorrow.  Thanks to this wonderful, living piece of the Word of God!

Jesus, thank you for Brian Simmons and The Passion Translation.  Continue to bless his work and all of his travels.  Thank you for the reminder today of the power of the Words of scripture to carry us through each day.   Holy Spirit, you help and guide us by bringing to our mind verses when we most need them.  Thank you for showing us all tonight that we are winners!  Amen

Sunday, October 2, 2016

It is much better to NOT know what is just ahead, around the corner.

We have had a very rainy week and weekend and I know that this has played into my feelings today.  I have been working on scrapbooking for the last week or so.  I am so blessed to have a wonderful space to scrap and also plenty of time to do so.  But, for whatever reason, it has been hard to get into gear and get busy.  I knew that this particular book would be difficult - it is the last few months of 2014.  Yes, I am that far behind on my scrapbooks.  It was probably NOT a good time to work on these pages, with the dreary weather and gloomy beginning of fall.  But I made a commitment to myself to get this book done before my next scrap weekend.  So, I have been plowing through these really difficult pages.  It was not so bad going through the pictures of the wonderful Baby Shower that was given for Doug and Susie.  Then there were some wonderful fall pictures taken at a couple of parks that left you just feeling that crisp fall weather.  Our house got a make over during these months and I scrapped a side-by-side picture of the old look along with the new, updated look.  And then it was time to work on the pictures of Lucas' birth on November 1, 2014.  
I was not prepared for the rush of emotions as I sorted through these pictures. If you have not been following my blog since 2014 you may not know that our sweet little Lucas died just 10 days after his birth.  And although I am just the grandma, I feel this loss every single day.  Each time a thought of Lucas comes to my mind, I try to imagine just how hard this must be for Doug and Susie.  I want to honor Lucas in this scrapbook and I want to remember just how happy and delighted we were at his arrival.  But knowing exactly what was ahead for our family, this is a difficult thing to accomplish.  

October is actually pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.  It is only when someone you know, someone in your family or even you yourself experience this tragedy that you become aware of the widespread nature of this.  So many people have been touched by this, yet it is so seldom spoken about.  Every single member of our family has felt the loss of Lucas - each of us in our own way.  
Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna miss their cousin and mention him often.  Lucas is and will always be a part of our family.  Each of us carry him with us into the future.   And now our family is anxiously anticipating the birth of a new baby for Doug and Susie - due in February of 2017.  This new life will never change our loving and remembering and missing Lucas.  But today we celebrate this expected baby.  

Yes, I have decided that it is much better to NOT know what might be ahead. Especially when trying to remember and capture a happy event that is followed by a tragedy.  In spite of this difficulty, I will press on and finish these scrapbook pages.  But it is also a reminder to me of the importance of capturing in photos and journaling, events of every day.  There is always something to be celebrated in each day.  This is another plea to just remember to be present in the PRESENT.  

This is the day the Lord has made!  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!   

None of us knows what is ahead for us.  Things happen each day that change the future for some of us.  Right now there is a very dangerous hurricane in the Atlantic basin that is headed for Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba.  And then it may take aim at the east coast of Florida and the rest of the US.   Some people will face illness, accidents or even sudden death.  Yet we know that our hope and our peace is found in Jesus.  This is the day that the Lord has made.....we need to rejoice and be glad.  We also need to remember that nothing is gained by worrying about the future.  Jesus reminded us of this in Matthew 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  
Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Won't you join me today and find something to rejoice about and be glad about?  Even if you are also joining me in this month of October remembering a precious little baby that was gone far to soon.  Take a photo today of something that made you smile.  Spend a minute or two or five or twenty writing down your thoughts.  Celebrate whatever October 2, 2016 had for you.  Be present today with the presence of Jesus.  Make a memory today worthy of a scrapbook.  Even if it doesn't actually get into the pages until sometime in the future.  You will be so glad that you did.

Jesus, thank you for the powerful reminder that you want us to rejoice and be glad every day - even when that day might hold troubles.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the comfort and peace that only you can give to all of the families that know the pain of the loss of a child.  Help us all to hold each other close during times of trouble.  Jesus, protect those in the path of Hurricane Matthew.  Amen