Thursday, August 10, 2017

No matter what, safe inside His hands...

Today I snapped this amazing picture of sweet Grace with Lucas Bear.  (This special bear was created in honor of Grace's big brother Lucas - you can read about Lucas here).  Grace is six months old! The time has gone by so fast and it is amazing to see her grow and change.  Lately it seems like she has some new accomplishment every day.  As I took this picture all I could think about was this song...Hills and Valleys by Tauren Wells.  Being with Grace is certainly a reminder of those "Mountain Top" times.  And the lose of Lucas was a valley time for our entire family.   Please stop and listen to this incredible song.   It grabs you from the opening line.....

I've walked among the shadows, you wiped my tears away.  I've felt the pain of heartbreak, and I've seen the brighter days.  I prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place, and I've held your blessings....

The point of the song is captured in the title "Hills and Valleys"....  You're the God of the hills and the valleys and I am not alone!   Wow!  Is there any message that is more needed right now?  Yes, God is the God of the good times and the bad times.  He is the joy bringer and the pain taker.  He does give and take away.  He gives blessings and takes away our pain and sorrow.   I love the line that says...
No matter what, I am safe inside His hands!

Once again, a song that just resonates with me.  And when I look at this picture, it is like seeing the words of that song.  We have certainly had our hills and valleys since 2014.  But I can say, with full assurance, that I know that Jesus was with me through it all.  He was there in the valley and it was His grace that has taken my pain.  When my dreams were broken, it was Jesus that gave me hope.  
Such truth in a song.  When we are in those mountain top places,when things are going so well,  when everything seems wonderful.... we need to remember that it was God who brought us there.  He is the God of the hills.   When we are in those really tough places, WE ARE NOT ALONE!  Jesus is right there with us, walking through those valleys.  No matter where we are on life's path, no matter what is going on, our companion is Jesus.

The chorus of this wonderful song says....
On the mountains I will bow my life to the one who set me there.
In the valley I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there.
When I'm standing on the mountain I know I didn't get there on my own.
When I'm walking through the valley, I know I'm not alone.  

Yes, this picture of Grace and Lucas Bear is a picture of the hills and valleys.  It is also a picture of love and hope and so much joy and blessing! 

Jesus, thank you for another amazing song and for Tauren Wells.  Thank you for the reminder that you are always with us - in good times and in hard times.  Holy Spirit, encourage us to lift our eyes to Jesus when it seems dark and hard and remind us who brought us into those mountain top places. Thank you Jesus for Grace and Lucas.  Amen

Sunday, August 6, 2017

When there is another generational "shift".....

 This photo is one of my all time favorites.  My mom, my daughter, my granddaughter and me.  I am so thankful that we got that picture when Lia was just a few months old.  So tonight, sitting here at my computer, (thanks to the marvels of modern technology), I experienced another "Generational Shift".  I just watched as Lia was leading worship for a youth praise service at her church.  As I was watching her, I was flashing back to sitting in a pew with my mom, watching Gwen lead worship when she was just a bit older than Lia is now.  And I was remembering my mom watching with tears in her eyes.

I took a couple of screen shots of the video, just to capture this moment.  Besides singing, Lia also played keyboard on a couple of songs. That last picture is Gwen and Lia at the keyboard.  Suddenly, I am the grandma with tears in her eyes.  It is one thing to know that your children and grandchildren love the Lord, it is quite another thing to see them publicly express that love.  I am so grateful that Lia has a place to grow as a worship leader. Right now, she looks like a baby compared to the other youth leading worship.  But in several years, she will be the leader welcoming new youth to the stage.  I love this "mentoring" model that keeps building for the future by bringing the youngest youth into the group.  I can imagine many years watching Lia at the microphone, or the keyboard, or dancing....well you get the idea.  She is a performer for sure. And I love that she is able to grow in her gifting.

On Friday I had the opportunity to watch both Lia and Ellie perform in an musical after a week at "Spotlight" Camp.
Both Lia and Ellie had some speaking parts and both sang at the microphone by themselves.  They sang and danced in many songs.  It was really amazing what they can accomplish in 5 short days with these kids from 6-12 years old.  While Lia looks like she is loving every minute that she is on stage, it was not so much for Ellie.  She has a big smile here, AFTER the performance.  She did so well with all of her songs, dances and speaking part and solos, but she was just not loving it.  Ellie will be a wonderful behind the scenes person.  She will be the one designing the costumes, arranging the hair and makeup, finding just the perfect accessory for the performers to wear.  And mostly, she will be holding a hand of someone dealing with stage fright, she will be hugging someone else who isn't feeling well.  She will be everyone's friend and will make sure that everyone has something to eat and drink.  Because, well, that is just who Ellie is.  Seeing just how different these two girls are, is a great reminder that there is a plan, a purpose and destiny for each of us.  

Just imagine how many more worship leaders, teachers, pastors and evangelists, how many more "good samaritans", helpers, intercessors, greeters, ushers, servers we would have if we started to encourage these obvious gifts of the children around us.   So often adults decide that children need to wait to "grow up" before they can use their gifts.  But I think this is a mistake. Watching Lia on the stage tonight confirmed that for me.  

Yes, it was a night when I felt that shift of the generations.  Looking back, but also looking ahead.  I love that I can get a glimpse of the  amazing working of the Lord as I see the potential in each of my grandchildren.  I challenge you to look around you at the children, youth and young adults you encounter. Look at the adults around you also!   Look beyond their clothes or their hair style, ignore their tattoos or piercings, and see the marvelous gifts and talents that they have.  Encourage them, mentor them.  Give them a place and means to use those talents.  You will be blessing them....but you will be blessed also!

Jesus, thank you for Fellowship of Faith and Boulder Ministry.  Holy Spirit, give us all reminders to look for ways to mentor and  encourage those around us.  Help us to see the unique gifts and talents that you have given to each person.  Keep us from trying to put others into places that just don't fit them.  Jesus, help us all to know that you have a plan, a purpose and a destiny for each of us!  Amen

Thursday, July 27, 2017

When that "Aha" moment brings you truth.....

You know how it is when so many little things just kind of come crashing together and give you one of those "Aha" moments?  Well, I sort of had one of those times today.  Backing up a bit, on Sunday Ken and I went with all the kids and grandkids to the waterpark.  It was a wonderful day spent swimming and playing that ended with pizza at Doug and Susie's house.  It was Grace's first time in the water and she loved it.  Here is a bonus picture of the kids.....

 After that event, I happened to be talking to one of my friends about swimming, being at the lake, and my mom.  So of course, I was thinking about my mom.  The picture at the top of this blog is my mom and (a much younger version) of me, taken at Lake Maud.  I was reflecting on the fact that being at "the lake" was not much of a vacation for mom.  Our cabin was "primitive"  - we didn't have running water until I was 5, no hot water until I was 6, no indoor bathroom until after I was married!
And we always seemed to have lots of people around who needed to be fed.  And the clothes needed to be washed.  And the dishes needed to be washed.  And my dad always had some project that he needed help with. And well, you get the idea.  Not much fun for mom.  And during my grade school years, she was working full time!  So all of those weekend trips to the cabin, just made more work for my very tired mom.  But she knew that having the cabin would give us kids a wonderful place for fun that would not have been possible without owning the cabin.  It was a sacrifice that she made for all of us.

So my mom was on my mind this week.  Then on Wednesday, Susie asked me to give Grace a new food to try.  Peas from their garden that Susie had made into baby food and frozen.  The second I defrosted the cube of peas, I smelled that heavenly aroma of the garden and fresh picked peas.  I was immediately back in Aunt Avis' wonderful garden near Lake Maud, picking peas to bring to my mom.  They were one of her favorites!  Another wonderful memory of being at Lake Maud!  (Bonus picture of Grace eating her peas!)

Then last night, not surprisingly, I had a dream about my mom.  It was interesting because in my dream, she was singing!  Although she loved music and always sang in choirs when she was younger, I don't remember her doing much singing.  She always said her voice got bad "when she got old" and I guess that she was "old" my entire life.  She talked about singing, but she never did sing.   In my dream she was singing beautifully - one of her very favorite hymns... "What a Friend we have in Jesus".  I woke up this morning with that song playing over and over in my head.  

Now for the "Aha moment" I mentioned at the start of this blog.   This morning my phone alerted to a text message from my small group.  One of my dear friends wrote this message to us......

"This morning I was listening to a preacher's sermon who was really engaging with the Spirit and heartily preaching God's word, when all of a sudden he broke out in the song "What A Friend we Have in Jesus".  He kept saying, JESUS, JESUS, JESUS.  God whispered two things as I listened to him repeating Jesus' name.... 1.  Satan trembles at the name of Jesus uttered by a child of God when it is done in reverence.  2.  What amazing friends we have as our prayer partners pray on behalf of each other and call on Jesus.  That old devil trembles.  The preacher said, "When Satan trembles, that is the time to attack him with the Word of God! When we do, he retreats and we keep at it in the strength of the Lord." 

Clearly there was something - some message in this for me.  But I was sure not connecting all of the pieces.  That is until I sat down at my computer this evening and looked at the full lyrics of that song.  I knew the first three verses of the song, but don't think I ever knew the fourth verse.  As a matter of fact, I couldn't find any video of the song with this fourth verse.  Yet it is written in the original song.  Here it is.....
Blessed Savior thou hast promised, thou will all our burdens bear.
May we ever Lord be bringing, all to thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded, there will be no need for prayer.
Rapture, praise and endless worship, will be our sweet portion there.

Isn't it just exactly like Jesus to bring me so much truth and comfort in one simple song?  So much in that song - the power of the name of Jesus.  The benefit of bringing all of our concerns and cares to Jesus.  How powerful it is to surround yourself with prayer partners who stand with you and pray when you are unable to even utter the words.  How amazing the very name of Jesus is and the impact that His name has for us.  And the reminder that His promises are true.  What an amazing reward awaits us, praise and endless worship!   All I can say is that I am incredibly thankful right now.  So thankful for my mom, for my kids and grandchildren, for my wonderful praying friends, for Jesus and all that he does for us, for what is to come!  

I woke up this morning really missing my mom.  That is not unusual for me.  But I am ending today with a big smile - knowing that my mom is in that place of endless worship and praise, singing her heart out!   What an amazing gathering together of little things to bring me this message of truth.  What a friend we have in Jesus!

Jesus, thank you for using all of these things to remind me just how much you love each one of us.  Thank you for music, for songs, for lyrics that speak after 162 years.  Holy Spirit, nudge us when we forget how powerful prayer is.  Help us to use the name of Jesus to fight off the attack of the enemy.  Thank you for connecting us together as we pray for each other.  Amen

Friday, July 14, 2017

The best laid plans......

So Ken and I were SUPPOSED to be on a much anticipated vacation right now.  But, alas, it was not to be.  Unfortunately, earlier this week, Ken found out that the company he works for is closing his location as of 2018.  There are some options, however it is never good to find out that you are out of work when you are 65 years old!  We had all of these wonderful plans for the next few years that included Ken continuing to work!  But, as they say, the best laid plans of man often don't come to pass!  We are in a time of transition and don't really know what the next few months will hold.  For now, it is just a day at a time!  We decided to cancel our vacation since we would not lose any money on the deal.  Given the news about his job, neither of us would have really enjoyed the time away.  We did decide to take today and just drive to a new botanic garden and spend some time outside.
We took all back roads and drove into Wisconsin through fields of corn and pastures filled with cows.  It is a cloudy, overcast kind of day, but there was no rain in the forecast.  When we stopped for breakfast, we quickly realized that we should have brought jackets with us!  It was only in the low 60's and kind of breezy.  So we stopped at a Walmart and bought a couple of sweatshirts.   Let me tell you I was quite glad to have that extra layer of warmth while walking through the gardens - and especially while sitting by the lake.  

This is my favorite picture of all that I took today.  I love the water drops on the flower petals.  I always look for water - especially flowing water - when I need to rest and catch my breath and/or contemplate the future when my plans don't work out.  Thankfully I found this.....
wonderful water feature in the middle of the garden.   I spent a fair amount of time just listening to the calming rush of the water over the stones (while Ken spent lots of time taking photos of flowers).  
There was also a small lake surrounded by a walking path.  I didn't spend much time there, however, since the breeze was actually colder than just chilly!  So I returned to the flowing water and realized that the entire time that I was walking around the garden, I had been singing the chorus to this song You Are Beloved by Jordan Feliz  If you click on the link you can hear the song.  The words that I had been speaking to myself (without really being aware of doing it) were...

You are beloved.  You are beloved.  I wanted you to know, you are beloved.
Let it soak into your soul.  Oh, forget the lies you heard, rise above the hurt,
and listen to these words.  You are beloved.  I wanted you to know, you are beloved.

As I was looking up the song and actually reading the lyrics, I saw these words in one of the verses...
Don't be afraid, don't let hope fade.  Keep your eyes fixed on the light above.
In the heartbreak, in your mistakes, nothing can separate you from love.

Isn't it wonderful when a song just touches you when you especially need it?  When our plans fail, when things look like they are falling apart, when circumstances seem so overwhelming - there is nothing that can bring peace like knowing that we ARE BELOVED!  This is such a big truth to get solidly into our souls, isn't it?  Jesus loves us - he looks at us as His beloved!  With that truth playing in our hearts and in our spirits - we can let go of fear.  We can have hope.  No matter how dark or unsettled things seem.  If we keep our eyes fixed on the light above!  NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE AMAZING LOVE OF JESUS!   

Yes, I needed this song today.  I know that it will be my theme song in the weeks ahead as Ken and I make a new set of "plans" for the next few years.  Today I am thankful for rolling hills and green pastures, fields of corn, quiet gardens, flowing water, Jordan Feliz, and so thankful that I am beloved!

Jesus, thank you for wonderful music that can speak words of truth to us, even when we are not thinking about it.  Holy Spirit, speak truth into all of our spirits through the power of songs and music.  Help us all to grasp how much you love us.  Jesus, thank you for the reminder that nothing - no pain or sorrow or job loss - can separate us from your love.  Amen  

Saturday, July 8, 2017

What we pass on to our kids and grandkids....

So many people commented on my recent Facebook cover photo of our grand kids on the 4th of July.  It reminded me of this photo from 1983 of my own cuties - Gwen and Doug and a long ago 4th of July.  We took loads of photos during our get together (as usual) and I have so many favorites that I know will be pages and pages of scrapbooking!  I loved this picture of Lia - our oldest grandchild and Grace - our youngest grandchild!
And looking at these pictures, one on top of the other in this blog, I can sure see Doug in Grace and Gwen in Lia!  It's amazing to think that 34 years separates these pictures!  

I've been thinking about all of the things that we pass on to our children and even to our grandchildren.  It must be because, like so many of my friends, retirement is approaching for Ken and I (in a few years).  Besides all the fuss and worry about where to live, insurance, making those dollars last for your lifetime, there is that consideration of your legacy.  Websters defines a legacy as "something transmitted by or received from an ancestor."  The things I have been thinking about are more along the lines of the transmitted items.  I am so thankful that my children love celebrating all the holidays with family.  I love that being together is the most important thing for our family.  The 4th of July was always a big memory for me - being at Lake Maud.  There was always a big gathering with a cabin full of people, the yard full of tents and campers, sunburn, swimming, bug bites and fireworks.  I believe that I was 19 the first time I missed a fourth of July at Lake Maud.  While the place was important, it was really being with the people that made it so special.  I love that special legacy that was passed down to me from my parents, has now been passed on to my children and grandchildren.  Seeing the pictures of  my grandchildren together - seeing the joy of the cousins being together, reminded me of this picture....
Here I am (bottom left)  with my sister Julie (top left) and our cousins Corrine (top right) and Thoralee (bottom right)!  And of course, this was taken at Lake Maud!  Thoralee is the closest in age to me (two years older) of all of my 32 first cousins!  Yes, I have 32 first cousins!  But since my mom and dad were both the youngest in their families and I am the youngest in my family, most of my cousins were MUCH older than me!  As a matter of fact, several of my cousins were in their late twenties when I was born and already were married. Still I loved spending time with my cousins and have many wonderful memories being with them.  This extended family time was another legacy from my parents.  In spite of living so far apart, I really tried my best to give Gwen and Doug time with their cousins.  I love that Gwen and Doug make time to be together with their families. It is certainly a blessing for this grandma!  

Just putting these words on the page is such a good reminder for me.  The idea of leaving a legacy can be so daunting.  It feels like somehow you have failed if there is not a large monetary inheritance to leave your children.  When I reflect on my parents and my grandparents and the legacy that I received from them, it is never about money or property.  It is always about the love and the closeness of family and the traditions that have been carried on into my life.  It always is about the Spiritual legacy - the seeds of faith and belief that were a part of the foundation of our family.  

I have the wonderful opportunity to continue to live out that legacy of love with my children and grandchildren.  Each of you have that same ability to have an influence over the next generation.  If you don't have children of your own, befriend some children in your neighborhood or church.  Volunteer and meet some new people.  Leave a legacy of love that will live beyond your years.  The only requirement for this is time.  Be with the ones you love!  Give your love to those you are with, whoever that may be - friends, neighbors, coworkers, people you meet in the stores or on the street.  Let your life be filled with love that touches others.  Now that is an important legacy!

Jesus, thank you for reminding me of your great love for us.  Holy Spirit, turn our eyes away from the material things and fill our hearts with love for those around us. Give us eyes to see those who need our time and our love.  Jesus, thank you for family and friends and Facebook - that helps to keep us close even when we are miles apart!  Amen

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Not quite what it looks like....

One day, not so long ago, I happened to catch this interesting picture from Doug and Susie's front yard.  There are a number of undeveloped lots in their neighborhood and the local fire department uses them to empty their water tanks and refill them from the fire hydrants.  I loved this really pretty rainbow that was created by their hose!  When I looked at the picture later, I realized that it looks like it might be an actual rainbow with a dark cloud behind it!  One of those times when what you see is not quite what it actually was!

Doesn't that phrase pretty much sum up so many of the stories and/or posts that you can find on the internet these days?  It is so difficult to figure out exactly what the truth is in each story.  It has been a challenging year with the heated political arena and the news media.  Us regular folks have to be very careful believing the things that we read.  Just this week, several large media outlets have had to retract stories that were never true.  The amount of MIS information that is swirling around is frightening.  As someone who has put a very high price on "truth telling", going through my Facebook feed or even just looking at news headlines makes my stomach quiver.  I love that Gwen always reminds her kids whether a book/story they are reading is true or made up.  Their home school curriculum has many true story books so this is a good practice.   I love that they are reminded daily that the Bible contains true stories.

A while back I considered just not looking at anything in the news or on the internet.  But this is a dangerous thing to do.  Having NO information is not the answer to finding the truth.  Sticking your head in the sand will only get you a mouth full of sand!   I was reminded of this picture of Sammy, Doug and Susie's dog.
He is quite a nervous dog and any little noise sets off his "BARK" reflex.  You would not know that he is nervous from this picture since he also often sleeps in some of the most uncomfortable looking positions.  His head sticking through the rail doesn't seem at all like a good sleeping position.  The thing about this position is that he can't see out the window with his head like this.  If he lays with his head on the stair he has a perfect view out the front door.  I think he likes this position because he can relax and not worry about who or what might walk by (or fly by - lots of birds around) the house.  It is his version of sticking his head in the sand.  

My answer to this dilemma of information that can not be trusted was so easy.  I actually was doing this several years ago, but somehow got out of the habit.  I simply pray before I read anything.  I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me and to reveal to me the things that are true.  It is amazing how many articles I skip over and don't even look at now.  I have learned to be very prayerful before reading any post on Facebook.  The number of blogs that I read has dropped dramatically since I have been praying before reading.  I can trust that the Holy Spirit knows ME!  There are things that might really trouble me that might not bother you at all.  When I prayerfully read and/or listen to messages I know that I will hear exactly what I need that day.  Now when I do come across information that is upsetting, I can immediately pray for the people or the situation.  Knowing that Jesus is the King of King and the Lord of Lords brings me great peace.  I have added many things to my prayer list through this practice of praying before reading.

My encouragement to you today is to trust the Holy Spirit to show you the truth.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  THE truth!  So you don't have to stop reading and or listening to current events.  Just make sure to pray before you scroll, read or listen!   Often you will discover nuggets of truth, revealed by the Holy Spirit,  contained in stories covered with layers of deception and cloudy facts. Remember that just like my rainbow picture, sometimes things are not quite what they seem.  It is a rainbow - but not after a storm.  A really nice rainbow caused by a powerful stream of water on a sunny clear day.  Keep on seeking the truth!

Jesus, thank you that you are the truth!  Holy Spirit, give us all boldness and courage to continue to seek the truth with your guidance.  Keep us aware when we start to hide from the noise of the world.  Help us to lean on your discernment as we sift through all the information in front of us.  Remind us to pray before, during and after we take in all the conflicting bits of news.  Thank you for loving us so much Jesus.  Amen  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Going on an adventure....and having my thinking changed!

It's hard to believe that this cutie is 11 years old - but she is!  The only thing that she wanted for her birthday was to see a real Broadway show.  Now this is no surprise since this girl loves to dance and has a wonderful voice.  Lia is still very shy about singing in front of people, but those yearly dance recitals have pretty much killed any fear she had of dancing on stage.  Since "Disney Aladdin Broadway in Chicago" was playing, it was a no brainer what her birthday present would be!
I decided to make this a "Grandma Lyn, Mom and Lia" event since Gwen loves these shows also.  Lia was extremely excited when we got to the train station to catch the train to the Chicago and she saw a billboard for Aladdin!
We had a bit of concern when the train we wanted to take into the city was delayed with "track construction".  First the announcement was 10 to 20 minutes late.  Then there was an announcement that the train was not yet moving.  In order to make the show we knew that we needed to be on the train by 11:45.  If the train had not come by that time, we would be forced to drive into Chicago and try to find parking.  It could have made for a tense trip.  But thankfully the train arrived at 11;30 and we made it into Chicago in plenty of time.  We grabbed a quick fast food lunch and ate outside overlooking the Chicago river.  We had perfect weather - sunny and it was actually a bit cool with a strong breeze.  
The show was amazing.  Lia was pretty much mesmerized through the entire production.  There is a major difference between the Broadway productions and some of the other shows I have seen. The music, acting, special effects, costumes - really everything was top notch. Our train ride home was uneventful and we arrived back only a few minutes late.  Such a wonderful experience with Lia.  

As I was driving home after this memory making day, I reflected on just how fast these 11 years have gone by!  Lia is my oldest grandchild and it really doesn't seem possible that I have been "Grandma Lyn" for that long.  

Shortly after I started home, while stopped at a stop light, a seriously silly thing happened.  A car pulled up on the left side of my car and a man jumped out of the front seat.  He was wearing cut off jean shorts, a tie dyed shirt and a bandana tied around his head like a headband.  He proceeded to dance in the middle of the road!  There was rock music from the 60's playing from the open windows of the car, and several occupants of that car were laughing and clapping for him.   My immediate though was , "Wow, that is something that you don't see everyday!"  As the light changed, he hopped back into the car and they sped away.  I was chuckling about this event, which seemed very 1970's, for the next several miles and thinking about some of the crazy things I had witnessed and participated in oh so many years ago.  And then, unbelievably I witnessed a "Chinese Fire drill" at another stop light!  If you are not familiar with this, everyone jumps out of the car and runs around the car and then gets back in.  I am sure that my jaw was on the ground watching this.  I don't recall the last time I actually saw this happen.  By now, I had begun to wonder if I had stepped into some kind of odd time warp and had been transported back to the 1970's!  So at this point, my day had certainly had some adventures that are out of the norm for me.  My drive home was not over yet and even now I find it hard to comprehend that  I saw ANOTHER "Chinese Fire Drill" happen in the drive through lane of the Dairy Queen near my house.  How crazy is that?

Today this crazy-silly end to my wonderful day is making more sense.  Without realizing it, I had started to feel really OLD!  My thoughts had been shifting to the swift passage of time and wondering just how many more of these memory making experiences I would be able to have with my grandchildren.  I would even have to admit to being fearful of the future.   It is never worthwhile to focus on these kind of things.  None of knows the length of our days and we are charged to live everyday with purpose.   I truly believe that those silly events I witnessed on the way home, were a gift for me.  It allowed me to let go of those depressing thoughts and to focus on the truth of the day - time and memories with Lia and Gwen.   And it made me laugh!  

The whole process of "taking our thoughts captive" is certainly a challenge. I am so thankful that I have progressed and don't allow these thoughts to live in my mind for days and days or even weeks and weeks as I had in the past.  More often than not, I can catch myself and stop these thoughts from taking over.  But this is a life-long process that has to be practiced!  I am reminded of this Bible passage from the Passion Translation.... Philippians 4:8

"So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and king.   And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always."

 I am incredibly grateful that sometimes the Holy Spirit finds ways to break into those ugly and untrue and even hurtful thoughts to remind me to "Stop thinking that way!"  I especially love that God will even use a man doing a silly dance on the road and several groups of young people acting like typical kids and pulling off a time worn stunt to get my attention and make me smile.  

Jesus, thank you for a wonderful, glorious day with Lia and Gwen.  Holy Spirit, continue to remind me to be aware of my thoughts.  Thank you for singing and dancing, for big wonderful shows in impressive theaters and for silly dances on streets.  Jesus, thank you for extra grace when we need it during the process of life.  Amen

Monday, June 19, 2017

When an umbrella brings joy in the storms.......

Sometimes you just need an umbrella to dance in the rain.  With rain threatening before Anna's first dance class last week, she was very upset that she did not have an umbrella.  Unfortunately, her Dora umbrella (that she had "inherited") had gotten broken.   Anna was so concerned that her ballet outfit would get wet walking into ballet.  I found an umbrella in my car that we were able to use for the storms which did happen to arrive during ballet.  But I promised Anna a trip to a store to buy her a new umbrella.  Of course Zeke and Ellie both needed new umbrellas as well.  I had to laugh at the clerk as we were checking out at Walmart the next day.  The kids were very excited telling her about their week with Grandma Lyn.  She looked at the items we were purchasing and nodded her head saying "Yep, I can tell that this is a Grandma shopping trip!"  I have to confess that I am kind of a sucker for these kids.  Our purchases included this Frozen umbrella for Anna, a Spiderman umbrella for Zeke, a pink push button umbrella for Ellie, candy, cookies and donuts, as well as the chocolate syrup (that was the real reason for our visit to the store)!

But look at those wonderful smiles on Zeke and Anna with there umbrellas (or "brellas" as Anna calls them!)  They had so much fun going outside to play in the light rain that was happening that day.  If a silly little umbrella makes the rain less scary and brings joy to them, then it is so worth it.

One of the days the present from mommy and daddy were some card games.  We had hours of fun playing "Old Maid" and I was the old maid more often than not.  Even Anna joined in the fun.  It is really amazing how much these kids play together and how well they play together.  I think that it is another win for homeschooling.   The week went by really fast.  I took so many pictures of all the fun things that we did and most days, I dropped into bed at the same time as the kids.  It was busy!

Ballet night was really something,  Anna's first ever class was from four to five and then there is an hour before Lia has her three classes.  Anna did wonderfully.  There were 20 three year olds in her class!  Yes 20!
The amazing teacher is so good with these kids.  I don't know how she does it.  There were many of the kids who wandered around during the class and several who never followed the instructions.  I was very proud of Anna for paying attention and so happy that she fun.  Although hesitant at first, she was smiling by the end!  We had hoped to be able to walk through the farmers market which is right by ballet, but there were storms.  So we opted to go to a restaurant for some dinner.  We dropped Lia off for her classes and drove home in a big storm.  I was thankful that a family friend was bringing Lia home at 9:30pm so I didn't have to go back out to get her.   

When Lia got home, she was pretty upset.  Somewhere in the day she had misplaced her phone.  We talked about taking all of our cares and concerns to Jesus and praying about the location of her phone.  She asked me to have my small group pray that it would be found.  Gwen texted the ballet studio to have them look for the phone and I assured Lia that we would follow up the next day.  When we heard that the phone was not at ballet, Lia was sure that it had been stolen and was gone forever.  We made another trip to the ballet studio to look for ourselves and then to the diner we had visited.  As soon as we walked in the door of the diner, Ellie spotted the phone laying by the cash register.  Needless to say, we were a very happy and thankful group!

I was so thankful for the umbrella covering of prayer that we had during the "storm" of that misplaced phone.  Lia was remarkably calm the entire day.  We talked about the possible locations to look for the phone.  And we prayed!!  She never gave up hope that we would find that phone.  
It was a great lesson for her - and me - to remember that the umbrella of prayer does work.  I was so thankful that Jesus cares about even these kinds of things and helps us in every storm that we face.  While this might seem like a small thing to some, for Lia this was a really big deal.  There were many grateful prayers said that night at bedtime.

Being with these kids for a week was physically taxing for me. I walked and ran and played more than I usually do.  I certainly did more dishes and more laundry than I have for a very long time.  I played more games and read countless books.  I also had books read to me!  There were songs sung and hugs and kisses given.  I applied more sunscreen in one week than I think I have in the last year!
  My time with the kids is my mission trip.  While it is a service for Gwen and Tim and allows them to go and serve, I am truly the one who benefits.  I came away filled up with all the love I received from Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna.  My heart is filled with joy. I can't wait till the next time.

Jesus, thank you for pouring out your love on even the littlest children.  Holy Spirit, remind us all to stay childlike in our faith.  Thank you Jesus for answered prayers and all those who help us hold up umbrellas of prayer during the storms of life.  Amen  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Half way there.......

I've been spending the week with these cuties while their mom and dad are on a mission trip.  As of today, we have crossed over the half way mark of my time here.  The eight days had promised to be filled with fun and lots of outdoor time.  There were lots of activities that were all ready a part of their "normal" week (think ballet and gymnastics) and a couple of added things (swimming at a friends house and a birthday party sleep-over for Ellie).  Plus whatever other things we could cram in.  And it as been a very full four days so far.  This picture was during a "cookie break" from swimming on Saturday. The weather was HOT this past weekend - our first really summer like days.  I was glad that Gwen and Tim had left their backyard pool for the kids to enjoy during this heat wave.
They added their small slide to the pool and spent most of the day in the water.  I did manage to get them inside for a short break during the hottest part of the day.  They had been begging to go to a playground, so we went to Zeke's favorite - the "fake grass park".  It actually has artificial turf on the entire playground.  I spent most of the time there sitting in the shade under one of the large climbing structures.  In addition to being 95 degrees, there was a gale force wind that was turning the nearby baseball fields into mini dust storms.  Sunday was more of the same weather wise.  Zeke started asking to go in the pool at 8:00am.  After several hours of pool time I managed to entice them into the house with a promise of a McDonalds play place!  So we headed off to have an early dinner and some more playtime in the (thankfully) air conditioned play area.  On Monday we were invited to a family friend's house that really looks more like a resort than a just a suburban home!  They have a large in ground pool with both a diving board and a slide.  They have a volleyball court (which to Anna was just a giant sandbox) and just to top it off, they have chickens!  It was 85 degrees at 9:30 when we were welcomed into the pool.  I was incredibly happy to sink into that refreshing water and float around for a couple of hours.  The older girls were invited to spend some extra time with their friends, so it was just Anna and Zeke and I heading home at lunch time.  After a quick stop for an "Icie" treat, home felt really good.  Zeke and Anna were quite happy to play inside for the rest of the afternoon.  Three days of this heat and so much swimming had tired them out.  

Gwen had left special presents for the kids to open on each day of their time away.  This was a thoughtful way for the kids to hear a bit about the trip that mom and dad were on, as well a some fun new activities to make the time without mommy and daddy a bit easier.  One day the special present was a bag full of craft supplies.  The kids spent several hours each making different things.  Ellie took the time to look up on google what a peacock looked like.  She had decided the moment that she saw the bag of feathers that she would make a peacock.  This is a surprise for the special friend who is having a birthday party on Friday.  So if you know Emma, shhhh! Don't tell her!  
Since today was going to be another hot one, we decided to go the library this morning.  They have a really amazing library with a kids area that just goes on and on.  The two hours we spent there were filled with all kinds of activities....

The older kids spent a short time playing on the IPads and Anna found a really cute barn with animals that she played with.  There is a craft section there and all of the kids made a Father's Day surprise for their daddy!  Everybody choose books and suddenly it was lunch time.  

Yes, it has been an busy time for me over the last four days.  I can not believe how many dishes four kids and one adult use in a day.  And with all the swimming, there have been multiple loads of laundry washed and put away.  And the towels....... four kids plus all day swimming and then baths at night and some morning showers equals too many towels to count!  And wash and fold!   Seriously, I have a new appreciation for just how much effort it takes when there are four children in a house.  No wonder Gwen and Tim are always tired! Seriously though, I wouldn't miss this chance to spend time with these kids for anything.  They are so much fun and so full of life. What a joy to be with them.

Tonight I got seriously teary eyed when Lia told me that she missed her mom and dad so much and couldn't wait for them to get home but she wished I could just spend another week with her after they got home.  Yes, it is so worth it to make the time to know these precious little ones.

This morning I posted a picture on Facebook of the kids praying for their mom and dad and the work they were doing on the mission trip.  They truly are taking part in this mission experience through prayer.  We have talked about the reason for the destination of this trip.  The various ministries that are being helped and the people that will be hearing about the love of Jesus and feeling that love through practical things like food, water and housing.  They all know that this is not a vacation for mom and dad, but a serious and important giving of their time and talents.  Thanks to the wonders of social media, the kids have gotten to see pictures from each day and watched their parents helping a group of young people learn about service and sharing Jesus.  If you want to see some of these for yourself check out their Facebook page Fellowship of Faith Student Ministries.  

It is so easy to think that the people who go on these trips are the only ones serving Jesus.  I love the reminder this has been for me of the importance of all the behind the scenes praying people for any mission trip.  I know that this time with Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna is my mission trip.  I am so grateful for my faithful small group covering me in prayer.  Yes, it is ripples of prayer going out to accomplish sharing the love of Jesus with the world.  Each layer of prayer is vital and necessary.  My friends praying for me and the children, the children and I praying for the team, the church praying for the youth and leaders, the various ministries who are praying for helpers. All with the same goal, show the love of Jesus to the world.

Won't you join me and be a part of this sometimes hidden but so important work. Pray for this small group of servants.  Or find another group or person heading out on a mission adventure.  Commit to pray for them.  Put their pictures up on your fridge.  Or in your Bible.  Most importantly, just pray.  

Jesus, thank you for connecting us all together in your body.  Help us to remember that each one of us important to you and for your Kingdom.  Thank you for fun times and summer days.  Thank you for your great love for us.  Amen    

Monday, June 5, 2017

The start of Summer fun and renewed hope!

Well Ken and I are once again, a two kayak family!  Ken had purchased a kayak last summer, but I wasn't sure that it made sense for us to own two kayaks.  Let's face it, we have a one car garage and just a bit more stuff than we should have to try to store over the winter.  But as the weather got nicer, I realized just how much I missed being out on the water.  So, there you have it!  Two kayaks to store next winter!
I confess that I did breathe out a bit as I was paddling across that little lake.  I just love the water.  I grew up on Lake Maud and spent a fair amount of time every year on, in or around that lake.  So it does refresh my soul to glide across the water.  Our garage will be pretty crowded next winter, but sometimes it is worth the trouble to have so much enjoyment.  

I needed that time to just float across the lake.  It has been a busy and kind of crazy last month!  We have had so many milestones pass by - some that I have blogged about and some that I have missed.  We passed by Ken's 65th Birthday and I somehow didn't blog about that!  These days, being 65 does not mean that you get to retire (sadly)!  It was also our 43rd Wedding Anniversary, and I didn't really blog about that.  
Then this event happened!  It was actually Lia's 8th dance recital! She has been dancing since she was 3 years old and this recital was actually ON her 11th birthday!   This year Ellie also danced!  I missed blogging about that also.  And then last week, this cutie pie turned 4 months old!  
Just to add to the "milestones" in our family, last Friday was Gwen and Tim's 16th Wedding Anniversary!  My gosh, where did that time go?   Seriously, Gwen and Tim just seem way too young to be married 16 years!  It is one of those things that seems almost impossible to fathom when that wedding seems like it was just a few years ago!  

Yes, time marches on.  And those special dates just seem to roll around faster and faster.  I confess that this busy time has left me feeling a bit buried.  It is hard to begin to blog when there is SO MUCH that you want to talk about.  It just becomes easier to not write anything.  Then today I saw this .....
This gave me so much comfort and hope!  Even though I missed blogging about these special events as they happened, that doesn't mean that I can't still share my thoughts and feelings and all that the Lord has been speaking to me!  In fact, as I let those thoughts sit and "germinate" something much bigger and better just might grow!  

Another "milestone" that I didn't mention yet is the anniversary of this blog.  I actually began to write this blog four years ago.  I really didn't know how long I would continue to blog - or if I would even blog for a month.  Here it is, four years of blogging.  So many new and wonderful connections and friends from around the world.  So much encouragement and so many kind words.  When I started this blog I had been in a season of feeling very buried.  It had been a few dark years, wondering exactly what I was supposed to be doing for Jesus.  This blog grew out of those dark years,  Looking back over these four years, I can see just how much Jesus has done in me from that small seed, sown in darkness.  It hasn't always been easy to keep on truth telling and being honest on these pages.  I have shared through the good times and the bad, through the happy and the sad.  In it all, I have been growing up....toward that marvelous light of Jesus.  It gives me encouragement to keep on... and to press for even more. Yes, I love this picture.  I will keep that image of the new little seedling, drinking in the rain, yet remembering the dark times, hidden and alone.  I will see myself pushing onwards and upwards towards the light.   

Yes, sitting in that Kayak is a great place to remember that seed being watered by the Spirit.  Resting and floating across the water, feeling the sun on my face, is just what this little plant needs! I am so thankful for the reminder today!

Jesus, thank you for helping us to see from your perspective.  What a powerful reminder this is for us to know that we are your seeds.  When things seem dark and we feel buried, you are doing an amazing transforming work in us.  Holy Spirit, keep us always looking towards the light of Jesus.  Thank you for milestones and anniversaries and birthdays!  Thank you Jesus for your love.  Amen

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Being present for the sweet memories!

Today our family had a really wonderful time celebrating Zeke's birthday (but also a bit of a celebration for Lia's birthday, which is tomorrow!)  It was a spectacular weather day and Zeke had chosen all outdoor activities.  I just love this selfie picture of Gwen, Susie and me since, lets face it, we ARE the reason that these get together events happen.  We put them on the calendar months in advance and let me tell you you, it is quite the feat for us to find dates that work for all of us.  I am just so thankful that both Gwen and Susie make it  a priority to be together with Ken and I.

So much fun happens when we are together, and  sometimes the pictures don't even tell the entire story.  Zeke had asked to go mini golfing and also drive go carts.  We have a great place for that kind of fun, and it is a blast from the past for our family!  It is called Funway and we went there often when Gwen and Doug were younger.  They have added a bunch of stuff and it was the perfect place for our adventure today.  To add to the nostalgia, we first ate lunch together at another family favorite spot - Pal Joeys.  Only this was a new location, one that we had never visited before, right on the Fox River.  We dined outside and we all enjoyed the warm weather and the view of the river.  When we got to Funway, mini golf was the first thing on the agenda.  Doug and I stayed in the shade with a sleeping Grace while the rest of the crew hit the course.  As they were turning in their clubs Zeke asked who won!  I loved Gwen's response - "Everyone won!"

The ever smiling Grace woke up - all smiles, of course!  She was quite happy just looking around at all of the stuff happening around her. I love this picture of her since she was quite surprised by the sound of the water cannon just behind her!  
Then it was on to the Go Carts!  We had a bit of a scrambling around since there were height and age requirements to ride alone in the carts.  Zeke decided he wanted to ride with Uncle Doug and since Ellie wasn't old enough (or tall enough) to ride alone, Tim took the wheel for her.  Lia was both old enough AND tall enough to drive the cart by herself!  I wasn't quite sure that she would actually go alone, but she certainly did!  
The first couple of times around the track Lia had a worried look on her face! You can barely see her in the cart, but she sure managed to drive it!  She was all smiles by the third time around and she even sped up a bit!

Zeke had the biggest smile for the entire ride!  It was the perfect way to celebrate his 6th birthday.

To add to the fun, there were bumper boats.  Lia and Zeke wanted to ride these, and Tim had to take Zeke since he was not old enough to go alone.  There are water shooters on each boat and you can soak the other people.  Additionally there are large water sprayers around the pool that shoot at random times.  They were soaking wet  but all smiles when they were done!
We finished the day with a round of ICIES (which Doug decided were just high fructose corn syrup, flavored and artificially colored and then mixed with shaved ice)!  While Doug's description is most likely pretty accurate, they were a cool refreshing end to a really warm and wonderful day.  

I was thinking about those very sweet, cold drinks as I sat down to write this blog.  The entire day was filled with sweet moments.  There was the wonderful feeling looking around a very large table as all 11 of us enjoyed being together.  I loved the precious moment watching Grace break into a big smile when Aunt Gwen was tickling her toes. There was the look on Ellie's face when Grace was so happy looking at the flowers on Ellie's dress.  There was the smile on Anna's face as she used her "stick" to hit the ball into the hole (or sometimes kicking it with her foot).  There was that grin on Zeke's face when Uncle Doug encouraged him to raise his arms as they sped around the go cart track. Then there was that moment when Tim and Zeke managed to get Gwen sprayed with water, even though she was on the side of the pool.  And the moment Lia got her boat behind Tim and Zeke and shot them in the back!  There were all of the sweet faces of the kids, each waiting their turn to hold "baby Grace".  So many precious moments.  

Yes, those sweet moments are things that I actually did NOT photograph!  I had my "real" camera (not my cell phone) during our lunch and afterwards when we walked across the bridge by the river, but when we got to Funway, my camera was no where to be found.  I remembered having it in the car, but it was missing.  Both Ken and I looked through my purse several times (my camera is really small), but it was gone.  I had my phone, so I did get some pictures.  The worst part of losing the camera was that I had not uploaded any pictures in May.  On our way home, Gwen sent me a text with a picture of my camera!  It had gotten stuck into a bag of things that I brought for her and taken to her car!  So my camera is safe with Gwen!  

Here's the thing.  I think I got the message from all of this.  It is really good to have pictures, and I certainly appreciate them since I scrapbook.  But it is also really important to keep these sweet memories by really SEEING them as they happen, rather than seeing them through the lens of a camera. And seeing the small things.   I know that I am often guilty of taking so many pictures that I sometimes miss out on the very thing I am trying to capture.  Today, I spent a lot of time actually watching what the kids were doing.  And it was wonderful. There is something very powerful about really being present!  Right now, my memory bank is filled with sweet, sweet memories.

Given all of the electronics that each of us uses each day, our phones that are never far out of reach, the tablets and computers that are often in front of us, this is a good reminder.  Put down the phone or the camera and pay attention to the event.  Don't miss out on all of the special little sweet moments that make for wonderful memories.  Even when my camera is back in my hands, I will be much more aware of just how often I use it.  Today I am thankful for all of those sweet memories that I didn't miss out on!  

Jesus, thank you for warm weather, for wonderful family times and so many great memories.  Holy Spirit, remind us all to be aware of the distractions that keep us from really being present in the activities around us.  Keep us mindful of the small things that become sweet memories.  Amen

Sunday, May 21, 2017

One on one time is the best time!

Yesterday Ken and I took Zeke out, by himself, to celebrate his 6th Birthday.  (We started this really simple celebration with Ellie's birthday, last March. Here is a bonus shot of Ellie's special time)
 Unfortunately, it was pouring rain yesterday so we could not add a playground visit to Zeke's time.  However he was quite happy with the special Oreo Ice Cream treat as desert after his meal and we topped the time off with a stop at Dunkin Donuts!  He got to pick out a dozen donuts to bring home for the family.  Last weekend we took Lia out for her special day to celebrate her upcoming 11th birthday (oh my, where has the time gone?)
  Lia decided to go to the "chicken" breakfast place.  This is the same place that Ellie decided to go!  There is a cookie bakery near that restaurant and also a small playground.  It was a beautiful day so we all enjoyed the wonderful weather outside.  And Lia took home cookies for her siblings!

But there is something so special about spending time with the kids - one on one.  Or actually two (Ken and I) on one!  We pretty much don't do anything really big, just have a meal with them. And then we do try to do something a bit special with them.  All of them have pretty much talked our ears off.  It is clear that with the four siblings, it is a battle to get heard.  So this time to really listen to them is so wonderful. Their personalities shine through in these times with them alone.  I love hearing about what is really important to them. During Ellie's time we heard her pride in finishing reading a very long chapter book (something that has not been easy for Ellie!)  Lia shared all about her excitement in advancing to new levels in dance classes.  She is especially excited about Ballet working towards Point!  Zeke shared all about a recent trip to Great America and his current fascination with roller coasters. He is also very excited that he can spell so many words now!   Actually, I think the biggest treat for each of the kids was getting to ride in Grandpa's car!  It really is the small things, isn't it?

Yes, our May is one really busy month!  Besides Zeke's birthday and Lia's birthday there is Mother's day and Ken's birthday (which happened to be ON Mother's day this year) and our Anniversary!  Plus we have Lia and Ellie's ballet recital!  So lots of family times.  Yesterday's time with Zeke just cemented for me this one simple truth.  You just have to MAKE THE TIME!  

You have to make the time to spend with each child alone.  You have to make time to attend all of these special events with the family.  You have to make time to be with those little babies before they grow up.  You have to make time for the simple things.

As I was putting the title on this blog, I was thinking about how important my "one on one" time with Jesus is for me.  I love that time to just "talk his ear off" and share all that really silly little stuff that is so important to me.  I love that I can share all about what is happening in my life, what I am concerned about and what I am looking forward to.  What a great lesson these times with Lia, Ellie, and Zeke has been for me.  I just need to approach my quiet time with Jesus exactly as the kids showed during this special time.  They were excited, anticipating the time alone.  And they shared openly from their hearts.  The good news about quiet times with Jesus is that he always has the time!  It is really up to us to make the time for HIM!

Tomorrow, when I sit down for my time with Jesus, I will be much more excited  than usual and I will be picturing sitting across a table from him, just sharing all the stuff from my life.  I am already feeling excited and ready for a special one-on-one time!  How about you?

Jesus, I am so grateful that you told us that we needed to be like little children to enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Thank you for using this time with Lia, Ellie, and Zeke to remind me what our time together should be like.  Holy Spirit, help us all to make time for the small things that fill our souls with joy and bring us peace.  Remind us to make time for one-on-one with Jesus.  Amen

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day and a book review!

Today is Mother's Day and I was trying to decide exactly what picture I might use for this blog from among the hundreds that I have scanned.  There are pictures of my mom and me.  There are pictures of me with my children.  There are pictures of my mom with my kids.  You get the picture - lots of pictures!  It seemed difficult to decide...and then I saw this photo.  And the memories of this picture came flooding back to me.

This is picture is Henry Arnold Toesning (my grandfather) and Nora Henrietta Larson Toensing (my grandmother) and the darling little girl is my mom - Nona Etta Toensing Johnson.  It was taken in 1916 when my mom was around a year old.  This is the only picture my mom ever had of her with her mom.  Nora died in early 1917 before my mom turned 2 years old.  I love that my grandma is looking at my mom in this photo.  Mother's day was always one of those days that mom would say, "I wish I had gotten to know my mom".  In her later years, she talked so much about seeing her mom when she got to heaven.

Mother's day is like that....hard for many people.  Those who want children and don't have them. Those who have lost their mothers.   And those who have lost a child.  My family certainly know that missing and loss.
This is Susie and Doug with Lucas Jacob, right after he was born.  The joy and love in this photo was shaken when he died just 10 days later.  And there were some really tough holidays for the next couple of years.  I can't begin to imagine how hard Mothers Day and Fathers Day were for Doug and Susie.  What I know is that in the midst of that loss, there was hope.  And there was peace in knowing that Lucas was with Jesus.   
This year, Doug and Susie are celebrating with baby Grace Rae.  But that does not lessen the loss of Lucas.  He will always be missed, cherished and loved. 

Recently (and I know that I am really, really late for this) I read the book "The Shack".  The movie of this book was released this spring and most all of my friends went to the movie - some several times.  They strongly encouraged me to see this film.  Several of them had read the book when it was first released.  Some had never read the book.   Gwen was in the exact position that I was.  Never read the book and hadn't seen the movie.  Her friends encouraged her to read the book.  Within a day or two, she was telling me that I had to read the book!  

Timing is always everything.  I believe that I read this book at exactly the right time.  If I had read it several years ago it might not have had the same impact on me as it did.  As I was thinking of writing this blog, I knew that I needed to share what I experienced reading The Shack.  If you have not read the book or seen the movie, my testimony will not effect your ;reading/viewing of it.  

I had to put down my Kindle and stop reading after one very small line in one of the beginning chapters.....The Holy Spirit was collecting tears in a bottle.  Tears being shed for a lost child.  The verse that Susie and Doug chose for Lucas' funeral was Psalm 56:8 - "You have seen me tossing and turning through the night.  You have collected all my tears and preserved them in a bottle. You have recorded every one in your book".    Suddenly there was such reality to that verse.  Reading the words in that book, being drawn into the story, it was if the Holy Spirit just touched me and said, "yes, I am doing that for you, for Susie and Doug and for all your family."   It wasn't a past tense thing.  This is an ongoing and forever thing.  The tears we shed for Lucas,  for what could have and should have been, for the ever present hole in our family, on Mother's Day or any day,  are important and know by God.  I found great comfort in that.  As sometimes happens, I didn't even know how much I needed that comfort from the Great Comforter.  

The second place that I got stopped in reading The Shack was a scene with the main character walking through a garden, talking with God.  I immediately was back in a very long ago dream.  My life - my walk with Jesus - really began with that dream.  I was four years old but I remember that dream with great clarity.  As a matter of fact, even today I can recall how I felt in that dream.  It was really simple.  I was walking with Jesus in a beautiful garden.  It was more than my four year old brain could explain.  There were flowers of every color and the trees were amazing.  We were on a winding path.  Jesus held my hand as we walked along.  He told me who he was and that the Easter story was true.  He told me that I should tell everyone that it was true.  He had died on the cross, but he had risen from the dead and he was alive now in heaven.  If I close my eyes I can still feel his hand holding mine.   I have shared this dream many times.   As I read the book, it was as if the author had stepped into my dream.  I felt my heart begin to race as I read those pages.  It put such a confirmation stamp on my spirit. My dream was real.  Jesus is real.  The Bible is true.   I didn't even know that I needed that assurance, but I know now that I did.  

If you have not read The Shack, I encourage you to read it.  Or see the movie.  I am anxious now to see it!  I believe that it will touch every person who reads/sees it, with the exact message that they need.  Ignore all the controversy over this book and movie. Just let Jesus speak to you through this.  

So today, on this Mother's day, I can picture my mom with her mom in that beautiful garden.  I am so thankful that I will see Lucas again.  I will see my mom and finally meet my grandma.  And there will be so many others.  And it is all because of Jesus.  

Thank you Jesus for sending the exact right messages to us, exactly when we need them.  Thank you for pictures and memories.  Thank you for new books and movies that share your story.  Thank you for my children and grandchildren.  Thank you for The Shack!