I have been feeling a bit "fuzzy" over the last couple of weeks - thanks to unrelenting allergies! Yes, I love the blooming trees. And yes, I am so thankful that all of those flowers are blooming! But NO! I do not appreciate all of the pollen that is floating in the air. This is always a difficult time of year for me, but this year has been extremely bad. It seems that I have had a constant headache that leaves me very tired by the end of the day. Ken has been out enjoying the warm weather and taking photos of all this "beautiful" spring blooming. I much prefer to sit inside and just contemplate the arrival of better weather (with much less pollen)!
For the most part, this April has not been quite as filled with memories of all those who I have lost in this month. (I have mentioned this often - my mom, dad, mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister all died during April). I think this might actually be a bit of a benefit of all the fuzziness in my head this year! But then this happened......
I was sitting in my car in a drive through line, getting a quick cup of coffee. I had my window down as I approached the window to pay for my drink. There were a number of cars ahead of me so I was stopped for a number of minutes. And then the aroma of this bush wafted into my car. I was suddenly transported to the backyard of Ken's parents home. There was a large spice bush in the corner of their yard that would just fill the entire place with this sweet smell. I had not been thinking about Merv and JoAnne until that moment. For the next couple of hours I just couldn't get them out of my mind. So many memories in that backyard. Isn't it interesting how powerful a smell can be? This is one of my favorite pictures from that backyard. It is Doug and Gwen with their Great Grandma Baker (Ken's favorite Grandma).
On Sunday evening I had another experience of my senses reminding me of events from the past. I have blogged many times about a powerful ministry that meets fairly close to my home - Chicago HUB. I have been attending these meetings over the last twenty years on a fairly regular basis - much more often in the recent years. And I can not begin to count how many conference events sponsored by HUB that have blessed me during that time. Something very unexpected happened last November. The leader of HUB, Nancy Magiera, became seriously ill. Additionally, the conference center that had been the meeting place for HUB for several years, announced that they were closing as of January, 2017. Suddenly I faced (like so many other people) the reality that HUB was not meeting each Sunday. Have you heard the saying that you don't miss something until you don't have it anymore? HUB is not an easily replaceable event. There is something incredibly unique about this group of people who gather each week. HUB stands for His United Body and that is exactly what it is. There are people of every age from infants to grey heads. There are people of many races and many creeds. Nancy always says that there is one common denominator at HUB - the only one that matters - Jesus and His saving work on the cross. Because of the unity, because of the love of Jesus, there is always powerful worship and amazing teaching. Well, last Sunday evening, I (along with several hundred other people) celebrated the return of HUB. It was a new location. Nancy is still recovering, but doing better. But hundreds - yes hundreds of us came together once again. Standing in that crowd, just breathing in the atmosphere, I was flooded with reminders of past HUB events.
As I mentioned at the start of this blog, I have not been feeling great. And this new location for HUB is farther from home for me. Needless to say, Sunday evening HUB helped to clear the fuzziness from my head. I was so thankful to be in that place once again.
The icing on the cake at HUB was the message from Dana Morey. If you take a moment and click on this link, you will see just a bit of who Dana Morey is. Yes, the man that speaks before MILLIONS, is a friend of HUB and we are blessed - so blessed - that he comes and shares with us. On Sunday night he shared the beginning of a powerful message (the message will be completed over the next two Sunday nights) to encourage and teach us how to truly transform our thinking so that we can have the mind of Christ! Boy did I ever need to hear this message, considering my fuzzy thinking over the past weeks! I can hardly wait for the next two Sunday evenings to get the complete message! The nugget from his message that I want to share with you, is that it IS possible to change the way we think! It is physically possible to remove old thought patterns from our brains and build new ways of thinking.
If you are like me and feeling like your thinking is muddled and fuzzy, this is very good news. I've had a couple of great examples of Jesus reaching me through my senses, even when I felt really distant and covered in a veil of fog. The smile of a sweet baby, a delight for my eyes. The smell of a wonderful spring bloom, a pleasing aroma. The press of a crowd of friends and the presence of the Holy Spirit, a refreshing balm. Followed by the wisdom and inspiration of a great message. Yep, allergies are no match for a loving and powerful God!
Jesus, thank you for your amazing wonderful creation that bursts forth in blooms each spring. Thank you for getting your message through to me, in spite of my clouded brain. Thank you for HUB, for Nancy and Hank Mageira, and for Dana Morey. Pour out your abundant blessings on your servants. Holy Spirit, thank you for drawing your people together in unity. Amen
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Monday, April 17, 2017
Yesterday was one of those days that you just don't want to see come to an end. The time just sped by and was filled with laughter, fun and food. All of the kids had a blast....well, I suppose that is a bit of a stretch for Grace....but she ate, slept and smiled through the day! Our day started with all 11 of us together at Gwen and Tim's church. We actually took up two rows! Let me tell you there is nothing better for this Grandma than to look around at all those sweet faces celebrating that Jesus is alive! We never heard a peep out of Grace during the entire service! Church was followed by lots of good food. How wonderful is the aroma of ham baking in the oven and we were greeted with that lovely smell arriving at Gwen's house. After our annual outside picture taking event (these pictures were shared yesterday on Facebook!) the kids had a wonderful time exploring their Easter baskets. Zeke was thrilled with a small "pocket volcano" that I included in his basket. (In case you are wondering, this small plastic volcano is filled with baking soda and vinegar and placed in a glass of water, creates a wonderful volcano - perfect for a 5 year old boy! It can also be used in the bath tub!)
Every family picture we take has a missing piece. I can't help but look at this picture and know that Lucas is missing from it. But while Lucas is missing from this picture, he is always in our hearts.
I love that Susie and Doug included their special Lucas bear in this Easter family photo. And Susie is also holding Grace's sweet "Rainbow Bunny"! Grace is our precious rainbow baby. She is a reminder of hope and love after the storm of grief and loss when Lucas died.
I can't think of a better day and a better way to remember Lucas than Easter. Because of Easter, we know that we will see Lucas again one day. Because of Jesus, our family has been able to go on - day after day, in the last two plus years. It is the message of Easter - He is risen! - that fills us with joy.
I just love that Easter this year, happened to fall right in the middle of my weeks of loss. Not only was I thinking about Lucas, but I was also thinking about my mom, dad, mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister. I needed the reminder that Jesus has destroyed the power of the grave!
Yes, this has reminded me of yet another song......Forever by Kari Jobe. I don't know if you are all sick of me sharing songs, but so often Jesus speaks to me in music. And this song contains this all important message!
Now death where is your sting? Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated!
My prayer today is that this message of Easter will touch your heart and your spirit. Because of Jesus there is joy and hope and love. There is family and fun and food and playtime. And we can sing Hallelujah!
Jesus, thank you for wonderful sunshine and bright blue skies. Thank you for the sweetness of candy that brings smiles to faces of little children and adults! Holy Spirit, help us all to remember, even in the seasons of grief and loss, that the sting of death has been defeated by Jesus! Thank you for your sacrifice for us, Jesus. Amen
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
My mom died six years ago today. I never have to stop and figure out how many years it has been, since Zeke was born just a month after Mom died - actually on her birthday. And since Zeke will soon be six years old - well, it must have been six years. I was so blessed to have my mom for a long, long time. She was almost 96 years old. But I can tell you, it really doesn't matter HOW long - it is never long enough. These last six years have had so many moments when I would have loved to talk to her. To get her opinion. Or to just laugh with her. Our moms hold a special, special place in our hearts that is not easily filled by anyone else. I actually took a picture of this photo which is in a scrapbook that I made for my mom. This very "impromptu" picture was taken by my dad, as my mom and I were working on a holiday dinner in December of 1971. My mom never liked our kitchen in this house. It did not have much counter space and we were always trying to work in a very cramped little space. In thinking back to that lack of working room, it may be why I am so comfortable in my own very small kitchen that doesn't have much counter space! I got used to it when working with my mom! I love this very genuine smile on both our faces.
I was searching through our scanned photos for a picture of me with my kids when they were teenagers. I settled on this picture which was taken on Easter in 1999, An interesting fact I have discovered - I am not in very many pictures. That is because I was usually the one TAKING the pictures at the events! So it is hard to find pictures that include me with the kids. Looking back at that picture of my mom and I, I realized just how important it is to keep taking pictures with our kids! I am so thankful that I have that picture of Mom and I and I am grateful to have this photo with both Gwen and Doug!
Today at my small group, I mentioned that these weeks in April are a bit difficult for me. During these weeks, my mother, father, sister, mother-in-law, and father-in-law all died. And even when I KNOW that these dates are just days on a calendar, I still feel that melancholy heaviness trying to get me down during this time. I am so thankful for the prayers of my friends today, that lifted that heaviness off of my heart. I was thinking of just how fitting it is that Easter falls during these weeks this year. It is a time when it is easy to fall into that sad/mourning time as we remember the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I have always tried to imagine just how distraught the disciples must have been on that Saturday. When their friend was gone and they could not begin to come up with a plan to go forward. They had believed their teacher, but it was dark and cold and empty with his death. But then Sunday morning came!!! What an amazing, wondrous time that was. For us, even with the heaviness of Holy Week - we know that Sunday is on the way! Jesus has risen! He is alive!
The best part of this is the reminder for me that Mom is in that amazing place right now, praising Jesus. And she is with her mom - something that she longed for her entire life. (Her mom died when she was only two years old) And the happy news is that one day, I will see her again. And that makes this day of missing her so much easier. I know that I have blogged before about the song "In Christ Alone". My mom loved this song after she heard it. She said it told the whole story. So once again, here is In Christ Alone in honor of my mom. And it does really tell the entire story of Jesus.
I just love this last stanza of this song. there is a message there for all of us.
No guilt in life, no fear in death - this is the power of Christ in me.
From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ, I'll Stand!
Jesus, thank you for powerful songs that tell us your story and help us share that story with others. Thank you for the comfort you bring to all of us who are missing loved ones who have died. Give us all the reminder of the hope we have in you, Jesus. Amen
Thursday, April 6, 2017
While Susie was busy with therapy, I was reminding Grace just how special and how loved she was by everyone who sees her. I was also (very quietly) humming a song to her that has been in my head for WEEKS! I found myself singing it while sitting on the beach, driving on the interstate, and standing in the shower! Don't you just wonder why that happens? When one song is so stuck in your spirit that you can't stop singing it? Well, today it was very appropriate. It is a song by Hawk Nelson - Live Like You're Loved! It is truly a great song and one worthy of getting stuck in your head. So I encourage you to stop and click on that link! I was singing the chorus over and over - to myself. Have you ever noticed that there is most likely a message in something like this. Something that you really need to hear? Well, here are the lyrics to this really powerful song....."Live Like You're Loved"
I just love the chorus to this song. Live like you're loved, walk like you're free, stand like you know who He made you to be! Live like you're loved, like you believe, His love is all that you'll ever need!
Quite honestly, I don't think there is any better song to be singing to Grace! Every little one needs to know this great promise. As a matter of fact, EVERYONE of us needs to take these words to heart.
I am so, so thankful that the Holy Spirit kept bringing me back to this song, over and over. I really needed to remember just how strong and sure the love of Jesus is FOR ME!
Okay, in total truth telling, I struggle with this even though I KNOW this truth. I have been racing and running and chasing when I should have been doing more STANDING and BEING.
Yes, tonight I am taking the time to listen to this song. Really listen. So that the words get into my spirit. Then just maybe, they will not have to play over and over again in my head. Hopefully, by writing this blog I will have written this message into my heart.
To all of you out there...... LIVE LIKE YOU'RE LOVED! because you are!
Jesus, thank you for talented song writers who put thoughts and feelings and reminders into songs that speak to our hearts. Bless Hawk Nelson tonight. Thank you for surrounding Grace with so much love. Holy Spirit, help us all to truly live in the love of Jesus. Amen