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