Fear Is A Liar

Always about this time every year, I begin to get nervous about our upcoming  FMSC MobilePack.  It’s kind of like planning a wedding — so many details!  And if everyone just remembers his role, the “wedding” will be a big success.  However, this is not a wedding, and all roles are not assigned.  We have a steering committee, yes, and those people plan, work and delegate.  However, there is only so much 6 or 7 people can do when we are talking about inspiring 3000 volunteers and collecting over $140,000 needed to complete the task.

We can’t do it.

And that is where nerves and faith have a head-on collision.

Nope, we can’t do it.

Even if we had 100 people on the stirring committee, we still couldn’t accomplish this undertaking.   The task is too big.  I woke up several times last night with the Pack on my mind.  I’m worried.

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Interesting that today’s topic in our church service was about FEAR.  “When we face our fears with FAITH, God gives us strength and courage.  And that strength and courage lend to REST”.  Ha!  Rest.  Is waking up at 1 a.m. and again at 3 a.m., thinking about the MobilePack, rest?

And seriously, am I talking about blind faith?  Absolutely not.  I have history to fall back on.  This is our 7th pack with Feed My Starving Children, and has God shown up?  Has He been faithful?  Did He answer our prayers?

12046860_10153602727484304_1693898762807127930_nThousands of volunteers have come to help pack meals in our community for the past six years.  We used over 2200 volunteers from our community just last year alone. 2200!  Where did they come from?  I have no idea. They just kept coming through the door.  Praise the Lord.

And over half a million dollars has been raised by our Meals From Michiana event in the past six years.   Wait.  What?  How is that possible in this little farming community?  The only answer is God opened the hearts of His people to give.

12036689_10153601136429304_408744478935615099_nOver 2,000,000 meals have been packed — right here –in the past six years.  That is an incredible feat.  Only because of  God can we boast of this accomplishment.  He made it happen.  Glory to God.

God HAS been faithful.  The Pack is not about us — and what we can accomplish.

We can’t do it.

But God can!  

God has done it!  God can do it.  

And I am trusting God will do it.

Fear breeds anxiety and unbelief.download  I have no reason to fear.   It is God’s will to feed the hungry.  We can walk boldly forward, and rely on HIM to work in His people.  He can urge them to volunteer.  He can burden them to give.  He has.  And He will.  Praise the Lord.

Tonight, if I wake up at 3 a.m., I will not worry or fret.  I will praise Him for what He is doing and what He will accomplish in September during our FMSC Mobile Pack.  I will lift my eyes to the heaven, and give Him thanks.

How about you?  What are you afraid of?  What fear is waking you up at night?  Trust God to work it out.  He has been faithful in the past.

He can be trusted for what is to come.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

He will give you REST as you turn your FEAR into FAITH.

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Releasing Ownership — It’s Not About Me (Meals From Michiana)

It happened again.  Discouragement.  Worry.  Even a little bit of indignation.  I pulled my car into the parking lot for our first Prayer Walk of this year.  A Walk for our 7th Feed My Starving Children Mobilepack.  We, the core volunteers (and anyone else who’s interested), are scheduled to walk the perimeter of the facility and pray for the 6 Saturday mornings before the Pack.

The parking lot was empty.  Not. One. Single. Car.   Sigh.

I remember this from last year.  Not the empty parking lot so much, but the worry — and indignation.  Where is everybody??  Why don’t they come?   Don’t they care?  I’ve been working so hard on this.

My husband and one other core volunteer soon joined me in the parking lot.  As I stepped out of my car, I made my annoyance known.  Where is everyone?

We began our walk, but no one prayed for the first fifty steps.  Just silence.  But as the sun peaked over the top of trees, God’s beauty, and faithfulness, was hard to deny.  My husband began to pray.  And I began to cry.

My work?  My prayer walk?  My schedule?

Yep, there it is.  That is what I remember from last year’s prayer walk.  (I’m a slow learner).  Last year’s walk started out a bit bumpy as well.  Connie needed a little attitude adjustment.  There is so much that goes on behind the scenes in the months before the actual Pack, I tend to take ownership of the whole sh-bang.  I take it personally when no one shows up to pray.  I am offended.

Wow.  Sounds like it’s all about me, huh?

As I grabbed my husband’s handkerchief out of his back pocket and wiped my tears, I knew God was asking me to open my hands and put this event into His.  It is not about me.  Or the core volunteers.  It’s not even really about the children who will receive the food.

It’s about God.

The whole event is about Him.  And His faithfulness.  His promises.  His will.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.   And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.    1 John 5:14-15

Is feeding the hungry His will?

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…  James 1:27a

I could list about 25 other verses here that talk about feeding/helping the poor. God desires for us to take care of the starving children in the world.

We can ask boldly.

We can ask confidently.  

He will be faithful.  

He has promised to answer our prayers.

The worry, the discouragement, and the irritation are all about looking at what I’ve done, and what I hope to accomplish.  And if this event depends on me, we are doomed.

Thank you, Lord, for the wake-up call this morning.  I lay my attitude at your feet, and humbly thank You and praise You for what You are going to do.   To You be the glory.

As the three of us continued our walk, and looked up into that sunrise, my husband began to pray, “Lord, when two or more are gathered….”

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  Matthew 18:20

Moving Past How Are You, I’m Fine.

I’ve been meeting with a group of women from my church over the past several months as part of a Women’s Leadership Team.  What does the woman of 2016 want?  What Magazine-Collage-womens-magazines-4768830-424-322does she need?  What are we leading women to?  What are we leading women in?  Those are the questions we have been pondering.

And can we, this small group of seven women,  have any impact in their lives?  Can we block out some of the worldly noise competing for their attention?

Can we be women of influence?

In the Bible, the book of Titus teaches us that the “older” women are to teach the younger women.   Does older only refer to age?  Who is the older woman?

Marriage.  Motherhood.  Death.  Grief.  Divorce.  

All those circumstances lend to a more experienced woman (and the gal we tend to think of as older and wiser).  But what about…

College.  Career.  Depression.  Singleness.  Abuse.  

All those life situations (and countless more) lend to more experience as well.  And if a woman has walked down one of those roads,  turned to God, and gained wisdom, isn’t she an “older” one?

After a few weeks of discussion, our little group doesn’t think women want (or need) another church program.   They don’t need someone to teach them how to knit a pair of socks or make an apple pie.  They want someone to give them a peek at what might be around the next corner.  And maybe offer a few words of encouragement or instruction.

She wants to tell her story.  

She wants someone to listen, to hear.  She wants to know she matters.

Women seek love and acceptance.   I pray to God they find both in our midst.  They also need guidance and godly wisdom from women who have gone before them.

“How are you?  I’m fine”  just doesn’t cut it anymore.  I am not fine.  You are not fine.  We are NOT fine.  We have worries and problems.  Big problems.  And we need help.  Just some basic, fundamental help.

Relationships….

Mentors….

As this group of women’s leadership meets weekly, it is causing me to look around and “see” other women.  I mean really see them.  Do I know her name?  Is she married?  Does she have any children?  Does she work outside her home?  If so, where?

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And those questions just barely scratch the surface of this woman created by God.

She is part of my church family.  The Bible says we are part of the same body.  Shouldn’t I know if she is concerned about her cancer returning?  Or worried about her prodigal child?  Abused?  Lonely?  Afraid of losing her job — or her husband?

Shouldn’t she know she matters — to me?  to us?  To God?

Does she?

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Who’s going to tell her, if we don’t?  We’ve been in her shoes.  We know.  We know. Shame on us if we don’t help carry her baggage.

 

Most of us, in the church,  are  the older woman.   We can look around and see someone walking the same road on which we just left footprints.  Let’s reach out and give her our hand.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine.”

“No, really, I’ve got some time, tell me about your week…”

 

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“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”  Ephesians 4:25

Community Team Walks and Prays For Starving Children – Meals From Michiana

MobilePack-Logo_PMS-647We are now in the early stages of planning our 7th local Feed My Starving Children MobilePack, Meals From Michiana.  I became the coordinator for this event in our 20160420_090429Northern Indiana community 2 years ago.  The MobilePack manual provided by FMSC has been my constant companion as I organize and plan.  Everything that needs to be done for a successful Manna Pack is explained in this notebook.  The first instructions are to appoint leaders to 7 different committees: Leadership, Prayer, Promotion, Fundraising, Logistics, Volunteers, and Hospitality.  Administration comes easy when FMSC has already created the “big picture”.  Once I saw the overall plan, it wasn’t hard to get leaders for the various committees.

However, that first year, no one stepped up to take the role of Prayer Leader.  After asking several people personally, and still getting no volunteer, I created prayer cards for all the other committee leaders.  We tried to pray individually, and of course, corporately whenever we had meetings.  That worked okay, but I felt it was still lacking.

Were we praying enough?

The second year, all committee leadership positions filled quickly, but again, no one chose the Prayer Committee.   I tried to think of a way to get everyone involved in praying for our MobilePack.   I was inspired by a conversation I had with a local businessman.  He had been walking the sidewalks of our community, praying for the 1 small businesses.  He said he was “claiming them for God”.  He then talked of his surprise at how the walks were transforming him, making him love this community and its people more and more.

Our MobilePack was 7 weeks away, and with new resolve, I contacted our core volunteers.  I told them I would be at the event center at 7:30 a.m. for the next 6 Saturdays.  I asked them to join me to walk around the facility and pray for our Pack. When Saturday arrived, it was wet and chilly, but as I waited in my car, more vehicles pulled into the parking lot.  Fortunately, there are few schedule conflicts that early on Saturdays —  and people came to pray!

area view MEC

Our event center is a sprawling, odd-shaped building. There is pavement along two sides of the building, and nothing but tall grass and dirt on the other two sides.

We started off a bit awkward, walking, dodging puddles, and praying out loud.   We must have been a curious sight to people on the nearby freeway.  Heads lowered, hot coffee in hand, walking, and talking.

nafec-pic-cropped-670x377We prayed for the MobilePack and the starving children; we prayed for the building and for the volunteers; we asked God for safety; we prayed for the FMSC staff.  We asked for our community to be transformed by this event. 20150918_145438

We prayed for every detail. 6343999175_794f60fc06_n

And we claimed the event for God.

And by the time we completed the circle, we all felt excitement in the air.  No one hurried to his car.  People stood around talking about God, the Pack, and the kids who would receive the meals.

And that’s when I knew this would work.

Walking and praying together refocused us.  We were no longer worried about the volunteers, or the money, or the logistics of the Pack.

He would take care of the details.  God had lifted the burden.

And the next Saturday, they all came back.  In fact, every Saturday leading up to our FMSC MobilePack, we prayed around the perimeter of that building, staking our claim.  God honored those prayers, and our MobilePack ran smoothly, volunteers were in abundance, and we packed over and above our goal.

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As we move forward, planning for our 2016 MobilePack, all the committee leaders are in place.  This year, I’m not seeking a Prayer Leader.   I’m planning a Prayer Walk.  We will walk and pray.  I’m not worried about participation.

They will come.

It was that powerful.

FMSC Mobile Pack Event

FMSC Mobile Pack Event

Like Any Good Exercise, Practice Makes Perfect: Write 31 Days

31 days of JoyDay 31 of 31 Days of JOY.  

Am I going to Grumble?  Or Trust?

When I go back and count, I only posted 13 days out of the 31!   Looks like I just got my numbers turned around.

We were asked to write a recap post.  Did I learn anything as I wrote?  Will it reshape me in any way?

And thankfully, they invited everyone to recap, even if we did not complete 31 days.

So, did I learn anything?  Well, yes, I did.

On writing, I learned that if I focus and bring ALL that I know, and ALL that I want to write about, down into something very specific, like grumbling or trusting, writing comes easier.  There were days in September when I wanted to write, and I had all kinds of things dancing in my head, but nothing specific.  Therefore, no words ever made it to paper: I wrote nothing during the month of September versus 13 posts in October.

Focus is key. 

I also learned that even with a challenge before me to write 31 days, sometimes life gets in the way.  And life, living it, still trumps writing about it.  There were a few days when I clicked that “publish” button at 11:59 pm, but typically on those kind of days, life won out as did sleep.   And I’m ok with that.

Living trumps writing.

I don’t write if I don’t take the time.   There will always be 24 hours in any day.   No more.  No less.   I am a task-oriented person.  I work from a to-do list.  Writing can no longer just be an add-on — if I have time.  There will never be any left-over hours.  If I want to write, then “write” must be on the to-do list.  It gets done if it’s on the list.  Because that’s how I roll.

Take the time to write.  Steal it.   It’s ok.

So those were the easy lessons.

I chose 31 Days of JOY — will I grumble or will I trust?  Life lessons that require attitude and perspective shifts are harder to learn.   And can I just say, they hurt more.

On grumbling, I learned that murmuring and complaining are often my default settings.  Ouch.  (No one wants to know that about themselves.)  But knowledge is power, and several times last month when I wanted to complain, grumble, or gossip about something, I stopped myself.

Often that’s as far as I went; I just reined in my thoughts.  I didn’t grumble.  Done.

It’s one step to not complain, but it’s a giant leap to praise God and trust Him for whatever comes your way.

Whatever comes your way.

Was I going to just not grumble?  Or was I going to trust?

On trusting, I learned that I could not savor trust and grumble in the same mouthful.  My trust required remembering God’s faithfulness to me in the past.  My trust reminded me that God works ALL things out for my good.

ALL things.  Even “this”?   Even “that”?

Yes,  ALL things.  

Then, and only then,  could my trust bring praise to my lips.  “Thank you, Lord, for what you are doing in this situation.  I trust you.”

Trust doesn’t grumble,  trust praises God.

I will focus and take time to write.  I will try not to grumble (too often).  I will trust God by remembering His faithfulness and praising Him for what He is doing in my life.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

It was a good challenge, and I’m glad I participated.   Did I do it perfectly?  No, I did not.  But it’s like any kind of exercise — practice makes perfect.

“The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing.”

Just keep typing…  just keep typing…

keep typing

“A Babushka Pirate Named Maude”

2f6047de1f704dcdab78920729e5b3b5A babushka pirate named Maude.  What?

I cannot even begin to tell you the meaning behind the title of this post.

Well, let’s see…

It is the last comment of a group facebook message between my daughters and me.  It is actually the culmination of 3 different conversations we had going on, at the same time, during that particular post.   The bantering went on for several hours as the girls jumped on and off facebook to add their comments.  So, no, I cannot explain exactly what it means.  Because it wouldn’t be funny.  Now.  You just had to be there.  One daughter wrote back later, I snorted (out loud) at my desk over that last comment.

The girls were being witty and snarky and playful.

And it makes my heart happy.  Still.

They are grown now, and don’t see each other often as they live miles apart.  Two in the Midwest and two in the Rockies.  Hearing them talk in conversation — even in text — makes me get all soft and sentimental inside.

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I don’t think 4 girls so different ever existed under the same roof.  I’ve said many times, there is no learning curve in raising girls.   Nothing you learn from teaching one applies to teaching the other.

When they were little, the days were filled with giggles, books, dress-up, and endless hours of pretend play.  I bought old prom dresses from consignment shops so they could be adorned in “princess” gowns for tea parties and balls.  Other days, we would spend hours in the library, and each girl would come home with a stack of books.  I had to have my own filing system at home to keep track of all those stories.

Not all days were “sunshine and lollipops” though.  I remember saying before I was a Mother, ‘when I have my kids, they will not fight with each other’.  Ha!  As in any family, there were also days of scratches, bites, mean words, and fights.  Days when one girl couldn’t stand the sight of the other.  I remember lecturing about “sisters are friends for a lifetime” and “you take this paper and pen and you write 5 things you like about your sister“.  Whew.  Some days were just like that.

Where did those little girls go?  It seemed like they would be under my feet forever.  I would do anything to have a bit of that forever back.

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Lord knows I pray for these children, these women of mine.  They are my heart.  And it makes me happy when they love on each other.  So when they are witty and playful, even snarky, I cry big ol’ Mama tears.

The girls have told me there will be 2 epitaphs on my tombstone:  On one side, “She just wanted them to get along” and “Edify, Edify” on the other.

I guess I could do worse.

The days are long, but the years fly by.

And if I ever do write “that book”, I do believe the title will be,  A Babushka Pirate Named Maude.

31 days of Joy

 

 

 

Write 31 Days

The Best Gifts Don’t Come With a Barcode: Write 31 Days

20151016_153006I watch my grandchildren 2 days a week while their Mama works.  I love knowing her sweet babies in such an intimate way, and I enjoy keeping them.  By allowing me to care for her kiddos, I know my daughter has given me a gift.20150714_151605 

We are entering into the season when we think more about gifts.  Autumn is in full-swing, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  We slow down just long enough on Turkey Day to count our blessings, and then we rush out the next day to grab all the deals we can find for more gifts.  Instead of looking forward to the holidays with joy, we often complain and dread their arrival.

But the gifts I value the most cannot be bought at any store.  There are no deals on Black Friday to purchase the items I treasure.

Daughters.  Husband.  Grandchildren.  Moms.  Extended Family. Friends. Community.

People. 

Not one thing on my list.  Am I thankful for my house, my car, my things?  Of course, but if they were all lost, and I only had my people, I would be a grateful, satisfied, and blessed woman.  Thankful for the gifts in my life.

There is one other person on my list.  The most important gift I possess.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”   John 3:16

Jesus Christ.  Eternal life.

God’s gift to us.

The best gifts don’t come with a barcode.

31 days of Joy

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Farmer In My House: Write 31 Days

national farmer dayNATIONAL FARMER’S DAY

Oops, I missed National Farmer’s Day.   Did you?  It was 3 days ago.  I’m sure I’m not alone as most of us didn’t know October 12 was the day to honor farmers.  The profession was first celebrated back in the 1800s, but no one has an exact date.  October does seem fitting in celebrating National Farmer’s Day as it is in the midst of harvest.

It was originally known as Old Farmer’s Day.  Hmm.  We could have lots of fun with that title around my house.  I’m married to a farmer.

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Did you know more than 80 percent of the world’s food is still produced by family farmers?  More than 500 million family farms manage between 70 and 80 percent of the world’s agricultural land, the U.N.’s “The State of Food and Agriculture 2014” reported.

I know I take my food supply for granted.  When I run out of milk, eggs, beans,  even cookies, I run to the store and replenish my supplies.  Sometimes I even complain about the long lines, high prices and variety of food available in my stores.  How about you?

So, even if we’re a few days late, let’s thank a farmer today for putting food on our tables.

Did you kiss a farmer today?  I did.

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31 days of Joy

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I Still Get To Eat Dinner With My Mom: Write 31 Days

31 days of JoyWrite 31 Days

I walked into the hospital room, and was shocked by what I saw.  A old lady lie in the bed, mouth open, eyes rolled up toward the ceiling, sheet pulled up to the chin over the withered, disease-torn body.  I hardly recognized my mother.  How did this happen in 5 short months?  The doctors were stumped and couldn’t find any answers as my Mom wasted away.  They chased cancer, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and several other diagnosis.  None were confirmed.

That was 14 months ago.  We thought we would bury Mom before summer’s end.  We prayed to God; we cried out to one another; and we complained to the doctors.  “Why can’t you figure this out?”

20151014_173050Today I spent the afternoon with Mom in her new apartment at an assisted living facility.  After I was there for about an hour, she asked if I wanted to eat dinner with her.  “Sure, I would love to”.

When the doctors finally figured out what was wrong with her, my Mom’s near-death situation improved quickly.  I feel completely blessed that my Mom is still here with us.

No grumbling today.  No complaining.  Thank you, Lord.

I love you, Mom.

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She Will Write And She Will Find Her Voice: Write 31 Days

31 days of JoyWrite 31 Days (well 26 Days, maybe).

“You cannot do this.  You have nothing to say.”  Those are the words she heard over and over again in her head.  They were loud voices, even harsh at times.  “What are you doing here?”

Why had she come to this conference, this writer’s conference?  Doubts and fears overwhelmed her because she wasn’t sure she did have anything worthy to say.

As she looked around the lobby, she saw men and women huddled together, talking dcad598e49e3046cf0ef4ce58d7473e3about their latest projects.  She saw one lady, animated about her fiction novel, the one she has been researching for years, and is now ready to put on paper.  Another spoke excitedly about a Bible study she has just written.   There were stories, no pun intended, everywhere.

She wasn’t comparing herself to accomplished authors.  These writers had put in their “10,000 hours”, and deserved to be published.  No, it really wasn’t that at all.  Besides, there were some writers here who had never written a single word.   Longing and curiosity had brought them to this place.

What then?  What was causing her anxiety?

She was doubting her calling.  Had she heard God right?  Did He want her to write?  Did she have anything worthwhile to say?

Did she have a voice?

Does that ever happen to you?  You think you know what God has asked you to do.  You step out in faith, but something happens that shakes you up a bit.   You hear a condemning voice, “You cannot do that.  You are not called to ________.”  And then you doubt.  You question.  You fear.  You may even grumble and complain.  Whine, if you will.

I know I have.  I know I do.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  2 Timothy 1:7

Fear is not from God.  When God calls us to do something, He gives us power, and passion and peace.   He does not whisper (or yell) condemnations into our ear.  No where in God’s Word do we see him saying things like, “you are stupid.  you are no good.  you cannot do this.”  If God wants us to change course, He will guide us, but He won’t belittle us in the process.

tumblr_ku92wiwsDY1qzlgb3o1_500It took her a day or two after she arrived home to clear her head of the criticism.   To shake off the lies.  The truth was God had given her this passion, a desire to put her heart on paper.  She’s still not sure what direction her writing will go.  Does she have a fictional book inside of her?  Does she have a gift for devotionals?  It’s not clear just yet.  But that’s okay.

She is standing just at the gate.  She almost turned and ran the other way, but with new purpose and resolve, she stepped through and began to slowly walk.  And in time, as she thinks, ponders, writes and writes,  God will help her find her voice.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17

Write 31 Days: Should I Write or Clean My House?

31 days of JoyWrite 31 Days.

I’m going to take a hiatus tonight from my theme of 31 Days of JOY.   And as I am heading into a busy weekend, and may not post again until Monday, my 31 Days is quickly morphing into a 25 Days of JOY.   That’s ok:  Structure not legalistic rules.

I’m attending Breathe Writer’s  Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and due to the late hour, I’m going to keep this post short.  My brain is full of all that I’ve taken in today at this writer’s conference, and if I’m honest, I’m a little overwhelmed by the content and the company.   I’m feeling a little out of my league.  Authors and accomplished writers are here, meeting with publishing companies, making pitches to get their work published.

My little blog posts seem lame in comparison.  I’m green.  Late to the party.

Wait!  Wasn’t my last blog post was about comparisons?  Ugh.  It’s such a natural human reaction to compare ourselves with others.

I’m going to have to do some praying and soul-searching to figure out exactly what I’m suppose to be doing.  There are days when I feel called to write, and I’m passionate about putting thoughts and words on paper.  Then there are moments when I don’t know why in the heck I’m not cleaning my house instead of wasting my time at this keyboard.

Just keeping it real and transparent.

I don’t want to compare myself to “authors”.    It doesn’t really matter what they write or how many works they have in print.  What I want to do is find out what God wants me to do.  How best can I fulfill His purpose in my life.

This may be too much to ask out of the Breathe Conference, but I’m hoping for some clarity tomorrow.  I’m hoping God uses these speakers and workshops to define more of who I am — who He wants me to be.


 

Write 31 Days: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

31 days of JoyWrite 31 Days.

I’ve been writing recently about grumbling, and the idea that trust and grumbling are opposites.

We can’t trust God and then grumble about what He has laid before us, or the “work” He’s given us to do.  Grumbling, murmuring, and disputing testify to unbelief.  If I truly believe that God is in control, and that He has my best, my very best interest at heart (and He always does), then how can I argue or grumble?

I spoke briefly with a friend yesterday, and this young woman is walking a road none of us would ask to travel.  She has just given birth to her 3rd child, a precious little girl.   This sweet little babe has some chromosome abnormalities that present a grave prognosis.  Her life here on earth will most likely be short-lived, maybe a month, possibly a year.

As we chatted, this young mom thanked me for my recent posts, ‘They’ve been good for me because I’ve been tempted to grumble a bit…I’m asking why a lot.’  Oh, Sweet Friend, mourning and grieving, even asking why, are not the same thing as grumbling.  Expressing heartache over dashed expectations or grieving a loss are natural human reactions.  God has given us those emotions, and understands our need to express them.

The Merriam Webster dictionary says the word mourn is to feel or show great sadness because someone has died; to feel or show great sadness or unhappiness about (something).

And this about grieve:  to cause (someone) to feel sad or unhappy; to feel or show grief or sadness.

That same resource says to grumble is complain or protest about something in a bad-tempered but typically muted way.

Mourning and grumbling are totally different reactions, feelings and emotions.  God will comfort us during the first, but rebuke us for the latter.

I was given permission to share this young mother’s words.  I was even told I could post a picture,  but the timing doesn’t feel quite right.  I may share more in another post on another day or someone else may get that honor as their story must be told.  This baby’s life will be honored and people will be blessed from the testimony of this family.

I know some reading this blog are going through some really heavy stuff, and these posts are not meant to make light of those trials.  God hears your cries.  I hope you find comfort as you read the verses below…. just a few things God has to say about mourning…

 

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Write 31 Days: Comparisons Always Change Our Focus

31 days of JoyWrite 31 Days.  Am I trusting God?  Or does my complaining and grumbling show my unbelief?

My next stop during this month of no grumbling took me to the book of Numbers in the Bible.  I am not going to go into all the details of chapter 16 as I really only want to use a portion of my 500 words (that is the maximum number of 132322145words in any article before your eyes glaze over and you lose all interest in the point of the post ).

Chapter 16 is filled with jealousy and comparisons, and the awful price a disgruntled people paid for not listening to God.

It all started when a few people got jealous of their leaders, of God’s anointed leaders; they gathered a few more into their fold with their complaining and comparisons.  Then others became unhappy with this and that.  It was an opposition against Moses and Aaron.

Really?  No, Moses and his brother were  anointed by God so the uprising was actually rebellion against Him.

Jealousy is a poison. Comparisons can be deadly.  When we look at others and long for their talents, and their gifts, we become discontent with our own.  In God’s Word, we’re told that we all have gifts.

“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly…”  Romans 12:6.   But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift”   Ephesians 4:7.

Yet we neglect to nurture our own if we keep looking around us at others.

Not only do comparisons cause us to grumble, but our complaining is often contagious.   God dealt gravely with those who rebelled in that book of Numbers, but let’s read the last sentence in that very same chapter, “The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron…”. (Numbers 16:41)

Poison.  Spreading to others.  The rebellion of some had caused discontentment in the”whole Israelite community“.

But , “The very next day...”?  The very same chapter, the very next day.  How can that happen?  How can memories be so short?  Unfortunately, as a fallen people, they didn’t always learn the lessons God put in their lives.  We don’t either.

your-talent-is-gods-gift-to-you_what-you-do-with-it-is-your-gift-back-to-god-srqqkb“I wish I could sing like you”

“I want to speak like her”

“I would love to write like him”

“Why can’t I teach like her”

Comparisons. Grumbles.  Discontentment.

We sometimes  see the error in our way, and ask God to forgive us.  And we are happy with our own talents and gifts…. for about 2 days.   Then we do it all over again.

We are those people.  At least I am those people.

Friend, stop looking around.  Look up and then look within.   What is your talent?  What are you good at?  Where are your passions?  Find those things and nurture those things.  When you are doing what God created you to do, you will find satisfaction and contentment.

And God will be glorified in you.

Oops, I used all 500 words;  I hope you stayed with me!

 

 

Write 31 Days: Breathe, Relax, And Let God Be God

31 days of Joy31 days of JOY

A friend of mine is struggling as  one of her adult children is going through something right now that is breaking her heart.  We sat over a cup of coffee and talked about life, marriage, children, parents, and God ….  yeh, that kind of friend.    After we moved to this area, God answered my prayer, and put this kindred spirit into my life.   I have only known her for about four years, but it feels like I’ve known her my whole life.

I have four children of my own — all girls, all grown.  They are beautiful, strong, and gochenaurs-4167independent women.  Each daughter has faced her own challenges; and if I’m honest, some are still trying to figure a few things out.  But then, aren’t we all?

Parenting is hard.   And whichever stage of parenting you’re in — babies, toddlers, tweens or teens — that stage seems to be the hardest.   Because every season is hard and takes it’s toll on us as moms and dads.    I always thought when my kids were raised, I could take a deep breath and relax.

No one ever tells you that whether your child is 5 or 35, you hold them in your heart and think about them, their decisions, and their well-being every single day… forever.

No breathing.  No relaxing.

I know that is not exactly true, and full-time parenting minors is certainly different than “parenting” adult children.   A wise woman once told me, ‘when your children are little, talk to them about God.  When your children are adults, talk to God about them’.

Which brings me to my point (finally)… I’ve been reading the book of Philippians recently.   There’s a really simple verse in chapter 2 that we often teach our children.  It’s a Sunday School favorite for memorization:  “Do all things without grumbling and disputing” (Philippians 2:14).  As young parents, we arm ourselves and quote that verse as we separate squabbling children.  At other times, we make them repeat it as they march off to clean their rooms.

il_570xN_319280390But THAT verse recently jumped off the page at me during a quiet time of reading and reflection.  I had actually been having a conversation with God — about my children.  I was arguing about a situation in which one of my girls finds herself.    What, Lord?  Even that?  I can’t grumble about that?

And I heard, “No, trust Me” (not audibly, but loud, just the same).

“I do trust You, Lord.”

“Then why do you grumble?”

“Isn’t it my right to grumble when things are not going well for my kids?   I want the best for my kids.  Can’t I complain when things stink?”

“Do you trust Me?” 

And there it is again.

Grumble or trust?

As a parent, the hardest thing for me to do is let go, and let God take care of my kids.  I want control.   I want to make things right.   I want to fix things.  I want to grumble.   I want to complain.  I want…

But it’s not about me.

And I think that is what God is trying to teach me.  My kids are His.   He is in control.  He will make things right.  He will fix things.

… in His own time

… and in His own way.

And He will get the glory.

And my children will be stronger and better when God works in their life (not Mom).

Do I trust God with my kids?  Yes, yes, I do.  So it’s about time I acted like it.

“Thank you, God, for what You are doing in their lives.  Thank you for loving them… even MORE than I do.    I praise You.”

My job is to pray and praise.

It’s hard to grumble and praise in the same breath.

God’s got this!  God’s got them!

Breathe in, breathe out, relax.

breath

 

 

 

Write 31 Days: Walk Confidently Away From Your Egypt

31 days of JoyMy 22-year-old daughter asked me to go to a movie with her on Saturday evening.  As I quickly thought about everything remaining on my to-do list, I decided an evening with my youngest was far more important than anything on that list.  Anything.  Even my 3rd blog post for Write 31 Days.

As we walked out of the theater (way too late for a Saturday evening), I said to her, ‘We need to get home before midnight’, even as I was praying silently, ‘please, Lord, allow words to come easily tonight’.   At the same time, I was  also checking notices on my phone, and as if in answer to my prayer, there on my20150826_113541 front ‘page’ was a notice from the creators of Write 31 Days:  ‘We here at 31 Dayers have taken the weekend off…and we hope you do too…walk away from your computer screen.’    Thank you.  Thank you very much.

So 31 Days of JOY — that is my challenge.  Grumble or Trust?

When I began this challenge, it wasn’t my intention to go through the Bible, looking for every mention of grumble, however, it has become a fascinating word study.   I’ve gotten very intrigued, and humbled, by the texts.

God takes grumbling very seriously.

All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!  Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”  So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:2-4)

Egypt_SlaveryReturn to Egypt?  Return to slavery?

The people were afraid because Moses had sent men into Canaan to “spy out the land”.  The people received a bad report from 10 of the 12 men.   Ten men came back and stirred up fear.  Two men came back and said, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey.”

Yes, the people living in the land of Canaan were strong;  the cities were large and fortified.  The men were gigantic!   Both the location, all the people, and their neighbors were formidable.  It did look hopeless, but God had said He was giving the land to the Hebrew people.  God said it was theirs already.  Surely they would trust Him.

As I read that familiar story, I thought, why did Moses send men into Canaan to spy out the land?  Hadn’t God already promised the land to them?  Why did Moses need to scout it out?   So I went back to the beginning, and look what I found…

Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying,  “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them.”  (Numbers 13:1-2)

It wasn’t Moses’ idea to send spies.   He was being obedient to God.   God sent the spies into Canaan.  Why?  God didn’t need spies; He knew what was in the land of Canaan.

Well, well, well….   That puts a whole new perspective on this story.

God was testing the faith of the people.  He wanted to see if they would trust Him.

What did they do?  They grumbled.

And there it is again. 

Grumble or trust?

1280px-Death_Valley,19820816,Desert,incoming_near_ShoshonesAren’t we a bit like those people wandering in the desert?  We may be sure God is leading us in a certain direction, but when something happens that upsets the plans, we often retreat, doubting that we heard Him correctly.  We don’t see it as a test of faith, a time to speak up and remember God’s faithfulness to us.  We see it as defeat.  We run back to “Egypt”, our own state of slavery.  It may not be a bad place; it might be a comfortable place, but is it THE place God wants us to be?  Trials and tests don’t scream “retreat”; they often beg for, “I serve a faithful God.  Let’s go!”

I don’t want to grumble and miss the blessing of my promised land.  I want to remember that God HAS been faithful.  God WILL go before me.  God has ALREADY defeated my enemies.

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’  (Isaiah 41:10)

 

Write 31 Days: Did God Bring Us Here to Die?

31 days of Joy31 days of JOY — Grumble or Trust?

The Hebrew’s exodus out of Egypt is a very well-known Bible story.  It makes for a great cast of characters in children’s Sunday School class or any drama presentation:   A powerful Pharaoh, an adopted son-turned-enemy, and an enslaved people… all lend to an amazing narrative.

But those of us familiar with the history know that those very same freed people were not such great travelers.  It’s not a surprise that the first mention of grumbling in the Bible appears in the book of Exodus (even though I’m pretty sure Adam and Eve did their share of complaining after their little snack in the garden, nothing is recorded about their discontent).

“But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left”.  (Exodus 14:29)  Can God get any more REAL?  The Hebrew people had seen wonders, they had seen God.

They saw God when Moses rescued them from 400 years of slavery.  (Exodus 3:10-12)

They saw God when He “gave them favor in the eyes of the Egyptians”  so they walked away with their Moses-and-the-Divided-Red-Sea-Explained-Revealed-East-Wind-Parting-Israel-Hebrew-Egyptians-Crossing-Exodus-14-21-Bible-Story-Science-Scientific-Explanaticaptors’ silver, gold, and clothing.  (Exodus 12:35-37)

They saw God as He guided the Hebrews around in that unfamiliar territory with a cloud by day and a fire by night.  (Exodus 13:21)

They saw God dry up the Red Sea and allow for their miraculous crossing.  The Pharaoh and his army weren’t so lucky. (Exodus 14:27-29)

And as the people stepped onto dry ground, they were ecstatic and they danced and sang songs to the Lord.  They recognized God’s control and gave Him praise.  (Exodus 15:1-21)

GUWG-GRUMBLINGHowever….   almost before the water was dry between their toes, there was some grumbling.  It most likely began with one or two, spread to a few, and before he knew what happened, the whole crowd was yelling at Moses, “We need water to drink; this water is bitter!  We need food to eat!  Did you bring us out here to kill us?  We should have just died in Egypt!”  (Exodus 16:1-7)

We read that story, and we are shocked:  ‘Seriously?  How can those people be so spoiled.  So forgetful.  So disrespectful.  So ungrateful.’

They had been given so much.  God was taking care of them.  Yes, they needed food and water, but surely they knew God wouldn’t bring them this far only to let them die.  He would provide.

Trust?  Faith?  Nope, grumble, grumble, grumble.

Wait.  What?  Am I any different?  I have a house, food, water, clothes, and so much more.  I am blessed.  God has been faithful.  Yet I grumble because I have to load a dishwasher, yet those very dishes are proof that I have food.  I complain about the laundry, yet those are the clothes that keep me warm.  I don’t like dusting my sturdy, lovely furniture.  I whine because I have appointments conflicting on my calendar — I have to choose between two good friends!

No, I am no different.

I am that people.

I am so spoiled.  So forgetful.  So disrespectful.  So ungrateful.

“…your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.”  (Exodus 16: 8)

Ouch.

When I protest to my husband, my children, or my friend, it is a complaint that God hears loud and clear, and takes personally.   I am talking directly to Him — the Giver of all that I have.  Whew.  That’s pretty heavy stuff.

50576f919e08719fb8d22dca0585afa9I’m so glad I’m living under God’s grace, and that He is always willing to forgive.  I’m thankful He’s given us His word, and placed stories within those pages that speak to us and teach us His ways.   We fail sometimes, yes, but we have His Spirit available to us, to help us be gracious and thankful.

The idea that grumbling is the opposite of trust has just started to resonate with me.  And I’ve bitten my tongue more than once today, and then offered up a prayer, ” I know You’ve got this.  Thank you for what You are doing in this situation.” 

I’m hoping for this challenge to impact my life….. not just 31 days.    And I hope you stick with me.  The writing may get a bit stale, but the JOY from no grumbling will be exciting and new every single day!

Blessings on you, dear friend!  Thanks for reading thus far.

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Write 31 Days.  Only day 2, and I’m already questioning my decision to do this.  What was I thinking?  (Just keep typing, just keep typing).

 

 

 

 

 

Write 31 Days: Two Choices: Grumble or Trust

31 days of JoyI grumble.

I don’t want to be a grumbler.

But I am.

Evidently.

As a woman who looks for Divine intervention in her life, I read my Bible, study my Bible and journal from my Bible.   And lately the word, grumble, has come up way too open-bibleoften for me to ignore any longer.  Once, I hardly even saw it.  Twice, I read back over the phrase.  But after I saw it (and heard it) 4 or 5 times,  I knew God was trying to get my attention.

When I grumble, I allow my circumstances to steal my joy.  And my trust.

Psalm 106: 24-25 “Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe in His word,  but grumbled in their tents; They did not listen to the voice of the Lord.”

When I complain and whine about anything (and everything) in my life, I am not listening to the voice of the Lord.

GUWG-GRUMBLINGGrumbling, complaining, and whining are not attributes of Christ.

They are not Fruits of the Spirit.

They hamper the Holy Spirit’s work in my life.

Can I go 31 days without grumbling?  Can I replace that grouchy attitude with sweet gratitude?  They are opposite.  I can’t be grumbling and offering thanksgiving at the thSL3UBJNAsame time.

I want to be a woman who trusts God when life is merry, and when life is tough.  I don’t want my circumstances to define who I am.

I am a woman of God.  I trust God.  I believe God.

Do I?

Hmm…  does my grumbling attest to my trust?

Psalm 16:11 “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

trustSo am I going to grumble?  Or am I going to trust God?  I think it’s either/or — can’t be both.

 

Big challenge.

31 days!  I’m taking the challenge!

Seems daunting — both for writing, and for…. well, trusting.

Here we go….  hope you join me!

Are you going to grumble?  Or are you going to trust?

31 days of Joy

 

 

 

 

 

Packing “Manna” locally to Save Children Around the World

Did you know over two million children die every single year from starvation?  2,000,000!   That’s a really big number.  I’m not even sure I can “see” that number, can you?  What does 2,000,000 look like?   We could fill the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis every 11 days with children — who are doomed to die because they do not have enough food.

6200. children. every. single. day.

But that number is still hard to visualize.  Can we even see that many children?  Well, how about one?  … one child?

Moses

Can you see this one?  This is Moses, and he was found in an outdoor toilet in Haiti.  A man passing by heard his cry, and lowered himself down into that filth to save this sewage-covered baby.   The baby was taken to Love A Child Orphanage, where he was named, Moses, because it means, ‘drawn out of the water’.  (I, myself, think that was a very generous name.)

But even still, Moses is on the other side of the world.  Does he touch my life?  Can I really “see” him?  Are you a parent?  A grandparent?  What if, for just a moment, you imagine the face of your child or your grandchild on that photo.

You can see  him now, can’t you?!  I know I can.  Seeing my grandchild’s face on that little body makes it personal; makes it hurt.

It is only by the grace of God that it is NOT my child…or yours.

Love A Child Orphanage is a recipient of Feed My Starving Children MannaPack food.   This orphanage was able to divert some funds and give Moses a special formula.  Four months later, the picture of him shows a remarkable difference.7085519099_0889dc7cae_zLook at that baby now!   Contented, satisfied — even chubby cheeks.

And after the formula, Moses received FMSC MannaPack food.  In the picture below, he looks like a typical 3 or 4 year old.  Look at that smile and sparkle in his eyes!

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What would the world look like if starving children all over the world had enough food?  If they could stop thinking about food ALL THE TIME, and think about… well, 95fa53a7164314ca1271eb812179a633school, for instance.  Or play.  Or friends.  Or any thought other than ‘is there any food?’

 

 

What would happen if we could change these kids…

famine_1502195c_2306656cmadagascar_1173705900_dscf0924

 

 

 

 

 

Into these kids…

17391568862_7d35e37fbc_food_aid_creditfeed_my_starving_children_fmsc_flickr

 

 

 

 

 

We have the power to prevent thousands of children from dying every single month.  Feed My Starving Children sent  over 229 million meals to malnourished children last year.  My community helped pack over 700,000 of those meals.   Yours can too!

James 1:27 says,  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Proverbs 22:9 says, The generous will themselves be blessed for they share their food with the poor.

Nothing is more important than children having enough food to…. just survive.

You may not be able to go to Haiti or Honduras or any other foreign country, but your mission field can be right here, close to your community — at any FMSC MobilePack.  Click the link to find a Mobilepack close to you.

If you help pack the food,  someone’s child gets to live.

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Click on link to find a FMSC Mobilepack close to you

 

 

Soaring, Part 2 of Finding My Joy

If you’re just joining me, I hope you take the time to read the previous post where I expressed my struggle to find joy in my Christian walk.    I think I left you with something like, “Being a Christian isn’t joyful, it’s hard work”.

You can read it here.

God did indeed have my attention.  He knows that trials are often the engine that drivepraying us to our knees.  In my loneliness and frustration, I prayed.  I’m sure it wasn’t anything eloquent or pretty.   It probably went something like, “God, help me find you!  I don’t want to do this anymore.”

There was no bolt of lightening or great big sign in the sky.  And God didn’t take all my problems away, but He did answer that prayer…

I joined a Bible study at a large church close to our home.  Those ladies will never know the life-line they threw to me, and how it literally saved my “spiritual” life.   It was my first introduction to a 51klv5FZX+L__SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Beth Moore Bible study.  We would be studying the Old Testament tabernacle in her book,  A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place.  I had never heard of Beth Moore, but I had always been intrigued by the tabernacle, and I just thought it would be an interesting study.

But God had something else in mind … after all, I had prayed for Him to show himself to me.  Why would he not answer THAT prayer?

As I began to study those lessons, I can remember waking up at 5 a.m. many days, and almost hearing God whisper in my ear, “Come, I have something to show you”.  5 a.m.!!  Seriously?  But God had NEVER woke me up before, and it was exciting.  I was loving this study.  I was loving God’s Word.  Something was happening.  It didn’t happen overnight, but I was changing.

Slowly I was finding my joy, my peace….my God.  How?  In ancient text about the Old Testament tabernacle, of all places?  But I discovered in those pages that God’s Word was alive and active and relevant.   Words written thousands of years ago were helping me cope with distraught daughters.  Those words were helping me encourage my husband.  Those words were helping me get through my days with a new contentment.  The weariness had lifted.

I found joy not by my doing, acting, or working, but by seeking Him; studying His word, praying and keeping my focus on Him.   Were my girls still unhappy?  Oh yeah.  Was I still sick and tired and sometimes stressed-out in our new situation?  Absolutely.  Did Jon’s job go “south”?  Well, yes, it did.  But still, I had this inner joy that circumstances couldn’t take away.

Throughout that study and the next one, I continued to wake up early and run down the stairs!  Isaiah 40:31 says, “Those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength.  They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”    …wait upon the Lord.isaiah_40_31_niv2My focus needs to be on God.

My perspective had always been wrong.

I still go to church every Sunday.  In fact, I still DO many of things I did when I was that young, frustrated woman.  But my motivation has changed.

And my perspective has changed.

I’m looking UP these days — not out and about.

Do you have a joy that can’t be shaken by your circumstances?  Are you looking out into the world to find a contentment that can only be found in God?

There is a open-door-blue-sky1promise in the book of Matthew, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  

“God, help me find you!” 

Listen, can you hear it?  He’s whispering…

“Come, I have something to show you…”

“Being a Christian Is Work” Part 1 of Finding My Joy

20150811_123136Hey there!  Do you ever just feel kind of bogged down in the nitty-gritty of life?  Just trying to make it through the day?  Even as you’re checking things off on your to-do list, does it still feel like drudgery instead of accomplishment.

Is there any joy in all that doing?

I’ve been thinking a lot about joy this week as I am preparing to teach a Bible study this fall in my church.  The study will be on the book of Philippians, a book about joy.

Joy.  It’s kind of illusive at times, isn’t it?

Years ago, we were attending a rather legalistic church.   The Bible was taught in this church, and as a young Christian, I was devouring the sermons and teaching.  However, looking back, I see that the sermons stressed action, doing, and works, but rarely talked about feelings, love and motives.

As a young mother of 4 young girls, I was DOING; I was ACTING; I was WORKING.  I 08111501was attending every church service — Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, and you better believe if there was a Missionary Week, we were there EVERY single night.  I attended a women’s meeting every Tuesday morning.  Even if the girls were exhausted, even if I was stressed, even if other things were left undone.   We were there.

Or we weren’t “good Christians”.

I was saved by grace, but living under the umbrella of works.

I remember feeling the weariness;  I remember doing all the “right” things; checking off boxes on that list.  One day, feeling stressed out and blue, I asked to meet with the wife of our traveling evangelist (they were home on sabbatical).  This family was held in high regard in our church, and I admired this woman from afar many times.  She was the mother of 5 children and taught Bible studies all over the country.   She had it altogether, and I wanted her secret!

We arranged to meet in her small, humble kitchen over coffee.  Uncomfortable at first, I finally explained to her that I was frustrated, weary and tired.  I was doing everything o-COFFEE-TEA-TASTE-facebookthat was expected of me and I felt worn out, used and — anything but joyful.

“I have no joy.  Being a Christian is not joyful; it’s work!”

I don’t remember much more about the conversation.   I only know when I left her house that day, I was overwhelmed with sadness.  This woman had no idea what to tell me.  She, too, was doing, acting, working.

And she had no joy.

Sometimes God has to MOVE us to enable us to see things differently.   Nothing like a new perspective from a new perspective!   A few years after that wife-to-wife encounter, our family relocated to Denver, Colorado.  We left behind two “just-grown” daughters; we took two very unhappy daughters with us, a 7 year old and a 15 year old.8444803021_dfc2bcfe5f_z

My life was a hot mess:   I had unhappy children, trying to adjust to a new school, feeling lonely and betrayed.  I think both girls cried themselves to sleep for the first 6 months.   I had developed undiagnosed bronchial pneumonia and was sick for weeks.  My husband was trying to adjust to a new job situation, and things were not going as planned in the office.   I had no support system, but I was doing everything in my power to make this place home.  I was scared.  I was tired.  And I was lonely.

And God had my attention.

The time in Colorado was challenging, but it was a life-changing experience, and I often refer to it as “the best year of my life, and the worst year of my life” (why we stayed only one year is for another post at a later time).

Tomorrow, and I’ll share how God took that lonely time in my life to change me forever.  Join me here for, Finding My Joy, Part 2.

 

 

 

 

Are You Praying For God to Show Up?

A MobilePack in process -- hair bonnets and all!

God?  Oh, umm…hello?

Our FMSC Mobilepack is six weeks away.  Volunteer registration just opened up, and people are beginning to sign up to help with the pack.   That’s great!  People usually wait until the last minute so I’m not overly concerned about the volunteers — yet.

But — We are way behind in the funding.

I have begun to fret.  And worry.  Will we be able to pay for 650,000 meals?  Will we raise the $143,000 we’ve committed to?  Is the team doing all they can to make this happen?   Will the community come and pack?

Worry.  Worry. Worry.

This morning while I was preparing for an upcoming Bible study, God’s word reminded and impressed upon me that I haven’t prayed enough.   Have I prayed much at all?  Well, yes, I have prayed some; I have sent up “popcorn” prayers, but have I fervently sought God’s help, his equipping?

Ouch.

Am I relying on myself and others to pack this food?  To feed these starving children?

Every year over two million children die because they do not have food in their bellies.

2,263,000!  Just because they have no food.

Can I expect us to meet this need — without seeking God’s help?

I am convicted and I am challenged.

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Today, this morning, I have committed to pray fiercely every single day for God to move in the hearts of His people.  I have committed to  driving to our packing location for the next 6 Saturdays — at the crack of dawn —  to PRAY.  To seek God.  To confidently go boldly before His throne…

God, I pray for these babies, these children who do not have even one meal a day to fill their tummies.

God, I pray that YOU send the people to pack.

God, I pray that YOU move the people to give  — not just out of their abundance, but sacrificially give — because it is ONLY by YOUR grace that our own children are full and fed.  Thank you, Lord Jesus. 

Lord, Help us be your hands and feet — right here in our own little community.

MobilePack-Logo_PMS-647Last year, when I felt led to accept the Event Planner role for the FMSC Mobilepack, I only did so with the complete assurance that God would equip me to do the job.  I had no qualifications of my own to accomplish the huge task.  I prayed and prayed and prayed.  And God showed up!  As promised!  And we packed over 200,000 meals.

I can’t do this in my own strength.  My team can’t do this in their own capabilities.  We need God.  We need equipping.

We need to pray.

What task do you have before you today?  Are you trying to do it with your own talents, your own capabilities?  Are you fretting?  Worrying?  Are you trusting God to show up?

Have you prayed?

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FMSC Mobile Pack Event

For more info:  FMSC Mobile Pack Event

 

Radiant Like Moses

cropped-gochenaurs-4319.jpg“Connie, what have you been up to?  Your face is radiant like Moses!”

That is how my Pastor greeted me on Sunday morning — after Speak Up Conference.  I thought it was a fitting choice of words, using a tongue-tied character to describe me.  Moses!

I attended my very first women’s conference when I was 18 years old.  I had been a Christian for 2 years by that time, was newly married, and my sister-in-law asked me to attend Win-Some Women in Northern Indiana.WinsomeW

I was blown away by God that weekend, and it was a life-changing experience.  I came away thinking, THAT is how I want to talk about Jesus.  THAT is how I want my life to look.  I want everyone to know THAT Jesus.

I assumed everyone went home feeling THAT way.  “I want to speak and tell…”

That retreat long ago was amazing, and I know many lives were changed.  But now, looking back, most of those women probably did not go home with this burning desire to speak and to tell.  I think most of us went home inspired, refreshed, and equipped to follow and live for Jesus, but God whispered different messages to each of us.  A personal calling, a purpose, if you will.   I wish I had understood that then.

I was young.  I didn’t have a college education.  Those women were in their 40’s —  I couldn’t be like them; I couldn’t do what they do.  My words often got twisted and came out funny.  I panicked in front of a crowd.  They were gifted.  I was not.

I didn’t recognize it as a call from God; I just felt desire in my heart.  Didn’t everyone else feel it too?  I have felt that tug, that same desire, for a long time.   That retreat was 40 years ago.   40 years!  Again, my Pastor’s choice of Moses makes me smile.

How could I not recognize that stirring at Win-Some Women as a call from God?  Surely the devil would not give me a desire to talk about Jesus!  No, he would not, but he was giving me advice:  ‘You don’t have an education, you get tongue-tied, and you panic.  They are gifted.  You are not.’  I allowed that voice to be loudest — God was speaking softly in my heart, but Satan was screaming in my head.

Insecurities.  Comparisons.  Fear.

20150727_170501A friend asked me to attend Speak Up with her, and since I have passionately been pursuing writing lately, I eagerly said, yes.  My church graciously paid for the conference because I am teaching a Bible study this fall.  I am NOT writing the study; I am teaching the study.  Therefore, I felt compelled to choose the Speakers Track at Speak Up to honor the church’s investment.   As I sadly checked that box on the registration form, I envied all the writers on the Writers Track.  Thankfully, we were allowed to “cross over” to attend some Writers Breakout sessions even if on the Speakers Track.

Funny how God works things out…

When our first small group met, I was crazy-scared-let-me-go-throw-up nervous about my 3 minute speaking presentation.  On the one hand, 3 minutes feels like a lifetime to stand and talk in front of strangers, but seriously, to say something meaningful, 3 minutes is a nanosecond.  But as the weekend progressed, I received good feedback on my “speaking” presentations.

And God was stirring my heart.20150727_170807

I found myself changing my schedule from Writers Breakout sessions to Speakers and devouring everything I could on that Track.

Those who know me intimately know I have been questioning my role and seeking God fiercely in recent months.   I don’t know what “speaking” will look like or how my role will unfold.  It may be a Bible study on Tuesday evenings with 5 ladies — and that’s okay.  If I can impact the lives of 5 women with the message of Jesus and how He changes lives, then I’m walking forward and not turning back.

The devil is NOT going to win!  I heard the call loud and clear this time.  40 years…

No more desert for me! 

No Insecurities.  No Comparisons.  No Fear.

Driving home from Speak Up on Saturday evening, I thanked God for this “retreat” and I asked Him for confirmation.  “Please give me a sign if my heart is speaking truth to me”.  I love confirmations, don’t you?  God can be very creative when we ask for a sign.  For instance…

After sharing just a bit of why I was “radiant like Moses”, my Pastor then said,  “Connie, would you be willing to go up front today and share with the congregation what God is doing in your life”?

Up front?   Ummm…

I think  He has a sense of humor too.

How about you?  Are you called to teach? to write?  to speak?  When did you first feel that stirring in your heart?  Did God whisper in your heart?  Or did He announce it loud and clear?  I would LOVE to hear your story…

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.”    Hebrews 10:35

The photo below is not from my first retreat, but look what I found🙂

Yes!  That is our Carol Kent.  How fun is that!

 

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Meals From Michiana — Crisis in Haiti!

michianafmsclogoslantedWe are about 10 weeks out from our 6th annual Feed My Starving Children MobilePack.  That sounds like a long time, but really, we have a whole community to canvas and make aware of this amazing event; the time is short.  You’d think with it being our 6th year that FMSC MobilePack would be a household phrase in our area.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  We have just barely scratched the surface of the hands and funds that can provide food for these kids.

Each year we have “upped”  the number of meals we pack, and therefore, the amount of funds we need goes up as well.  In 2011 we packed 257,000 meals and raised $56,000.  In September, we 10429360_10152708892339304_7644639926082300316_nhope to pack 650,000 meals and raise $143,000!  Those totals are daunting to me.  The task is too big.  I’m not sure we can do it.  Thankfully, its not about me.  I’m not the one in charge of who helps and who gives.  God has faithfully taken care of that part.  Each year, to the amazement of those of us on the leadership team, the people come to pack and the people come to give.  Every year we’ve met our goal.  And every year, we thank God for moving the hearts of the people.

This past weekend, as I prepared promo materials to hand out in our community for our upcoming MobilePack, my daughter sent me a news release about the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  There is a crisis on the border even as I type this post.   Love A Child, an orphanage located in Haiti who is a big recipient of FMSC MannaPacks,  wrote this on their blog,

“The Haitians, who are mostly children of illegals and were born in the Dominican Republic, are now being removed. They have no birth certificates for either country and are being DEPORTED out of the Dominican Republic.   This is the only home they know and in Haiti they have no family and don’t speak the language. They ARE NOT RETURNING ON THEIR OWN, they have no place to go, and most of them speak only Spanish. It is a nightmare.”

I emailed my contact at Feed My Starving Children to see what they knew about this situation.  I didn’t have to wait long for a reply,

“FMSC is monitoring the DR/Haiti immigration issue very closely.  We are in communication with some of our largest Haiti partners as they determine their role.  So far, one of our largest partners has diverted 4 of their allocated containers to Haiti for this specific need”.  

That’s over a million meals!

And THAT is why we pack this food.

In another email, a Love A Child representative said,

“the best way for you to help is to pray and keep on packing those meals — they are getting to us!”

So it is with renewed vigor and energy that we promote our MobilePack for September.  Every meal counts.  Every one.  There is a Pack close to where you live.  You can find one by going to fmsc.org and searching for MobilePack locations.  Grab your children, your parents, or your neighbors and get involved!   It is an awesome experience and you’ll be glad you did.   Comment here if you pack — I’d love to hear about it.

“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.”     Proverbs 22:9

untitledIf you’d like to know more about Feed My Starving Children, go to:  fmsc.org

If you’d like to donate to our community MoiblePack, go to: fundraising.fmsc.org/Michiana

If you donate, I would love a brief, general comment here — and thank you!  God bless.

Meals From Michiana!

MobilePack-Logo_PMS-647It all started with a phone call from our daughter who had recently taken a job in Chicago.  ‘Dad, you should see what we are doing at our church!  You would love this.  I wish you were here!’  She was talking about a food-packing event for Feed My Starving Children.  FMSC is a Christian non-profit organization committed to feeding hungry children around the world.  Her church was sponsoring a FMSC MobilePack, a program that connects local volunteers to starving children by packing food or donating funds.   As stated at their website, The approach is simple: hand-packed meals specially formulated for malnourished children sent out to mission partners running orphanages, schools, clinics and feeding programs around the world.

My daughter knows her daddy well, and as she continued to share her excitement about this program, she explained that one of the main ingredients in these MannaPack meals is soy.   Well, that was all it took — my husband was in!   You see, my guy is a farmer — of soybeans.  And my guy is a giver — of anything God graciously gives him.  He is one of the most generous men I know.  So a program that feeds starving children, uses soybeans, and connects local people in a generous mission-type project was like a recipe made in heaven to him.  It only took a matter of weeks before he, his two farming partners, and a local pastor had a FMSC MobilePack scheduled for our area.

A MobilePack in process -- hair bonnets and all!

A MobilePack in process — hair bonnets and all!

Our small farming community raised over $44,000 and packed 205,000 meals that first year, using almost 1000 volunteers.  One of the wonderful aspects of a FMSC MobilePack is the variety of “jobs” available to reach the goal.   My 83 year-old mother sat at a table with her friends, putting labels on food baggies while my 5 year old grand-daughter stood at a packing table, stacking MannaPack meals with her Papa.  It was an amazing event, and our community loved the opportunity to be involved.

My grandson helping attach labels to MannaPack food baggies

My grandson helping attach labels to MannaPack food baggies

Not everyone can go to an orphanage on the other of side of the world to feed a starving child, but most of us have a couple of hours on a Saturday to help pack a few meals.

michianafmsclogoslantedIt has now been almost 7 years since that phone call from our daughter.  We are still packing meals every September for FMSC.  The event has had its challenges and rewards.   It has been a learning experience for all of us.   Join me here each week as I share some of those stories and take you along on the adventure as our community provides Meals From Michiana.  

If you’d like to know more about Feed My Starving Children, go to:  fmsc.org

If you’d like to donate to our community MoiblePack, go to: fundraising.fmsc.org/Michiana.  (If you do so, I would love for you to leave a short comment here).

25 Reasons Why We’ve Made It 41 Years

Wedding 1974

Wedding 1974

We just celebrated 41 years of marriage.  That’s a very long time.  We married young, too young really, but somehow we’ve made it work.  Thinking about this, I jotted down a few reasons why I think we’ve made it 41 years… in no particular order, and with tongue in cheek for a few ….

  1. We made a vow to God
  2. We made a covenant with each other
  3. We made a promise to family and friends
  4. We created 4 children who count on us to hold it together
  5. We have grandchildren who need an example of what true commitment looks like
  6. He doesn’t beat me
  7. I don’t nag him (too much)
  8. He’s handy and can fix things
  9. I make a pretty darn good cherry pie
  10. We really do love each other
  11. We have never fallen out of love… at the same time
  12. We patch things up pretty quickly because I don’t like conflict; neither does he
  13. He mowed the grass for 35 years; now I mow it… life changes…. we adapt
  14. When he tells me he’s taken out the trash, I respond with “I love you too” (life got so much better when the epiphany of his actions became clear to me)
  15. I learned he’s not a mind reader, but when I tell him – with words – what I need, he responds with, “I can do that”PD_0147
  16. I respect him and he loves me for that – confides and trusts in me
  17. Because he loves me in that way, I can trust him to lead
  18. He wants the best for me
  19. I want the best for him
  20. We have never said the “D” word – ever
  21. Divorce is not an option
  22. The grass is NOT greener on the other side…it is the same grass with the same weeds
  23. As we just keep working on the weeds, flowers do bloom — eventually
  24. We muck through until it gets better
  25. It always gets better

 

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To My Sister’s Daughter…

I know you lost your Mama way too soon.  You weren’t ready to let her go.  The cancer was ugly and quick.  You barely had time to say good-05171501bye.   It was over in 5 weeks.  And, really, you had just become a woman yourself.  At that stage of life, who knows to ask their mothers questions of substance?   Does anyone know the right questions when they are 22?  But now…

It’s been almost 13 years and still the loss is like a vacuum at times.   You ask about her often, wanting her sisters, her own mother to fill in the blanks.  We strive to pull buried memories out for you, anything to give you more of her.

11261823_10155610970075002_4317257888302090772_oWe celebrated yesterday because you are about to become a mother yourself.   You thought this long-awaited baby would never snuggle in your arms.   Getting pregnant has been hard.   But here you are 8 weeks from motherhood yourself.   And now, already, you know more about your mother than I could ever tell you.  She treasured you when you were only a heartbeat in her womb.  She rubbed her tummy when she felt you kick that first time — and every time after.  She prayed for you.  She cried when you were born.   She was a good mother.  She loved you more than herself.  And she would do anything for you because that is what mothers do.  You were the reason she didn’t want to go.

Motherhood is a miracle — The act of carrying and birthing a child; even the act of raising a child…  As you love, teach and train, memories will surface at unexpected times.  You will remember your mom through this little boy.   When he skins his knee, something your Mom said to you will come out of your mouth.  When he cries out at night because of a nightmare, you will remember how your Mom comforted you.   It might be a field trip or a walk in the park, but it will most likely be a surprise to you.  A new memory.  And it will be sweet and precious and sad and happy — all at the same time.  Motherhood is like that.

New Mom, Sister and baby's great-grandmothers

New Mom, Sister and baby’s great-grandmothers

One day, your mom will meet this little one.  And in ways that only God knows and understands, it will be as though she has always known him.  One day,  it will be okay.  Until then, I hope you know how much you are loved. We cannot be your mom — no one could take her place.  But her sisters love you like their own.  We pray for you.   We worry about you.   We hold you in our heart.  We will laugh with you and cry with you over all the ups and downs of motherhood.    We already love this little guy.  He, too, holds a part of our heart.

She taught you well — you are going to be a great mother.

I just know it.11265492_10155610982725002_6175137229535611801_o

Is Following After the Good Enough?

“Following” along with 5 Minute Friday today with the word prompt:  Follow

Go — 5 minutes

As a Christian woman, I try to follow after good things in my life.  And I attempt to shy away from not-so-good things.  I want to run after what will encourage, challenge, educate, and enrich me as a woman.  I want good things in my life.  Don’t you?

I follow a Girls’ Night Out group; a group of women that inspire and challenge me

I follow a weekly Bible Study

I follow some really good blogs by godly women

I follow the most current, popular Bible teachers

I follow my husband of 40 years, and feel so blessed to have his godly leadership

I follow what my adult children are doing and their children

I follow…

I follow…

These are good things in my life.  Really good things.

However, am I spending time reading Christian blogs to get to know my God?

My husband is a great guy, and my children do need my attention, but they are NOT my God.

Am I spending time with godly women in the hopes of getting to know Christ?  We talk about Him and I always come away encouraged.  But I think it’s like trying to get to know Karen by spending time with Karen’s best friend.  Why not sit down with Karen?

Sometimes I wonder if I am forgetting to follow after the BEST thing.   Nothing replaces my relationship with God.

Not even the really good things in my life.

Stop! 5 minutes?

 

 

 

 

 

Doors of the Past: Five Minute Friday

Linking up with Five Minute Friday as I write for 5 minutes on the word prompt: Door.

There are 4 very old, dirty doors in our shed.  We salvaged them from my husband’s grandparents’ century-old home last fall.   His grandparents have been gone for many years, and the house was sold and then a few years later reverted back to the bank.  Then there was a fire.  No one knows how or why.  But the family bought it back — house and surrounding land.  Land to farm; house to demolish.  Sad.  We wanted anything that could be repurposed.  Woodwork.  Stair posts.  Doors.  So many possibilities.  (Thank you, Pinterest.)  Will these doors become shelves?  Or mirrors?  Maybe a headboard in a bedroom.  Doors of the past gracing the homes of great-grandchildren.  I love that.  I see a postcard attached to the back of each one — the story of Frank and Grace.  Legacies…

 

Chocolate Cookies and Her Mama

I was browsing in a local shop the other day, trying to find some little gifts to add to a care  package I was sending off later in the day.  The shop owner watched me pick up this, set down that, and then asked if she could help me find something.  I smiled and said I didn’t really know what I was looking for…  do you have anything for a broken heart?

In the shop that day, the owner’s 7 year old daughter was helping her mother unwrap new jewelry for the display case.   I was taken in by that little darling because her long wavy hair and pretty eyes reminded me of my 4 daughters.  Each one of mine is grown now:  Raising children of her own.  Waiting to have children of her own.  Trying to find her way.  And mending a broken heart.

I made small talk for awhile, and shared just a bit of my mission for the day.  As I continued around the corner and looked at some coffee mugs and wall signs, I heard the little one innocently ask her mother, ‘why is her heart broken?’.

After shopping for a bit more, nothing seemed quite right, and I decided there was probably not a purchase in this store that would meet my needs.   As I walked back to the counter, I could hear the shop owner and her little girl whispering.   The Mom looked up as I approached and said, ‘I asked her if she was away at college and had a broken heart, what would she like me to send her.  She said, I would want chocolate chocolate_mint_cookies-2-1024x1024cookies and you’.

Out of the mouths of babes…

No matter if a little girl is 7, 17 or 27, if her heart is sad, if she is hurting, she wants the same thing.

Chocolate cookies and her Mama.

As I said my good-byes to them, with tears in my eyes, I said, ‘enjoy her today… ‘.   That young mother stared back at me with tears of her own, nodded her head, and hugged her little girl.

I had one more stop before heading home — the local bakery.    Once home, I carefully wrapped the goodies and placed them in the padded box.    I had been rushing to get the package to the post office before closing.  But even with all the trinkets and goodies, the box still seemed incomplete.

‘…cookies and you.’ 

I wish I could fit myself into that box.  And even if I did get to her, what then?  Why does she need me?   And then I knew how to seal up that box.  Looking at the clock, I decided the shipment would have to wait until tomorrow.  Remembering the challenge from a book I once read, Put Your Heart On Paper, I grabbed a blank sheet of paper and sat down at my kitchen table…

“My Dear Sweet Girl…… “

I sealed the letter with hugs and kisses and placed it in the box, and mailed it out the next morning.

letter-penJust a brown cardboard box filled with a few little things, nothing much really.

Just her Mama’s heart and a few chocolate cookies.

 

 

Eden Needs Gethsemane

20150402_143819As I look out over my backyard on this dreary, rainy spring day, I see several gardens that need attention.  I wish it was 20 degrees warmer and about 100 % sunnier today.  This is the only time of the year that I get an “itch” to work in the garden.  I love the cooler spring days and the uncluttered dirt patch.  Once the temperature rises much above 80 degrees or the perennials get out of control, I lose all passion for my spade and hoe.   I am a fair-weather gardener, at best.

It is a few days before Easter,  and as I stand on my back porch, watching the rain soak the bare dirt, my mind wanders to a couple of other gardens, Eden and Gethsemane.  Scripture teaches that Eden’s garden was full of life and joy, and peace.  Perfect peace… well, that is, until Eve, then Adam, made a life-altering choice.  That very choice is why the other garden, Gethsemane, became renown many years later.  Grief, pain, and agonizing prayer are what come to mind at the mention of that garden.

The Bible tells us that man failed miserably in the garden of Eden.  Life “ended” for all man-kind.  Death won.  Man was defeated and separated from God.  Eden, once a beautiful place to walk and meet with God, was now a place guarded by angels, keeping man out.  The scene is startling.  Shocking, actually, as we are only a few pages into Genesis at this point!

I am thankful that the story didn’t end there.  You see, there’s that other garden…thDANUDSAZ

Gethsemane, where Christ was “sorrowful and overwhelmed”.

Gethsemane, where Christ prayed, “…that this cup might be taken from me”.

Gethsemane, where Christ submits and willingly accepts God’s plan, “…not my will, but Yours be done”.

And yet, Gethsemane, and its path to the cross are not why the story goes on.  Christ’s death on the cross and his burial cry defeat.   His beloved followers felt doom and gloom at the foot of the cross.  The next day was most likely a day of sorrow and quiet reflection.  I’m sure they thought it was the end.

Eden needs Gethsemane, but not because its path led Christ to the cross (historically, many men have died on a cross).  Eden needs Gethsemane because it eventually leads us to the empty tomb.

And the empty tomb is why the story continues…

I hope you know this Christ, this divine man who didn’t stay in the grave, but rose up and defeated death once and for all.  In that garden long ago, he prayed for me and he prayed for …you!  He willingly went to the cross, not to end his life, but to give us eternal life.

Hallelujah!

Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Artist depiction of empty tomb on resurrection day

Chasing the Illusion of Peace

2014-07-12My little 11 month old grandson is a beautiful baby, no bias on my part (smile).  He is a mild-mannered, easy-going child.  The kind of baby you can love on, and rocky-bye, and snuggle with, and then just toss into bed — and he goes to sleep.  That kind of baby.  The modern, child-rearing books call him an “angel” baby.  I agree.

I have the joy of keeping him two days a week while his Mama works.  He has been easy to care for, in part, because he has been such a “sleeper”.  He gets up to eat, get changed, see his new world, for about 30 minutes,  and then decides to go back to bed.

Don’t we wish we could do that sometimes?  Eat, look around a bit, and then go back to our slumber.  There are many days when I do not want to see the world we live in.  I don’t want to turn on the news.  I don’t want to watch any TV dramas.  I just want to turn off the television, stay home, and hide.

The world seems to be falling apart around us.  It’s hard to listen to the news; to hear all the hatred and destruction.  People, everywhere, are searching for answers.  There is no hope.  There is no peace.peace-in-sand

Peace can’t be found in people, places, or things.   Hope does not come from material possessions.  The world cannot give peace because the world does not possess peace — it is not hers to give.  Hope and peace are gifts from God.  Perfect, satisfying peace is given through the Spirit of God.  He is peace.  It is His to give.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”   John 14:27

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”  Isaiah 26:3

Yesterday my grandson was crawling across my living room floor, and he saw my reflection in the glass on the fireplace.  I was actually sitting behind him, holding up his bottle, but he raced1-IMG_6774 anxiously towards that reflection.  He was hungry, and he knew Gramma had the bottle.   When he reached the fireplace, he stood up and pounded on the glass.  He saw what he thought he wanted, but it was only an illusion.  He began to cry, finding no comfort in that reflection of his Gramma.

Are we chasing illusions?  Are we  looking for peace in all the wrong places?   Are we seeking hope in things of this world that only promise,  but don’t deliver?

Jesus is right beside us.  Look to Him for the peace you seek.  He is not an illusion.

He is peace.

He is hope.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

 

 

They Were Perfect Until I Held Them Up to the Light

I have beenIMG_2292 going through some closets, purging some of our abundance.  Tossing jackets, pants and shoes into a pile.  Purging is good for the soul.  I’m sure of it.  There is a lightness and feeling of organization that comes with extra hangers and drawers that shut all the way.  I can actually see my closet floor again.  No more laundry baskets piled high with hoodies or jeans.  If I haven’t worn it in the past year — out it goes.

One cupboard yielded a pile of vintage table cloths.  Linens that I have been collecting over the past several years.  I re-purposed several of them into cute little aprons and sold them at my Etsy store.  These too, this pile of 20 cloths, were meant to have a new life, however, my hands never found the time to cut and sew.

IMG_2293As I looked at the pile of linens on the bed, I decided to sell them on eBay.  Why not?  They are gorgeous and in great condition.  Why let them gather any more dust?  I’m never going to find the time to sew.   I gathered theIMG_2288m into my arms and headed to the dining room.   If I was going to list them on eBay, I needed to take pictures and describe the cloths in detail.  Time for inspection.

I began with a lovely cherry print table cloth.  It’s always been a favorite.  As I unfolded it and placed it on the table, I thought, ‘someone is going to LOVE this table cloth, it’s beautiful’. But running my hands across the fabric, I felt a rough patch.  Hmm.   I took the IMG_2281cloth off the table and walked over to the window to hold it up to the light.  Oh!  Look at those small holes!  What had been hidden when the cloth was folded among the other linens was totally exposed when held up to the light.IMG_2203

As I continued to examine each cloth pulled from the pile, I hoped for perfection, only to find tiny holes, water stains, and fabric frays.  They had looked so good all together; imperfections were hardly noticeable.  But every time I tested them with the light, the truth of their value was revealed.   They were not the precious, perfect linens I thought they were.

Ugh.  Time for a coffee break.  As I sipped my medium dark Caribou, and procrastinated about my eBay task (not to mention the rest of the bedroom drawers and closet), I was a little miffed at the “light”.  All those cloths looked good compared to each other, sitting in that pile.  It wasn’t until I held each one up to the perfect lighting, I realized how “white” they should be…

Were they worthless?

IMG_2224I was reminded of how I look pretty good when I am in a crowd of peers.  I blend in, and my imperfections are hidden fairly well.  I am far from perfect, but among the crowd, I don’t get called out for IMG_2222blatant flaws too often.  My wrinkles, extra pounds, and frumpy hair kind of look like her’s … and her’s.  My sharp tongue and critical spirit doesn’t stand out as abnormal.  When I compare myself to others, I’m ok.  You’re ok.   But when I am held up to the Light, compared to THE perfect one, Jesus Christ,  my flaws are many and hard to hide.  The Light reveals who I really am.   The Light shows my stains, my missteps, my rips, and tears.  I cannot hide in the Light, I cannot hide from the Light.   I no longer look “pretty good”.

He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light  dwells with him.  Daniel 2:22

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  Ephesians 5:13

But am I worthless?

God’s Word says that same Light makes all things new.  It gives new life.  What a good and gracious God we have that has provided a way for my stained “cloth” to become white again.  I love the Light.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here.  2 Corinthians 5:17

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet,    they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  Isaiah 1:18

IMG_2286I continued to examine the table cloths, no longer disappointed in the light.  Instead, I let the window reveal the potential in each table cloth.  Some are still table-worthy, rich and vibrant colors defying their age.  Others are stained, frayed and faded from all the life they have IMG_2277already given.  Years of messy dinners with spilled gravy and knocked over water glasses have left their mark.  But still, each one is beautiful in its own way.   Some will be laundered, and the stains will wash away.  They will grace many more tables at supper gatherings.  But others will have to be cut and reshaped — made over for a another purpose — perhaps a porch throw pillow or an adorable retro apron.  They, too, will be beautiful and valuable with new life.  Re-purposed, if you will, perfect when held up to the light.

I

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You Better Be Secure If You Married A Dog-Lover Because…

1.  Any family photo that has the three of you in it, his arm is around the dog, not you.PD_0107

2.  In the morning, before he leaves for work, he is leaning down, petting the dog and whispering sweet nothings into HER ear.

3.  With an upcoming vacation, rather than being concerned about the packing or your reservations, he is more concerned about where the dog will be staying.

4.  Even though he may have been “missing in action” during the night when the baby dirtied a diaper or threw up in the crib, he has the rag and cleaner in hand when the dog vomits or poops on the carpet.

5.  In the evening, he is all snuggled up on the couch — with the dog.

6.  He may not think to share his late-evening snack with you as he is giving the dog every other bite.

PD_00597.  Although the bed is really only big enough for two, he doesn’t mind the dog keeping him warm.

8.  Upon arriving home from work, he greets the dog first, and then gives you a kiss.

9.  Even when the house is virtually out of groceries, he calls to make sure you remember to pick up dog bones.

10. Even though you are NOT a dog-lover, you ALWAYS make sure your husband has a dog because you love the way he loves his dogs.IMG_2442

Motherhood Is Like A Dance: Step In, Step back, Step Out, Step In

Thoughts about mothers and daughters and their relationships consume me these days.  Motherhood is something most of us ask for and wish for; we enter willingly and with anticipation.   We almost go into it lightly and casually.   There should be classes, a degree, or a council of “Wise Old Mothers” to teach, train and warn:

This will be the best thing you ever do. 

This will be the hardest thing you ever do. 

This will be the thing you ALWAYS do. 

Motherhood is forever. 

Motherhood should come with a warning.

But daughters?  Well, we didn’t have much choice in the matter.  But classes along the way might be helpful.  Right about now, I’d take a 0317001517PHD in daughterhood.

I am “sandwiched” between generations — a triple-decker club.  Mother, children and grandchildren.   Nothing really unique about that, I guess, as many women my age share the roles I am playing right now.  But when it is your personal script, the emotions, changes, and role reversals are fresh and new and very complex.

You wonder how the women before you have done this.

And why didn’t you pay better attention.

gochenaurs-4152My youngest child is packing up everything she owns for her last semester of college.  I watch as closets are emptied, books are piled, drawers are scattered.  Emotions run deep.  I am happy for her.   The timing is right.   She has been an easy child.  Wise beyond her years.  Independent.  But there is a sadness too.  She has been away at college for three years, and it’s not like we will be new at this empty nest thing, but this seems final.

Everything she owns.

Wait!  I’m not ready to let her go.  I know I didn’t teach her enough.  I have so much more to say.

But she is an adult now.  Almost 22 years old.  No longer a child.  Roles…changing…

As she packs, my own mother is awaiting admittance to an Assisted Living Facility.  She has been living in my home for 4 months.  I have been her caregiver.   She has had health issues for a year now with one major surgery and then a simple condition that wasn’t diagnosed correctly.  It was missed.  The simple condition turned deadly, and months and months of illness followed which wrecked havoc on her body and her mind.   The issue has finally been addressed, and treated, but her body and mind are slow to recover.  She is now half-well/half-sick.  She was much easier to care for when she was very ill.  She is sick and tired of being sick and tired, and she just wants to go home.  And the doctors have said no.  Each day, it is more challenging to care for her in my home.  I can give her so much, but I cannot give her the one thing she wants — home.

I am trying to care for my mother.  Roles…. changing… reversed….Emotions run deep.

There were 4 children running, playing, and napping in my house yesterday.  It was chaos.  Wonderful, loud chaos.  Snacks. Bottles. Booboos. Squabbles. Diapers. Lunch.  I have the privilege of keeping these grandchildren two days a week, and I love those kiddos like my own.   I try to assume my part as Gramma — and not caregiver — whenever their Mama is around, but sometimes the roles get a little grandkiddosblurred.   I know sometimes I overstep.  Where the heck is that Gramma manual?

That daughter is the mother now.   She gets this season to teach and train.  Roles….

It is amazing to watch your own daughter become a mother.  She seems to do it so naturally.  Is it easier for her or is she wanting a motherhood degree herself now?  She is part of the “sandwich” as her focus is on those children yet she keeps looking back at me.

‘Mom, you doing okay?’  She wants to take care of me.

The dance continues…

Emotions again… running.

 

 

 

 

World Blog Tour….Here I Come!

A dear, sweet friend of mine, Ingrid Lochamire, invited me to do a World Blog Tour.  The idea intrigued and terrified me.   Ingrid is an inspiration and encourager to me and I absolutely treasure her friendship.  How could I say no?  She is a direct answer to prayer from God in this season of my life.  I have only known her for about 3 years, but I have learned much from her and am in awe of her love for our Lord Jesus Christ.   Thank you, Ingrid, for your kindness, outgoing personality, insight, and friendship.  To see why I love this woman, she reveals her heart in Reflections on the Journey at:  ingridlochamire.com.

The World Blog Tour asks us to answer a few questions.  So here we go…

What am I working on?

I am currently working on a journal about my relationship with my mother.  She became sick over the last year, and I have become her caregiver.  She has been living in my home for the past 4 months.  I thought the journal would be about our relationship; I wanted to capture my mother, and everything she had to give, before any disease took her away.  And yes, it is about our relationship –the good, the bad and the ugly — however, her illness has taken many forms, and the diagnosis has been illusive to a long list of doctors.  The journal has been about survival, hers — and mine.  I’m not quite ready to share that journal.   Maybe some day…

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My blog is about people and things I love, yet it has a little different flavor because of my history.  I just celebrated a 40th wedding anniversary with my high school sweetheart.  For 35 years of our marriage, he was a Certified Public Accountant.  We lived in the suburbs of a “larger” Indiana city.  But a few years ago, he decided to become a farmer.  Much of my writing has been inspired by that career change and our move to the country.   Does the name Zsa Zsa Gabor mean anything to you?

Why do I write what I do?

Even though I am relatively new to this writing thing, putting thoughts on paper has long been a passion of mine; something I was interested in exploring, but never found the time to do.  For years, a couple of books about writing have called to me from my bookshelf.  Books I had picked up in some quaint small town bookstore on vacation.   But recently I was challenged in an online Bible study to do a blog hop.   After one blog post, I was hooked. I often write about something that happened years ago.  I don’t have a lot memories; my brain just didn’t store them.  Writing helps the preservation process — these things I shall not forget.  I also journal about current happenings in my life as I don’t want these memories to fade as others have.   My writing is about me and for me.  Think therapy.  But if I can inspire, touch or help anyone, I give all the praise to God.  He takes our burdens and blunders, and if we are willing, uses them to provide healing.

How does my writing process work?

I rely heavily on inspiration.  I may go weeks without putting “pen to paper”, and then something just starts rattling around in my head, and I have to start typing.  My writing is raw — nothing poetic from these keys.  I just try to be honest and transparent.  Honesty comes naturally to me; transparency not so much.  So writing is my release.  The way I share my heart.

Next on the World Blog Tour...

I’d like to send you to a fun blog about rural life:  Rural Housewives of America.  Follow their link at ruralhousewives.com.  The blog started after one fun, lighthearted post went viral.  Their vision for their site is a venue for rural women to share their stories of joy, success, failure and fear.  The contributors to this blog are hand-picked by the co-hosts,  Jenny and Katie, and represent an amazing group of strong, independent women of the rural world.  From farm wives, to girlfriends, daughters, mothers, and friends, follow along with our amazing journeys living the rural life.

Incredible Red Velvet Happy Birthday Cake

IMG_1750Ok, fair warning, if you have an objection to red food coloring, read no further.   This is a story about Red Velvet Cake, and without red food coloring — and lots of it — there is no red in the velvet.  20140419_123355

I don’t think I had ever eaten red velvet cake until I started dating my husband.  At least not this decadent, made-from-scratch red cake.  As he grew up, his Mom made it for every family member’s  birthday.  And after one bite, I knew why no one ever got tired of it or complained.   It is moist and full of body and texture.  It is just plain yummy.

I have continued the tradition of Red Velvet Cake for the birthdays in our home.   As our girls grew older, they were given their choice of any baked good.  Cherry pie won out a few times, but on most of their birthdays, red cake was in the oven.

One o20140419_141404f the biggest challenges when making this cake is that red food coloring may end up on your hands, counter and just about everything else in your kitchen.   Sometimes I am surprised where I find a splash or two long after the cake is gone.20140419_141348

As you can see from the picture of my index card, it is a well-used recipe — and, yes, I am a messy cook.  I have changed the recipe up a bit in more recent years.  The original called for shortening in both the cake and the frosting.  I have substituted butter and am very happy with the results.  The frosting itself is a bit20140419_132250 unusual as it is made with flour and granulated sugar; an odd combination for an icing.  But the result is a light, fluffy melt-in-your-mouth perfection.

Baking a cake from scratch is an act of love.  It takes time and patience and a bit of expertise, but the end product is worth the effort.  I love that Jon’s mom started this tradition and I can now pass this labor of love along to my daughters.  I hope they bake it for their kids — at least once.  And during the stirring, mixing and frosting, they can share the legacy of the Red Velvet Cake.17240_551760262264_3067076_n

 Jon’s Mom’s Red Velvet Cake

1/2 cup butter

1 plus 1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

2 oz. red food coloring

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 plus 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon soda

Cream butter and sugar; add eggs one at a time, beating after each one.  Set aside.  In another bowl, sift together flour, salt and cocoa.   Hold vinegar, soda and vanilla until end of mixing.   Now begin adding dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk and food coloring to sugar mixture, ending with the dry ingredients — the total mixing time should not extend past 2 minutes.  Add the vanilla.  In a small cup, mix the vinegar and soda together; add to batter at end and fold in — do not beat.   Pour into two 8 inch pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Fluff Frosting

1 cup milk

1/4 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, mix flour and milk.  Cook until it is thick.  Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally to keep from getting lumpy.  While flour mixture cools, beat sugar and butter at high speed until sugar almost dissolves.  This takes quite a bit of mixing — but it is worth it!  Once sugar is close to dissolving and flour mixture is cool, combine the two into the mixing bowl.  Add vanilla and continue to beat until light and fluffy.   Frost the cooled baked layers of cake — and enjoy!  Yum

 

84 Years Old and Given a New Name

It’s Easter morning.   I didn’t go to church today.  I only remember missing one Easter service in the last 35 years.  It was the day my first child was born — an Easter baby.  We are going to celebrate her birthday this afternoon after our Easter celebrations.

I am  grateful that my Mom is here with us to celebrate (she came here after hospitalization after all).  She is feeling better.  Not perfect, but better.  She has so much more clarity.  I can hear her talking on the phone with friends and family members, and she is making sense — and most of the details are accurate.

My grandchildren will be here today, and they will be excited to see that GG is home from the hospital.  GG is what they began calling her when 20140403_100129she came here to live with me.  They struggled with a Gramma and a Great Gramma, and it all got a bit confusing.  The 5 year old boy finally landed on GG — and it has stuck.   I think it’s cute and endearing.   Mom is almost 84 years old and she has been given a new name!  Last week when she wasn’t here, my grandchildren were disappointed.

It is so sweet to watch their interaction.  I know the days get a bit long for Mom with 3 or 4 children undertow.  Sometimes the noise level gets a bit high, but she is getting to know those children as I know them.  She is making an impression into their young lives that they will remember.  I love that.

Welcome home, GG, the kids will be very excited that you are here.  So Am I.

5 Reasons Your Mom Won’t Come To Easter Dinner

5-reasons-to-go-google1Talking with a friend recently, she shared her disappointment when her mom didn’t want to come to Easter dinner.  “She’d rather sit home alone than spend the day with family?!”    Since that conversation, I’ve done some thinking about it.    Here are just 5 reasons that Mom (or Gramma) may not want to come to Easter dinner:

1.  She is afraid of falling.  She knows her own turf.  She is confident and knows where to be extra careful in her house and even her garage.  She doesn’t know your terrain, and it makes her nervous.  She knows a fall could be deadly for her.

2.  Her bathroom habits have changed in recent years and are a bit unpredictable.  She is embarrassed, but doesn’t want to talk about it.

3.  The conversation in a big group is confusing.  It is too fast, and either too loud or too soft.  It is often about subjects she does not understand such as social media, smartphones or current movies.  It makes her feel unimportant and lost.

4.  She feels secure in her own environment and in her own routine.  She is very uncomfortable out of those surroundings.

5.  Her world has gotten smaller and smaller over the years.  The noise and space and people at a large family gathering cause her anxiety.  Even though she loves these daughters, sons and grandchildren, the party-like atmosphere is often more than she can handle.

It’s hard to say what I will and won’t do when I’m over 85 years old.  I know I don’t do some things now I use to do when I was 25 or even 35.  So probably thirty years from now, I will have more things on my “don’t do” list than on my “to do” list.

Maybe we should look for ways to be creative with the elderly women (or men) in our lives.  And when they decline a special dinner at our house, we could reply,  “How about lunch one day earlier this week instead — just the two of us?”

 

 

No Spunk Here

night time treeThe house is quiet.  Everyone, that is Mom and my husband,  has gone to bed.  Recently due to illness, Mom has come to live with us.  I know I should go to bed too.  It’s late, and I will hate myself in the morning for not getting enough sleep.  But I revel in this quiet.  This time that is all mine.  And it’s not like Mom is even much trouble; really she is not.  But it’s just I need some moments when I am not responsible for anyone.  Here. Now.

Earlier this week, when my husband got home from work, he stayed with Mom and I went to CVS .  I told him I was going to pick up a prescription, and I was going to take my time.  The drugstore, for pete’s sake, but we live in a small town where everything closes down with the sunset.

Yesterday, my sister-in-law invited my mother to her house for the day.  After I dropped Mom off, I was like a kid in a candy store.  What should I do? What should I do?  Truth be told, there were not enough hours remaining in the day to get done all I wanted to get done.

This sounds like I am complaining, and I don’t mean to be.  Seriously.  It’s just being responsible for another human being is a little daunting…. again.   It’s like bringing home that first baby.  No one can prepare you.  No matter how many times you hear “just wait ” you still don’t understand the constantness of parenthood until that baby is living with you 24/7.  It’s like that.

In some ways this is good discipline for me.  I can’t just drop everything and run to a store.  I have to prioritize and plan errands.  And that is a good thing.  Thank goodness, I  am a homebody by nature.  Even so…

Today wasn’t a good day for Mom.  And I am feeling very melancholy.  She was so weak and frail, and I guess, sad.  And that is hard to see.  She is spunky by nature.  No spunk today.  I wonder if I’ll ever see the spunk again.

 

I Love You This Much

3774082171_dc01421a4d_z Since I wrote the letter to my husband on Valentines Day, I’ve been thinking about another relationship.  God made a promise to me in April, 1972, and that covenant reflects much of what I wrote in that love letter…

You swept me off my feet.  You seemed to know what you were looking for…  You never wavered — not once.  It wasn’t a proud, boastful kind of  swagger.  Just an overwhelming love for me.  How could a girl resist being pursued in such a way?

I didn’t mirror your certainty in the beginning.  I was smitten, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I saw beyond the initial commitment.   I was anything but confident as a middle-child 15-year old.  I wasn’t shy, but I was distrustful and hesitant.  I was waiting for you to get to know me better — anI love you this muchd then decide you didn’t really love me.

But you never did.  You got even more persistent.

I knew you loved me…  and I could spread my arms open about as wide as my shoulders, and say, ‘this much’.  But you whispered to me, I Love You This Much, and you spread your arms out as far as they would go —  as far as the east is from the west.

I think that is when I knew you were here to stay.

God, in His wisdom, gave us some earthly relationships that display, in a very small, imperfect way, how He loves us.  Husband and Wife.  Parent and Child.  And even though, sometimes, those relationships fail, God’s perfect love does not — ever.  His covenant is everlasting.

And now over 40 “Valentines” later, God and I are still in this together.

Solid.  Strong.  Unwavering.  A Promise.  Forever.

This is what love looks like… the day-to-day, nitty-gritty stuff.  Hanging in there on the days I madly love you and hanging in there on the days I look at you and think, ‘who are you, and why are you in my house?’

I am grateful that God remains faithful even on those days when I miserably fail Him.  There are days when I do not give Him the attention He is due.  Days I prefer to take care of me, myself and I.

The covenant we made with one another still holds… I love you.

My Covenant Valentine

This is the 42nd time I’ve celebrated Valentines Day with you.  You were barely, if, a man when we exchanged tentative kisses that first year.  I most certainly was not a woman yet…. just a young teenage girl.  But you swept me off my feet.  You seemed to know what you were looking for in a soul mate.  You never wavered — not once — such confidence.  It wasn’t the normal “hot-shot-ego” kind of swagger of a teenage boy.   Just a steady increasing tenderness and love for me.  How could a girl resist being pursued in such a way?

I didn’t mirror your certainty in the beginning.  I was smitten, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I saw beyond Friday night’s basketball game.  I was anything but confident as a middle-child 15-year old.  I wasn’t shy, but I was distrustful and hesitant.  I was waiting for you to get to know me better — and then drop me.

But you never did.  You got even more persistent.

I still have the little plastic statue you bought for me in 1972.   He’s kinda funny looking, really, but those little gray statues of big-eyed, droopy-clothed people proclaiming a variety of things were popular and trendy those days.   I remember my closest girlfriend asking what you got me for Valentine’s Day.   We were on a double date, I I love you this muchthink.  I replied, ‘he got me this little statue that says, I Love You This Much’, and I spread my arms open about as wide as my shoulders.  And you said, ‘No, he is saying, I Love You This Much, and you spread your arms out as far as they would go.  I think that is when I knew you were here to stay.   My friend was now smitten too.  I think if I’d let you go, she might have been there to catch you.

But I never did.  I rather enjoyed the pursuit.

I told you this recently, but I remember hearing the Wedding March music begin on our wedding day.  As my bridesmaids began the trek upstairs, I panicked and looked toward the back door.  Thoughts screamed in my head, ‘what am I doing?  I don’t know what love is.  I’m only 18!’  Funny how I remember that so clearly.  But as I went up those stairs, other thoughts won out, ‘He loves me so much.  He’s good to me.  He takes care of me.  He’s a strong, godly man’.   When I reached the back of the sanctuary, there you were at the end of the aisle, tears running down your cheeks.  Thankfully, I knew they were tears of happiness, or I might have still taken my leave.

And here we are over 40 Valentines later.  I think, if I tried, I might be able to gather up all 40 cards tucked away here and there.  While the kisses, cards and pursuit are wonderful, when I think of you loving me, other – not so lofty – endeavors come to mind…

I knew you were thinking of me when you shoveled the driveway and salted the ice on the steps.  I saw your love when you filled my car up with gas and changed the oil.  As we raced to the emergency room, knowing we would never hold that baby this side of heaven, I felt your love.  When you saw my agony after knee surgery, and pampered me and made sure I got comfortable… that was love.  After accident number six, you still asked if everyone was ok before you asked about the car.  The simple call from work asking if I need anything picked up on your way home.  Even on the days when we are both so bone-tired, we barely acknowledge the presence of each other, love is there.  Solid.  Strong.  Unwavering.  A Promise.  Forever.

This is what love looks like… the day-to-day, nitty-gritty stuff.  Hanging in there on the days I madly love you and hanging in there on the days I look at you and think, ‘who are you, and why are you in my house?’  What a difference 42 years has on one’s perspective of love.  Yes, love is the pursuit, and I still want to be wanted — absolutely.  But better yet, stand by my side through better or worse, for richer for poorer, through sickness and through health.  Those were our vows… the covenant we made with one another.  That covenant still holds… I love you.

Treasured Holiday Recipes Are Flavored with Memories

I call this category, Legacy recipes, because I think there are delicious foods that you love to eat….again and again.  Those recipes that are handed down from generation to generation and shared with close friends.  They are often written on old index cards and stowed carefully into the recipe box.  In my house, those cards are usually torn, smudged and barely legible, but it doesn’t ingrid3matter because I’ve made the recipes so often, I know them by heart.   Yes, these foods are cherished because they are delectable, but many times the love for the recipe comes from the memory it stirs within us.  I recently asked a dear friend if she had any recipes that she would call legacies, foods she loves not only because of their flavor, but because of the memories they bring back to her.  She immediately said, ‘Yes!’  Here is her story and legacy recipe.   Please welcome Ingrid Lochamire.

Vallie’s Trifle, a Cherished Memory  by Ingrid Lochamire

So many memories are associated with good food. One of my most treasured memories and a favorite recipe are both rooted in a visit to an island across the Atlantic.

Thirty years ago, I spent Christmas in England with my long-time pen pal and friend, Valerie Cross Surrey. I was pregnant with my first child and, though this was my second trip to England to see Valli, I was especially excited to spend this holiday in her home. Our first trip to England had been all about sight-seeing – London , Southampton, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Birmingham. This trip was all about family – hers and my new one.

I was 12 years old when I “met” Vallie through a school friend who had a British pen pal. Over the next decade, Vallie and I wrote faithfully about school, pets, movies, books, and later about boyfriends, careers and future plans. The blue tissue airmail forms of our day flew back and forth across the ocean. We were truly best friends, though we had never met. So, when Vallie and her boyfriend, Chris, began planning their wedding, it seemed natural that it would take place in the U.S. I made arrangements for a wedding on the beach at New Smyrna in Florida. We picked Vallie and Chris up at the airport in New York City and drove down the coast to the beach and our hotel. Vallie and I shopped for the perfect sundress for the ceremony, we bought a bunch of flowers and, barefoot, she and Chris were married on the beach on a beautiful June morning.

Val and ChrisVallie and Chris visited us several times over the years, including the year after our son was born. The pair loved adventure and they adored one another. Often, they would fly to the states for ski vacations in Colorado or for getaways in Florida, or they would take long vacations on the Mediterranean. Chris owned a business that sold “garden” houses (porches and screen houses) and Vallie worked for an attorney in Southampton. Vallie and Chris agreed there wasn’t room in their busy lives for children, though they loved their own nieces and nephews and our sons.

Our correspondence became less frequent, but we still maintained contact and talked occasionally on the telephone. My husband and I visited Vallie and Chris in 1980 and returned again three years later to celebrate Christmas with them.

In December 1983, between my bouts with morning sickness and exhaustion, we participated in all the traditions surrounding a typical British Christmas. On Christmas morning, after a breakfast of fruit and coffee, Vallie and I went to work preparing dinner. The table was laid with her best dishes, flowers and “crackers” – a party favor in a paper cylinder that, when pulled from each end, pops open to reveal a paper crown, a British saying or joke and a small gift.

Our meal included a beautiful turkey with Yorkshire pudding and prawns (shrimp), roasted potatoes, brussel sprouts and mince pie. But the highlight of that meal for me was a dessert I had discovered on our first trip to England in Vallie’s hometown, Northampton – Trifle. In honor of our first visit, Vallie’s mother had created this beautiful dish with rich cream, sponge cake, jellie, brandy and fruit. I loved it, so Vallie wrote down the recipe along with tips as to which are the most traditional ingredients (there are many versions of this dish) and gave it to me on Christmas day.131213_0005

Our British Christmas was memorable in many ways – the food, music, pub visits and walks through the Black Forest come to mind nearly every time I make Vallie’s Trifle. It was wonderful to bask in the love Vallie and Chris showered on one another and on us, and to laugh and joke about the differences in our cultures.

Some 15 years later, we would lose Vallie to cancer. After her death, her husband, Chris, sent me a long letter telling me how much Vallie loved us and what a precious gift our friendship had been to her. In the letter were pages of photographs of Vallie. In them, Vallie is joyful, playful and beautiful as always.

I’ll think of Vallie and our British Christmas as I prepare Trifle for my family on Christmas Eve. Some favorite recipes are treasured because they taste wonderful. This one is a double treasure because of the memories it holds. Enjoy.

Vallie’s English Trifle

Sponge or pound cake (I use a large loaf of Pepperidge Farm’s frozen pound cake, thawed)

Strawberry or raspberry jam

¼ cup brandy (optional)

Canned or fresh peaches, sliced

Other fresh fruit as desired

Custard (I use one box of Jello Americana Custard. Homemade is wonderful, too!)

Fresh whipping cream, whipped and sweetened according to directions (Not Cool Whip)

This dish is beautiful when prepared in a clear glass pedestal bowl.

Prepare the custard and set it aside to cool. Slice the cake into ½ inch slices. Spread the jam on pieces and sandwich them. Line the bowl with the slices, covering the bottom and coming up the sides. Pour the brandy or an equal amount of fruit juice over the slices. Layer the peaches over the cake. At this point, I sometimes add bananas, berries or other fruit.

Once the custard has cooled but not set, pour it over the fruit. Refrigerate until the custard is set. Prepare the whipping cream. After custard is set, spread whipping cream over the custard layer. I like to garnish the top of the cream with shaved chocolate or toasted almond slivers.

Ingrid Lochamire lives on a farm in northern Indiana where she raised and homeschooled four boys. She is a partner in her husband’s business and a former newspaper reporter. Now an empty-nester, Ingrid works part-time for a domestic violence agency and enjoys volunteering at her church, knitting, reading and posting regularly on her blog, Reflections on the Journey @ ingridlochamire.com.

I Did Not Marry A Farmer

imageI had the first date with my husband when I was 13 years old.  Well, almost.  The story actually goes like this:  My 8th grade best friend called me on a lazy Sunday afternoon, wanting me to go to a movie.  An hour later, a car pulled into the driveway, and my friend and her boyfriend were in the front seat with her mother (of course, we were not driving yet), and in the backseat was another boy, her cousin.  What?  She didn’t say anything about boys!  She knows I already “like” a boy at school.  I was instantly mad at her.  I was also rather awkward at the age of 13, and didn’t know how to talk to boys.  So consequently the next two hours were uncomfortable for all of us.  I was irritated at her for a week, and didn’t give the boy another thought.

As a sophomore, two years later, I started attending the consolidated high school, and I saw the boy again.  What?  “That boy” was now a hot-shot tennis-pro senior.  Wait.  I know him.  He knows me.  We went on a date once.  I was smitten.  Unfortunately, he was dating another girl.  So as I patiently bided my time, I memorized all the halls he walked between classes, and I walked them too, even if it meant I would be late for history.  Is that stalking?  Maybe.

One day, at the end of first semester, it was rumored that he and his gal had split up.  So on that very day, when I walked down his hall, I actually raised my eyelids and made eye contact with him for the very first time.  I smiled, said ‘hi’, and kept on walking.  He must have been doing some stalking of his own, though, because when his buddy offered to set him up with a blue-eyed blond, he guessed it was me.  We started dating that Friday night, January 21, 1972, and have been together ever since.  We got married two weeks after I graduated high school.

After he finished college we moved to the city where he worked as a certified public accountant.  We had 4 baby girls in the space of 13 years and enjoyed living in the suburbs.  Life went pretty much as expected for about 35 years (there are many stories to be told, but they are for another time).

Two weeks after the unexpIMG_0120 - Copyected death of my husband’s older brother, suburbia took a surprise turn.   Coming into the kitchen that morning to get his coffee, my husband said, ‘I would like to take Jerry’s place back on the farm’.  Whoa Nellie!  Seriously?  But almost as soon as I said it, I thought, ‘yes, of course that is what you should do’.  He had been struggling with accountant work.  He was bored and itching for a change.  My husband had been raised on a farm, and he IS that boy on the billboard sign:  You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.  Yes, that is what he should do;  that is who he is; who he has always been.

So I did not marry a farmer.  But I do find myself married to a farmer.

The “busy” times of farming are suppose to be spring and fall, but truth be told, life on the farm is always busy…there is always something that needs to be done.  20131010_143829 - CopyMy husband is working harder than he has ever worked in his life, but he is happy and fulfilled in what he is doing.  And even though I have done my share of complaining, I like this new adventure.  We are a team, and I knew, in my heart, this move was the right thing for him.  And if it is the right thing for him, it’ll be the right thing for me.  We are figuring it out and making it work.  That “other life” seems far in the distance now — it’s like he has always been farming.  It is who we are; who we were meant to be.

 

We didn’t exactly move “back to the farm”.  Our new home is still in a neighborhood, however, it is very rural.  We live in a small town of about 700 people, and most of them still travel by horse and buggy or bicycles.   We are in the mid-west and reside in the heart of an Amish community, Shipshewana.  Farming and buggies — it seems as though I have stepped back in time.

Instead of pictures of our home farm and equipment, I thought it would be fun to share pictures of how our neighbors live and work.  The Amish do not use modern equipment to farm — no tractors or combines!  They use the original “horse power”.

Here is a peek at my “rural America”.  (click on pictures for a larger view)

HarvestingCorn2

Baling-Hay

It is common for Amish families to bike into town

Amish Garden 3

Every Amish home has a gorgeous summer garden — complete with beautiful flowers as well as yummy veggies.

Buggy

This is what the “parking lot” looks like for a summer fish fry.

Yep, it’s free, and plentiful — grab a shovel!

Pumpkinvine Trail -- Old railroad tracks converted to miles of beautiful bike/walking trails

Pumpkinvine Trail begins about a mile from my house: Old railroad tracks converted to miles of beautiful bike/waling trails

flea market

Our little tiny town is renown for hosting one of the largest flea markets in the country. People come from all over on Tuesday and Wednesday to find the bargains or attend the auctions. Very fun!

Ice sculptures are carved every December 30 in our quaint downtown area.

The Perfect Cheese Ball

This cheese ball recipe is from an old friend and is super easy.  The card in my recipe box is filled out in her handwriting.  I like that — makes me think of her every time I make this special treat.

It has become a favorite in our house around the holidays.  You probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry.   It can be made well in advance and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or for several months in the freezer.

The recipe makes two cheese balls — one for yourself and one for a friend.  I like to wrap it securely in saran wrap and then gift-wrap in cellophane for a festive touch.  Add a cute little appetizer knife and a box of crackers and it makes a darling hostess gift.  perfect cheeseball

The Perfect Cheeseball

2 packages Cream Cheese, softened

3 cups shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

1 Tablespoon Pimento, chopped

1 Tablespoon Onion, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon Green Pepper, finely chopped

1 1/2 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

1 1/2 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

Dash of Salt and Pepper

1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder

Pecans, finely chopped

Mix the two cheeses well (clean ring-free hands work best).  Add remaining ingredients and blend well.

Divide into two balls and roll in chopped pecans to cover.   It is better with age — so make it a few days before needed.  Yum!

Making Pie — The Secret is not in the recipe

Eating well is certainly a part of my days well lived so I decided to share some of my favorite recipes and how they became my favorites.  I can hear my husband saying, ‘but you don’t really like to cook’.    The truth is I do like to cook, but I don’t like to plan my menus.   Due to poor planning, cooking often becomes a chore (maybe that will be the topic of another post).  Once I have the ingredients and recipe in hand, I rather enjoy being in the kitchen.  And most things I cook are tasty.  But I’ll admit, there is a good percentage of the population that IS a better cook than I am.  That said, I do have a few specialties in my recipe box.

20121106_112239I am a good pie baker.  I love to bake pies.   When someone tells me they are not too fond of pie, I think possibly they have never really tasted pie as it was meant to be.  I have yet to eat any pie at a restaurant that compares to a pie baked to perfection by a good pie baker.  And I live in the heart of an Amish community.  There are about a dozen pies on the menu of every restaurant in town.  And I don’t care for any of them.   Like some people are picky about their coffee, I’m picky about my pie.

Pies are easy to bake.  The recipes are usually simple enough.  However, one of the secrets to pie baking is having a tutor in the kitchen the first time you bake one.   Pastry crust is hard to learn from a cookbook.  Even though the recipes are pretty straight forward, it is hard to convey on paper how the dough is suppose feel in your hands before its ready to go into the pan.  Having someone stand over your shoulder and coach you step by step ensures that you have the right “feel” for the crust.  With a thin flaky crust, you are well on your way to a fabulous dessert.

My pastry tutor was an 18-year-old friend from work.   We were both newly married women, and I challenged her when she told me she could bake good pies.  Heaven knows I was struggling to put anything edible on the table at that point.  My husb20130712_135743and still turns his nose up at Tuna Noodle Casserole almost 40 years later (I guess one cannot live on tuna alone).  At the challenge, my friend extended an invitation to a Saturday baking day at her home.   She let me do the mixing, rolling and pinching, but she guided me through every step.  After the dishes were done, and the pies had cooled, we sat down to the most delicious dessert I had ever eaten — and I had baked it!  The rest is history.  It’s like the age-old lesson, ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.  Yep, I learned to “fish” that day. 

If you have never attempted pie baking, I wish someone could be there in your kitchen with you .  They could help pick through the fresh cherries to “get all the pits”.  They could watch as you cut a signature design into the top crust to allow thcherriese filling to vent.  You could take turns watching through the oven door as the crust browns and the filling begins to bubble (that’s how you know its done).

As you will see, there is nothing special about the recipe I use for cherry pie.  It’s the one found in your Gramma’s cookbook.  I am grateful for that dear friend who passed along her knowledge of pie baking.  I have since taught my daughters.  The secret is in the lesson.

Pastry Crust for a two crust pie
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
1/2 cup ice water (scant)

Sift flour and salt together in a large bowl.  With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the size of peas.  Then work the mixture between your fingers until all the butter is worked into the flour.  Add the ice water, and with a fork, quickly mix into the flour until a dough is formed.  The less you work with the dough at this point, the better the crust will be.  Divide the dough into two pieces.  On a floured surface, roll the dough into a disk the size of your hand.  Pick up the dough and turn it over, dusting it again with flour.  Continue to roll until thin.  Place in bottom of 9 inch pie plate.  Roll out the other dough in the same manner.  After filling the pie with your fruit and glaze, place the other piece of pastry on top.  Trim the edge and pinch edges together.  Cut a pretty design in top crust to allow filling to allow steam to escape.  You may brush the crust with an egg wash if you desire a darker, crustier top crust.

Cherry Filling
3 cups fresh sour cherries;  you can use frozen, thawed and drained very well
1 1/2 cups sugar – divided
3-4 Tablespoons Cornstarch
3/4 cup cherry juice
2 Tablespoons butter

Pick through cherries to remove all pits.  Put 3/4 cup of the sugar into a medium sauce pan.  Add the cornstarch and mix well.  Pour the cherry juice over sugar and stir; heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Bring to boil and then cook for one additional minute.  The cornstarch will lose it’s milky look and become a “clear” glaze.  It will be very thick at this point.  Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup sugar.  Combine cherries and glaze.   Fill pastry shell and bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is hot and bubbly.  Makes one 9 inch pie.cherry pie

“You should be able to pick up a good piece of pie and eat it with your fingers” — my dad (he loved a good a pie too)

Lessons Learned from Dad

My dad was an “Archie Bunker” kind of dad.  Any baby boomer knows what that means.  His word was law.  He spoke, we jumped.  And frankly, I was kind of scared of him.  He mellowed as he grew older.   And even though he was challenging while we were growing up, he was our biggest cheerleader as young adults. 

SCN_0001He was often sitting at the kitchen counter when I came home for a visit, a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  He would raise his big hand and say, “Hi Hon”, with a great big smile on his face and a sparkle in his eyes.  I loved that he was glad to see me.  I like that memory.  He’s been on my mind lately.  He’s been gone 25 years;  he died too young… on his 57th birthday… and I don’t feel like he ever got to really know me.

Thinking about my dad, and reflecting on some childhood memories, I began to recall some of the things he said.   I asked my husband about his father, and he too, shared some lessons from his dad.  I asked other family members, ‘what did you learn from your dad?’, and the emails started arriving in my inbox.   As expected, with many dads and granddads referenced, some memories were meaningful while others were a bit humorous; some a little sad while others joyful.  But to be honest, we are a lucky bunch:  For the most part, we had dads who loved God and family, and that is conveyed in the remarks made by their offspring.  So here is a running list of some of the  “lessons learned from Dad”.  The memories and quotes are not all mine; they are from various family members, and in no particular order.  I hope it makes you smile.

When pride allows you to turn down a gift, you have robbed the giver of the bigger blessing.

Any job worth doing is worth doing right.grampa talk

Life isn’t always easy.

Your work reflects who you are.

Your work reflects on our family.

You cannot be a model because you are too short and your boobs are too big.  (That may sound harsh, but it actually can save you from years of starvation and make you depend on your brain.   And to be clear, this was not my memory)

Your faith is notOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA about YOU.

This is what you wanted — there will be NO complaining about it.

Good hard work never killed anyone.

Be thankful.

Your muscles are meant to be put to good use.

Do not do what you FEEL like doing, do what you believe is RIGHT.

My Dad didn’t SCN_0002say, “I love you” with words, but I knew he loved me just the same.  (However, that lesson taught me to say, “I love you” to my own children with words.   They need to hear it).

I would never ask you to do something that I would not do myself.

If you want to plant straight rows, always look far ahead  — not right in front of you.  (this has many applications for success)

Be smart, work hard, and take care of your things.

My Dad was a hunter, and he taught me how to skin squirrels and rabbits.  Although I haven’t had the opportunity to skin one lately, it does make for good conversation at parties.  My daughter was also admired by teacher and classmate alike when she told them her Mom could skin a squirrel!

Be quietly generous.

If you’re not a swearing man, dadgumit, what the hen?, and crimenetly…. all work.

If you are a swearing man, well…. you know…

Words have the power to stay forever.  (You never know which words are the words that will live forever in someone’s memory…. make sure they are good words.)

My dad didn’t need to yell, for one lasered look over the top of a newspaper was all it took to stop the bickering amongst us kids.

Anything worth having is worth working for.

Don’t climb on the counter/cupboards.  (No, really, don’t).

Don’t play in the car with the keys.   And if you choose to, when the car begins to back down the driveway, run next door to Gramma’s like your brother does — before Dad comes out of the house!

Treat your mother wgochenaurs-4182ith respect — don’t talk back.

One of the best memories I have of my father-in-law are words he whispered in my ear.  Every time we were about to leave from a visit, Dad would hug me good-bye and say, ‘you’re such a great mother, you’re a good wife, I love you Hon’.   I didn’t realize what a blessing that was until he was gone.  It hit me hard on that first visit back home.

This is a short, fun list.  I’m sure if I tarried, I could continue to add many more memories and lessons — good and bad.  And even if the memory is bad, good lessons can be learned, if we are willing.   Our dads impact us forever.  I know my Dad left his mark on me.  I love him and miss him more and more as I grow older.  Wish I could share a cup of coffee with him now, and hear his sweet, “Hi Hon” again.

What lessons did you learn from your dad?

10 Things Every Gramma Should Know:

10.  Taking care of those kids will wear you out!  You think it’s because you are old now.  It is actually because we have chosen to forget the chaos of mothering. They wear their mother out too, but she can’t “give them back” at the end of the day.

20131016_113904

9.  You need to be the one to initiate “together” time.   They do not need gifts as much as they need your time.  Be involved.   If you do not, when they are teens and adults, they will not come around.

8.  Be joyful, be happy, be encouraging.  Your grandkids need that….if you are lighthearted,  they will crave your company.

7.  Ask meaningful questions.  Don’t ask their age and school grade;  you should know those answers.  Those are the questions that strangers ask.  And yes, they are getting taller and bigger, but don’t talk about that …again.  Do you know their favorite color? food?  movie?  Do they have hobbies?  Get to KNOW them.   Really really know them.  Even long-distance Grammas — in this day and age — can know their grandkids really well.

6.  Your daughter/son can criticize them, but you cannot.  This is a good lesson to learn early.

5.  You had your chance to raise your kids.  Now is the time to be quiet and let your daughter/son find their way.   Don’t judge.  Don’t advise unless asked.  Your turn is over.

4.  They WILL make the house messy.  It’s ok.   You know how to clean.   Relax and enjoy the time together…. and sweep after they are gone.  And don’t complain about the dirt while they are there.  Remember #8

3.  Read to them and tell them stories.  They love stories.   Tell them good stories, funny stories about their Mom/Dad.  Tell them stories about you and your childhood.  Pass along a heritage.

2.  Teach them something.  Leave a legacy.   What do you do well?  Teach them that.

1.  The love you feel for those children will surprise you…. and overwhelm you.  And because you do not bear the responsibility that their parents carry, you can love with abandon.  Its your job.  What a wonderful new career!

I’m Up for the Chaos — Bring on the Grandkids Again!

Not only are the windows overlooking my backyard covered with fingerprints, there are numerous nose prints here and there on the glass as well …which makes me smile.  Grass clippings and dirt stick to my bare feet and I kick a toy tractor out of my way as I go for my first cup of coffee.  The house is quiet.   I thought I would relish the peace this morning, but the lack of noise is almost too loud.

Grand20131014_115834children have kept me hopping for the last four days.  The busyness has been constant.   An old croquet set and a couple of jump ropes were discovered along with sidewalk chalk, frisbees and several other forgotten toys .  Little boys talked me into setting up the tent so they could have a “headquarters” for an afternoon of detective work.  We unboxed Barbies and Polly Poc20131010_143829kets for one child and created bean fields out of blankets so the other two could harvest with their toy combines.  Little hands got sticky with glue as paper plate scarecrows took shape.  And Batman asked several times, “did I scare you, Gramma?”.    We took an afternoon to meet up with Papa, riding in the combine and soaking up knowledge about corn and beans.  Those inquisitive minds asking so many questions about farming.  They love the red combine and wait anxiously all year for it to “wake up”.

And between all that activity, those small bodies were crawling up on the bar stools again and again, waiting to be fed… like little birdies.   Seriously?  You’re hungry again?  My kitchen is now devoid of any cookies, donuts or fruit.   I mi20130829_120037ght also be out of bread and cheese.  I’m not ready to take inventory and commit to a grocery run.  I want another cup of coffee first.

I’m feeling a little blue as I savor my last few sips of Pumpkin Spice Blend.   I once had four little ones of my own.  I lived the chaos.  But I have gotten soft and lazy… and self-focused.  Caring for little ones doesn’t leave much time for reflection.   Life is crazy.  Life is about them.  There is barely time for a shower!  Survival is the goal on many days.  It is easy to forget the mayhem of the day-in and day-out of mothering.  I commit to pray more for my daughter.20131012_135225

As they covered me with hugs and kisses last night as they said their good-byes, I breathed a sigh of relief.  However, at the same moment, bittersweet emotions brought a lump to my throat.   So glad to see them…  so glad to send them home.  Am I allowed to say that?  I guess, as Gramma, I am.

So, yes, the windows and floors are dirty; my cupboards are bare.    And a few toys yet need to find their shelf.   My bones are a bit weary.  I need a break today.  And quietly, as I go for my final cup of brew,  I grab my calendar and mark off the days until those little kiddos are running through my house again… because I sure do miss them today.

It Gets Muddy Before We Bloom

seedsA little seed, in a packet, content to be with other seeds.  It is a comfortable, safe and happy place.  Once plucked by the farmer, it is planted in a muddy, dirty place.  And as it is watered, it begins to fall apart!  That is a story told by author and speaker, Lysa Terkeurst.  I love this analogy.   I thought, as I’m sure did many others, I am that seed.

 23.   A while back, my husband made a sudden, unforeseen career change due to the unexpected death of his older brother.  After being a CPA for 35 years,  he is farming now.  Yep, that’s right, he’s a farmer — the tractor, the combine, even the suspenders!   The ground he farms is an hour from our home and he commutes now so that our youngest daughter can finish her high school years with her friends, school, and youth group, but eventually it’ll mean a move for us….. back to our roots… back to the place I grew up… back to my hometown.  Not sure how I feel about that.  Some days I think it’ll be okay,  and some days it scares me to death.  But I know in my heart it is the right thing for Jon.  I’m trusting God:  If it is the right thing for him,  it’ll be the right thing for me.

“Number 23” is an excerpt from a list of random things about me — a fun little list that circulated around facebook several years ago.  When I wrote that list, I had just been plucked from the “seed packet”.  Even at that point, knowing change was going to take place, I had no idea of what lie ahead….. the ground was about to get mucky.

When the summer of our transition to the farm arrived, I was already dizzy from a high school graduation and open house party.  Our second daughter was also graduating from nursing school and moving 1000 miles away.  Daughter number three was moving across the country to follow her dream.  And finally, our oldest daughter and her family were moving into a new home as well — thankfully that was a local move.   I was preparing our house for market and had realtors with clients in and out of my house several times during the week.  So much change.  It had become the summer of moves.  The activity had been constant for months.

So on that September day, there had been no time to prepare for the quiet that enveloped me, but the minute the car door slammed and we pulled away from that college dorm, leaving our youngest, daughter number four, on the campus, I felt it.  It covered me.

I thought I knew what was coming.  I thought I was prepared.  But now that the rush of activity was over, I had no home, no children, no community, no job, no church and no friends (it was quite the pity party).  I spent the week on the couch.  The self-pity actually took me by surprise.  Long story short, we had moved into a rental house far away from “the seed packet”. 

I didn’t think all those empty nest stories would apply to me.  After all, we had spaced our girls out; there had been children in our home for 32 years!  Wasn’t it time for “us”?  A time we had looked forward to — not dreaded.  However, pulling out of that university drive felt like a creaky door, slowing closing on my past and all that I knew.  There was nothing waiting for me at the end of this road to “home”.

But I know in my heart it is the right thing for Jon.  I’m trusting God: If it is the right thing for him,  it’ll be the right thing for me.

It has now been 2 years since that long drive home.  It has been muddy.  And there were moments when I felt like I was falling apart.  Once or twice, I regretfully remember, walking through the house screaming, “I WANT MY LIFE BACK”.  I didn’t have a plan.  I didn’t know my purpose.  I kept asking God, “what now?”

First blooms from my own garden.

First blooms from my own garden.

I am slowly finding my way as a farmer’s wife, learning to be content when my husband works 16 hour days six days a week.   I am making new friends that challenge my thinking.  I have become involved in some work that is teaching and stretching me as a leader and mentor.   I am not sure what God has planned, but I hope to blossom into something lovely — not turn into a bitter old weed.   I want to thrive — even if it means getting muddy along the way.  “He is “making this right for me”.  

The farmer has a plan for that little seed.  He knows the seed must come out of the packet, get planted in the dirt and fall apart in order to grow. God has a plan for me… and for you. He has planted me here in this little Amish community.  It is my choice whether I wallow in the mud and whither… or blossom.  Where are you planted?  Are you stuck in the mud?  Don’t give up, take heart and choose to keep growing…a lovely flower may be about to bloom.