Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Year Ahead

At this moment, I am living in 2009 and my daughter is living in 2010. If she continues to live "ahead" of me, will she eventually be older than me?

Just wondering.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's The People

A friend of mine at work has a two-year old son who seems to have the blame game figured out pretty well. When he misbehaves and his mom asks him why he did what he did, his answer is simple. "It's the people." Apparently, it makes him sad to have to admit it because he says it softly and with a certain sense of resignation. But that's the bottom line...it's the people.

So it goes something like this. "John, why are you not eating your dinner?" "It's the people." "John, why did you you hit your sister?" "It's the people." Well, you get the picture.

Frankly, I think the child is a genius. Because, come on, it's usually people that get under my skin and make me act the way I do. I mean, really, it is! Okay, sometimes it's the computer, but that's just because I'm a big ZERO when it comes to understanding about computers. And once in a while, it's the sewing machine when I absolutely have to try to sew something because it hates me.

But think about it. More often than not, it's people who make us act in a less than stellar fashion. I mean, they wear on our patience and say and do ridiculous things at times. It's just hard to be around "people" a lot of the time. So, I'm right there with you, John. It IS the people.

The only problem with the whole thing is that I have this inkling that I'M "the people" in other people's lives at times. Darn. That's not as much fun.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Always Room

"There was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:7

I read this familiar verse the other morning and was overwhelmed with the realization that I never have to worry that I'll hear my Heavenly Father tell me that "there's no room."

Sometimes the enemy tries to convince me that it's too late and I've blown it so badly that God has closed and locked that door. So don't even bother going there.

But God calls to me over those lies. And He tells me that, no matter what I've done or how long I've been away, if I turn to Him in repentance, that door will always swing wide open and He will welcome me in.

What a blessing to know that there is always room when The Father is welcoming home His child.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas, Elizabeth!

"...if only in my dreams."

Merry Christmas, Sweetheart. Know that you are in our hearts and prayers, if not in our home this year.

We love you,
Mom and Dad

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bah Humbug to Potlucks!

Just gotta say that I'm gettin' a little tired of the word "potluck." Not a big fan of them any time of year. I never know what to bring. It's usually a hassle getting the food where it's going and keeping it either hot or cold.

But this Christmas it's been way over the top! And I am even guilty of suggesting the one that's happening tomorrow. What was I thinking?

I'm just saying that there's nothing wrong with a nice catered event where all of us women get to just sit down and be waited on. Nothing wrong at all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Angel


Every year when we decorate our Christmas tree, I love to think back on the history of each ornament as I hang it on the tree. Where did it come from? Who gave it to us? What's the story behind it?

Some of them are beautiful, commercially made ornaments. They make the tree sparkle and glitter. Some are handmade and they bring that special warm feeling to the whole tree. I love them all because they tell a story about our family and our years together.

But there is one ornament that makes me smile every year when we put it on the tree. Some people might wonder why we even put it up; why we haven't bought something a little more elegant for this place of honor. You see, on the very top of our tree sits an angel...an angel made from a paper plate, aluminum foil and glitter. And she's the most beautiful angel I've ever seen.
Our paper plate angel was crafted by our daughter's tiny hands before she even started school. It was a Sunday school project that she presented to us with such pride! Of course it went on the top of our tree that first year. We certainly didn't know that it would have that place of honor nearly 20 years later. But there she sits, often tilting just a bit on the top of our tree, but as beautiful as ever.

It's not the paper plate or the foil or the glitter that I see. Instead, it's the sweet little hands that crafted her. She is a work of art! And no one else has one just like her. And that goes for the angel too!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Amazed

"And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." Luke 2: 18

Amazed. That's what Luke says the reaction was to the shepherds' news that a little baby had been born. A little baby who just happened to be the long-awaited Messiah. Not skepticism. Not ridicule. But amazement!

As I read these words this morning, I couldn't help thinking how differently the world receives this news today. Rather than amazement, the news that God chose to enter our world on that night so long ago, is often met with total disinterest if not out right rejection.

As I read these words this morning, I couldn't help thinking that too often, I also miss the amazement of God's choice to enter the world as Immanuel, God with us. I can't grasp the selfless love that it took for Him to send His "one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

I'll never completely understand that love. But I never want to forget that, without that Baby born so long ago, there was no hope of redemption for my broken and sinful life. It truly was God's amazing grace that "saved a wretch like me." If that's not cause for amazement, then I don't know what is.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Abbreviated Decorating

So this year, I managed to decorate my house for Christmas with only three of my usual eight tubs of decorations. And one tub was strictly tree decorations!

I've been feeling overwhelmed with the whole decorating thing the past few years. And since our daughter, who usually is in our home over the holidays, is in Russia this year, I figured I'd try the "Cliff Notes" version of Christmas decorating.

And I'm delighted to report that, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in my house. In fact, it looks great! The tree is up, the garlands are glittering and it only took me a couple of hours. And I feel less stressed about having to take it all down again in a few weeks.

It's Christmasy and wonderful! So, sometimes, less is definitely more.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dear Mom,

As I was driving home from work, a song came on the radio that said, "I wonder what Christmas in Heaven is like." I thought of you and smiled because you know the answer to that.

It is hard to believe that it was seventeen years ago today that you left us. It was a glorious sunny, cold day...just like today. I remember thinking that Heaven pulled out all the stops to welcome you home that day. But Christmas has never been the same for me.

All of your girls have carried on your traditions and we are so blessed with wonderful families, but a part of us went with you. You were the heart of our family. And I will always be grateful for your love and example.

Thank you for the sweet memories of you in your apron helping us make Russian Teacakes and Molasses Crinkles. Or of you sitting in the lamplight hemming our matching Christmas dresses so they would be ready to wear for the Christmas program at church. You made Christmas magical for all of us.

Mom, I have heard your whisper in every Christmas since you left us. And with all my heart, I cherish the legacy that you gave us.

I love and miss you,
Laura

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Am I Feeling Lucky?

This morning my flat iron wouldn't heat up very hot. So needless to say, today was a bad hair day. Then on top of that, I really, really needed a haircut. So at lunch, I called my hairdresser, and to my delight she was able to fit me in right after work. The only problem with that was I couldn't go to Costco to buy a new flat iron since I had a hair appointment.

As I sat in the chair, my hairdresser told me they were having an open house and that I needed to enter all of their drawings for free stuff before I left. Free stuff? Like what? Like a new flat iron!

The problem is, the drawing isn't until Saturday and today is only Tuesday. My old flat iron still heats up some...and I have a really cheapo one that might help get me by until the big drawing. So the question is, am I feeling lucky? I mean really, how many entrants can there be in this drawing? It's a small salon. My chances have to be pretty good and these flat irons are down right expensive. It's got to be worth suffering through a few questionable hair days, right?

But I don't want to get my hopes up. With my luck, I'll be the winner of the giant candy jar for guessing how many pieces of candy are in it. Really? I just don't need that. Oh, it's tough living on the edge like I do!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Keep At It!

I remember the days when I could memorize anything. Not so any more! But this video encourages me to keep at it when it comes to memorizing Scripture. Besides, it just makes me smile!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thoughts...

I've been thinking about how easily we throw around phrases that have so much potential to be powerful in our lives. But because they are so familiar, they lose their impact, and their powerful truth becomes nothing more than a cliche.
First Corinthians 6:19 says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" Pretty incredible stuff if we stop to think about what this verse is saying. The Holy Spirit, part of the Trinity, actually resides in me. I really can't grasp all of the implications here. But one thing that I'm coming to understand is that too often we don't treat our bodies that way.
Imagine for a moment walking into a beautifully ornate cathedral with your bags of garbage and dumping their contents up and down the aisles. Or taking a can of spray paint and writing crude sayings all over the walls. It would show total disrespect for a place of holiness, a place where God's presence should be found.
And yet today, as Christians, most of the time we don't seem to have a grasp of what it means for our bodies to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. While we would be horrifed to walk into a church and dump trash all over it, we readily fill our stomachs with garbage and our minds with the same. We make no effort to exercise or get enough rest and so our "temples" become trash bins. Either we don't truly understand and believe that the Holy Spirit resides in us, or we simply don't care.
Personally, I believe that we don't totally grasp the truth that God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, is alive and living in us. Yet, I want to fully understand this! I want to claim the power that comes with that understanding! And here's, the wonderful part...God wants me to have that power!
My prayer is that the choices I make in regard to my body... the food I eat, the exercise that I do, and the things that I watch and read will all serve to nourish this temple. I want it to be a place of beauty for its honored Guest.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Learning the Lingo

When I started blogging, I never imagined that there'd be a whole new lingo to learn. I'm not talking about phrases like HTML/JavaScript or Open ID URL. I still have no clue what all of that means.

What I'm talking about are the cute little "words" that you have to type in when you want to leave a comment on a blog. Those fun "Word Verifications." The other night when I was leaving a comment, my word verification was "pudingle." I don't know why but that one made me laugh right out loud. And it got me thinking about how much fun you could have with these words (I use that term loosely!). So, I collected a few of them.

Here's how "Mary Had A Little Lamb" might read if it was written in Word Verification:

Mary had a little whalla, little whalla, little whalla.
Mary had a little whalla. Its muntee was white as pudingle.

Every where that Mary hotilized, Mary hotilized, Mary hotilized.
Every where that Mary hotilized, the whalla was sure to brava.

Followed her to lidia one day, lidia one day, lidia one day.
Followed her to lidia one day, which was against the partmil.

Made the nonelys rewom and antaro, rewom and antaro, rewom and antaro.
Made the nonelys rewom and antaro, to see a whalla at outesia.

Alrighty then! I may be spending a little too much time blogging! Cluthym!!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Walking In the Light

Tuesday night I was walking to my neighbor, Cynthia's house for our Bible study. Now that daylight savings time is over and autumn has a full grip on our days, it is dark when I make this weekly trek.

So, with all my "gear" in my bag, and my umbrella pulled down tight to try to keep everything dry, I was navigating Cynthia's rather long, treelined, gravel driveway with only my little flashlight to light my way.

The beam from my flashlight was sufficient to light the way, if I was careful to keep my eyes focused on just the little patch of ground directly ahead of me. By doing this, I could avoid the bumps or dips in the ground and remain upright...a favorite position of mine since I have already fallen and broken one hip!

But as I made my way up Cynthia's driveway, I was surprised at how hard it was to keep my focus on just that little patch of light rather than looking ahead at the dimly lit ground beyond the flashlight's beam. I kept finding my gaze jumping ahead of the clearly illuminated ground.

I reached Cynthia's brightly lit porch without incident. But that little walk reminded me that this is often how I live my life. I try to run ahead of God's clear direction. That's when I hit the bumps and dips that cause so much unnessary pain in my life. How much simpler and safer it is when I choose to walk in the light that God has promised to show me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

God in My Life

How aware are you of God's presence in your life? Do you watch for the things that He is doing in the circumstances and relationships of your life? Do you sense His movement in the comings and goings of your day? These have been the thoughts that have recently been challenging me.

In our neighborhood women's Bible study we are going through Henry Blackaby's "Experiencing God." While I did this Bible study over ten years ago, its lessons are speaking to me once again. Dr. Blackaby states over and over again that God is always at work around us. And we need to watch to see where God is already working and to join Him in that work.

Yesterday I was at a Women's Retreat where our guest speaker, Carolyn Arends, shared a personal story that, for me, highlighted this idea of God's activity in my life. Carolyn told how she and her family had been on a vacation in Maui a couple of years ago. Shortly after their arrival at the timeshare where they would be staying, they noticed that they were not alone. Much to their dismay, the family discovered that they were sharing their accomodations with a little gray mouse.

This mouse must have been pretty comfortable with people, because in the evenings, it would make its way right out into the living area. Carolyn shared how her peripheral vision became very attuned to the movements of this little critter. She said that by the time the family headed home, she was constantly aware of the presence of this mouse in their house even when she couldn't actually see it.

Now, I'm in no way comparing God to a mouse, and neither was Carolyn! But the point is, when you take the time to focus your attention on something, you become more aware of its presence even if you don't actually see it all the time. You become attuned to its movements. You know where it is and what it is doing.

I want to be that aware of God in my life. I want to understand and anticipate how He orchestrates the circumstances of my life. I long to recognize His movements, even out of the corner of my eye, and understand how I should join Him.

In that oh-so-familiar verse, Jeremiah 29:11, we are told, "For I know the plans I have you for you," declares the Lord." This is a beautiful verse of assurance from God about our futures. But I believe that part of those plans include Him using me to share His love with the people around me and accomplishing His will and purposes in this shattered and selfish world. How will I ever be able to do that if I am oblivious to His daily presence in my life? Quite simply, I won't.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ready, Set to Celebrate!

So, here we are, in November. Which of course means that the countdown to the holidays has begun. From now until the first of the year, it will be all about the holidays in one form or another. However, this year, I'll be doing a down-sized version of the holidays for a couple of reasons.

First, Thanksgiving is going to be a one day affair instead of the usual two-day celebration it has been for the past seven years which was when my mother-in-law moved to Washington. We have always had a bursting-at-the seams Thanksgiving at my sister's house. So with the arrival of my mother-in-law, we decided to do Thanksgiving all over again on Friday for her and various friends. By the end of the weekend, I was always exhausted and mainly feeling thankful to be heading back to work. But my mother-in-law moved East last December, so this year, it's a one-shot celebration....which has me celebrating!

I've always loved to decorate for Christmas. But for the past few years, the process has become overwhelming. However, this year, it will just be my husband and I in our home since our daughter is in Russia and won't be here for the holidays. So, I've decided to be very selective with my decorating. I still want my house to have the holiday spirit, but I'm going to simplify! I'm not sure what that will look like. But I'm feeling good about being able to focus on celebrating Christmas rather than stressing over what my house looks like.

So this year, with the arrival of November, I am looking forward to the holidays. I am ready, set to celebrate!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Be Exceptional!

Sometimes a thought jumps out at me when I am reading something and I know that I should really think about it But every once in awhile, that same idea shows up in multiple places and then I know I need to embrace it and make it part of my life. That's what happened to me this morning.

During my devotions on Wednesday morning, I was reading in "My Utmost for His Highest" and Oswald Chambers made a statement that grabbed my attention. While the complete statement was longer than this, here is the part that spoke to me. It said "...be exceptional in the ordinary things of life." Wow! I couldn't let go of that thought.

I jotted the quote on a scrap of paper and tucked it in my bag to take to work with me. Throughout the day I read those words over and over again. I pondered what that would look like in my life. What if we all gave our very best efforts to the everyday situations that we face, and to the people who touch our lives. No more of the "just enough to get by" attitude. How could we change our world?

So, this morning, I was once again having my devotions. As I leafed through some of the recent devotions I had read in a little book called "Joy & Strength," my eye caught a sentence that I had underlined on September 24. It read like this, "...do everything, however ordinary, as well as it can possibly be done, for God's sake." There it was again, the call to be exceptional in the ordinary things of our lives!

Most of us dream about doing something big, something exceptional that will impact this world. There is nothing wrong with that. It's just that, very few of us ever achieve anything quite that dramatic.

But, here's what I'm suggesting: we can all be exceptional. We have the power to take the "ordinary" in our lives and make it extraordinary by giving it our best effort. Every situation, every relationship, every disappointment and trial...they all can be transformed. God honors our efforts when we choose to give our best.

So go for it. Be exceptional! It's not every day that an opportunity like this comes along...well, actually it is!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Autumn


When spring flowers start to win the war against winter and suddenly the world is all pink, yellow and blue, it's hard to image that anything can be as beautiful as that raucous display.
But yesterday I went on my walk and was reminded again how God never fails to take my breath away with the fiery colors of autumn. As much as I hate to let go of warm summer days, I am always richly rewarded when I embrace the change of seasons and give myself over to the brisk fall air, the cascade of falling leaves and the sense of coziness that only comes with autumn.
I know that in a few short weeks, the trees will once again be bare and their boney branches will stand stark against leaden skies, but for now, the world is on fire with color, and I'm loving it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Taking the Plunge

I'm a planner. I like to weigh all the angles and figure out the best approach before I jump into things. So sometimes, it takes me a while before I'm ready to take the plunge.

I've seen a bit of myself in my son recently. For some time now, David has been weighing the pros and cons of going back to school to get his Master's degree. He has done a lot of research into different programs, and different schools. He's thought a lot about WHEN he should do this and IF he should to it. It's a big decision with a big price tag.

But he's finally taken the plunge. David was recently accepted into grad school at Indiana Weslyan University where he will earn a degree in ministry and leadership (sorry, I don't know the actual title). Since he will continue to work full time as a Young Adults pastor, he's probably looking at more than a couple of years before he will finish the program. So it's a big commitment.

On Tuesday, David will catch a plane for Indiana where he'll spend a few days going through the program orientation. When he returns, life takes on a whole new feel. Once again he becomes the student while still trying to find time to be a husband and pastor.

I know he can do it even though it won't be easy. But in the end, all the planning, the sacrifice and the work will be worth it. And often, the most difficult part can be taking that initial plunge.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Simple Things in Life







My friend, Rene, had a birthday last Sunday. I love her take on birthdays. According to her, October is her "birthday month," so she is more than willing to accept birthday greetings and gifts throughout the entire month! I say, if you can get people to buy into that philosophy, go for it!

One of the things I love about Rene is her appreciation for beauty in the simple things of life. I'm not kidding when I say that she is moved to tears when she changes her calendar each month and a pretty new picture shows up. Or she'll tell me "Look at the apple I brought in my lunch. Isn't it pretty?" And of course her eyes are all teary as she shows it to me. It's who she is and I love it!

So, last week I was trying to come up with an idea for a simple little gift. I thought of one idea after another and quickly discarded each one. Finally, inspiration hit!

And that's how I ended up standing in the produce department of Safeway on Friday night holding up one apple after another and asking myself, "Is this apple pretty or not?" To be honest, I'd never really considered that question before. So it took some time, and I imagine that I got some funny looks from fellow shoppers, but finally I found three or four contenders! With a little creative packaging, I was ready to go.

Monday morning, I hurried into the office so I could place my little beauty on her desk before she arrived. And guess what! She loved it! A simple little apple (with a few tasty caramels!) brought her to tears, and me as well. I had so much fun finding the perfect gift for Rene, but in the process, she gave me a wonderful gift...a new appreciation for the simple things in life.





Friday, October 2, 2009

Walmart Wanderings

It's Friday night and usually on a Friday, it would take an act of God or at least a really great sale to get me to leave my house once I make it home. But tonight I decided to head over to Walmart to pick up a few items that I couldn't find when I went grocery shopping.

It was an unusual experience in a couple of ways. First, the usual aisle hogs were missing. You know who I mean. Those folks who seem to find nothing wrong with stopping right smack in the middle of the aisle to either discipline an unruly child or make the seemingly difficult decision of whether to buy plain or peanut. They must have made all of their purchases earlier in the day because tonight, the aisles were wide open and I was able to cruise to my heart's content.

The other unusual thing was that there was an entire section of clearance items. Not just your usual aisle or two, but a whole corner of the store. And it had a wide variety of "treasures" to choose from. Being the rather frugal person that I am, I usually think twice before stocking up on items even if they are on clearance. But I think that the stress of the past few weeks must have finally been too much!

I went up and down those aisles lopping one item after another into my shopping cart. Two new light green pillows...check! Three shower curtain liners...check! One bright green three-hole punch...check! One Miley Cyrus backpack...okay, maybe not that one! But the point it is, I was getting in the mood.

Then I headed over to do the shopping that I had actually set out to do. Shampoo, bar soap, cold medicine. Oh yeah, the really fun stuff. I went up and down the aisles checking out the Thanksgiving decorations (totally skipped the Halloween stuff since I've never liked the holiday) when suddenly I remembered that Boss's Day is in October! Good save, since I'm the one in the office who winds up planning for these types of occasions. So, Boss's Day card...check!

By the time I headed for the check out, I figured I had done a little damage (well, relatively speaking, this is Walmart and I am cheap, I mean frugal!). The total was a bit more than I was expecting. Oh well, my new pillows give the family room a whole new look! And should the occasion arise, I am armed and ready to do some serious hole punching!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Such a Waste

Writing a blog is a bit like having your own personal confessional. You can spill out all of your shortcomings for the world to see (yeah, like the world is reading this!) and somehow come away feeling better. It's cathartic, to say the least. So here's my latest confession.

I spent the better part of this week angry. Not just a little peeved, but fully engulfed with anger and frustration directed at a group of people that I'd finally had enough of. And it was exhausting. I went to bed at night, and although I was weary, my mind wouldn't shut off so I could sleep. I'd get up in the morning and my neck was tight and my stomach was still in a knot, and I was exhausted. I even lost two pounds from the stress...well, maybe that wasn't a bad thing!

It's not that I wanted to continue to be angry. I just couldn't resolve the situation or completely let go of the feelings that had hold of me. And it's not that I didn't pray, asking for God to help me to get past the anger and to offer grace. But the feelings didn't subside easily.

Today, however, I was finally able to move on, let go, and even go and ask for forgiveness of one individual I feared I had offended.

But what a waste! A waste of energy and emotion. I can't get those days back. I can't make them something of beauty rather than the ugliness that, quite frankly, they were.

All I can do is be thankful that my Heavenly Father still loves me and will give me another chance to get it right. I hope I don't disappoint Him next time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My God is Getting Bigger

Yesterday, I has having my quiet time and reading in Chuck Swindoll's devotional, "Great Days with the Great Lives." Currently, I am reading about the life of Job. In Job 38, the Lord speaks to him "out of the storm," and we see the awesome power of God. At the end of the day's devotional, Dr. Swindoll poses these questions:

"How big is your God? Big enough to intervene? Big enough to be trusted? Big enough to be held in awe and ultimate respect? Big enough to erase your worries and replace them with peace? Remember, the more you know of God, the bigger He becomes."

That last statement followed me through my day..."the more you know of God, the bigger He becomes." And I am excited because I am experiencing this in my life.

Over the past few years, the events of my life have driven me deeper into my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I know Him better than a did a few years back. I am learning that He is big enough to be trusted with my most precious loves. Big enough to step into any situation and bring about His perfect will. And certainly big enough to overcome my greatest worries, replacing them with His gracious and healing peace.

It was a journal that made me aware of how much bigger God has become in my life. A simple little journal that I bought a couple of weeks ago so I could write down my thoughts, prayers and, yes, worries during this year that my daughter is in Russia.

I figured I would need this journal because I remembered how I was a couple of years back when she spent five weeks working in an orphanage in Ukraine. I was crazy about having to write in that journal every day...not because I had such interesting or valuable things to say. But, because I was so anxious and worried about her that I needed a place to spill all of those fears.

Now I have this journal, but I don't have this fearful need to write in it constantly. It's not that I care any less or that the situation is any less "fearful" to me. Instead, it's that God has gotten bigger in my life. I have learned to trust Him more with my family, my friends and certainly, the daily events of my life.

I would love to be able to tell you that I never worry anymore. That would be a lie. But I can say that I don't worry as much as I used to. God is getting bigger in my life each year. The steps I take to know Him better may seem small and very slow at times. But thankfully, I continue to gain a better understanding of just how big my God is.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day of Caring

Today I had the opportunity to participate in the United Way Day of Caring. About 16 of us from work spent the day at the Boys and Girls club doing yard work and cleaning inside the facility. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and I loved every minute of.

The director of the center gave us a tour of the facility, pointing out the various jobs that needed to be done in each room and outside. After the tour, we jumped in and got everything done in record time. By the time we had finished, pizza had arrived and we all sufficiently stuffed ourselves.

After lunch, Gene, the director did a wonderful job of explaining the impact that Boys and Girls clubs have on kids' lives. They are places that provide continuity, encouragement and enjoyment to many kids who otherwise don't have those things. I could tell that this is a man who is committed to making a difference in the lives of all who rely on these programs. It was truly inspiring!

After lunch and a few photo ops, we all loaded up in our cars and headed back to work. I don't know when I've felt like I had accomplished as much as I did today. It was a blessing to be able to give a little something back.

Monday, September 14, 2009

TLC

Every year I love to plant containers full of annuals to brighten up my yard. But usually long before summer is over, I tire of the constant watering and plucking of spent blooms. I force myself to keep at it, at least until the weather starts to turn colder.

But this year, my poor posies really suffered. We had our house painted so during that process, all of the planters were gathered together in one place to get them out of the way for the painter guy. Seems like it should have been easier to care for them since they were all in one big cluster. However, I ended up neglecting them. Now that the house is all shiny new looking, I have tried to revive my poor flowers, but they just don't look all that great! They need a little TLC.

Yesterday morning I was out on my walk before getting ready for church and I started thinking about when our neighborhood Bible study will start up again. We've taken a few weeks off since several of the ladies have been gone. But in just a week or two, we'll be back at it.

The funny thing is that, as much as I love our Bible study and the women in it, there is a part of me that could just go along quite happily without it right now. I realized that my feelings are a little bit like the way I get with my flowers. I love them, but they require work! And sometimes, I'm just plain lazy.

How often do I let relationships wilt because I just don't have the energy to pursue them? How often to I miss out on the sweet fellowship of friends because I don't want to commit to a schedule to meet with them? Right now, I have a dear friend who I have been thinking about calling for MONTHS. I think about her often. But, so far, no call. It requires effort.

Lord, forgive me for the times I let the blessings you put in my life wither and die because I get weary or selfish or just plain lazy. You have blessed me beyond measure with wonderful family and friends and I want those relationships to thrive and grow. I need to give them some TLC.

So, I'm going to fill up my watering can and head out to my wilting flowers. But first, I'm going to pick up my phone and call my dear friend.

Friday, September 11, 2009

It's a Big, Big World

For the moment, I have to take issue with Mr. Walt Disney. Over the years, he has brainwashed one generation after another to believe that "It's a small, small world." Well, I'm here to tell you, that from my viewpoint, it's not! It's a very big world right now and I'll tell you why.

A week ago, my daughter hopped on a plane for Russia. (Don't try to tell me that Russia is just a "small" distance away.) And then yesterday, my son and daughter-in-law hopped on another plane to Hawaii. Now, I just went to Hawaii last November and I remember the plane ride very well and I'm here to tell you that Hawaii is not a "small" distance away either!

So, from where I sit in my little house in Washington, the world is not feeling all that small. Not when my family is flung from one end of the globe to the other.

You can dress up dolls in all sorts of national costumes and have them sing, and sing, and sing, and sing...about how small the world is, Mr. Disney. But I'm not buying it. It's a big old world out there. I'm not saying that it's a bad thing. It's just that I'm feeling a little lonely right now.

So, I think I'll go hug my husband. At least he's just down the hall.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Roots and Wings

Part of my heart flew away this morning.

Before dawn, my husband and I said goodbye to our daughter, Elizabeth, in a very un-private corner of the airport. She asked us not to wait as she went through the security check. So, we didn't...at least not where she could see us. She needed to finally get past the goodbyes; they are always so hard. So we said our goodbyes and now she is on her way to teach in Russia for nearly a year.

On the way home from the airport, we listened to a CD that Elizabeth had compiled for us which she named "Parenty Songs." As tears poured down our faces, we listened to the songs she had chosen to leave with us. Songs that spoke of following God's calling; setting out on a new path; saying goodbye to the familiar. Songs that broke my already fragmented heart.

But songs that also comforted me because they confirmed what I already knew - she is a young woman whose roots go deep into family, friends and her God. She is exactly what I have always prayed she would become - brave, selfless, caring and funny as all get out. But most importantly, she is becoming who God is calling her to be... His hands and heart to this broken and hurting world.

When my children were small, I came across the familiar saying that says, as parents, our job is to give our children roots and wings. I used to stress about the roots. Was I doing it right? Would they grow up okay? Gratefully, both my son and daughter are doing way better than just okay!

But as they grew older, I began to realize that the more difficult task for me still lay ahead...the wings part. Could I let them go to pursue their own lives, their own dreams without holding them back? Could I even encourage them to step out and take the risks?

I admit that it isn't easy for me. At some point, a parent's dreams may collide with their children's dreams. I am grateful that God is giving me grace to step back and watch my children's dreams blossom and thrive.

So this morning, as I hugged Elizabeth for that last time, and watched her walk away, I swear it wasn't a backpack that I saw on her back, but a beautiful pair of wings.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fresh from God!

I'm sitting in my sister's timeshare in Whistler B.C. while on a short vacation with three out of my four sisters. We've been coming up here together for the past five years or so. But this year, our oldest sister couldn't make it. Yesterday, instead of heading north with us, she headed south to Portland, OR to see her brand new only-hours-old grandson, Simon. That's a pretty good reason to be absent from the sisters although we still miss her!

We have all been waiting for the news that little Simon had arrived. He was suppose to have made his entrance into this world about four days earlier, according to the medical folks. But I kind of like the fact that he did it in his own time. It's kind of like when the the weather people tell us that it's going to be sunny and 78 degrees in Seattle, 76 degrees in Tacoma and 77 degrees in Bellevue on Friday. But instead it ends up raining and 65 degrees everywhere in the whole region. It kind of brings us back to reality...we don't have as much control as we'd like to think we do in this world.

So, back to Simon. Here is this brand new life that still has God's fingerprints fresh all over him! The possibilities of who he will be are endless. No mistakes to make up for yet; no shortcomings to try to overcome; just a blank slate waiting for life to write upon. There is hope and endless expectations with the arrival of little Simon. I hope to meet him soon!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Painter Guy Came Through

So, I didn't need to freak out about the whole pressure-wash-the-house-thing. I admit it. I was wrong. When we came home from church Sunday morning, there he was...painter guy... setting up his equipment to start the job! And he finished in a few hours with specific plans on when he'd be back to start the painting. My husband was right...painter dude can be trusted!

I'd like to say that I've learned my lesson and that I'll never struggle with control issues again. But that would be like saying I'll never be hungry again because I just finished dinner.

BUT, I am learning. A little at a time, maybe. And, one of these days, I'll be totally out of control!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Control-Freakin'-Out

I'm doing it again. I know that I have made much progress in the area of "control" over the past few years. But today, the need to control has me in its grip once more.

But before I get to that, let me back up a few years to where I first learned that I had issues with control. It was at work and my boss told me that one day. I was deeply offended, especially considering the situation that brought about that pronouncement (way too many details to go into here, but trust me, it was HER issue, not mine!).

However, over time, I began to realize that she might have been right. I was always stressing when other people didn't follow my time table for getting things done. Or believe it or not, they actually did things their OWN way; not at all the way I would have done them. Well, you probably get the picture. It was a painful realization, but an important one.

So, as my children have grown up and become independent, I've tried very hard to pull back. I'm not always successful at it...just ask them! But the thing they don't know is just how much MORE I have wanted to offer advice and suggestions than I have actually done! So, believe it or not, I have made much progress. Except for today.

Today, the painter guy was suppose to come and pressure wash our house in preparation for painting it next weekend. And before that happens, the gutter guys are suppose to come on Monday and take down our old gutters so the house can be painted before they put up new ones after the paint job is finished. And the whole thing has to be done three weeks from now because we are having a big family get together before my daughter heads to Russia. I don't want worker men around on that day. We're on a schedule here, in case you can't tell!

Well, the painter guy never showed. Supposedly, he was going to be here by 8:00 a.m. He wasn't. After a couple of hours of no-show, I asked my husband if he needed to call him. He said that he might of misunderstood about the actual time. Great! We have no actual agreed upon time of arrival. I love things like this.

So I ran some errands and hoped that his truck would be parked in front of my house when I turned down my street and he would be happily spray washing away. No deal. Since it was close to noon, I nonchalantly asked my husband if we should call painter dude. "Why?" he asked. "I trust him." Great...trust is a wonderful thing. But the day is a-wasting here.

It's not like I wanted to call him and yell, "Where the heck are you?" You can be very subtle. Something like, "Oh, hi. I was just checking to see what time you thought you'd be at our house so we can be sure and have one of us here, since we have some things to take care of today." Non-threatening, right? But it gets the point out there that we ARE expecting you. Plus, if the poor guy totally messed up and FORGOT that he was suppose to come, he could quickly cover up that fact and give us an estimated time of arrival (now that he knew he was suppose to arrive). It's a win-win.

But apparently, men aren't that great with the subtlety stuff (sorry, Honey). So it is now after 5:00 p.m, I'm fixing dinner (yes, even as I write this) and no hide nor hair of painter guy. The house is as dirty as ever. And we're still on a schedule to get this done (at least I am!). But there's always tomorrow!

And I just want you to know, that I have only suggested calling the guy twice (out loud. What's gone on in my head is another story!) But I'm going to chalk it up to another lesson in how not to be a controlling person. By tomorrow night, I'll know if I got an A on the lesson or flunked!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's Cookin'

Okay, so it's HOT! And I'm not just being some whiney Washingtonian complaining because it is 75 degrees and I don't have an air conditioner.

The heat wave started rolling in at the beginning of the weekend. And from what all of our doppler-informed weather people are telling us, that was just the beginning. By Wednesday, they say we'll be flirting with 100! Frankly, I don't want to flirt with anything or anyone in the sticky-sweaty-all-my clothes-stuck-to-me state that I'm in. But 100 could be a record breaker for that date.

Now, here's the really great part. I'm going to work tomorrow, to my air conditioned office where I will need to bring a heavy sweater to put on over my light weight sleeveless blouse in order to not end up with freezer burn on my arms. Yup, there just doesn't seem to be a happy medium. Oh, well. Before I know it, the day will be over and I'll be home again trying to sleep in my second story bedroom that has done a great imitation of an Easy-Bake oven for the last three days.

Lest you think I'm complaining, I'm really not. I admit that I'm not really a HOT weather fan, but I do so prefer HOT over COLD and ICE which was what seemed to hold us captive all of last winter. So, this evening, as I reclined in my lovely new lawn chair on the deck, just hoping to catch a little breeze, I imagined what my deck looked like last winter, covered with that nasty white stuff. And suddenly, I didn't mind a little sweat and stickiness!

Of course, if you ask me how I feel about it by Wednesday, my story might have changed. After all, I have a limited supply of shorts and tank tops. Which probably means that I'll need to go shopping!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Walking, Abiding, Resting

Well, Elizabeth has begun her "Russia Experience" even if it is taking place in Pasadena, California at the moment. On Sunday, she arrived at the school where she will have her month of training before coming home for a brief two weeks and then heading out to that land, far, far away!

Over the past several months, I have struggled to release my little girl into God's most capable and loving hands, trusting that He loves her even more than I do. Some days I am quite successful at it (little pat on the back). Other days, not so much.

But I have noticed that as time goes on, the overwhelming flood of anxiety comes less often and in smaller waves. And at those times when the swirling waves of fear nearly knock the shifting sand out from under my feet, I have learned to simply state, "God is in control," and to leave it at that whether I feel any comfort or not. I have to, because this is a fact and it doesn't matter how what my feelings are screaming at me.

During the past few months, as I well-meaning (I think that they are!) coworkers and friends have related horrific stories of people they know who have experienced first hand, the crime and corruption overseas, I've had to swallow the knot of fear in my throat and say, "God is in control." Or as I've watched the teetering world economy and wondered what the conditions will be like in a year, I've had to say, "God is in control." And even tonight, when I read Elizabeth's blog where she shared what she has been learning about the violence, police corruption and crime overseas, I have to say, "God is in control."

A few days ago, I found great comfort as I read my devotions from wonderful little book called "Joy & Strength." The book is actually a compilation of "writers of many countries and centuries." And while many of the entries are very old fashioned in their writing style, they often speak to my heart.

July 15th's reading started with Exodus 33:14. "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." And then the author, John Pulsford, began his writing with these words, "Heaven consists in nothing else than walking, abiding, resting in the Divine Presence."

Walking, abiding, resting. That's what I needed to hear. Because, regardless of where I go, (or Elizabeth goes,) God's presence goes with me. And He has simply called me to walk, abide and rest in Him. If I do that, I will find peace in accepting that He truly is in contol and whatever happens, happens within His good and perfect will. And that knowledge is enough for me tonight.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

That's My Boy!

Okay, so sometime when I wasn't looking, my little boy became the "Special Guest Speaker, Pastor David Miles." I know he's all grown up. For crying out loud, he's coming up on 26 years old.
But it's just not everyday that you see your kid's name on a church's reader board sign! There's no doubt about it, it's pretty cool! Way to go, Pastor David. I'm sure you blessed their socks off!
P.S. to Pastor David: Notice the part where it says, "Bring your family?" I would have been there for you. AND, I would have said "Amen!" at all the right times! (Smile)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Walking by the River

Today has been absolutely beautiful! Beautiful and hot!! My husband, daughter and I went for a walk along the river on the Orting trail this morning. It was wonderful to spend some time together as a family before Elizabeth heads for training in California on Thursday. She will be learning everything she needs to know for her year in Russia, at least I'm pretending that she'll learn EVERYTHING she'll need to know.

But, back to this morning. It was scorching hot out there on the trail (don't I sound like the real outdoorswoman!). Finally the path wound around so it was following the course of the river. The milky, mountain water at least looked cooling even if we couldn't get out to it. And it was much nicer to be there than to be cleaning house or doing the yard work that I should of been doing.

At one point, we found a shady spot along the trail and stopped to eat some Rainier cherries I had brought along. They were so sweet and delicious. A real summer treat!

So, I've gotta say, I'm a fan of summer. And no doubt about it, today was summer at its best!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Yard Sale

This weekend was all about the yard sale at our house. Our daughter, Elizabeth, moved home last weekend and spent the past week sorting through the accumlation of her 23 years of living in order to get ready to move to St. Petersburg, Russia for a year. Whatever she earned from this sale would go towards her ministry support as she heads over there to teach conversational English to university students. But most importantly, she is going to share God's love with them.

Her bedroom, and our living room and dining rooms were the staging area for sorting through memories, represented by all the "stuff" she has accumlated. And like most of us, she was amazed (and at times, distressed) at just how much "stuff" there was!

After countless hours of sorting through what was going to stay and get boxed up for a year, what was hitting the trash can, and what would be worthy of the yard sale, Elizabeth finally set up shop bright and early on Friday morning. For two days she greeted neighbors as well as strangers who came to see what "treasures" they could find. And with each item that sold, there was a sense of lightening the load and loosening the ties.

As I sat with her on Saturday, I thought about how much "stuff" is still in the house. That nearly gave me a panic attack! But the truly wonderful part of the weekend was not just the clearing out of unneeded items, but seeing the wonderful people who were willing to come along side of her in her ministry. Neighbors contributed items to be sold. Others paid extra because they knew how the money would be used and they wanted to support the ministry. Still others offered wonderful stories of friends and family members who were already ministering in Russia and Ukraine. My heart just swelled as I recognized God's hand through each of these people that he brought to our yard.

One of the most exciting encounters happened when a mother and her college-age daughter came to look at some golf clubs. When they started speaking to each other, it was in Russian! I had been in the house when they arrived and when I came back out in the yard, Elizabeth was beaming! It turned out that they were actually from Ukraine, the country that broke Elizabeth's heart in the first place and set her out on this current journey! When the daughter saw the sign we had posted about Elizabeth going to Russia, she came over and offered her email and phone number so they can stay in contact. God, you are so cool!!

So, it was a successful weekend. Money was raised for the many items still needed to take overseas. Lots of "stuff" has moved on to new homes. And now it's the final sorting and packing before the big move! It's coming...really, really fast!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bought a Camera

I just went on line and bought a camera! It took me a while to pull the trigger, but after spending a long time reading and re-reading the specs, thinking and re-thinking whether or not I should do it, I did it! You're probably wondering what fancy-shmancy camera I decided on. Okay, I confess, it was just a $99 digital Kodak from Walmart. But the fact that it took me so long to do it says a couple of things about me.

First, I still stop and think twice before spending $100 bucks ($109.27 to be precise). Spending more than a few dollars at a time for non-essential items is difficult for me. Over the years, money has been tight. And in these economic times, it really makes sense to be cautious. So it was hard and I nearly talked myself out of buying the camera more than once.

And then there was the fact that I was buying it online. I hate to admit it, but I still don't feel quite confident in this whole internet shopping thing. I like to see the person's face who is taking my hard earned cash from me. And I REALLY like to be able to hold my purchase right away instead of waiting days for it to arrive. But I realize that this is the way business is done these days, even if it makes me crazy!

So, now that I've done it, I can hardly wait for it to come. Almost eight years ago, our house was burglarized and my camera was stolen. I haven't had one since then, and for the most part, I haven't missed it. My husband has a nice camera, so we have taken pictures over the years. However, most of those pictures have either resided on that camera or on his computer, so I haven't seen them.

Then last fall, my sisters and I went to Hawaii for a week and they were all snapping pictures right and left. Didn't really bother me too much since I figured I could get pictures from them. (Let me tell you, cell phone pictures don't really do Hawaii justice!) But just like with my husband's camera, their Hawaii pictures haven't made their way to me either.

So a few weeks back, I decided that I really DID want my own camera...just something cheap and simple so I could snap a few photos when I felt like it and actually get to see them. Now, I've taken the plunge and I'm excited! I can hardly wait to snap some of those "close-ups" that you take holding the camera at arms length. Lucky for me, I've got "ape arms"and can probably include five or six people in one shot!

So, consider yourself forewarned because once I get hold of this baby, I'll be snapping pictures of anyone and anything that crosses my path. After all, I've got to make up for lost time!

Monday, June 15, 2009

It's Gonna Hurt

Have you ever had a bruise, that for some reason you can't resist poking? You know that if you press on the purplely-blue spot, it's gonna hurt. But you do it anyway, because you think that just maybe it won't hurt as much as it looks like it will. And of course, you're wrong...it hurts like crazy!

Sometimes, when people hurt me, I do the same thing. I know the wound is there, and rather than just leaving it alone and letting time do its healing thing, I keep revisiting it, poking at it...just to make sure that it still hurts. And sure enough, it still does!

I know it doesn't make much sense. I know I need to just let my hurts heal without inflicting more pain. Maybe someday I'll learn how to do that.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Saturday at Starbucks

Last Saturday morning, my daughter and I decided to head on over to our local Starbucks for a cup of something while we did our devotions and chatted. When we got there, the usual Saturday morning crowd was there, not that I know who the usual crowd is. I simply mean that a crowd was there. The line was long and backed up nearly to the door with more people coming in every few minutes.

My daughter gave me her drink order and then went to find a table where we could plant ourselves while I waited in line to order our drinks. Slowly the line moved forward and before I knew it, I was standing right in front of a very dangerous pastry case. I'm not usually a pastry-buying person, but the longer I stood there, the more inviting the cranberry-lemon scones looked.

We've been trying to eat healthier in our house so at first, I was strong. Then I started along a creative line of reasoning: maybe those scones could count as two servings of fruit...they were cranberry-lemon scones, for heaven's sake! Fortunately, I came to my senses and decided that was ridiculous; I was only going to buy ONE scone and split it with my daughter. Yes, I liked that idea! That is until I noticed something inside that glass case.

I had to look carefully to be sure that what I saw was really inside the case and not on the other side of it. But sure enough, there it was. A fly was buzzing around in there, making itself at home among all of that wonderful looking pastry. I couldn't help myself; I leaned forward and whispered to the woman ahead of me that there was a fly in the pastry case. It's amazing how something as small as a fly can be a real conversation starter! Suddenly, we were chatting like old friends. And what a nice woman she was!

Finally, the line moved forward and my new best friend was next in line to order. I was curious whether or not she would mention the little situation with the pastry case. I listened as she ordered. Nope. Not a word. Obviously, it all rested on my shoulders.

As the very pleasant young barista asked what I would like, I gave her my drink orders. Then she asked the one question that I couldn't ignore. "Would you like something for breakfast with that?" Really, what else could I do? Very discreetly, I leaned across the counter and whispered that she might want to open the door to the pastry case because there was a fly buzzing around in there.

Horrified! That's the best way to describe the look on her face! "Oh, no," she said. "With so many people coming in and out all of the time, the door is always open!" Then she sidestepped her way down to the cabinet and casually pulled open the doors.

I don't know if the fly eventually flew out. I don't know how many people ate breakfast with a little something extra added that morning. I only know, that sometimes God will go to great lengths to help me stick to my healthy diet! Oh, and those two servings of fruit...I had a couple of handfuls of blueberries when I got home.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Where Did It All Go?


My daughter just got back from Spokane, WA, where she was a bridesmaid in her friend, Alyssa's wedding. Aren't they both gorgeous?
As I look at these two beautiful young women, I can't help but superimpose other images of the two of them over this lovely picture. Images that go back to junior high school and Friday night sleepovers. Birthday party pictures of the whole gang of girls who became close as sisters. Graduation night when it rained during the entire outdoor ceremonies so all of the pictures show these beaming girls in their drooping green mortar boards!
The years have certainly flown! Last year they graduated from college. And now this year, the first of the girls has become a bride! As my father used to say, "Where did it all go?" What a joy to have watched these girls as they have grown into beautiful young women of God!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Running the Race

"Let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1

This week, my race took a turn. The course got a little tougher. This week, my husband was diagnosed with diabetes. It has not been an easy few days as he has tried to come to grips with a life that will need to be lived out differently than before. It has been difficult as he has struggled with feeling lousy as he has tried to adjust to new medication. It has been painful to watch and to know that I really can't help him make the adjustment; it will eventually have to come from him.

Last summer I struggled with my own serious health issue. And I remember so clearly sitting in the waiting room of the doctor's office thinking that this would be my life from now on ... round after round of doctor's visits. Physically feeling weak and exhausted. My life would no longer be the way it had been before. Graciously, God has given me a reprieve...not a cure...but a reprieve and I have gone on with my life pretty much as before. But it made me stop and think.

This journey that we are on, this race that we run every day offers no guarantees of ease. And in a moment's time, the course can change from flat and level into the deepest valleys and steepest hills. And at times, it seems like I just can't keep running. Or perhaps more accurately, I just don't want to keep running.

As I have gotten older, I've come to understand that there will be times when the running stops. Sometimes all I can do is barely move ahead by placing one trembling foot in front of the other. But I know that I'm not alone on the course. God is right there beside me, urging me to keep going. The finish line may not look like I expected it to. But I believe it will be exactly as God had planned all along.

This week the race has been difficult. I have listened to the song Press On by Selah, over and over again. Its words have encouraged and comforted me. But then the Truth always does that.

Press On
When the valley is deep
when the mountain is steep
when the body is weary
when we stumble and fall.

When the choices are hard
when we're battered and scarred
when we've spent our resources
when we've given our all.

In Jesus name we press on.
In Jesus name we press on.
Dear Lord, with the prize
clear before our eyes
we find the strength to press on.

Monday, May 18, 2009

S'wonderful, Marvelous...

I'm newly back from a wonderful weekend women's retreat at Cannon Beach. The weather was amazing, and I have the sunburned nose and neck to prove it! I had a fantastic time getting to know some women that I only knew a little before and others that I didn't know at all. And all day long, thoughts have been swirling in my head about the weekend. I know there is a blog in there, but the thoughts still need to percolate a bit before they're ready to spill out into anything meaningful.

So for now, here's my quick take away from the weekend...it's all about the sunburn. This morning I was very gingerly applying a healthy glob of soothing aloe to my very sunburned neck. As I carefully smoothed it over my lobster skin, the coolness of the gel just felt so amazing and healing. Then a thought popped into my head, "That's how it is with God!" When I have sinned, His forgiveness takes away the sting. When my soul is tired, His peace soothes the weary places. And when my heart is hurting, His love brings healing and refreshment. Just like aloe to sunburned skin; God removes the pain in His time and we start fresh again.

S'wonderful! And I'm just hoping that God isn't offended by being compared to a glob of aloe! Because it's marvelous!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Off to Cannon Beach

Tomorrow, I work half a day and then I'm off to the Women's Conference at Cannon Beach, Oregon. There are 16 of us going. But I only know four of these women. So while I'm a bit uneasy, I am still looking forward to it immensely!

Time to relax, time to learn and draw closer to God, time to talk and laugh, time to EAT, but probably not too much time to sleep. Anyway, what a blessing to have time to refresh and renew! I can hardly wait!!!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

St. Petersburg

My little girl is going to St. Petersburg, Russia. Okay, she's not that little...nearly 23...but still, that's a LONG way away! I've known that she is going to Russia for several months, though I often like to think that it's just pretend and she's not really going to go. But she found out this week WHERE in Russia she is going. St Petersburg.

So now I'll picture her in my mind's eye whenever I see a picture of St. Petersburg (that's not as far-fetched as it sounds. One of my coworkers has a calendar that has several pictures of St. Petersburg on the October page...and we looked at them just yesterday!).

I'll think of her whenever I hear about the Baltic State Technical University where she is going to teach English for a year (okay, that one is a bit more far-fetched since I had never heard of the school until she called us with her location on Thursday night!).

But the point is, she IS going. And it feels more real all of the time. St Petersburg. It's not the moon...it just feels like it is.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Eyes On the Goal

I got up this morning to beautiful azure skies with wispy white clouds and knew I should go for my walk. It was still a bit chilly, in fact there was still frost in some places. But I pulled out my heavier coat, turned on my MP3 player and headed out.

My usual walk is a 2.1 mile route that includes two good (steep) hills, one in the first half of the walk and the second one in the second half. Normally, when I do my walk on weekdays at the end of a full day at work, I'm a little tired so I choose to turn off the second hill about half way up and continue on through the neighborhood. But, once I am back in shape after doing a less rigorous winter walking schedule, I like to try to go all the way to the top of this hill, especially on the weekends when I'm out walking first thing in the morning.

This morning I was so invigorated by the brisk air and as I approached the turn that would bring me to the second hill, I decided that I was going to take it all the way to the top. Sounded really good as I started up, but after going a little way, I thought that maybe I should give myself one more week of walking before doing that. No! Keep going. But then as I got closer to the side street where I could turn off the hill, my eyes glanced in that direction. At that moment, it was like I heard a voice saying, "Don't look over there; that's not your goal. If you're aiming for the top, keep looking up there!"

In all honesty, walking to the top of the hill instead of turning off earlier wasn't that big a deal. It certainly felt good to have done it even though I was really out of breath. But the best thing about my walk this morning was that little lesson I heard...that reminder that if I'm ever going to accomplish a goal, I can't afford to be distracted. I can't listen to the voices- wherever they may come from-that encourage me to stop short, to take the easy way, to simply give up because it is hard. It's all about where I fix my eyes. And when my eyes are fixed on the goal, I won't even see those tempting shortcuts.

In this life, we will constantly be bombarded with messages that diminish and distract us from the goals in our lives. And some times, we will give in to them. But it feels so good when we stay strong, when we remain focused and achieve those things, large or small, that we set out to do.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Just Because You Can...

This weekend I was thinking of an adage that I try to adhere to. It goes like this, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

Example 1: Just because you wear a size four and therefore can fit into all of the most trendy teenage clothes, doesn't mean you should (think 65 years old...or maybe just 56).

Example 2: Just because you can grow your hair long, doesn't mean you should (think long and stringy vs. short and stylish).

Example 3: Just because you can afford to spend $100,000 on your kid's first birthday party doesn't mean you should (think Hollywood).

Example 4: Just because you can dress up like Elvis and stand on the street corner and dance, doesn't mean you should (I kid you not, I saw it this weekend).

As I was ruminating over these examples, God brought to mind one of the lessons that we recently studied in our neighborhood Bible study. The lesson was on how the Holy Spirit leads each one of us personally and individually. We looked at Romans 14:16 where Paul explains how one man's faith allows him to do some things where another man's faith might limit his actions. The point was that just because one person can do something with a clear conscience, doesn't necessarily mean that he should do it (especially if it would cause another to stumble).

Simply put, we do not live in a vacuum, and as often as not, our actions impact others. So, sometimes it is helpful to run through the can/should sequence before we act.

So, if you are ever tempted to put on the old Elvis outfit and head to the nearest street corner, please, please remember that you really shouldn't!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Little Sunshine Goes a Long Way

It's amazing what a little sunshine can do for the soul when it has been cold and gray for too long! Today was a much needed blessing with its blue skies and warm temperatures! I felt a swelling of hope that has been missing in my daily life for some time.

Today was not only beautiful, but it was a reminder that spring and summer will come even after the most difficult of winters. Even the darkest days will give way to warmth and uplifting joy! So, even if this lovely spell of "gorgeousness" only lasts for a day or two, I'll use it as a reminder that more of the same is to come; that tonight's BBQ on the deck was only the first of many more for the season. And the warm breezes and the birds' songs that I heard today will break through again even if there are a few more gloomy days on the way.

God is good that way, He gives us the hope we need to keep going. Sometimes it comes in the form of a beautiful day, sometimes it's found in the embrace of a loving hug and other times it may simply be seen in a smile on the face of a passing stranger. Whatever the form, God's blessings are amazing. Just like today was!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Assume Good Intent

Last week I spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in a three-day "launch" for a seven-month project that I have been selected to participate in at work. Those three days were spent learning about personality types, communication styles and skills, team-building and project managment skills in preparation for this upcoming project.

While we received tons of information during those three days, I was particularly struck by one phrase. We were discussing how each of us communicates in different ways. Yet it is so important to really try to hear what others are saying and not shut down or become defensive when someone communicates in a way that is different from our own style.

So here is the phrase that I have been pondering for the past few days: Assume good intent. In other words, keep an open mind. Believe that the other person really does have good intentions in saying the things that they are saying. Even if I totally disagree with them or think that what they are saying makes no sense at all, most people are not trying to sabotage or offend anyone. So if I listen to them from a place of assuming that they mean well, I am more likely to really hear them.

Assume good intent. It's not really all that deep. But imagine how your morning might change if when you hear your husband asking, "Are all of the bagels gone?" instead of assuming that he is criticizing you for eating the last bagel, he's merely trying to figure out if he needs to eat something else for breakfast.

Assume good intent. It's what I hope people will do when they listen to me. I don't try to offend or hurt them. So if I inadvertently do, I hope they will assume that it was an accident and that they will extend grace to me.

You know the old saying, "You know what happens when you assume..." Well, I think we can change that saying by focusing on the "good intent." At least, I'm going to give it a try.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Was That Again?

As you might be able to tell from the date of my last blog, I haven't been too inspired lately - that and I just haven't spent too much time on the computer for a change. But this morning during my devotions, I had a thought that I knew I wanted to explore and to share. So, I happily went off to work, intending to sit down for a while tonight and write up my inspiration.

Well, I'm here, but the thought isn't! I can't for the life of me remember what was so inspiring this morning. I've looked back over the things I was reading in my devotions hoping to jog a memory. No luck. It's gone. I hate to admit it, but Post-It Notes have become my indispensible friends. I know I should have jotted down my thoughts on one of them. But I didn't.

It's a bit sad, really, considering that my moments of great inspiration are apparently not only few and far between but also fleeting. Oh well, I'll just enjoy the knowledge that for a moment this morning, I was very inspiring!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Doing Something Big

I have a very vivid, very clear memory of me as a child looking out of my basement bedroom window and having an overwhelming feeling that God had created me to do something big. I had no clue what that meant, but I knew that whatever it was, it would be special...something that only I could do.

The years passed and my life unfolded in a pretty unspectacular way. I went to school, graduated from college, got a job and eventually got married. Then one day fairly early on in our marriage, my husband and I were talking and he told me that growing up, he had felt that God had something big for him to do in his life. Hmm...sounded kind of familiar.

But as the years have passed, neither one of us has found a cure for cancer, written a best-selling book or made a name for ourselves in any field whatsoever. At times, our life has seemed more like a matter of simply surviving; tough financial times, raising kids, job changes, caring for aging parents. The list goes on, but there is certainly nothing that stands out as "something big."

Last night I was reading my son, David's, blog. A recent posting was entitled "I've Been Doing Big Things." And right there in the third paragraph I found this. "For the longest time I have felt like God has called me to “do something big.” I’ve never known exactly what that meant, but deep down inside was the feeling that God created me to do something significant." Wow! It was as if I was a child, looking out of my bedroom window and I was hearing God's voice once again. But this time, I have a better understanding of what that "something"means.

I believe that God taps each one of us on the shoulder and in some way whispers (or shouts), "Hey, I have something very, very special for YOU to do. I need YOU because YOU'RE the ONLY person who can do this. Are you with me?"

I can say this because scripture tells us that God made each one of us special and unique. Psalm 139:13-14 says "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." After all, He made us in His very image. And He also has a plan and a purpose for each and everyone of us. The often quoted passage in Jeremiah 29 tells us that God says, "For I know the plans I have for you..."

Now here's the real revelation. Perhaps we need to step back and look at our definition of "big," "special," or "significant." I venture to say that as children, our thoughts of what those terms mean are still untainted by what this world tells us they mean. As we grow older, we start associating such things as power, wealth and recognition as the yard stick by which we measure our successes or failures, even, I dare to say, in our walk with the Lord. How many people have "we" led to the Lord? Are we recognized as a leader in our church? How many mission trips have we been on?

Recently in my devotions I read a passage from the book by Charles Swindoll entitled "Great Days with the Great Lives." Swindoll tells the story of the early life of Moses. Briefly put, Moses was ready to step up and do some major stuff in the deliverance of his Hebrew brothers. However, a couple of them quickly put him in his place which sent him skid -daddling out into the middle of the Midian desert. Here he comes across seven sisters who are being harassed by some shepherds as they try to water their flocks. Moses steps in and saves the day! Not exactly the act of deliverance he had envisioned for himself. But Swindoll sums it up this way, "If you can't do the good you would, do the good you can."

I love this! Because as more of my life ends up behind me, I realize it's not turning out exactly as I had planned. My "something special" has not looked like I thought it would. At times I've wonder if I've missed the boat and completely let God down. But more and more, I'm realizing the importance of simply doing the things that I "can" and trusting God to turn them into "big" things for Him.

In my son's posting, he went on to explain his recent revelation about doing "something big" like this: "I always wanted that to be something in the spotlight, something that involved power and influence, maybe even a decent salary, if I’m completely honest with myself. To me that would be “big.”
Over the last 4 1/2 years, I have been in ministry and while I have seen the significance of it and while I have loved helping people dive into deep passionate relationships with Christ, I never viewed it as that “big thing.” I’ve always been waiting for something more. Something “bigger.”
Yet the other day I had the realization that there is nothing bigger than helping people come to personal, intimate, authentic relationships with Christ."


Wow, I think he's got it! And that's something big!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Emotions

For some reason, my emotions have been all over the planet during the past couple of weeks. Some days, especially the wonderfully sunny days that we have recently been blessed with, I feel like I am going to burst with the joy of just being alive. Other days, for no discernible reason, I struggle with a low-grade sense of sadness. It's the randomness of these moods that I find irritating. Sometimes I can make the connection between something that is either happening at work or at home. Sometimes I can't.


I've learned that during these times of fluctuating feelings it is often impossible to acurately articulate what is going on inside of me to other people. And this is frustrating. But I've also learned that there is One who already understands...even more clearly than I do. What a place of comfort and peace I enjoy when I snuggle up to the Father and simply say, "I don't get it, but You do!"


I know that He won't run out of patience with me when I am burdened by an old insecurity that has arisen once again, unsettling my thoughts. He understands the tears that flow when I'm overwhelmed by the daily grind of life. The ebb and flow of my emotions doesn't wear Him down because He knows me inside and out, for better or for worse, and He loves me just the same.


God's love. That's the emotion I need to embrace regardless of what my own fickle feelings are telling me. It never changes and neither does He!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day

Yesterday was Valentine's Day and my husband and I shared it with our dear friends, Paul and Martha. I spent the afternoon preparing a special dinner for the four of us. But before starting the cooking, I dug through closets and drawers to find candles, hearts and anything red that I could use to enhance the Valentine mood. It was fun to really get into the spirit of the day!

A few years ago, Paul and Martha celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary so I felt like we were in the company of true Valentines! As a retired pastors, their lives have been dedicated to loving and serving others, yet their own love story is so sweet. After all those years, their love is still strong, joyous and growing. The verse "And the two shall become one" is flawlessly lived out in their relationship. And it is a joy to witness.

Thank you, Paul and Martha, for making our Valentine's Day so very special!

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Warm Wind Blowing...Instead of My Nose



I stayed home from work today because I still felt awful from this cold. I slept in, watched some TV, ate some chicken noodle soup and dozed off in the recliner a few times. Seems to me that all of that should be enough to ensure that I'll be back on my feet in no time!

While I was lazing around, I was thinking about my recent trip to Hawaii with my sisters. Lots of fun and good memories. Somehow, I'm sure that I would be feeling better if I was back on the beach. I just don't think that a cold can hang on for too long when the trade winds are blowing! But since I'm not likely to find myself back in the Islands anytime soon, I decided that a picture might help! Aloha!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I've Got a Cold

I've got a cold. A nasty, nose-stuffy, eye-watering, explosive-sneezing cold and I hate it. As my friend, Sue, says, I'm a booger-face.

I have just been holding on to trying to get through this week so I can collapse on the weekend. But somehow, the weekends never seem to be all that relaxing. What's the deal with that? I always think that I'm going to sit down and read or bake cookies and it just never happens. This weekend I'll be happy if I can just sit down and breathe!

Oh well, since my mind is a bit foggy, I don't have much else to say. I think I'll go blow my nose now.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Earthquakes, Real and Imagined

Early last Friday morning, as I sat reading my devotions, my house started making some rumbling noises. First, I thought that my husband was getting up a bit earlier than he had planned. Then I realized that, even on his most energetic mornings, he doesn't make that much noise. And then the shaking started...and fortunately, stopped.

An earthquake? I thought so. I turned on the news to see if it was real or if I had just imagined the noise and shaking. After about ten minutes, the news finally reported that we had just had an earthquake. I knew it! Fortunately, no injuries or damages were reported.

The next morning as my husband and I sat drinking our coffee and watching the latest home improvement show, the house started to shake again. Immediately, my husband called up the stairs to our daughter who was visiting, asking if she was okay. She stepped out into the hall with wide eyes as we ascertained that we had just had another earthquake! That made two in two days! A bit unsettling to say the least.

Then, not five minutes later, things started shaking again...this at just about the same time that I realized that my quirky washing machine was trying to spin dry a load of sheets and blankets.

Okay, so maybe there was really only one earthquake! The other two were overreactions to something that seemed like the real thing. Our minds were already set in the earthquake mode so a little bit of rocking and rolling in the laundry room was enough to nearly convince us that we were all gonna die!

We got some good laughs out of that one! But I've been thinking that sometimes I do the same sort of thing in other areas of my life. Something difficult happens. Then something else happens. And before you know it, my life is crashing down around me...at least that is how I perceive it. It's not usually the case. In fact, it rarely is the case. So maybe the next time life seems to be crashing down around me, I should take a couple of deep breaths and go hang out in my laundry room for a few minutes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Words

For some reason I have been thinking about words today. I can't really say why. I just like words.

For instance, there are some words that I like to say simply because they make me smile. Like bumble bee. Or noodle.

And some words make me feel smart when I use them like ubiquitous and superfluous (yes, I do know what they mean).

Then there are those words that aren't really words at all but have become a permanent part of my vocabulary because of their history. For instance, I sometimes say "fridgerfrader" instead of refrigerator because that was how my nephew said it when he was small. Or I'll say that something is "shribbled up" because that's what would happen to my daughter's fingers when she played in the bath for too long. ( "Look, Mommy, my fingers are all shribbled up!" ) I realize that when I use these words, I probably cancel out any "smart" credits I might have gained from using ubiquitous and superfluous.

I am also drawn to certain phrases. "A steaming mug of coffee" says caffeine and contentment all in one lovely phrase. Or how about "Take an additional 50% of the already discounted price!" You gotta love that one! On a more serious note, I love the line that my son uses as a closing on his emails. He signs off with "In God's Firm Grip." What a perfect reminder that that is exactly where I am 24 hours a day!

Yes, I do love words. Silly, sassy, inspiring. Why don't you try to find some encouraging ones to put up on your fridgerfrader?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration or Second Coming?

I know that today was an historic day. How can I doubt it since I have been told that over and over again on every television and radio program and newspaper that was produced today. It's historic.

And it's not that I disagree with that assessment, it's just that I'm more inclined to give the credit for this history-making event to the American people rather than to the individual man. I believe that as a nation, we have made progress in opening our hearts and minds to all Americans, regardless of the color of their skin. This has been too long in coming and we're not there yet. But at least it is a start.

But what has bothered me the most about this inauguration is this sense that Barack Obama somehow has all the solutions; that because he is a black man espousing change, he will save our nation from all of its woes. Between the kudos heaped on him by all of Hollywood's celebrities and the liberal press, one would think that "the sun will come out tomorrow," and all will once again be well with the world - at least with our world.

I would like to believe all of this. However, I can't. He is a man - only a man. And regardless of how much he is celebrated and praised, he is mortal like the rest of us. For our nation's sake, I hope that he can make a difference. Our country is flailing in stormy, uncharted waters and we desperately need help.

For me, the question continues to be "Is there help?" Is this just another time of economic turmoil that we can rise above? Or has God begun moving in the direction of His Son's return? Scripture tells us that we will not know the time, but that there will be signs. Are these hard times some of those signs?

If so, Barack Obama is not the man we should be looking to. If so, we should not be celebrating an inauguration as though it were the Second Coming of Christ. Instead, we should be looking - I should be looking - with anticipation to that actual Second Coming and making every effort to share the Gospel with those around us before it is too late.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Once Was Lost But Now It's Found

My lost sock has been found! Monday morning my husband came into the living room where I was having my devotions and laughingly dangled my brown sock in front of me.

"Where was it?" I asked.

"In my shirt. It just fell out when I went to put it on," he replied.

How can that be? Like I said before, I unfolded and checked every piece of laundry that I had washed in the same load as those brown socks and I did NOT see that sock hiding in any shirt.

This little incident got me thinking about how sometimes God seems to hide certain truths from us because there is a larger plan in place. Before we can "find" those truths, we need to pursue some other things, journey to other places.

Kind of like my trip to the mall where I found such a great buy on socks. I never would have ventured out if I had found my missing sock when I first looked for it. I'd have missed that whole deal (by the way, the socks are great!). But when the time was right, my sock showed up and my peace of mind was restored.

I realize that this is a pretty silly example. But it makes me smile to think that God will teach me lessons through some of the trivial, silly things in life. I'm so glad He's willing to come down to my level in order for me know Him better. I love that about Him!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Missing Sock

I'm missing a sock. It's a brown one and it is really driving me crazy because I only have two pairs of brown socks. Besides, I know that I put both of the socks in the laundry room when I sorted my laundry because I took them directly off my feet and put them on the pile so they would be washed for the next day.

The thing that really bugs me is that I know it has to be some place. I even unfolded all of the other pieces of laundry that I washed in that load and shook them out just to find that darn brown sock. It wasn't there. So, where is it?

Losing that sock really put me in a bad mood! Pretty silly isn't it? After all, it is only a sock. But then nobody likes to be outsmarted by a sock, brown or any other color.

Well, I finally headed over to the mall to pick up another pair of socks thinking I might hit an after-Christmas sale. Boy, did I! One of the department stores was having a One-Day-Only sale (can you guess which one...it has a big red star on its bags) and not only were they selling socks at half price, but because of the One-Day-Only sale, it was another 50 percent off that price! So I stocked up...I got myself six pairs of nice socks (two pair of brown) for only $1.50 a pair! I guess, I should be thanking that sneeky little lost brown sock. If I had been able to find it, I wouldn't have scored big on the sock sale!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Who I Am

I had an interesting conversation with my co-workers today. It happened first thing this morning before any of us had really gotten into the work routine. For some reason, several people had gathered around my desk and as we chatted I posed a question to them that had popped into my head recently as I sat waiting in traffic. "If you could have three talents or abilities that you currently do not possess, what would they be?" Since I had already thought about this, they insisted that I share first.

My answer was easy.

1. I'd have a really good singing voice.
2. I'd be great at math.
3. I'd be athletic.

There was a lot of nodding of heads and and "hmming" and "uh-huhing" as they thought about that. And then they began to share the abilities they would choose for themselves. Some were similar; some were very different. And one friend had a very hard time coming up with anything at all.

I thought about this little exercise later in the day. Obviously, the qualities that I wished for where things that I believed to be absent in my life; talents that just might make my life better in one way or another. And then I thought about my friend who was already pretty much content with who she is. I know her answer was sincere and I really admire that about her.

So, to try to balance out my seeming discontent with who I am, I decided to write down three qualities that I do possess that I like about myself. So here they are in no particular order:

1. I have a good sense of humor.
2. I have a heart that is tender toward others and toward God.
3. I have integrity in how I live my life.

These abilitites may not be as flashy as impressing people with my fantastic singing voice or athletic prowess, but they are qualities that God chose to gift me with. So I'm choosing to follow my friend's example and focus on being happy with who I am.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Church

I didn't make it to church today. The reasons are familiar: my husband had to work and I didn't want to go alone, I have a headache, and we are in the process of finding a new church home and I wasn't sure where to go. All the reasons are real. But still I felt guilty for not going...that is until God met me in my living room! It was a wonderful time of fellowship, prayer and peace.

Thank you, Lord, for being willing to be here in my living room. No stained glass windows or worship bands. Just nearly packed boxes of Chrismas decorations and dusty furniture and Your wonderful Presence! Amen and amen!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Next 363 Days

It happened again, just as it does every year. Christmas has come and gone and I'm left wondering how it can be over so quickly. Yet even as I write that sentence I feel chastised by the use of the word "over." If I have an understanding of what we have just celebrated, I know that nothing is "over." Rather it continues on as it has since that night so long ago when those shepherds were summoned by angels to witness God's plan unfolding on earth in the form of a tiny baby.

Every year as the day approaches, I make a point of reading Matthew and Luke's accounts of the nativity. This year, however, I fell behind and I didn't get to the part about the shepherds until after Christmas. So, on December 26, I sat on my couch reading about the shepherds' encounter with the angels. I was impressed with how they decided to go check out the news they had been told. Scripture says that "they hurried off" to find this baby and were then so amazed that they spread the word of what they had witnessed to everyone they saw.

However, as I thought about this story the thing that struck me even more than the shepherds' response, was the question, "What did they do after that?" After what they had experienced, how could they go back to just tending sheep out in a field somewhere? They had just witnessed the event that every Jew dreamed about. They had seen the Messiah! How do you make other people understand the enormity of this experience? Suddenly a few sheep on a hillside must seem pretty insignificant. But where exactly do you go from there?

I don't have the answers to these questions. But it stunned me to realize that the lives of these men had to have been changed forever in that one moment. They didn't have the whole story yet... only this one magnificent part. But that alone had to be enough to change them forever.

So now, as I look at my house full of Christmas decorations just waiting to be stuffed back in their boxes for another year, I have to ask myself "What am I going to do after this?" Where exactly am I going to go from here? I have the whole magnificent story! But am I going to let it make a difference this year. Will I allow it to change me forever...one day, one trial, one joy, one relationship at a time? I know what I want my answer to be. The next 363 days hold the actual answer.