Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Have a Grateful Christmas

I think I set a new record for time between posts.
It feels like forever since I have had time to sit and journal and reflect on much of anything.
Life has been Good. But Extremely full.
We Said Good Bye to Our Oldest as she settled into College. Which has been a wonderful experience for her.

This fall was spent at Football games.





My #88 turned to #43 after his Freshmen season was over.

The Season was extended because our  Varsity squad kept winning so this group of Freshmen got to keep practicing and traveling along to games. Micah was late in starting his basketball season because Football took us all the way to semi state this year.

 Sophie had her first year of  Volleyball.

We finished a bed room upstairs.
Before:

 
 
 
 
 

























And After:























Musical performances by the boys.
Jalen is in Northern Lights  which is a mixed show Choir  and Micah is in an all men's choir called Varsity Lights.

A wedding for My nephew Aaron and his lovely new Bride Jennifer.



And now here it is a few days before Christmas and My first day of vacation I woke at 4:30. Because that's how my brain works.
A day off? Yes let's wake her early and remind her she only has 5 days left to make the most of her time off :0
Plus this is the Very Most Wonderful Time of the Year and who can sleep when all these visions of sugar plums and fairytales still dance in my 40 something head?!

We are a typical family that loves to get and give gifts. But The Most wonderful thing about Christmas in our home has nothing to do with how fabulous that new sweater or boots or gadget is... Not at all. The thing that makes the season so much fun and meaningful to us is the time we spend together. And we try to make it special and only do certain things around this time of year.

So It always includes a Pj , donuts and Lights night.

Cookie And Goodie baking.
 Special foods like Crab Meat, Shrimp Alfredo and Peppermint Ice Cream.

And this year we added an impromptu game of hide and seek in the house.
We shut all the lights off (man does it get dark when the lights go down) and spent an hour hiding and seeking. Who knew we could have so much fun acting like kids!

Years ago we would take the kids to Chicago on the train. It was super fun and always a rich cultural experience for us  county mice but for the last 5 years we have had trouble finding a time that works for everyone to take a whole day away.

We love to sing together so we try to sing in the van on our way to and from places. I love that our kids are now at an age that they often initiate the singing. And Sometimes I can just listen to their blends and smile as I hear them making music together.


I love to find new ways to decorate on a dime and fill the house with music and smells of cinnamon rolls and vanilla candles.

We watch way more hallmark movies than we should and eat too much caramels and party mix so it's good it only lasts a few weeks.

Of course we love to spend time remembering why Christmas is something we  celebrate. The Birthday of the King who came down to us in the flesh.
What a wonderful gift!
(That good looking shepherd in the front row belongs to me):)


While we were looking at the lights in our pjs with our sugar rushes last weekend, I spotted a sign on someone's porch that I loved. I've thought about it often since...
 It said "Have a grateful Christmas".
I loved it so much because this time of year can be full of warm fuzzy feelings but it can also be a tremendously difficult time for people who have experienced loss, disappointment, or loneliness.
Let's just say it... Sometimes The Merry in Christmas doesn't feel one bit Merry.
And while everyone around us seems to be so happy and Excited and encouraging us to have a Joyful and Merry Christmas Season and we want to.... But our hearts are sad and overwhelmed and heavy with our pain.

I can always be grateful. Even in pain. I can choose Thanksgiving.


If happiness, jolliness or Merry living are not  the emotions you are experiencing this Christmas Season, It's Okay!
I have found when I can't find the happy I can still choose to  recall the blessing.
And it gets me through until I can find something to smile over again.

 I am grateful for another day to live life. For soft blankets. And bubble baths. For Kind people who quickly welcome in outsiders and turn them into friends. I am thankful for hot drinks. And For Music that ministers to my soul. For corporate and private times of Worship.  Today I will Hug someone I love. I will Smell the Wonderful aromas all around. Make new Memories. Take time to visit someone  I know is hurting. And live this season with gratitude remembering the reason Love came down.






From Our Home to Yours.... We wish you a Blessed Christmas!

Friday, September 12, 2014

His Mercies

"I'm done"!
I said the words out loud to myself and to God.
"No really, I am!"
I said it louder.
Like I was trying to convince us both.

And as soon as I had registered my lament I heard him reply,
"That's right... "You are.
You are done for today".
I tried to make him realize that I wasn't going to be able to do it again tomorrow either. But I felt him say again...  "Tomorrow you will get back up and you will live in my mercy for another day."
I whimpered through the night in fitful sleep.
The next morning the alarm went off far too early and my swollen eyes and wounded spirit did not feel like I was done being done, But I knew that somehow he was with me and his promise to strengthen my weak heart was my only hope of making it through another day.
Slowly, I crawled out of my covers.
And here is where I found the mercy.
Mercy came when I took that first sip of coffee.
Mercy when I stood under the hot shower.
Mercy as I heard that new song on the radio that touched me deeply and made me cry all over again.
Mercy as I heard him speak love to my soul.
Mercy in the Sunrise.
Mercy as I heard from my sweet girl who left for college the week before.
Mercy in the arms of my baby girl.
Mercy as I drove to a good job to be with people I have come to love.
Mercy as I heard my son say "I do  love you mom".
Mercy as he provided my daily bread.
Mercy as I sat surrounded by 100 new people who welcomed me with smiles and kind words.
Mercy as I spoke and sang freely of my faithful friend.
I felt his mercy all around me in so many small ways that I frequently miss.

Have you ever been here?
The place where your desire for peace and tranquility and happily ever after and the reality of your circumstance collide.
I had been asking God to free my numb heart and emotions and Now I found myself wishing I had never mentioned it.
For the last 6 months as events have unfolded, people we love are leaving the earth, my oldest was graduating high school and heading to college, some other difficult things we have had to deal with are piling up, disruptions, new circumstances,  concerns for my 2 boys both going into a brand new high school, and I kept throwing my numb blanket over the stack because I simply didn't have any time to deal with the disappointments,  the stress, the loss, the busyness, the fear. And then all of a sudden one thing triggers it all and the load came crashing down.
The thaw was beginning.
And in the process while lies where being yelled from the destroyer into my thoughts I could still hear that firm and calming voice directing and guiding me to the next step.
Morning.
Where hope could begin again.
While nothing around me changed in the night, except my body had a chance to rest,
I knew along with the rising sun his mercies were again fresh and new and enough.
And it happened just that way.
In the Morning he came just as he promised.
And he will do it for you too.
He knows when we are done.
In those moments he calls to us saying, "Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest."

In the Morning when I rise.....

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentation 3:22

Rest in him tonight..
And in the morning when you wake join me as we look for his tender mercies all around us.
I have found him to be faithful.
I know that You will too.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The power of the Tongue


 I assume we could all quickly recall a time when a word was spoken to us that brought life. Like a spark ignited inside, spurring us into action, making us come alive. The encouragement that came from some kind soul at the appropriate time was  a wind that made our torn vessel sail again.
And sadly, just the opposite is true as well.
Unfortunately a  harsh word spoken in anger, sarcasm or ignorance can echo in our ears years later. It can be paralyzing and make us susceptible to all kinds of harmful behaviors.
At times we may dwell on those painful moments and fulfill the negative words simply because we replay them so often in our minds. We  wonder if  perhaps these things were true all along.

These past few years have given me renewed hope with a picture of how powerful the blessing of words can be.

We have a dear friend, I speak of him here from time to time. We have only known him for about 4 years. We met him and his lovely at a very critical time in our journey. We were scarred and wounded and walking with a limp and in the middle of all that we found them to be a soft place to land. They were obviously seasoned and their prayers were powerful and spirit filled.
 They took us in and begin to speak words of life into our souls. Their words were like gentle breezes that refreshed our weary bones . Their prayers like healing rain that poured over our dry desert.

He became a mentor to Jason meeting with him regularly, teaching him out of his many years of pastoring and leadership training.

 They spoke blessing over our children and us. They prayed over us and loved us and affirmed us every time we were together or speaking on the phone.
One day I remember a phone call from them at a moment that I wasn't sure I could move forward any more.... They just wanted to let me know God had laid me on their hearts that morning and they prayed for me and reminded me of their love for me.

Our children grew to love them as much as we did. They were excited when we would have them in or go to visit.



But soon after we began our friendship we found out that there was a very ugly reality that threatened to separate us far too quickly.
He had a disease. And it was all throughout his body. This amazing man prayed humbly that God would take his pain away and God miraculously healed him from pain. To the end  still without substantial pain, only an occasional headache from time to time. It's the most incredible miracle I have ever witnessed with my eyes.

We have watched God move in them and through them.
We have seen them love each other with a love that is rare and deep and precious. They speak to each other with such sweet words you wonder if they are newly weds.
We have  been witness to the power of the tongue and of walking in the spirit with love.
How  blessed  we feel to have journeyed with them for this season. We believe God gave them to us as a gift. And we acknowledge his great hand in the timing of this relationship.

But now this encourager is making his exit and as I sit here beside his bed, while he sleeps restlessly, occasionally he opens his eyes to see if the shadows of the birds are still present outside his window. I  attempt to live in the moment and cherish the time he has left. As I help him with his straw I ask him if he knows who I am and in his very sleepy, groggy voice he responds.... "Of course! I know your voice anywhere, Rosebud". I blink back tears and thank God for one more gift.
One more day to be near to him.
As I reflect back over the past few weeks I see many gifts that I will forever treasure.
Like the hospital visit with our little one. She lingered back on a chair as Jason and I sat on either side of him talking to him candidly about his home going and what he imagines it will be like. He had some last wishes and things he still wanted to say... I asked the little one if she wanted to say goodbye before we left. She came up to the bed and I pressed her hand against his since his eyesight has become very compromised. He reached over with both hands and grabbed hers. My already emotional heart felt like it would burst as he tried to sit up and begin speaking words of blessing over our sweet child. He began telling her what he loved about her and encouraged her to continue being a sweet spirit. And then a little tear formed in the right corner of her eye and started rolling down her cheek. And as my own hot tears streamed down my face I knew I was witnessing a beautiful moment my daughter will treasure in her heart Forever. After that day she never wanted to miss going to see him.
She will never forget such a tender moment.
Nor will I.

His raspy voice whispers to us... "I will always love you. I am so grateful for you and your family."
The power of speaking blessing over another.
The beauty of the gift of encouragement.
We will forever be changed as we have been given the gift of life-giving words by these 2 dear souls who love Jesus and live like him.

All of our hearts long to be loved unconditionally and blessed by another who speaks life over us. We all can find that in a Father who sent his son down here to earth to make a bridge so we could spend eternity with him.
A daddy who wants to spend time with us. He knows your name and every detail of your life. And he accepts you and longs for your companionship. You never have to worry that you are taking too much of his time or a bother to him. He is never sharp tongued or quick tempered.


Maybe you are wondering how any Father could love you like that.

Jesus told this story to a crowd of listeners.

The Story of the Lost Son ~ Luke 15

11-12 Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’
12-16 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
17-20 “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.
20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.
25-27 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’
28-30 “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’
31-32 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’ 
 


Jesus was telling this to the crowd to demonstrate how the  Father rejoices when lost sons and daughters come home. But the story also tells us that this father didn't even wait to hear the son say he was sorry.... He loved him unconditionally in spite of his son's hurtful and unwise behavior.


   OUR FATHER is the Father of  ALL blessingsThe Father of Unconditional love. The One who knows your name.

I will miss my friend so much but he continues to always point me to the Heavenly Father reminding me that all glory be to him. He is the one who is the eternal encourager.

I have no doubt that a grand feast awaits him. He will certainly be rewarded for a life well lived.
Servants become great when they enter the upside down kingdom and I have no doubt he will be welcomed  with fanfare and honor by the ones who have gone before him. But in his humility he will most certainly lay those crowns at the feet of his Master.
I have been blessed these past years.
Far beyond anything I deserve!

I am grateful.
Truly.
I am.
And I am ready to take that train today if he calls my name.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

If you need some encouragement today. Please email me. I would love to hear from you. If you need a reminder that you are loved and blessed by your Heavenly Father please be assured that you are indeed.

Mahlon went home to be with his Savior Friday July 18, 2014.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Life in motion

Since spring break we have been living life in motion.



 
Jason and I celebrated our 20th anniversary with a short weekend get away while the kids visited Grandma and Grandpa in Florida.
Win/Win



Fishing with Grandpa was a highlight!
 
 
 
 
And of course the ocean is always a plus!


And swimming in Grandma and Grandpa's pool at the club house.

My two Sweeties all glammed up.


And Cracker Barrel is a must on long trips like this. (I'm wondering what Jalen is sticking down his shirt...or maybe his hand was just cold)
 
Malaina went to Prom this year and we got to serve the dinner to her party.


 
 
 The Princess and her Daddy
 
 

Sweet Kisses... Sweet Memories of this precious girl as she grew into this lovely lady.


She was whisked away in small car to a beautiful ball room by this handsome guy.


And then the princess turned into a prom queen.

(happy sigh and applause :))


This Month she also  Received some pretty big news about some pretty amazing scholarships for all her hard work.
She wonders how life could get any better.?

Jalen was in his school play. And made us laugh and wonder if he has a future in theater.

 With his cousin Cory.



And the whole cast. Notice my charming son is sneaking his arm around the girl he chased through the entire play. He's a lot like his dad;)


I planted my garden. And Painted the shed... Which made my heart happy.

 
I wait as things start to emerge... checking daily.
(update on the garden... It's actually looking quite pale. I am hoping its just the fact that it's a first year garden and next year the soil will be much richer and less buggy)
 
We Went to Janae and Logan's Wedding
 
 
 
The Beautiful couple who created a meaningful ceremony.

 Father/Daughter Dance... Jason's dad took his oldest daughter on the floor which made us all fall on the floor with our mouths agape. Everyone was getting into the fun. Yay! I love celebrations like this!



Micah finished eighth grade strong.

These 4 said goodbye to another School Year and Hello to Summer





 Jalen Started his new job(which he seems to love) and loves the money he gets at the end of the week as well!
 
We celebrated Malaina's Graduation.
 
 
And a week later had her open house.

With some friends and Family.
And many helping hands. *Sure glad we had the BB Gun on hand in the background* Just noticed it never got put away before the open house :/

 It was so good to see friends from the present and past who made such a mark on Malaina's life.
We are grateful for our community and the friendships that have made our lives richer.
Here I am with two of those ladies.
Love you Deb and Dawn!

Grandma  Writing Malaina a love note.
 Malaina did a good job arranging her pictures while I focused on the food and D├ęcor.

Although she did make 350 of her famous Chocolate Chip Cookies

We had a Nacho and Dessert bar

And not to leave out any of the behind the scenes happenings that go on before such an event unfolds at ones house...


While I show pictures of finished house projects just know that there are many unfinished areas around here even after a year and a half. And these stones were not on this house yet... but our friend Ed from Overholt masonry sent his crew and whipped it out for us. We were overwhelmed with gratitude for such a kind act!!

Micah played piano for his first wedding. He was amazing.

Sophie got to spend some time with her school friends and I just love this picture of them all together.

 And then over July 4th we spent some time with Jason's Sisters and One Brother in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

It was such a treat to able to spend time together.

They welcomed us to their hunting cabin which nestles  along side a creek


Incidentally it was not used for some time so they spent a few hours before we got there working their tails off.... when we arrived it was all mowed up and cleaned out.
The boys were chopping wood....all weekend.
Playing in the water and watching fireworks were two activities for the kids. They made their own fun which is always heartwarming!
 
 
Waiting for Fireworks like a bunch of rednecks :)
 
These two twins (a year a part but the same birth day) Were getting into the spirit of camping and The 4th.

 
These two are a mess and should probably have constant supervision :)
Two of our musicians doing what they do.
 
It was a great weekend and I am grateful for family.

Life is good but not without stress or days without cloudy skys.

These are our highlights.
The Low Lights I am lifting up to my Father who knows all things and is concerned about every detail of our life.

If there ever was a time we have known loss at large and unspoken volumes it is now.
We Miss our loved ones every day and we are currently saying our good byes to another dear Friend as he bids farewell to this earth and  prepares to claim his prize in another world.
His spirit of encouragement and blessing is contagious and I hope to be just like him one day!

He taught us how to live and is teaching us how to die.

Our hearts feel heavy with the parting. His Prayers and Hugs and I love you's will be missed by all of us!

I will write more later but for today I rejoice that we are blessed in the Sunshine and The rain.