Friday, August 17, 2018

The Impact of Being Loved

Without a doubt, my grandparents loved me.  I never doubted it.  Actually, neither did anyone else (but that might be another post)!  What a gift - to be so unconditionally loved.  Because I was so confident in their love, it affected me.  Affected and impacted my life.  These are just a few of my thoughts regarding LOVED....this week's Five Minute Friday prompt.

My grandparents had a pool.  A big pool - with a deep end.  Summer trips to my grandparents' house included hours spent by the pool.  Swimming in the morning.  Eating PBandJs at the concrete picnic tables around the pool and then having to wait the obligatory 30 minutes before we could jump in again.  I have never been daring but when I was at my grandparents' house, I felt confident.  Simply being around them, I believed in me and in my ability to try new things, to dream big and even to be brave.  Brave enough to jump off the board.  As the years went by, I was diving, cartwheeling and even back-flipping off that board into the deep end of the pool.

Their love not only helped me in the pool.  It impacted me in school, with friends, in life choices way past those early years.  Being so freely loved gave me the courage to believe in myself.  Being loved gave me the confidence to continue to stretch myself even when the ugly self-doubt of junior high was overwhelming.  Those early victories shaped me to have more confidence even after my grandparents were both gone.

One other memory is not quite as pleasant.  One weekend after graduation, a friend and I went to stay with my grandparents.  A celebration of sorts. Sadly, for me, I seized the privilege as a chance to act like a fool.  Not in a horrible way but so insensitive.  We stayed out half the night - way past when my grandparents thought we would be home.  There were no cell phones or ways to contact us.  As I crept back into the house, my grandfather was waiting, in the dark, in the front room.  His eyes were misty with tears.  He was not angry - more relieved we were home.  And so disappointed and hurt that we would behave that way.  I am still crushed by how I hurt him.

Knowing we are loved should impact our decisions and choices.  I never intentionally wanted to hurt my grandparents.  I was immature and foolish.  And I never again did anything I thought would cause them sorrow or disappointment.   Their love made me want to honor them.  To bring them delight and to please them.


But isn't the lavish and unconditional love of our Heavenly father much the same?  It is offered freely - not because of anything we have done but simply because of who He is.  And because of His love, we can live confidently.....following His will wherever He may lead.  As well, my choices and my decisions should all be so as to please - never grieve - Him and to bring Him glory.  What a blessing it is to be loved by such a wonderful God.

Friday, August 10, 2018

A Sense of Community

Father Knows Best.  Leave It to Beaver.  I Love Lucy.  Maybe you liked these tv shows.  Maybe not.  Some of you don't even know what shows I talking about:)  But these shows, in many ways, characterize my life growing up.  The women that surrounded me were, well, very similar.  I only knew one mom who worked outside the home - and that was in the school cafeteria.  I wasn't aware of single moms, teenage mothers or any number of other home situations different from my own.  I feel very blessed for the influence of my mom, as well as the other moms who created our community.  All of the women were, indeed, a community.  Whether at the mailbox, while pushing the stroller for a walk, or over coffee at the kitchen table these women encouraged and supported one another.

I know homes and communities are vastly different today.  In fact, it is the uniqueness of each family that creates a sense of home today - much as similarity did for me.  Roles for women have certainly grown and evolved.  But, I believe, women still look for and even need a sense of community.

Here are my five-minute thoughts on this week's FMF prompt:  women

All women seek community.  Other women that form a sense of fellowship.  Somewhere to share interests, goals, and ideas.  To teach and to learn from.  This type of community benefits body, soul and spirit.  I see evidence of this everywhere - even at the assisted living.  Those who engage in the activities and interact with the other residents do so much better - emotionally, mentally and even physically - than those who remain more isolated.  This is also a Bible principle.  Titus 2 is directed at women, of all ages, learning from and teaching other women.  We are to be connected and part of a community.

Being engaged with other women is more and more of a challenge.  Demands are many and time for "simply" connecting seems elusive.  But it needs to be a priority.  Three thoughts on creating community with other women:

1 - Don't accept substitutes.  At least, not on a regular basis.  A text, Facebook message or other social media drop-in have their place, but they cannot replace genuine conversation and fellowship with others.  It might seem like you are connected, or in touch, but it is not the same.

2 - Be purposeful.  Don't just hope the time will come - make it happen.  Invite others - whether to your house or somewhere else.  Whether for a full evening at dinner or for 20 minutes over coffee.  It is surprising....if you invite them, women will (find time and) come:)

3 - Look outside your circle.  All women want to be included.  And, as women, we tend to flock together.  There is nothing wrong with having a "bestie" or a close group, but be careful not to be exclusive.  And certainly, don't judge a book by its cover - or assume someone would not want to be included.  Reach out to someone older, younger, or just "different"!  Wonderful friendships have been made this way!

There are several other thoughts - encouragements for fellowship - running through my thoughts.  But, five minutes fly by!  How do you stay purposefully connected?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Full Life

I had the privilege, yesterday, of helping celebrate a sweet senior friend's birthday.  Several of us took her to a cute restaurant, enjoyed too much pasta - a little cake, too! - and then had the treat of watching her open some gifts.  Between every piece of tissue paper, she would get lost in a memory or a special thought and she would start to share.  She would laugh and then she would cry sweet tears, and then laugh again.  We laughed and cried right along with her.  It was a special time.  We continued to reminisce as I drove her home.  After a deep breath, she told me, "I've had a very full life."  Yes, indeed, you have, my friend.

At 89, she has outlived all of her siblings.  She has lived through the depression and other financial hardships.  Before her husband passed away, together they fought his cancer and other serious health challenges.  Not only is she widowed, but she has experienced the death of a grandchild (in a car accident) as well as her only child - her adult daughter.  Life has not been without tears, challenges, heartaches and, no doubt, regrets.  Yet, her life has been - and continues to be - full.

Through all of the valleys, God has proven Himself faithful and good.  He has walked with her.  Strengthened and encouraged her.  So now, looking back, my friend can see the blessings, the joys, the many, many good days and years and is able to give thanks for a very full life.  I pray when I get to my last few years - whether it is 79, 89 or 99 - I can look back, too, and see how God led me, walked with me and carried me when I needed it....creating a life of joy that overflows to those who celebrate with me.

Friday, August 3, 2018

A Reason for Anniversaries

Earlier this summer, our church celebrated its 36th anniversary.  It was a time to reflect on the history of the church and to rehearse all God has done through the years - bringing us from a  small group of charter members meeting in a high school choir room to the church family and home we have now.

In a similar way, my husband and I will celebrate our 33rd anniversary next month.  Although there have been lean years as well as abundant ones and dark, grief-filled days along with the joyful ones, each anniversary is a time to remember God's faithfulness and goodness through all the days.  When we do so (whether as a church or as a couple), we are encouraged, and even excited for the future - whatever might lay ahead!

In the old testament, memorials were often made as reminders of what God had said, done or promised.  After the Lord sought out and met with Gideon while he was threshing wheat, "Gideon built an altar and called it Jehovahshalom...." (Judges 6:24).  The God of Peace.  There was a battle before Gideon.  Hard days and challenges - but Gideon did not need to be fearful or anxious.  He could have courage, and even a peace-filled heart, because he knew God's word.  Had heard His promises.  And had personally met with the God of Peace.

We need anniversaries.  We need memorials.  We need to often remember and recount past victories and God's word for the future.  And then we can anticipate the days, weeks and years ahead with confidence, hope, and even joy!!

Check here to see what other writers are saying about "anniversary" this week at FMF.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Faithful and True

Another August First.  God has been so faithful to not only uphold me and strengthen me - every August 1st and the random days in between when my faith begins to wobble -  but to also send me a personal encouragement - something seemingly insignificant to others but, for me, as if straight from Heaven to my heart.  I've begun to look for these special things...anticipate them.  Eager for a reminder.  A smile from Heaven - from my sweet boy.   I'm not superstitious or wanting to sound silly but I do know God is a personal Heavenly father who knows our hearts, and our hurts, and who wants us to know Him and how much He cares.

Sunday, a song was sung at church that I have never heard before.  It has probably been around for ages but it was new to me.  And I have been listening to it - and singing it - ever since.  Whatever heartache, hurt or challenge you might face today, or in the days ahead, I pray these lyrics will encourage you too.

As I look back on the road I've travelled, 
I see so many times He carried me through; 
And if there's one thing that I've learned in my life, 
My Redeemer is faithful and true. 
My Redeemer is faithful and true.
My Redeemer is faithful and true. 
Everything He has said He will do, 
And every morning His mercies are new. 
My Redeemer is faithful and true.
My heart rejoices when I read the promise 
'There is a place I am preparing for you.' 
I know someday I'll see my Lord face to face, 
'Cause my Redeemer is faithful and true. 
My Redeemer is faithful and true.
And in every situation He has proved His love to me; 
When I lack the understanding, He gives more grace to me.

My Redeemer is faithful and true. 
Everything He has said He will do, 
And every morning His mercies are new. 
My Jesus is faithful and true.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Thirteen Birthdays

This snapshot is of a framed photo in our family room.  It is years old and the quality is not excellent but it is a treasure.  The bottom photo captures our Tyler's fun, silly personality.  The top one is Tyler and his friends celebrating his 13th birthday.  It was a fun night of pizza, laser tag, bowling and tons of laughs!  Little did we know, it would be the last birthday we celebrated with Tyler.  Thirteen birthdays was all we had with Tyler.

Next week we will mark twelve years it has been since Tyler went to Heaven.  Before I even realize, he will have been in Heaven longer than he shared life with us here.  At times, it is more than my thoughts - and my heart - can imagine.  However, this post is not necessarily about grief.  For your deepest valley might not include grief.  It might be something health-related, a dependency that enslaves you, a betrayal, heartache, disappointment or unfulfilled dream that crushes you beyond measure.  It might be finances, a wayward child or other hurting relationship.  Or it might one of a hundred other valleys that I know nothing about. 

Our trials will be different and our valleys might be different but God is always the same.  He promised we would never walk alone - no matter how dark the way.  He promised to uphold us, strengthen us, to hold our hand and to show us the way.  He bears our burdens, hears our cries and tenderly cares.  And He has faithfully kept all those promises these last twelve years - and more.  I know that He will do the same for you.

I have a few Bible reading prompts and study helps that I check each morning.  As if on cue, with this post on my heart, this "verse of the day" was on my tablet.

"But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil."  II Thessalonians 3:3

He is faithful.  He continues to establish my feet and my goings.  And, by His help, the enemy is defeated and I am not consumed in my missing Tyler.  This FMF post is my chance to thank Him.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Lattes and Porch Rocking

Back in January, I (along with plenty of other bloggers) choose one word to begin the new year.  One word for a personal goal, a new year's resolution or simply as a focus for the months ahead.  I have done this before but, not surprisingly, the word was more or less forgotten before spring flowers had even budded.  This year I have been much more determined to keep my word front and center...wanting it to have an impact throughout the entire year.  My word this year:  CHOOSE.

Every season.  Every month.  Every day.  There are choices to be made.  I want to choose wisely.  I want to make choices carefully and deliberately.  Some choices are simple and many choices have little consequence - for instance, which skirt should I wear today or do the red earrings or green ones look better with this outfit?  No doubt, these are important, but you get my idea:)  But I asked the Lord to help me make some more impactful choices this year.  Ones that would not only stretch me but would draw me closer to Him.  It seems a good time to look at some of those choices and how I am choosing so far.  There are I am combining a few here and there.

I CHOOSE to be content and to be joyful.

"But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee."  Psalm 5:11

Christians should be happy people.  Those that love Him should be joyful.  This post is not about learning how to rejoice even during our trials or being able to grieve with hope and without despair - all of which are right and good - but I'm talking every day.  The ordinary days. The busyness and the routine - the ordinary - has a way of taking over, draining our joy and making us anything but happy people.  I can be so guilty of this.  Not grumpy or even angry - just joyless.

I've asked the Lord to nudge me when I'm simply going through the motions.  Singing to myself is on the of the quickest ways to lift my spirit and my countenance.  I sing.  I hum and I make my own my melodies.  How fun it would be to be a songwriter!!  But, I am not...but I still have fun with it!

One of the fastest ways to lose my joy in comparison.  I hesitate to mention this because it is a bit of a "buzzword" lately but it is the truth.  And it has been for ages - not just since the advent of social media (although that just gives us more for comparison).  Admiring the greener grass yonder and becoming discontent with our own yard always leaves us less than rejoicing.  I have determined to find contentment in the little things.

My empty-nest phase of life has given me extra time for little things and I want to enjoy - actually, savor - these things rather than simply reminisce about the times and things of days past.  A couple of the little things I am enjoying:

Lattes - or coffee, in general.  I am not a coffee addict, coffee obsessed, or "a girl running on coffee."  I only sorta/kinda like coffee.  But I love mornings with my husband - and they begin with a cup of coffee.  We don't have to get little ones ready or head out early to beat the commute, but are now able to enjoy the time when we first get up.  Often on the patio but not always.  But wherever, mornings are slow.  We enjoy chatting...or just being...and a hot cup of coffee.

I also enjoy lattes with my friends.  Times like this past weekend are not only a gift but are so refreshing.  I went away with some girlfriends.  Just to get away and relax.  Oh, and to shop.  These days I am able to go away with little planning and interruption to routines, etc.  It was not always that easy - and I appreciate it now.

Front porch rocking.  Maybe we are turning into two old people...but having most evenings unscheduled is becoming more and more of a blessing.  There is time to simply rock.  To enjoy our home, our little yard and so many of the other blessings that can be overlooked or even neglected when life is much more hectic.  There are certainly joys in abundance during the days of younger children, busy teenagers, and jam-packed calendars.  I love my memories of those days but I am learning - day by day - to be content with these days.  To embrace the blessings of this season and to be rejoicing in each new day.

What little blessing are you enjoying this week??

Friday, July 13, 2018

To Hear Him Say "Well Done"

It took our God six days to create everything.  From nothing.  Each one of those six days included a specific task and at the end of each day, God stopped, looked at what had been done and "saw that it was good."  The Bible records this multiple times.

There is something very rewarding about looking back, at the end of the day, and resting confidently that the day "was good."  Not because of all I accomplished or even that which I did do was done amazingly - but simply because I was faithful with the tasks that God gave me for that day.  I used the hours wisely and invested my efforts in the ways that were pleasing to my Heavenly father.

This is not always easy - and there are far too many days that my time was either wasted or spent selfishly.  These days are "not good."  And, in this empty-nest phase of life, I often find it easier to coast through my days...forgetting to be purposeful with my time.  But I do want to be the best steward of the days I am given.

This takes prayer.  Prayer at the beginning of the day - asking the Lord for His direction and how He would have me busy myself.  It takes starting the day with time alone with Him rather than "hitting the floor running."  It also takes seeking His advice throughout the day and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 90:12 "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

Then when each day is done, we can rest confidently that our Heavenly Father is pleased.  And one day, prayerfully, we can hear Him say, "My child, well done."

Matthew 25:21  "His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things.....enter thou into the joy of thy lord."

These are my thoughts for the Five Minute Friday prompt today:  DONE.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Little Grandma

I have one more post about Thailand.  I hope it is not too much.  So many of the lessons learned while on a trip such as the one I had to Thailand are, often, God taught and just for yourself.  Other things can, hopefully, be used as an encouragement to others.  I shared a couple of those things earlier.  However, after the photos last week (which were just for fun), I thought I would wrap up my thoughts today.  The sights, and the sight-seeing, are fun.  The projects completed are rewarding and, certainly, the new friendships made are well-worth the trip.  But the real impact of any missions trip comes from the people.  The personal bonds with local people that you will, most likely, never meet again but with whom you connected after just a few hours of talking.  Talking is actually communicating - but not necessarily through the same language. In many ways, the language barrier forces a deeper type of communicating with body language and facial expressions.

I love seniors.  My heart sings when I have a chance to simply sit and chat with a senior.  To soak in their wisdom and especially, if they are a Christian, to learn from their testimony and the paths that God has led them on.  Its no surprise that meeting this new friend and the hours that we had to fellowship, go to church and then visit over lunch were some of the highlights of my trip.  Her name, in English, is Little Grandma.  She is, indeed, a wisp of a woman - small in stature but huge in heart!

Years ago, after college in Thailand, she was awarded a scholarship and came to the University of Michigan to earn her Masters.  She went on to teach advanced science at Chiang Mai University.  She speaks English but she is very soft spoken and her hearing is quite poor.  I hung on her words but her actions, and her life, spoke more than her words.  She has never been married and Thailand has no type of social security and, so, these days she makes simple banana treats and jello-type desserts that she sells at a stand in the local 7-11.  She also shares her treats (that she could be selling) during the fellowship between Sunday school and church service.  She does not complain and simply lets the love of Jesus shine through her as she loves others.

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."  John 13:35

We are all called upon to love others.  To show Jesus to others by loving them unconditionally.  It is so easy for our past hurts, disappointments or regrets to make us fearful, skeptical or even bitter.  Our busyness keeps us unaware or, often, indifferent to a lost and hurting world around us.  None of us have an excuse.  Wherever God has us right now is where we are to be serving - and to be sharing the love of Christ.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Thailand Photos

The dictionary says a vacation is: "an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling."  I spent almost two weeks in Thailand this past month.  Definitely away from home - 8,789 miles from home!  It was a missions trip and there was work accomplished but, for sure, we definitely enjoyed time exploring, trying new things (think...riding an elephant) and eating lots and lots of good food!  Although not a typical Five Minute Friday post, with a prompt like "vacation," I thought this was the perfect time to share a few "just for fun" photos!

Everywhere we looked, the landscapes and scenery were beautiful!  We flew into Bangkok but spent most of our time further the mountain area!  The view was breathtaking - and the winding, curve-filled roads were cause for much Dramamine!

The elephant was definitely everywhere!  I know there is a significance in the Buddhist religion but I think it was just a cultural favorite, as well!

Of course, we went to see the elephants.  Every good tourist does!  Bathtime for the elephants was a highlight....for us and for the elephants!!

And, yes, we rode the elephants:)  All about stretching myself - and trying new things!!:)

During the elephant elephant actually painted this picture.  I kid you not!  It was impressive - and I would not have believed it if I had not watched it with my own eyes!

There was also plenty of restaurants to try...good food to tempt us - and even some "old favorites!"

It was lychee fruit season - and lychee was everywhere!!

 This guy was super excited about the World Cup - and wanted us to try his restaurant!!

We were more interested in the shopping!  This was a night market.  You have to have a couple of souvenirs!

 Just a few photos to whet your appetite for Thailand.  If the door ever opens for you to visit, I would say "go!!"  Thank thankful for God allowing me this experience!  Be sure to visit the other FMF writers and see where their vacations have taken them!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Too Many Steps for an Old Lady

June is in the books - and that means my (long-awaited for and much anticipated) trip to Thailand has now come and gone.  I typically like to look back over a month and notice both the blessings it included, as well as whatever lessons God may have been teaching me.  However, I don't want to take too quick of a glance back at my trip.  I hope the experiences, the people met and the quiet moments with God while away will continue to impact me - mold me, strengthen me and settle me - for many weeks and months to come.  There were, indeed, many lessons to be learned and, in many ways, it took being so far removed from my routine, and even my comfort zone, in order to hear God's speaking.  And His still small voice was not necessarily one of rebuke (although there are always areas to correct) but more one of encouragement.

In several ways, I think of Thailand as a "Jacob at Penuel" time.  Where Jacob wrestled with an angel until his thigh was out of joint.  Genesis 32:31 says, "And as he (Jacob) passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh."  He limped.  No doubt, for the rest of his life.  He was changed and he could point back to the exact time and place when it happened.  I know I did not return the same from Thailand and I am grateful that God is still interested in shaping me into a vessel that can be used for His purposes and by His design.

As silly as it sounds, it took this trip to remind me that I am not 25 anymore.  I do not have the energy or the stamina that I did at 25.  Nor do I even have the same interests.  I knew that I would be the oldest one on the trip (although I do not even qualify for senior discounts yet) but I did not want to be the "weakest link" on the trip.  Knowing that God wanted me to go on this trip, I prayed that He would enable me - especially physically.  And He did - but He did not make me 25 again.  My "mounting up with wings as eagles" did not mean the energy of my younger years suddenly reappeared.  In fact, when the group wanted to jaunt up the 340 steps to visit the temple pictured here...I knew I had reached my limit.  I waited at the bottom.  I sat and rested my weary feet. And, it was okay. More than okay.

God is looking for willing hearts.  God wants to use surrendered lives - no matter the age and no matter the physical abilities or limitations.  We do not reach an age where we are finished or simply retire from usefulness for God. 

"....this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:13-14

There is no need for me to keep looking to my past - or my younger years - to validate my effectiveness for Christ.  Nor do I need to wait for some "magical" moment in the future.  God has specific plans for me - right now and in this phase of life - and I am so thankful that He desires to use me.  And the same is true for each child of God.  I encourage you to embrace exactly where you are and delight in however He will use you!

Friday, June 29, 2018

No Bargaining with God

The art of negotiation starts early.  We've all seen the toddler given a plate of food that does not include pasta or chicken nuggets.  He vacillates between refusing to take a single bite to avoiding the inevitable by simply playing with the food or entertaining everyone at the table.  Finally, he offers, "if I take two bites, can I be done?" His weary parents agree and his bargaining skills are set in motion.  He learns to bargain for everything from extra hours before bedtime to the family car on the weekend.

We all, to some degree, are artful negotiators.  We bargain with bosses, parents, spouses, the scale and even ourselves. And, if we are not careful, the idea of bargaining - "if I....then __________" - carries into our spiritual life.  In Thailand, the Buddhist monks adhere to a long list of rules and restraints in an effort to make themselves purer and to achieve enlightenment.  Even those who are not monks, work carefully to keep the spirits happy - believing if they do so, they will have good karma and a happy life.

It is not hard to develop the same type of mindset even as Christians. However, there are no works of righteousness that can either earn our salvation or guarantee us a trouble-free life.  We do not "bargain" for our salvation and we cannot bargain with God in order to control or manipulate our circumstances.


These are my thoughts from this week's prompt at Five Minute Friday - IF.  They include just a hint of some of the things that impacted me while I was on my trip to Thailand.  I hope to include more in the days (or weeks) ahead.  I want to thank each one who prayed for me while I was gone.  It is hard to believe the trip has come and gone but I pray God will daily continue teaching me from the experiences I had while there.  It can be hard to process it all at I'm looking for little nuggets of new truth each day! 

I did have the opportunity to help teach English to 11th-grade students at a Buddhist temple.  Of all the teaching activities we did, this was definitely the most fun.  So many laughs!!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Summer Devotional

June is almost over.  Summer-time schedules are in full swing.  That can make things busy but it can also make us a bit more unstructured, even lackadaisical, with our otherwise good habits.  So often, our time with the Lord can be lost in lazy mornings and on-the-go, fun-filled days. 

I wanted to take a minute to introduce a great resource to keep you focused and in the Word.  This devotional, written by Sarah Frazer (who is a missionary wife - soon to be headed to Honduras - and busy mom of five) is full of pretty pages filled with a plan to keep reading and then to thoughtfully consider the reading.  To meditate and glean truth - making your time in the Word more than a checked box on your to-do list.

It is on 40 days long - so you can start anytime.  And, although written for "busy moms"...all ladies will enjoy it.  And benefit.  Visit Sarah's blog in order to purchase.  Its only 10 dollars!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Quick Prayer Request

I did not really intend to "leave" posts for the days while I am in Thailand; however, on Wednesday, the 20th, we will be working in a Thai prison.  The missionaries have a ministry of teaching English, followed by a Bible study.  I do not know many details - how many women attend, etc. - but I was asked to have a lesson prepared and may have a chance to teach.  No doubt, there will be plenty of chances for me to step out of my comfort zone while I am away.  I'm sure I do not know all of them...but, for sure, ministering in a women's prison will not only be a first but will also be way out of any comfort zone I have. 

I am excited for the challenge.  But more anxious than excited.  And eager to see what God can teach me through this opportunity.  If you are reading this post on Wednesday, please pray especially for the women in prison, the ones attending Bible study and for our team as we work with them.

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Good Chuckle on Memory Lane

The day before my flight, I was in Target picking up a few (um, last minute) things.  It was the first day of summer break for our local public schools and, yes, kiddos were everywhere.  Two elementary-aged kids were running ahead of their dad and bumped into something.  Dad called to them, "Hey guys...calm down.  Remember...this is a store.  Not Romper Room."

Both kids stopped cold.  Huh?? was written all over their face!! It was priceless. The kids starting giggling and, yes, it was rather amusing.  The generation gap is alive and well.  Please tell me you remember Romper Room - where each tv episode began with the Pledge of Allegiance and when milk and cookies were served, everyone recited the Romper Room prayer: "God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen."

But the absolute best part was eagerly waiting to see if your name would be called at the end of the show from the magic mirror!! Truly -  Barney, Paw Patrol, Mickey's Playhouse (I really have no idea what preschoolers are watching these days!).....they've got nothing on Romper Room!!

(I am still in Thailand.  Hopefully, when this posts there will be some pictures on my Instagram.  You can find the link on my sidebar.  If so, enjoy:)  If not, I will be updating photos as soon as I am able!  Thanks for continued prayers!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Would Anyone Even Notice?

I live outside of our nation's capital and, until last week, it has been many years - even decades - since this city had a champion sports team.  The Washington Capitals changed all that last Thursday evening when they won the Stanley Cup!  Apparently, it was a huge deal!  I say "apparently" because I missed it.  I am not a sports person.  I don't follow sports and I don't, actually, like sports.  However,  I know lots of folks do and having a winning team has been fun for many.  But, I missed it.

I did not even realize they had won until I was at the dentist on Friday morning.  Apparently, my dentist is a Caps fan.  And she was excited about the win!  She gave me the period-by-period replay - and I felt like I hadn't really missed a thing:)   I was grateful that, as the day went on and I was asked repeatedly, "what about those Caps??!!" I could at least acknowledge I knew what all the excitement was about!  (Nothing like intelligently engaging in conversation when you don't have a clue!) 

Later that afternoon, I began thinking:  what if "the big news" really had been something important?  Something of national significance had happened overnight?  How long would it take before I heard the news...or understood the impact?  Or....

What if the rapture had occurred?  Now, I know I would not have missed that.  I would be among those "missing"....having been caught up in the air!!  (What a day that will be!!?)  I would like to think enough Christians would be suddenly "gone" that it would make a tremendous impact on our country.  People from big cities to rural towns....millionaires, homeless folks and all types of people inbetween....well-educated and uneducated....with all skin colors, backgrounds and of all ages.  Surely, American would have to take notice.

But what about countries such as Thailand?  A country where 94% of the people are Buddhist and 5% are Muslims.  That's 99 percent - almost an entire country.  Will they even notice the rapture has occurred?  That thought truly unsettles me.  Is it really possible that whole countries could continue, completely unaffected, in the minutes and hours after the Lord returns to claim His children - and to take us to Heaven?

There are no easy answers to these types of questions.  But they are sobering and, hopefully, unsettling.  Unsettling enough to jar us from our comfort zones.  From our routines and schedules and, yes, our hurried paces.  To cause us to look for our way - our part - to be involved with spreading the gospel.  To remove our naivety and to see an entire world that needs to hear about Jesus.  And, to pray.  Remember to pray for the lost, for those who are able to go, and for your part to help others reach this lost world.

I have not yet set my feet on Thailand soil - although it's very close! - and this country and my opportunity to go there are already impacting my heart!!  Depending on when you read this post, I might be in-flight or I may have already arrived and hit the ground running!  I sincerely appreciate your prayers!!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Headed to the Clouds

"I'll fly away.....oh glory, I'll fly away" - so goes the song in my head.  Which, I'm pretty sure will be FMF just after the prompt is revealed - and on Thursday night.  Maybe it was not the best idea...because I know those lyrics are going to stay with me!!?!
on repeat all night.  This is my first attempt at joining

But, not far behind Kate, my day to fly away is coming quickly.  Not to glory....but to Thailand.  By way of Tokyo.  By way of Chicago.  Over 8,000 miles and more hours than I want to calculate.  It is a long trip but I am excited, a bit anxious but mostly eager to be there and to be involved.  I do not know who the earliest missionaries were to Thailand but Adoniram Judson traveled to Burma (Myanmar), Thailand's neighbor, in 1850.  Can you even begin to imagine that journey? 

The sacrifice was immense and, although in a much different way, missionaries today still sacrifice much to follow God's calling to a foreign field.  To begin ministries from scratch and faithfully serve in a new land.  I am blessed to spend the next couple weeks working alongside some of these missionaries.  To learn.  To encourage, and be encouraged.  To help and to try to be a blessing.  I sincerely thank the Lord for the opportunity.

I will be absent from the blog for a couple weeks.  If you stop by and nothing seems "new," it will mean I am still on the other side of the globe.  Take a moment and pray for all of us on this trip.  I would be grateful if you did.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the FMF writers.  Me.....I'm ready to fly away!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Life's Little Pleasures

It is full-on packing prep mode at my house - which, essentially, means that I as I think of yet one more "ah, I don't want to forget that" thing, I lay it out on the guestroom bed.  That bed is beginning to look, well - overpacked.  I also have been trying to save a bit room for fun extras!  Especially some things that will be a treat for the missionaries' children when we get there.  I have been trying to discover a few things that, perhaps, they might be missing from the United States and would be oh so happy to see in a visitor's suitcase:)

I'll admit - Thailand seems to be fairly well stocked in goodies...including all Western ones!  I did get to thinking, though, if I were away from home, what would be some of the things I might miss.  I'm sure I could live without these - but, oh, wouldn't they make a delightful surprise.  Here are my random, so glad I have easy access to you, favorites:

1 - Dark chocolate.  Definitely an indulgence even here at home.  I cannot (that is, I should not) eat dark chocolate every day.  But when I want the joy of chocolate - dark is the only way to go!!  The darker, the better.  Ahh.  Even when traveling in Belgium where chocolate seemed to be everywhere, it seemed there was one dark chocolate treat for every fifteen milk chocolate one.  Go figure.  I will admit, I already have a dark chocolate stash for my carry-on:)

2 - Double stuff Oreos.  Again, I rarely eat these at home.  In fact, I let my husband chose his favorite - which are always the original (with minimal stuffing) - and I never bother.  That is a waste of Oreo calories, in my opinion.  So, if ever I am stranded without Oreos....please send double stuffed!

3 - Tofu.  A bit more practical, maybe, but I do know when traveling, it can be harder - even harder than here at home - to find vegetarian dishes that are actually yummy.  Or even palatable.  You can usually find rice and/or noodles and I eat a lot (a lot!) of both when I travel....but, if someone were to unpack some tofu:)  I could create a real meal!

4 - Flatiron.  It's not only food that makes me happy.  It might just be me....but it seems everywhere I travel, humidity is crazy and humidity is not my friend.  Certainly not a friend to my hair.  Being able to tame the tresses every morning just speaks calm to my soul.  It's not vanity.  Just calm to my soul:)

5 - Essential oils, bug spray, and self-tanner.  Again, I could certainly live without them but, oh how much nicer life is when you aren't the only women with pasty white legs - attracting every mosquito within ten miles!  And the oils - more calm for your soul!!

6 - Trail mix.  Actually, if I am ever stranded on a desert island and you can only send one thing....forget the chocolate, the Oreos, and even the flatiron.  Just send trail mix.  Pure happiness in a bag!!

What would be a total treat for you??

Friday, June 1, 2018

When Will My Thoughts "Return" to Normal??

Hello June - and embracing all the summer vibes!!  My hydrangeas are "this close" to bursting into full bloom!  This is also the first FMF post for June - the prompt for today is RETURN.  Usually, my thoughts start heading in one direction right after I read the prompt, but this week my thoughts are all over the place!  With this upcoming trip, it seems just about everything sends my thoughts towards Thailand, missionaries and/or my travels.

For instance, after I read RETURN this morning, my mind became jumbled:

**When I return, what stories will I have to share?
   **When I return, will the jet lag be as difficult as last time?
      **Once I return, how will God have changed my heart - and used Thailand to impact me?

On and on, the jumbling continues.  Although questions that could have significant answers, they are for another day - and not a post for this FMF.  Then I thought of this true story:

I was browsing a young girl's story - shall I say, Tween Store - for a birthday gift.  The checkout line was a bit longish so I continued to browse although I had already chosen a few things.  The first problem at the checkout was a customer wanting to pay with a check.  A check!?!  Not kidding.  The clerk (who said she was the manager!), apologized for the delay but said she just was not sure how to process a check one uses checks!  I guess it would be funny if I wasn't old enough to remember when checks were the jam!  I remember excitedly choosing my check design - the one that represented "my style."  Oh me.

Back to the story.  After this customer, the next lady had a return.  A return of $223 worth of stuff!  There were seven items - but her receipt had only four items on it.  The customer was insistent that she bought all the that store, at one time, on that receipt.  The manager, who counted the items on the receipt no less than five times, seemed totally perplexed how to make the return.  Did not seem hard to me - you cannot return items you didn't purchase.  This challenge took over fifteen minutes to resolve.  And, yes, the manager just gave her store credit for all the extra items.

I was sure I could draw some deep and meaningful conclusion from this story.  But, apparently, it is just my rambling.  I think rambling is going to be a constant struggle for the next few weeks!  At least until I have everything neatly tucked into my suitcase.  Or suitcases.  I refuse to even think....what have I forgotten??

My five minutes are I will simply leave you with these verses I read just this morning.  With RETURN.  I love it when that happens!!  I pray they will be a blessing!

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Isaiah 55:  6-7

Thank the Lord today for abundant pardon!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Defeating My Doubt

Well, here we are with another month in the history books - and a time to look back at May.  For me, this month has been a month of preparation.  Yes, May is always eventful and there were the annual graduations and picnics that follow and, of course, the mental transition to summer - even for an empty-nester.  We had flags in the front yard this past weekend and have begun to stalk the local soft-serve ice cream spots in earnest. 

But when I look back over the calendar, this past month has included more than just a few days - weeks even - and several circumstances used to prepare me for next month!  I mentioned a few weeks ago - in this post - that God has opened the doors for me to take another missions trip.  In June.  As in, soon.  I leave in 14 days.  I will be going to Thailand - with a team of four others - and we have a full itinerary of ministries opportunities.  We will be meeting and working with two missionary families and will be involved in church services, English classes, a children's home, a prison ministry and a few other projects.  There is also a day set aside for riding elephants:)  (oh my.)

Yes, I am excited.  I know, without doubt, that God not only opened the doors for me to take this trip 
and has provided for the trip, but also that He wants me on this trip.  But, it does not take much for the enemy to try and discourage, to make me doubt or even to terrify me.  More than once, over the past couple days, I have found myself wondering "what in the world were you thinking!??!"  The doubts and hesitations seem to multiply overnight.  But, if I know - without a doubt - that God has this trip planned for me, then I can be sure - without a doubt - that He will accomplish all He desires.  Both for me and through me.

This is trust.  I read this statement this morning.  "Continual peace come from continual trust."  If I trust Him - and I do - then I have peace.  When my peace starts to erode, usually I'm starting to trust, or rely, on my own strengths and abilities.  And those are sorely lacking.  Just as He provided exactly what I needed, financially, to get to Thailand, I can be confident that He will give me the physical strength, the wisdom, even the courage I might need to do whatever is needed in Thailand.  Even ride an elephant.  (oh my.)

Psalm 37:4-5  "Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.   Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."

(Today I am linking up with all the friends at Stories from the Porch!)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Lessons Learned When I Pause

Pause.  A temporary stop or rest and, I like one definition I read:  a breathing space.  Even in this empty nest phase of life - where the daily schedule is much more my own and certainly more relaxed - there is the need for pause.  A bit of breathing space.  My regular pause comes, at least, twice a week when I visit with my senior friends at the assisted living home near me.  And what a wonderful pause it is!  My afternoons spent there are not only a balm for over-active cares and concerns, but also a real refreshing to my soul!

Most of my sweet friends there are in their 90s - or very close to it.  Their schedules are no longer dictated by careers or other daily work.  They do not drive and are not drawn into the myriad of activities that keep us busy and/or distracted.  I'm sure there are exceptions, but everyone I have met is content - even happy to be there.  I have learned much during my games of UNO or FlipIt - these chances to pause during my week - with these friends.  Let me share just three:

1.  Relationships are key.  No longer defined by their career, the house they live in or where they are going on vacation, these folks simply enjoy being together.  No doubt, some have closer bonds than others but everyone is included, looked out for and everyone belongs.  Friendships and family bonds are what support us.  How much more important to invest wisely in these than in the fleeting things that so often drain us of time, energy and even joy.

2.  Good health should never be taken for granted.  All of us are aging.  We cannot stop it but we can do our best to prepare our senior bodies to be the best they can be.  Investments that I make in my health now will be much appreciated when I am 82, 92 or beyond. 

3.  A genuine hope of Heaven makes all the difference.  These seniors are not naive that their time on earth is short.  They know that life is fleeting.  But there is always a difference - whether they recognize the difference or not - between a believer who is close to eternity and one who is simply "hoping" for something decent after death.  Knowing that death reunites you not only with loved ones but also with the savior who died for you removes the sting and the fear of death.  These saints possess an assurance and a peace that is enviable.

Pause is the prompt for this week's FMF.  I am very grateful for the pause - the breathing space - that I enjoy every week while I volunteer.  I am blessed to be sure. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Do you Have a Decorating Style?

We recently had some of our house repainted.  (No, not bright blue...but isn't that cool??) The largest part of our project was painting our basement - a spot where we spend most of our evenings.  Not only was the paint in need of refreshing, but once we took everything off the walls, I also wanted to rethink what went back on the refresh the style there as well.  It needed to better reflect us.  Since moving into this home, the main floors, and even the bedrooms have gotten the most of my attention for creating an atmosphere that says "home" for us.  Apparently, many of the things that I no longer needed or wanted to use were relegated to the basement.  It was neat, and even arranged, but the basement didn't feel like "home" but more of an attic - or a place for used storage.

And so I began contemplating exactly what is our style.  I searched for it on Pinterest.  I took notes from my favorite home design shows.  I tried to put a catchy name to our style.  And I still have not found it - the catchy name or even the exact style.  But I have created a space that feels right - that feels good - for us.  And I think that is the best design style. 

What says "home" to me?  Home is a reflection of the 33 years my husband and I have been creating a life together.  I want my home to make others comfortable when they visit, and I want a home that is warm and inviting.  But, more importantly, this house needs to be a comfort - a haven - to us as we not only retreat here each day but as we share life together under this roof.

Home is where I can wear my comfy clothes.  Where we don't have to talk - just for the sake of talking.  And where we have someone to talk to when we need it.  Home is full of laughs, dumb jokes, and talking to the dog in "dog talk."  It is the place for making dreams and dreaming big!  And for all the 100 ordinary moments in between.  Our home is uniquely us and, hopefully, our style reflects just that.  What says "home" to you?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Uniquely Me - Some Random Facts

I am a good secret-keeper.  Whether it is the perfect Christmas surprise you are waiting to exchange or a special prayer burden that you simply had to share with one person, you can depend on me to keep your secret safe.  Just a little-known something that my friends who read here may or may not know about me.  And, the more I thought about it, there might be a few other random "facts" I could share.  So, in the interest of pure fun, here are some things that make me - well, uniquely me:)

1- I can keep a secret.  Yes, I mentioned that one already.  The idea of secrets came from the FMF prompt this week.  I really enjoy the FMF community and reading the other blogs and different thoughts that come from one simple word.  Kate shares a fun secret herself this week!  The idea is to write for five minutes, unedited (which is just about impossible) and I will admit, upfront, this post will probably be a bit longer than five minutes.

2 - I have no ability to be a nurse - or even to render first aid.  Actually, you would not want me to help out in any emergency of a medical nature.  It's not just blood (which is bad) - but also stitches (oh my!) or even the evidence of pain, as in a broken bone, etc.  In people or in pets.  It doesn't matter.  In all of these situations, I am not the one you want to call for help.  You would be doomed.  I have tried, on more than one occasion, to "man-up" and to "be there" for someone who needed help.  Every time, I become a second person in need of medical attention.  Sad, but true.

3 -  I need my personal space.  As in, more than the average bear!  Everyone has a comfortable personal boundary before they feel that others are "in their space."  For some reason, my space feels intruded, sometimes even violated, way before others.  I have been known to panic in prolonged overly-crowded places.  And, my body language often expresses protection of my space. I have no explanation for this but I know it - and I try hard to be aware of it.  Do you know how many women express friendship, hellos, and even simple kindness with a hug?  You would if you were hyper-sensitive about your space:)

4 - I am a college drop-out.  Not a flunk-out.  But, between my sophomore and junior year of college (way back in the day), I got a job making more than money than I needed, bought my first car and then met my husband.  And I didn't go back to school.  Regrets - yes or no?  Those answers are many (and maybe a whole post of their own) but I am sorry that I was a quitter.  I actually I heard this statement in our sermon on Sunday.  "We Independent Baptists (of which I am one) are very good at starting things, but we often do not finish well."  Hmm, very sobering, if not convicting.

5 - I am forever marked by grief.  My husband and I have two adult children.  We also have two children in Heaven.  Our youngest son died at 13.  Without a doubt, navigating through grief and the years of missing Tyler have been the hardest thing we have done.  But grief has also been deepened our faith, molded and refined us, and yes - even with all the pain - has been some of our sweetest times as we have seen God's promises proven true and learned for ourselves what a faithful Heavenly father we have. Our last pregnancy (which was years before Tyler's birth) ended in a miscarriage and, in contrast, the months that followed were some of the darkest days of my life as I refused His grace, failed to trust and was almost destroyed by despair afterward.  My heart breaks for those who face the trials, heartaches and challenges of this life alone - without a savior.  My prayer, though, this blog, is that others can not only know Christ but know what a difference walking with Him makes.  I personally know the difference.  I also know the joy that life can have with the certainty of a literal Heaven and knowing that we will together for eternity.

  A little more of Tyler's story can be found above at the "Could It Be Any Worse" link.

I would love to get to know you a little better.  What is one thing that makes you uniquely you??

Friday, May 11, 2018

He Included Me!

The prompt for today's Five Minute Friday is INCLUDE.  As soon as I read it, I began humming and (mentally) singing the hymn "He Included Me" and, yes, it will probably be on repeat in my head all day.  But that's okay.  I can, no doubt, benefit from these Bible truths running through my thoughts for the day (or two)!

  1. I am so happy in Christ today,
    That I go singing along my way;
    Yes, I’m so happy to know and say,
    “Jesus included me, too.”
    • Jesus included me, yes, He included me,
      When the Lord said, “Whosoever,” He included me;
      Jesus included me, yes, He included me,
      When the Lord said, “Whosoever,” He included me.
  2. “Freely come drink,” words the soul to thrill!
    Oh, with what joy they my heart do fill!
    For when He said, “Whosoever will,”
    Jesus included me, too.
  3. Jesus included me, yes, He included me,
    When the Lord said, “Whosoever,” He included me;
    Jesus included me, yes, He included me,
    When the Lord said, “Whosoever,” He included me.

  4. Yes, when Jesus died to offer salvation to anyone who would accept His free gift, He included me!  When He considers His children - He includes me! And, as well, offers to me all the promises He has given to believers.  The secret to joy, and an abundant life.  The freedom from condemnation and the shame sin brings.  Strength, courage, boldness.  Contentment and peace.  And the list goes on.  All of this is not reserved for a select few or for an elect group of "super Christians" but is for all God's children - including me!!
  5. STOP.  That's the end of my five minutes but definitely not the end of the encouragement I found in these lyrics this morning.  So many things routinely, if not daily, try to rob me of these precious gifts and promises.  Alyson, at Write Them on My Heart, in this post, referred to several of them as "dirty villains."  For me...villains are things like comparison, anxiety, self-doubt/comparison, worry.  All of them keeping draining my joy and stealing the abundant life Christ offers me.
  6. But the second stanza of this hymn jumped off the page to me:  "Freely come drink......oh, with what joy they my heart do fill!"  God's word.  Life-giving.  Life-changing.  And "fill your heart with joy" words!  That is the secret.  God's word.  Reading it...digesting it...meditating on it. It is a non-negotiable must.  To be in the word - every day.  And, I believe, every morning.  Defeating those dirty villains before they even begin.  If He offers so much to all of His children - including me!! - why would I settle for anything less??
  7. I'm so thankful He included me!!