Friday, February 26, 2010

What to do with a full heart...

This has been a really great week - in spite of some scary stuff that has happened to our family. I won't go into the details here; however, suffice it to say, we are very thankful those we love are unharmed.

My question of the day is...what to do with a full heart? I guess I just have to share its fullness...

This entire week has been an incredible affirmation of God's extravagant love. I've had some great success with the job search and Joe and I are looking forward to good news before long. We are really trying to not count chickens before they hatch, put the cart before the horse, etc.; and, I'm struggling because it is difficult. We are trusting God to provide the wisdom we need to walk through the doors of His will as they are opened.

The sun is shining brightly today and the sky is finally blue! The temp today was actually in the low 40s, the snow is mostly gone. And, I know I definitely saw birds flying North - all promising signs that Spring teasers are on the way. Love it!

I was able to spend quality time with my Mom today and we got to laugh together, a lot - which was a blessing. I love to make her laugh!

We enjoyed a great dinner of ribs and sweet fellowship with our friends - even though both of the women at this gathering were somewhat hormonal - sorry guys! This week, I also was able to spend time with my good friend that I haven't seen for quite a while. It was a sweet time of sharing and laughing; and, I was able to appreciate how much I miss her and all of the times she has been a great support for me and has offered a listening ear.

And, I have heard from faithful friends (several) with voices of love and support - they never think this simple act of words is a big deal and it is huge. God continues to provide those special moments of encouragement when I need them the most. I don't know why this surprises me.

And, finally, Joe and I are so very blessed to be surrounded by family and friends that believe and are willing to take the chance that God hears their prayers. I'm so thankful for each of you.

Full Heart? Absolutely!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Laying it at His feet...

I woke up this morning with a heavy heart. Joe and I have people in our lives whom we love that are a little lost right now, stumbling and trying to find their way. They continually have been on our hearts the last few days. So, during our prayer time together this morning, I just laid these special people we love at the Lord's feet - not knowing how to help them and trusting that He will.

We just bought Selah's new CD - Deliver Me. It is so awesome. I was listening this morning and this song came on.  I must have played it, over and over again, for about 30 minutes. It just really touched my heart today and the words took me to my knees - Another love whisper from God, another lesson about letting go of stuff, about not hanging on, about trusting and believing that God loves us more than we know.... I hope you enjoy this and it speaks to you, too. As you listen, I pray you feel God's love embracing you.

Click on the link below or copy/paste it into your browser. And, you may want to grab a kleenex or two...or three...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Will someone please open the door????

While we were at the retreat this weekend, we made a new friend. For the past four years, we have seen her at the monastery where she always runs to meet us with a warm welcome and a smile.

We learned more about her this weekend than we have previously known. She is one of the few females in this community, she does come in from outside on occasion and she is very patient. She is 15 years old, although she looks much younger. And, her name is Tipper.

Tipper's main friend and companion had to go out of town this weekend and she had to stay behind. Her companion's office is in the building where we met and we would see her wandering through the hall at certain points throughout the day. Her bowl of food and water were kept in a nearby kitchen; so, she had access when she needed a bite to eat or a cool drink. We would see her outside the building and she never went far.

As I watched Tipper I realized she could teach me a lot about my relationship with God. She is faithful and I could see her looking for her friend and I could sense the disappointment and a little apprehension when she couldn't find him. Even though she wasn't sure where he was she was constantly looking for him and longing for his presence. She would stand outside the door to his office and just wait expectantly for it to open. It made me sad to think she didn't understand. But, I choose to believe she trusts he had not forgotten her.

Like Tipper, I find myself waiting for doors to be opened - the right doors, the doors that will guide me to the next step in my faith journey. The door that may be slightly ajar, an invitation to explore what is on the other side. It is a matter of trust, patience and faith - believing the door will open my heart to the opportunities that God has waiting for me. And I, too, will wait patiently and expectantly - even when the waiting is long - knowing that sooner or later the door will open and, with God's help, I will be on my way.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Psssst... Peggy

This past weekend Joe and I attended a Lenten Retreat with our church. It was restful to be out of town and to be at a quiet place where we could unload the stresses of our life for a while. We left Thursday afternoon and the drive was nice and leisurely and we had fun just relaxing - looking forward to a few days of peace and quiet.

The retreat is always held at Conception Abbey - a Benedictine monastery in Conception, Missouri. It's a beautiful place - in the middle of nowhere, or so it seems. It sits on a hill and is surrounded by fields full of cattle and wind turbines - certainly an incongruent addition to the fields. It's amazing how their slow circular movement induces a sense of calm and mystery to the place. When we arrived, the sky was a beautiful and clear blue, the temperature almost balmy - above 30 degrees - whoo hoo!

And then, like every year, the snow began to fall. It started Thursday evening and didn't end until Saturday morning and 6"- 8" later. It was absolutely beautiful and I was thankful I had nowhere to be except where I was.

The theme of the retreat was "Speak Lord for your servant is listening" - When I first read this on the board, I thought it said "Speak LOUD for your servant is listening" - It seemed more appropriate for our current circumstances. We studied 1 Samuel 3:1-10 - the story about Eli and Samuel and God's calling in the middle of the night...and Samuel's response. We talked about discernment - how do we recognize God's voice? We talked about fear and reluctance - the anxiety that comes from stepping outside our familiar and responding to God's call. We talked about the joy that comes from answering the call...And, most of all, we talked about how we have to be willing to place ourselves before God without expectation - about how God will do the work of reconciling our own wants and needs to help us and to equip us to discern what He wants for us and from us.

Somewhere along the way of the weekend, I recognized that God's calling is for each of us - every moment of every day. I know this is true and it was good to be reminded. We are called to be an instrument of His love and grace in each encounter we experience and wherever we are. There is joy to be found in that opportunity and I pray that I have the courage to pursue the task and to take the risk.

God knows each of us and calls us by name - sometimes with a quiet whisper, sometimes with a loud voice, sometimes through the voice of another person, sometimes in the middle of the night - And, always... always with love.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Just a few of the reasons...

Just a few of the reasons I love Joe...

... He has a heart for God
... He is my best friend
... He loves me as I am - faults and all
... He makes my heart smile - every time I see him!
... He is playful
... He laughs - a lot
... He likes to make me laugh
... He makes me laugh
... He fills my life with Joy
... He likes to Dance
... He is calm to my storm
... He loves his girls
... He is a good example
... He loves Hank
... He loves his Mom
... He loves his brothers and his sister
... He loves my Mom
... He loves my sisters and their families
... He is strong, physically and emotionally
... He is trustworthy
... He works hard
... He is level-headed
... He knows how to fix lots of things around the house and with the car
... He loves nature and finds beauty there
... He likes my cooking
... He is artistic and creative
... He is humble
... He has a beautiful smile
... He is patient
... He has a great laugh
... He is a stacker
... He likes to watch old movies
... He loves all kinds of music
... He watched Old Yeller and cried at the end
... He wanted to be a cowboy when he grew up
... He had a Red Ryder BB Gun
... He likes to help people
... He has a servant's heart
... He doesn't get embarrassed easily
... He is quiet and a little bit shy
... He is willing to try just about anything - except taste a "goober-burger"
... He has a great sense of humor
... He is faithful
... He loves to play his guitar
... He likes to hang out with me
... He's a good and patient shopper - even in the purse and shoe departments
... He keeps his promises
... He is dedicated and loyal
... He likes to learn new things
... He remembers everything
... He is compassionate
... He is romantic
... He is thoughtful
... He is kind
... He loves unconditionally
... He loves me!
... He shares my heart

Like I said...Just a few of the reasons I LOVE JOE!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

May I have this dance?

For many years, Joe and I took ballroom dance lessons. In fact, we met taking classes and that will be a story for another day. When we first met, we took classes separately and with different teachers. Joe had started about a year or so before I met him; so, he was fairly confident of his skills and his abilities. I, on the other hand, was a novice and was fortunate enough, by circumstances, to be able to take lessons with a premier teacher that brought me along rather quickly.

Ballroom dance is not for the faint of heart. It is a sport that requires a person to be in relatively good health and it is hard work - mentally and physically. I soon learned the really "great" dancers make it look easy and effortless, graceful and smooth. And, I soon learned from Todd, my teacher, that the way to make it look easy and effortless, graceful and smooth is to learn the steps, to learn the technique, to practice, practice, practice and to let your partner lead - I had to learn to follow.

Let me tell you, following is not my strong point. As I have previously explained, I like to be in control of all aspects of my life. So, dance was no different and it was quite a challenge (especially because the woman normally has her back to the line of dance, has her partner dancing "into" her and she CANNOT see where she is going or why). I was constantly being reprimanded on my "back leading" skills - they were very, very good and, just keep in mind, it is impossible for both partners to lead and for the dance to be beautiful.

So, I slowly learned to dance - not just the patterns, but the art of expressing myself through movement with the music, the balance, the nuances of why it is important for my head to be at a certain angle, why my feet had to point a certain direction, why my arms and shoulders had to be placed in a specific pose and in a specific relationship to my body and to my partner's. I also learned that the closer the partners are able to move together, the easier it is to dance the more difficult steps, spins and turns. The "center" for both partners becomes one instead of two; so, those movements are easier to master.

Another thing I learned is that dancing is a matter of trust - trust in your partner that he will not drop you or spin you into oblivion, trust that your partner will dance to your skill level and help you put your feet in the proper position and at the proper time so you will be able to take the next step without falling.

Dance is such a beautiful metaphor for our relationship with God. All the things I've explained about learning to dance are valuable lessons regarding God's role in my life. He leads by taking my hand in His and, with the other, gently guiding me into the next step where I am meant to follow. It's really very simple and, at times, can be very difficult. I fully understand the concept. It's just that, sometimes, I have issues with the execution.

This all brings me to something I read this week that has touched me very deeply. I read this on Ann Voscamp's blog - Holy Experience...She is reviewing a book by Sally Clarkson called Dancing with My Father: How God Leads Us Into a Life of Grace and Joy.                

"To grow in this joy, I have to move where He leads. When dancers attempt to turn in different directions, there is no beauty, no synchronizing of movement. But when they learn to read each other's movements and move as one body, there is beauty, a grace, and a skill of step that grants the joy of unity and elegance to the dance."

I love this! It touches my soul. When Joe and I learn to dance together as one (and, it is a constant learning - in all areas of our life together), it is such an intimate experience. I feel my soul fly free and I am in tune with the rhythm of his heart and it feels so right.

So, too, when I learn to dance with God, it is an intimate and magical experience - one of trust, one of surrender, one of knowing that He will always lead me where I am supposed to go - as long as I allow Him to guide my steps. In that learning is where I find freedom, confidence, beauty, grace and joy! And, oh, how sweet the dance...!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Buddy, Hank

Well, I've been home most days for just about three weeks now. This little circumstance has disrupted the lives of the entire family. It's hard for Joe to get up and go to work if I stay in bed. It's hard for me to get up and get dressed for the day, only to stay home, while Joe goes to work. And, it is different for Hank.

Hank is a dog of routine. He gets up initially with Joe and goes outside for a quick squat and then comes running back into the house - all full of relief and enthusiasm. He then jumps on the bed or goes into our little bathroom to watch us get ready for the day - same every morning for nearly six years. But, now, it is different...

I always wondered what he did all day while we were gone. Did he sleep? Did he look out the window? Did he watch TV or play Wii Alpine Skiing? Raid the fridge? Surf the web? Did he wait patiently for us to return or did he practice playing dead and hiding from possible intruders - He's not the bravest of canines, although he does have a beautiful heart. I'm sure his spirit is willing to be brave and the rest of him just won't cooperate.

The first week I was home, he pretty much slept all day in the bedroom. I think he figured this would be over soon and he could be about his normal life. The second week, he ventured out and would check on me from time to time. And, most often, I would find him curled up in the bedroom where he sleeps. And, occasionally, I would hear him chasing cats or playing ball in his dreams.

This week is different - he has been my constant companion. He has followed me everywhere and has stayed by my side no matter where I am or what I am doing. I wonder if he can feel that I'm struggling a bit, a little sad and need some assurance that things are going to be OK, different maybe, but OK. So, throughout the day, I will feel a big, warm head on my arm to remind me he is there - or, a lick on my hand when I open the door for him to go outside; or, he will just sleep next to my feet and be still - always near me.

Some people say that animals don't have a soul. I have never understood that thought and think it is so silly. I believe our pets are God's gifts to us and teach us well about patience, trust, kindness, devotion, loyalty, friendship, sharing, forgiveness - unconditional love...

Today, I am thankful for Hank - my big, sweet, goofy and loving blessing - who has reminded me I am not alone and that things are going to be OK - different maybe, but OK.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I'm Putting a Dent in it...

Lately, I haven't said much about my "50 New Things" list; so, I wanted to bring you up-to-date:

I have created a great (and, I do mean great) recipe for Slow Cooker Pot Roast. I've made it twice now (well, actually, I'm not sure of that because a couple of weeks ago I thought I had cooked a chuck roast and it may have been pork shoulder roast, instead. I'm a little confused since I found the chuck roast I thought I had cooked in the freezer). Regardless, it has been outstanding both times - even if I do say so myself. Joe agrees with me, though. And, it is yummy with either type of meat.

I'm getting better at this blog business and am still navigating my way around the design. I'm trying to spruce it up some and playing with some photography, graphics, etc. So, stay tuned, I hope to be able to jazz it up so it is visually more interesting.

I actually went to the grocery store and bought food for a week and spent less than $100. I was so incredibly proud - I think the bill was like $ 99.48 or close - but, still...

I am applying for jobs everyday - jobs not even in my field; so, that is NEW! Now, I am waiting for replies and following up - the lack of response gets a bit frustrating AND we are faithful the right job is going to open for us.

I made the "best dip I've ever tasted" and took it to a party where I heard this phrase - "This is the best dip I've ever tasted" all night - So what if it was being spoken from my own mouth? It is excellent dip - Black Bean Raspberry Chipotle Dip  (Thanks, Megan) - excellent.

And, the big news....

... I am pretty sure there is a likely possibility I am being "called" to some kind of vocational ministry. Whatever this means, I do not know. And,  I will be talking more about this as I am trying to figure this out. Just suffice it to say I have been considering this for quite some time (for years, really - since 1982 to be exact) and I have NEVER talked about it - to anyone! It's time to explore the possibility (which may be more of a probability than I am willing to voice at the moment). It's yet another lesson in faith and, I'm sure, the reason I have felt so much peace about my job situation - there is something about a closed door and an open window (or open gate), floating around in my head, that holds promise for me. I know God has really awesome plans for Joe and me this year - Time to say Yes to all the blessings His grace provides.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight ." Proverbs 3: 5-6

Monday, February 1, 2010

Today is the day...

I woke up this morning with this song running through my head complete with the little answering echo after each phrase... Today is the day (Today is the day), that the Lord has made (that the Lord has made). I will rejoice (I will rejoice), and be glad in it (and be glad in it)... I had my own little worship choir singing in my head. I guess, as ear worms go, it is much better than others I can think of (The sun will come out tomorrow - sorry). However, I have no idea how this song got into my head. I think the last time I remember singing it was in 1977 at some church youth retreat.

But, this I do know - I'm treating this as a secret love note given specifically to me. And, whatever this day brings, I will rejoice and be glad in it! Besides, the sun is shining today:)