Monday, June 28, 2010

June 28th

Twenty-one years ago today my father died. Even after all of this time, it's hard to write these words. They seem so final. Yet, even though I know the reality of the words are true, it is amazing to believe them when not a single day goes by that I don't think about him in some way.

I loved my Dad. He loved God. He loved his family and his friends. He found pleasure in the simple things of life - nature, reading, gardening, a good ball game (no matter the sport), all kinds of music, art, food, animals, ham radio, learning something new. He had a great smile, twinkling eyes, a muttley-the-dog laugh and beautiful hands.

So much of who I am is because of what He taught me. Some things he often learned by the mistakes he made in his own life. Mistakes he wanted me to avoid. He taught me the integrity of the lessons he learned.

He taught me how to play first base, how to catch and throw a softball - I never did get the hang of the bat, though. He taught me the appreciation of a good western movie, the pleasure of a good book, good poetry, a good steak and how to light a firecracker. He taught me how to mow the grass, how to plant a tree and how to prune a rose bush. He taught me to laugh easily and to not take myself so seriously. He taught me that the true test of a person's character is what they do and who they are when they are alone and no one is watching. He taught me that loving is hard work - whether I am the one to give or the one to receive. He taught me that hard work is worthwhile and how to value the things I have received and how to protect them and to take care of them. He taught me how to be a humble winner and a gracious loser. He taught me that adversity is often a part of life and there are always consequences to every decision that is made. He taught me to seek God with all of my heart, how to be faithful and to pray with confidence that God always listens and that it is okay to tell God how I feel. Lots of lessons that I needed to learn and to make constants in my own life.

Twelve years ago today, Joe proposed to me. I love this. I love the bittersweet connection of these two significant moments in my life. Dad never met Joe and I know they would have had fun together and enjoyed each other because they share so many of the same interests. And, I am certain my Dad would be proud of Joe and who he is and the way that he loves me. I like to think Dad would have been proud of the choice I made in a life partner and be pleased that I was never willing to settle for less than what he taught me God desired for me. Joe often tells me he wishes he could have known my father. I wish that, too.

June 28th is indeed a special day for me - a day to think about the precious gift of love that has always enveloped my life. The love of my Dad who taught me about my heavenly Father's love, a love that provided a foundation where I could grow and learn how to love; and, the love of Joe, a love that sustains me, challenges me and grows with me as we walk this journey called Life.

I am so grateful and I am so incredibly blessed.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ode to Joy!

Photo courtesy of

Holy Cow! I just completed the book, Dancing with My Father - How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy by Sally Clarkson. I'm not certain and I think she wrote this book just for me - talk about a really rich book packed with all kinds of wisdom and important stuff I need to know. Here are just a couple of tidbits she shares that I have been pondering:
"..Trials are rarely over quickly, and God does not work on our preferred timetable... he is more committed to the process of our growth than to our immediate gratification. As we submit to his will, we will find that we were made or suited to find joy in that place."
"...The key to joy in the midst of trials is in knowing and believing that God is always good. Always."
"...I must remember and choose to believe that he is working even when I can't see him; that this test is the work of my life-my opportunity to have a testimony or story of his faithfulness. Then each day, each minute, I must turn my heart toward praise, thanksgiving, and rest, knowing that God is producing in me the character of Christ."
"...Worrying and fretting just squeeze our joy. I can't live in both worlds at once-the peace of Christ and the worry of the world-so I must turn my back on fear or dread and turn my face toward his promises as I wait in the knowledge of his grace."
"...I choose to turn my heart away from doubt and stand firmly in your light, expecting you to show me your plan!"
So, what do you think? See what I mean - good stuff, right?

Side note:  I'm off for a girl's weekend at the lake and am looking forward to some fun, sun and lots of laughing. So, as my 3-yr. old granddaughter likes to say as she runs to the car, "Peace out and I'm outta here."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

a whisper of love wrapped in a rainbow

Joe and I had a storm yesterday. We were minding our own sweet business and going about our day- Joe at work and me, at home with my mom, trying to babysit a garage sale. And, as life will have it, all of our priorities changed with a single phone call. I hate it when that happens.

The phone call was from our daughter telling me that she and her year-old son need a place to stay for a while since she had left her husband while being in a very difficult marriage. This bombshell, dropped into our lives, brings a lot of different perspectives. First of all, everyone is safe and healthy and the situation is NOT life and death. That established, from a purely selfish perspective, we are looking at some HUGE changes in our lives - for all of us and even for Hank, our dog. I would call this situation a head shaker because that is the only response I had to offer as I played all the different scenarios through my mind. As I have repeatedly mentioned, I'm a list maker, a problem solver, a girl who has to have a plan. Didn't I just tell the blog world I don't function well without a plan (see last post)? OH NO!

I immediately called Joe and explained what was going on. I'm sure he was perplexed as I was when we hung up the phone. I know questions were racing through his head, as well. I know he was trying to figure out his own response to this news and he was rightly concerned about mine.

I like to think that I usually handle tough situations with a fairly even response. Oh, I may get excited until I can wrap my arms around the situation and I don't think I panic - at least for very long. Yesterday, I stayed calm on the outside while my insides were going ballistic. I believe someone was playing pin ball in my head. The question continually going through my mind was, "What are we going to do about this?" Our lives and our home are not prepared for others to live with us - especially a baby who is just beginning to walk. Our house is not baby proof. I don't have a job. How will we afford this? How can we be supportive emotionally and financially when we have so much going on in our own lives at the moment? How can I help fill her with the support she needs when my own pitcher is so dangerously low? And, truth be told, I am hanging on by a thread as it is and I am just plain scared. Scared of change, scared of the intrusion into my routine. I don't want to have to deal with this - at all. And, yet, Love reminds me I am bigger than these feelings.

My mom was here when I received the call. I asked her, "What are we going to do about this?" Her response was so wise - "You are just going to love her and, when you do, it will make her strong. It will make you stronger, too." I read that now and it makes me cry. Yesterday all I could think was "I don't know if I am strong enough to do that." Today, I'm still not sure; but, I'm willing to give it a go.

Joe got home last night and we were able to have a very frank and honest discussion about options and expectations - of each other and of our daughter. At this point, the discussion was just between the two of us and not with our daughter. It was a bit of a storm. I guess, really, just a fairly strong gust of wind or, maybe, a squall. And, we both (well, mainly me) spoke out of fear, frustration and anxiety. And, to keep this metaphor going, it did clear the air.

After we were finished sharing our thoughts and letting them soak in, I went upstairs to our bedroom and looked out the window. It was around 7PM and dark on the east side of our house and the sun brightly shining in the west. It had been drippy humid all day and the air was heavy with a storm wanting to rant and rave - fit my mood perfectly. However, when I looked out the window I was surprised to find a reminder of a promise - a full rainbow (a double one) - two perfect arcs back lit across the dark sky. I just stood there and cried and, finally, I was able to be thankful and to, once again, praise Him in this storm. Perfect timing, God. Another whisper of love and, this time, wrapped in a rainbow.

I know that loving someone is a great responsibility. Yesterday morning, before I got up, I prayed God would use me as His vessel throughout the day to show his love to all those strangers I would meet at this garage sale. Little did I know He planned to bring the opportunity into our home and for one of our very own.

We have an opportunity to make a difference in our daughter's life, to help her rebuild her self-esteem, to see her laugh and to enjoy her family. To help her to live her life with honesty - to learn to trust us and to trust herself. To help provide her the tools she needs to make good decisions in her life and to know others believe in her. We have the opportunity to show her God's love and to be examples of His Grace. Scares me - you bet! And, I'm thankful for the opportunity and will not take the responsibility lightly.

Joe and I are excited because we will have the opportunity to develop a relationship with our grandson - uniquely his own and our own. We will love him like crazy. We may not have had that otherwise.

Today, I'm still scared. But, I know God's love is bigger than I am and His love will sustain us. And, the truly amazing part - He has a plan and I'm a part of it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What does it mean when God says "Maybe..."?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about "maybes". We all have them, offer them, accept them and are frustrated by them.  Right now, "maybes" seem to be a huge part of our lives. And, for a control freak like I am - there is no maybe about it. The word drives me nuts.

To function well, I need parameters. I need structure. I need a plan and a direction. I need to know when I am on the right path and when I am going in the wrong direction. I need a firm decision. And, for some reason and right now, I find myself right in the middle of a huge "maybe." Ha! Maybe I'm getting all those "needs" I just listed confused with "wants".

I am still looking for a job. It has been five months. The time has flown by and we have been very blessed. It has been a time of self-awareness, a time of growth and a time of trust. A time of trust in what God has planned for us and a time of trust between Joe and me. From the beginning, Joe and I feel we have been faithful to listen to God's direction and have trusted Him to guide us and to walk with us on this path. And, I have felt peace. I continue to feel peaceful about where we are along this journey and I have no idea where that is. And, I have to be honest. I am tired and frustrated and just a lot frazzled. I think a rest stop would be very welcome.

I believe that God loves us when we pray and open ourselves to Him. I believe that now, more than ever in my life, I have tried to listen well and not throw myself on the floor in a fit of hysterics and shout a litany of all the things I need or want. God's will - My will. It's a constant struggle to give up my will and I know it is necessary - faith, trust, obedience - every moment of every day. I do my best. I just don't know what to do differently to understand where God is leading us - especially, when the answers seem to be vague and out of reach.

In the process of seeking a job, I have been presented with some really great opportunities. I have had interviews with five wonderful companies which have resulted in several call-back interviews with each. On the average, I have interviewed with each company for over six hours. Joe and I have diligently prayed that the right doors be opened and that we would know for certain - without doubt - that these would be the doors where God is directing our steps. We have walked through the door, everything has gone great and then, for whatever reason, we have been put on hold - sometimes perpetually, or so it seems. I have only received two rejection letters from these five companies. I have been diligent in my follow-up with each and, yet, the doors are never FIRMLY shut - they remain open and I have been asked to wait patiently and an answer will be coming soon. I don't understand why the doors are not shut when given the opportunity to do so. The positions have still not been filled. So, we wait and are becoming frustrated.

So, the question:  What does it mean when God says "maybe"? I know that, as the saying goes, delays are not denials. However, I'm perplexed. Joe and I continually pray that God will reveal His will for us and to provide for us. We are anxious to follow where He takes us.

Yesterday, we had a visitor at our church that spoke only Spanish - No English. Come to find out, the young man is from Cuba, is here visiting friends and is a musician. After the service, I was just outside the sanctuary and I could hear this familiar hymn being played beautifully and prayerfully on the piano in the room I just left:
"All to Jesus, I surrender, all to Him, I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all. I surrender all. All to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all."
I immediately turned around and ran back to the sanctuary and just stood there and listened. Of course, tears were running rapids down my face. I couldn't help it. Oh man, Oh man. I was standing there like a parched garden being refreshed with a cool summer rain. Joe was standing beside me, saw my face and just gently squeezed my shoulder. Heart to heart - I think we were in the same place. A rest stop on this journey - a message straight to my soul. I surrender all...Maybe...

... I need to think about what this really means.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Build it and they will come...

Joe and I have lived in our home for seven years. And, for seven years we have been discussing what we would like to do with our yard. We're going to put up a fence, we're going to expand our deck, we're going to expand our patio, we're going to build a cool place for the hammock and for my swing. We're going to landscape and plant a couple of flowering trees and a river birch. And, here we are, seven years down the road, and no closer to finishing any of these projects than when we started the discussion. But, we can dream, can't we? You bet we can. And, we do...

Finally, last year, we decided we needed to do "something" to make our yard more livable, more enjoyable and more "home". So, we planted a few flowers and a few bushes - a mock orange, a red wiegela and a couple of butterfly bushes, lots of cone flowers, some black-eyed Susans and some other "butterfly inviting" plants.

The butterfly bush was a great hit. The gal at the nursery told me that we would have butterflies as soon as I planted the thing in the ground. "They just loooove them," is what she said. And, so it was. Literally, we planted the bush, went into the house, looked out the window and there was a huge monarch butterfly on the bush. That was the beginning of last summer. I haven't seen one since. I think, maybe, it traveled home with us already attached to the plant.

We made a bird and butterfly oasis around our maple tree in the back corner of our lot. We filled it with all kinds of perennials and annuals, a bird bath and a statue of St. Francis. We also filled it with 30 bags of mulch. I can tell you, it takes a lot of mulch to make things look nice.

This year, we have cleaned away all of the winter debris in the oasis and have started anew. We planted a few more perennials, a couple of annuals for color and added a few more bird feeders. It is like the Ryan's Steakhouse Smorgasbord Buffet for birds. We put out the feed; and, in a matter of hours, the place is teeming with folks we have never seen before. So far, we have red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves (interesting, fat birds), goldfinches and other kinds of finches. We have robins, sparrows, a blue jay and a "couple" of cardinals. They eat breakfast and then they eat again around dinnertime. Joe and I sit on our porch and enjoy the view. We have a nice community. They have their place and we have ours and it is nice and comforting to be able to share the same air and share a meal. And, here's the good part, they provide the music.

This year, we have a new visitor. I saw him a few days ago scoping out the joint. As I said, we have lived in our home for seven years. In that time I believe we have hardly ever seen a squirrel in our yard or the neighborhood. Come to find out, this big guy lives in our neighbor's yard - the yard behind us and two doors up -  the only yard with big, established trees - and now, he has discovered the new restaurant in town. Only problem is he likes to eat everything and a lot of it. And, he's messy.

Oh well, I guess we will be enjoying the antics of this beast. I don't have the heart to try and keep him out of the bird's food and they seem to tolerate his presence without any issues. He is probably more persistent than Joe and me; plus, I figure, he is hungry, too. So we will try to share with him, as well. Hank (the crazy doodle) has never seen a squirrel so has no idea what to do with one. His only objective is to try to make friends. He's a good dog. So, everyone is safe.

We love all of this nature around us. The flowers are growing and some are blooming. The trees are filling out and now provide some lovely shade and a cool breeze. The birds and the squirrel are fun to watch and it is gratifying to know that we can help provide food for their needs and they bring such enjoyment to us in exchange. Yes, I love our little oasis and I hope these creatures do, too. As the saying goes..."build it and they will come". It's true and a mystery. We built the thing and they just showed up.

And, this is only the beginning of summer. We have things to look forward to - all of our flowers will be in full bloom soon, the buds on our tomatoes will be turning to big, juicy fruit. The red and green peppers, growing in pots on our porch, are already showing great promise. The herbs will be put to good use. And, maybe - just maybe - we will actually see butterflies on that spectacular butterfly-friendly bush.

Summer - it's the season to break new ground, to plant new seeds, to nurture, to grow, to protect, to spread our wings, to try new things, to relax and to be thankful for the way God provides for us. This year, as I watch our birds, I am reminded again and again that God provides for us in so many ways. And, I remember to be thankful. After all, his eye is on the sparrow...

    1. Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
      Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
      When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
      His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

      • Refrain:
        I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
        For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

      “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
      And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
      Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
      His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
      His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
    2. Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
      When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
      I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
      His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
      His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.