Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Total Loss ...

Jerry and I bought a new (to us) car last summer. We went to numerous car dealerships. Talked over cars, trucks, suv's ... couldn't make up our minds. Mostly because we've made some poor vehicle purchases in the past ... we didn't want to revisit those poor choices. Finally, a good price ... low miles ... good shape ... fit our whole family ... nice size trunk for all the baseball equipment (and suitcases for vacations). We signed the dotted line and drove it home.

Since last summer, we've put a large amount of money into unexpected repairs. I won't list them all ... too many ... too much money. But, there are two specific repairs that have me thinking ...

This winter, a deer decided to play tag with Jerry. The deer didn't make it out of that mess ... Jerry's car came out with nearly $5,000 in damages. Of course our insurance covered it. But ... the waiting ... waiting ... waiting. Jerry drove a rental car for two weeks while the insurance company tried to decide if it was worth repairing or if it should be totaled. They ended up fixing it. We brought it home and agreed ... the body shop had done a great job. The car looked beautiful. It was evident the shop owner took pride in his work.

This past Monday, Jerry called me at work. Someone pulled out of an alley and smashed into the passenger side of his car. Jerry and the other driver were fine, no injuries. But our car ... injured. We both wondered ... will they total it? After he got home from work that evening, we looked over the car. Both doors were beyond repair and would require replacements. Neither of us know a lot about cars, so we couldn't tell if the frame was damaged.

Yesterday, Jerry talked with our insurance company and then took his car to the same body shop for inspection. The mechanic told him it didn't look like the car would be totaled. But ... finding two doors in as good of shape as our originals would be a tough job.But, he wouldn't put doors on our car that didn't 'measure up' to the existing body. He had Jerry bring the car home and said he would call when he found the doors. Could be days, could be weeks. He reassured Jerry that the end result would be worth the wait.

So, we're waiting. And I'm thinking ...

That car keeps taking hits. Keeps crying out for general repairs you would expect from a used vehicle. Keeps going. But, I wonder ... how much more can it take? Maybe we should just park it in the driveway and not risk taking it out on the highway. We need that car to take Jerry from home to work and then back home again. We need it to get the boys to and from sporting events, school, practices.

Sometimes, my heart feels like that car. Have you ever felt that way? Like your heart hurts too much to keep going? Like it would be better to hide it someplace ... find a place where nothing/no one can touch it ... hurt it? This world and all it's imperfections ... it keeps denting my heart.

I keep giving pieces of my heart away. I keep going to the places where I know my heart will be smashed ... dented ... damaged. I don't keep it hidden away. I allow the hurt because I know God can heal it. He takes pride in His craftsmanship. Regardless of the damage, He will never count my heart as a total loss. Repairing the damage may take more time than I like ... but, it's worth the wait. And while I wait, His light will shine through the damaged places and give others a glimpse of what our God can do.

Tonight, my heart is damaged ... for one of my boys. As parents ... we love our children beyond measure. Seeing a hurt coming their way ... well ... it hurts us as much (if not more) than it hurts them. I know all of my boys will have to go through struggles to become the men God has planned for them to be. I just wish ... it didn't have to hurt. Not for them, not for me. I know He can heal any hurt, if I just let Him. So, I will. I will give Him my hurt and give Him my son ... it's hard to imagine, but I know that He loves my children more than I can even conceive. I will do the one thing I know to do ... I will pray.

If your heart is broken, damaged ... take it to the only One who can offer complete healing.

Psalm 91:4 "He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener ...

The drive between our house and Jerry's family is beautiful ... summer, winter ... spring, fall. The road bends around dense groves of trees, vast farm ground and open pastures. Rolling hills take you up and down, carving out a passage through God's country. During the summer, wild flowers poke through tall grass. Large tree branches perch high above the road ... their leaves offering shade.

Over Memorial Day weekend, we took that drive to meet Jerry's family at his sister's house. Like many other trips, we made a game out of who could spot the first deer. This is easier during winter when their stark brown bodies stand out from the white snow covered pastures. In the summer, they fade into the tall grasses, soybeans or corn stalks.There could be large numbers grazing in the open fields or a single one peaking out from the roadside trees. Our boys love watching for them and it keeps the boys busy for the 20 minute drive.

Each of us spotted a few deer. Even one deer standing just off the road, nearly hidden by the shadows cast from trees. As we rounded one of the curves, I noticed a herd of cows grazing ... meandering down the fence line ... enjoying the warm sun and green grass. The field around them and behind them was covered in tall grass, wild flowers and trees. For some reason, they all gathered by the fence. The fence row was lined with a muddy path. The cows sunk deep into the muck and stretched as far as they could ... munching on grass. We stopped (because I wanted to) and watched.

That is so dumb, I thought. I looked at their legs, completely covered in a thick layer of mud ... up to their knees. Dumb. All around them stood long stems of bright green grass ... they could eat those and not end up in such a mess. I'm sure cows don't really care about the appearance but surely it's uncomfortable.

We drove on and I thought ... dumb? I do that exact same thing. I am surrounded by blessings. Yet ... I reach as far as I can ... stretching to try and achieve something ... obtain something. it's not that I don't love the life He has given me ... for some reason it just seems that what someone else has might make me ... more content. I have everything I need all around me. I don't need to have what's on the other side of the fence. I always end up making a mess of things when I try to gain something that really isn't intended for me. I walk back and forth at the fence line, making a huge muddy trench ... starring at what someone else has on the other side, trying to figure out how I can get what they have ... if I stretch far enough maybe I can reach it, pull it back to my side of the fence. I'm sure the farmer who owns those cows has given them plenty of pasture. I'm sure he planned it out, knew exactly what his livestock would need ... gave it to them and cares for their well being. God put me on this side of the fence for a reason. He knows what's best for me, he cares for me and satisfies my every need.

From now on, when we pass that open field and see those cows ... I'll be reminded of how much I have and how much I love what He has given me.

Deuteronomy 5:21 "You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s."

Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

When It Rains ...

I remember a pastor, years ago, giving a sermon about two farmers praying for rain. I'm sure most of you have heard this story ... both farmers desperately needed rain for their fields. Each begged God for rain. But, only one prepared for the rain. Who trusted God more? The farmer who prayed and prepared? Or, the farmer who prayed ... and did nothing? The farmer who prepared for the rain ... trusted God heard his prayer and had faith God would provide.

I grew up in the heart of Indiana ... where corn is "knee high by the Fourth of July." My father owned a family business from 9 to 5 and spent every other hour tending the farm. That meant keeping a watchful eye on the weather beginning in April of every year. Watch, wait. Watch, wait. Plant, wait. Harvest.

The late April evenings were wrapped in the scent of freshly plowed earth. My father would come in well after dark, wash up and pull a warm plate from the oven. He couldn't eat with us during the planting season. So, mom would keep his supper plate warm in the oven. I remember he always smelled of oil and dirt on those nights and aftershave on Sunday mornings. Those smells were a reminder of our livelihood ... smelling the dirt and oil let me and my sister know farming was steady, constant, good. The smell of aftershave on Sunday mornings meant ... you were grounded in Good.

The spring of 2011 has been difficult in the Heartland. Farmers have been watching, watching and watching. Waiting, waiting and waiting. No planting. Near constant rain has flooded fields and pushed out any chance for plowing and planting. Just when the soil starts to dry and farmers bring out their plows ... rain ... and more rain. By this time, you can usually drive down county roads and see rows of green ... if you drive fast enough, the rows blur in what I always thought compared to Mother Nature's skirt. Long steady stripes of green fanned out for acres ... like a skirt. This year, slop. Muddy, messy, depressing ... constant brown, slime. And, fear begins to seep in. Just like the mud in our fields, it seems to take over everything. Our faith in the seasons ... in God's care ... begins to sink into the mud.

On my way home from work each day, I see trucks parked in the ditches beside fields. The farmers are out walking the fields ... waiting ... for no rain. Praying for no rain. Praying for fields dry enough to run a plow and plant crops.

It's in times like these ... we need faith, joy ... laughter. Today, on Facebook, one of my friends posted a video of her husband. Their family lives on a farm and depends on that farm for their livelihood. Rather than sinking into the mud of anxiety ... he went skiing. And ... we all laughed. We needed that laughter. It's good medicine.

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance (or ski) in the rain."
— Vivian Greene

I know Ped and Lindsey are praying for the rain to stop. While they pray ... they trust. Thank you ... Ped and Lindsey!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Elephants, Horses and Peanuts ...

"I messed up, Mama!" Kregg is dramatic. So, there's no telling how serious the 'mess up' is.

"With what?" I stop writing my blog and look over where he sits at the desktop computer. His arms are crossed and his eyebrows are knit into a frustrated line.

"My WebKinz! I messed it all up! I named my new elephant Peanut!" Kregg motions toward the computer screen and pouts.

"Why is that a bad thing?" I don't understand. Elephants eat peanuts, Peanut is a good name ... right?

"Cause Mommy, I named my horse that too!!! I can't have two with the same name!" He's getting really mad.

"Why not?"

"How am I gonna know how to tell 'em apart?" He turns to me ... a sad, hopeless look in his big brown eyes. For Kregg, this is the biggest worry of his day. And, he wants me to 'fix it'. Somehow. The thing is ... you can't change your WebKinz name. Not that I know of anyway. Once you give them a name ... that's it. It's done. Kregg can see a picture of each WebKinz animal. So, really ... he will know by seeing them. Their names are the same but they look entirely different. One is a horse ... the other an Elephant. Big difference, right?

"Kregg, you'll know when you see them. You know the difference between an elephant and a horse ... so, you'll know. And, really ... it's just a name. All that matters is you love your WebKinz You know your horse likes carrots and your elephant likes peanuts. You know what they like to play with and what makes them happy."

To my surprise, it worked. He smiled ... "Yeah, I guess you're right. I kinda like Peanut for a horse and an elephant. Thanks, Mommy."

He went back to his game and me to writing. And ... me to thinking. How many Aine's are there? In America ... not that many. But, in Ireland ... the heritage of my given name ... there are many. At the time of our boys birth, Jerry and I picked names from our family heritage. Deep in roots and meaning. And ...we thought the names were at least somewhat unique. Clay, James and Kregg. By the time Clay went to a sitter so I could return to work ... Clay had become a popular name for little boys. In fact, there were 2 at our sitter. She would call out ... "Clay" and both would answer. Our Clay found this funny. He loved teasing his sitter and laughing at her silly faces when both he and his friend came running to her calls. Clay wasn't at all sad that he shared his name with another boy. Clay knew he was ... ours. Our Clay. Jerry and I would never be confused or struggle to know which one was ours. Because we knew ... him. Everything about him was etched in our hearts from the moment of his creation. There was no confusion, no guessing. Clay loved cheerios, french fries, pancakes and milk. Curling up on the couch with popcorn and hot chocolate while Star Wars Return of the Jedi played on the tv ... could fix any bad day.

Christ knows me in that same way. Regardless of the Aine's in America or Ireland ... HE knows the one that needs Pepsi and caramel bars with salty potato chips on a bad day .... the one who loves a man with brown eyes and a soft smile. The Aine who is much happier sitting on her front porch in worn out jeans and a grubby t-shirt than in a stuffy office with high heels and dress clothes. Christ knows just how much I can take on any given day. He gives me trials and victories ... in just the right balance to help me grow in faith. He is never confused about His children. Each one is special and unique in His eyes.

No matter how the world knows me ... He knows me best. Before I even call His name in praise or need ... He is already on His way to give it ... to the one and only Aine who is uniquely me.

Psalm 139:13-16 "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you. When I was made in secret,And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me,When as yet there were none of them."

In time ...

Meet Hunter (aka - Best Mouser on the Farm). She came to our family 3 years ago and has outlasted every other cat on our farm. I could name lots of reasons for this but mainly it's because ... she's careful and smart. Hunter is quiet (literally ... she barely makes a soft meow) and fairly timid. Not much bothers her. Most of the time, she keeps to herself. Hunter finds her own food (thus her Best Mouser title) and watches everything.

Last week, Hunter was missing more often than present. Even for her occasional bowl of milk just inside the patio doors ... she wasn't there. We all know her well enough to guess the reason ... kittens. Each evening, Jerry and I sat on our deck and quietly watched. Nothing. We started to worry. Hunter is a part of our small family. She was missing and being missed.

Wednesday afternoon, I had reached the limits of my worry (and curiosity). I pulled on my grubby sneakers, grabbed our large flashlight ... and went hunting for Hunter. The last time she crawled into my lap, I had smelled the strong aroma of warm hay. Only one place on the farm smells that sweet ... the hayloft. I climbed the ladder and sat in the entryway to the loft. I listened and waited. The breeze rustling leaves and stirring twine from the hay bales, passing cars and birds chirping ... then the quiet murmur of kittens. I followed the sound and was lead to the very back of the loft. Rectangular bales of hay blocked any close proximity to the sound. As with any litter of kittens before these, Hunter has picked a nest not easily reached. Out of a seeming nowhere, Hunter curled around my legs and walked lazily away from the bales. I know her, she was leading me away from her most prized possession. Hunter loves me. But, she loves her babies more. I patted her head. "Smart girl", I whispered. From that loft, she can survey the entire farm. No other animal can gain entry to Hunter's nest without first going past her.

I went back down the ladder. Jerry met me just beyond the barn. He and our oldest son had tried without success to find Hunter and her secret. I smiled, because ... I am the same as I was in my youth. If there were new kittens on our farm, I would find them. I was the only one patient enough (which is VERY surprising because I am not a patient person). Together, Jerry and I took food up to the loft. I sat on a bale and listened to the murmur as Hunter lapped up every bit of milk. She was starving. We had not seen her for 3 days and it seemed she hadn't left the loft at all during those days. As hungry as Hunter was, she stopped every few seconds and went to a bale at the very top ... peaked down at her secret, looked at me and back at her secret ... then, back again to eat. There was something very peaceful in that loft ... something sacred. I thought of my Savior and how He will go to any length for me. He would go without food or nourishment ... for me. Nothing can come near me without first being allowed by Him.

Sometimes, I feel as though He doesn't see the things that hurt me. If He did notice, wouldn't He stop them ... wouldn't He keep me from that hurt? I think it's 'human nature' to feel and think those things. Not nature in the way God created us but ... in the nature this world has corrupted His creation. I know the answers ... those things that seem too heavy to hold and too hurtful ... those things are molding and shaping me into the person He wants me to be. Knowing this Truth doesn't minimize the pain or trivialize the suffering. Knowing this Truth ... gives me an attainable 'calm in the storm' ... it's hard to find ... but it's there.

Each day, Jerry and I have taken Hunter something to eat. I climb the ladder and leave her treat just far enough inside the loft so as not to worry her. And, each day, she meets me on the ladder ... unwilling to let me go any closer.

Eventually, Hunter will let me come near and see what she has hidden. But, for now ... Hunter knows her babies need rest, nourishment and ... protection. For now, they need to be left in the care of the one who loves them most. When our family meets the new additions, it will be in Hunter's timing ... not ours. They'll be afraid at first ... unsure of something so much bigger than they are ... but, in time they will learn to trust us. And, I will wait because her timing (just like Christ's) is perfect.

James 1:2 - 3 "Consider all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance."

Psalm 91:4 He shall cover you with His feathers,And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Extra Out ...

A group of neighborhood kids gathered in an open lot. Everyone came to play 'kick ball'. Everyone ... including the girl with perfect imperfections. Not all children would welcome a child touched with special needs ... but this group ... did. Teams were picked ... the little girl was always chosen ... never left out. The team she landed on was allowed an extra out. No one complained. No one made a fuss. They wanted her to be a part of the game.

As I listened to my friend's recount of this childhood memory, tears clogged my throat and perched on my eyelids. This friend and I, we share a special similarity in life. I have a niece with special needs and she ... a sister with special needs. We both know the cruelty this world can deliver. We also know the measure of someones acceptance.

She went on to say that she sometimes runs into one of those neighborhood kids. They're all adults now. She sees them, smiles, calls them by name ... and remembers.

Those kids accepted her sister with all the differences. They allowed an extra out for her. Anything she couldn't do ... didn't matter to them ... didn't change the girl who was their friend.

After we talked, I went back to my office and ... sat there. I couldn't stop thinking about those kids and the acceptance they gave ... freely.

I don't know any of those kids (now adults). I've never met them. But ... I'm thankful for their quiet witness. On an open lot, in the middle of a neighborhood, playing a game of 'kick ball' ... they made a choice that has ministered to my heart ... years later.

We all have differences. Things that somehow hold us back from the ability to do what comes so easily for others. Imagine the acceptance we could give if ... we allow each other an 'extra out'. Make it so the things we (or others) can't do ... don't matter. At the end of the game, all that would matter is ... we were there.

"Sometimes things are allowed to happen so that the quiet power of our Lord to arrange and rearrange events according to His purpose may be shown." Amy Carmichael - Spirit Filled Woman's Devotional Bible

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cheerios and Shrek

When do you feel accepted ... just the way you are?

With family and friends .... ?

In a room of strangers .... ?

Most people would say ... family and friends.

Our middle boy, James, found out a total stranger can make you feel accepted .... just the way you are ... no conditions.

A few weeks ago, our family attended a carry-in at our new pastor's home. A group of church members flocked into his home with cold meat sandwiches, chocolate pie, cherry delight, soup ... ready for food and fellowship.

The kitchen was filled with the aroma of home cooked food. And, smiles.

The thing is ... James is a picky eater. Jerry and I have (and are continuing) to work on this issue. Nothing set out was on his ... "I eat that" list. I talked to him before we walked into the house. I explained the situation to him and that he would be polite. He would find something to eat from whatever was provided. No arguing or complaining.

Everything was going great. Until ... it was time to fill our plates. James followed Jerry and me into the kitchen, holding a plate ... nervous look on his face. He went back to the table ... nothing on his plate.

In that moment, any number of things could have happened. But, the one thing I never saw coming ... happened.

Our pastor's wife brought James a bowl of Cheerios. After the meal, she put in a dvd (Shrek) and talked to my little boys. She laughed with them, sang silly Shrek songs with them ... made them feel welcome.

No one said anything about James 'diet' or ... anything. James was ... James ... and that was perfectly fine with everyone. Especially, Susie.

What no one in that room knew was ... James has not felt accepted in a lot of places. He's unsure of himself.

That day, he felt total acceptance. Unconditional. Unreserved.

That day, I learned a small act can mean so much.

A bowl of Cheerios and Shrek ... things some kids would take for granted ... made my James feel good about himself.

Each day, I want to live my life in a way that shows others ... they are loved. Just the way they are. There is a God who loves them unconditionally ... without reservations.

Thank you ... Susie. You have no idea how much your act of kindness meant to me.

John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

While the Cameras Are Rolling ...

I've been watching Celebrity Apprentice.

I don't usually enjoy reality shows. But ... this one is different. Watching people I've seen in movies, concerts, CMA's, sitcoms ... behind the script. I get to watch them interact on a personal level.

It's interesting.

This season, the men's team includes (among others) ... John Rich, Meatloaf and Gary Busey.

On each episode, the friction between Meatloaf and Gary has mushroomed. Last night, that friction exploded.

The team was given the task of creating art pieces for a fundraiser. Each celebrity needed to create a piece to be sold at the designated gallery. John Rich was assigned as the 'project manager' ... he was to lead his team. At the onset of the project, the men headed straight for the craft store. Each one picked up their own supplies. Camera crews followed them through the store and 'listened in' on conversations. Meatloaf found fault in everything Gary said or did. He repeated his frustrations to other team members. All the while, cameras caught each interaction.

Somewhere in the middle of the craft store and the art studio, Gary managed to ignite Meatloaf's temper. By the time everyone arrived at the studio and began setting up to create their pieces, Meatloaf was convinced Gary had taken his art supplies. He looked over at Gary's table and was certain the spray paint, sponges and brushes were all things he (not Gary) had purchased. Immediately, Meatloaf exploded into obscenities and name calling. Hateful words came spilling out of his mouth. He 'stalked' around the studio pointing fingers ... his face red with anger.

Gary stood still. Other team members tried to stop Meatloaf ... but, he kept on ranting. John Rich calmly told the guys to remember why they were doing this fundraiser ... for charity. Each celeb picks a charity and all money raised during the task goes to the project managers charity. John was raising funds for St. Jude. John took Gary out into the hall ... in an attempt to separate the two guys.

In the middle of this, John spied a bag sitting just out of immediate view. Meatloaf's supplies were all there ... no thieving by Gary.


I could not believe he acted that way ... he KNEW cameras were watching all of them.

Would I behave any differently if cameras watched my every move ... listened to every conversation?

In reality, I should always behave my best. Because ... God is watching. I'm human. I screw up. Sometimes I need Him to stop me ... remind me ... I'm here for a purpose. There's a bigger picture.

Meatloaf apologized. But ... his words and actions are forever recorded ... they can be played again (and again) for everyone to see. I'm thankful for a God who forgives and ... erases. He paid the ultimate price to take all my sins and wipe them from existence.

Psalm 139:23 "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I remember taking this picture of our youngest boys. It was two summers ago. Jerry and I sat on the shore with our oldest son. I watched as the boys waded out into the water, holding onto each other ... alone.

"I don't think we should let them go out there alone." I know my eyebrows were knit in anxiety."One of us should go with them."

"They're fine." I remember Jerry sighed.

"Sure, right now they are. But what if there's a drop off and they fall?" I'm sure I gave him that look. The one that says ... I know I'm right. "There might be a current out there and they could get swept off their feet! That water is muddy! They can't even see where they're going."

"I've already been out in the water. There isn't a drop off. There isn't a current. THEY are fine." Jerry gave me the look of ... conversation over. Let them go.

Today, I feel like I am walking out into muddy water. Not knowing if there are 'drop offs' just beyond my next step. Last week, Jerry got word of another round of layoffs. The first layoff started in February of 2009 and lasted until July 2010. That's a long time without the 'bread winners' income. During that year and a half, I felt like we were drowning. But, we made it.

I know what some of you are thinking ... 'he had unemployment to fall back on.' And, that's true. We were VERY thankful for that help. But, it was much less than his usual pay. On top of that, subtract the insurance benefits from my paychecks and we were facing nearly $2,000 in reduction of monthly income. The next layoff went from July 2010 to November 2010. We feared a long layoff ... just like the one before. But, surprisingly, the company called a group back right before Christmas. Jerry has worked since that time ... with steady income.

Last month, I sat down and wrote out our budget. That was the first time in nearly two years that I have been able to budget, pay bills on time ... put a little back in savings. Plan ahead. It felt good. It felt certain.

Last week, on the way home from work, Jerry called to tell me about his day. The 'ups and downs'.

Half way through the work day, he had been approached by a union steward. He knew what was coming. Layoff. Again. But ... the union steward said ... "You're safe. You're not cut. You get to keep working." Jerry felt relief. Yet some guilt over the men and women who were being cut.

Close to the end of the day ... another approach from the union steward. "Sorry man, there was a miscommunication. You're cut."

As Jerry gave words to his emotions ... I felt like screaming. There goes our budget, there goes that small savings we were gaining ... there goes our certainty, our security.

It felt like I was being pushed out into an ocean of muddy water. I couldn't see what was ahead of us. I couldn't be sure where our feet would land ... would there be massive 'drop offs' ...

Just as quickly as those fears came ... the memory of that summer washed over me ... Jerry's words came quickly ... "I've already been out there." And, as I pushed the fears aside ... along with a few tears ... I realized, God has already been there.

Nothing can touch us that has not already passed through His hands.

HE knows how deep the water is and where the 'drop offs' are ... if there is a massive current ... He knows and will protect us. I'm not sure how long this layoff will last. I don't know what will happen to that budget from last month.

But, I do know this ... He knows. He already has a plan.

Matthew 7:11 "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

Matthew 6:25-30 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Change ...

His hand. The one I have held for nearly 20 years. I reached for each it ... for security ... to calm my pounding heart. Jerry and I ... our 3 boys ... we stood during worship at an unfamiliar place ... a different church. Doing something I somehow knew was going to happen but had managed to avoid for ... well ... too long. We were visiting a different church.

Change ...

It's not something I run after, desire ... enjoy. I'm a 'constant' kind of gal. I like things just the way they are and no 'rocking the boat' please. Anyone who knows me will tell you right away, I don't handle change gracefully. I fight it ... kicking ... screaming ... crying ... all the way.

Why? I could run off a list of reasons but for now I'll leave it at this ... Change means leaving the known and venturing out into the unknown. For me, that means ... leaving security. I have always been insecure. Thus, the screaming and crying when I am forced to leave security.

Now that you know that and I've let you in on a rather large flaw in my character, you'll be better able to understand why the last six weeks have been difficult for me ... my family. We've been 'visiting' a different church.

Seven weeks ago, Jerry and I had the longest, most spiritual discussion of our marriage (17 years). We shared a common desire to see changes in our boys (and in us). Was it church? A 'stand still' in spiritual growth? Not that we blamed or found fault in our long attended church or the people we love within the walls of that space ... there was just something moving us in a different direction. I believe ... sometimes God puts a disquiet in our hearts ... our spirits, so that we will be motivated to do something. Something He knows will bring us farther in our walk with Him ... closer to Him.
This choice wasn't made quickly ... it was not easy. I fought this change for months. I asked God for something else, something besides ... change. Each time I prayed, the answer was the same ... move ... change.

Seven weeks ... nearly two months ... I could say I feel lonely or separated but that would be a lie. I feel anything but those things. Somehow during this time of growth, I've learned to trust. I have realized my fear of change is really a lack of trust. And, I have been leaning on God's strength to get me through change. He's given me an incredible peace. I'm not sure where my family will land but I know He will be there waiting for us. As long as we trust Him and His guidance, He'll get us through. And ... right now, I am loving the people in this new space. They have welcomed our family of five without any reservations. I am left with a feeling that drowns all my insecurities.

Six weeks after that first Sunday ... I don't reach for Jerry's hand out of insecurity. There's no pounding in my heart associated with fear of the unknown. I reach for it because ... it feels right. This place ... feels right.

Daniel 2:21 "He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Who I Please ...

"Just do your best, James."
"I am, Mom. Cursive is really hard." A sigh of frustration.
"I know, but you can do it. I know you can." I look at him over the list of spelling words.

"Mom, I try really hard and she says she still can't read it!" Absolute frustration.

"James, today ... don't worry about pleasing the teacher. Think about doing your best and making me and Daddy proud. We are always proud of you as long as you're doing your best." I rough his dark brown hair and we move on with the next word.

James leans over the half full piece of writing paper, eyes focused on each letter working together for the end result of ... Missouri - in cursive.

Today is a spelling test for James. Each week, every Wednesday ... spelling test. He's improved so much in the past month. We start on Monday ... first recognizing the words, next printing the words, then ... cursive. James puts effort into each word, each test. My husband and I put effort into working with James, helping him as much as we can ... and ... it's never quite good enough. Not for his teacher. No matter the improvement, there are always negative remarks on James papers. And, he gets discouraged.

I give him the next word - mislead ... and I think ... This year is a learning experience for James. More than just academics, James is learning ... he can't please everyone ... every teacher ... every classmate. As hard as it is to watch him hurt ... watch him frustrated ... I know God will use this time in his 8 year old life to teach him valuable lessons.

And, God is using this time in James life to teach me ... to remind me ...

I do this ... every day. I get so wrapped up in pleasing other people ... I forget ... I'm supposed to be pleasing God. If I try to please people ... I fail. I know FROM EXPERIENCE. Every day ... I try to please my supervisor, my co-workers ... everyone from close friends to mere acquaintances.

Today, I am reminded ... I serve God with my works. As long as I am abiding in His word, abiding in Him ... living out the word living in me ... He is pleased with my best.

And ... THAT is what matters most.

Who are you pleasing today? Are you discouraged?
1st Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I stood at my patio window ... watching. A team of men, all working around the tree in my front yard. Our driveway was full of trucks, equipment and a tree service crew. What I wanted so much to avoid, was unavoidable. The tree damaged during a storm last summer ... had to come down.

Three weeks ago, a representative from the tree service stopped at our home and talked with us about the potential hazard of keeping the tree up. The one good branch left was hanging over power lines. If it were to split during another storm, it would fall directly onto the lines ... cutting off power to an entire town south of our home. Reluctantly, I signed the consent ... sometime during the next few weeks, they would cut and remove the tree.

Yesterday, I stayed home with one of our boys ... sick. Shortly after 9:00, I heard trucks growling and men yelling. One of the workers came to my front door, let me know of their plans and said ... "we'll have to climb this tree, there's no other way to bring it down." He didn't seem frustrated, just ... challenged.

Interested, I watched. Orange cones, large warning signs, loud grumblings from the wood chipper ... and then ... the smallest man among them came forward geared with ropes, links, clips and chain saw.

My tree towered over this man ... small in stature. He seemed lost in all the garb. I immediately thought of David ... among all the army, he was the smallest. Yet, he fearlessly ... faithfully ... approached Goliath. David had saved his father's flock from lions and bears. Each day, he cared for his father's livestock and faced different challenges.

For this worker, each tree is different. Each day, a new obstacle to overcome. He uses the equipment provided by his employer to take down the impending danger. Not once did I see him stall ... not once did he seem unsure. Completely on faith, he maneuvered up the tree, clipping ropes and links ... wrapping ropes and clipping again ... safety harnesses in place. Each time a branch was free and prepared to fall ... he would yell to his co-workers to be sure they were out of harms way ... then down it came with a thunder.

Again, he seemed as David. With all surety, David approached Goliath using only the sling and stones provided from his experience.

The rest of team scurried around gathering twigs and hauling to the wood chipper. A loud grumbling and evidence of the mess ... was gone. Everyone on the team had a job and they did it well ... Again, I thought of David and how each member of Saul's army played a key role in bringing down Goliath and bringing glory to God.

Today as you face trials of your own, remember how God equipped David with the tools he needed to pave the way for his destiny. Today, walk on faith ... fearless as you face each challenge. Trust the One who empowers the smallest in stature. Don't doubt your value in God's perfect plan.

1 Samuel 17 - "David and Goliath"

Saturday, February 26, 2011

An Hour ...

It's evening. Supper is done. Dishwasher hissing as it works away the evidence of a meal. Curled up beside me on the couch ... no tv ... no radio or game systems ... just me and James ... and ... a book. He squints his eyes. Thick dark lashes over chocolate brown eyes (just like his Daddy). James picks at the words. Some are easy, others difficult. I sound out the tough words. He repeats them and gains excitement with each sentence. Together, we're discovering the world of knights and castles.

I press my cheek against his mass of brown hair and I listen. James has reached chapter 7 ... Armor. "Armor was heavy ... hot ... hard to put on ... hard to take off. But, it was the best protection a knight could have when he went into battle." This book describes each piece of armor in detail ... what it was for ... how it was made ... why it was important. At the end of the chapter, two pages covered with pictures of a knight in armor and his horse. James reads the caption above the knight's picture ... "it could take over an hour for a knight to get dressed."

Every sentence, every word after that ... blurred. I was stuck on the idea of a knight spending an entire hour putting on his armor. Each piece somehow fit together with the other pieces to create an impenetrable exterior. An hour ... dressing to go into battle. That didn't include the years training to become a knight. That hour was just the armor.

James lets out a frustrated sigh. Lost in my thoughts, I missed his need for help with an unfamiliar word. "Heraldry" I sound it out slowly. He turns back to the book and I turn back to that hour ... James story reminded me of God's armor. In Ephesians 6, we are called to put on the full armor of God.

"10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. "

As Christians, our time spent with God and spent in His word is like the knight dressing for battle. An hour. If a knight spent that amount of time dressing for battle, surely I should spend the same (if not more) preparing ... dressing for my daily battle against the things of this world. But, sometimes ... I don't. I let my busy schedule, my crazy mornings ... get in the way of my time in The Word. Some mornings, I hurry through my daily devotional ... not letting the words soak into my heart. I don't take time to put on the armor He provides. I race around stuffing lunches into totes, folders into back packs, double checking pockets for toys ... another cup of coffee and 5 minutes of local news.

Today, I'm still thinking about that one sentence. I'm working on my schedule. My morning routines. I'm trying to find a way for more time in His word and less time racing. I'm not sure I'll ever find an hour to spend in His word each morning. I hope I find that hour. But, I know I need more than I have right now.
How much time do you spend preparing for battle?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

She Dances

Tomorrow, they'll wheel her down a narrow hallway. Doctors and nurses will take her to place her parents can't follow ... surgery. She'll disappear into an ocean of white sheets and heart monitors. My sister and her husband will watch the hospital cart vanish ... along with a piece of their hearts ... their little girl, Hope.

If you've hung around my blog enough, you know I have 5 amazing kids in my life. My three boys and my 2 girls (my nieces). The youngest of my nieces, Hope, was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome (TCS). Over the past year, she has gone through multiple surgeries to gain her desire ... ears. Tomorrow is another step toward 'cute ears' as she puts it. The process is painful. This time, she's scared ... more than on other surgery days. She's prepared for the pain ... but ... leaving mommy and daddy ... she's afraid of that this time. She'll get through, she always does. Mary (my sister) and her husband will get through it. They always do. Hope's older sister, Alex ... she'll get through ... she always does. Sometimes, I think ... I forget her ... Alex.

And, her courage. She does what many of us couldn't do as adults. Alex will spend the day away from her parents and sister. Alex will go to school ... she'll stay there all day ... trying to pretend her world isn't several hours away. Pretending that things are normal and ... she'll worry. She'll wait for the call ... my sister calls the school and leaves a message ... just so Alex knows everything is ok and sis is done in surgery.

Alex is an amazing girl. She's rapidly approaching the teens ... holding on to childhood with one hand but stretching to reach the independence of a teenager with the other. She's quiet (when she doesn't know you well). She's all bright colors, red hair and blue eyes. And, she dances.

Since the day Alex could toddle around, she has been dancing. It's her passion. Out there on the stage, caught up in a song full of emotion ... she tells her story with fluid motion. She's an artist painting a picture on the stage. All her fears, excitement and dreams ... Alex pours them out like brushstrokes on canvas. And ... I admire her. Her courage.

Alex and I ... we have something in common. Tomorrow, we'll each be separate from our sisters. I'll be at work ... waiting for the call that says ... Mary is ok. Alex will be at school ... waiting for the call that says ... Hope is ok.
Only ... I wish I had half her courage. Her strength.
Is there a child in your life ... one you admire? Tell them. Let them know ... you see them ... you see their courage and strength.

1 Corinthians 16:13 "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On the Outside ...

This past summer I blogged about a storm our house fell victim to ... suffering some nasty damage. After that storm, we went through a battle with our insurance company. The battle ... me wanting the best coverage on my investment and the insurance company paying as little as possible.
After the insurance battle, my husband and I spent a month pricing materials and labor and ... everything. We made the decision to do the labor ourselves ... save money. Jerry's brother-in-law spent nearly every weekend this summer helping us re-side our home (shout out to him, our blessing). Jerry, our oldest son, my dad (thank you, dad for your constant willingness to help) and I spent every weekend tearing off our old deck and building the new deck.
Jerry and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into ... we have never been the "handy man" types. But ... we learned. Jerry took on the challenge and worked hard. It was difficult, frustrating ... we would snap at each other in aggravation and then apologize later ... knowing it was out of confusion, weakness.
Evenings after work, we tried to keep up with the normal summer activities ... mowing the lawn, planting the trees we purchased earlier in the summer, baseball games, trips to and from Menards and Lowes for building materials. Each night, we fell into our bed ... totally drained from the work. Busy, exhausting ... worth it.
At the end of summer, our home looked beautiful. Our hard work paid off ... sitting on our deck, enjoying the late summer evenings ... priceless. Then ... fall came swooping in with cool nights and we were forced inside.
That's when I noticed it ... the inside ... the neglected inside. While we were busy working on the storm damage, I avoided my normal summer cleaning ... ceiling fans, windows, storm doors, closets ... all these things I usually do during the summer. The warmer months for me are a time to open all the windows, let in the fresh breeze ... empty closets and separate keep from don't keep, fresh coat of paint where needed, windows scrubbed and shiny ...
This summer, I didn't do ANY of those things. And, it was waiting for me when I came inside from my summer long storm repair. I was frustrated. That's how I am. I do not like clutter, dirt, dust ... cobwebs ... stuff. When it's there, I get anxious.
Since the fall, I have been spending weekends catching up ... and, I have spent time thinking about how this relates to my spiritual life. All too often in today's society, we invest hours in our outward appearance. Later we find a mess on the inside. While we've been busy making our outward self beautiful and acceptable by the "World's" standards, our inward self has become unacceptable by our Father's standards.
I've done this. Too often. I work in an environment where appearance is important. I make sure my hair is fixed, make up on, clothes pressed and in good taste. Acceptable. I use the excuse that my employer deems it important (and, it is) ... but, I spend more time in that pursuit than in the pursuit of inward beauty.

Years ago, I found this passage ...1st Peter 3:3-4 "Do not let your adornment be merely outward - arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel - rather let it be the hidden person of the heart with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." And, it came to mind as I cleaned out my youngest son's closet.

I'm on a mission, repair the storm damage on the inside. Dive into the Word. Ask Him what needs repair and be prepared to spend hours on that repair. I won't know what I'm doing half the time. I'll learn things about myself I didn't know before. I'll come away from the repairs with new found knowledge. It's busy, exhausting ... worth it.