"Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My 'Shaken Up" Christmas Peace

OK. I admit it. I have been listening to and singing Christmas music since July. I decorated my home as soon as Thanksgiving passed.  I've had the majority of my presents bought for ages, and I bought my personalized gifts and had them delivered long before I needed to. Yes. I love Christmas. I love almost everything about it. Honestly though, I have never cared for Santa, but I'll admit it, he does play a large part in everyone else's Christmas, so I tolerate him.

Nonetheless, Christmas has been in full swing in our household for quite some time now.   Yes, our church Christmas dinner theater, "Scrooged," not only rocked, but it officially welcomed in the season. We topped that off with the "TobyMac Hits Deep Tour" at the Huntington Center downtown--all twinkly and ending with Christmas carols; we delivered cookies and presents, planned more festivities and planned our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day events, wrapped all of our gifts, and loved gawking at everyone's lights.

Then....suddenly something unexpected happened. I felt my existence shaken, and I was left emotionally fragile. Something near and dear to my heart dramatically changed, and without warning, I was in a completely different state of mind. Tears became the norm, and I so wanted to cancel Christmas.  A part of me still does.

Tears are still the norm, and they probably will be for awhile. I am struggling to regain my Christmas peace. I am having difficulty focusing on the Redemption that Christmas provides. On the Child that wasn't wrapped in bright, shiny paper but instead was wrapped in swaddling clothes.  On the fact that unto me was born a Savior who is Christ the Lord. The Messiah, Deliverer. Our Peace and our Joy.

As I have been spending a lot of time in prayer the past few days, the Lord is reminding me that He came all wrapped in love, adorned with the ribbons of mercy and grace, and that He IS the ultimate gift. Yup. When life is dealing me some major blows, I still have the ultimate Gift. I've always known this, but sometimes I need to be reminded. When I decide to focus on my sorrows instead of my blessings, God has a way of gently reminding me. When the walls seem to be tumbling down, and I seem to be totally falling apart, He gently sends sweet texts of, "I love you," from my children. He wraps me in His arms and whispers His words of peace and comfort. "Fear not, I am with you."

My life circumstances may or may not change, but God's love for me never will. I may have lost my bestest friend, but God will never leave me. I may not see my family much this season, but God sees me, holds me and keeps me company when I am lonely and alone. Lately, I have felt like an alien on this planet, and the Lord continues to remind me that this world is not my home. This is not where I belong.  And.....he gives me peace.....that unshakable peace.......of knowing that He cares.  He's redeemed this world.....He knows my joys and sorrows and rejoices and suffers with me.....And I long for my true home.

"Sometimes it feels like I'm watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I'm breathing but am I alive
I won't keep searching for answers that aren't here to find

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I'm lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me.

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

When the earth shakes I wanna be found in You
When the lights fade I wanna be found in You

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

And this is what I MUST focus on.

May each and every one of you experience that peace that Jesus came to offer. That redemption and grace that He freely gives, and the love of friends and family this Christmas.  Blessings to each and everyone.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Is 50 the New 35?

Is 50 really just a number?
As I turned 50 years old last week, I ponder, “Is fifty really just a number?” To understand the number enough to be able to answer the question, I realize, fifty is a really, really common number in today’s society. I mean,

•50 Shades of Grey
•50 United States of America
•50 stars on the American flag
•The Atomic number of Tin (and who doesn’t love tin?)
•The number of years in a Jubilee Period
•Golden Wedding Anniversary (maybe one day, I’ll experience that—doubt it tho)
•Labatt’s beer 50 ale (I don’t drink beer)
•The 5th magic number in nuclear physics (for my scientists, Bethany and Jonathan)
•The 25th even number
•The number of chapters in the Book of Genesis (now, that I can wrap my head around)
•The 50th word in the Bible is, ‘light.’
•The number of the Joy and the Feast according to the Bible
•The 50th day of the year is February 19 (my sister, Debbie’s birthday)
•Pentecost is celebrated by the Jews 50 days after Passover
•It is used 77 times in the Bible
•The word, ‘soldier,’ is used 50 times in the Bible

I relay all this just to say that reaching 50 years old is not an insignificant milestone in my life. In fact, it is one denied many, and I am truly grateful that I have lived to see the day:

•I am finally comfortable in my own shoes, do not really care what others think of me, and realize life is all about relationships. Period.
•My eldest has just turned 21 years, my middle daughter, 19 and my youngest, nearly 17 years old.
•My homeschooling years are complete, high school years are nearly complete, and I am in the full swing of the college years.
•Crisis are temporary, constant and normal. Life does go on.
•Never take my good health for granted. Again, it’s a privilege denied many.

Does this mean that I enjoy turning 50 years old? Of course. You bet! I have earned every wrinkle and crease that my face has to offer. I have earned the right to look at someone and tell them the complete truth, without backing down. (Kindly, of course.) I have earned the right to state my opinion, without feeling ‘less than,’ to say ‘no,’ to attending events I don’t want to attend, to give advice on God, love, religion and politics. To live vicariously through my children. To love, love, love dating. To not be afraid to express what I want and demand in a guy (faithfulness and kindness—that’s about it). To not settle for anything less than what the Lord wants for me. To exude unconditional love and to walk away from those who don’t.

I love getting older and the wisdom that it brings. As the majority of my friends are turning 49, 50 and/or 51 this year, my prayer for them as that they, too, enjoy their golden years. After all, isn’t 50 years old the new 35?  (Only without the little kids?)  That’s my secret prayer, too!

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Letter to My 15 Year Old Self

I was recently challenged, by another blogger, to write a letter to my younger self. And anyone who knows anything about me, knows that I welcome most any challenge. Goodness, I just drove a race car for the first time this weekend. Not once—but FOUR times. Yessirreee. And I didn’t even know how to drive a stick shift prior to this weekend. So, yes, bring on the challenge, baby!

I decided to write a letter to my fifteen year old self. I contemplated writing to my 18 year old self, but then I thought that my fifteen year old self was a bit needier and would have totally appreciated this letter three years earlier than my eighteen year old self would have. lol
                                                                                                                  To my 15 year old self:

I'm wearing the red bandana

There you are, all beautiful and thin, but thinking that you are ugly and fat. All quiet and reserved, yet loud and squirmy inside. All shy and fearful of your biggest enemy—YOU! There will be other people that don’t accept you for who you are, and you will spend years trying to please everyone and to get everyone to like you. You will fail miserably. Let me tell you right now, life gets better, and you are perfect just the way God made you. The pain you feel right now, in high school, will pass, and God will take you on an incredible life journey that you will ultimately love.

Those haters in high school, that you are constantly taunted by, will not even be remotely in your life in a few years. Even though the scars they inflict will last awhile, ultimately, these high school years will be a distant memory. Believe it or not, you will eventually ‘friend’ a lot of these ‘haters’ on a social networking site (yes, something called, ‘the world wide web,’ is coming soon). They will have turned to Christianity and will actually become decent human beings. Yes, God does have a sense of humor and a purpose for all things. Romans 8:28, will become your life verse and you will live it out daily.

Don’t let academia ruin you for life. Life is not all about school and education. It is all about relationships and family. Academics will help you provide financially, but that is all. You will succeed tremendously in high school, in college and in your career, but your greatest success will be your children, their love for you and their love for God. So, concentrate on your relationship with the Lord, your family and your true friends. God will bless you in ways that you won’t even be able to fathom because of this.

Your love of all things crafty, creative and musical, for sewing and making things, For animals. For the unborn. Playing piano, singing, and singing some more. All that stuff will be cool one day, and that singing thing, that will help you throughout your entire life. Don’t worry about not being athletic or being able to follow the rules of football. You will never, ever need those skills again. Football was invented to merely test your patience with men. You will pass with flying colors, and patience will be one of your strongest virtues later in life.

That small youth group that you had to attend in the basement of a church—where virtually no one else ever attended. That was a trial, and God used it to refine you. Those teen relationships that you have been trying so hard to maintain, will be totally insignificant in just a few years. Your denominational affiliation, don’t take it too hard. You’ll soon be a Pentecostal, with the gifts of the Spirit accompanying and leading you throughout your life. The Holy Spirit will become your Rock and Foundation for the remainder of your years.

Don’t be discouraged for not dating during high school. As crazy as it sounds, you will be happy that you didn’t date during these years. You will truly appreciate the boys you finally do date. You will date someone throughout your entire college years, and no, he will not become your mate. So, please, for the love of God, don’t even start dating him. Yes, he will help you come out of your shell, but you will also be forced to learn some difficult life lessons. One being, having a broken heart will become commonplace in your life. You’ll learn that you must love your future mother in law and your future husband’s family, because this young man’s family doesn’t love you or respect you. Spoiler: your future in-laws will adore you, and you will adore them, too!

Remember, no matter how much you love a boy, never fall for a boy that is not yet a man. Rather, fall for a man that still has a boy inside of him. One who loves the Lord with all of his heart and soul. One whose soul treasures your soul.

The biggest thing you wanna know about.? Yes, you will get married and yes, you will have children. Two daughters and a son. You will be a wonderful wife and mother. Your marriage will not work out, but your children will. At 25 years old, you will meet a young lady, Chastity, that will totally transform your life. She, only 15 years old herself, will teach your things about yourself that you never knew. She will encourage your mothering skills, spark a yearning to homeschool your future children, and become a mentor to your daughters. You will eventually mentor her, and she will lead you on a journey into teaching Missionettes for many, many years. Ah….there’s a clue as to where your newfound Pentecostal roots begin to take place.

Insecurity and fear. Those will be your biggest downfalls. You will have a ton of success, by the world’s standards, but insecurity and fear will haunt you for years. The mistakes that you will make because of these are exactly the ones that God will use in ways you cannot imagine. You will rarely feel as though your outside matches your inside. You have been, and always will be, ultra conservative. For all that is good, take some risks. You will travel for a living. You will see places and meet people that others only read about. Enjoy this time in your life. Take risks. Dive deep in and take pictures. Your future self wants to have some positive memories.

Those journals that you are always writing in, stop burning them on New Years Eve and save them for your children to read. They are priceless. They will become the prelude to your success as a writer of many books.

Your love of animals will be maintained and strengthened throughout your life. You will always own a variety of animals—mostly dogs, although your children will ensure you also own virtually every domestic animal on the planet. Your love of animals will eventually cause your eldest daughter to want to pursue becoming a veterinarian.

Celebrate your upbringing and the scarcity that it brings to your life. Tough economic times will be on your horizon, but you will never struggle financially. Your resourcefulness, combined with your commitment to tithing, will afford you even greater things in life. You’ll be able to teach your children, by example, that resourcefulness and frugality 'rock' and are ‘cool.’ You’ll be able to show them that in order to enjoy who God created you to be, you may need to quit a 6 figure income to homeschool and shovel driveways for a living. But best of all, you will be thrilled to throw those 6 figures away to be able to spend time with your greatest blessings
I’m excited to tell you that God will not only heal you emotionally, but he will heal you spiritually. He will bless you with the gifts of prophecy and tongues, and you will use them daily as a crutch. He will not only heal you of insecurity and fear, but He will heal you of cancer. Yup. The big “C.” Your faith will be so strong, that you wouldn’t have accepted it any other way. God will do beyond the imaginable in your life—practically on a daily basis, and you will recognize His miracles and they will strengthen your resolve to help others.

Your compassion for the unborn will lead you into the political arena. Yes, you are going to go there where most people wouldn’t ever venture. You will ultimately open a crisis pregnancy center, befriend many young ladies, save many children from abortion, and eventually have a teen-mentoring ministry. Some of the children that you save will become your friends later in life. They will become advocates for life and will carry your mantle in the pro-life arena. God will bless you for your political “un-correctness.”

Dear 15 year old self, think big, dream even bigger. When someone says you can’t, say that you know, that with God, you can and you will. The world will try and break you, and at times, it may feel as though they have, but they won’t. Your best girlfriend(s) and boyfriend(s) will desert you, but you will always have the Lord—right beside you, guiding you into your next adventure. You will enjoy your children’s teenage years because you will simultaneously be experiencing a lot of what they are. That will be fun.

Oh yes, continue to honor your parents. You will not regret it. Your children will honor you because of it. And that my dear, is worth every, “yes, sir,” that you could possibly ever utter.

A few random words: You will always be skinny and tall, always have the joy of the Lord, always sing and dance, and have a type ‘a’personality. Soon, you will begin to break out of your shell, of which you will never return. You will begin to see life in a new light. People will come to you for advice for the rest of your life, and although you will not always feel qualified to answer them, you will be more than qualified. You will land your career job directly out of college and travel extensively. Treasure that time, as it will pass quickly. You will become independent during this time. You will learn true loneliness, and will treasure family more than you ever have.

I love you, 15 year old self. You are totally awesome! You rock! You march to the beat of your own drum, and you will have two daughters and a son JUST LIKE YOU!

Love, your older 49 year old self

Friday, August 17, 2012

Time Waits for No One

Do you ever get that feeling that life is passing you by? That feeling that says, “Whoa! I can’t be THAT old!” Or “What? I have TWO kids in college? No way!”  One thing I have learned is to embrace each moment and try to live each day to its fullest.  Unfortunately, however, humanity and frailties step in and I have to remind myself to do those things.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow; for babies grow up, much to our sorrow. So quiet  down cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep. I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.” How true that is.  As my youngest drove off to begin his 3rd year of high school this week, and my eldest and middle daughters will begin their 2nd and 3rd years at the University next week, I am reflecting on just  how prophetic that saying is. 

As I am speaking with my niece, Autumn, about her newborn, Taeven’s,  vaccinations, I am reminded that it wasn’t that long ago, that I was Autumn, and Taeven was my daughter, Joy. As I am crying at my niece, April’s, wedding, I remember myself 24 years ago. As I am helping a student complete the mandatory ‘New Employment’ forms, I am remember myself as a new employee many years ago. As I am perusing E-bay for a used car for my youngest, I remember the day he was born. As I am gently stroking my faithful companion, lab-husky-shepherd, I remember the day we rescued him at 6 weeks old. As I see the neighborhood’s sidewalk chalk drawings washed away by a summer rain, I remember my children writing on my backyard patio. Ahhhhh.

And when I ponder time, it’s essence and it’s speed, I am reminded that Christianity is only one generation away from extinction, that Adolph Hitler’s madness was not that far away, that my country is only 236 years old, and that Christ walked the earth a mere 2012 years ago.

When I was a child, it seemed as though each and every day was an eternity. Now----not so much! My days seem to fly by with me barely holding on with my fingernails. It’s not because my life is super busy, boring or exciting; it’s just that time seems to speeding by faster than it ever has and I am seemingly unable to fully experience totally.  I totally realize that this is merely a matter of perception, but goodness, it’s seems as though the clock is actually ticking faster than it ever has. It’s as if last Christmas was just a month ago—NOT!  I am reminded it’s 19 weeks away. Hmmmmm.

Good, bad or indifferent, time stops for no one.
~To realize the value of one year:
      Ask a student who has failed a final exam.
~To realize the value of one month:
      Ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.
~To realize the value of one week:
      Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.
~To realize the value of one hour:
      Ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
~To realize the value of one minute:
      Ask the person who has missed the train, bus or plane.
~To realize the value of one-second:
      Ask a person who has survived an accident.
~To realize the value of one millisecond:
      Ask the person who has won a silver medal in the Olympics.

How about…. ~To realize the value of one lifetime spent for good:
                                ~Think of Jesus Christ (the Creator of the Universe and all that is in it):
                                ~Think of Paul (the Apostle who penned the majority of the New
                                ~Think of Abraham Lincoln (helped end slavery):
                                ~Think of Thomas Jefferson (the Principle Author of the Declaration of
                                ~Think of Mikhail Gorbachev (Leader of Soviet Union who oversaw the
                                        transition from Communism):
                                ~Think of Mother Teresa (Servant of the impoverished):
                                ~Think of Princess Diana (Humanitarian and mother of the future
                                        King of England): 
                                ~Think of Beethoven (Composed countless scales):
                                ~Think of Louis Pasteur (Founded the cure for polio):
                                ~Think of Elvis Presley (Began the rock music craze):
                                ~Think of Bill Gates (Humanitarian and Founder of Microsoft):
                                ~Think of Henry Ford (Industrialist and Inventor of the Model T):
                                ~Think of Alexander Graham Bell (Inventor of the telephone)

And then…..In a category all their own:
…. ~To realize the value of one lifetime spent for evil:
                                ~Think of Ayotollah Khomeini  (First implementor of Sharia Law in Iran,
                                          Mass murderer):
                                ~Think of Idi Amin Dada (President of Uganda, Mass murderer):
                                ~Think of Adolph Hitler (Chancellor of Germany, Mass murderer):
                                ~Think of Pol Pot (Leader of Khmer Rouge, Prime Minister of Cambodia,
                                           Mass murderer):
                                ~Think of Josep Stalin (General Secretary of the Communist Party of the
                                           Soviet Union, Mass murderer):

Upon reflection, just how do you want the value of your lifetime to read?  How do I?  Do I want it to read, “She was too busy to be who God intended her to be?” Or do I want it to read, “A Christ follower, who led a servant centered life, who strived to be a Proverbs 31 woman, raising godly children, and advancing the Kingdom of God.”  I choose the latter, and I hope you do, too!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grace for the Good Girl in All of Us

Ah…Grace for the Good Girl. That’s the book I’m reading. It’s written by Emily Freeman, and gosh, does it resonate with me. Not the, ‘I need to be a good girl in order to get into heaven,’ kind of resonate. And not the, ‘I’m a worrier with fears and anxieties that my ‘good girl’ image is not controlling’ kind of resonate. Rather, the ‘let’s let grace pour out boundless acceptance into my worn out heart and totally undo me,’ kind of resonate. The, ‘releasing my tight hold on that familiar, try hard life, leaning my weight heavy into the love of Jesus,’ kind of resonate.  It totally reminds me of Stasi Eldredge’s book, Captivating, whose Bible Study I taught for many years. Tapping into the deep mysteries of the feminine soul in order to recapture the heart. It reminds me that every woman desires to romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a heroic adventure and to have a beauty all her own to unveil.  When I look at the movies I love and remember the games I played as a little girl, I need to remember that these heart-felt desires are God-given and are telling me the truth about who I am as a woman and  the role I am meant to play and, most importantly, I should not feel guilty for having them.

Wow! That’s a lot of femininity wrapped up in the last paragraph. Kind of deep, I know. But it’s true.  Even down to the last syllable.  Give me a woman who doesn’t want to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a heroic adventure and have a beauty all her own, and I’ll give you a great price on some swamp land in Florida. I mean, they just don’t exist. There may be a woman, somewhere in another galaxy of this great universe, that doesn’t resonate with those wants, but I know that God created all woman alike (to some degree), with virtually the same wants, desires and needs. So….as long as we are human, we females have a lot to discover about ourselves.

I think my generation is virtually the last generation who really feels the need to tap into their femininity.  I mean, Gloria Steinhem (uggh—I don’t like even writing her name), the pro-abortion movement (out to kill unborn woman), Planned Parenthood (run by woman not supporting other woman), the burn your bra and wave the flag, anti Vietnam woman----definitely not my generation. Thank God. Nope, I was technically the generation before that. Yes, I am that old. I’ve tried to teach my tomboy daughters how to tap into their feminine spirit, how to get that ‘grace for the good girl,’ without always having to be a good girl. To their credit, they always want to change the definition of good girl, and by doing so, they are always playing with my mind. Geesh!

I mean, I thought good girls didn’t get tattoos.  Boy, was I mistaken.  I mean, I’m a good girl, and so are my daughters, and yet……guess, who led the line with that experience?  It was definitely a freeing moment.  Back to my thoughts.  I thought good girls didn’t get body piercings.  Again, I was mistaken. I thought good girls didn’t speak out of turn, didn’t get involved in controversial topics, were always nice and polite, and the list goes on. Whew! Have I ever been mistaken. Apparently, I have not extended God’s fully imparted grace to myself for being a self proclaimed ‘good girl.’ I’ve realized I’m turning 50 in just 3 months, so I have begun to extend myself grace all the more—that grace that God had intended for me to have and accept all along—that grace that allows me to break the molds that I have placed myself into—that grace that allows me disagree with people and not feel guilty and to actually feel right.  I have to admit, I love that last one. J  Grace to sit around in the evenings, laying on a hammock, watching endless movies—all while the housework waits and the dinner is served late. Grace to, yes, get a tattoo with my daughters, to get a third ear piercing, to become controversially involved in politics and the pro-life debate, to speak against injustice and to actually confront. Yikes. Confront. Yep. Confrontation doesn’t have to always been a bad girl thing.

Wow! There’s a lot of freedom in grace. Especially when you’re a good girl, like me.  I’ll take it.  I hope you have not only accepted God’s freely given grace-card and that you are living in that freedom. If not, consider it. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Seriously? Frogtown?

Well, hello again. Let me begin by saying that I am slightly intimidated. You? Intimidated? 'No way', you say. 'Yes way,' I counter.  OK, large dogs, large families, rude customer service reps, and little kids, do NOT intimidate me.  But...... Blogspot now shows each blogger's stats regarding their blog.  I like math.  No, I love math, but somehow, this intimidates me. According to blogspot, the top 10 countries that have people following this blog (in decending order) are: The United States, Russia, Australia, Argentina, Egypt, United Kingdom, Japan, Nigeria, Singapore and Thailand. I mean, who knew? I can honestly say that I don't personally know anyone in, uhhhhhh, the bottom 9 countries, however, I am beyond thrilled that have decided to join me on this journey of Life, Loves, Wisdoms and Learnings.  I was content just knowing that my family was occasionally glancing at it--like when I have avoided the telephone or checking my email. But goodness, knowing that what I write is going to be read around the world, now that can be intimidating. I've always wanted to get my books published, and I guess this is God's way of accommodating me.  Ya know, God honors the prayers of His people.  I just wonder if blogspot actually translates the english language to each country's native language. Hmmmm. I guess I will need some far-away followers to leave me some comments and let me know.

OK.  Moving right along. My Story. Have you read it?  Are you reading it? Are you like me, and you have 5 or so books that you are currently reading?  Given your mood, you choose one of those each evening before you hit the hay?  Do you know anyone reading it? It's mind-boggling awesome. Sure, I've read the Bible many times over, as have my children--but hello? This is in chronological order. And, as if that isn't enough, Max Lucado actually adds transitional words in parenthesis. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Max Lucado's writings? OMG. 3:16, the Numbers of Hope, Cure for the Common Life, and God's Story, Your Story are just a few of my favs.  Anyway, I'm getting distracted.  Good ole Max wouldn't want to add or subtract anything from the Word of God, but it's really nice. And to think my church is actually studying My Story for an entire year. Love it, love it, love it. 

Throughout the process of reading and studying My Story, I have been spending a lot of time actually pondering my own life story. I've been reflecting on how God has orchestrated each and every lower story of my life in order to complete some of the upper stories in my life.  I remember my life in 1986--I was travelling non-stop around the world, working as an Auditor for Burroughs Corporation's World HQ in Downtown, Detroit. Single and carefree.  OK. About as carefree as I could be, and loving every minute of it. When.....I was offered a job transfer to Chicago. What? I did NOT want to go to Chicago. I had spent many days and nights in the Windy city and much preferred the Motor City. So, I turned it down and decided to just commute weekly.  I would fly there in the am and return in the pm. So much for a gasoline shortage.  Remember, this was the 80's people, so please don't judge me. ha ha

Then...another job transfer was offered. This time to Toledo.  What?  Not again. I had been sent to Toledo to fix their office, just as I had been sent to the Chicago office to do the same. Once I had fixed it (for lack of a better word), they wanted me to manage it. What?????? Not again.  I still preferred the Motor City over the Glass City--good ole Motown over Frogtown--Tigers over uhhhh.....Mudhens.  After all, what's a Mudhen anyway.  I didn't even want to be remotely associated with a Mudhen.  But...I also knew that if I didn't take the transfer, the next offer could be overseas, and even more than I loved the Motor City, I loved the good old U.S.A. even more.

Having said all that, having prayed and cried over the decision, I decided to stay in Detroit. I mean, I loved it there; it was all I knew, and I didn't want to cross that border--again.  I had been commuting daily for about a year, living in the Ramada and Holiday Inns on Reyolds Road during the week, and returning home to my apartment in Livonia, on the weekends. So, I entered the meeting with determination and trepidation.  My boss, his boss, and his boss where there to get my final answer, but not before they built up Toledo to look like Paris. Right.  I knew that I wasn't going there and that I would be staying in Detroit. I mean, I had made up my mind. And then, the next thing I knew, I was in my office, door shut, crying on the telephone to my mom, saying, "I don't know what happened. One minute I was saying that I wasn't going to accept the job transfer, and the next minute I was shaking hands with everyone and being congratulated on my new move." I couldn't believe it.

I was totally devastated. I didn't even know how it had happened. I would now have to leave my family, my long time boyfriend, my life, and actually find a place to live in blah....dare I even say it.....Toledo, Ohio.  Well, guess what? God knew. He knew exactly what had happened because He had orchestrated the entire thing. He knew that I didn't want to move to Toledo, that I didn't even like the people I would be managing there, that I would be entering the meeting with a firm decision and yet would leave the meeting with a virtual suitcase in hand. He wanted me to move from Detroit in order to for me to continue His plan for the Upper Stories in my life.  He knew that if I didn't move to Toledo, I would never have met and married a local guy and had three wonderful children.  He knew that I would have eventually been laid off from the WHQ, that my then boss would leave shortly after my exit and thus my job would have become miserable.  He knew that I never would have met a wonderful homeschool family, thus, instilling in me the desire to homeschool my children through 8th grade. He also knew that I would eventually become divorced and end up working at the University.  None of that would have or could have happened had I stayed in Detroit.

I would love the say that the transition to Toledo from Detroit was without frustrations and heartaches, but I would be lying. Those years were tough, to say the very least. They were fraught with unexpected joys and sorrows, highs and lows, confidences and insecurities. But through it all, I knew that I was in God's plan. In hindsight, I see that the God of the Universe had planned it all for me, before Creation. God had written my story centuries ago, long before Adam and Eve, long before the beginning of time and space. Wow! That, in and of itself, is unfathomable, but it is true. My concept of time is quite different from God's, so when I begin to wonder just why He is taking so long to fulfil my desires on this earth, I have to remember 1986. Again, just testing my patience. Sometimes, I past the test; most of the time, I fail it.   I have to remember that He is still writing my story. That He is holding me in the palm of His hand, He has my total, ultimate story in His control, and He is always, always, always on my side. Yup, He actually has my back. Just when I am beginning to let the troubles and cares of this world get the best of me, He reminds me that, yes, He still has my back. And I can rest.


My hope for you, dear reader, is that you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God has an ultimate Upper Story planned for you, too; that He really does know the plans He has for you and that He is preparing you for the place within His Upper Story--that He created just for you!  Be blessed this week.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Finally.....a Family Update

Wow. It's been over 9 weeks since I have written, and for that, I apologize. I've definitely had some major laptop issues, but Bethany is gone this evening, and I have confiscated hers.  Thank God! It feels great to type letters and have them actually print onto the screen in the order that I type them.  Who knew?  I feel I owe everyone who has been praying for our famly an update, so here goes.

Well, 2012 has been a plethora of miracles, contradictions, surprises and growth for me and my family. As most of you know, we began the year in the hospital, with Bethany in critical care. Throughout the month of January, she shifted from bad to worse, and then back to bad again. Praise God, after a surgery, a LOT of pain, intubation and extubation, a short discharge, a re-admittance, a few pic lines and a lof of heavy duty medications, Bethany was discharged in mid-late January.  The prayers of the Saints on her behalf were not only answered, but shouted, "MIRACLE."  Since her discharge, Bethany has struggled with an insurmountable amount of constant pain, however, through it all, she maintains a cheerful attitude and continues to 'work through it.'  In mid-March, she returned to working part time at Haas Bakery; she can only work 2--4 hour shifts because her pain is too intense, thus she only works a minimal amount. sigh.

Bethany has been on numerous medications since her discharge, however, none seem to be working. She is currently on Neurontin, a nerve suppressant, however, that doesn't really seem to be working much either. We are hoping that when she visits her surgeon this Friday, he will write her a script for a Pain Management Clinic.  Other than a Divine work from our Creator, Bethany's options are slim. Please continue to pray for her pain relief. 

Bethany hit the ground running and hasn't stopped since. Immediately after having her pic line removed, she and Joy drove to Daytona Beach for Spring Break. Even though the weather did not cooperate, and she was in a lot of pain, she and Joy managed to have a lot of fun.Immediately following, she began coaching not one, but two, girls soccer teams. I definitely think she has found her calling.  Because she is currently on Medical leave from her classes at the University of Toledo, she is taking full advantage of her time off. She misses her classes tremendously but knows that, come fall, she will be so busy with academics that she won't even have time to breathe. Thus, Bethany is also playing on the UT Intramural Co-ed Soccer team.  Her position?  Goalie, of course. She just returned from Soccer tournaments in Hudson, Ohio, last night, where her U12 Girls team took 2nd place in the finals. Her U11 Girls team did very well, however, they did not place.  Thank God, the Spring soccer season is ending, because between coaching soccer, working and dating Nate, Jonathan, Joy and I rarely see her.

Oh yeah, my girl has had her taste of college life and has loved it. She is planning on moving into an apartment with a girlfriend before classes begin next Fall.  I am slightly apprehensive about it, considering Bethany will still be working at the Bakery, taking at least 18 credit hours, will need to get a 3.5 Fall G.P.A., and will have to adjust to her new, grueliing, Engineering and Business class schedule.  I am tired just thinking about it.
Joy moved in with her dad last January, and the arrangement seems to be working out. Although Jonathan, Bethany and I miss her daily companionship terribly, we see and hang out with her a lot.  I am thrilled that the last day of classes at UT is this Friday because that means we will actually see more of Joy. That kid is B-U-S-Y. She is taking 18 credit hours, maintaining all A's, still working as a Campus Tour Guide, still working at Haas Bakery, still walking that doggie in West Toledo, studying and writing papers like there's no tomorrow, AND helping Jonathan with a U6 Boys soccer team that he coaches and helps me by attending dog training classes with me and Koda.  Whew! Did I mention that she is taking 18 credit hours, studing like crazy AND putting in a lot of hours as a tour guide? Well, she is.

A week or so ago, Joy called me to say that she was running in the Glass City Marathon the following morning. News to me. She wanted me to know but would have preferred either we didn't come watch at all or just show up at the end. Again, humble Joy, never tooting her own horn, just wanted to run.  Well, she did, without walking even once, and had the huge blisters to prove it. Great job, Joy Marie.

Below is a cute video of Joy that was posted on the UT website last week.

Joy is still dating, Rob--who now has an apartment by campus (Praise God!) and spending time with Carl.  Just last Saturday, Joy gave her two precious rats, Mr. Incredible and Picasso, to a fellow student at UT. They will be missed, but we know that Joy can visit them any time she wants, and I won't have to clean their cage weekly, for a kid that doesn't even live here. ha.  I have to admit it, though, those  two little guys kinda grew on us.  When it came to being sweet and sociable, Mr. Incredible and Picasso were both.

Ah.....Jonathan.  God ole Jonathan. Whatever would I do without him?  Upon returning from his mission trip to Jamaica, in January, he, too, hit the ground running. He loves, loves, loves working out, especially with Rob. He works out daily in the Stritch gym--well, if you can even call it a gym anymore, given the fact they keep removing the workout equipment. This infuriates Jonathan, because he is only 1 of less than a handful that work out. Ahh....the life of a high school Sophomore. He still  occasionally works out at UT, with Rob, on weekends and really enjoys that.  Given his major protein diet and work out schedule, Jonathan is barely recognizable (in a good way)!  He's definitely muscled up. 

Jonathan applied to coach a soccer team, with the Oregon Rec, and he is now the youngest coach on record. At 16 years old, he is the Head Coach of the U6 Boys soccer team. He really enjoys it, especially considering there are actually some seasoned soccer players on that kindergarten team. Yaay! Joy is his main Assistant Coach, and Bethany fills in when she's not coaching her two teams.  He just volunteered last weekend for "Serving Saturday" at MSC, and he said, quote, "I would rather work outside than work with little kids. I kind of get my fill of little kids with soccer."  ha ha.  Mind you, it was snowing last Saturday. He ended up painting indoors.

Between school, coaching and playing soccer, and working out, Jonathan is busy. He did, however, find the time to volunteer for the Cardinal Strich Spring Play, "The Wizard of Oz."  That kept him extremely busy. He is also driving. I won't even comment on that one, other than to say that I am happy for him.

And as for me, life goes on. There have been some major hurdles of late, some grieving and healing of wounds, but God has been faithful and very good to me. I loved, loved, loved, getting our lives back to normalcy once Bethany had been discharged.  Christmas had been wonderful, however, we left for the hospital the next day, and then life sort of stopped. The end of January was tumultous, at best, and we have settled back into our lives quite comfortably. Koda, miracle upon miracles, is practically a new dog; Joy and I have been taking him to dog training classes (6 in all), and he actually passed his 'Canine Good Citizenship' test last week, and I am planning on him passing his 'Certified Therapy Dog International' test tomorrow night.  I know that seeing Koda today, vs 6 weeks ago, would convert even the most staunch atheist to Christ. Miracles really never do cease.

Been praying of late for some miracles, and some are happening and some are delayed. I learned a lot about the power of delayed prayers through Bob Sorge. He spoke at my old church in 2006/2007, and gave his testimony on the power of delayed prayers. Powerful stuff. Still frustrating and sad, but powerful. God's answers are sometimes, 'no,' and thus, no means no, and that's all no means. sigh.  I've become much stronger as an individual these past few months, out of necessity.

Going to court for property tax re-assessment - check
Rotator cuff fixed - check
Working out - check
Golf lessons - check
Koda trained - check
New LifeGroup - check
Begin mentoring someone - check
Begin the yearlong study of, "The Story" - check

It's all good, just not necessarily how I would have planned it.  But then again, God is shaping me and molding me for the "Upper Story" in the story of my life. All of these "little/minor stories" in my life, have a purpose--to fulfill his "Upper Story" for me. Sometimes, I wish I knew the completed 'Upper Story' of my life, because I think I would be able to handle the 'lower stories' a little better. I guess the Lord feels that the less I know, the better. Uggh. When they say, "Curiousity killed the cat," I so know what 'they' are referring to. Just when I think, after years and years of struggle, things are finally going well, then Bam, and not so much. The song below has been a great comfort, and I hope you enjoy it.

I've been watching the world events lately and researching their Biblical implications. Wow! The Bible, written thousands of years ago, by various writers, is still as relevant today as it ever was. Virtually everything that is currently happening in the U.S., and in the entire world, has been prophesied.  Good, bad or indifferent, things are changing, and it's interesting to see it all play out.

Well, I hope this has caught everyone up on my family's lives. Many, many people have contacted me over the past couple months, asking when I was going to write updates on my family, and again, please accept my apologies for the delay.  I noticed that almost 11,000 people have read this blog in the past 3 months, and over 6,000 in April alone. Yikes! I need to get writing and posting some pictures.

Again, thank you so very much for all of your past and current prayers for Bethany's health.  Her body has suffered much and has some major long-term ramifications from all of the surgeries. Please continue to pray for her, Joy, Jonathan, and me. Your prayers are always appreciate and coveted.

Blessings and peace to all.  Shari

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sometimes We Just Have to Throw Up the White Flag......

Good afternoon,

Today was a very long time coming---for a variety of reasons. We had really been looking forward to today, and it hasn't disappointed any of us. First, we hadn't been able to attend worship since before Christmas, and we have sorely missed that. Not only were we not able to receive awesome teachings from our Pastors, but we had missed the Praise and Worship and the Fellowship with those of like, precious faith. So.....when I awoke this morning, I was really looking forward to attending. The second reason was that Bethany was scheduled to have her pic line removed after church service. Yeah!

Pastor Tom gave an excellent message on "How to Stunt Your Spiritual Growth." Hmmmm. It was more of a 'what not to do,' instead of a 'what to do,' if you know what I mean. Kind of like reverse psychology. An example that made me laugh was, 'If you want your teenager to clean his room, and he hasn't quite made the time or mustered the energy, then say, "Don't worry about cleaning your room; I'll take care of it." Ha ha. Jonathan and Bethany both got a kick out of that one. As did I. More, Jonathan than Bethany though.

Anyway, Pastor asked, "How many situations would be different if we would live our lives as though we totally trusted God?" Wow! I had to really take a step back and think about that one. I knew that I totally, unequivocably trusted God with my children, with Bethany's health concerns and with my vehicles, but I couldn't say that I totally trusted Him with the rest of my life. I mean, I never worried about Bethany coming through her surgery and her host of complications; Never. Not once. I was very concerned over the fact that she was experiencing a LOT of pain. That was brutal.

I never worry about my kids salvation because I have totally entrusted them to God early on. I follow Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." That's not to say that they would never stray from being a Christ follower; I believe it to mean that they will always, eventually return Home. Thank God. Thus, no real worries there.

Ah....then what concerns me? I hate to say, 'worry,' because I would never consider myself a worrier. I do, however, have concerns over some other things in my life. I guess that would mean that I may not be living my life with total trust in the Lord. I know that I know that I know that I know that God is ultimately in control; it's just that sometimes I wonder what is He thinking. Come on. Must He really take me down this road? Just when things seem to be going relatively well, if not great, then KABOOM! The Lord changes the direction of my life. Again.

If there's one thing I am constantly learning, admidst all of the KABOOMS in my life, it's that sometimes I need to just throw up the white flag and totally surrender my life to the One Who created it. To the One Who ultimately knows the long term plan for me. To the One Who always, always, always has my best interest. To the One Who knows everything.

Sometimes, I have to surrender daily. Lately, that's been my mantra. I surrender today, again, Lord. Geesh! I just did that yesterday, but I can tell that I need to do it again today, because I am beginning to worry (be concerned--lol) about something. So....I throw up my white flag, and offer my surrender to Him.
I am constantly living the verses, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thess 5:16-17. Praying without ceasing. I have found that when I am constantly doing that, things tend to go better. Ha. Isn't that a revelation? Just kidding.

I also have to remind myself to continue to surround myself with Christ Followers--not just people that attend church. No. People that are actually following Christ in the daily lives, living out the Great Commission, serving and following Him; knowing that it's not a religion, it's a relationship with the One and Only. Sometimes, that is difficult, considering I am an extremely busy women. Between raising two teenagers and one 20 year old, owning two dogs (including a 105 pound puppy), working full time, cooking meals, managing a home and yard, along with a sick child, yada, yada, yada, fellowshipping with those of like precious faith tends to take a back seat.

Although I taught the Bible Study, Captivating, for many years, to countless women in my home, I am taking a sabbatical. There is a long waiting list of women who want to attend the 10 week course, however, I think that I need to rejuvenate and begin attending a LifeGroup myself. Wow! Now, that's a concept! A bible study for me and not by me. I could definitely get used to that. I just know that I couldn't commit to two evenings a week to such, so something is going to have to go. For the moment, it will be Captivating. Hmmmm.

Pastor also mentioned that we shouldn't allow our circumstances to weaken us. As I think about that one, I think, "Well, that's not me." Ha. But when I really think about that one, I think, "I've let my recent circumstances weaken me to the point of saying, 'I'm never going there again.'" I'm learning that is not the right answer. The Lord knows all of my questions, and He knows all of the answers. I am now learning that if the Lord wants me to go 'there' again, I willingly will.

According to Steven Furtick, or so my Pastor says, "All of the good stories start with adversity." Wow! Isn't that the truth. Look at labor and delivery. Moms out there, need I say anymore? Married Couples out there, need I say anymore? College graduates out there, need I saw anymore? Grandparents--same thing. It's so true, God uses our pain and trials for many things, but mainly to refine and perfect us. OK, enough already. I'm feeling mighty refined about now.

I'm really looking forward to the message next week: "Mirror Mirror--What Does God See When He Looks At Me?" It will last for 5 weeks, and it should be really interesting. Until then, though, I will continue to hold up my white flag, on a daily basis, if not hourly, and pray.

Anyway, after a great and thought-provoking worship service, we came home and started right into writing thank you notes, cooking and doing various things around house. Then.....dun ta dun dun dun....the home health aide arrived to remove Bethany's pic line. After a seemingly endless supply of questions, most often geared for an older person (i.e. do you use a cane or walker; do you need assistance using the facilities), she removed her pic line and left. Woo Hoo! Other than a little pain at the incision points, Bethany is doing extremely well. So well, in fact, that after the majority of her thank you notes were written, she went to the UT rec to watch a soccer game. Then, off to her boyfriend's house for the evening. I'd say that's nothing short of a miracle.

When I think that less than a month ago, she was on a ventilator, in excrutiating pain, helpless and tearful, I think, "Wow! Not only is God in the miracle working business, but that life can change, for the better, on a dime." I know that it can also change for the worse on a dime, but I am concentrating on the better part right now. Circumstances would have me think about the bad, but I am choosing to think about the good. :) Isn't that part of what surrending is all about? Choosing to believe the God has everything under control because He is ultimately in control and has our best interests at heart? I think so.

Nonetheless, thanks again, so much for praying for Bethany and our family. We just keep on keeping on. It's very different in our home with Joy moved out, and we really miss her. We saw her yesterday, but never for long enough. It's definitely been a few weeks of change, not all good, but the Lord knows. I am continually thanking Him for that.