So, I had a weird dream last night!

I was shopping for furniture in a red nightgown that was ripped under both arms.

In the dream, I’m walking through this long, long store full of showrooms while holding my arms straight at my side, hoping against all hope to hide the fact that my clothing is ripped.  It’s not working very well.

At some point I decide this shopping trip is too much for me.

I’m not clothed appropriately, and there is no furniture in here, although I keep walking and walking and see lots of sales people on the “sales” floors that flow from one to another in rapid succession. There is something I’m able to see, not sure its furniture but it could be, behind thick meant-to-be-transparent plastic sheets that go floor to ceiling in each room.  It’s like the place is a warehouse, but the entrance is like a Costco, and there are salespeople everywhere, all professionally dressed, all eager to sell, but what?

Anyway, I decide at some point I need to leave. I’m self-conscious, and maybe because of that, but maybe not, I decide to put my clear plastic hair barrettes in my mouth.

Why?

Who knows.

I’m now headed out of the store, through voluminous showrooms, trying to keep my ripped armpits from being seen by others…my arms straight down at my sides.  I’m  hustling through salespeople with barrettes in my mouth, when I think of the large piece of pineapple I left at the door when I came into the store. The guy outside said I couldn’t bring it in with me. It was a big slab, so I didn’t want to leave it behind.  I’m worried it will be covered with dust and debris by the time I get back to it.  The door man had said, “Just leave it on the ledge over there. You can pick it up when you come out.” So I did!!!

What??!

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As I’m running with my arms straight down at my sides, monster-like, and thinking of the pineapple slab and what condition it will be in when I retrieve it, I swallow one of my barrettes.

Swallow it!! But just one…and it’s stuck! In my throat.  At the base of my throat; inside, where my throat meets my neck. Stuck! I can feel it there. It hurts.

I try to swallow hard to get it down.
Then I try to cough it up.
Nuts!  It won’t budge!

I can’t get it to go either way.

And then the horrid thought hits me that there will be a surgery in my future, and I decide to leave the pineapple slab and just go home.
Finally, I find the exit.

The dream ends…

I blame the Tylenol PM I took last night for this wacky, crazy dream, but it could be something else going on. Maybe…

All I know is that that big ole juicy pineapple slab was lost to me, and for that reason, I’m sad. LOL

Do you ever have weird dreams? What do you make of them?

BTW: it was the best sleep I’ve had in weeks! Go Figure!!

Somebody said, “I do!”

luke and anna 19

This happened in mid-October 2019!

luke and anna 15This mom and this dad gave away this girl!

luke and anna11This mom (dad not in pic), and these grands gave away their marine.

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They prayed first…

…then, they proceeded.

Luke and Anna 1

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Can you smile wider than they did on October 12th?!

These two handsome gents were there…

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As were these two…

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And these two…

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And these, who I am just beginning to really love (they are such fun people!!).

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And last, but certainly not least, this GG who graciously goofed for the camera.

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They ate…cheesecake that was theirs alone (we are still crying about that!).

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They danced, and he dipped!

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There was a little sword play (sans swords, that didn’t make the cut).

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And then they were swept away by sweet love to their wedding night and a honeymoon trip to see Hamilton on the stage in Chicago and do other things newlyweds do (no pics included).  😉

Anna and Luke

We had a great time celebrating your wedding to each other, Mr. and Mrs. Luke.  We’re remembering to pray for you as you begin your life as husband and wife, and are asking God for a long and happy marriage with Him at the head of your household.  May He watch over you every step of the way to a bright new future. Amen.

We love you! Congratulations!!

 

 

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The boys were down this past weekend and we got talking about the vacations we took when our sons were little. Looking back to our past travels, I would have said we’d done nothing extraordinary. We’d never traveled anywhere of import. We’d never spent money on flitting here and there. They remembered things differently.

As we talked, our sons recounted trips to Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Mystic-Connecticut, and Cincinnati, Ohio, Illinois, and Toronto, to name a few of the places they went. They recalled seeing the Smithsonian and spending a week in a hotel in DC, where they were allowed to swim, and swim, and swim in the indoor pool. As they discussed their memories from childhood, I started to remember going all those places and seeing all those things and my heart was strangely warmed. It wasn’t all deprivation and isolation during their childhood, as I often remember it. The life we made together was full of experiences that my sons remember fondly, and I love that.

In a few weeks, Bob and I will be visiting our niece in Atlanta. We’re excited as all get-out to be taking this time away and getting to see her new digs and plant some kisses and hugs on her and the rest of the family. We’re excited to get some alone time. We’re excited to escape the PA winter we’ve been living through this year, and we’re excited to spend some of our hard earned money on adventuring, and not “stuff.”

I know it’s not possible for every small family starting out to take vacations away from home, but I also know that those frugal trips we made, to stay with friends and family during our child-raising years, made a difference in our boy’s lives. They remember fondly the little vacas we took and seem to have forgotten many of the times when life was tough and challenges seemed insurmountable, at least for the most part.

TAKE SOME TIME AWAY

If you are someone who’s thought about taking a vacation this summer, but don’t see how it’s possible, start praying. It’s possible. If we could do it, you can do it. Do it.

If you are someone who has family living far away and you could house them for a weekend or even a couple of days, make them an offer. Open your home to them. Bring them from afar and hold them in your arms. Time passes quickly, don’t miss an opportunity to invite them to travel to see you.

If you are someone who has the means to fund a vacation for another, fund a vacation for another. Don’t over think the option for you to be a blessing to someone else. Rent them a cabin. Buy them a hotel room. Pay for their Air BNB housing, and/or a rental car. Fund a memory for them, if you can, and watch God bless you in return.

Memories are precious things—make as many as you can with your kids while they are little. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. Live large with the Lord today and get out there and have some fun!

When have you gone on a vacation that was memorable for you? What was your all-time favorite get-away?

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I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles. Philippians 4: 12-14 MSG

The emotions may be endless. The more we express them, the more we may have to express. E. M. Forster, For Today

When I came into the church as an adult I was a wreck. I was sick, suspicious and in need of a little emotional security. Well, okay, maybe more than a little. I cringe when I remember those days, for surely no one wants to be that broken, but I was.

Enter Jesus!

I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. –The Apostle Paul

When I started to dig into the Bible and make some contacts in the church, things began to change for me. I felt loved…valued. In His goodness, God sent people to me that became my tribe and gave me the confidence to do great things. I began to trust, maybe for the first time ever, that I would get the care and nurture I so badly needed. It all began with a few people who were willing to break away from the pack and saddle up alongside a girl who was floundering. They loved me until I could love myself.

They were Jesus with skin on to me.

Today, you might be the one who is emotional. Maybe you are just coming into the church and you’re looking for someone to come alongside of you and help you deal with the emotional roller coaster that can sometimes be your life. May you find those special ones among us.

Maybe you know someone being hit again and again by an avalanche of emotions and pain right now.  Maybe they feel isolated and alone, forgotten. Would you be Jesus with skin on to them? It could make all the difference in how they see the Lord and what they believe about his church. It could mean life and death to them.  Will you help?

When have you needed a little help dealing with your emotions?  When have you been Jesus with skin on to an other?

 

We Need More Hosea Men

Hosea

You did not choose me, but I chose you. John 15:16

He chose us because He loves us, and He loves us because He loves us. He does not love us because we are lovable, but only because He is love. John Stott

The following quoted material is reprinted from one of my favorite devotionals, Inspiring Faith: 365 Days a Year. The remarks below the quoted material are my tribute to Hosea type men everywhere.

“Throughout the Old Testament, God spoke to His people through prophets. Some of the prophets were great orators. Others, such as Hosea, communicated truth about God’s love and judgment through dramatic events in their own lives.

Hosea was married to an unfaithful wife. She bore the sons of other men. She left him and lived as a prostitute. When she lost her beauty and charm and was sold into slavery, what did Hosea do?

The unthinkable, of course. He acted like God.

He went to the market to redeem her. He bought her not as a slave but to make her his wife once again. In this act of supreme commitment and mercy, Hosea showed God’s people that God still loved them-even though they were not faithful to Him. He loves us the same way too!

Heavenly Father, Your love never fails. Thank You for redeeming us when we were not faithful to You. Amen.”

Some of you know that I’m a child of divorce. I’m not sure at what age a child of divorce handles the losses caused by the act well, but I know that the aftermath of my parents separation (both emotionally, and physically forever), left bruises on my soul that took a long time to heal. The remarriage of both of my parents soon after divorcing also speaks volumes to how well, or not, I coped with two years of big life changes at the ripe age of five.

When I was in my twenties and starting a family of my own, some of the issues related to abandonment came up again for me. I sought medical help for hair that was falling out by the handfuls. The medical professionals (because yeah, there was more than one), told me that the hair loss was directly linked to anxiety and the pile upon pile of stuff I hadn’t yet learned to process in healthy ways.

Through the years, I’ve discovered ways to deal with my personal brand of chaos, and I’m thankful for that. I’ve also learned that just about everyone has their own suffering piles to work through—for injury knows no economical or spiritual boundaries, and affects us all.

What does all this have to do with today’s devotional, you ask? Just this:

Today’s devotional has made we want to want to share with you what I’ve discovered over the years–that this world has within it men who have chosen to live like Hosea and love like God. Men who don’t walk away, don’t give up, don’t give in, and have somehow figured out a way to stay the course through the thick and thin of marriage, misery, and the mystery God has prepared for all those who partner with imperfect women.

These men have not only redeemed women out of bad life choices and/or unfortunate situations, but have also cared for and loved those children other men left behind when they walked away from relationships or marriages. I salute these strong ones today…the faithful few, who because they love God first, take to heart His call to be love in this place–not just with words, but in deeds.

You Hoseas, please know, you’ve made the forgotten ones believe again. Today, I’m praising God because of you.

Have you been abandoned, betrayed, left behind? When has a man stepped into your life and suddenly made you believe again?

 

Sore but blessed

I woke up this morning, sore all over.  What?!  Why?  the grands had gone home on Saturday, so why was I so achy, I asked myself?

As I pondered my sore back and legs, I remembered that yesterday we had volunteered for nursery duty at church.  Ah, ha! That explained it.

During our time in the nursery, we’d spent ninety minutes playing hide and seek, and singing songs, and doing yoga, ballet, and exercises of various types. We’d washed farm animals on the floor and sang more songs, and did a spa day, which included all kinds of things to beautify our little ladies.

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We’d read books, climbed on furniture, and built towers with Legos before smashing them down again. We sawed things and hammered other things, and organized and rocked, and looked out the windows, and sang some more, before cleaning up everything and getting ready to greet mommy and daddy once more.

All this we did with the help of a bevy of babes more precious than gold.

Last week I had a lot to say about the lack of help in church nurseries. You can read about that here. Today, I want to say how much fun I had with five little girls in the nursery over the weekend.  Much of the fun of that time is due to my sister-in-law, who is amazing with the wee ones. She doesn’t have any grandchildren yet, but I hope she gets some eventually. She would make a terrific granny.

As we played with the girls in the nursery yesterday, I was reminded that play is learning, and learning is growth; that mentoring is fun, and imaginations are incredible gifts from God, and that I was privileged to be a part of all God had planned for these tiny wonders on one Sunday afternoon. Each girl is a part of His creation and each one displays His majesty in her speech, her thoughts, her actions, and her love.  Most amazing of all, the girls did not fight or cry for one minute out of that whole ninety.  Isn’t God good?!

When was the last time you volunteered for nursery duty?  What was the most fun you had during your experience?

VBS

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy. Psalm 16:11

Vacation Bible School (VBS), is happening at our church in a couple weeks, so I thought it might be fun to recall my experiences with VBS as a child, today, to remind me and share with you the importance of getting involved in this type or program at your local church.

Whether you call your summer children’s program VBS or refer to it by some other name, know this, it is important for the spiritual development of children to offer a program like this in your church or your neighborhood. It doesn’t have to happen at church, and it doesn’t have to be expensive to share the love of Jesus with a child. It just needs to happen. Below, is my story of how I came to know Jesus. I hope you know him, too.

MY VBS. MY CHALLENGE.

Although I attended church with my gramma as a young child, it wasn’t until my mom hosted a neighborhood VBS that I really heard the Lord speaking life into my heart. I think I was eleven or twelve at the time. I wish I had possessed the forethought to write it down when it happened, but at that age and with little experience in religion, how could I know how significant this event would be for the rest of my life? I remember vividly a Child Evangelism Fellowship worker, named Dorothy, telling us the gospel story and using the Wordless Book as her only resource. Well, that and a heart full of love for Jesus—which was more than enough to grab my attention and encourage me to pray a little prayer that Jesus would love me forever, as she prompted the group.

My first challenge to the pact I’d made with God that day on our front porch, had to do with lying. My mom had baked a chocolate cake and frosted it, then set it on the kitchen table to wait for dinner (or maybe it was for some special occasion I don’t remember), as the battle began.

“Don’t touch that cake.” She’d warned us.

Ahhhh, sounding that kind of warning is like setting off a beacon light in the mind of a kid. From that moment on, all I wanted to do was eat that cake. I mean ALL I wanted to do!

I was single-minded in my pursuit of a way to eat some of that cake and get away with it.

I could hear the enemy whispering, as I tried to resist. “Go ahead. She won’t find out. She won’t know it was you. Do it now! Do it quickly. Grab and run. Don’t tell. Sneak away. Eat it in isolation. You shall not surely die!”

That devil, he is a wild one, and so shrewd. He knew the longer he kept it up, the less I would be able to resist what my nature so clearly said was already mine.

Entitlement.

Pride.

Self-centeredness.

Ego.

Sin!

The devil won that skirmish, which meant Jesus lost, but I was a loser too. Mom found out. I finally confessed under the pressure of guilt. It all came rushing out accompanied by hot tears of fear and regret. She understood. She’d lied before, too. She had a problem with food, too.

She found sugar hard to resist, too.

I think my mom felt worse for me than I did. She knew the path I was now on. Never again would there not be a battle raging somewhere within me. Jesus wouldn’t let go, and satan wouldn’t stop. Still, I’m grateful.

Grateful to God for loving me.

Grateful to Jesus for saving me.

Grateful to my mom for forgiving me.

Grateful to the Holy Spirit for continuing to work on me.

Grateful to Dorothy for being willing to share what she had with others.

Grateful for VBS!!!

VBS made a difference in this woman’s life as a child. Certainly, it makes a difference today. I am, because He is, within me. Sooo blessed!

Thank you, all you wonderful, amazing, selfless, sacrificing VBS workers, you! I am saved because you gave of yourself. My husband is saved. My children are saved. My daughter-in-law is saved. My grandsons are saved. Many of my friends are saved. My church family is saved. My boss is saved. All because one woman gave, and Jesus gave all. How amazing is that?!

I’ll shout it from the rooftops.  Thank you, Jesus!

What is your experience with VBS? Did you go? Do you work it? Are you saved for eternity?

If you don’t know Jesus, but you’d like to, contact me. I’m available to talk at churchoose@gmail.com

 

 

3 Things-God’s Beautiful Work

What’s beautiful can easily be broken, but what’s broken can be made beautiful again.

wabi-sabi

This past weekend, we had an opportunity to get out of Dodge for a while, and travel to the north country to see the kiddos. It was a great time, but the quarters are cramped in their corner of the kingdom. We’re praying for a change of domicile for them. The boys are growing bigger every day, and they have plumb outgrown that tiny condo that was home to two toddlers and joys unspeakable through the years.

Papa God, please guide the kids to their new forever home. Make it easy, Lord, so that they don’t get frustrated in the search, and provide a buyer for this place they are presently in—full of wonderful memories, but needing to go by the wayside. We look to You, Lord, to lead the way in this venture. Thank You for always getting us where we need to go by virtue of your wisdom and strength. We have no doubt You will do it again, and wait in anticipation for your vision to take shape in their lives. Thank You!

While we were in the north country, we went to church with the mini me’s. The message for the morning was taken from 2 Corinthians 4:5-12, and was entitled “Jars of Clay.” Most everyone in my circle these days knows what it is to be a jar of clay. We’re all going through a surrender process of one kind or another. For me, it’s surrendering my youth and embracing (or trying to embrace), the years that seem full of health challenges, decreased energy reservoirs, and dreams of retirement. This, too, is life, I remind myself. I’m trying to make sure the days are full and memorable, but it’s not always easy.

Papa God, thank You for reminding me on the painful days that I shouldn’t make long-term plans or serious decisions. It’s so hard to focus during the rough days. Harder still to plan or pray. Thank You for reminding me that I can rest in You and trust that You’ll have everything I need ready for me, when I need it. I don’t have to decide today. I can simply trust in You for tomorrow. You’ve never failed me yet. I don’t expect you’ll start now.

The pastor at the church we visited on Sunday kept using the same phrase over and over in his message, for emphasis: What’s beautiful can easily be broken, but what’s broken can be made beautiful again. He was referring to broken pots, of course. 2nd Corinthians 4 pots. Us. Those creatures that through their own actions, or the actions of others, often find themselves fractured and lying on the floor in a million pieces. In this state, they think they’ve been destroyed beyond repair, but they are wrong. In similar fashion to how the Chinese repair clay pots with gold through a process they call Kintsukuroi, God repairs clay pots through redemption. He redeems our mistakes and selfish intentions, and he uses Christ’s blood to fill in the spaces between one pot shard and another. He glues us back together again with forgiveness and grace. How cool is that?

kintsukuroi

It’s true: What’s beautiful can easily be broken, but what’s broken can be made beautiful again. Maybe more beautiful than it once was, and stronger, too. I know I’m stronger for having been pieced back together by God.

Thank You, Papa God, for never giving up on us, for never leaving us in a million pieces on the floor, and for never, ever forgetting about us. Thank You for the healing that is available to us through Your Son, Jesus, and for leading us to the programs and people who can help facilitate Your healing in our lives. Bless this work, and the workers who cooperate with You to get ‘er done, I pray, in Jesus Name. Amen!

Do you have broken places in you, broken pieces in need of recovery or repair? If an option for repair was made available to you, would you take it?

Joyful Work & Comic Nerds

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

My sons are comic book nerds! Each year they make their annual trek to NYC for the Comicon that is held at the Javits Center. The convention is a huge gathering of like-minded lovers of the graphic arts who appreciate what it takes to bring fictional heroes and villains to life.

Attending Comicon requires a lot of advance planning. The brothers search the website for the event, strategically deciding which panels they will sit in on and which artists booths they will visit.

They decide where to stay…

Where to park…

Whether or not to go into the city that first day…

Which night they will remain in the city until the wee hours, eating, laughing together, and catching up with their cousins who live in Jersey.

It takes a lot of work upfront to get them ready for this gig, but they love every minute.

Do you love every minute you’re planning and working for the Lord?

My sons love to attend the Comicon because it provides a time for them to work together on something they enjoy. Just the two of them.

The time goes by quickly when they’re in the city, and the memory of all those fun times come pouring out faster than they can speak them once they’ve returned home and are telling us all about it.

That excitement—

That contentment–

That joy they find in preparing for the event and then traveling together to attend it, it’s what we ought to feel whenever we’re working for the Lord.

Do you feel it?

If not, why not?

What needs to change for you to get ramped-up and ready to roll with Jesus?

Today, let’s ask God what he’s prepared in advance for us to do in his world, and then let’s put a plan in place.  God is calling you to a thrilling future of joyful work with Him. Make sure you’re ready; prepared in advance for His blessings to come.

What event do you look forward to each year?  Who is your favorite traveling companion?

 

Sister Jealousy

imagesThe Greatest Showman!
What a great movie.
Full of hope.
Full of inclusion.
FULL of incredible music and dancing.
It even has people flying through the air while singing, for crying out loud.
How can you go wrong with that kind of movement and talent?
Hugh Jackman, people! And not pretending he’s 23!!!

I loved it!

My sister hated it!

What?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She seriously did.
It had something to do with “I don’t like musicals” and “that wasn’t true to PT Barnham’s life” and “he wasn’t a nice person, you know. He scammed people, every day!” At least that’s how I remember the conversation going.

But here’s the thing…

While I cannot, no way, never will understand how my sister should have had such a diverse reaction from mine to what I think is one of the greatest and most uplifting movies I’ve ever seen, I cannot understand, but I’m okay that she didn’t like it.

She’s my sister.
Not my clone.

sisters 3
My sister.
Not me.
She has strong opinions.
In that we are alike, but not much else.

When we were younger, people used to confuse her for me. It happened all the time. I rarely got confused for her, but for some reason she had folks coming up to her all the time and thinking she was me. Didn’t matter that my hair was red and hers was not. Didn’t matter that I was at least 4 inches taller than her most of my life. Didn’t matter that we didn’t live in the same town. We knew enough people individually, that they collectively thought she was me, that it happened a lot. She’s not. Me, I mean.

My sister is her own person.
A strong woman.

Sisters
And like I said, she has strong opinions.
I love that about her.

She is not nearly as indecisive as me.
She is wayyyyy more talented, artisitically.
She holds things close to the vest, while I write and blab and converse about everything and anything.

We are different in the best of ways.

I love my sister, and all that she brings to the world:
A concerned heart.
An ability to look past faults.
A desire to be in charge—she’s a first born, so it comes with the territory.
An enduring love for family.
A heart toward her grands that is as big as all outdoors.
A love for Jesus that is even bigger.

In fact, and she might not know this, so shhhhhhhh!
But when she began to get excited about Jesus and being in church, I was jealous.
Wayyy jealous.
She had something I did not.
That, I could not abide.

Sister rivalry, right? A beautiful thing for ER doctors who stitch them up and glue hair back on their heads after fierce fighting.

sisters hair

But seriously, I  credit my big sister for bringing me to the spiritual strength I enjoy today.

I know Jesus because I was jealous of her.
And isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

The Apostle Paul wrote about this concept of jealousy in his letter to the Church at Rome, where he said, “I am speaking to you Gentiles…in the hope that I may provoke my own people to jealousy and save some of them.” Romans 11:13-14

Paul had a ministry of jealousy provocation. Think of that one for a while.

It was in the case of my introduction to intimacy with Christ, that my sister’s faith provoked this Gentile’s jealousy and that led to me being saved. Truly, it did!

My sister is not me.
She is God’s princess.
She is His bride.
She is His missionary to many.
She is His emissary.
Her faith made me jealous.
Because of her, I chased after Him.

My sister is not me, but I’m sure glad for her…that God gave her to me and me to her.
I still don’t understand how in the world my sister could not have liked The Greatest Showman.  I saw it THREE times and would have gone a fourth, if it had not been removed from showing at my local theater.  I came to that fourth showing too late, but I came to faith in Jesus Christ my Savior at just the right time, in good part because of jealousy I had toward my sister.

For those of you reading this today I have two pieces of advice:

1. Love your sister and let your jealousy over her take you to incredible places you would not have gone had you not seen her having so much fun and so full of joy, and wanted that for yourself.

2. Go see The Greatest Showman!!! If not on the BIG screen—oh, see it on the BIG SCREEN if you can—but if not there, then on DVD or Blue Ray. It really is the greatest movie I’ve seen since….

No, I won’t go there. Nothing shall tarnish my love for TGS! Nothing. Peace out!

When has jealousy over your sister ended you up in a good place? When was the last time you thanked God for a sister that is not like you?