“The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


"But how could you live and have no story to tell?" ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky


"Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph" ~Matt Hardy


“A mother keeps a garden of the heart, planting the seeds of faith and character that give her children hope and purpose for the years ahead.” ~Anonymous


“If your story is never told, it becomes something else...forgotten.” ~Anonymous

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hugs and Hope in Armenia

Wow!  2015 is flying by ... We just returned from another 4-week journey into Central Asia, Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia.   I joined my husband for the last two weeks.  As always, in between the airports, long flights and delays, came the eternal moments of sharing life, touching a special someone and seeing the heart of a Father make a difference.

An opportunity of a week that didn’t involve teaching to larger groups, but just meeting one-on-one and letting hearts speak to hearts will always hold a special place now in our memories.  People shared their stories, their pain and we had the privilege of simply praying and touching a life.

For seven days we enjoyed the hospitality of a wonderful friend whom we have known for a few years.  However, what we didn’t realize was her enormous heart and evangelistic spirit.  She makes friends wherever she goes.  And she pulls people into her life and helps them to understand just how loved they are by their Heavenly Father.  Rarely a walk down the streets took place without someone she knew stopping her to chat and receive a hug.  A day did not go by without her small humble home filling with people whom she cared about and invited into her life.  Usually an hour did not pass without her phone beeping with a message that someone needed her.  Lives filled with pain and unanswered questions, she is available daily to simply be Jesus to a hurting world.  And she is a gift to a small town where God is moving.

One such day led us into the mountains surrounding a town in northern Armenia.  A home for the elderly in a lonely secluded spot.  A place where seemingly these dear souls are forgotten.  Yet they are cared for daily by people who are committed.  Our friend, joined by a small team of believers who love God, go weekly to sing, share stories and pray with men and women who just want to know they are not forgotten.  The wrinkled faces lit up with joy at seeing this group of young ladies come once more into their meager surroundings.  We talked about God’s love for them, His faithfulness throughout the many years and how we are NEVER EVER EVER ALONE.  NEVER.  His goodness even in the hard difficult years.  And looking out over these faces, it was not difficult to imagine their struggles through the years of communism and economic collapse in this small nation.  Their aged faces showed they had lived a life I could not imagine.  Yet, their eyes held a hope their was more to be had in the days left and beyond.  As our time ended, I realized how they simply wanted to know they have not been abandoned.  They were not there waiting to die….they STILL MATTERED.  Their hearts, their loves, their concerns, their daily existence still mattered.  

It really is not difficult to share the love of Jesus and the Father.  Sometimes, all it means is taking the time, a HUG and letting someone know their life matters.  Someone does actually care.  My hope and prayer is these lovely people continue to know HE WATCHES OVER THEM; THEIR FATHER IN HEAVEN LOVES THEM AND IS DAILY BY THEIR SIDE.  He has forgiven all their sins, wants to heal all their pain, and for the days they have left, they can experience true freedom and know their lives matter.  God is loving and faithful…even to the mountains of Armenia.  

Psalm 125:2  As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.

Psalm 57:10  For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I Can Count On The Waves

Waking up to waves invokes feelings within my soul like no other place on earth.  If you’ve been at the beach for any length of time, you discover the waves are the same…day in…day out.  You wake up and nothing has changed.  Still rolling into the beach and back out to sea.  Most of the time, they even sound the same.  Same old, same old.

BUT OVERRIDING that is the sense of constant.  Faithful.  They will still be there when I wake up.  Nothing has changed.  They didn’t suddenly disappear.  If anything, the color has changed.  Grey to blue…or blue to grey.  But always, and consistently there.  And that brings a sense of security.  Of stability.  Of peace.  I can count on the waves.  

Same with my Heavenly Father.  He was there last night when I closed my eyes.  And He was there when I awakened.  Constant.  Consistent.  Perhaps a bit of a “color change”.  Sleep changed my perspective.  Worry clouded over the night before, but “joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

A sense of peace.  Security.  Stability.  Faithfulness.  James 1:17  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  

I can count on the waves.

I can count on my Father.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Good Friends, Good Food, Good Times

There’s just something about getting together with girlfriends where you share a history.  Ladies who’ve known you for years and know your goods and your bads.  Where you can almost tell what they are thinking just by looking at them.  The connection and sense of belonging - nothing else can beat it.  

Last night, as I climbed into bed I had such a feeling of fulfillment.  (I was suffering badly from my allergies, so this was no small feat)!  Earlier, six of us had  met together to celebrate a belated birthday of our dear friend, Elizabeth.  We are all very busy women and to pull us together can sometimes take a considerable amount of time.  Not for wanting, surely, but simply navigating time when we are all in town and not engaged.  As it was, two friends were unable to make it.  One out of the country visiting her daughter who was preparing to birth twins, and the other unable to get away from work in time.  She cares for the elderly.  Incredibly gifted women reaching out to the needs and joys in their lives at this moment.  They were sorely missed.  

The rest of us greeted each other separately arriving at the restaurant and there was a sense of “this will be fun” and long over-due.  For some reason, probably the end of the school year and great weather, the restaurant was packed.  We were able to grab a table on the beautiful patio and squeezed us all around so we could be close and hear each other.  It was very noisy and the air packed with enthusiasm and a “let-your-hair-down - it’s the end of school and summer is here” feeling!  I am certain three-quarters of the patio was filled with teachers!

We ordered our meals - yes, salads, for all six - it’s what you do at this season of life!  But incredibly delicious salads of grilled meats, vegetables and greens!  And in large bowls - we were happy!  Even as we bowed our heads to thank God for the food, the birthday celebration and our friendships, the noise was beyond loud, but such a peace as we were altogether.  Smiles all around!

Sharing life.  Relaying happy moments with grandchildren.  Upcoming weddings and out-of-country trips.  And stories of miracles and God showing up in other countries and cultures kept us enthralled as we let our lives overlap once again.  We laughed, asked questions and said we needed to be sure and not let the summer get away without doing this again.  A bbq at a home with the husbands and families.  Last night, we connected over salad, shared experiences and our lives that keep moving.  And so much to look forward to in the months and years ahead!  Several adult children not yet married, more grandchildren to come in the future and new seasons of each of our lives yet to be realized.  

I, for one, had a wonderful time.  Connection with women who matter to me.  And I am certain I was not alone in the feeling.  God seems to show up when we take time to let our lives intermingle.   When we are real with one another and just “be”.  Easy to do when you are with people you love and know you can be good, bad or hurting and they will listen, pray and be there.  Last night was one of those times.  I felt good when I left as my heart had been nurtured and fed in a way that only good friends can do.  

My husband and I had also spent last Sunday afternoon sitting in a beautiful vineyard overlooking the fields, enjoying a few hours with very good friends of many years whom we don't see very often these days.  Our children had grown up together and are now scattered all over the nation.  We took time and caught up with their lives and their children.  Again, a wonderful feeling when we parted….let’s do this again real soon!!  We don't see them often enough.

We need connection and more frequently than we realize.  We need community.  We need each other.  And those moments give us the fuel to move onward into the day and week of what we is ahead - back on the battlefield of life.   An oasis in the midst of the busy-ness and chaos of life.  Amazing how God can accomplish that in a very busy, chaotic, over-the-top noisy restaurant on a summer’s eve.

I am extremely blessed to have wonderful ladies and families in my life.  I hope you do as well and not let busy-ness get in the way of you blessing someone’s life and you in turn be blessed…just when you all needed it!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Transitioning to Spring

I'm transitioning into Springtime.  It's a bit of the muck and mire time.  Winter wasn't easy.  Dark.  Cold.  Alone.  More uphill than down.  Not much sunshine.  Dead branches just waiting for the sun to come alive again.  And now putting my hand on the doorknob, turning the handle and daring to let the warmth and beauty of Spring come in.  

Do you feel this way coming out of a "season of winter".  I don't mean just the physical side here, but the spiritual.  Where you have had a season of trial, struggle, deadness and wondering if the sun would ever shine again.  We all have, I assume.  And seasons are good.  They are necessary for growth.  IF we don’t understand and grasp that God works in seasons, we will think our lives are to be one continual JOY and anything less means we are in sin.  We misunderstand and then walk away and blame God.

Our connection to the Vine (Jesus) will determine if we even survive the season, let alone have fruit in the next.  During the dark cold days of a winter season in my life, if I didn't have a prayer life, a time of getting into the Word each day, a hanging-on-for-dear-life clinging to the Lord, that door into Springtime would remain shut. 

The physical winter these past months have been very difficult for so many in parts of the U.S.   Those on the east coast wondering if winter will ever end.  You can hear it in their voices and see it on their faces when they are interviewed on the news stations.  When will this ever end??  But you know, sometime in this physical world, spring has to come.  It has to.  And, we know that even in our spiritual and emotional lives, springtime will come.  

Springtime is a time of new growth, new vision.  When the buds begin to show and then blossom.  That life in the bud was there a year ago...before the winter...growing, being nurtured waiting for its season to appear in all its beauty.  It knew it would.....it just took time.  And there was so much going on in the bud that couldn't be seen by the naked eye.  So much God is doing in us in the dark months, behind the scenes, waiting to be revealed in the proper season.  And the bud cannot be forced open; it must happen naturally by the hand of the creator.

Springtime means cleaning out the weeds, getting rid of the fallen branches, clearing the ground of the debris which has gathered over the stormy winter months.  Getting rid of the junk, distractions, and sin that can clutter our lives with so much ease we don't even see it until the sun shines again.  Takes discipline, intentional action of raking the deadness away before opening the door.  And don't even get me talking about washing the windows so you can even see out!   Aren't metaphors amazing in how they help us to see and relate the spiritual to the physical?

Despite the struggles, the questioning, the lack of passion, I knew Springtime would come.  I didn't know what it would look like, but I knew it would come.  If I let God do the deep inside work, eventually the season would change.  If I let God....

I went for a walk the other day.  I heard birds singing, pink blossoms budding from the trees, smelling their sweet scent.  Daffodils and tulips covered the fields below a brilliant blue sky.  A soft breeze blowing fluffy white clouds across that sky.  And I heard lawn mowers.  Springtime had arrived.  It was finally here.  And this week something in my heart and spirit has come alive.  New passions and desires that have lied dormant for months are emerging.  A new hope arising in my heart.  And I am daring to open the door and let Springtime take its course.  The sun is shining once again (as we knew it would) and I sense God has a smile on His face as those buds blossom and a new season of growth, vitality, vision and promise is on the other side of that door.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Revisiting Auschwitz

One memory lodged forever in my mind and heart is from the summer of 1987. Our only child at the time, our son, was 5 months old.  We, along with other leaders, had taken a group of about 35 college-age young people on a missions trip to eastern Europe.  Their weeks were filled with adapting and understanding new cultures, sharing in churches, street-evangelism and drama. But mainly by removing themselves from the comforts of their soft and cushy American life, their eyes were opened to see a world beyond themselves.  It was life-changing for many.

We visited many sites which brought history alive and colorful to hungry students.  Sadly, one such place was only grey and black.  We entered with much angst and left, utterly somber and heavy in heart.  Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw. As the sun tried to peek out of hovering clouds we made our way through the village of Oswiecim, in southwest Poland, which sits on the border of the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz (German pronunciation of Oswiecim).   This camp was a huge extermination and slave labor complex run by the SS featuring three main camps and 36 sub-camps.  Auschwitz I, the original camp, was established in 1939 to hold Polish political prisoners. By October 1941, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was opened nearby and became the main killing center during the "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem" in which the Nazis attempted to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe. An estimated 1.6 million persons were killed at Auschwitz, including 1.3 million Jews and 300,000 Soviet POWs, Polish Catholics and Gypsies. (The History Place )

TODAY, marks the 70th anniversary of the Soviet troops liberating Auschwitz and is also Holocaust Remembrance Day.  In our busy and constantly changing world, this day could go by without a notice, but as I listened to the news and perused sites relating to its history, a scene kept playing through my mind.  We were being led through the barracks and buildings of Auschwitz.  Every ear listening, with a heaviness so noticeable we couldn't help but be silent.  As we entered one desolate and cold building, our son, Andrew, began to whimper and cry.  Before a minute or so passed, he was into a full-fledged wailing.  I knew he felt well, had napped and been fed and changed.  It was so unexplainable and loud, that my husband was forced to leave our group and take Andrew outside where he walked with him for the next hour.   I went on with our group.  

Later, as we rejoined my husband and son, in shock I told him, "The building we were in when Andrew began to scream, they told us was where they housed the young children before they took them away to be gassed."  My husband then shared he had to hold Andrew close to his chest and he had begun to sing praises to God over his little body.  As he sang and prayed, our son began to calm down and gradually fell asleep.  

I have memories of the buildings, the gas chambers, displays of torn clothing, shoes and emaciated human beings, and the horrors of history we witnessed that day.  But the most overriding one was of a little baby reacting to something spiritually that we all find hard to define or explain.  His innocent little spirit picked up on the evil that took root and was played out in the Holocaust in that area of the world, in those buildings and in the hearts of men.  

Photos: Poland National Archives

 We sat in the bus in the shadow of a death camp, and joined together in prayer, song and relying on a a God that is bigger than the evil we witnessed.  We prayed for forgiveness, healing in the hearts of survivors, and that this evil might never be repeated.  We prayed for healing in the land of Poland and in Germany.  We prayed over the Jewish people.  And we praised a God that still loves mankind. 

As difficult it is to imagine, even today with the reports we hear of genocide and terror attacks all over the world, God still loves mankind.  I cannot fathom this when I see horror, but it is true.  GOD STILL LOVES US IN ALL OUR MESS.

I guess my heart today is saying still, "God forgive us for the evil that men give into.  Forgive us for not valuing human life.  Forgive us for not doing anything when we have the power to do something."   The Holocaust is yesterday and should not be forgotten.  Today there's human trafficking on a world-wide scale and there are many organizations and ministries working to rescue the women and children entrapped.  There is genocide in Africa and organizations reaching out to help.  There is still so much we can do to help those who cannot help themselves.  

In remembering Auschwitz and the Holocaust, let's let it lead us to the future....point us to making a difference - Proverbs 24:11 "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter."

A couple of links to check out: 

Not For Sale

A Stay At Home Mom Making A Difference  If a stay at home mom can do this, you can too!

Freedom 61

Maybe a little baby's cry can awaken us.  Bringing awareness to evil and how with God's help and direction, we can make a difference today.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tidbits from Tuesday

Sometimes you come across a recipe, a book, or a tidbit from life you just have to share.  Today is one of those "sometimes".  Here are a few of tidbits crossing my path...

Each Wednesday our ministry team comes together to share, pray and just be together.  I love these people, some of them I have had the privilege of being in ministry with for nearly 40 years.  (oooh, that dates us!)  We come together over the Word, national events, shared interests, a time of prayer and always, a table full of goodies.  We meet at half-past nine in the morning, so the trays of delectables usually are morning fare.  But these are team mates from Slavic backgrounds and if you have ever eaten in a Slavic home (think Russian, Polish, Czech...etc....)you know how delicious that can be!  Somehow, with several of us ladies contributing, we always seem to have the perfect match of savoury and sweet.  These "breakfast cookies" are from Shauna Niequist and they are healthy and the perfect excuse to eat a cookie for breakfast.  Healthy oats, almond meal, unsweetened coconut, coconut oil, mini-chocolate chips (okay, that is a reach to give it that chocolate-chip-cookie-look; but they are semi-sweet!) .

These are my contribution this week :)

I waited until winter to try a soup I have wanted to make forever....Zuppa Toscana  It was amazing and extremely difficult not to have a second whole bowlful.

And lastly, as most people find themselves in January, we are trying to eat healthier (by the way, I used a non-dairy milk substitute in the above soup instead of the heavy cream and it tasted just as good :)   So, this salad was in the latest issue of Food Network magazine and it had all the ingredients I love Ina Garten's Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta

Photo: Courtesy Food Network Magazine
January/February 2015 page 34

Someday, I just want to visit Ina at her home on Long Island and have her cook for me like she does for her husband - that would be a holiday! And probably will not happen :)

I came across a Scripture the other day where it was talking about "eating and drinking in the presence of the Lord."  The context was beautiful, talked about celebrating.  For the life of me, I cannot find the Scripture now that I want to write it down.  I am sure I already did, but alas, cannot find it :(  However, in sharing these tidbits today, it goes beyond just recipes.  Our hands taking simple ingredients, being inspired by a photo or a description and creating something good and sharing that with those we love.  We've been talking about "community" so much in our church these days and a piece of community is eating, drinking and spending time around the table with those we care about.  In the presence of the Lord. 

Grab a favorite recipe...or even new one...or one of the above and spend some time creating and then sharing.  Life is meant to be shared.  (If you need some great reading material about this, try this (I have recommended it before when it first came out and it is still one of my favorite reads!)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

FORWARD into 2015

It's halfway through January already!   Not sure where these 15 days went, probably same place the last 12 months traveled off to....the land of memories.  They say the older you get, the time seems to go by much quicker.  I am beginning to actually believe that.  I packed up Christmas last week, sorted through most of the paperwork of 2014 to begin organizing for taxes :(  bought a new pack of pens and a new journal, managed to exercise 4 times a week so far and began writing again!  The suspense of a new year ahead!

I love new things...new pens and journals, new calendars just waiting to be marked up with special times with friends and family, meetings and events to unfold.  There's an anticipation as we put away the old and await the new.  It has taken me a couple of weeks though to get to this point of fresh awaiting.  Concerns, burdens, prayer needs all occupied each waking moment, along with the ever pressing demand of getting the house back in order to get some semblance of normal life again.  2014 was not an easy year, although the delight of planning and celebrating the wedding and marriage of our youngest daughter and new son-in-love overrode everything! And we got a new family in the package!!  So enjoying having them be a part of our lives!  What a fun memory which we will relive each and every time I look at one of the dozens of wedding photos that now adorn my walls!  

However, the nest became empty in every sense of the word as the last two young ones moved out, one marrying and the other to pursue his career and education as a firefighter.  All within an hour's drive, thankfully, but it is way too quiet in this house!  Something I am learning to deal with.  It's interesting, lots of books out there on getting married, parenthood, careers, all sorts of resources and books out there for the seasons of a woman's life.  Where is the help for the woman who suddenly finds her nest empty and learning to cope?  It is a bittersweet time....loving the season of your adult children's lives, but sadly missing them all the same.  Perhaps fodder for the writing....stocking my pond with material to fish out when the time is right (or write as is the case).

In all honesty, I love a new year, but I am not crazy about January.  I am usually so tired from the holidays the first week and all the cleanup, take down of tree and decorations occupies those first days.  January is cold of which I am not a fan.  I adore looking out the window at snowflakes softly falling (when we have it which is rare...we usually have grey rainy damp cold), a fire in the grate, candles burning.  I love hot tea, soups and hunkering down with a good book.  But I don't like being cold.  Playing in the snow is something I enjoy watching.  I loved it when the kids were small, but now days, give me a camera and me on the other side of the window in the warm house and I will do just fine!  

January is the month before it all begins....there are no major holiday fun days or events (sorry MLK, no offense intended and I honor the day and all it means, but it doesn't involve chocolate or a bbq). It is wedged in there between December and February waiting to be discovered.  The rest of the months seem to hold a celebration of sorts for me tucked amongst their weeks...

February - Valentine's Day (chocolate!!)
March - our anniversary and spring begins!!!
April - springtime, flowers, Easter (best holiday!)  and two birthdays!
May - Mother's Day and flowers, trees budding, color!!
June - school's out, and summer begins...warm weather ahead!
July - summer!!  Fourth of July! Birthday, Bbq's, camping, vacations, sunshine!
August - birthdays, sunshine, and now another wedding anniversary!
September - birthday, beautiful colors, the chill of autumn, Pumpkin lattes!
October - birthdays, my favorite season of leaves, candles and smells
November - Thanksgiving, one of my all time favorite holidays
December - Christmas season, peppermint lattes and I absolutely love this season of remembering and celebrating Jesus' birth, twinkling lights, giving and family...another birthday!

For some reason, January doesn't hold a candle to the above months.  But in all fairness, it is a new beginning.  I read somewhere in the last weeks about the idea of instead of a new year's resolution, decide on ONE WORD to focus on in the new year.  A word to strive towards, live by, be challenged and energized by.  I liked that.  (It's hard enough by February to keep that "lose 10 pounds" on the front burner, especially if lasagna is cooking right beneath it :)  So, one word I can handle.  Simple.  Precise.  Hopeful.  As I prayed for revelation to pick "my word", I kept getting three words.  Everywhere I went I would see these words.  But I wanted just one.  So I have tucked two of them in my heart as they will be a foundation I build upon for my one word.  And the word to move me into 2015 is 

I plan to move FORWARD this year.  Not staying in the same place.  One step at a time to arrive at a different place come January 1, 2016.  Spiritually.  Physically.  Emotionally.  Mentally.  Using my gifts.  Awakening my heart.  I plan to move forward :)  

So, even though January is not my favorite month, it is a special time as we reflect on past memories, and unpack a new twelve months, beginning with January!  Bring it on!