Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Absolute Surrender

It began last fall..........the verse showed up in my vision through social media and I wrote my first post about it in mid September.....

"The Lord your God will fight for you......just stay calm."  
Exodus 14:14

This verse had jumped out at me in the questions I pondered.  And then my intuitive daughter Bethany and her family gave us a wall hanging for Christmas that resonated another translation of it.

Thus began God's persistence in bringing His Words to my attention.  Over the past four months that verse has popped up often ~ I' m thinking at least 9 times counting the one from this week that has me putting pen to paper.  

God is making a point, and as much as I don't always like the message I need to embrace it.  Just be still.... you need only be still......and let me fight for you.  

This is difficult for me....being still.   When I was sofa bound I had no choice but to be still in a broken body.  When I was set free, I vowed to never be on the sofa again, so it can be emotionally challenging for me to be still and let go.  Echoes of the past make it hard.  And speaking of echoes of the past, the "be still"l takes me back to the six year old little girl who fought against the abuse to her body.  I would resist, striving to get away, but eventually the strength and size of the abuser would overpower me.  It left an imprint on my brain.  When I could no longer resist, I was still, and bad things happened.

In my mind I know these are lies now, and Sozo has released me from most of the trauma surrounding these seasons of my life.  I know that I don't have to always be the fighter, the resistor, the striver.  I know I am safe now, but at times the old way of survival rises from the grave.  And sometimes my urge to fight my own battles gets in the way of what God is doing.  Just saying............

In the past, when God has sent me the same verses over and over again from different sources, he wants my attention.  I confess many of those times were connected to God trying to tell me to rest in him....be quiet in Him.....be still in Him. It is what I now describe as "absolute surrender"......words came to me from God as I meditated with Him this morning.  Absolute surrender requires absolute trust.  

Can you relate?  We hear all the time we are to fight to win the race....even Paul tells us that in the battle.  But in truth we cannot do this alone.  I'm sure God is not done showing me what he wants me to grasp from this subject, but today I am holding on to the comforting words that HE is my defender and I can trust Him.  I can lean back in His arms as the "little girl" and be safe.  I can lean back into His arms as an adult and trust Him to fight for me.  I don't need to always be fighting my way out of disease or distress.  God wants me to let go of the old way of living and trust Him.  He wants us all to trust Him with our past, our present, our future.  We look to Him alone.

When we trust God, when we believe His promises, when we understand Jesus as our healer, protector, provider, friend, warrior......then we can let Him fight for us and be at rest about it.  It is not that we stop doing our part, but we learn to stop striving alone, and walk forward from a place of knowing we have the victory through Jesus!  We give Him absolute surrender knowing that He fights our battles and that no one can stop the Lord almighty!   


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday's Scribbles: Who You Gonna Call?

About a week ago we started the morning off with a water issue.  Joel showered and when he got out he noticed water on the floor of the bathroom leaking out from around the toilet.  Yikes....gross.  He came upstairs and said, "I think we will need a new seal or a new toilet."  He cleaned it up the mess, started a load of clothes and............yep, you guessed it.  Water came up the drain.

Our first thought was the issue had something to do with the ice storm, but Joel soon came to the conclusion that we needed Rota Rooter to come to the rescue.  And they did.  Very quickly in fact.  The clog was a tree root that was way out from the house.  They fought with the root....and won!  Water problem solved to the tune of................well, lets just say it was not for free, but worth it.

I love how my husband responds to circumstances that arise.........he just hums his way through them, doing what you gotta do.  He knows his limitations and calls in the Calvary when it is out of his expertise.  That would apply across the board with any major electrical stuff, too.  He learned that lesson way back in the late 1970's.

We lived in a very old house and there was an electrical issue....so Joel headed to the basement to fix it.  It nearly fixed him!  As he stood holding what he did not realize was  a"hot" wire in his hands he heard a noise, glanced up and saw the current come down the wire.  He quickly let go just at it exploded and left hot metal melting on his glasses.  Yeah.  That close.

There are things we can do for ourselves, and there are things that require the experts!  I would say that applies not only for things in the natural, but in the spiritual.  It would be why Jesus told us he was leaving us a comforter.  Someone to help us, empower us.  He knew we would need an expert to navigate living life as Christians.  He stated that those left behind would be doing even more than He did.  Well, we would need help to accomplish that!  That is how good Holy Spirit is!

We have experienced Holy showing up so often as we have needed that help.  Never left alone, He waits, we seek, He responds.  It is so great to have Him there for us, isn't it?

So whether in water and electrical issues, or in living life, we have the option to rely on the experts to help us out!  We can pick up the phone and dial Rota Rooter and we can pick up the "phone" and dial God for h.e.l.p.

I think of a line in a silly song from a movie...."Who you gonna call??  Ghostbusters!"  Who we gonna call when life throws things our way?  Holy Spirit!  He cleans up messes, empowers us, comforts us, and yeah.....He truly is a ghostbuster if you need that too!  (grin)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

"The Trip"

Joel and I have been toying with the idea of traveling for a year across our vast country.  Getting an RV and taking off to see all the places we have wanted to see.  Bethel Church in CA is first on the list.  I am sure that this wanderlust is partly due to our good friends making their full time RVing plans for the near future.  Partly it is due to having had cancer a second time and now feeling good again, or maybe it is finding ourselves in the midst of yet another winter in the upper Midwest. Then lets add the gypsy blood that runs through my veins ~ moving constantly as a child....and then while married to an Air Force guy, then pastor.  Moving was part of the "job".

The recent discussions led us to reminisce about our family's big trip.  "The Trip" as we all named it. As a big family with mostly one income, a pastor's income, we did not vacation often and when we did there were more than a few times that we were called back from the vacation due to a death in the congregation.  One time we had to drive all the way back from Montana to Minnesota.  Not fun.

So in the mid 80's we made plans for a trip that would involve a month of traveling.  We found an older pop up tent camper and bought a little 2 man pop up tent besides.  We had our big old station wagon to pull everything and hold the 8 of us and we told the church we would not be coming back for any funerals unless those involved wanted to pay to fly Joel home and back to our location.  There were other pastors who could fill in.  Tough love and needing to putting our kids first.

We took off early one morning ~ 2 adults, 2 nearly adult teens, and 4 other grade school kids,  plus 1 dog.  We filled that station wagon for sure.  The need for an extra tent was obvious with 6 kids and a dog along.

Our camper broke the first night as Joel and Matt were putting it up, but Joel found a way to get it working so every time we stopped at night to rest Matt and Joel would finagle the sides up with effort and muscle power.  It looked a little like the Beverly Hillbillies, I expect, but we made it work.

We traveled through Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and South Dakota.  We visited a couple of colleges our oldest, Beth, was looking at and stopped to see several friends along the way.  We visited with Joel's Aunt Ruth in Seattle for 5 days of great fun!  Auntie Ruth liked to call us her "Rainbow Family".

I remember one day a car drove by us noticing ALL the kids, different ages and sizes, brown, black, white, tan.  After the car passed us they actually slowed down so we would pass them and they could take a second look!  We decided we should make up a sign that said, "YES, WE ARE ONE FAMILY!"

We seldom ate out, who had money for that?!  We cooked in the camper for breakfast and supper and lunch was sandwiches.  If I remember correctly, we ate out only 3 of 90 meals.  I do remember how delicious the fruit was in Washington state.  Especially the peaches.  So fresh and so sweet....nothing to compare.  We spent quite a bit of time in Washington, the state where I was born.

Of course there were things that were challenging about the trip, but that just makes the story more fun to share.  It was an adventure our kids still talk about.  "The Trip".  Joel and I ponder whether it is time for another such adventure.......It is hard not to think about it as 14 inches of fresh snow lay on the ground and more is forecast for the weekend.  Yeah.......another adventure in faithful living looks mighty good.  Something to rival "The Trip" in the gatherings around our table with the family.  Maybe......but if not, at least it passes the time as we dream away these January days.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Five Fantastic Years

I prayed last night that Holy Spirit would wake me at 4 a.m. today so I could congratulate my hubby. I woke at 3:59 a.m.!!   Wonderful!  I woke Joel and said....congrats!  Together we gave thanks to God before falling back to sleep.

You see, it was five years ago today at 4 in the morning that Joel sat straight up in bed and said "I am healed"!  He had no wake up time, no stretching or thought process beforehand, he just sat up and knew that he knew that he knew......He. was. healed.

Joel had been on disability for 3 years due to Lyme Disease.  Unbeknownst to anyone, his body had been fighting this disease since 1998, but his immune system had been working hard to battle it behind the scenes.  Then I was diagnosed with Lyme after 23 years of illness.  Our Lyme specialist kept an eye on Joel as she was suspicious he may have it too.  A couple years into my treatments, circumstances weakened his well-working immune system and the Lyme hit him hard.  He was so ill he could not work more than a few hours a week.  He had a long list of symptoms of which unrelenting fatigue was number one.  The rest were pre-Parkinson's neurological symptoms, pain, weakness, brain fog, etc.

I had been going through treatment for 5 years and Joel for 3 when a long distance friend of mine suggested we listen to a preacher/teacher talk about healing.  She had been battling Lyme for years with little progress, just like us.  She had stopped treatments, was praying for healing and seeing major results, so we found Andrew Wommack's  teaching, "God Wants You Well" online and watched.  We came away from the two hours of information pondering all he had to say.

When Joel went to bed that night he spoke as Andrew Wommack had instructed.....Commanding the Lyme, Bartonella and Babesia (co-infections) to die.  He told them they had no place in his body.  He started to doubt whether this would change anything and then decided to "jump over his doubts and just believe".  That simple prayer changed our lives. He woke at 4 a.m. healed.  He also began to speak in tongues which was not a gift that he had not sought after.  He believes it was a confirmation of his healing.

Joel began to test out his healing. First with walking, something that would tire him greatly.  No fatigue.  So he walked longer..........still no fatigue.  He then rode his bike which had been impossible due to balance issues.  He could ride his bike...1 mile....2 miles.....then 5 miles!  He now rides 20-22 miles easily!  His face was absolutely glowing with health when I looked at him the morning after his healing.  His strength returned immediately, there was no denying he was healed.

Joel received a miracle that early morning of January 24, 2012.

1.  Lyme dead and gone
2.  Bartonella and Babesia dead and gone
3.  Arthritis gone....even the bumps on his joints all gone and smooth
4.  Sleep apnea gone
5.  Recurrent corneal erosion gone
6.  Pre-Parkinson's gone
7.  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome gone.
8.  Thyroid Disease gone
9.  Gluten Intolerance gone

Several of these conditions and diseases were gone immediately, others left over the course of a few months. After an extensive exam our doctor confirmed he was healthy!  We like to say he had a microwave healing.  Zapped!  A couple other things left slow cooker style.

Healed~ All because Joel had a revelation on how to pray for healing.  All because we learned that God does want you well.  Jesus died for disease too........(by his stripes you are healed) and we can command that which comes against us.  It was a powerful and life changing revelation for us.  Thank you Jesus!

So we are celebrating today 5 fantastic years of full health for Joel.  He continues to speak to his body when necessary, he continues to preach and teach, and he continues to tell his story to others.  The Bible tells us to share our testimony and in obedience to God he does so.  We have seen healing from Lyme and co-infections and thyroid disease in my body and nearly 100% improvement from chemical sensitivities and chronic fatigue syndrome in my body.  We continue to stand believing for more.  We continue to pray for others and see healing released.  We continue to give thanks for the goodness of our Lord!

Today we choose to celebrate, remember and rejoice!  Thank you Jesus.....for five fantastic years of Joel walking in health.  We are humbled and grateful.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday's Scribbles: The Land Of Giants

I was listening to a pastor tell his story.......He had started a church in Florida.  Over the years it had grown greatly and a 45,000 foot addition was added on.  The church was doing well, the pastor's wife had a wonderful job, and they had built their dream home on five acres of land.  They planned to live the rest of their lives out in this house, at this church.  All was good.  And then.......As the pastor was out walking one morning, he heard God tell him it was time to leave this church.  Needless to say, it stunned him, but he knew he could not ignore this command if it was from God.

So pastor Tom went home and told his wife what had happened.  She was in the bathroom brushing her hair and as he told her what he thought was a word from God, she turned to him, pointed her hair brush at him, and said..."You better be sure this is from God!"  After seeking counsel, he was affirmed in his spirit, and believed that God wanted him to leave this church, this beautiful promised land where all was well.

He left the church, with no call, and walked through a season of waiting until he was offered a position with Global Awakening.  It completely changed his life.  His comment was, "IF God tells you to walk away from what looks like the best thing, it is because He has a greater plan for your future and is leading you into something even better."

Sometimes what God asks of us looks risky and impractical.  Often impossible!  He calls us to places that do not present us with a house of our dreams and /or a big church to serve.  Sometimes He beckons us into a land where there are giants.  Maybe is it a land flowing with milk and honey, but giants show up and distract us from seeing God's plan. Can this really be what you have planned Lord?  It is darn scary here!

Pastor Tom spoke of the story of the spies coming back from the land God promised and how all but two felt it was a good land, BUT there were giants there.  Too scary.  Too risky.  They did not want to go, even though God had told them this was their land.  Only Joshua and Caleb came back and said, yes, giants are there.....BUT it is a good place! And.  God.  Promised.  Let's go!  It was a matter of trust.

Several years ago one family member moved from a place where they had good jobs, a nice home, a great church and so many great friends.  The first year or so was really tough......challenges came up in the new business, and friends were hard to come by.  Could this be God's plan?  His best for His children?  Speed ahead to today and it is a completely different story.  Flourishing.  That is what comes to mind as I think about this family.  Flourishing in all areas of their lives.  

I'm thinking we can all relate in some way to these stories.  The risks we may be called to take come in all shapes and sizes.  Could be a move to a new land.....could be trusting and seeing beyond what something appears to be.  A risk could be as small as saying hi to a stranger at church, or as big as a change in career or location.  That ol' enemy is going to do all he can to keep you from God's plan for your lives so when God speaks and shakes up our world, remember the story of Joshua and Caleb.....and be bold.  Take a step forward. Every risk requires trusting God and His plan.  Even in the lands of giants.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Day of Transition

Today president-elect Donald Trump will be sworn in as our next President.  President Obama and his family will leave the White House for the last time as the sitting President and family.  As I watch the morning news coverage, I am hearing about those who will not attend, those who will......Those who plan to protest.  What we will be watching is a transition from one man elected by the people for another.

Before I share my thoughts, I want to state clearly, I NEVER share how we vote in any election.  We have never felt comfortable doing so because of Joel being a pastor in a place of authority in the church.  He has never used the pulpit to give his agenda on politics.  It is not our way.

Recently I listened to a powerful sermon given by Bill Johnson at Bethel Church.  He talked about the transition that would be taking place, and stated........."I have always prayed for our President and those in government leadership.  I have prayed for God to use them and guide them.  I prayed for Reagan.  I prayed for Carter.  I prayed for Bush.  I prayed for Clinton.  I prayed for Bush.  I prayed for Obama.  I am praying for Trump."  He bases this on 1 Timothy 2: 1-3

"Therefore I tell you first of all 
that supplications, prayers, intercessions,
 and giving thanks be made for all men.
For kings and all who are in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life 
in a godliness and reverence. 
 For this is good and acceptable 
in the sight of God our Savior."

Pastor Bill Johnson is expressing the importance of being obedient to God.  His prayers are not for certain presidents to mend their ways, or change, or be removed from office.....or for others to be in powerful positions.........his petitions are from a desire to be obedient to God, knowing this brings peace.  Our words have power.   Our prayers have power.

We certainly see that things have changed in our country.  We have never before heard such hate spoken against our president ~ Obama~  and against our new president~ Trump.  I have never before seen such disrespect shown for those in the highest office of our country.  The freedom of speech has turned into a social media of hatred expressed.  It has at times horrified us.  And this year.....wow....IF you say your voted for Clinton you can expect strong words spoken against you.  If you say you voted for Trump you can have strong words spoken against you.  Speculation rises, but whatever the causes, it is our loss.  Our deep loss on how to treat others.

There is a political "spirit" that has entered in and divided families, friends, neighbors, cities, states, our country. It has risen on the waves of anger and hatred and it has brought with it a loss of love and hope.

We cannot let it continue.  It begins with us, what we say, how we act.  We can share our opinions, our thoughts, our actions, with love.  And we also receive the words of others with love.  We look to God for His guidance and we choose to live with integrity and an open heart.

So today, like Bill Johnson,  we will pray for our president just as we have for others during our adult lives. We will respect the office and pray for those in authority over our country.  From the local level, to the state level, to the highest office in our country.  We pray.  We pray and we look to God.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What A Beautiful Name It Is

Sunday Pastor Bill Johnson shared a personal story about his son Brian during his sermon.  When Brian was around 10 he would consistently have night terrors.  He would often climb into bed with his parents and Bill would speak over him, pray for him, comfort him.  He told Brian there were 4 ways to fight the spiritual warfare coming against him in the middle of the night.  1. Fight back with the name of Jesus. 2. Fight back with the blood of Jesus.  3. Speak God's Word over the circumstance.  4. Praise God.  (the enemy hates praise).  One night Brian did not come into their room and the next day Bill asked his son if he slept well without any night terrors.  Brian said no, but he had asked God for a verse to speak over the terrors and God gave Him one.  Brian learned to use those tools for himself and the night terrors were resolved.

Jesus ~~Savior.  Healer. Friend.  Protector. Son.  The Way * the Truth * the Life. What a beautiful name it is!   I have spoken the name of Jesus as a prayer on those occasions that I cannot sleep at night....when anxiety or a wired mind has me tossing.  I breathe in Jesus and I breath out stress.....when I breathe in I say "JESUS"  when I breathe out I exhale anxiety.  95% of the time I fall asleep.  Speaking the blood of Jesus for protection comforts me.  And I know His Word is mighty to proclaim.  Praise.....well it not only causes the enemy to run, but it fills me with joy and connects me to God.  Now if I could just remember to use these tools all the time!

I remember a story that was told about a mom who was having stomach pain.  It was pretty bad and as she lay on the sofa, her little 3 year old son came over to her, laid his hand on her tummy and said. Mommy's owies, Jesus.  Gone.  I can't help but smile when I write this.....of course her pain left.  Her child had believed, prayed with child like faith, and his mommy was healed.  Bless his little heart!

Quite a while ago my friend called me while she was traveling through crowded Phoenix.  One of her children noticed her sister was not responding well, a sign of seizures coming.  We prayed together while on the phone.  Later she called me and shared that she had felt they were to sing praises.  So they all began to praise God and sing songs of praise over her little one. Quickly she was was back to being alert and the potential for a seizure was gone.  Praise is a weapon of warfare and believe me when I say, sickness and disease is a weapon the enemy brings against us.  God provides weapons, powerful weapons for us to use against him and here is an example of praise as one of those weapons. The victory in Jesus is always ours!

One morning recently I woke from a bad dream.....it had been going on for several hours so I started to think about what it meant.  I whispered, "The circumstances need to change, Lord.  Healing is provided."  A voice, His voice spoke back to me as I drifted off......"my child, pay attention to what I say...."

"My child, pay attention to what I say,  
listen carefully to my Words.  
Don't lose sight of them.
Let them penetrate deep into your heart 
 For they are life to those who find them 
and healing to their whole body."
Proverbs 4: 20-23

The Word is LIVING. POWERFUL. So is the name of JESUS.  The Bible tells us we speak life or death with our words...........Jesus tells us , "I have come to give you life and to give it to you more abundantly".

Yesterday I wrote about the weapons of warfare God provides.  Today it is still on my mind.   Are you in need of a few weapons of warfare?  Life throwing challenges your way?  Fear taking up residence?  Discouragement heavy like a yoke on your shoulders?

Turn to the weapons provided.....His WORD, His name, JESUS, His BLOOD, the action of PRAISE!  Add these to your arsenal along with Ephesians 6.....and victory is yours.

 "Mommy.  Owie.  Jesus.  Gone.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It Could Be Worse

With all the latest technology at our beck and call, we had known about the coming ice storm practically before it formed.  For days we were told to prepare for a major ice, sleet, rain, and snow event. We watched it raise havoc across the plains with damage to trees, property, and human life.

We did what we could to get ready......enough water~ ck.  candles~ ck.  bananas~ck.  (ok, that may sound weird but we get a bit crabby when we are out of bananas!) We planned on not leaving the house on Monday and settled in for the wait.

 For us the freezing rain started after midnight and continued.....and continued....until late Monday night.  It could be worse.  The roads are thick with ice and standing water in places too.  All schools cancelled.  No travel unless necessary.  Still, it could be worse.  We did not lose power in town, there was little wind and under an 1/8 inch of ice I think, so the branches are still all attached to the trees!

It could have been worse.  I think this is a phrase that somehow brings comfort to us..........whether in a ice storm or a storm of circumstances.  Things could be worse.  And I just need to say it.........things could be better too. And how about the phrase, "It is what it is".  I find those five words to be depressing for me.  When hit hard with a storm in life I don't want to hear or find myself saying, "It is what it is."  Back to the storms..............

Just how do we prepare for the storms in life?  The kind that make us weak in the knees.  Unfortunately, we often do not have prior warning of what is coming.  Something blindsides us.  Smack.  So it might just be a good idea to always be prepared for the storms.  Not in a fatalistic way, nor expecting the worst....but just knowing that the enemy would like nothing better than to hit us hard and lay us flat.  He works at it, believe you me.

So we prepare ahead of time.  We put on the full armor of God.

1.  Helmet of Salvation ~ ck.  We take care of that need for salvation.  Eternal life is ours!
2.  Breastplate of Righteousness~ ck.  We know we are sons and daughters of the KING!
3.  Belt of Truth ~ ck.  We wear it to hold everything up.  The Truth....His Truth!
4.  Shoes of Peace, Good news~ ck.  Where does our peace come from?  From Jesus and His Word.
5.  Shield of Faith ~ ck.  Keep it with you at all times....stopping the fiery arrows of the devil.
6.  Sword of the Spirit ~ ck.  His Word is powerful....Use it like a weapon!
7.  Prayer ~ ck.  Pray without ceasing.......
8.  Adding to the list..........Rest.~ ck.  Stay calm and let Him fight for us!!

These weapons prevent, prepare, protect.

And lets not forget the name of Jesus........the blood of Jesus........Scriptures declared.......and Praise!  All of this helps us be ready for the storms that come............or try to come against us.  God has not left us vulnerable.  No, He has not.  He has given us ways to prepare and stand firm and He fights for us. It could be worse.........and with the list above it will be a whole lot better!!!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday's Scribbles: Alex and Ruth

I just finished watching the movie, "5 Flights Up" starring Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton.  It is a rather low key movie about a senior couple, and their struggle with whether or not to sell their 40 year old apartment in Brooklyn NY. and move to a place with an elevator.   Of course it is about much more, and this 93 minute drama has drawn me in more than once.  In truth, Thursday I watched it for the 4th time, using a notebook to take down some of the gems that were shared by either Alex or Ruth, the characters in the movie.  I always enjoy Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman, but besides that this little "sleeper" movie seems to keep speaking to me.  Thus the notebook.

More than one of their conversations gave me pause.  Like Alex telling his wife she had to stop worrying!  Her reply....."I like worrying, it keeps me calm." (giggle) There are more than a few of us that believe that lie.....worrying makes us feel like we have some control over what is happening or could happen and therefore it may bring with it a false sense of calm.  Just maybe.

Another conversation towards the end of the movie ended with Alex saying "We are like everyone else today. Getting worked up over nothing.  Why are we moving?  What are we chasing?  Haven't we built a good life?" They had built a good life together, comfortable in their community and surrounded by friends.  They were connected to their people, their tribe.

And Ruth responding, "I don't care if we live in Brooklyn or in Moscow.  I just want what is best for you....for us."  Sometimes our families and friends think they know what is best for us.....sometimes we ourselves think we know what is best and then something shifts and our vision becomes clear and we see what we need to see....and we know that we know that we know.

Alex narrated the movie at times, and he concluded his narration by sharing that the adventure in the selling-buying process brought them right back to their beginning, full circle.......... The situation "Reminded us of who we are, what we have."  There are seasons in our lives that do exactly that.  Remind us who we are and what we have. I would add that those times also remind us Whose we are, where we rest.

We are blessed to have God guiding us.  I did not see any evidence of that in this movie....nor any time spent praying about what was best.  May be that they felt God would close doors if they made the wrong decision or maybe they did not believe God played any part in their lives at all.  That was left a mystery.

I expect that the characters in the movie were ages around 75 for Ruth and 80 for Alex, although again, that was left to us to decide.  What was not a mystery is the difficulty in managing changes in life as we age and the decisions that eventually come because of that aging.  Still, how blessed to be able to even be seniors and in the midst of what it entails.  "I don't care if we live in Brooklyn or Moscow, I just want what is best for you....for us."  That says it all, doesn't it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Christmas Connection

InCourage, a Christian web site for women,  has just published their first book, "Craving Connections".  Several authors have shared their own stories surrounding our need to be connected.  I'm thinking I will be reading this book, since my "word" for 2017 is Belonging/Connections.

While thinking about the word belonging, I have been reflecting back on a time in my life when I was going to college to be an interpreter for the deaf (in a medical setting).  Part of our requirements was service to others, and I volunteered to visit a high rise nursing home in Minneapolis.  Through my instructor I connected there with a woman who was both blind and deaf.  I communicated with her by finger spelling with American Sign Language into the palm of her hand. She could talk to me since she had not gone deaf until she was a teenager. Helen loved to "hear" from me what was going on in the world and would often ask me to sign summaries of articles out of news magazines or the newspaper. I was sent to help her, but she blessed my life richly.  I also visited with a woman who was bedridden and confined to a dark room.  I could only stay briefly and talk quietly to her.  She was once a missionary and had gotten ill on the mission field.  They both stood firm in their faith in very challenging circumstances, and with grace opened their lives to a stranger because of their need for connection with others.

On Christmas Day that year, our family went to church in downtown Minneapolis before heading to a family Christmas gathering.  At the end of the service the pastor asked for volunteers to deliver poinsettias to members in the same nursing home where I volunteered, so we picked up a few of the plants and headed over to deliver them.

This decision greatly impacted our family.  So many people on floor after floor of the high rise...their loneliness palpable.  I'm sure many had family coming to visit, but what we noticed is that people were hungry for connection that day.  After going into the dining room to deliver one poinsettia,  we had a difficult time leaving.  Our family of 7 plus one ~ my mom~ were quite the "hit" during our brief visit.   At that time, I had never seen so many people who needed to connect with others.  Not just desired....but needed.  Of course our kids were the attention grabber!  Who doesn't love kids!?!

When we lived in the Philippines we noticed that in most cases several generations lived together in the same small house or a Nipa hut.  They respected the elderly and cared for them.  I'm sure this was partly out of necessity, but it was also cultural.  The elderly stayed connected all their lives with their family, as the central figures within.  No strangers needed to provide companionship and connection.

We were created for connection......with God and others.  The new InCourage book "Craving Connection" states,  "We all long for meaningful relationships, the Colossians 3:14 kind that fulfill our desire for unity and connection with God, our friends, and our community. "  Kris Vallotton, pastor at Bethel Church in CA calls this search for meaningful relationships, the need to  "find your tribe".  

This need for connection is rooted in the core of our souls.  It was obvious to us that Christmas morning when we walked the halls of the nursing home and it is still obvious today.  Our world is more connected than ever through social media..........but also more lonely.  How does that compute?

We have a deep ingrained need to belong and to connect. God is waiting................and so, too, is our tribe.

"Above all, clothes yourselves with love, 
which binds us all together in unity."
Colossians 3:14

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Horse, A Repo Guy, and Grapevines: What Do They All Have In Common?


Joel and I recently watched a news segment about wine being grown in Tuscany.  It had drawn national interest because of what they use to grow sweeter and bigger grapes.  Their secret?  The music they play in the vineyards.  Classical music plays and the vines and grapes respond in a positive way.  The vines even grow towards the sound, leaning in to it so to speak. One man decided to play music over his well cared for vineyard and they responded.  For what ever reasons they responded....this one act by one man changed how vines produced. Scientists are now studying this phenomenon.  I love it!

Sunday morning I watched a story about a "crusty old man" who had befriended a horse.  The horse was not eating well, so he was slowly wasting away.  The man spent a great deal of time getting him to eat and discovered in the process that he had stopped eating because he was so lonely.  Once this elderly man gave him attention and the horse learned to trust him, they became friends.  The horse lived and thrived.  Later when the man had a heart attack, he was weak and struggling to recover....but he credits the horse with getting him moving again, with giving him purpose.  They continue to be best friends.

Another story on CBS Sunday Morning caught my attention also.  A man who works as a repo guy is is known as a "guardian angel: and wears that label proudly.  He discovered when he was repossessing peoples cars, etc. that there were a lot of tragic stories attached to them.  The morning show shared about one couple where the wife was having to help her husband in the early stages of Alzheimer's.  They had so many medications to buy they could not afford the payments on their 1998 car and the guardian angel came to repossess it.  When he heard the story, he called the bank, was able to keep the car for the couple, and then start a go fund page.  He ended up paying the car off and giving the couple money to help them stay afloat.

What do these stories have in common?  Well, besides seeing God interwoven in all three, it tells me how important it is to connect.  Even the grapevines seem to need connection and responded to music being played over them.  That may be a stretch, but what happened is truly amazing.  The horse thrived when he was no longer lonely.  And the heart of one man changed the lives of two others just because he took the time to reach out to a struggling elderly couple.

Saturday morning we listened to Brene' Brown's widely watched TED talk on vulnerability.  It has been viewed over 27 million times and resonates in the hearts of those who listen.  She learned in her decade of research about our basic need to connect.  Kris Vallotton carries it a step further stating that we have been created for connection with God.  It is really the way God made us, with the desire to belong to Him and with others.

When I watched Pastor Householder preach at Lutheran Church of Hope Sunday morning, his sermon was about......you guessed it!  Connection and our need to do life together.  I had to laugh as God impressed on me one more time the importance of this message.  I love when God brings something to my attention over and over.

Needless to say, after praying for a word to focus on this year.....reflecting on both rest and breakthrough.....I am settling right down in the midst of the word BELONGING.  It was six months ago we left a church we enjoyed very much because we felt like we could not fully be ourselves there.  We were trying to fit it....instead of belonging.  A great church, but not a great connection for us.  As Joel has worked like an itinerant pastor over the past many months, we struggle with not belonging anywhere permanently.  We don't have a church home.  Our community has always been found in a church.  For many people their community gathers in school, neighborhood, a local coffee shop, the theater, or even a bar, but for us it has always been a church, so we now are missing that major part of our lives.  Belonging has become a priority.  We believe that God is guiding us to a place where we will belong.

Has God given you a word to focus on this year?  We are looking forward to what God brings to mind in 2017 concerning this word.....and I'm not forgetting about the words rest and breakthrough either. Somehow they are all connected.  And there is that word again!

Connections are so vital to our well being.  Everyone needs a sense of belonging.  Whether we have a connection to others through our work, through an animal like a horse, through our neighborhoods, our families, our friends, or through our church communities, the need is there and God is willing to be a part of it.  He created us for connection with Him and others.  A place where we feel we belong, a peaceful place to be.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Nesting and Finding Joy In January

The wind howled, the temperature dropped, and the wind chill made it feel like -26.  Winter was puffing out it's chest and reminding us of what the first days of the new year are known for.  Snow.  Ice.  Cold.

Defending ourselves from the coldest month of the year means winter gear in layers as we venture outside....a sweatshirt or sweater.....wool socks maybe.....winter coat...scarf and hat and gloves or mittens.  Don't forget the boots!  The warmer the better.  Most people hurry in and hurry out, and if you are lucky enough (it is on our bucket list) you have heated seats to keep car travel more comfortable. Otherwise you start to warm up just about the time you get to your next destination.  Yeah....

All those beautiful pictures you see on social media of winter white landscapes, lights reflecting from windows, smoke rising from chimneys.  Beautiful, yes, but brutal at times too!

Today a storm is crossing our country.  Much needed rain in the west, unneeded snow and ice in the southeast.  The weather seems extreme right now.  Or do we just forget from year to year what is ahead as the calendar turns over a new leaf.

We spend a great deal of time indoors when January makes itself known,  and while nesting, we dig out puzzles, games. and stack books to be read on cold winter days and nights while the fireplace warms the room and a quilt keeps the legs toasty.  The TV is on more, and walking takes place on our treadmill.  So grateful for the treadmill this year!  Thank you neighbor June!!

So, it is about this time that we start to long for Arizona.  The neighbor Kent just got back from Colorado and asked Joel if he thinks about going to Arizona......and much to Joel's surprise he said immediately..."Every day."  Every. day.  Hmmmmm

The desire to escape winter for the desert has not left us.  My body reacts strongly to the cold and Joel has a bit of stiffness himself when the cold comes to stay.  Mostly the SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) is what challenges Joel.  We keep speaking over it to go....but it is stubborn.  And then there is God's vitamin D.  Sunshine.  I need it.  We both do.  So we ponder, plan, praise, and pray for answers as we hunker down here, grateful for a cozy warm home.  I can remember when Joel only wore a vest in the winters and was never cold.  I can remember when he felt exhilarated and challenged by winter.  No longer.

I think back on the pioneers who lived through brutal winters in sod houses.  How did they do it?  Why did they do it?  They were looking for a new life....a way to make a living....a way to live out their dreams or the promises made.  Some were prepared and survived, some lasted only a few years, and unfortunately a few are buried young where the weather or disease overcame them.  Most had skills to survive and thrive in spite of what came their way.  I am always fascinated by the strength and courage of the pioneer women. Did they nest in winter  out of choice or necessity?   I think we know the answer to that.

Nesting in January is not a bad thing.  A time to unwind, rest, and reflect on the year behind us while setting new goals and plans for the year ahead.  In yet another day with waking temperatures at -9 we hunker down.   Could be worse.  Could be a whole lot better!  With a push of a button my living room has a cozy fire going.  With the lift of a finger I am connected to others.  With the opening of a book cover I am transformed into another world. With my voice and heart I am communicating with God. All while January makes us grateful for a warm home.  Stay warm, stay safe, laugh, learn, love.......nesting and finding joy in January.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Survival TV, Scrabble, Scones, and "Sully"

We made New Year's a 5 day celebration, even though we spent most of our time at home.  Backtracking to last Thursday, we watched a marathon of the survival reality show "The Last Alaskans" on Animal Planet.  Seriously, we don't do marathon TV but I had a bad episode of pain in the wee hours of Thursday morning that took away much of my sleep time, and I needed to rest and distract.  At 1 p.m. we sat down to lunch and I turned on this show.  Joel and I both like survival type stuff so it held our attention.  I can't believe I am writing this, but 9 hours later we headed to bed fully brain fogged from too much TV!  We did other things during the time including nap and wash, dry and fold laundry, but we tuned in at 1 p.m. and turned it off at 10 p.m. We even woke up the next day feeling draggy from too much TV!  Lesson learned.

Friday we headed with friends on a road trip which I wrote about here on Saturday's Scribbles. I ended up having to rest again most of Saturday, but that night we watched the movie, "Sully" about the pilot who landed the plane on the river in NYC.  It was both fascinating and stressful, and we enjoyed it very much.  Joel found it very interesting how Sully kept his focus and made such calm, calculated decisions during the short 3 1/2 minutes he had from the time of the bird strike until the water landing.  Steady, calm, focused, and following his instincts brought all 155 passengers to  safety.  Truly a miracle on the Hudson.  He did not let the voices of the traffic controllers, the plane's warning sounds, etc. distract him.  He did what he knew he had to do in a dire situation.  Pretty good analogy for much of life!

Sunday Joel preached at a church an hour south and I worshiped online.  Joel and I have been watching another reality show "The American Baking Show" on ABC.  For some reason we love this show......but it makes me want to bake.....and it makes Joel want to eat!  So Sunday morning while Joel was gone I made him a surprise.  Maple scones.  We both enjoy the scones we pick up at Farmer's Market but I have been thinking about how to make them using maple syrup instead of sugar.  And eventually almond flour in place of white flour.  It was a bit labor intensive, but using and adjusting The Pioneer Woman's recipe, I made scones.  We have enjoyed our New Year treat very much.

Today Joel and I played Scrabble.  We used to play quite often and I can tell I am rusty......You know, I sometimes worry about Joel's brain because he cannot pull names up very well.  He has always been this way I guess.  I think I better worry about my brain though since he beat me today 299 to 164. Yeah....that bad.  It has been awhile since I have picked up a Sudoku or crossword puzzle....a good goal for 2017.  Keep my brain active!

It has been an interesting holiday as we ushered in 2017.  My goodness, I still can't believe we are this far into 2000......With so many countdowns behind us, we give thanks for this brand new year that lies before us.

As I look outside I see Joel scrapping ice off the driveway.  Fog is settling in, ice is expected to continue to accumulate.  Winter is making itself known.  We are grateful for it all. Fellowship with friends, a warm house, family texting, survival TV, scrabble, scones, and a movie that makes us think.....We are here.  We rejoice~

Happy New Year!