Saturday, July 13, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday morning to you from our corner of Iowa where the corn is basking in the heat and humidity and growing tall!  July has definitely arrived with temperatures in the high 80's and dew points creeping up into the 70's.  We were able to do a little porch sitting this morning as a thunderstorm passed by.  There is something soothing about listening to a gentle rain, quiet thunder, and the wind moving through the trees and bushes. Iowa in summer.

Speaking of Iowa, we have been here now for 23 years and bought this house 15 years ago.  Joel and those he hired spent many weeks renovating it to bring it back to life.  It was in bad shape and needed so much work.  A long time friend, John, came and helped Joel after we first held the papers in our hands.  Some of my family helped with painting which included my brother painting the high living room ceiling and Joel climbing an extension ladder to get to the top of the 30 foot peak.  FYI:  For anyone who thinks they want high ceilings remember that sound and heat rises so that I can be up in our bedroom and it is like the TV in the living room is on right next to me!  Not cool........It is an unusual house, to say the least, but then we are unusual people...or so I have been told.  Not too long ago Joel was home caring for me on a Sunday morning after surgery and he looked out to see a man standing in the street, taking pictures of our house.   His curiosity quickly had him walking out the door and over to the man to ask what he was doing.....turns out he used to live here and the front of the house had changed so much he wanted pictures.  We did add a porch and new siding to the house 11 years ago. 

We went to Hobby Lobby early this morning, then Joel walked with me around the cul-de-sac here which felt sooooo good.  It was still raining a bit, but did not deter us from getting a little fresh air.  There is that old song..........."raindrops keep falling on my head".   Grateful.  It is not a gentle rain falling in the south, though, where flooding and evacuations are ongoing.  Keeping that part of our country in prayer today. 

Weather is such a big part of our lives.  Good and bad.  My history holds earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, typhoons, blizzards, and more.  We can watch the weather 24/7 now and our phones light up with alerts!  I remember one time when I was a teenager I was out in our backyard goofing around with my boyfriend, neither of us realizing a tornado warning was in place and across town it was doing some damage.  Now, we are warned about every little weather blip that comes across the radar.  It has saved many lives and is necessary I am sure, but at times it feels overdone.  Still, since Joel is an old meteorologist, I can't complain!

Nothing much to scribble about today.  I have been finishing up Brian and Candace Simmons book, "Tn the Wilderness:  Where Miracles Are Born" and I am reading a Marcia Muller mystery, which is a good distraction.  What are you reading? 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Is This A Good Time?

I was in the bathroom, getting ready for the day when the thought came into my head.....The phone is going to ring, it will be Mayo Clinic, and you will still be upstairs.  A couple minutes later the phone rang and it was Mayo Clinic.The woman on the other end talked a couple of minutes and then said, "Can you talk right now? Is this a good time?  I paused for a moment and then said, "Sure, I can talk."

After last Wednesday's appointments, we went home over the weekend and prayed over what we had heard.  The radiologist had told me my case was complicated.....he suggested we go to Mayo for a second opinion.  He said it three times throughout our conversation. The oncologist mentioned it as one of our options.  Circumstances that arose during our visit with him had us contemplating the idea seriously.  So Monday we called the nurse advocate and said we would like a referral for a second opinion.  Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN is less than 2 hours from us by car.  Right "in our backyard" as one person had said to us.

Thus the phone call at 8 am. When I said I could talk, I was sitting on our bed without a stitch of clothing on.  So there I sat, spiral notebook in hand, jotting down information,thankful this was not a Facetime visit!   Joel and I had a good laugh over it later.   The appointment is 5 weeks away which makes me anxious when I think about it, but we had prayed, others had prayed and we needed to trust the process.  All my info is being sent there or carried by me and we will pray all goes well as we proceed.

Is this a good time? How often have we heard those words, or spoken them.  Do you ever wonder if God interrupts our day or night and is thinking.........."Is this a good time?"  Maybe He wakes us in the night just so He can have our full attention!  Our days can be so full that we don't set aside much time for Him......and He quietly waits for us to acknowledge His presence, sit with Him and hear what He has to say.  "Is this a good time"?

We never have to ask God "Is this a good time" when we want to talk with Him.  He is available 24/7 to listen.  What a gift.  What love He has for His children. My prayer is that we, too, find ourselves attentive to God's voice anytime of the day or night, so aware of His presence that He does not have to ask, "Is this a good time"?

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A History In Chimes

Our grandmother clock

As I sat in the living room on an early morning before sunrise, our grandmother clock declared the time as it counted off the hours with chimes that were as familiar as my own voice.  This smaller version of the grandfather clock has graced our home since 1975.  While living in the Philippines we took a picture of a clock down to a local builder and they created this beautiful piece of our history that still holds a special place in our home and in our hearts.

Last Wednesday we heard so much unsettling news as we spent time with the surgeon, then the radiology oncologist, and finally the medical oncologist.  We came home feeling beat up, confused, and overwhelmed by the words spoken.  I woke early the next morning, unable to sleep.  Going downstairs I opened the book of Psalms trying to find a word, any word to grasp on to.  Nothing seemed to speak clearly to my anxious mind.

And then the clock began to chime it's morning song.  A familiar comforting sound.  Over the years we have had to replace a part or two of the mechanisms, and there was a period of time when it sat silent in our home, unable to share it's sounds with us.  But several years ago Joel found a way to repair it and we have enjoyed it's melodic hourly reminder ever since.

Today it brought comfort to me as I try to come to terms with living in the balance of health vs disease.  As I try to prayerfully find an answer to the questions of what step to take next.......and where is God in the midst of it all.  And just what is the mystery He is unfolding as He continues to send me the same verse over and over..........mostly through the imperfect social media outlet, Facebook.  He has clearly stated He is fighting for me.......I am to remain calm.

Yes, there is a bit of an earthquake going on here with a few aftershocks.  Words like chemo, radiation, aggressive, advanced, dumbfounded, and unpredictable all swirl around in my head along with the ever present mantra spoken over me that I am an unusual case.  At times it is difficult to stand firm let alone remain calm.  Yet this morning God sent more love notes to me as I ran across a TED talk about a young woman who had been diagnosed with leukemia and after 4 years of chemo was cancer free.  She said the hardest part of all was learning to live in a body that had changed so much,  was not completely a full life within her boundaries and not knowing what the future will bring.  I also listened to a sermon by Beni Johnson as she spoke about prayer.  I read the texts from my family lifting up prayers for us as this difficult season continues.  And don't we all go through those seasons?  All the above are more love notes from God.

The clock chimed a message to me in the quiet of the morning, and I realized I had the gift of another day.   I am still here to take in a sunrise, laugh with Joel, worship our Lord and give Him praise.  The chimes spoke to me Psalm 118:24, "This IS the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." 

Our grandfather clock has been with us through so many much joy..........sorrow........difficulty.  It reminds us every time it chimes of our history filled with so many memories.  Most importantly it speaks of our history with God's goodness, His faithfulness, His presence in this process we call life. What a beautiful way to start the day!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles: In God We Trust

Good Saturday morning to you on this holiday weekend here in our corner of the world where sunshine and warm temperatures are making it a good day to enjoy the outdoors.  Joel is already off riding as I write this.  I am sitting in the living room with the doors open, tuning my ear to the birds singing and the tree leaves rustling in the wind.

We live very close to the high school grounds, from which the city fireworks are displayed each year.  We are just across the river, and every year we pull chairs up to the window and watch through the trees from the comfort of our home.  If the wind is just right, we have had the debris from the fireworks land in ours and the neighbors yards.  In those years,  Joel goes out to make sure nothing is left to start a grass fire. 

The fourth of July always reminds me of our years in the Air Force.  Joel spent 8 years in the military from 1968 through 1976.  This was during the Viet Nam war and the draft was in place.  Joel received his draft notice, and chose to enlist in the Air Force rather than be in the front lines of the Army.  One thing that I have always liked is the way the military respected our country.  If we were in a theater, before the movie started the flag would come on the screen and the whole theater would stand at attention while the anthem was sung.  I remember on Clark Air Force Base that if you were walking or driving when the flag was being lowered, all people and cars stopped out of respect.  If you were in a car, you got out and stood at attention until the flag was down.

For me, I always connected the military "rules" of respect with the motto....the truth...."In God we trust."    God blessed us with a great freedom in America and it was and is important to be thankful for that freedom.  We saw the consequences of a dictatorship when we lived in The Philippines.  We knew the importance of freedom.  In the eight years we were in the Air Force we moved to 5 different bases.  We lived in 4 states and 1 third world country.  We knew we had to trust God on our journey.  In each place we lived, we saw God at work in our lives.

We are now in a season of needing to focus on  "In God we trust" more than ever.   We are continuing to look for ways we see God at work in our lives.  I had appointments last Wednesday that left us shaken.  The battle will continue for my health and the only way through is to trust God.  For weeks I have found myself waking somewhere between 5 and 6 each morning, a perfect time to have a tsunami of emotions wash over me.  Mostly negative.  I realized recently that I have a choice as I toss and dwell on the whys and what ifs or to use the time to connect with God.   It is a daily blessing to remember, "In God We Trust."

When we lived in The Philippines, Marcos was leader of the country.  There was Martial Law ( no one could be on the streets after 10:30 at night) and people were afraid of Marcos and his people.  Our maid would never speak his name out loud, but only in a whisper.  We watched the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  We, as Americans, watched young children dig through our garbage to eat the food we were throwing out!   In general Filipinos who worked for us Americans made 7 pesos a day....which was $1.  Seriously, it opened our eyes to how wealthy we are and what great privileges we have as Americans.  Let us never take them for granted.  And as we celebrate this country of ours, all the good, the bad, and even the ugly, let us never forget...."In God we trust."

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Angel Food Cake In The WIlderness

I have been reading Dr. Brian and Candace Simmons book, "In The Wilderness:  Where Miracles Are Born".  In one chapter they talked about the Israelites wandering in the desert and how God provided daily manna for them.  They never went without food....bread of a sort.  God provided them with the bread for life.

Simmons tells us the manna is described in different ways in scripture.  When the Israelites asked Moses what it was, he told them it was bread from Heaven.  A mystery of sorts as the people asked...."What is it?"  In Nehemiah it is called "God's manna", and in Psalm 105 it is called "Heaven's bread".  In Psalm 78 it is described as "angels food"!  I love the idea of it being angels food.  The food of angels fell from the sky on a daily basis.  Pastor Simmons described it as angel food cake from Heaven!

We, as Christians feed upon the bread of life....Jesus IS the bread of life, provided for us by our Father.  Jesus as our Manna.  We cannot help but see the parallels of the Wilderness story in Exodus and our own wilderness stories.  Our need for Jesus was provided for us.........even or especially in the wilderness. 

We all go through seasons of wilderness, keeping us on our knees before God.  We live, trusting He will provide...........whether we call it "angel food cake" from Heaven or the "Bread of Life".  At times the wilderness looks endless, challenging, and yes, even hopeless, but God is always watching over us.  He, healing, hope, encouragement and the prayers of others, His Word, and Wisdom.  He provides the Bread of Life, and even angel food when needed.  Sometimes we may question, "What is it" just as the Israelites did, but we learn to step out in faith trusting His provision.  And in doing so, it may turn out to be angel food cake!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Back deck

Good morning from our corner of Iowa where heat and humidity are the words of the day....of the weekend.  Heat indexes are supposed to be over 100 degrees.  For us "northerners" that is way too hot and humid.  The flowers seem to love it though and are showing off their colors.  I enjoy looking at them from our deck door or the front porch.

Front garden

Our resident rabbits have little ones of course so they are often cooling off in the shade of the pine tree that edges our property.  Otherwise they live under our back deck.  Last night deer were sauntering through the yard.  They love to nibble on our flowers so we keep watch when they are around.  Our resident ducks are still sticking around too.  No babies as of yet as far as we know.  We love animals.  Sometimes we miss having a dog around.  When we were at our daughter and her family's, we were able to get to know our grand dog, Koda better.  And grand is the right word as he is HUGE.  A Newfoundland/ Poodle mix that weighs 120 lbs. at a little over a year old.  We also have to grand cats, and two miniature Schnauzer grand dogs and our newest one....a 1-2 year old short haired mix that is delighted to have a family.

Update:  I am doing well with recovery.  Both the Home Health Care Nurse and the surgeon are happy with my progress.  In fact we are down to once a week visits with D. in our home.  Last Wed. the surgeon took out 2 of 3 of the drains.  Joel said they took about 7-8 inches of tubing from inside my chest and side.  The last one will come out next week.  Unfortunately, this procedure irritated the nerve endings and I have been dealing with some nasty 24/7 neuropathy (all over) because of it.  Praying it passes soon, as healing continues.  I see the radiology oncologist and my reg. oncologist next week. for treatment plans/options. So, over all, recovery is going well thanks to all the prayers and support from family, friends, and the medical world.

A year ago today we were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary.  It started out sticky and stormy with high winds, heavy rain, and hail, but ended with a bit of sunshine and so many good memories.  Tomorrow we will celebrate 51 years as husband and wife.   So grateful.

I often ask three of our grandchildren what they are reading as they are constantly at the library.  I am always curious about what captures their imaginations.  I am reading a non-fiction book by Brian and Candice Simmons (creator of The Passion Translation of the Bible) .  It is called "The Wilderness:  Where Miracles Are Born"  It is very good and thought provoking as they share their insights and memories of when they were on the mission field.  What are you reading?

Enjoy your weekend! 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Love Notes From God

She entered my room at 5:30am, greeting us quietly as we blinked and tried to adjust to the light.  Joel had slept in the recliner close to my hospital bed where I rested in between compressions on my legs and the smiling faces of nurses doing their jobs throughout the night.  The beautiful young woman who came in was there to draw blood.  We chatted a bit, learning she had experienced a health scare herself recently....and that she was adopted from Guatemala.....we talked about all of our kids.......and as she left the room with my blood she said, "Ill be praying for you."

A love note from God.

Early the morning before a nurse had prepared me for surgery.  The IV line in, clothes exchanged for a gown, info gathered.  We chatted some about the usual topics and chatted about her granddaughter who was dealing with childhood arthritis.  As I left for the OR later she patted my arm and said, "God bless you." 

Another love note from God.

As I entered the OR I was introduced to two nurses in the room.  One said to me, I did not expect to see you here, it is usually in our neighborhood we see each other.  Turns out the nurse anethesist was our neighbor at the end of our cul-de-sac.  Tuesday I received a card from her and a wish for my healing.

A love note from God.

The morning after surgery the Breast Cancer Nurse advocate came in and talked to us.  She provided us with a sweet Teddy Bear and heart shaped pillow she gives all women who are battling breast cancer.  She had some good advice for how to care for the arm they took so many nodes from......and how to care for the chest incision.

A love note from God.

When we were in the hospital a woman we knew from the church Joel is Interim at came in and talked to us about having home health care, paid for by Medicare.  We said no at first, as we felt we could take care of ourselves.........but as she talked I felt Holy Spirit nudge me to say yes.  So I did.  We have had nurses coming 3 times a week to check my vitals, change my dressings, and answer our questions.  Saying yes to their support was the best thing we could have done with this surgery.

A love note from God.

Yesterday I was laying on the sofa and someone knocked on the door.  Joel was gone so I slowly got up and made my way to the door.  The woman immediately asked me if I was ok so I told her I had had surgery last week.....a double mastectomy.  She said, "I had one two years ago.  You need to rest a lot for sure."  As we visited I learned she is a neighbor a couple blocks from us, so I said, "My name is Renee....and she replied, My name is N___"  As she left she turned and said, "I will pray for you Renee."  No co-incidence that this woman who had the same surgery as me two years ago came to my door to deliver an invitation.  I did not know her, but she offered to pray for me.  Only God.

His love notes continue....

Throughout this surgery and recovery God has been showing up in His people.  It has been especially comforting to have all these love notes from GOD  as we learned that 5 of 26 lymph nodes were positive for cancer  The "good news" within the bad is that the cancer was contained in the nodes and had not broken out of the nodes.  As I recover from surgery and continue with the three drains another week, we wait to hear from the Oncologist and Oncology Radiologist about what is ahead. We were hoping the battle was over, but it is not.   So many people have been praying and we are so grateful for their/your support.  And as we wait, rest, pray, and trust without understanding, we look for those special notes from God that remind us of His love.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Celebrations, Prayers, and Surgery

This past Thursday we drove 6 hours to our oldest daughter and family's home in WI to celebrate our granddaughter Abbi's HS graduation.  It was wonderful to be with family again, hugging, laughing, and just soaking in the love and joy.  Unfortunately Joel got sick and and fought a cold and cough much of the time. First time he has been this sick in years.  Still, it was a good good time.

Evan and Abbi
Brotherly love.......

We were re-acquainted with our grand dog, Koda too, who at one year old is weighing in at 120lbs and stands over 6 ft tall on back legs.  He is a gentle giant with quite a personality.   A Newfoundland/Poodle mix.

Tomorrow we take another step forward on this cancer journey as I head to the hospital in the early morning hours for a bi-lateral mastectomy.  The day has come, and we are moving forward on a wing and a prayer, trusting God in the process.  We can use your prayers for the nuclear dye to light up the lymph nodes ( since I have had this once before it lowers success rate somewhat), for lymph nodes to be clear and for surgery to go well!  And for the sore throat I have to completely be gone!   I will spend one night in the hospital and be home Wed afternoon.  We face this with determination and apprehension, working to remain calm and trusting our God who fights for me.  Thanks for adding your prayers!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Pursue, Seek, and Find

I confess that in the past I have never quite understood fasting.  It has not been in our tool box, probably because of our Lutheran culture.  I have felt uncomfortable fasting to "move God" and get the answers I want.  That was my take on it, anyway.  But God has been speaking to me lately about "seeking" Him.  When I felt Holy Spirit nudge me to fast before the prayer session with the couple I mentioned before, I asked what the purpose of this fasting was and I felt Holy reply, "To seek God".  It was not long after that response that everywhere I turned I was hearing the Him.....seeking  seek.  It came up in a sermon by Rick Warren.  It came up twice in our devotionals.  It popped up on a Facebook post.  It came up today as a memory posting from 2 years ago.  Seek His face.

So we went into fasting with the premise we would be seeking God.  When we wanted to reach for food, we stopped and sought Him in prayer.  For mealtimes we read scriptures, discussed what we had read and prayed.  We took communion.  In all those activities we had the opportunity to seek and find.  We know His desire for us to pursue Him is not just during fasting.  

We can find God in most things I expect.  We can seek and find Him in it's beauty, colors, animals, insects, birds, flowers, smells.  We can also seek and find Him throughout our days, our lives with those we love and care about.  His Presence in the midst.  Are we aware?   I am surprised at how often something pops up on Facebook that speaks clearly to me and I ponder how often I "miss" His love notes because distractions get in the way.

On the opposite side of that we need to question we seek and find God with what we say.......what we do..........what we watch on TV........what we read........Some stuff, not. We pursue Him in worship!   How about life's challenges?  In the midst of a big life storm I often seek Him....but will I focus on Him in all our circumstances?  Sometimes it has to be intentional with how loud the storm is, but He is there.  Oh, yes, He is calming presence in the midst.  

Bethel Worship

I am not sure where God is going with the continual messages we are receiving on "seeking Him",  but He definitely has our attention, especially as we prepare for next week.  We continue to pursue Him, remembering His goodness as we seek His face.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Let Me Rock Your Boat

Yesterday we fasted in preparation for a session of prayer last night with a couple from AZ who have a powerful ministry.  They are good friends with our sweet friends Dw and Linny, who suggested we call them. We felt the need for some prayer....and insights so we set a time to talk last night.  During this time of fasting we took the time to listen to our recorded prophetic session from when we were at Bethel Church in CA in the fall of 2017.  Please note that when we receive words we pray over them, looking for God to come through in the words that come from others.  Testing the truth of it in scripture and discernment.   We strongly believe the words spoken during that session were from God and we hold them close whether we understand it all or not.

We received several things we are hanging on to, but one that stood out for me today was when the man, who was also named Joel, asked us if we ever rock the boat......He said it was a bit strange, but he saw a vision of us rocking a boat.  We did tell him in our world, that we probably do rock boats with what we believe and practice, things such as God wants us ALL well, Jesus died for sins AND sicknesses.  Holy Spirit wants to shake up your world with visions, encounters, and His Presence "manifested" in many ways.  Speaking in tongues is a gift available to all, etc. etc.  It makes some people uncomfortable.  Been there myself.   In the words this other Joel said, he told us God wants us to keep rocking the boat.  He kept saying it over and over again  "keep rocking the boat".  He told us we are very aware that we are doing what God wants us to do......and then said, "God says when you stop rocking the boat He will be bringing you home.  To heaven.  In other words, we replied.........."Keep rocking the boat!"

The past few months, this challenging journey we are on, has kept our focus narrow and has not left much room for rocking boats and truthfully at times I have doubted and struggled with His promises to me for healing.  Were God's promises lies?  Even saying that makes me uncomfortable.  God never lies. And His promises are "yes and Amen".  Over time I have told Joel more than once that I questioned how I could speak about healing being for now and for all when I am battling cancer for the 4th time and the future looks scary?  I was healed of Lyme, of chemical sensitivities, of cancer, of thyroid disease ( no longer on meds after 27 yrs).  Healed of a cyst on my just left!  Healed of living life from my sofa.......  And I am in the midst of the biggest battle of my life so far.  Can I still speak about healing?  Let me say, my experience right now?  It does not change the truth of what the Bible says.

Plenty of people have prayed for me, over me, yet this time a miracle did not take place.  Jesus is using doctors to heal me.  I can't say I am happy about that, but I am being obedient in using the treatments, doctors, and surgeries to heal.  It is a journey in humility.

Speaking of being humbled, we were forewarned by God about this journey at that same prophetic session. Lori, the woman at our session shared that she saw us crawling on our hands and knees.  We were going through a difficult season and being humbled in the process.  She went on to say that we were strong and independent people and that we were going to need to now rely on God.  Just like the verse I keep getting, God will fight my battles...just stay calm.  She also said that there would be grace in the journey and we would stand up again and there would be a new thing for us!  We have hung on to those words at the end......sometimes for me only by a thread, but we hang on to His promises.  We don't believe God gave me Stage 3b cancer, but we do believe He can and will use it for good.   And we believe every prayer that has been prayed for me and for Joel has been heard by God.  Look at how the mass is breaking up?!  The kidney surgeries are over.  Strength is returning.  Hear our prayers, O Lord.

Do all people get healed?  No, we know they do not.  Do all people receive a miraculous healing?  No they do not.  But the point for me is, I believe we can.  "By His stripes we are healed."  I believe what it says in the Lord's Prayer.  "The kingdom come, thy will be done on EARTH as it is in Heaven.  In Heaven we won't need healing, will we?!  I believe that there is sooooooooooo much more for us. Catherine Marshall wrote a book many years ago called, "Something More".  I read that book often and felt her same hunger for something more in my relationship with Jesus.  It is available. He desires it too.

I confess, at times I seek the healing more than I do the Healer.  I desire the miracle instead of desiring a more intimate relationship with Jesus.  It is what He wants you know.  For us to seek Him.  For us to want a close relationship with Him that has us talking with Him throughout our days and nights like a good friend.  Because He is one.  The One.

Seeking God and a closer relationship with Him is what it is really all about.  We don't understand the mystery of it all....God is God and we are not, but we know He wants to communicate with us all throughout our days and nights.  He sent His son,  He sent Holy Spirit.  As we surrender to Him, stand firm on His promises, and let ourselves be embraced in His loving arms, we believe all will be well.  We trust Him.  We let Him fight for us.  We rely on Him.

Even in this difficult season of crawling on our hands and knees,  or maybe because of it, we seek Him more than ever, we trust Him in the storm.  As He teaches us humility and trust we lean on Him.  And at times, we rock the boat.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to you from here in our corner of Iowa where yesterday's temperatures reached 88 degrees (and 91 according to our car).  It was hot and sunny, but today we will be back to normal......low 70's.  Everything is so very green, but hazy.  The Canadian fires are sending smoke down through Minnesota and Iowa, filling our skies with a light smokey haze.  It is time for flowers to brighten our yard, so we purchased two geraniums pots this week to start with.  Last night I looked out at one pot, and half the flowers were on the ground.  Some detective work had us pointing a finger at a jack rabbit, who chewed the leaves and flowers off, and then left them on the ground.  Never have heard of any animal finding geraniums tasty!  That is one of the reasons we have them every year.  Sturdy, smelly, and beautiful, but unattractive to local wildlife.  Or so we thought.

Joel has another funeral next week.  Since taking this Interim position, he has had 7 funerals  in 9 months.  That is quite a few!  The two churches are getting close to interviewing pastors.  It is so important to find the right fit for a congregation and a pastor.

I have been off Verzenio for a while in preparation for the bi-lateral mastectomy coming up.  Boy, what a difference.  I am helping around the house a lot more, and walking 10-15 minutes a day in the hopes of building back up to my daily 30 minutes.  So nice to feel stronger and fully focused.  Verzenio has been doing a good job against the cancer though, so I am grateful for it.

Yesterday I welcomed a package from Amazon.  I had ordered some  sofa pillow covers that would bring color into the living room.  I love sunflowers and found them for a really really good price.  They arrived yesterday and we purchased pillow inserts from Hobby Lobby.  Our sofa and love seat now have a spot of color that make us smile.

We have a granddaughter who will graduate next weekend.  The plan is to be there!  Exciting times.
Our youngest grands are 11 and our oldest grand has left the "teens" behind.  The four oldest will be in college this fall.  I can remember so well their toddler years.

We had a few tornados in our area this week.  One 30 miles from us was quite large, and did damage at the county fairgrounds and to a few houses.  We have spent time over the years in our basements waiting for the "all clear".  One summer we were camping at a RV campground in South Dakota on our way home from a long trip.  There were many tornadoes sighted in the area that night so Joel and I spent several hours outside the camper keeping an eye on the sky.  Another time we were traveling from MN to Iowa for a graduation party when we found ourselves in a tornado warning.  Winds were blowing strong, rain was pelting down, and we ended up pulling up to the side of a building for some protection til it passed.  I don't know if we would ever live in a house without a basement for weather related reasons!

Yesterday Joel ran into a neighbor at the grocery store.  They visited quite awhile about the construction they are doing to the outside of their house.  Then the woman asked how I was doing.  As they talked she said, "Our children still ask all the time how your wife is doing."  It brought tears to my eyes.  I have never met their adult kids and I have only met the woman once.....but they are praying.  And last December they came as a family to our front porch and said Christmas carols to us on Christmas Day night.  We were here alone and I was trying to recover from that terrible disaster of a surgery.......needless to say, their caroling made our Christmas special!   So many nice many praying.

Today would have been our son Kevin's 39th birthday.  He died in December of 2004 from a virus that caused congestive heart failure.  He has a son, Eli, who is going to be 17 soon.  We are in touch with him and his family.  His mom remarried.  Kev has a daughter too, but her mom wanted nothing to do with us so we have no contact.  She is in our prayers.  Heaven.  I wonder if they celebrate birthdays or if every day just feels like one big celebration!?!

Have a good weekend, enjoying the weather where you are.  Breathe in the fresh air, take in the wonderful colors that grace your landscape, eat something delightful and tasty, let laughter enter in, and give thanks.  Today is a new day, celebrate it.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Message Is Clear

Over and over and over again, the message from God has been clear and precise.  Mostly through Facebook He has put on my heart Exodus 14:14.  Clearly.  Emphasized.  Repeated.  Firm.  Here are a few of the images I have received.  Each one a love note from God.  Each one is a reminder that I am NOT on this journey alone.  Each one lets me know staying calm is the action I need to take, trusting that He does fight for me.

The message is very clear, and when I remember to give my battles over to my mighty God trusting in His desire to fight for me, I can live in peace. Do you need to hear his message today?  It is a rhema word from God.  Highlighted, emphasized, alive.  Hold it close.  Trust it.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Where's Your Happy Place?

Do you have a "happy place" that you retreat to where your surroundings bring about deep sighs and upturned corners in a smile?

Our oldest daughter and her family have a lake cabin amidst the trees and water in the middle of WI where they love to go year round.  Their "happy place".

I believe that our friends have a happy place they are living in as full time RV'ers.  They call Arizona home in the winter and travel to new places, experiencing new adventures the rest of the year.  Whether they are relaxing at a beach or giving of their time serving as volunteers where needed, they can return home each evening to their happy place.  They take it with them wherever they go!

In our younger married years we moved so often, our happy place was defined by those we were with....our family.  And I can't help but think that in this season of my life Joel is my happy place!
Our middle child lives in the country with her family, surrounded by the land they farm and decades of family history surrounding them.  I believe they have created a happy place space for themselves there.  I love to sit on their front porch and enjoy the quiet in the early morning hours.  As I have shared before, peace permeates the air there and relaxes me.

Pondering the many different kinds of happy places, I cannot help but question where ours would be now.  Would we want an RV to travel around in, or a lake home that would call us for weekends and vacations?  Would we love a front porch in the country where cars are scarce and fields are not?  Just where would our happy place be?

When Joel was young the outdoors was his happy place.  He enjoyed the woods and lakes of MN where he grew up.  When I was around 10 I lived with my mom in a small apt at the front of a house.  My bed was the living room sofa, but there was a larger closet/storage room upstairs with a window where the sun would come in.  I used to love to be in there, playing with my dolls or reading.  A small cozy warm place where I felt safe and happy. I still enjoy small rooms that have a cozy feel, and Joel still enjoys being outside in nature.

Neither of us are particularly eager for a lake home in the woods.........nor anxious to be full time RV'ers.  And it does not seem practical to have a country home as we look ahead to our senior years. Still, a "happy place" sounds so inviting. I told Joel maybe we need a home where we love it so much that we don't want to leave it for a cabin or RV.  Is that even possible?  I expect so.

So, again, I ask the question, "Do you have a happy place you retreat to where your surroundings bring about deep sighs and upturned corners into a smile?"  And I ask yet another....."Do you live in that place and call it home, or do you find it in someone you love?"  Happy places come in all shapes and sizes, and so many different places. Where is your happy place?

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday morning from our corner of Iowa where rain and cooler temperatures have been pushing away our "normal" average temps.  Today we have sunshine and are heading up to eighty degrees, so there is hope we will dry out from all the rain.  So many farmers here and in parts of MN cannot get their fields all planted due to so much rain!

We are heading down to our grandson's graduation party today.  Looking forward to seeing their family.  So proud of Grant, who has received several recognitions at his high school, and his degree from DMACC (2 yr college) along with his high school diploma.  Will be the first time I have traveled outside of the city since last October.  We'll stop at Trader Joe's to stock up on our staples of almond butter, almond flour, almonds, applesauce, and honey before heading home.  We save a great deal of money when we shop for those organic products in Trader Joe's.

Speaking about education, Joel and I both love learning.  We have talked about taking classes available for "life long learners" at our Jr. College here in town.  You pay a small yearly fee and have many opportunities for learning, attending concerts and speakers, and even working out at the facilities there.  Joel first went to Jr. College after high school and got his degree in wild life management.  He then went to The Lutheran Bible Institute for a Bible degree.  That is where we met and I got my degree there too. Our first year it was called The Lutheran Bible Institute and the second year is became Golden Valley Lutheran College....still a two year degree.  I graduated with an AA in Bible and parish work.  Joel also got a bachelor's at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City through the Air Force to be a meteorologist.  A few years later he went to Luther Seminary to get his Masters of Divinity and then he went on to work toward's his doctorate, not finishing when life became too busy.  I attended another college, St. Mary's, for a year to work towards a degree as an Interpreter for the Deaf.  Before coming ill with Lyme I worked in a school as an interpreter.  We like learning and think education is important, but our learning doesn't have to come just from books or schools, of course.  Any number of degrees do not erase the fact that life experiences teaches us so much!  I think that having an interest in growing, learning from others, and listening to God is mighty important,. God provides continual opportunities for us to grow in our faith.  One of the wisest women I know has little book education, but oh such wisdom to share!

This weekend is Band Festival here in our town.  Meredith Wilson wrote the Music Man based on our micro-city so every year there is a big celebration with a parade, carnival, bands, food vendors and more.  It has been a long time since I have watched that movie..........I remember one line of a song the most..."We've got trouble, right here in River City.  Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool.!"

Thinking about what we have been grateful for this week..........the good MRI oncologist who I was told "has the ability to know what will work for each patient to get results", laughter and giggles...........nesting ducks............. RX Bars that provide visits with family......a break from Verzenio meds and more energy because of it................tears of joy or sadness.....Holy Spirit..............a new favorite meal of stir fry with a homemade apricot sauce............the library..........our comfy SUV, and more.

And so grateful for those we remember on this Memorial Day Weekend.  Those we loved...........those we honor.........those who served.  We remember and give thanks for your sacrifice.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Grateful For Giggles

Joel and I had the giggles.  I was in a room waiting for a breast MRI on Tuesday to tell us if the ultrasound had it right, and to see what the lymph nodes had to say.  The day was filled with unknowns.  The tech had given me hospital pants and a gown to put on.  The first pair of pants were toooooo small, the second pair she gave me to wear were 4 sizes bigger and I could not keep them up!  To our surprise and delight it gave us the giggles.  In the midst of it all we had a good laugh.

The last 7 months have been a difficult season and often laughter was hard to come by.  Still, sometimes it just happens.  Laughter and giggles, a nice reprieve from the seriousness of the situation.    There is something to be said for the idea that laughter is the best medicine.

Too often we do not take time to enjoy the small moments of laughter, joy, etc. until life throws us a curve ball and we realize how precious it really is.....this waking up every morning to a new day.   Ann Voskamp learned that writing down all the moments of the day, giving thanks for everything that caught her attention, would fill her with peace, joy, and love for a God, our God who delights us blessing His kids. 

We are so grateful today for those few minutes of giggling.  And so many other things.  Grateful for the sunshine and the rain.  Grateful for the two bunnies that are always sunning themselves outside our living room window.  Grateful to watch a squirrel drag a cob of corn to his home, knowing he has found a good food source.  Grateful to hear my hubby upstairs in his office as he works on mundane and not so mundane tasks.  Grateful for that little noise that comes on my phone to let me know I have a text from friends or family.  Grateful I can talk to my Papa God any time I want to.   Grateful for grilled pork chops and roasted sweet potatoes after too many meals of yogurt or eggs.  Grateful. 

Today we are feeling the gratitude to the max with a good news report on the MRI.  The lymph nodes are not enlarged and the mass is breaking up.  Significant changes for the better seen on the MRI.  The treatments I have been on are working well!  This is the best news we could have as I go into surgery mid June.  So.  very.  grateful.

Sometimes our giggling, our nature observations, our counting the blessings, and our connecting with friends and family need to be intentional.  I hear so often about peoples busy lives.  "We are sooooooooo busy"......Too busy to smell the roses.........speak with loved ones from afar........enjoy God's creation..........There is something not okay with that.  I get it......I have been there..........and....I regret much in the so busy lifestyle I once had.  Oh, life, it passes us by so quickly.

Today I hope you find something to giggle about.........even if you are in the midst of a challenging situation.  Just take time to giggle, to laugh.  And be grateful for the opportunity.   

Monday, May 20, 2019

Serve And Protect

When we were living in Montana our oldest son attended a summer basketball day camp.  They all received basketball shirts with the name of the man who ran the camp on the front.  A few weeks later I had a vivid nightmare in which our son was killed when he was hit by a car.  He was wearing that shirt in the dream, and it was so real to me that I hid the shirt and never let him wear it again.  He is in his late 40's and still has that shirt tucked away in his memory tub. 

For some reason at the time, I thought that if I did not let him wear that shirt, the nightmare would not play out and I would save my son from harm or even death. Our son has now been a police officer for over twenty years and I have had to learn to pray for him daily, and let God walk with him as he serves his city.  I can't hide his shirt or uniform and keep him safe. 

This past week was National Police Week.  In the past few years we have seen  a great deal of negative press and public feelings about the police and how they do their jobs.  Just like in any occupation, there are bad police officers that do not serve well.  Mostly, though, there are good officers who just want to go home when their long days are done.  They do what they can to protect the people while also protecting themselves.  Sometimes they get it wrong, but mostly they get it right. 

We have been at the receiving end of their call to duty.  When living in central Minnesota we received a phone call late one night and we were told by a policeman on the phone that a man from our church had threatened his wife and was "coming to kill the pastor".  They police would get to our home as soon as possible........and they did.  We put all 5 kids at the time on the floor of our bedroom and Joel loaded his 22 rifle just in case.  We prayed and watched out the windows for any sign of this man until the police arrived.  The police felt it was a big enough threat that they helped us get clothes and other things we needed and then escorted us with guns drawn to our car.  Our kids were told to lay flat and keep their heads down as we drove out of our garage and down our driveway.  When we were escorted out of town we noticed five police cars at the end of our long driveway.  A few stayed behind and three followed us for about 30 miles until they felt we were a safe distance away.  We were so grateful for the police that night.  I actually could share a few more circumstances we have found ourselves in where we had to call or involve the police, but I won't bore you with the details!

Today I am giving thanks for the officers who do their jobs well, serve the people in their communities and literally put their lives on the line.  Our prayers are with you.  Especially you, Matt, Michelle, and Steve. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday morning to you from stormy Iowa.  We had a storm last night and I heard that 2 and 6/10th inches of rain fell in a short time, flooding some streets in our little city.  Rain is forecast for the day and the possibility more storms to go with it.  Definitely May in our corner of the world.

Speaking of storms, it has been a stormy week for me medically with many shake-ups that have us taking deep breaths and reminding ourselves that we are living one day at a time with God leading the way..  I saw the surgeon on Wed.  and I will have a bi-lateral mastectomy mid June.  Before that there are many appointments and tests to walk through. I saw the oncologist Friday and he laid out his tentative plan for after surgery. I keep thinking there will be an end to it all, but am realizing "an end" to it is all a matter of perspective.  No end in sight, but hopefully seasons of peace and health.

Speaking of "Good Morning" I have pondered where that greeting comes from.  Maybe it is more than a greeting, maybe it is a declaration.  Speaking words with intention.  Good is the word I am focusing on.

We have two grandkids who will graduate from high school this year.  That is good!  We will be able to celebrate with them both which means a lot to us.  So proud of all our grands and what good people they are!  What they accomplish academically and in Sports and Music is something to celebrate, but most importantly we celebrate their faith, their goodness, their kindness, their willingness to love, forgive, and care for others.   Aren't grandkids the best?!?!

We purchased a new fridge 2 1/2 years ago, and 3 days ago the freezer quit working!  We called our appliance man and he told us he would try to fix it, but what we had bought from Sears (which is no longer here) would be difficult to fix.  He came last night and did not "see" what the problem quick prayer later he found the problem and fixed it within a few minutes.  Yippee!  All is good!  We like this fridge a lot.....the freezer being in the bottom which for this short person, it works well.  We still have our old fridge that has worked for over 20 years.  Something to be said for the quote, "they don't make things like they used to!"

Last night I watched a squirrel carry a corn cob across our yard.  I have mentioned before that our neighbor across the street puts them out for the deer and raccoons.  The squirrels like them too, and like burying the kernels so every time Joel mows the yard he is also cutting down corn plants that are trying to grow where to squirrels put their stash!  We find it amusing.........although I am not so sure all our neighbors do.  We have two rabbits who are living under our back deck and enjoy sunning themselves in front of our living room window.  Of course the deer have already eaten our lillies up front before they could even bloom.  That is frustrating!  there have been sightings of a mountain lion in Des Moines, and that is not the first year it has happened.  We had one sighted up here but it did not stick around.  They travel for hundreds of miles to set up territory.  God did a good thing when he created nature for us to enjoy.

There are a group of writers that have a place called (IN) Courage.  Recently one of the women, Catherine Segars, wrote a beautiful post titled,  God Is Good, But This Isn't.  (You can click on title to read it)  I embrace what she shared on healing, etc., but have not said it so eloquently.  It is a beautiful read.

God is good.......He does not want us suffering and sick.  Yet this broken world sets us up for sickness, disease, and even death.  This life is not always good.........but God is.  This song is a good reminder for us...and I leave it with you today...........enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The "Hows" and "Whys"

The "whys" and "hows" rose to the surface yesterday as the reality of this Stage 3b breast cancer hit me square in my soul.  I had an appointment with the surgeon and the exam, discussion, and words spoken was like starting over for me.  The diagnosis felt fresh after so many months, and as she stated that the ultrasound would not give us the whole picture of what was going on in my breast because this cancer is sneaky...... my "significantly smaller" words I had grasped on to with hope, faded.  A breast MRI is needed to see better what is going on.  She did say she could see some outward changes and Joel and I are still thinking the ultrasound must show some change or they would not have said so, but those rational thoughts came later for me.

Grief rose in me and I spent a great deal of time weeping about the reality, the coming loss of both breasts, and the courage I will need for surgery and all that is ahead.  What did my future hold?  Joel was steady and calm and thought it was a good meeting, but I had a meltdown when we got home.

I went back to the "how did this happen when I was STILL seeing the medical did every doctor I was seeing miss the cancer on my skin and the big changes in my breast.  Truthfully, this is such a rare occurrence that even medical people are surprised by it.  That leads up to the why.  Why, God?  Why?!  Empty questions with empty answers.

I must include here that my struggle with grief and fear makes me uncomfortable and at times embarrassed.  Our oldest son tells me that what I feel is what I feel and that is is more than okay.  That anyone dealing with cancer four times in eight years, breast cancer treatments while having 4 surgeries related to kidney stones besides the other health issues I have....well they would have a wide range of emotions.  And that is why I am sharing it all in my current journey with breast cancer.  Because unlike the first one 3 plus years ago, this one is not easy, it has not been given an excellent prognosis, and is just plain scary at times.  Because for many of us we need a miracle!  Because for many of us the future is not easy nor given an excellent prognosis.  I share when God leads me to do so, and I share because I believe someone needs to hear my words.

So back to the "Why God?"  I believe that most of us have asked that question at one time or another.  But.... there are really no answers to that question.  And if we continue to get stuck there we cannot open our eyes to how God shows up in our difficult circumstances.  We have our focus on the problem....and the why of it instead of on God.  It is not that we don't visit there, but we cannot live there.

Today this verse ~jumped off the page and vibrated in my soul.

 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.  Indeed, do not be wise in your eyes, Fear the Lord and depart from evil.  It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones."                                                                   
                                                                  Proverbs 3: 5-8

In these circumstances, in the circumstances we all experience at one time or another in our lives, we cannot lean on our own understanding.  We lean on GOD.  We let Him hold us when we grieve.  We take a deep breath and we trust Him.  Daily, and sometimes more than once a day I say something I heard author and speaker Susie Davis say......"I love you God.  I trust you God.  Thank you for my one beautiful life."  When I trust God, when I surrender the hows and whys to Him, I can embrace my one beautiful day at blessing at a time.  My beautiful life will look different than yours, but when we trust in and lean on our Papa God, we can find the beauty in the midst of any season.  We may have to dig for it, be very intentional, get past the weeping, brush aside the whys and hows, but it is there.  It is there.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Just Keep Loving Others

With Mother's Day just behind us, I found myself remembering a gathering we went to in Minneapolis MN in February of 2018 to hear Judith Franklin speak. She was the personal assistant to Pastor Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in CA and was speaking about God's love, and she was also sharing her gifts of visual encounters and prophetic words with the audience.  Joel had read one of her books and I, another, so we both were interested in hearing what she had to share.

Towards the end of the session, while she was speaking, she suddenly pointed her finger, looking at me, and began to speak.  I actually looked behind me to see who she was talking to, and she let me know it was me she wanted to address.

She said, "I have been looking at you and speaking to you the whole night.  You have a tender heart for others.  You do hold back with it some.  You have a lot of wisdom to teach people.  I could learn so much from you.  If I ever needed a hug I would come to you.  I wish you could be my mother.  I'm your age, but I wish you were my mother.  So much love.  Just keep loving others."

While she was speaking, I found myself arguing with her in my head! I kept thinking, she does not really know me.........And certainly she was wrong about wanting me to be her mother.  I said nothing out loud, but later shared my thoughts with Joel.  He reminded me that God was speaking through Judy and I needed to receive the words spoken over me, embrace them, and step into what God was seeing in me.

It took me time to to absorb these prophetic words that came from an author I looked up to, and I expect I am still in the process of embracing them.  What I have come to realize, though, is that God sees us through eyes of love.  He sees His children and what we can be, desire to be, even what we are..  He loves us and delights in us.  He finds us amazing, and He dotes on us, His children, and sometimes we forget that.

So, how do we see our children?  One of our daughters says that we are our kids biggest cheerleaders.  Still, we can get caught up in the parenting and the challenges that come from raising kids to wholeness, and end up seeing only the negative.  But God........   God truly wants us to see the good.  We don't deny the rest of it all, but God truly wants us to speak over our kids, our grands, our families that which is good and love on them.  He wants us to see the good even while there may be some "ugly" going on.

Too often we are hard on ourselves, so maybe we also need to look in the mirror, reflecting back what God sees.  Maybe we need to see that we are enough, we are good.  Maybe we need to embrace what God says about us through His Word and through the words of others. 

What stands out for me right now in Judy Franklin's words is one short sentence.  "Just keep loving others".  Lately when watching the news, when listening to our elected officials speak hate and division, when social media promotes the negative, this message needs to be spoken.  Just keep loving others.    Maybe when famil,y is saying and doing things we don't agree with, .or we are ourselves behaving badly....... we need to hear it, we need to do it.........Just keep loving others.  

Just Keep Loving Others

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to you from Springtime in Iowa!  It is a bit chilly, but we are not complaining when north of us the Duluth area has had up to 10 inches of snow just a couple of days ago.  We lived in Duluth from 1972-74 when Joel was forecasting weather for the pilots at the Air Force Base where he was stationed.  Summers were chilly, especially if you went down the big hill to Lake Superior.  Winters could be brutal and long!  It was so beautiful there though.  One of my favorite places to go was down to Superior where you could sit on the slate slabs of rock and watch the endless water.  Our oldest daughter married a guy from the Duluth area and they were married there on an unusually warm fall day.  It has been years since we have been back to Duluth, but we have many fond memories of the times we have spent there.

It is Mother's Day weekend and my mind cannot help but go to the women in my life who nurtured and mothered me.  My two older sisters, eleven and fifteen years older than me, both helped raise me.  Jan took care of me when I was a baby and a few summers were spent with her and her family over my childhood.  I moved in with Jo first when I was 10 and then at age 12 when they became my guardians until I went off to The Lutheran Bible Institute at 18.  I am forever grateful for what they did for me, and for their love over the years.  I am forever grateful for Jo opening her home and her family to me.  Her four kids, close in age to me, became my siblings.  A blessing.

You see, my mom was an alcoholic by the time I was born and battled addiction for many years, becoming sober the year Joel and I were married.  My dad died when I was seven and my older sisters were off on their own so it was just mom and me for many years as she struggled to keep a roof over our heads and keep alcohol from destroying her life.   God gave me a second family and a safe place with my sister Jo when I needed it most.

When my mom quit drinking, we began to heal our relationship.  She really was an amazing woman who went through a great deal in her life and still, came through it all stronger and better.  She was a great blessing to our kids, who well remember her visits, card games and of course games of yahtzee.  She would come spend a couple of weeks with us when we lived in Montana, Duluth, etc.  One of my favorite things to do with her was dance!  She was an amazing dancer!  We would turn on the radio and dance the two step......oh, she was so graceful in her movements.  We would play yahtzee and Rummy, do crosswords, and she loved to come and scrub my pots and pans until they shined.  I was not so good at that!  We would talk every week on the phone.  She worked until she was 76 as a timekeeper.  She was so smart, and could add numbers in her head so quickly!  When she retired she moved to South Dakota to be near my sister Jan and she lived a full life until the age of 92, playing bingo, going to Bible Study, spending time at her favorite coffee shop every day, and enjoying the family that lived close by.  She taught me how to live through the tough times and how to take life one day at a time. I miss her.

I also need to mention Joel's mom who died in 2011 at the age of 93.  She was a conservative woman of God who was frugal, made most things from scratch, worked hard and loved her family.  When Joel's dad died ~ he was 16, she went back to work as a teacher in the last one room school house that still existed in their county.  (Joel attended a one room schoolhouse from first through eight grade himself!)  It took a few years for Mom T. to accept me, the "city" girl who in her way of thinking, took her "country"boy away from home, but we became close and grew to love each other.

Today I honor all of them and give thanks for them in our lives.  I hope this gives you pause, and has you remembering the women in your lives who mothered and nurtured each of you.  And, Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

It Is A Mystery

I have shared the story of how Joel and I were "prayed together" by my older sister who helped raise me and our family friend Marian who worked at our church.  They came up for parents weekend in the fall of my first year at The Lutheran Bible Institute in Golden Valley, MN and while touring the dorms they met Joel.  They told me a couple of hours later that they had "met the man you are going to marry".  I was 18 and coming out of a relationship that had hurt my heart, and I wanted nothing to do with guys.  But they said, "He wants to be a missionary, just like you and we can just see the two of you in a hut in Africa!"  When they pointed Joel out to me, I was surprised, exclaiming, "He is loud, obnoxious and he wears boots!"  They replied, "We will pray about it."  Three months later we went on our first date and we married 18 months after that.

Joel was introduced to the mission field through his second cousin, Rev. David Simonson who was a missionary in Tanzania with his wife Eunice.  He really wanted to combine a life of adventure with his desire to share the gospel and Africa was at the top of his list. When I was 13 I can remember studying the bulletin board at our church and reading about the missionaries we supported....the Grants, with their five boys, who served in Brazil.  (Many years later God connected us to one of the boys, David, who with his wife Deb became our friends!)  I would think about what it would be like to be missionaries in a foreign country.

So, when Joel and I joined as one, the mission field was a dream we had for our future.  As Joel served in the military eight years, then went to seminary and was ordained, we raised our family.  We still talked of the mission field even as Montana beckoned us and our family grew.  In the eighties we looked into the mission field, but we were told by the powers that be that our multi-racial family would be a hardship at that time on the mission field.  We also did some serious talking about our kids having to go to boarding schools if we were in Africa.  Having attended LBI, we knew some missionary kids quite well, and several had gone through tough times leaving their parents and living in boarding schools.  We did not want that for our kids and did not believe that is what God wanted either.  So we stayed stateside, believing that God had closed the door, but that some day we would head out to do mission work......once our family was grown and gone from the nest.

Then sickness became a way of life for me and that dream faded.  It still had it's hooks into us deeply, and over the years we would periodically revisit the grief we felt for never having fulfilled that dream that we believed was from God.

Today I read on Facebook about Operation Bootstrap Africa ( David and Eunice's ministry) presenting a plaque to be placed at the Maasai school for girls that they founded.  It was being placed in David's memory.  He died at the age of 80, after serving as a missionary with Eunice for over 50 years.  He was and is still so beloved by the Maasai that they honored them with land and their home and his burial place overlook Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Their three sons run a Safari sightseeing business in the area.  Their two girls are stateside and Eunice lives in their home in Africa.

So, was our dream inspired by God?  It would not be the first time we strongly felt God lead us somewhere only to have the door closed later.   Whether we closed the door (with not wanting our kids in boarding schools) or whether God closed the door, it closed.  There is mystery wrapped up in it all.  Our mission field has really been mostly just "preaching to the choir".  Those who already know and believe.  It has taken place on American soil in such places like Montana, Minnesota and Iowa.  Certainly not as adventurous as we imagined!  And yet, I know that Joel has touched the lives of so many as they have let me know over the years.

Back to dreams and desires.  I remember a few years ago I told Joel I thought he should go to Africa to see David, visit his ministry and see the places that have always drawn us.  He told me, "I can't go.  I am afraid if I go.......I won't want to come back."  Yes, the dream runs deep within.  We have done what we could to further missions in Africa from our home in the USA knowing that missionaries need our support.

We believe that God works all things together for good to those who love him.   He has blessed our lives in so many ways over the years.  He has blessed Joel's ministry and the years of serving.  I believe He used Joel and hopefully me, to help others know Christ, and have a close relationship with our Lord.  I expect that one day, when we get to Heaven we will have questions about this unfulfilled dream that has held a piece of our hearts for so many years.   For now it is a mystery and we work hard to put it to rest and live our lives the good ol' USA..... trusting that God is guiding our journey as He always has.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Faith May Be Spelled R I S K

Yesterday I listened to stories shared by pastors who have been following God's obedience they have taken risks not knowing what the consequences would be.  One pastor shared that he and his wife were called to a Presbyterian church outside of Denver.  During his time there they started to see miracles happen in their congregation.  They were not praying for miracles, nor sure that they believed healing was still for today, but God came uninvited and began to heal people.  The pastor decided he better learn as much as he could about healing and miracles since they were seeing them manifest in the church. He studied and prayed and decided one Sunday that out of obedience to God he would speak about healing to his congregation and call the sickest person forward for prayer.  The woman came forward and he prayed for her.  She "fell out" in the Spirit and lay on the floor.  When she rose up from the floor, she was not healed.  No healing, but Holy Spirit touched her soul.  This event eventually led to over 2,000 of the 5,000 members of his Presbyterian church leaving.  The experience was too far out of their comfort zone and beliefs and they left because of it.  This pastor obeyed God and the results looked catastrophic, but as time passed, people came to the church, received salvation and became part of the congregation.  The risky move was costly, but God had a plan and the pastor felt he had to obey, no matter the cost.  Healings continue on in their church today.  Sometimes faith is spelled R I S K.

I also listened to a man talk about the results of his own obedience to God.  He and his wife ministered at a church in Aurora Illinois, one of the top ten most violent cities in America.  Gang murders were epidemic.  This pastor worked with the gangs and decided that for every one person murdered, they would go down to that area where it happened to pray and minister to the people until three came to know Christ.  They were letting Satan know that he did not reign over this city.  The police chief actually called the pastor to ask him what they were doing because crime was dropping in the areas where the members of the congregation were praying and speaking to those in the neighborhood.  Were they fearless in their quest?  No.  They were not fearless, but they chose to trust God and be obedient to what they believed God was calling them to do.  The risk they took brought people to Christ.

I cannot help but think of a young girl who at age 6-8 began to pray for God to "let me be a missionary to the babies in Africa".  When she was 13 she talked her dad into taking her to Uganda to spend time ministering there in an orphanage.  Through this deep desire to help the babies in Africa, her parents began a non-profit to work with orphans in Uganda. International Voice of the Orphans was established.  This young girl, now a young woman, moved to Uganda and began working with children with special needs and The Gem Foundation was established.  A home that cares for those with the most difficult medically fragile needs.  Now, just a few years later, Emma  and her now husband Josh are building a the Gem Village where medically trained staff and house parents will care for the least "desirable" little ones in Uganda.  They have stepped out in faith, trusting God and being obedient to His calling on Emma's life.  They have held babies as they took their last breath, they have suffered sickness and hardship themselves, and at this point are in need of prayer for their 9 week old son who is in ICU in a Ugandan hospital.  He is very ill with pneumonia and a bacterial infection and in need of healing.  They have opened their hearts to God's calling that began when Emma was a young child.   Faith is often spelled R I S K.

Not all of us are called to such risks, such boldness, but we are all called to be obedient to God's calling on our lives.  We are called to step out in faith and do what Jesus did.  We are all called to live our lives for Jesus and often that requires us to put aside fear or our own desires, for His.  It requires us to trust Him.   You may not be called to Africa, but you may be called to care for a neighbor, or lead a Bible study, or ask someone to join you on Sunday morning.  It is a matter of listening for the Holy Spirit's prompting and being obedient in faith.  Even if it is spelled R I S K.