Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Heart is the Key

Our sweet youngest granddaughter, photo taken last summer ...

The heart of a child ... so fragile, and of most importance. As mothers, we hold the hearts of our precious children, hearts entrusted to our care and nurturing. It is a sacred trust, and also an overwhelming responsibility at times. 

How do you focus on the heart of a child day in and day out, when your own heart is pulled in so many directions? When the cares of the world (what we will eat, what we will wear, how we will make ends meet, etc.) occupy our minds? Getting meals on the table, keeping our homes clean, meeting our husband's needs, caring for extended family, dealing with conflict and illness ... all these things occupy our minds and hearts. And in the midst of all the busyness swirling around us constantly, the hearts of our children call for our attention.

Such was (and is) the case for me, mother of six (now grown) children. There were times (many) when I would see a heart in need, and I would drop everything to look into tearful eyes and give love and direction. And there were times (more than I like) when I would neglect to stop, and I would miss the moment to deeply love and guide. 

As the busyness of life seems to accelerate more with each passing year, we, as moms, need to pause and remember ... hearts are of most importance.

"Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life."
(Proverbs 4:23 NLT) 

Guarding our children's hearts, and our own hearts. Not just the putting on of outward behavior that will make things look good, but taking the time to tenderly cultivate a healthy heart. 

Cultivating our own hearts takes time ... taking time to slow down, and taking time to listen to the One who made our hearts. And also focusing on listening to each other. The word that I have picked to focus on this year ... listen. The word that brings health to my own heart. And the word that brings health to my (grown) children's hearts, and also to my grandchildren's hearts. 

Pausing, and listening. Even on busy days. Even this next week, when our home will be filled with family. All our grown kids home with their families, my three brothers and their families here (from the east coast and the west coast) ... all gathering to celebrate my father's 90th birthday. Also celebrating our 40th anniversary, as well as my older brother & sister-in-law's 40th anniversary! 

Loving Lord, thank you for the priceless privilege of mothering. And for reminding me again ... in my busyness, to focus on listening. Help us to slow down as mothers, to listen, and to care for hearts. Just as You call for us to pause, and to listen to You ...

"I can do my best handiwork
when you sit in the stillness of My Presence,
focusing your entire being on Me."
(Jesus Calling)

Linked to Imperfect Prose

And also linked to Faith Barista


Also to Brag on God Friday's

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Best Way to Draw Near

"Bring me the gift of thanksgiving, 
which opens your heart to rich communion with Me. 
Because I am God, from whom all blessings flow,
 thankfulness is the best way to draw near Me." 
(Jesus Calling)

Opening my heart to give thanks, even on days when I am burdened with cares and concerns ... is the way to open up my heart to rich communion with God. It is true. There were a few days this past week when my concerns seemed to almost block out the giving of thanks, but I am so grateful to a loving God who surprises us with special, unexpected blessings ... gently pulling our hearts back to gratitude. And back to nearness with Him.

Sharing my gratitude from this past week:

~ His mercy and His grace, even, and especially, in our weaknesses ...

~ a special lunch together with a son; cherishing time with him, as he will soon be traveling afar ...

~ an evening with three year-old granddaughter and eight year-old grandson, hearing of their fun family vacation ...

~ an offer of a two-night stay (for free!) at a hotel by Lake Okoboji for our anniversary weekend in August ... 

~ my loving, patient husband, comforting me during a difficult time ...

~ a day off together, celebrating his birthday; family party to come later ...

~ a drive north from our town and across the Missouri River, to Lewis & Clark Monument; a broad view of the flooding ...

~ ending the day with a late night talk by Wehrspann Lake in Chalco Hills ... and going back there the next evening for a picnic, and more time to relax ...

~ thankful for my husband who loves to spend free time relaxing, reading, enjoying nature ...

~ for more plans to take time off together, taking breaks from our busyness ...

~ a renewed heart to look for His gifts, taking our eyes off of concerns ...

~ perfect weather on Saturday to wash windows, preparing our home for a family reunion here soon ... 

~ more progress in cleaning, planning, and preparing for thirty family here at our place ...

~ taking time Sunday afternoon to drive my 90 year-old father to his home place, where he lived with his new bride back in 1945-1947 (their first home together, no longer there, but had been near the barn and evergreen tree in photo below) ...

~ my father's thankful heart that there was not flooding in that area ...

~ time to drive around near Luton, Iowa, and see a 40-acre plot of land which my father had owned back in the 1940's, now set aside for hunting ...

~ driving back home along the Missouri River, much flooding; thankful that our little town (and our home) is on higher ground ... but so sorry for the many who have had to evacuate their homes near us ...

Many roads closed near our home, this one just a mile from us ...

Flooding on the north edge of a town north of us ...

~ time to stop and see a daughter and son-in-law's beautiful newly remodeled living room ...

~ and a stop at another daughter and son-in-law's brand new home, almost done; so beautiful, and set in such a restful location ...

~ meeting some new friends at church yesterday, brand new to our church, and soon to be married ...

Thank You, Lord, for all the gifts and blessings You opened my eyes to this past week, lifting me from my concerns and filling me with joy. 

"This is the day the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it."
(Zephaniah 3:17)

(One Thousand Gifts #482-501)

Linking up with others, sharing gratitude at A Holy Experience.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Second Page

Life is full, and I have not had as much time as I had hoped to learn digital scrapbooking, but I am making progress! I just completed lesson 16 (out of 52 lessons) in an excellent online course learning how to use Photoshop Elements for digital scrapbooking. It was a month ago when I posted my first page, and this week I completed my second page! 

The most recent lessons taught how to use the Type Tool, and this was my first page to work with type and journaling on a page. Just thought I'd share the page that I did of our recent time at the YMCA of the Rockies, helping with a Student Venture Getaway conference for high school students.

And ... looking forward to learning more in the weeks/months ahead!

Linking up with others, sharing summer projects at One Project at a Time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

In Each Moment

"I speak to you continually. 
My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. 
I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. 
I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. 
I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. 
I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence." 
(Jesus Calling)

It seems that this spring has been an unusually busy time, although each spring is full of activity! We were able to escape to the mountains this past week, and even though it was not for vacation, but for a week of serving along with others at a conference for high school students, it was a wonderful week away from the routine. Sometimes it just takes a change of scenery to be refreshed!

Thanking God for His many gifts this past week ...

~ the beautiful mountains in the near distance as we spent June 9-16 at the YMCA of the Rockies; powerful unspoken words from God, spoken through the majestic scenery, each time we walked in and out of the dining hall (photo above), from the dorms, to and from our meeting places in this beautiful setting in the Rockies ...

~ the beauty one night at sunset; God so close, a touch of heaven ...

~ for God's Spirit at work in lives of students ...

~ many high school students coming to know Jesus, learning to walk closely with Him ...

~ the joy my husband and I had of working together with Robin, Administrator of the SV Getaway conference ... 

~ a safe drive home, arriving home at midnight last Thursday ...

~ the fun of stopping by a Farmer's Market after church yesterday, and purchasing some fresh produce from friends of ours who live nearby ...

~ sitting in the shade on a hot day, eating our "Taco's in a Bag" (purchased at the Farmer's Market), and having a newly married couple from our church join us ... married only a week ago!

~ later in the day, Father's Day - a little grandson so happy to give his grampa a gift and card ...

~ a special grilled meal together with a daughter and this little grandson - and anticipation of a bigger family party next Sunday celebrating Father's Day and two June birthdays ...

~ phone calls, emails, text and facebook messages ... wishing my husband "Happy Father's Day"!

(One Thousand Gifts #470-481)

Linking up with others, sharing gratitude at A Holy Experience.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Glimpses of Home

Photo Source

Home can be found in many different places. For most of the first 17 years of my life, home was in the far-off country of Japan. The next four years home was in a dorm on a college campus. And for these past almost-40 years, home has been with my husband, and six children, in various towns across our state.

Now my home is an "empty nest" home ... and last night we made our way across 600 miles, driving home from a week in the Rocky Mountains. Our GPS telling us exactly how many miles, how many hours and minutes, until we reached "home".

And everywhere that we call home, we also can see glimpses of our real, forever home. This home calls to us, and draws us, like a beacon. A few days ago, as I was walking at dusk from our meeting place at the YMCA of the Rockies, to the dorm room where we were staying, the majestic snow-capped mountains in the near-distance called to me, reminding me of my forever home. So close I could almost touch this home.

This home is never far away. As followers of Jesus, His Spirit within is like a touch of home with us, where ever we go. He can fill us to overflowing with a touch of His Presence, His Love, all glimpses of our True Home. And in our earthly homes, where ever we go, this Presence of Love in us can give glimpses of our ultimate, perfect, forever home to those around us.

Linking up with others at Five Minute Friday, writing for five minutes on the word-prompt "Home".

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Stillness and in Trust

Photo Source

"When you approach Me in stillness and in trust
you are strengthened. 
You need a buffer zone of silence around you 
in order to focus on things that are unseen. 
Spending time alone with Me is the best way
 to develop seeing eyes and hearing ears. 
The goal is to be aware of unseen things
 even as you live out your life in the visible world."
 (Jesus Calling)

Stillness ... and trust. Two things that are so essential. And yet difficult to find in our day-to-day living. But if we do not find time for stillness before God, quieting our minds and hearts, listening to Truth, we will believe lies. We need to quiet ourselves so that Truth can find it's home in our hearts. 

Whether in the midst of great beauty which reflects God's glory so powerfully, or in the quiet of our home, even amidst the noise of life around us ... pausing, slowing our busyness, opening up our hearts to listen, reading His Words, focusing our attention on His Spirit within ... in stillness and in trust, we will be strengthened.

"So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; 
rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. 
For the things we see now will soon be gone, 
but the things we cannot see will last forever." 
(II Corinthians 4:18)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Beauty All Around

View right outside the window of our room at YMCA of the Rockies!

"Trust Me and don't be afraid, 
for I am your Strength and Song. 
Do not let fear dissapate your energy. 
Instead, invest your energy
 in trusting Me and singing My Song."
 (Jesus Calling)

Thank You, Lord, for reminders to trust instead of worry, and for tangible touches of Your Love this past week ...

~ a relaxing, safe drive here to the Rockies last Thursday ...

~ Your help as we worked with other staff and volunteers, preparing for the arrival of 350 students on Saturday afternoon ...

~ the joy of working together with Robin (from SV headquarters in Orlando), registering students and giving out room assignments ... 

~ blue skies, fresh mountain air, and beautiful mountains in view ...

~ elk and deer, right near our dorm ...

~ students eagerly buying books after the opening session of the Getaway (and the privilege of working together with my husband in running the bookstore for the students) ...

~ a special Girls Only event last night - good food, and opportunity to hear Jacqueline share about knowing Jesus and walking so closely with Him, meeting our deepest needs ...

~ thankful for our girls from Nebraska, seated together for the Girls Only event, also with a few friends from Minnesota ...

~ for Your Spirit at work in students' lives during these days at the Getaway ... 100 of the 350 students going to an early morning prayer time the first morning, and needing to move this prayer time to a bigger room for the second morning ...

~ for anticipation of seeing You at work in students' lives these next few days ...

~ for beauty all around, even while walking to the dining room here at the YMCA ...

~ for giving us the desires of our hearts ...

"Delight yourself in the Lord, 
and He will give you 
the desires of your heart." 
(Psalm 37:4)

Continuing counting God's gifts, and linking up with others at A Holy Experience ...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Captured by Love

Photo Source

Traveling for ten hours on the interstate yesterday with my husband, on our way to help with the Rocky Mountain Getaway conference for high school students, my heart was captured by words that I read from Colossians:

"For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness 
and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, 
who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins."
(Colossians 1:13-14)

"As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, 
and you are holy and blameless 
as you stand before Him without a single fault."
(Colossians 1:22b)

"And this is the secret: Christ lives in you." 
(Colossians 1:27b)

The most awesome thing, that we can live and walk with this great God who rescued us and purchased our freedom, and so amazing that we can hardly even comprehend it ... this God is very close, not far away, but in us.

And more words grabbed my heart as I continued on in my reading of Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman, more words about this God who lives in us ... words about how He loves us, how He loves even me.

Mary Beth, so excited, yet apprehensive as they traveled to China to adopt their first infant girl from that country, not knowing how she would respond when seeing their new little daughter for the first time, found herself overwhelmed with love.  

She wrote, "I couldn't get to her fast enough. I opened my arms, flew toward the woman, and took the baby. Tears poured down my face. I couldn't believe that this was my child. I stared down at her, crying over and over, 'This is my baby!'"

She went on to write, "In that moment, time stopped. It was like God was speaking to me directly ... 'Do you not understand now that this is the very way I see you? You are this orphan! I adopted you and you are Mine! I bought you for a price! Do you see how you love this baby? That's just a faint reflection of how much I love you! You didn't have a name, and I gave you a name. You did nothing to deserve My love, and I love you anyway. You had no hope, no future, and now you are the daughter of the King!"

I may never fully comprehend (until heaven) what it means to be rescued by this great God, what it fully means to be loved so completely by Him ... but as we drove the interstate yesterday for hours and hours, I came a bit closer to realizing the impact of the words that I read. And I will carry this close, as I live and walk through this day. 

And I will pray that all those I love, and all those 350 students who will be arriving here at this beautiful place tomorrow will be captured in a fresh way by this God who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins, and who loves us more than we can even imagine.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Handmade with Love in May

Thankful for special days, and for scrapbooking supplies on hand to make cards ... a hobby, and also a way to save some dollars. I would love to have more time to make cards, even for thank you notes throughout the month, but here are the cards that I had time to make for some of the special days in May ...

For one of our daughters, in the beginning of May ...

For a Bridal Shower ...

For another daughter's birthday ... and also a granddaughter, turning 13!

Made two cards like this ... for a son-in-law, and also a son who turned 21!

Thankful for family and friends who had special days in May ... five family birthdays! And a host of other special days ... much to celebrate!

Linking up with One Project at a Time, sharing with others ...

Banana Cream Dessert

A very creamy, delicious dessert ... I have used this recipe for many occasions over the years. Have put candles in it to use as a birthday dessert, and love to use it for spring and summer meals ... a very refreshing, satisfying dessert. It came from a Quick Cooking magazine back in 2001. 

Banana Cream Dessert

3 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 48 squares)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 1/2 cups cold milk
2 pkgs (3.4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix
5 medium firm bananas, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
1 carton (20 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed (I have used just 12 ounce size sometimes)
1/3 cup chopped pecans, optional

Combine cracker crumbs and butter. Press into an ungreased 13x9 inch dish. 
In a mixing bowl, beat milk and pudding mix on low speed for 2 minutes. 
Pour over crust; top with bananas and pineapple. 
Spread with whipped topping (dish will be full). 
Sprinkle with pecans, if desired. 
Chill for at least 4 hours before cutting. 

Yield:  about 15 servings

Linked to Tasty Tuesday

Monday, June 6, 2011

Looking for Perfection

"Remember that you live in a fallen world: 
an abnormal world tainted by sin. 
Much frustration and failure result 
from your seeking perfection in this life. 
There is nothing perfect in this world except Me. 
That is why closeness to Me satisfies deep yearnings
 and fills you with Joy. ... 
Make Me the deepest desire of your heart. 
Let Me fulfill your yearnings for perfection."
 (Jesus Calling)

These words bring me joy, and bring me conviction. How often do I elevate someone else, or something else to the level of perfection, making them idols in my life? I do that at times ... elevating family, children, home, trying to arrive at perfection, trying to be perfect. And the only One who is perfect is God ... and through Jesus, He has made a way for us to draw close to Him. The place where all our yearnings for perfection are met. The only place. And the place where we find Joy.

"Delight yourself in the Lord,
 and He will give you 
the desires of your heart." 
(Psalm 37:4)

Thanking Him for many blessings this past week ...

~ for trials which show us our need of Him

~ for His Words, speaking truth to us

~ the beauty of the green grass and potted flowers on our patio

~ a husband who loves to plant, water, and arrange this beauty

~ thankful that a daughter and son-in-law could take a little getaway trip

~ for three days of taking care of two little grandsons, two years old ... lots of bonding time and fun

~ for peace, and for joy ... available every day as we draw close to Him, the Source

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Just What We Need

The past nine days have been filled with sweet grandkids ... a four-day trip to Dallas with two daughters and four grandkids, to spend time with another daughter, son-in-law, and four more grandkids ... and then two days after returning home, three days of taking care of two sweet two year-old grandsons, while their parents are on a needed little getaway. Lots of hugs, fun in the sun, and special times.

Certainly with little ones around there is not as much time for quiet moments; reminders of days when my own six filled our home to the brim. But always, there are times to grab a quick moment here and there, connecting with the One we depend on most in these days of mothering, and gram-mothering.

Some little snippets of encouragement that I have read in the past few days:

"The total being of our life inside and out 
is to be absolutely obsessed by the presence of God ... 
We are to 'live and move and have our being in God.' ...
If we are obsessed by God, nothing else can get into our lives - 
not concerns, nor tribulations, nor worries." 
(My Utmost for His Highest)

"I want to be central in your entire being. 
When your focus is firmly on Me, 
My Peace displaces fear and worries. 
They will encircle you, seeking entrance, 
so you must stay alert. 
Let trust and thankfulness stand guard, 
turning back fear before it can gain a foothold." 
(Jesus Calling)

"Now may the Lord of Peace Himself 
give you His peace
 at all times and in every situation."
(II Thessalonians 3:16)

Thank You, Lord, for special times with little ones, for Truth, for Your Spirit within, for speaking just what we need to hear ... 

Linking up to Walk With Him Wednesdays, sharing thoughts on how to keep God at the center of our lives.