Monday, April 30, 2012

Looking for Beauty

"As you walk along your life-path holding My hand,
you are already in touch with the essence of heaven: nearness to Me ...
Keep your eyes and ears fully open as you journey with Me."
(Jesus Calling)

Closing out the month of April, and entering into the new month of May. And each day is a new opportunity to keep our eyes and ears open to all that God has for us. 

And for my husband and me, we are entering into a journey that is brand new for us ~ a 30-Day Sabbatical, together with some accumulated vacation days. All a gift, celebrating 40 years of being in full-time ministry. We've never taken a journey quite like this before, and are filled with anticipation to see all that God has planned for us during the next few months. 

And before we start out on this journey on May 1st, I want to glance back over the past week and count the blessings that came from Him ...

A renewed call to pray - and asking for more ...
An app on my iPhone to help me keep track of prayer needs
Refreshing CCC Day of Prayer on Tuesday last week
"Prayer is the shortest distance between two people." (inCourage via Twitter)
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Psalm 139:23-24)

Strength given in a busy week
Newsletter written and printed, stuffed and sealed
Many tasks completed in anticipation of Sabbatical
Times of feeling overwhelmed, and needing His help
Weaknesses that cause me to run to Him
"I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy ..." (Psalm 34:4a)

Beautiful weather
Eating outdoors for lunch and supper one day
Sweet daughter, Carrie, coming over on Thursday with Cruz and baby Eva
The sweetest of smiles from six week-old Eva
A Family Meal together on Sunday
Roasting hot dogs and s'mores around Sara & Sean's brand new fire pit

Eleven hours of driving on Saturday (photo above)
Taking my 91 year-old father to Hesston and back
All for a three hour visit with his brother, suffering from advanced Parkinsons
The blessings of spending time with my Uncle Henry & Aunt Leona
Feeling sorrow for his sufferings
And inspired by her patient love and care
Burdened to pray for them

Connecting with staff team
Sharing a meal at Ingredient - warm connections with staff women
Visit to Accelere - school for 17-20 year olds, open to SV this coming fall
Hearing the heart behind the school, uniquely designed to help make graduation a possibility

Being of one heart with my husband
Entering our Sabbatical time off together
Listening and watching for all He has for us as we journey this new path

(Counting One Thousand Gifts in 2012 #357-387)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April Memories

April was filled with blossoms on our fruit trees, warm days amidst cooler days, fresh leaves and green grass ... and special days. Three of our ten grandkids had birthdays - my father turned 91 - one of my brothers had a birthday - a daughter was honored with a baby shower - and we celebrated Easter! I was able to make some handmade cards for some of these events, and just thought I'd share them here ... 

For our oldest granddaughter, Abigail Joy - she turned 16 this month!

For Carrie - at a special Baby Shower her friends gave for sweet baby Eva!

For grandson, Cole - he turned three early in the month!

And for grandson, Jake - turning three on the same day as his twin brother!

April memories to hold onto! And very soon, the month with many, many special days will be here - the month of May is almost like Christmas month, with all the (graduation) parties to go to, along with five family birthdays!

This year May also holds a very significant event for us - it marks 40 years of my husband and I being in full-time ministry! We've been granted a 30-Day Sabbatical in honor of this milestone, and will be taking this beginning May 1st, along with some extra accumulated vacation days. These last few weeks of April have been extra busy, as we have been working ahead, making preparations for our Sabbatical. We'll be home much of the time, taking time for rest, and for projects that God has placed on our hearts. Looking forward to all that God has planned for us during this Sabbatical! Always making more memories ...

Linking up at In the Studio, I'm Lovin' It

Monday, April 23, 2012

Attention Full

"Time is a relentless river. It rages on, a respecter of no one.
And this, this is the only way to slow time:
When I fully enter time's swift current,
enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention ...
Weigh down this moment in time with attention full,
and the whole of time's river slows, slows, slows."
(from Selections from One Thousand Gifts)

Desiring to slow my heart and hands, and savor all of God's gifts - everyday ...

beautiful blossoms on our black locust trees
Instagram - capturing and sharing beauty
my new iPhone (early Mother's Day gift from my husband!)
iPhone apps
Lose It! - and connections as a "friend" on it with a daughter in TX 
Pepperplate - help with menu planning
Pocket Prayer Pro - love this one

a daughter and son-in-law enjoying their get-a-way trip
their two three-year-olds so good while they were gone
my father's 91st birthday
a long phone call, listening
consignment sale and lunch with a daughter and a granddaughter
farewell pot-luck for friends at church
warm connections with our small group

all these years that I've been able to be a SAHM - still loving it
empty nest years
anticipation of our coming Sabbatical and extended time off this spring/summer
celebrating 40 years of ministry
living life with my husband

being dressed in the clothing of salvation
and draped in the robe of righteousness
as a bride in her jewels

"I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit 
or a bride in her jewels."
(Isaiah 61:10)

(Counting 1000 Gifts in 2012 #335-356)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Baby Shower Blessings

When a daughter is blessed with love, so I am blessed, as well. A little over a month ago, Carrie & Tyler gave birth to beautiful little baby Eva. It has been a joy to see how their church family has blessed them with love and care. Meals were delivered to their home for four weeks (two or three days a week), and also, they were blessed with a shower of gifts for little Eva. And, as mom (and grama), I was invited to the shower, as well. It warms my heart to see them loved so well by their Relevant family.

A whole month has gone by since we welcomed sweet Eva into our arms - what a joy it has been to help Carrie out in various ways. The blessing of being mom and grama, and of living nearby. It also gives me an excuse to buy some adorable little outfits for our new baby granddaughter - and also, an opportunity to make a crochet-edging baby blanket, just in time to give at the shower.

Thankful for the joy of being mom, and of being grama ... and thankful for the gift of little Eva to our family - our 10th grandchild!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Loved and Valued

Photo Source

"I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in the robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit
or a bride with her jewels."
(Isaiah 61:10)

Sometimes we get caught up with performance, thinking that we need to accomplish certain things in order for us to be truly loved and valued. By those around us, and mostly, by God. But these efforts are futile and unnecessary. For we are already loved and valued.

"I love you regardless of how well you are performing. 
Sometimes you feel uneasy, wondering if you are doing enough to be worthy of My Love."
  (Jesus Calling)

"I love you with an everlasting Love 
that flows out from eternity without limits or conditions ... " 
(Jesus Calling)

Thank You, Lord, that You chose us before we chose You, that You loved us before we loved You. That we can rest in Your Love - walk, run, sleep ... and breathe in this Love that never changes.

Linking up at Faith Filled Friday

Monday, April 16, 2012

All Our Moments

Two three-year-old boys here for two nights and three days

"I am calling you to a life of thankfulness.
I want all your moments to be punctuated with thanksgiving."
(Jesus Calling)

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

a day at home
quiet mornings in our corner room
Selections from One Thousand Gifts
eucharisteo = grace, thanksgiving, joy
"You are Mine for all time; nothing can separate you from My Love. Since I have invested My very Life in you, be well assured I will also take care of you." (Jesus Calling)

picking up three year-old Cruz for the day
giving his mom another day of quiet with her newborn baby
play-doh, GeoSafari, and other play
green everywhere outdoors
the best friendship of all
"I have called you friends ... " (from John 15:15)

staff meeting with our team
lunch together with my father at Skyline - celebrating his turning 91!
banana split sundaes
prayer time together with my husband

handmade cards - for a granddaughter's birthday, and a baby shower
good dentist check-up
wonderful little visit with a daughter
holding newest granddaughter - 4 weeks old already!
shopping and errands

a friend coming over to share a prayer need
baby blanket with crocheted edging finished - just in time
gifts wrapped and ready
Ultimate Blog Party - meeting new blogging friends
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." (Colossians 3:23)

two little three-year-old grandsons coming over for a few days
giving their parents a little getaway, just the two of them
such happy boys
fun with Grampa while I left for a few hours
time at a Baby Shower for a daughter and her newborn daughter
two boys taking such good naps

staying in KidZone with two little boys
their fun making a craft and having a snack
energy to keep up with two three-year-olds
living life through the eyes of a child
hugs and love given and received
a sweet granddaughter in TX turning 16 - where have the years gone?
sharing all these moments together with my husband and best friend

(Counting 1000 Gifts in 2012 #297-334)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Intentional Friendship

Photo Source

"No one has greater love than this, 
that someone would lay down his life for his friends."
(John 15:13)

And how do we walk in, and enjoy this friendship? Is it possible to be friends, yet not drink deeply of a friendship? There are different levels of friendship - why would we not crave the deepest level possible? Especially with our Maker.

"Face-to-face or presence-to-presence 
intimacy with Christ 
only comes intentionally." 
(Beth Moore - James: Mercy Triumphs)

First Love Friendship - what I long for. Pursuing God above all else. The deepest of friendships.

"So no one who lives in this world is a friend of God accidentally. 
We make a choice where we want to be most present."
 (Beth Moore - James: Mercy Triumphs)

Linking up at Faith Filled Friday

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ultimate Blog Party 2012

Welcome! - So glad to have you come over for a visit! I'm joining up at the Ultimate Blog Party for the first time, and look forward to connecting with other bloggers there. Would love to give you an introduction to my blog, and I'd be honored to hear from you, as well - and will head over to visit you soon, too. Enjoy your visit here!

Spring is my favorite season of the year - I just love the freshness of new life, the blossoms on our apple and peach trees, the green grass, open windows, birds chirping, and flowers blooming. But even more wonderful than the season of spring, is having a sense of springtime in our hearts that lasts all through the year. A sense of freshness and closeness in our relationship with God, where we are very aware of His love and are walking closely with Him. Where every day can feel fresh, like spring.

It's fitting that this Pursuing Heart blog came into existence two years ago, in the spring. I had been asking God for some new direction during this "empty nest" stage of life that I am in now, and through a series of events, including the encouragement of some women in our community, this place was birthed. I've journaled a lot through the years, as writing is my way of learning and growing, making the things that I read and experience a part of who I am, all for His purposes.

Little did I know two years ago, how much I would love blogging! God has given me much joy as I have followed, given me courage to share my heart in this public place, and has blessed me with connections with our own grown children here, with friends in real life, as well as with new friends that I have met here. So many unexpected blessings! Offering up to God the little seeds, soaking up His love and mercy through the joys and trials of life, and watching Him bring springtime.

My primary focus is on sharing the things that grab my heart as I spend time in God's Word, and in listening to Him. Sharing as I learn, from an overflowing heart of thanks. Also I love to share my heart as I pursue all things related to the family, and home - from my years of mothering six children, and now as a "grama" of ten sweet grandkids! Also I enjoy sharing recipes, posting about my new interest in digital scrapbooking ... and I love all the ideas and encouragement from other bloggers.

For those who are visiting here from the Ultimate Blog Party 2012, thanks for coming by! I pray that you will be refreshed and encouraged here. Here are a few samples of some of my posts from recent weeks/months:

Devotional Thoughts - In Need, Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Recipes - Layered Salad in a Jar

Mothering - Sweet Daughters

Digital Scrapbooking - Taking Time

Photo Collage of some of my favorites in posting:

Top Left: life as a mom and grama (photo with our newest grandbaby, born just last month!)
Top Right: using my photos, especially nature photos, in devotional posts
Bottom Left: sharing life as an "empty nester" (photo from our 40th Anniversary Trip to Italy!)
Bottom Right: posts about beautiful & delicious food (photo from a family gathering last summer)

Please visit the Ultimate Blog Party 2012 to meet other bloggers, and thanks for coming by for a visit here!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Deviled Eggs

This recipe is good any time of year, but especially at Easter time. I made it this past Easter weekend, and we enjoyed having these Deviled Eggs at a birthday party for two of our grandsons, as well as for a meal on Easter Sunday. My recipe of choice for Deviled Eggs comes from the Taste of Home website.

Deviled Eggs

6 hard-cooked eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use half of this amount, 1/4 teaspoon)


Slice eggs in half lengthwise; remove yolks and set whites aside. In a small bowl, mash yolks with a fork. Add next five ingredients; mix well.

Stuff or pipe into egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika. Refrigerate until serving.

Yield: 6 servings (2 per person)

I've been making Deviled Eggs for quite a few years, and just this spring came across some very helpful tips on how to boil them so that they are very easy to peel - these directions worked perfectly, and I had much less trouble peeling the eggs - the shells just came off perfectly.

Thank you to the Reluctant Entertainer blog for the following tips on boiling eggs for deviled eggs: Bring water to boil. Using a spoon, slowly and carefully lower eggs into water. Set timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn heat off and let eggs sit in water for 5 minutes. Then pour off water and add cold water to cover eggs. After a few minutes, pour off water and add more cold water. In about 8 minutes the eggs will be cold enough to peel perfectly.

(Photo above shows amount when recipe was doubled.)

Linking up at Tasty Tuesday, Living Well Wednesdays

Monday, April 9, 2012

Birthdays and Easter

Birthdays and Easter blended into one this year, as we celebrated the birthdays of two little grandsons the day before Easter. Jake & Cole are now three years old!

Birthday cards and Easter treats prepared for the grandkids - six Easter bags delivered in person over the weekend (two, a few days later!), and four Easter gifts mailed off to Texas.

A beautiful spring day on Easter Sunday - a fun, relaxing picnic together with our youngest son in place of a big Easter Dinner (as we had gathered as family the day before for birthdays).

Thanking God for ...

little grandsons turning three
delicious cocktails wieners, meatballs, and salads shared as family
excitement over the very cute construction vehicle cakes their mom made
little boys having fun opening presents

ten grandkids to prepare little treat bags for
grown kids of ours who live close by
texts and phone calls during the week with those who live far away
love which is always present

worshipping together with friends
our youngest son joining us for an Easter picnic
beautiful weather
view of the lake and the ducks

the greatest Gift of all
He who is Just and Who is Love
purchase of our Freedom
and springtime that lasts all year round

(Counting 1000 Gifts in 2012  #281-296)

Friday, April 6, 2012

For Freedom

"So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point:
You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ.
And now you are united with the One who was raised from the dead."
(Romans 7:4a)

"The ultimate question is not who you are, but whose you are."

"I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin." 
(John 8:34)

"Most of the time we are free to do what we want.
But we are not free to want what we ought.
For that we need a new power based on a divine purchase."
(from Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper)

"You are not your own, for you were bought with a price."
(from I Cor. 6:19-20)

Thanking God today for freedom ~ from the power of sin. A gift purchased for me with a great price.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Both Just and Loving

"In this is love,
not that we loved God
but that He loved us and sent His Son
to be the propitiation for our sins."
(I John 4:10)

"If God were not just, there would be no demand for His Son to suffer and die. 
And if God were not loving, there would be no willingness for His Son to suffer and die. 
But God is both just and loving. 
Therefore His love is willing to meet the demands of His justice." 

With a heart full of thanks, thinking on His amazing love and mercy ...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Springtime All Year Round

Spring is my favorite time of year - I love the freshness of new life, the blossoms on our apple, peach, and plum trees, the birds singing, open windows, green grass, picnics. Three of our six children were born in May, and our tenth little grandbaby was born just a few weeks ago - a beautiful little baby girl! I love spring!

But even more wonderful than the season of spring ... 
is having a sense of springtime in our hearts
that lasts all through the year. 

A sense of freshness and closeness in our relationship with God, where we are very aware of His love and we are walking closely with Him. Where every day can feel fresh, like spring.

And how do we find this sense of springtime in our hearts?

A key word that comes to my mind, 
a word that we maybe struggle with at times,
but a word that brings lasting springtime, 
a word with deep, limitless meaning:

Surrender - a word that I keep learning more about. And recently God has been adding some more layers of understanding about this word. I think it is key to experiencing "springtime" in our relationship with God.

When my husband and I were at a SV Leadership Conference in Florida in early February, one of the speakers shared something that I have been thinking about a lot since then. And I'm thankful for this added dimension to the understanding of the word "surrender".

Living a life of deep purpose and meaning, a life surrendered to God, is living -

"a life that makes known to others the faithfulness of God."

It's so easy to think that we are here for our own agenda. But suppose (and it is true) that our Creator crafted us for the specific purpose of enjoying us, and of showing His love and faithfulness to a needy world. That our temperaments, personalities, and yes, even our weaknesses are all designed to show His strength and glory through, showing who He really is to those around us. And that those things in us that we wish would just go away, are with us to cause us to run to God - continually - as they are the very things that make us aware of how much we need Him.

Just as a small seed contains all the details of what it's Creator crafted it to be - such as a flower seed, or a watermelon seed, or a cucumber seed - so, each of us is designed to bring glory to God, each of us in our own unique ways.

How often we are discontented with how we are made, wishing that we were different. When all along, these things are exactly what draw us to God, as we realize how desperate we are for Him.

And how often we resist troubles, and even become angry at God for allowing them in our lives, thinking that He has forgotten about us, or failed us, or is getting even with us for something we have done. When, in fact, these troubles are exactly the situations He allows, to draw us closer to Him. And we then are drawn into more fully experiencing the deepest of relationships possible - a close relationship with our Maker.

Surrendering - to how He has crafted us, 
and embracing all that He allows into our lives.

I think that when I was first married, and then had several young children at home - that I thought I knew what our life should look like. My picture of a successful life was a life void of problems and troubles. I thought I knew how God would be glorified most - perfect family, no trials, etc.

It was like taking the seed of life that God has given us, and guarding it selfishly ... like putting this seed up on a shelf to admire. That is how we live at times - like a seed on a shelf. Missing the beauty that will result by releasing the seed to the soil.

How wrong I was - and instead of things going perfectly, we have experienced a fair share of troubles: very difficult years when one of our daughters was a teen; while another one was in college; a very close call with another daughter - a mis-diagnosis, and catching appendicitis just in time; a daughter who went through leukemia; and a bone marrow transplant a year later; a horrible accident my husband was in where we almost lost him and it was not known if he would walk again; walking with a daughter through infertility; and then feeling her deep pain of losing a baby at 20 weeks of pregnancy; seasons when some of our grown children were/are not walking with God - and, we continue to go through trials today.

But I have learned, and continue to learn, that we need to surrender, to be willing to experience all that our Maker has in mind for us. Not to punish us or make us miserable. But for our good, to draw us close to His heart so that we can experience the deepest of love, and become what He crafted us to be.

A daily surrendering 
- and a daily thanking Him 
for everything that He allows.

Sharing a few of the many verses and quotes in my journal in recent weeks:

"I'm only seed. Small, hard, not of much use to anyone. 
Not without transformation. 
And first must come death. 
Isn't it funny that the God who calls us into light, 
Who bids us go and bear fruit, calls us first to this laying down? 
This carrying of a cross, this dying to oneself, this submission to the giving up?" 

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, 
consider it an opportunity for great joy."
(James 1:2)

"Make friends with the problems in your life - 
every problem can teach you something, 
transforming you little by little
 into the masterpiece I created you to be ...
 the best way to befriend your problems is to thank Me for them." 
(from Jesus Calling)

Author and blogger, Ann Voskamp, in her book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, shares how she has gone through a lot of very difficult things in her childhood, especially, and how surrendering and accepting with gratitude all that God allows into our lives is the way to joy.

One Thousand Gifts beckons you to leave the parched ground 
of pride, fear, and white-knuckle control 
and abandon yourself to the God who overflows your cup." 
(from the back cover of One Thousand Gifts)

One little practice that helps me is to consciously thank God for a weakness, or a trial.  I journal a lot, and for me, it helps to actually write down my thanks for difficult things, even the smaller trials in daily living.  It's hard to do, and I usually struggle before I can do it, as it is not easy to surrender, and to give up "my way".  But this act of expressing thanks lifts me up above my circumstances. And fills me with joy.
"Always be joyful. 
Never stop praying. 
Be thankful in all circumstances, 
for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 
(I Thess. 5:16-17)

And the result - we can experience springtime in our hearts! Not just when things are going perfectly. But even in the midst of trials and weaknesses.

Experiencing the freshness and the beauty of spring all year-round. And spreading that beauty to those around us, as they see God in our lives.

 Surrender to ... 
A life that makes known to others the faithfulness of God.

(Thanking God for springtime that lasts all year long - these thoughts are taken from a collection of notes in my journal over recent weeks/months, and shared at a recent Women's Dessert Night our church held.)

Linking up at Faith Filled Friday, Friday Favorite Things

And also linking up at Allume as my favorite post for the month.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Successful Day

"A successful day is one in which
you have stayed in touch with Me,
even if many things 
remain undone at the end of the day."
(Jesus Calling)

Thanking God for reminders of what is most important ...
and thanking Him for His many gifts of this past week ~

a son coming over to help his dad cut up wood (for next winter)
preparations for sharing a devo at a women's event
discovering I have a copy of One Thousand Gifts to share as a give-away
reminders to give thanks, always
helping a daughter so she can have a quiet day with her newborn
happy to have big brother here for a day - so full of life and joy
holding a newborn grandbaby - never tire of this
reminders to thank Him even for mistakes and weaknesses
things that draw me to run to Jesus
sharing with friends as a couple - so much in common
our staff team meeting 
more ideas to share in the devo
a day at a daughter's house
caring for newborn grandbaby while mommy runs errands
giving of baby clothes I saved from this daughter
for her to have for her newborn daughter
creating of a new blog header for April - always learning
Jesus' sacrifice - most valued treasure
my husband saying it's time
the purchase of an iPhone for me
visiting a dear friend in the hospital
praising God for her remarkable recovery
a daughter coming over for my help with a project
a grandson so excited to show us a new robot toy
a granddaughter happy to play with dolls
trust that God will use the thoughts He gave for the devo
women who love to gather together
apps for iPhone
Wunderlist, Instagram, ScriptureTyper
a sister-in-law's good recovery from surgery
beautiful spring weather
a walk earlier this evening on the edge of our town (photo above)

(Counting 1000 Gifts in 2012 #249-280)