Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Feeling a Little Inauthentic

Typically, I am a very real person.

As in, what you see is what you get.

That is, I spent waaaaaay too much time when my children were small pretending to be someone I am not. Trying to look like I had it all together. Never letting on that motherhood was a struggle for me, and that some days I felt like a complete failure.
In those days I did my best to hide the real me. Because I felt like nobody could love her. But then God gave me hope in the midst of the struggle, and I started sharing my story, and I found out I wasn't alone. And I discovered being real - being authentic - was the only way to really live.

But I am suddenly feeling like I have regressed.

You see, tonight my daughter is coming home to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.
And she's bringing her boyfriend with her.
And his mother.
And I?
Just dusted, vacuumed, put away things which have been sitting in the dining room since I can't remember when, replaced the tablecloth whose stains I hardly even notice anymore (because I see them countless times each day), washed some windows (OK, only the inside of them!), and cleaned a mirror. (Still need to address the bathroom.)
And, well, I just don't usually behave this way. Haha!

They're going to be here for a few days - and I certainly don't intend to put on a got-it-all-together act.
But I thought at least it would be nice for the house to look clean when they arrive.
*wink*

By the way, I am going to spend the rest of the week enjoying my family and my house guests. I'll catch up with you here again on Monday.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Karen

Monday, November 20, 2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

Touched by an Angel

I got to see Angel again this week.
And this time she stayed awake during my entire visit. *smile*

We sang together, I told her about what I just finished studying in Ephesians, and we talked a little bit about spiritual warfare. Angel isn't verbal enough to tell me stories about her life, and about the warfare she waged as a mother of several children. But she was able to communicate that she did spend time praying for her babies. And the way she joins me in prayer with, "Yes, Lord." and "Mm-hmm" and "Amen" gives me a hint of the passion she must have expressed when she prayed.
It's beautiful to imagine Angel on her knees, crying out to God on behalf of her children.

When it seemed she needed a break from trying to converse, I got the Connect Four game her son had set out for us. Saint and I had spoken about "playing" this game before, and I understood that Angel no longer has the cognitive abilities to actually strategize and follow rules. So I just handed her chips and we took turns dropping them into the slots. Sometimes Angel needed help steadying and lifting her hand to the top of the board, though once she made it that far she was able to drop the chip into play. And she actually connected four before I did in all three of our contests! *wink*
But when that third game was over, Angel said her arm was getting sore - so we suspended play and she put her arm back under her blanket to rest.
And I wondered to myself how many things that hand/arm combination has done over the past 100 years.
*How many hugs has it given to scared or hurting children?
*How many sheets and towels and sweaters and trousers has it folded?
*How many times has it comforted a tired husband?
*How many beds has it made?
*How many dinners has it prepared?
*How many neighbors has it greeted?
*How many prayers has it lifted up to heaven?
And I thought, Yes, sweet Angel. Rest your arm.
Because when a body has been at work for over a hundred years, I guess it ought to be able to rest any time it wants to!

Karen

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Seeing from the Other Side

Yesterday a friend asked me if I have thought about writing another book.
And the truth is, I have.
Actually, last summer when I had the night shift driving home from Colorado - and everyone else in the van was sleeping - I came up with the title, sub-title, and eleven chapters.
I haven't taken it any farther than a memo on my phone, though.

But due to recent events, and things I've almost said, I'm thinking maybe I ought to get writing.

The thing is, my kids are getting close to being grown up.
They're 21, 19, and 17 now.
The struggles I had with them when they were small don't weigh heavy on my heart and mind anymore. (We've moved on to other struggles!) And as God has been growing them up, He's also been maturing me - and helping me differentiate between things that matter, and things that don't.
In fact, it has come to the point where I almost told a young mother, "This, too, shall pass."
Another time I almost said to parents of a new-born, "You'll make it. Just nap when he naps."
*grimace*
Those are two of the statements which made me cringe during my kids' younger years - every time someone spewed said them to me.
But, but, now that I'm on the other side, I know they're true statements. Having gone through what those young parents are presently going through, I now know the hard times won't last - and the little-ness of their little treasures won't, either. And, like all the grown-women and grandma's who have gone before me, I am eager to encourage them with sage advice and words of wisdom. Which I am certain will alleviate their distress and help them enjoy the moment.
The good thing
The problem is
No, it's definitely a good thing.
The good thing is, before those words came out of my mouth I remembered how they sounded to me when I was an irritable mother in the midst of the struggle. Although now I trust the words were always spoken with good intent - and in accuracy from hind-sight - at the time they did little to nothing to encourage me. Rather, I fell deeper into my pit of mommy-guilt because I wasn't enjoying.every.moment. And I seemed always to feel just a little more of a failure each time someone implied (Unintentionally, I'm sure.) that they made it through whatever I was facing, so I ought to buck-up and face it, too.
I didn't need sage advice and words of wisdom when I was an irritable mother. I mean, maybe later they would have been good to hear. But what I really needed first was for somebody (preferably one of these "older" moms who had been there) to tell me that what I was going through really was hard. That it was OK for me to feel overwhelmed. I needed her to tell me she had cried, too, and sometimes she didn't want to be a mommy anymore, either. My heart was longing for her to validate me, and to assure me that I wasn't a failure. Oh, if she would put her arms around me and pray, and affirm that God was still crazy in love with me - even when I was a slobbery mess.
Yes, those kinds of words would have been so much more valuable to me than the advice to "enjoy them now" because "they're only young once" and "this, too, shall pass."
I mean, I'm seeing the younger years from the other side now, and I know those words are true. But when I was an irritable mother, those words didn't offer the grace I needed.

So that's why I'm thinking maybe some day I'll write,
"When I was an Irritable Mother: A Grandma's Guide to Giving Grace".
What do you think?

Karen

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

We're Better Together

Tuesday night last week there was a significant frost, and Wednesday morning it looked like ALL the leaves had fallen overnight.
So Friday, I recruited Matthew to come outside and help me gather a few tarp's-worth of leaves to dump in the pines. You know, because he had the day off of school and I thought he ought to do something constructive. And the terrible, horrible, no-fun process of raking leaves was underway.

When Saturday arrived it seemed everyone was somewhere else, doing something else, so I decided to just go out by myself and get some raking done.
And the raking part was fine.
I mean, I wasn't enjoying myself by any means. But I managed to get through it.
However, when it came time to drag the tarp full of leaves to the pines to dump, I realized the task simply was not meant to be for one person. That is, dragging it was easy. But pulling one end over the other and pushing the middle up while trying to pull the bottom out and repeatedly releasing stuck parts of the tarp which had gotten caught by low-hanging branches, all the while trying to avoid said branches so you don't get poked in the eye, and did I mention how heavy a tarp full of leaves is? Well, it was just too much for me. (OK. It wasn't too much in the sense that I wasn't able to finish the task. But it WAS too much for me to be willing to try it again. *ahem*)
So I decided to quit the terrible, horrible, no-fun task of raking leaves. (Which, by the way, was far more terrible than it had been with Matthew's help the previous day.)
Just as Brian was coming out to help.
And, although I really wanted to quit, I knew I could continue if I wasn't alone. So I picked the rake back up and my man and I got a whole lotta raking and leaf-dumping done.
In not a lotta time.
Oh, there are still plenty of leaves to rake, but I am confident we'll get it done.
Together.

Yes, together.
Because we're better together.
Not only when it comes to raking leaves, but also raising children, growing in Christ, facing obstacles, working through life-changes, enduring hardships, and even celebrating victories.
Too often, however, it seems like everyone else is somewhere else doing their own thing. So we put on our big-girl panties and we try to do it ourselves. And we usually end up overwhelmed and tired, and ready to quit. Who's with me on this???
So today I am offering you the lesson I learned last weekend while raking leaves.
Quit trying to do life on your own. God has surrounded you with people who can help in various ways. It's called the Body of Christ. So let's live like a body instead of as individual parts.
***********************************************************************************************
Even as I exhort you to receive help, so I implore you to watch out for others.
When you see a need, grab a rake and go offer support!

Karen

Monday, November 13, 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

Touched by an Angel

So I had my first "official" visit with Angel this week.
She was lying comfortably in her recliner, covered with a soft blanket when I arrived - listening to some good ol' gospel music. A cushioned bench sits right next to her recliner, so I sat down beside her and was ready to get to know her a bit.
But my sweet Angel was so warm and cozy, she just wanted to sleep. (Livin' for 100+ years makes a lady tired, ya know!) Thus, the majority of our time was spent with her eyes closed, and my eyes fixed upon her - wondering about the stories and wisdom and lessons she holds in her heart.

In her moments of wakefulness I tried to engage Angel in conversation. I asked her about the people in the pictures on her dresser and hanging on her walls - but she mostly didn't remember who they are. We looked at a small plaque "to Mother" which sat on her dresser, and I read aloud the poem printed on it. (We agreed it must have been a gift from one of her children.) We took note of the good-looking young men who were singing gospel on the TV. And she was able to tell me that she sang alto when she was in her church choir. Alto. Just like me!
But, like I said, most of the time Angel wasn't aware of me, because she slept.
That is, she wasn't very aware until it was time for me to leave and I asked if I could pray for her. As I held her had and prayed, something in her woke up and she was praying right along with me.
Mmhmmm, Yes, and Amen.

She may not have a mind which remembers everything or everyone anymore. She might have forgotten who gave her certain gifts. I'm quite certain she doesn't know who I am yet. But she knows her JESUS and she sure remembers how to talk to Him.
It was a moment that deeply touched my heart.

Karen

Thursday, November 09, 2017

I'll Take It

So, last night we were sitting at the table just talking after dinner, and Josh shared a fear he has about deep water with sticks in it. As the conversation continued he laughed about his irrational thoughts that "something" could get him in said waters (I think he was a bit embarrassed to be making his confession.) and I felt compelled to share my own irrational fears, just to let him know he isn't alone.
Because I was so excited that he was still at the table with us! I wanted to keep it going. *wink*

Anyway, I told the guys about my long-standing phobia regarding our laundry room in the basement. Until recently, when I would turn off the light and go upstairs (This trek involves walking through the bathroom, a small hallway, around the corner, and up the steps.) I had the ridiculous worry that a bad guy was going to jump out of the shadows and attack me. I told them that when no one else was home I would run that distance - but when others were here, I tried to act calm about it. *ahem*
I also told them about the comfort it gave me when I knew one of them knew I was down there. Because if I did't come up in a reasonable time I felt confident someone would come to check on me. (If they hadn't heard my screams when the bad guy attacked.) But if they weren't home and they didn't know I was downstairs doing laundry, well? I feared they might not miss me until...
"Dinner time!" Matthew suggested.
Brian added, "Yeah. My clothes aren't clean, and I'm hungry. Where's Mom?"
We all were laughing, but I feigned heartbreak and said, "Awww, come on, guys!"
And Josh came to my rescue with these words: "It's OK. We love you, Mom."
I smiled and thought, Well, that was pretty close to having my 19-year-old son say, "I love you, Mom."

I'm still cherishing the moment. *sigh*

Karen

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Adulting 101

So, last week I shared a story about one of my sons learning an adult lesson the hard slightly expensive way. And today I have another one.
That is, another adulting story.
About my other son!

Yesterday morning Matthew was having a hard time waking up. Until he remembered something which caused him to groan painfully and hit his pillow. I figured he had just remembered a homework assignment, or something like that. And I asked, "What's wrong?"
Matthew hit his pillow again and said, "I have stuff in the washing machine and now it isn't going to be ready when I need it!" Then he jumped out of bed to go put the laundry in the dryer. (Not sure if he forgot to put it in the dryer Sunday night, or if he planned on getting up earlier Monday morning to do it. Either way, he was feeling the crunch.)
And I?
Plodded back to my room to sleep for a few more minutes.

As I lay in bed, it occurred to me that Matthew's clothes would dry quicker if he just put in the items he needed to wear. I could very easily put the rest through later in the morning. But before I could drag myself out of bed to offer that solution, I had second thoughts.
I thought, What will my solution teach him, except that I'll come to the rescue when he doesn't plan adequately? What harm will come to him if he walks out the door in damp clothes? Or the dry clothes he wore yesterday? I'm really comfy in my bed. There is really no good reason to interfere with his consequences. So I rolled over and closed my eyes. *grin*
And when I walked into the kitchen as Matthew was heading out the door, I noticed two things.
1) He wasn't naked.
2) His clothes looked dry.

So I quickly concluded, Matthew is big enough to manage his own problems. #parentingwin

Karen

Monday, November 06, 2017

Friday, November 03, 2017

Touched By an Angel

Yes. I believe that is what's going to happen over the next... however long I am given this time.

I am going to be touched by an angel.

Angel is my newest friend. She is 100 years old and I have the wonderful opportunity to visit with her once a week now, as part of my volunteer role with Great Lakes Caring. At this moment I don't know very much about her, since I was just introduced to her yesterday. But this much I do know: She loves JESUS. She likes to sing. Annnnnd, she likes pink.
And that, right there, is all I need to know in order to know that we are going to get along swimmingly.
Angel lives with her son, whom I am going to call "Saint" (because he sure seems like one!), and I look forward to being an instrument of God's grace to both of them for the rest of Angel's life.
And if you'll meet me here on Friday's, I will share with you the joy I discover in serving, befriending, and being touched by an angel.

Karen

Thursday, November 02, 2017

When Adulting Lessons Work

So, last night my son (Who shall remain nameless, lest he become upset with me for telling stories about him to the entire world.) made a trip to the bank at a rather late hour.
But it was before midnight.
And that matters.

You see, our sons are each required to pay a portion of our cellphone bill, and their payment is due on the first of the month. And because of a history of not paying on time, a few months ago Brian and I established a system for late fees. With the intent of helping our sons become more responsible with paying bills, in an effort to prepare them for the "real world".
So, last month the son who made the late trip to the bank last night "forgot" to pay on the first of the month. And the second. And the third.
And this momma decided it wasn't her job to nag continue reminding, so she stopped.
Until the 16th of the month when it occurred to her that said son still hadn't made his payment, so she asked when he was going to make it. And together they calculated that he owed $34. Sixteen of which was late fees. Bummer.

Thus, I found myself chuckling last night, and pleased by a lesson learned, when I overheard that son of mine realizing it was the first of the month and stating, "I'm going to the bank to get that money. Because last month I had to pay too much in late fees...grumble, grumble."
The truth is, I felt kind of bad for taking that extra money from him last month. But in the "real world" he's going to face hard deadlines, and billing entities won't listen to sob stories or forgetful excuses. So, I think the lesson he learned was actually a bargain.
Here's hoping it sticks with him!

Karen

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Need to Confess

When you think someone is upset with you, so you examine your actions to discern why such upset-ness may have occurred, and in your heart you know what you did - and the Holy Spirit convicts you of selfishness and wrong-doing, so you resolve to confess and apologize, but later you see the aforementioned upset person - only they don't seem upset AT ALL...

Does that mean you're off the hook for the need to confess and apologize???

Ummm. Yeah. I don't believe so.
That is, I don't believe the Holy Spirit convicts us unnecessarily. When HE speaks to a heart, a heart ought to listen. Even when the offended doesn't seem, uh, terribly offended. Because I think sometimes the act of confession is for our own cleansing more than it is for the other's consolation.
Thus, I shall be eating humble pie and making an apology momentarily.

Thank You, Father, for caring enough about the condition of my heart - and your standard of holiness - to convict me of and cleanse me from all unrighteousness.

Karen

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Still True Today

Last week I mentioned the sermon series my church is currently doing - about prayer.
And I have to bring it up again.
Because, as usual, God spoke to my heart while I sat and listened Sunday morning.
This time, the sermon focused on, Give us today our daily bread, and I was reminded that God is a good God who loves to provide for His children exactly what they need.

I was also reminded of a time God used an unusual avenue to teach me this lesson several years ago. So I dug through the archives and watched it again. And I still believe it's True.
Praying these words will be a blessing to you today!

Karen

Friday, October 27, 2017

This Really Shouldn't Happen

A couple of weeks ago I was driving home from a speaking event, and I stopped into a fast food restaurant to get a sandwich and drink. *read that: CAFFEINE*
The young lady who took my order gave me a cup to get my drink caffeine, and then informed me - in a bit of a timid voice - that the rest of my order was going to take a few minutes. I smiled at her and said that wasn't going to be the end of the world for me, and I could wait.
So, I got my caffeine and went over to a table by the window to sit in the sun and wait.
I don't remember if it was a text that came in as I sat there, or something else which made me think of a particular person, but I do remember sitting in the warmth of the sunshine, sipping my caffeine, and praying. And it was a delightful time, really. Yes, sitting with the Son and praying. And in a moment which seemed to come too soon, that young lady called my name to indicate my order was ready. So I left my cozy perch and walked up to the counter, at which time she asked me, "Can I get you a complimentary small fry, or small frosty to make up for your wait?"
And I'm thinking, To make up for my wait? Really? I just enjoyed a few minutes sitting in the sunshine, praying for people I love. I'd hardly call that something which requires "making up". But I simply said, "No, thank you. That really isn't necessary."
However, her manager was standing there - working quickly to fill orders - and he looked up and said, "I insist. Most people aren't as nice as you were when their order is delayed. I'd like to thank you."
So I'm thinking, Well, it is chocolate. And if you INSIST... Thus, I asked if he could make me a small frosty without the calories. *wink*
And as I walked out to my car, hands and heart full, I contemplated what had just transpired and I thought, This really shouldn't happen. I don't know what type of behavior that manager is accustomed to handling, but it just doesn't seem right to me that kindness needs to be rewarded with free stuff. I mean, sure, I enjoyed my treat - but I was bothered by the notion that my kindness was so out of the ordinary.

And it's making me think we need to do better as a people.

Whether it's at a fast food shop, the grocery store, the post office, or interacting with a telemarketer or door-to-door salesperson, can we all just be nice? Even if we're a bit inconvenienced? Because the person on the other side is just that - a person - and they need grace, too.

Karen

Thursday, October 26, 2017

My Famous Son

So, I've written before about Josh's Youtube channel, right?
He loves fishing - and especially making videos of his trips to post on his channel. But something new happened the last time he went out: A couple of young fishermen who were out on the same river saw Josh and recognized him from his videos. They called out to him and came over to where he was so they could get a picture. Although he tried to play it off when he told me about it, I think Josh was quite happy to have been seen and recognized by these kids. And it looks like the feeling was mutual. *smile*
Wanna see for yourself?

Karen

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

HE Was Onto Something

The current sermon series at my church is called, "When You Pray" and it is - obviously - on prayer.
Specifically, we're going through the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.
This past Sunday we looked at verse 10, which instructs us to pray for God's kingdom to come and for His will to be done. And, the question which had to rise from that sermon was, How often do I pray for my kingdom and my will to be done, rather than praying for HIS???

Mmmmm. Conviction, anyone?

So, our small group had our work cut out for us when we got together Sunday evening to discuss and digest the day's message. That is, processing through the invitation to discover how we can move from focusing on our desires to truly embracing God's will.
And the most beautiful thing happened.
God opened our eyes.
To Truth which has been there all the time.
That is, when we pray - if we want to align our heart with our Father's - we need to pray like Jesus taught us to pray. Beginning with acknowledgement that God is our Abba - our loving Father who knows what is best, and with praise - Hallowed be Your Name!
Because, let's think about this logically for just a minute. If we enter into a time of prayer understanding that God is a good Father, who has good plans and unfailing love for us; if we spend time praising Him for who He is - for His wisdom and power and holiness and sovereignty and might and grace and mercy and love and trustworthiness - if we do all that before we say another word, which one of us in our right mind is then going to pray, "Now, can we do things MY way???"

Do you see it?
Jesus knew what HE was doing when HE taught His disciples to pray.
HE knows our propensity to want control, to want to know what's coming and what to expect, to want our own way because we think we know what's best. And I believe Jesus was on a mission when HE taught His disciples to pray.
That is, I believe HE knew we need to prepare our hearts to surrender to our Father's heart. We need to know to Whom it is that we are praying. Because when we do - we will be ready to seek His kingdom, to trust Him for our needs, to confess our sin, to rely on Him to protect us.
When we know that our good, good heavenly Father - who is holy and righteous and everlasting and Almighty GOD - is on His throne desiring to bring His kingdom and His will upon us, oh! How can we but earnestly seek it?

And so, my friend, may I encourage you in this? When you pray, will you come to God by first confessing and adoring who HE IS? Will you declare His praises and profess your faith in Him?
Because I really believe Jesus was onto something when HE taught His disciples to pray. And if you follow His lead, I believe HE will lead you into faithful, powerful prayer.

Karen

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

I Can See You with My Eyes Closed

I recently sat at the table, reading my Bible and praying.
And as I was praying - as I sat there in the quiet with my eyes closed - I heard someone coming from the other side of the house. I could tell this person was in the hallway, now turning the corner, passing the dining room table and, yep, now in the kitchen coming toward me. (The sound difference from walking on carpet to the wood floor let me know the traveler's exact location.)
I found myself pausing my prayer briefly as I wondered who was now sharing space with me.
Did he have a question for me?
Did he need me to do something?
Should I open my eyes and engage him in conversation?

But instead of doing anything, I just sat with my eyes closed, and listened. And without saying or hearing a word, I knew exactly who was about to go past me. Because the sound of the wood floor told me the feet were bare, the rapid rate of the footsteps told me the individual was in a bit of a hurry, and the distinct echo of the noise allowed me to picture the person bouncing as he moved about.

From those three clues, I knew the trespasser was Matthew.

In my mind's eye, I could seem him bounding down the hall, through the dining room and into the kitchen where he saw me sitting at the table with my Bible open and my eyes closed. And he probably thought, Oops! Mom's praying. Better be quiet! Which may be why he didn't squeal at Mindy like he usually does. And which may be why as quickly as I heard his footsteps on the wood, they zipped past me and right back out to the dining room and on down the hallway to his room.
The thing is, for as much as I appreciated his consideration - he really didn't need to be so careful. Of course, he didn't know what a joy it was for me to sit there and listen, to pay attention for clues which would reveal to me which one of my offspring was lurking around, and to realize I could see my child without even opening my eyes.
Yeah. It was kind of a tender, intimate moment of knowing my son.
I fully enjoyed it.
And as I returned to prayer, I began by thanking God for blessing my life with that young man.

Karen

Monday, October 23, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

Where I've Been, and Where I'll Be

Confession: I haven't been thinking much about blogging this week.

Actually, the blog posts which made it up were created last weekend.

The thing is, I am speaking at a women's event Saturday morning and I have been concentrating on my preparation. So I've been a little MIA in the blogosphere.
And, the truth is, I am going to be speaking at women's retreats for the following two weekends (Oct. 6-8 and 13-15). Sooooo, for the next two weeks my focus will be on preparing for those events and the blog here will likely get ignored. Please don't take it personally. But I believe the women at the retreats deserve my best effort.

Most likely I'll pop in here now and then, as God leads and gives me opportunity. I just didn't want to leave you wondering where I was. *smile*

Please pray for me as I speak at these events. I want to be HIS vessel, bringing HIM glory.

Karen

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

My Birthday Surprise

I had the best, best surprise last Friday!
Brian had told me he was going to take me out for dinner for my birthday.
And I thought, OK. This will be fun.
And I went along with my day, looking forward to dinner with my husband.

But late in the afternoon as I was walking through the kitchen, and just glanced out the window - I saw Matthew pull into the driveway and get out of the car with Elizabeth.
And I'm all, Awwww, you guys! You pulled a fast one on me for my birthday. A surprise visit. You're so sweet!!!
And then I was thinking, Oh, are you coming to dinner with me and Dad?
Because it seemed rude to leave when Elizabeth just arrived.
Annnnd, that's when I learned it was Brian who was behind the whole thing. The kids weren't crashing his dinner plans. In fact, there was something even better planned!
Brian had arranged for Elizabeth to come home on my birthday - not only for a surprise visit - but so that we could have a family portrait taken.

Ta-Daaaaaa!

But that wasn't the end of the fun.
That is, the photographer was a good friend of ours so we enjoyed lots of laughter and playful banter during the photo shoot. And when the kids got together for a "kid picture" (Which is highly over-due. I think the most recent one is from eight or more years ago!) Matthew suggested they do a "Slav squat". Which apparently is a pose where you squat way down, and don't look happy.
And somehow, we all agreed that would be funny - so they did it.
I look at this picture now, and I cannot help but burst out laughing because I remember how hard everyone was laughing as the pose was being set - and how difficult it was for all three of them to have those "looks" long enough to snap a picture.
And there they are. My happy kids.
I just hope I don't start laughing the next time one of them has a look like that on their face "for real". *wink*
Yeah. So we got our pictures taken, and then we all went out to dinner together.
It was a wonderful birthday surprise!!!

Karen

Monday, September 25, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

As of Today...

I am closer to my 90th birthday than I am to my original birthday.

Happy birthday to me! I'm 46 today.

Karen

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Organic Cotton Grocery Bags

Are you in the market for an Organic Cotton Grocery Bag?

Because I know where you can get one! Just follow this link.

My daughter is doing an internship in Chicago this semester at Foresight Design Initiative (FDI), and they are selling these bags (and coordinating lunch bags) to build up their scholarship fund. That is, each summer FDI hosts a leadership program for high schoolers who care about sustainability issues - and approximately 80% of those kids come on some sort of scholarship.
So, besides supporting kids and a great cause, besides getting an attractive and responsibly-made bag, purchasing this bag *might* make you as adorable as my girl.
I guess "modeling services" falls under the heading of "Intern Responsibilities".
Lucky for them, they got such a pretty intern. *wink*

Karen

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

HE Rocks

I did my homework.

I studied the leader guide.

I made notes, and reviewed, and did my best to understand how the lesson ought to flow.

And I prayed. I invited the Holy Spirit to dwell among us and lead.

Then I thought better of it, and I begged the Holy Spirit to invade our space and guide us with His heart. I confessed that I didn't even want to think about trying to lead the lesson without HIM.
I begged, Holy Spirit, please come!

And, guess what???

HE did!!!

God dwelt among us in the Person of the Holy Spirit at Precepts yesterday, and it was glorious.
HE led the discussion. HE revealed insights and gave understanding. HE moved in our hearts.
HE even stuck around and spoke through the video lesson.
And I?
Am still doing a praise dance in my thankful heart!

How have you seen God's Spirit moving in your midst this week?

Karen

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

She Makes Me a Better Woman

Ahhhhh, my girl came home this weekend!

We hosted a baby shower for one of her best friends, so Elizabeth crossed our threshold for the first time in over four months. Yes. I've been counting. *wink*
And it kind of surprised me how much time I spent anticipating her visit.
*I made our dinner menu to suit her vegetarian-ism.
*Cleaned up the living room for the baby shower, but left the decorating for her - because I knew she'd enjoy it, and would do a lovely job. (She did. Both!)
*Took clutter off her bed and set it aside. (Yeah. I didn't go crazy and clean her room...)
*Verified that she could join us for Krav Maga Saturday morning.

But as much as I enjoyed preparing, it was what Elizabeth did that made the biggest impact.
That is,
*I watched my daughter genuinely and enthusiastically greeting loved ones (her brothers and friends) who she hasn't seen in a long time.
*I saw her taking time to talk and listen - to go places for the sake of building relationships.
*I listened to her share her heart with friends about real thoughts and struggles, being authentic and vulnerable - rather than resorting to shallow conversation, which would have been easier.
*I observed her care for humanity and creation.

And, in spite of the fact that I have spent the better part of the past 21 years trying to shape her character and lead her in godly living - this weekend I felt like she was teaching me.
I looked at my girl and thought, Wow. When I grow up, I want to be like her!!!

I thank God for the young woman He has made Elizabeth to be.

Karen

Thursday, September 14, 2017

I Haven't Forgotten

Earlier this week, I found out the retreat in November for which I was scheduled to speak has been postponed to this coming spring. *sad face*
During my email exchange with the coordinator discussing the details, I was reminded of a post I'd written in the past. And I decided to look it up in the archives.
Thus I read about Trusting His Best:

So, I had this thing to which I was really looking forward.
Might have been obsessing about it a bit.
Maybe.
And then, just like that, it was over before it even started. Not gonna happen the way I had imagined. At all. And I was tempted to be disappointed.

But then it was as if God asked my heart, Why should you be disappointed with My best?

Why? Indeed!

God used that moment to remind me this "thing" is not about me. It's about HIM.
HE knows what's best. HE's working out what's best.
And HIS best is still best - even if it isn't what I wanted.

Honestly, I was almost in tears because of the initial disappointment. But after God had that little talk with my heart, I was almost in tears for an altogether different reason.
HE cares enough about me - about my holiness and my relationship with Himself - to do the hard thing. To say NO to me. To risk me being upset with Him. That is, God loves me too much to give me everything I want. Because HE knows what's best.

And I'm learning to trust HIS best.

Are you?
The thing which really got to me while reading that post is this: I don't even remember what the event was, about which I was writing. And believe me - I've thought and pondered and searched the recesses of my mind, but I cannot fathom what it was that tempted me to be so disappointed.
But I haven't forgotten the lesson God taught me in the midst of it.
Even though it was nearly five years ago.
And that difference right there - between what I don't remember, and what I haven't forgotten - has convinced me to trust even more in God's propensity to do the best thing.
*peaceful sigh*

Karen

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

We Had a House Guest

Sunday morning as he was getting ready to go to church, Josh found a kitten.
Apparently it was sitting on the tire of his truck, or something. And when he went to look closer, the little kitty scampered under the hood and found a hiding spot on the engine.
But Josh is a smart cookie, and he popped the hood to get the kitty.
However, the kitty was faster than Josh was smart, and by the time Josh got into a position where he could grab the kitty - it had run under Brian's car and found a place under the hood there.
Somehow, Josh managed to get a hold of the frightened kitty (along with several bites and scratches) and put it safely in our house before coming to church. Unfortunately, I don't think he heard a single word of the sermon, as Josh's first words when we were leaving church were...I don't remember. But they were about the cat - not the sermon. *wink*

Anyway, when we got home I posted about the kitty on our neighborhood website, and Josh had already plastered her cute little picture on his Instagram.
Especially because the two of us are allergic to cats, I was eager to find this kitten's family. However, as time passed and no one responded - coupled with some of the kitten's behaviors - we began to think this little girl was orphaned, not lost.
So we established a 24-hour deadline for someone to respond, and agreed to give the kitten to a good home if nobody claimed her.
And I had the pleasure over that 24 hours of watching my man-child tenderly care for that little critter. She started out seeming very afraid of people - hence the bites and scratches Josh acquired in trying to catch her. But as the day went on and Josh tended to her, that little kitten became quite friendly with him. He carried her almost everywhere with him, rubbed her back and belly, saw to it that she ate and drank, and made her comfortable when she was sleeping. Never mind that his allergies were kicking in. He took an antihistamine and kept right on loving that fur ball.
Monday he was laying on the bed in the guestroom, doing stuff on the computer with the kitten curled up by his stomach - and he called me into the room so I could hear her purring. I could tell Josh was pleased that the kitten seemed to now feel so comfortable and happy with him.
Almost made me want to keep her.

Almost.

Even so, Josh had located someone to give her a forever home (a friend of a friend...) and Monday after dinner our house guest took her leave.
But not before I got a picture. *grin*
Aren't they sweet???

Karen

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ask - and Wait in Expectation

Click here for more information about Ladies' Day at Rockford Reformed Church in Rockford, MI.

Karen

Friday, September 08, 2017

Lovelier Moments

My dear friend, Lovely, had her 91st birthday on Tuesday.
And on Wednesday, she took her final breath on this earth.
For the past several days, she had been mostly sleeping. Eyes only opening briefly and intermittently.
But one of her children told me at the end they were praying over her and in that moment she opened her eyes - as if seeing Jesus and her loved ones welcoming her home.
I have heard stories of other people opening their eyes at the last moment, and it delights my heart to think of them seeing Jesus.

So, for now my Lovely moments have come to an end. Though I trust God will lead me to another precious soul with whom I will be able to spend lovely moments.
And, more than that, my heart rejoices to think of Lovely having lovelier moments with her Savior. Indeed, the loveliest of moments!

Karen

Thursday, September 07, 2017

And In Other News

A rubber band pistol was confiscated in Algebra class yesterday.

The student was sent to the principal's office, charged with possessing a weapon of math disruption.

May your day be filled with laughter, good puns, and the joy of the LORD!

Karen

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Krav Maga, Anyone?

Have you heard of Krav Maga?

It's a pretty intense military self-defense training and fighting system.
I first heard of it a couple weeks ago, and last night? I found myself at a Krav Maga class.
Yes. You read that statement correctly.
I - who am made happy by pink, purple, and sparkles, I - who love to pray and study my Bible, I - who do my best to keep my nails nicely filed and in shape, I participated in a Krav Maga class.
Learned elbows 1,2,3,4,5,and 6; ear smash, head-butt, eye gouge, elbow; and how to break a choke hold. And, honestly? I'm glad I went.
Not necessarily because I am interested in learning fighting techniques.
Rather, because all my guys were there, too.

That is, once upon some time ago, Brian and Matthew learned about Krav Maga and got interested in it. Josh must have heard them talking about it and got interested, too. Then Brian started looking for a Krav Maga training facility near us and found one. He told the boys, and they all decided they'd like to try it out. And Brian invited me. (He thinks it would be good for me to know self-defense.)
And I'm all, No, thanks. Not interested. Wait!!! This is something we could all do together???
So, although I could hardly be less interested in it than I currently am, I went along to check it out. Because if we can find an activity in which both of our boys willingly, even enthusiastically, participate?
I don't care if I don't care. I'm there!

So it is. We haven't made a final decision about signing up for classes. But if the guys want to do it, I'm in. Because connecting with them is worth the effort it will take to get over my lack of interest.
Besides, who knows? Maybe some day a foolish thug will think he can mess with me because I'm little. Ooooooo, he'll be in for a BIG surprise!

Karen

Monday, September 04, 2017

Friday, September 01, 2017

Lovely Moments

We greeted each other with smiles and kisses.

I told Lovely about Elizabeth's new adventures in Chicago.

We sang Amazing Grace together.

I read Psalm 23 to her as she drifted off to sleep.

And she woke up so I could say good-bye and pray for her when it was time for me to leave.

Besides those interactions, most of my moments at Lovely's place yesterday were spent talking with her daughter - who is in the midst of making decisions about where her mother is to go, and what is to be done for her now that she has entered her end-of-life phase.
It's hard stuff.
And she really needs your prayers.
So, would you please take a moment to pray for Lovely's daughter? For comfort in the process of saying good-bye to her mother, and for peace in her relationships with her siblings.
And while you're praying, remember to thank God for each of the moments He has allowed you to have with your loved ones.

Karen

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Awaken the Dawn

Have you heard about Awaken the Dawn?

I'm going to skip giving you the details here, and encourage you instead to go to their website and read all about it. The bottom line is - it's a HUGE prayer gathering in Washington, D.C.
I am not going to be able to attend the bulk of the event because I will be speaking for a retreat Oct. 6-8. However, October 9 is a day on which the organizers are specifically calling for women to descend on the National Mall to pray.

And I've been asking God to make a way for me to get there if it is in His will.

So, last week a friend told me she's going to Awaken the Dawn with her family. But her family is going home Oct. 8, which means she has space in her hotel room for a few ladies who want to come for the 9th. Yes, it was my friend who spoke the words, but I believe it was God who made the way. And I'm pretty sure I felt His nudge and sensed His smile when I heard those words come from her mouth.
Now, I am in search of a few women who will make the trek with me to D.C. to pray.
Is it you???

Please pray for Awaken the Dawn (There is a link on their website to specific prayer requests - under "Prayer Procession".) and spread the word. I am so excited about what God is going to birth through this movement of prayer.

Karen

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Put A Lid on It!

So, last night Josh was working during the dinner hour - thus he didn't eat dinner with us.
Matthew was, too, for that matter.
Brian and I had dinner alone.
Getting a preview of how the empty nest is going to feel!

Anyway, the dinner I made isn't good re-warmed, so I only made enough for Brian and me. It's easy to put together and I knew the boys would be able to make it "fresh" when they got home. (With a little coaching, of course.) Therefore, I was prepared to talk Josh through it after work.
The challenge being, I was also in the midst of other "chores" so I was a little pre-occupied as I gave instructions. (That's my excuse, anyway.) That is, Josh had gotten through all the steps of his yummy Italian Pork Hoagie when I turned around and looked as he was about to put it in the oven.
I said, "Whoa! You don't need to put the lid on."
And he looked back at me like I was from another planet. "The lid???"
It, uh, took me a minute to understand his confusion but I recovered.
"The top, I mean. Leave the top off to the side so the cheese melts and the TOP gets toasty."
Josh placed the top of the bun next to his sandwich, and put his dinner in the oven. But I could hear him chuckling and mumbling, The lid. You called it a lid. Really, Mom.
And I'm all, It was a slip of the tongue. I was thinking about something else. Don't laugh at me. Eh, put a lid on it!

*wink*

Karen

Friday, August 25, 2017

Lovely Moments

Ahhhh, my sweet friend, Lovely.

Although she denied it, I think I woke her from a nap when I entered her apartment yesterday. Either way, she always greets me cheerfully and I felt welcome to stay and talk with her. So I sat on the love seat next to the couch on which she was resting, and we went over our usual litany of conversation - during which time I filled her in on how the plants are doing around my house, and my visit with Elizabeth last weekend. As it has been recently, our discourse was rather one-sided because Lovely's memory-loss has affected her ability to carry on a conversation. However, her forgetfulness also helps me when I'm running out of things to report or charming stories to tell.
Because...
I've always got jokes.
And Lovely doesn't remember when they're ones I've already told her.
Her laughs are just as hearty the second (or third!) time I tell her a good joke, as they were the first time around.
Like this one:
What did the bald man say when someone gave him a comb for his birthday?

Thanks! I'll never part with it!!!
We had a good belly laugh with that one yesterday.

In spite of Lovely's claim that she wasn't tired, she fell asleep while we were visiting. So I watched her and I prayed for her. And every time she slipped out of sleep and opened her eyes, we smiled at each other - and then she'd close her eyes and drift off again.
Even though she really wasn't interacting with me while she napped, I found it to be a very sweet time with Lovely. Committing her to God's care, considering His love for her, and wondering at the memories she's made and the adventures she has experienced over the past (almost) 91 years.
There's something enchanting about watching a sleeping person, isn't there? It reminded me of the times I would peek in on my children when they were babies, when I would wonder at everything before them in their young lives. Only this time, when I studied Lovely's face and hands - when I watched her breathing - I pondered the many years behind her. I contemplated how many weeds those hands pulled, and how many flowers they tended. I wondered how many brownies that mouth has tasted, how many boo-boos it has kissed, and how many times I love you has passed over those lips. What sights have those eyes seen? What fragrances has that nose savored?
And so, although our visit was mostly quiet, the time we spent together was filled with joy - and the moments were lovely.

What lovely moments have you had this week?

Karen

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I Hear You, LORD

So, Tuesday I posted about Longing for Someone. I actually wrote that post sometime last week when I was in the thick of the feelings, but I visited a friend Tuesday and we got into a lengthy discussion about our corresponding someones.
Because she had read the post earlier that day.
And we both had thoughts, emotions, and complaints we needed to air.

*ahem*

All that to say, I think God was prepping me to see His faithfulness again. Because re-hashing certain things with my friend made the struggle fresh in my mind. And I think the struggle needed to be fresh for what God was arranging.
That is, after spending the afternoon with my friend I went to a prayer training class at my church - during which a young man (22) shared some of his prayer experiences from a recent mission trip to China. When he sat down, his mother told the group that it gave her such joy to see her son standing there and testifying as he did. Because she said a few (Several? I don't remember exactly.) years ago that same son was her "angry" child. He was not walking with God and was caught up in darkness.
But she prayed.
She called out to God on her son's behalf.
Through a series of events, that son had an encounter with Jesus.
And everything changed.
This brief testimony was not scripted or scheduled by the class leaders. It was simply an off-the-cuff, from-the-heart observation this mother felt compelled to share at that particular moment. But this mother here - the one typing these words - was absolutely convinced that testimony was scripted and scheduled by God, to bring encouragement and renewed hope to a needy heart. It was as if He was saying to me, Karen, dear, keep praying. Keep trusting in Me. I do beautiful work!

I believe Him. Do you???

Karen

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Longing for Someone

I have lots of great kids in my life, who are eager to share their lives with me. They come in various shapes, sizes, and colors - and from different backgrounds - but they all have one thing in common:
My love.
They willingly receive it, and graciously reciprocate it.

And I treasure them.
The ones who are comfortable enough to come over un-announced at dinner time.
The ones who call my house "home" for whatever length of time is necessary.
The ones I only see once a week when I go to Mileage Club.
The ones who ask me to pray for them.
I treasure these kids. And I am so glad God has allowed me to participate in their lives.

But Someone is missing from that group.
I love Someone fiercely, and want to share life with him like I do with these others - but Someone is so standoff-ish. Oh, sure, Someone is at my house most nights for dinner, my house is home to him, I see Someone more than once a week, and he doesn't need to ask me to pray for him.
Nonetheless, I barely feel like a part of Someone's world.
While a part of me thinks this is probably a very normal phase in the life of a mother and adult-child, the other part of me feels like a chasm is growing, or a bridge is breaking.
And my heart is breaking along with it.
Many, many years ago God spoke to my heart about Someone, and I believe HE made a promise to me. Occasionally throughout the past years, God has been gracious to remind me of that promise. And each time He's done it - I first apologize for forgetting, second repent of doubting, third thank Him for being faithful, and fourth commit to trusting His plan - and His time.
Today, I find myself in that fourth step. While my heart is breaking for want of closeness with Someone, I choose to believe God's promises - and trust He's going to do what He said He will do. I wish my eyes could see the future. I would love for my heart to already feel the peace. But I am content to know we (Someone and me) are in God's hands, and that He will complete the good work He has begun.

Are you longing for Someone, too?

Karen

Monday, August 21, 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mother Knows Best

I told you so!!!

Ahhh. I feel better for having let that out.
At least I think I've been holding those words in.
That is, I've thought them a lot. But I've been biting my tongue to keep from saying them.

OK, the story is, a few weeks ago Matthew submitted a job application online. A friend told him she knew of a great job which was open, and he was very excited about making a change from where he is working now to the circumstance she described. So he got right on the computer and filled out the proper paperwork.
Uh, screenwork?
Whatever.
He applied for the job.
And when a couple days passed without him getting a call for an interview, I suggested he ought to take himself right down to the store and talk to the manager in person. Because it sounded like they were really eager to hire someone. So I thought he should have heard from them already, and wondered if perhaps they didn't receive his application.
But my tech-savvy, 21st century-livin', internet-is-everything kid insisted nothing could have gone wrong.
"It's the internet, Mom. Things don't get lost."
And that was the end of that conversation.
(No it wasn't. I continued to nag suggest he go talk to the manager.)

So, the day finally came when I stopped giving if-you-want-a-different-job-you-ought-to-do-something-about-it advice, and wouldn't you know it? Matthew decided to go personally and talk to the manager of the place at which it sounded so great to work. You know. Just to make sure he/she had seen his application, and maybe decide to hire him on the spot. But the thing Matthew found out was *gasp* his application never came through! It was lost somewhere in cyber-space. For a few weeks.
And my precious son said to me, "I should have listened to you."
*SWOON*
Then he went right to his room and re-submitted his application. (Couldn't do it at the store, you know. Because they don't do paper applications anymore!)
And the very next day my repentant son drove right back to the store to be sure his application had arrived this time. And to see if they wanted to interview him.
And hire him.
On the spot.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the manager -while Matthew was re-submitting his application - somewhere else in the system arrangements were being made for an employee to transfer from a different store to the one at which Matthew was seeking employment. So by the time Matthew got there to check on his application, the position was no longer available.
And my precious son said to me again, "I should have listened to you."
Yes, son. You should have.
As it is, he filled out applications for a few other local businesses. And I have a feeling he'll be diligent about following up on them. And, maybe - just maybe - the next time I give my precious son some hard-won advice, he'll listen to me before it's too late.

*wink*

Karen

Monday, August 14, 2017

In the Garden, Again

If you need to catch up - here's the link to the post referred to in the video.

Karen

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Survival of the Fittest

At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

That is to say, I'm allowing such a line of thinking to assuage my guilt.

What I mean is, Monday was my wedding anniversary. (Twenty-four years!)
Brian and I had plans to go out to dinner - alone - and as I was making my menu/grocery list for the week I found out both of the boys were going to be working Monday night.
So I didn't plan anything for dinner at home.
Because why should I make something for nobody, right?
Even though Nobody does so many things for us around here. Like, Nobody changes burnt out light bulbs. Nobody picks up clumps of dirt that Somebody brings into the house on their shoes. Nobody wipes crumbs or splashes of water off the counter. And Nobody ALWAYS turns the lights off in the basement. (Which must be why "he" always changes the brunt out light bulbs, too. Very concerned about our light usage, that Nobody is!)
Anyway, where was I???
Ah, yes, I was not making dinner Monday night.
So, as late-night Monday came along Brian and I were in bed and heard the boys talking after they were both home from work. And the topic of conversation? Pizza!
Seems there were no left-overs from dinner *ahem* so they decided to order pizza for their hungry tummies. (Never mind that I had gone grocery shopping Monday morning, and they could have made themselves something to eat. Yeah. Never mind that detail. It would have required too much effort.)
As I lay in bed listening to them discuss crust preferences, toppings, and who's going to pay for this?, I had an inkling that I ought to have made dinner for them - even though Nobody was going to be here to eat it. I considered feeling guilty. But then I thought better of the situation and declared, "I'm teaching them survival skills!"
Because, you know, I'm not always going to be around to make them meals.
They need to know how to order pizza. *wink*

Karen

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

In the Garden

Ahhh, In the Garden.
That's a beautiful old hymn.
It was my grandpa's favorite, so I always think of him when I hear it.
And I was blessed to be able to spend some time in the garden with God yesterday afternoon.
Actually, I was on the deck.
I don't have a garden. But I was doing gardening-like things.
So - in my mind - it counts!

And (full disclosure) I didn't enter into my gardening-like activity with the intention of having an interaction with God.
But HE's always doing unexpected God-things.
So - in my heart - that counts, too!

OK. Now that I've caught you up on the scene, I can tell you my story.
I was outside pulling weeds and stuff when I noticed the flowers on the deck looked pretty bad. I admit, it had been a while since I'd paid much attention to them - so I went over to pick off a few dead flowers. And before long, I determined picking off a few dead flowers wasn't going to be enough. So I got some scissors to assist me in my operation and I got comfy sitting on the deck to officially "prune" the plant.
Honestly, I wasn't even paying attention to how long I was sitting there. But when sweat began beading on my forehead (and it really wasn't that hot out) I realized I had been sitting there (in the sun) examining and cutting and turning and looking and trimming some more - for quite a long time. And as I became aware of how meticulous I was being, and the amount of time I was spending on this one potted flower, the passage about God pruning branches came to mind. (Thank You, Holy Spirit!)
I thought about God pruning me - cutting off dead branches (i.e. sinful and useless behaviors) so I can be more fruitful - more like Jesus. And I considered the commonality that these two circumstances (the one at my hands and the one in my head) might possibly have.
I thought, When God is pruning me, is He as close to me as I am to this flower? Is He looking at me and studying me and assessing what needs to be done to make me more beautiful? (In character, I mean.) Does He spend extended time holding me and turning me so He can evaluate His next move? Is He doing all this so I can be who He has created me to be?
With all my heart, I believe the answers to those questions are a resounding, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes!
So as I continued my work I thanked God for His work in my life. I vowed to trust the cuts He makes. And I made a mental note to seek awareness of His tender, loving presence the next time He's in the garden of my life with pruning sheers.

How does the reality of God's nearness and careful attention affect your view of the pruning process?

Karen

Monday, August 07, 2017