Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dear Young Mother, It Won't Always be "This Way"

True story.

Yesterday I hit my snooze button twice before getting out of bed.
I didn't WANT to get up at that time, but I managed to overcome my desires and get myself out of bed.
I put on my work-out clothes, walked out to the family room and opened the blinds. At which moment I could see that all cars were gone. (Save for my husband's car. He was still in bed. Napping before going to work, because he gets up at 4:30 every morning to go work out. Really.)
Anyway, I stood there contemplating what the absence of cars meant: Two of my kids were at work, the third might have been at work - or, he might be fishing, and the fourth was gone to class. In other words, everyone was responsible for getting themselves up and where they needed to be while my husband and I were in bed.
My, how times have changed!

Karen

Monday, September 17, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

Just Pray

So, I have a son.
Who shall remain nameless in this post.
And this son, had a little car trouble Wednesday evening. That is, his vehicle just stopped running while he was driving home (about an hour away) and he couldn't get it to start again. He called Dad for advice, and they surmised what the problem might be.
After a few mintes, this nameless child realized he had run out of gas. *ahem*
At which point, further advice was sought.
As in, How do I get gas now? The nearest exit is 15 miles away. The two of them debated the options of walking or hitch-hiking, and I suggested road-side assistance from our insurance carrier. But Son didn't want to wait for that, so he started walking.
A moment later I thought, Or, he could pray. He could ask God to send someone to help. Although I figured he would roll his eyes at the suggestion. (That mom of his - always thinking God is the answer and all we need to do is pray.*) But that IS what I think, so I texted him and said what I thought. I wrote, "Or you could pray that God will send someone your way to help. That's what I'm doing." (And I was.)
Not even a minute later I recieved this response.

Just got picked up by a cop. He's taking me to get gas.
And I immediately responded with this:
Awesome! Thank You, JESUS!!!

Yes. God is the answer, and all we need to do is pray.

*And I'm not exaggerating when I say that as soon as I finished typing "That mom of his - always thinking God is the answer and all we need to do is pray," - my phone rang.
It was a friend who had called me Thursday morning asking for prayer for her grandson, who attempted suicide the day before. My heart sank when I saw her name on my phone, as I feared bad news.
But there was no bad news.
She called with very good news. And as we hung up the phone and I got back to my post and read what I had just written, well, I looked to heaven with a smile on my face. I thanked God for confirming for me in that very moment, We just need to pray.

Karen

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Speaking of Career Paths...

Yesterday I was looking for something in my blog archives.
I never did find it.
And I can't imagine what hapened to it because I KNOW it was here, once upon a time.
The good news is - in my seach for that, I came upon this.
And since I just posted about Phil beginning his new career, I thought it appropriate to anticipate Elizabeth's career. From my perspective 11+ years ago.

Ever since she could talk, Elizabeth has expressed kindness and compassion with her words. In a journal I'm keeping for her, I often note the sweet things she says and does. Like the time I was feeling low and when I went to bed there was a note on my pillow which she'd written. She told me she loved me, God loved me, and she hoped I was feeling better soon. Elizabeth is such a sweetheart!
When it comes to her brothers, however, she can take on a very different attitude. She doesn't like them to get into her stuff. I understand that desire, and support her in it. It has become her standard, though, that they aren't even allowed to set foot in her room uninvited. I understand that desire, too, and agree the boys shouldn't go into her room when she isn't in there. But sometimes she goes a little overboard. Even when she is in her room, Elizabeth will get totally bent out of shape if one of her brothers enters without her invitation. It is because of Elizabeth's rantings and ravings about her brothers' need to stay out of her room that I got a BIG laugh Saturday, and determined I know her future career.

We were getting ready for Elizabeth's birthday party. She had invited several girlfriends over for the afternoon and we were busy putting up decorations, cutting out pictures, blowing up balloons, and sorting out prizes. Elizabeth was sure she had some stuffed animals in her toybox in her bedroom that would add nicely to the decorations, but we were both quite engrossed in our current duties and were a bit pressed for time.
Previously, we had tried to solicit help from the boys, but since they weren't going to be participating in the party they weren't particularly interested in helping with preparations.
Understandable.
So as I was standing there cutting up pieces of paper, I almost lost a finger when I started laughing at the exchange that took place between my kids. Elizabeth put on her sweetest face. The look itself almost said, "You're the luckiest little boy in the world for what I'm about to offer you!" She then said, "Matthew, how would you like to go rummaging through my room?" He immediately stopped what he was doing (I don't remember what it was. He was probably getting ready to pop a balloon or something.) and looked at her. Just as quickly, Joshua popped out from around the corner and said, "I will!" With that, Elizabeth sent the boys up to her room on a hunt for the animals she was sure were hiding there somewhere.

I stood there marveling at Elizabeth's skill to get these boys to do what she wanted them to do - something they had previously made clear they did not want to do. She didn't ask them again to "help get ready for the party". She gave them permission to rummage through her room. By putting a slightly different spin on the activity, Elizabeth got the boys to help. Besides that, she made it fun for them!
Within minutes they had returned with the animals in question.

I'm telling you, that girl ought to be in sales. I didn't ask her how she thought about her approach, and I don't know how long she'd been working on it. But she came up with it, and it worked.
My only thought now?
Beware, Phil. Your bride-to-be has a way with words! *wink*

Karen

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

HE's Right on Time

I cannot count the times God has shown His faithfulness to me.
A number simply does not exist which describes how often God has come through, has demonstrated His goodness, has exhibited how trustworthy He Is - even when I felt like time was running out.

Somewhere in the midst of those moments I stopped asking for blueprints and neon signs - tangible things I would have liked to possess so I could see with my own eyes what I knew God could see with HIS - and I started to rely on faith.
Knowing HE sees what I cannot.
Trusting HE would work out the details in time.
Believing HE had a good plan.
Not realizing how valuable those moments would be years later - when I had to trust for someone else.
Especially when that "someone" was my baby girl.
Now HE's gone and done it again. And my heart is rejoicing!
I know I have shared in this space some of my struggle in watching Elizabeth and Phil trying to get prepared for life-on-their-own, as they seek jobs and wonder where they're going to live after they're married. (In 31 days!) I have seen them applying for jobs, going to interviews, getting the you-are-a-nice-person-but-we-chose-someone-else responses. I've seen them praying. And I've seen tears, too.
To be honest, there have been occasions when I have questioned their future. When I have wondered if they were going to be "ready" in time for their wedding. There have been days I have entertained concerns of What if? and How long?
Thankfully, God responded with assurances of Remember when? and Trust Me.
Well, I do remember, so I chose to trust. And I prayed for my kids - knowing this is not the last time they're going to need to wait on God's timing, His will, His plan. I asked Him to use the wait for their good, to grow their faith. Even as my heart was longing for an end to the delay, I prayed for the grace to trust. Grace for me, as well as for Elizabeth and Phil.

OK. That's enough back story.
Phil just got hired by a company in Lansing, and we are all doing a happy dance!
And somewhere in the background, amidst all the shouts of joy and exclamations of thanksgiving rising from my heart, I could swear I hear the voice of God saying, See, dear one? I may not move according to your time preferences, but I told you I could be trusted.

What are you waiting for today?

Karen

Monday, September 10, 2018

Friday, September 07, 2018

Sooooo, I Got a Job

OK. It goes like this:
A few months ago Elizabeth was applying to every job in sight, so she could start earning money to prepare for this life which is ahead of her. One of those applications was for a Resident Assistant position at a care facility about a mile away from our home. She would work there part-time helping with things like setting up for and serving dinner, individual resident needs, and passing out snacks at bedtime. Her main responsibility would be caring for and loving on the residents.
And I thought, Ahhhhh, sounnds wonderful!
(Did I mention the residents in this care facility are, on average, in their 80s and 90s?)
Her one hesitation in accepting the job was she felt bad knowing she didn't intend to stay there any longer than it took to find a job she really wants. But I said, "Hey, when you're ready to leave, I can take over for you!" I mean, I was half joking because I hadn't truly been considering going back to "work" outside home. But it sounded like a great job, I knew I could do it and would love it, and if I could get paid for loving on people? Hey, why not???
So as Elizabeth accepted the job, I began praying and asking God if this was a thing He would have me do.

Well, turns out - it is.
Elizabeth put in her notice-to-quit two weeks ago, and I am going in this morning to fill out my employment paperwork and get the process going for my physical and fingerprinting and all that other administrative/background stuff.
The job is super-part-time: every other weekend, and occasional weekdays. So I am pretty much going to be able to maintain all my other activities - which is good. I'm just eager to see what God will do as I serve in this capacity. My life is HIS, not mine, and I am excited for this next adventure.
Chances are I'll have some good stories to share with you here, too. Stay tuned!

Karen

Thursday, September 06, 2018

When I Impressed My Son

Are you familiar with this dance? I mean, I can't do it. But I know what it is.
The first and second graders in my VBS class this summer got me all educated on the "Floss".

So, anyway, the other day Josh was telling me about a fishing technique (of which he does not approve...) called "Flossing". Part-way through the explanation Josh realized he had previously told me about this approach and stopped mid-sentence. He said, "Oh, you know what flossing is, don't you?"
I smiled and said, "Yes," as I gave a half-hearted attempt at the dance.
Josh rolled his eyes at me first. But then he said, "Actually, Mom, I'm impressed you know that."

And I did a little happy dance inside.
(Not the "Floss" though. I just can't get the timing down. Even in my imagination. *wink*)

Karen

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Feeling a Bit Like my Dad

I am the third of four children in my family.
I have an older brother and sister, and a younger brother. And although we don't see each other nearly enough these days (Living in three different states will do that to ya!) when we do get together we have such a good time. We laugh and reminisce and tell stories and hug ad infintium.
It is so much fun!
I honestly cannot count the times I have heard my dad say, "It is so good to hear you kids laughing together. I love that sound!"
And, truth be told, even as an adult I cannot count the times I have heard my dad make that statement and in my mind I have thought, OK, Dad. Whatever. Not really understanding why he thought it was so wonderful that his kids were having a good time together.
But...
But then, a couple of days ago I was sitting at the table eating lunch with Brian - while Matthew and Elizabeth were in the kitchen making their own lunches. I don't know what was the cause of the commotion which was happening, but the two of them were laughing and carrying on and having a good ol' time. And I found myself pausing in my conversation with Brian to just listen to their laughter, their banter, their joy.
It brought such delight to my heart to witness two of my children simply enjoying life with one another.
I thought, It is so sweet to hear them laughing together. I love that sound!!! Which was followed immediately by the thought, Oh, wow. Now I know what my dad has been meaning all these years.
Then I vocalized my thoughts to Brian, and we smiled at each other - knowing this realization was one more confirmation that we're getting old, and we're continuing to become more like our parents.
And then?
I called my dad to share the experience with him.

Karen

Monday, September 03, 2018

Be Nice



Karen

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Respecting Systems *ahem*

Ahhhh, systems.
They're so useful.
When they work.
That is, when people follow them. They always work if people follow them!
I know this for a fact, because I have a great system in place for keeping us from running out of essentials. It's easy, really. If you use the last of something (toilet paper, honey, soap, napkins, mayo, whatever!) write it on the list which is on the refrigerator so that I know to buy it the next time I go grocery shopping. Totally simple, and oh - so effective.
But not fool-proof.
It must be followed by everyone in order to work! (And sometimes it isn't. And I *might* get a little irritatated when the system isn't followed.)

So, with that bakground you certainly understand my respect for not messing with or misusing somebody's system. Right?
OK, then. You'll be with me on this one.
When it comes to laundry around here, whenever I do it I check in each person's hamper for dirty clothes. And, if they're in there? I include them in the wash I'm doing. Most often, though, when I go into Matthew's room his hamper is empty but there are lots of clothes laying in various places on the floor. And I don't touch them. Cuz, they aren't in the hamper and, well, that's my system. *wink*
On more than one occasion he has come home to find me folding clothes and he lets out a sigh, expressing disappointment in having missed 'laundry day'.
And we typically have the following conversation.
Me: If your clothes had been in your hamper, I would have washed them.
Matthew: But I never know when you're going to do the laundry, so I don't know when to put my clothes in there.
Me: How 'bout you put them in the hamper after you take them off your body, instead of just throwing them on the floor?
Matthew: Because they might not need to be washed. So they don't need to go in the hamper.
Me: Ahhhh. Then why don't you fold them and put them away, rather than just throwing them on the floor? (Have you noticed my theme?)
The last time we had this conversation, Matthew said for the first time: Oh, Mom. I have a system. You wouldn't understand.
Me: *grin* OK.

So, yesterday I was gathering dirty clothes to put through the washer and, as is the usual, there were only a few items in Matthew's hamper. But, oh, there was quite a bit laying near the hamper, and by the bed. And under his desk, too, I think.
Which is where they all remained.
Alas, later in the afternoon when I brought a singular pair of shorts to Matthew's room from the load I had just finished he said, "Aw, man. You know what's funny?" (Only, he didn't mean 'funny' like something to laugh about. I think he meant 'funny' like ironic.) "I was just thinking about figuring out what clothes needed to go in the wash, so I could do a load." At that moment I acknowlegded the piles of clothes on the floor and said, "Yeah. I figured these were dirty. I could have included them in the wash I did today. But I didn't want to ruin your system." And I smiled, and offered my best you-should-have-listened-to-mom-and-put-your-dirty-clothes-in-the-hamper look.
I still haven't determined whether his response in the form of a timid laugh was because of conviction or contempt. *wink*

Karen

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Neighborly Observation

5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:5-6
We have a fledgling neighborhood association where I live.
The intent is wonderful. It's just been a challenge to get it off the ground.
Anyway, we have just completed our first objective. That is, we have an updated neighborhood directory! And as I started the delivery process Monday evening, I made an interesting observation:
Most people aren't very kind toward outsiders.
What I mean is, for the most part when I knocked on a door or rang a doorbell - if the door was answered at all - it was answered by a person with a look on their face which said, Yeah? What do you want???
As soon as I said, "Hi! I have an updated neighborhood directory for you," the door answer-er tended to be all smiles and nice, and we typically had a pleasant exchange of names and such. But most first impressions were rather cold.
To be fair, I was carrying a clip-board (So I could mark down the people to whom I delivered a directory.) and I had a bag over my shoulder (Full of directories.) so for those neighbors who don't live near me and don't "know" me, I probably looked like a typical door-to-door solicitor. Regardless of how I looked, though, I couldn't help thinking, Hey, I'm a person. Created in the image of God. Can't you have a kind look on your face when you open your door and we meet for the very first time?
And that thought right there caused me to have another one.
I wondered, What does the look on my face communicate to the strangers who come to my door?
Even if I know they're soliciting, and I'm in the middle of fixing dinner, (BTW, I was delivering directories AFTER dinner hours.) and the interruption is really inconvenient.
As I considered this scenario in light of how I was feeling while I knocked on some neighbors' doors, I realized something. Although a stranger at my door may not result in the opportunity to present the gospel and invite that individual to receive salvation through Jesus Christ, each moment is a chance to share the love of God. Even if it is only through a warm smile and courteous words. (I mean, honestly, I don't like having solicitors come to my door, especially when I'm making dinner. But the truth is, it isn't the person I don't like - it's the interruption. The person is someone made in the image of God who is doing a job. They are not deserving of rude looks, impatient words, or unkind attitudes.)
Thus, I have decided to do my best - with God's help - to greet each person who knocks on my door with the same kindness and grace I was wishing for Monday evening. Yeah. Maybe I'll put a little WWJD sign by the door!

Sheesh! Who knew such conviction could come from delivering neighborhood directories?
Er, I know Who! And I'm so glad HE speaks, even in ordinary situations.

Karen

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Adventuring

Adventuring.
I thought I might have just made up that word, but a quick check with Google indicates "adventuring" is a legitimate word. In fact, I found this definition for it: the act of doing adventurous things or having adventures.
And that (doing adventurous things and having adventures) is precisely the act I was trying to describe with the word I "created". #win
Because I wanted to tell you about this:

I took this picture Saturday evening of my sweet adventurer and her willing daddy.
What you can't see from this angle is the maps they're consulting in an effort to plan their biking route from Okemos to Holland.
Yes, you read that correctly.
They were sitting on the swing planning a route to bike from our home to Brian's mom's home. With a stop at his brother's on the way. That is, yesterday they left our house on bikes at 7am and rode to Grand Rapids. And today they're making the rest of the trip to Holland. (I'm driving out to pick them up, because they don't want to ride back home. I can't imagine why.)
The thing which makes this whole trip so special is because Elizabeth has been dreaming and talking about it for years. And - although some people have grand ideas and leave them as ideas - Elizabeth has a habit of turning grand ideas into realities. It has been fun observing her persistence in convincing Brian to take longer and longer bike rides. Always with the footnote that they need to get ready for the trip to Holland. It has been equally entertaining seeing Brian squirm under the precious daddy-hold she has on him. That ability to get him to do things he might not really want to do, but he'll do it gladly for his princess. And when, a few weeks ago, they discovered they were both "available" on August 27 and 28 - well, there was no turning back!

So Saturday I smiled as I watched them plan their route, and today I smile as I think about the dream becoming a reality. My sweet, adventurous girl and her I'll-do-anything-for-you-because-I-love-you dad biking across the state on one last undertaking before she begins a whole new adventure in marriage.
How thankful I am for the God who created my daughter and gave her a spirit which loves adventuring. How thankful I am for His faithfulness in her life and through her exploits from the first day until now. How thankful I am that I can trust Him to care for her in every adventure she will face (the ones she chooses and the ones He chooses for her) from this day forward.

In what ways have you seen God demonstrate His faithfulness through your own "aventures"?

Karen

Monday, August 27, 2018

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Sharing Your Story

My church has an active Young Adults group. One of the leaders is currently producing a podcast series for the group, with the goal of encouraging Christian growth and discipleship - and he asked me if I would be willing to participate in one of those podcasts. (Anyone who knows me well knows I never turn down an opportunity to talk. Especially when it's about JESUS!)
Needless to say, I agreed.
We made the recording this past Sunday. And I listened to it last night.
Can I just say, it is entirely possible to be fully present and participating in a conversation, yet not realize what you were saying?
That is, as I listened to the podcast last night I was so encouraged by what we said.
Sunday I was aware of it, but in listening I was blessed.

So today I want to invite you to listen, too. The entire episode is 33 minutes, and I pray you will be encouraged as you consider how God may use the story of your struggle to bless the life of someone else.
This link is for android.
And this one is for apple.


Karen

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

I Said 'Yes' to the Dress

By any chance, did you read my post yesterday?
Do you remember me mentioning my tendency to re-tell a good story about saving money?
I trust you also know how I love re-telling good stories about prayer.
Well, here I go again!
And this story is extra good, because it ends with me getting my dress for Elizabeth's wedding.
*cheesy grin*

See, the wedding is only 53 days away - so I knew it was time to get serious about finding a dress for me to wear. I mean, I had done some half-hearted looking over the past couple months, but none of it resulted in anything more than mild disappointment at not finding the right dress.
It was time to get down to business.
And, for me that always means beginning with prayer. So I drove to my first choice in stores (Ironically called, Second Time Around.) and asked God to show me if the dress was in there. I found a cute dress, the price was right, and I thought it might be "the one" - until I tried it on. Uh, nope!
On to the second store. God, will you show me if it's here?
It wasn't.
So I drove to the third store - which wasn't open on Tuesdays. Why???
And kept right on going to number four. God, will you provide the dress for me if it's in this store?
Once again, I thought I might have found it. The price was reasonable and the dress looked good.
On the hanger. *ahem*
Moving on...
Finally, I landed at the fifth store (The last one I could think of trying.) and I prayed in the parking lot, God, if the dress is here, will You please show it to me??? I didn't have a good feeling about finding the dress at first, because I just wasn't seeing nice dresses. Everything was so casual. It was all cute - but too casual. And then, when I had nearly given up hope...
I'm just having fun now, playing up the drama.
Truth is, though, I really was about to leave the store.

Along the far wall, I saw a few "nice" dresses on a rack. And there, among them, was a purple dress with a little bit of sparkle on it which was formal-enough but not-too-fancy, and it was my size.
BUT, there was no price tag on it.
So I picked it up and walked around until I found a sales associate. She did some checking and discovered it was a $110 dress. Uh, no! Which was marked down 60%.
A little bit of math convinced me the price just became right!
So I tried it on and loved it, and decided this must be the dress. *smile*
And I went out to find a little jacket or sweater to go with it, because it's sleeveless. (Which may be perfect on October 13, or it may not be.) I hunted down asked the sales associate for her opinion and we decided a light gray, non-textured sweater would be lovely. Problem was, the ones we were looking at weren't gray, and her computer didn't show any in stock. But her associate said, "What about the ones over there?" and I walked over to check them out. Just in case.
Just in case there might be one light gray, non-textured sweater, in my size hanging on the rack among five or six black and brown textured sweaters. You'd better believe I grabbed that sweater and walked over to my new friend with a great big smile on my face. Until I looked at the price tag, that is.
I said to her, "Um, I am not wearing my glasses. Does that really say $54?" "Uh, yes, it does," she replied. "But that 'limited quantity' sticker usually means it's on sale." So she ran her little scanner thing-y over it and, guess what? It was marked down 50%.
Yep. That price just became right, too!
And I? Had a little party in my heart as I considered how God had ordered my steps and led me to the right place at the right time to get the right dress for the right occasion. At the right price.

And, yes, I fully believe God is involved in every little thing. I believe it is reasonable and valuable for us to pray about everything - even mother-of-the-bride dress purchases. In fact, I believe we ought to pray about everything. Even the things which we feel like we can rationalize and decide upon ourselves. His thoughts are right. His plans are perfect. His ways are the best. And I don't want to wander from them - so I ask Him to lead.

Karen

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

I Got a Raise!

So, I went grocery shopping yesterday.
And everything was going along very well.
Until check-out.
Seems the credit card of the nice old couple in front of me wasn't working. She swiped it, he swiped it, the cashier swiped it, they even tried the trick cashiers sometimes do where you put the card inside a plastic bag and swipe it that way. But nothing was working.
Thankfully, a supervisor came to the rescue. Took the couple and their groceries and their suspended transaction to another lane and got it figured out.

Now it was my turn.
And when the cashier started scanning my groceries, we discovered the problem wasn't with the other couple's card. There was something wacky going on with her register. So she called for help and SUPERvisor came to the rescue again. My groceries were scanned and bagged, my transaction suspended and taken to another register, and SUPER cashed me out there. In the midst of it she said, "I'm giving you $5 off for your inconvenience. Thanks for being so patient through all of this."
I thought, Well, that's a nice gesture. I mean it really wasn't a big deal. Only set me back about 10 minutes. And I understand - sometimes technology messes up. But, hey, it's five bucks. I'll take it.
And I said, "Wow. OK. Thanks!"

Then, when I got home and was recounting the event to my daughter (Because I have a habit of re-telling stories of saving money...) I realized the equivalent of the kind gesture SUPER had made: If spending 10 minutes extra in line earned me $5, that's like making $30 and hour.
And I usually go shopping for free.
So the way I see it, I just got a huge raise!!!

Karen

Monday, August 20, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

When Someone Changes Your Plans

So, yesterday I spent the majority of the day at one of our rental houses.
Not what I was intending to do, but there was work to be done.
Seems someone thought it would be funny to break in and vandalize a few bedrooms.
I mean, I didn't think it was funny when I was cleaning up after them - but it looked like they had a good time flinging paint all over the walls and floors.

The encouraging side of the story is: even when bad things are happening in our world God is still good. And I was reminded of that truth when I gazed out the window last night as I washed the dishes. I was tired from my day of scraping and mudding and sanding and painting, but my spirit was refreshed when I looked at this:

My garden full of zinnias. Aren't they beautiful???
And no matter who or what tries to ruin my day, these flowers delight my heart. Because they remind me of God's faithfulness and majesty. What started as a patch of dirt, a handfull of seeds, and a lot of hope has become a tangible sample of the goodness of God.

Ahhhh, but there's more!
If you saw my "video tour" of the garden a few weeks ago, you may remember the sunflowers Josh planted. Well, check this out! One of them has bloomed.

And it's beautiful!
May your day be marked with bright colors, delightful fragrances, and the joy of Jesus!
Even if someone busts in and changes your plans.

Karen

Monday, August 13, 2018

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Re-writing the Story

I heard a funny story several years ago - which I think I enjoyed so much because of how true it is.
It goes like this:

There was a job to do, and four people available to do it. Their names were Anybody, Everybody, Somebody, and Nobody. Anybody could have done the job and Everybody thought Somebody took care of it. But, actually, Nobody did the work.
And in the end - Everybody was mad at Somebody, because Nobody did what Anybody could have.
Are you recalling times these four people have gotten involved in the jobs around your home???
Ohhhh, they came over to my place yesterday, and I was so ready to be Everybody. Know what I mean?
I walked into the kitchen in the morning and saw that the dishes hadn't been done Tuesday night.
And, OK, we didn't eat dinner as a family because Brian and I went out for our anniversary - so I know activities didn't feel "normal". But we all used dishes throughout the day, and they weren't going to "do" themselves. Somebody ought to have done them, I thought, even though we didn't "eat dinner".
And, as the story goes - Anybody could have done it.
In my moment of I-have-failed-as-a-mother-because-the-dishes-are-undone nonsense, I allowed myself to fear that Nobody was going to get the dishes done before it was time for me to make dinner Wednesday night. Then either 1)I was going to stomp around the kitchen cleaning up the mess that Somebody should have already managed, or 2)I was going to have to follow through on the vow I made years ago when the kids took over doing dishes:
If the kitchen is a mess when it's time for me to make dinner, I'm NOT making dinner!
Neither one of those options was appealing to me. But I also didn't want to nag Somebody into doing what Anybody could have done. So I carried on with my morning activities and decided to let the chips fall where they may.

Then, the unexpected happened!

I walked into the house in the afternoon and heard the dishwasher running. I looked at the counter and - it was clean!!! I asked around and found out, Matthew did the dishes! Without being nagged asked. Without me complaining. Without letting the chore fall on Nobody.
Matthew re-wrote the story.
And this momma's heart was so glad!!!

Karen

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Was That Divine Intervention?

Tuesdays I participate in a mileage club with a local children's home. The other "coaches" and I meet up at the home and walk a mile-long trail with the kids, and the kids earn points and get prizes. Anyway, I've been doing it since June and am on a pretty good schedule now for when to leave my home in order to arrive at their home on time.
So, yesterday I was thinking of running a quick errand on my way to mileage club. But as I got closer to my stop I noticed I didn't have as much time as I'd anticipated and began second-guessing my original plan. Buuuuut, I decided to go ahead and do it anyway - cause it needed to get done, and there's no time like the present. Right?
Fortunately, my little errand only took a couple of minutes - and I was back on the road, thinking I would still make it to mileage club on time.
Until, that is, I got a mile or two farther down the highway and began to see a bunch of breaklights. And very shortly after I was in the middle of the slow-down, I caught a glimpse of the cause: one truck on the side of the road and another one overturned in the median. The police were just arriving on the scene, diverting traffic around the accident. And just after it occurred to me that I was definitely going to be late to mileage club, it dawned on me that if I hadn't stopped at the post office for a couple minutes, a few minutes ago - I might have been a participant in that accident. I couldn't keep myself from wondering, God, did You just prevent me from missing mileage club altogether today? Were YOU the One who prompted me to stop for those postcards??? Ummmm. Thanks!!!
I mean, I will never be certain if my stop at the post office was Divine intervention which kept me from being in an accident. But I do know that God protects me regularly - in ways I don't perceive - and I am giving thanks for all safekeeping. Seen and unseen.

Have you ever had the impression of God's hand shielding you from harm's way?
(By the way, although I was late getting to mileage club the kids were late getting outside, too.
So it was all good!)

Karen

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Silver Anniversary

I can hardly believe it, but today is my 25th wedding anniversary.
Yes, on August 7, 1993 - these two KIDS got married!!!


This was one of my favorite pictures...

Well, and this one. *muah!*

Ahhhh, but this one. This one is my absolute most favorite wedding picture.
It's kind of crazy to me to consider that it's been 25 years already. And yet, I can hardly believe our life together - all the things we've been through - has fit into just 25 years.
Oh, how much we have seen and grown and loved and messed up and forgiven and been forgiven and learned and tried and tried again.
I laugh when I remember how we thought we knew so much 25 years ago today - when, really?
We were so clueless.
I mean, at the ages of 21 and 22 we knew a little about what it means to love another human being.
We knew a little of God's faithfulness. We knew a little that He is good. We knew a little that we could trust Him.
But now we have learned what real love is.
Joyful, celebratory, life-giving, selfless, forgiving, gracious, unconditional love.
Over the past two and a half decades, we have experienced God's faithfulness in very dark moments.
Now we know He is good all the time. Now we know that we can trust him with everything.

Oh, how much has happened - how magnificently God has shown Himself to us - over the past 25 years.
It makes me so excited to ponder the next 25!!!

Karen

Monday, August 06, 2018

Friday, August 03, 2018

When There is No Silence

Return slowly.

So read the sign posted along the driveway as we left the Silent Retreat last Sunday.
And I understood the intent.
The phrase was meant to encourage a gradual entrance back into "life as usual" - an exhortation not to jump right back into crazy.
And I get that.
Wise words.
However, regardless of how leisurely one "returns", the fact remains:
There is going to be a time when you realize there is no silence anymore.
Arguments will need to be settled.
Meals will need to be prepared.
Work will need to be done.
The dog will need attending.
Laundry will need to be folded. And the washer might break.
Regular commitments will begin again.
And interruptions will foil plans to be quiet.
In other words, life will happen - and it's going to be noisy.
Either with literal noise, or the busy "noise" of activity.
Indeed, it didn't take long for me to get back to the noise after ending my silent retreat Sunday afternoon. And the strange thing is, I am finding myself thankful. I mean, I was soooooo blessed by the 40+ hours of silence and solitude I had last weekend, and I would love to do it again sometime. (Many times!)
But being back in the noise reminds me that God is not limited to silence.
In fact, HE speaks in the noise.
And I can listen through the noise.

I share these thoughts, not to discourage silence or make it seem unimportant. On the contrary, I think it is crucial for us to grasp times of quiet whenever we can - that we might slow down and take time to re-center ourselves.
Rather, I do it because I want to encourage us to remember that God is always speaking.
When there is no silence, we can still hear His voice.
In the midst of everyone else's needs.
When the house is in a disarray and the cupboards are empty.
During the chaos of back-to-school, last-minute preparations, deadlines, and total home make-overs.
Throughout joys, sorrows, and ordinary days.
Even when the washer stops working properly.
When there is no silence, God is still good.
Let us keep on listening.

Karen

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

I Know It's Difficult

Dear Julie,
We've never met, but I know your mother-in-law. And she told me about you.
She told me that you have young kiddos, and you're struggling right now.
I know about the frustration. And the yelling. (Yeah. She told me about that, too.)
She also told me that she gave you a copy of my book. So, pretty soon you'll know that I understand your struggle and frustration very, very well. You'll know that I used to be a yell-er, too. You'll know that there is no judgment coming from me regarding your performance as a mother.
But more than those things, my prayer is that you will know HOPE.
Yes, Julie, because I have been where you are, because the pain and the battle are so familiar to me, and because God has graciously given me hope in the midst of it all.
HE has shown me there is a purpose.
And it is beautiful!
Ahhhh, the hard times don't get easier just because I have this confidence.
But with it, HE carries me through.

So, Julie, I am praying for you today.
I am asking God to speak to your heart - even through the words in that book. I pray God will open your eyes to see the good thing HE is doing in the midst of your struggle. I pray HE will allow your spirit to have understanding. I pray HE will fill you with HOPE.

And for everyone reading who isn't "Julie", I pray God will also give you hope to carry you through whatever this day holds.

Karen

Monday, July 30, 2018

Breaking the Silence

Ummmmm, you're probably going to need to turn up your volume...



Karen

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Forecast for July 23-29

Annnd, this week looks like an interesting mix of above average pressure in the mornings, standard afternoon activity accompanied by spurts of the morning's unfinished business, with a significant chance of unexpected showers of blessing and storms of the unknown. Nightfall will come sooner that normal, in light of unsually early mornings. Friday afternoon a sudden break in the pattern is predicted and all should be extremely calm until Sunday afternoon.
After that, it's anybody's guess!!!

That is, it's VBS week at church and I am going to be in the midst of a bunch of 1st and 2nd grade boys and girls every morning - showing them and telling them about the love of Jesus.
And I am sooooooo looking forward to it.
However, VBS means stuff I normally do in the morning will be pushed to the afternoon, and the typical "unknowns" will make for a tighter schedule, not to mention - this girl is going to need to go to bed early!
And then, 45 minutes after VBS ends Friday I am leaving to spend the weekend with 10 other women on a silent retreat. As in, no talking from dinner Friday until after lunch Sunday. It's just time to be silent before the Lord to hear whatever HE wants to say.
Ahhhhh, I am going to be so ready!

All that to say, blogging is not going to be a top priority for me in the next seven days. In fact, I am choosing to make it a non-priority so I can focus on the kids at VBS, and the Lord at the retreat.
Maybe I'll have a video devotion posted next Monday.
More likely, I'll have something up on Tuesday.

I covet your prayers for both VBS and the retreat.

Karen

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Negotiator

So yesterday morning I was getting ready to do laundry and I checked in with Matthew to see if he had any. I knocked on his door, heard some sort of groan, and opened the door. He was still in bed, and his hamper was empty (But there were clothes all over the floor...) so I told him I was about to do laundry - and invited him to bring any clothes downstairs which he wanted to be washed.
I proceeded to sort the laundry and put a load in the washer and took care of a couple other tasks which needed completing. And moments later Matthew and I crossed paths in the kitchen. Our conversation went like this:
Matthew: I took my dirty clothes downstairs.
Me: OK. Did you sort them into the loads I had already made?
Matthew: Yep. I did that.
Me: Great. Thanks.
Matthew: You're welcome. Oh, that'll be $5.
Me: Blank stare.
Matthew: Five bucks. I charge five dollars for sorting my laundry.
Me: OK. Cool. I am charging $5 for washing your clothes today. So I guess we can call it even.
Matthew: Sorta shrugs his shoulders and leaves the scene.

Yep. Just call me the Negotiator.

Karen

Monday, July 16, 2018

How to Fold a Fitted Sheet

So, I was planning to edit out the first thirty-or-so seconds of this video, but decided to leave it in for fun. *wink*
The back-story is: on the first take of this post my video guy (aka, my husband) "took" a picture - rather than recording a video. And just before we started the second take I said something funny about his technical know-how and, well, I had a hard time controlling my laughter.



Karen

Friday, July 13, 2018

No. Not Tears!!!

I know I have mentioned previously that my girl is in the throes of job-seeking, and building an adult life.
There was that thing on Monday about praying for her to remember to turn her eyes upon Jesus.
It continues daily as she applies for jobs, goes to interviews, and searches online for more opportunities.
And it got more tender yesterday as we sat together at the table, each working on different things. Elizabeth asked my opinion about a job (and sounded kind of despondent in her delivery) so I paused and looked up from what I was doing. Just in time to see a tear drip from her cheek onto the table.
Then another.
And another.
And my momma's heart nearly burst.
Because I do not like seeing my girl cry!!!

Oh, how I do NOT miss those days of searching and wondering and not knowing what the future holds. (Er, I guess not much has changed. *ahem*) Anyway, I don't miss being a young-twenty-something trying to figure out who I am and what I should be doing.
If I could, I would step in and take over this phase for her - just so she could avoid the struggle.
Because I really don't like it when my girl cries.
How I wish I had all the answers - and could tell her just where to go and exactly what to do.
If only there was a way for me to make her journey seamless. So she wouldn't go through hard times and she wouldn't have to expend so much effort. So there would be no more tears!
But I know the only thing I can really do for her is pray.
And when I pray, I am reminded that God uses the struggle. He grows us through hard times. Our efforts are not wasted by Him.

And He holds every tear.

So I will continue to ask my Father to lead my children. (I'm including my future son in that prayer!) I will persist in encouraging my girl to seek His face. And I will keep trusting that He knows what's best and He'll do what's best in the time that's best.
Even if that process involves a few more tears.

Karen

Thursday, July 12, 2018

This is Dedicated to the One I Love

So, I have a new elderly friend I'm visiting as a volunteer with Great Lakes Caring.
She's a sweet, sweet lady and I've been seeing her for a couple of months. I can't remember if she's 95 or 96. But I do remember that she loves Jesus, she used to be a seamstress, she loves crossword puzzles, and she and her family survived the concentration camps in Japan during World War II.
Dear One (That's what I'll call her.) is hard of hearing and her memory is fading, so our conversations are a bit limited. Often it's just me asking her questions which she can answer briefly, and telling her stories about my family. (And my garden. I keep her updated on my garden!) Regardless of how much she does or doesn't say though, I cherish my time with Dear One. She is a kind soul whose smile brightens the room, and I love that we always end our visits with prayer.

So I'll do whatever it takes to see her each week.

Including descend a valley, or climb a mountain.
What I mean is, Dear One lives in a facility about a mile and a half from my house and the road which connects us is presently under construction. So yesterday when I was riding my bike to visit her (Elizabeth needed to use the van...) and I came upon a Road Closed sign, well, I just road around it as I have done before - figuring I would also have to ride around some hills of dirt and such. Except, as I got further from the sign and closer to the action I realized I wasn't going to be riding around anything. Because there was a great big valley going straight across the road. (Think, "Going on a Bear Hunt"...Can't go over it, can't go under it. Can't go around it. Gotta go through it!)
Seeing no other option, I called out to the construction workers for permission to cross.
All I got back was that they could not give (nor deny) me permission to do so.
Sooooo, I carefully walked my bike down one incline - then picked it up and manuvered up the other side. Stepping in significant amounts of mud and dirt on the way. *ahem*
But I made it through without incident, or need of rescue. *grin*

And after enjoying my time with Dear One, I did it all over again.
Only this time, I had a certain song running through my head. *wink*



Karen

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Lessons From the Garden

If you were around this part of the internet last week, you probably saw my first flower.


I am pleased to report, it has grown nicely.

And I am even more pleased to report, it has friends!!!

The beautiful colors (especially the PINK!) are my reward and motivation which keep me watering and tending to the plants in the midst of our very hot days. But sometimes I feel even more delighted by the little lessons I hear God whisper to my heart as I care for my garden and landscaping.
That is to say, I have been suspicious about a couple of growing things over the past weeks - and I think my questions are now being answerd.
You may recall in the beginning of my story about my flower garden, I mentioned planting seeds for flowers called "Everlastings". And somewhere along the way to the pretty blooms I have now, I thought the Everlastings had vanished. Because there was no sign of them anywhere, while my other seeds were producing greenery. But not too long ago when I was weeding I noticed some growth in the places where I had sown those seeds, and I decided not to pull the little guys - just in case they weren't weeds after all, but the Everlastings which I had written off. I even watered and fed them, fully aware that I might end up pulling them in time.
But now? Now I can distinctly see little flowers forming on the tops of their little stems, and I noticed more of the same growth in two other areas where I also planted those seeds. So I am really starting to think the Everlastings are OK. That, or some weed is going to add color to my yard.
And I am so glad I didn't pull them when I thought they might be weeds.
Which brings me to another part of my landscaping. I am growing mertyl under a tree in my yard and earlier in the summer I dug up a few peices of mertyl from the front of the house to aid the fill-up-the-space-under-the-tree process. *Read that: I am still working to overcome impatience.*
In spite of my best efforts to make the displaced patches of mertyl feel comfortable in their new location, one of them got all brown and brittle and appeared to die. But I kept watering it because I have heard rumors that mertyl is very hearty, and I thought - Why not??? Well, wouldn't you know it, a green thing started growing in the very spot that the mertyl died. But I tend to get a lot of weeds under that tree and I was ready to pull it along with all the others until I thought, What if? What if this isn't a weed, rather it is some hearty mertyl playing resurrection?
So I left it.
But every day for the next week I looked at it and felt disappointed because - aside from its green-ness - it really didn't look like mertyl.
Until yesterday!

Yep. I think that weed is, indeed, resurrected mertyl.

And as I pondered my weed-turned-mertyl (And the possibility that the other "weeds" are actually Everlastings.) it was as if I heard God whispering to my heart, Dear one, are you getting this lesson I've created for you? Do you see the picture I've painted? Sometimes the work I do doesn't appear at first the way it's going to manifest in the end. In the beginning, sometimes people and situations look more like weeds than like cultivated plants. But when you practice patience, when you slow down and reserve judgemnt, when you nurture a specimen even though you aren't sure what it is - dear one, that is when you give Me space to do My best work.

Ah, yes, LORD. Please cultivate patience in me!

Karen

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Garden Update

Look! Look! Look!!!
It's my very first Zinnia of the season in my new garden. *smile*
I mean, it will get bigger. There will be more. And - together - they'll be so much more beautiful.
But I was so excited yesterday when I looked out my window and saw this little splash of yellow.
If you look very closely at the bottom of the picture you might see a couple little Alyssum flowers, too. They're there. Just not very plentiful.
At all.
Actually, the Alyssum seeds I sowed on the side of the house are doing much better.
See???
Anyway, back to the Zinnias.
As I considered how happy I am with my one little Zinnia - in spite of the fact that the current situation is nothing compared to the beauty of what is to come, I felt a bit of inspiration. Because I thought of Ephesians 4:11-13 which paints a picture of a unified, mature body of Christ demonstrating His beauty for all the world to see.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
See? God intends for us to be a beautiful, mature garden - displaying His glory to the world.
That is what HE wants.
That is HIS goal for us.
It's HIS objective!
Yet, even though God's desire for us is something far greater than what we presently are, as I stood beaming over my one little yellow flower - delighted by what it is and what it will become - God's heart spoke to mine.
Yes, dear one, in the same way I am delighted in each person who choses to follow Me. I am not disappointed that you are not yet who I know you will one Day be. Hold on. I am growing you. I am maturing and uniting My children. I am preparing the body of Christ for glory. And I love each one of you today just as much as I will on that Day, too.

I pray this thought encourages your heart as much as it did mine!

Karen