Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Preferring Others

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 3:3-4
Are you familiar with these words?
They are found in Philippians 3, right before Paul urges his readers to take on the attitude of Christ.
The attitude of humilility which saw Him set aside His rights as God, come to earth in the likeness of man - in the form of a servant, and become obedient to the point of death on a cross for the forgiveness of all mankind.
Do you grasp the severity of that transaction???
God left His God-ness to become a sacrificial servant for the ones He created. The very ones who turned from Him in rebellion and deserved the death He came to die.
And that, Paul says, is the level of humility to which we ought to aspire.
In our lives - as we pursue the call of God to become more like Jesus - we must be willing to prefer others before ourselves. And that, my freinds, goes against everything our flesh seeks to fulfill.

I just finished a study of Galatians with my Precepts class, and the overwhelming message God spoke to my heart through it was my need to walk by the Spirit, so I will not carry out the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
And, wouldn't you know? God is giving me daily opportunities to practice preferring others' needs over my own. It's as if He wants to test me to see if I really believe what I've been learning. If I trust Him enough to apply His Word even when it's difficult.

Have you been in this place, too???

With all my heart (That is, all my heart which has been made new by the One who makes all things new!) I want to be like Jesus. I want to reflect the love of God and the character of Christ to my friends, my family, and strangers I meet wherever I go. And so I pray, Holy Spirit, please lead me. Please enable me to walk where You walk. Please give me the grace to prefer others, to love sacrificially, and to serve like Jesus served.

So that's what's going on in my heart today. How are you doing???

Karen

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Words Roll Better Now

I remember when my kiddos were little and they would say something they really didn't mean.
Like when I made something new for dinner - and before even taking a bite one would declare, "I don't like it. It's yucky!" I'm pretty sure she/he meant, "That's something I haven't had before and it looks/smells different. I am not sure what it is, and I don't feel like trying anything new right now. Cuz, what if I don't like it?"
They just didn't have the vocabulary to appropriately express their feelings. Yeah. That's it!
Or, one of the hundreds of times when I forbid a child from doing something they wanted to do (You know - play in the street, run with scissors, eat a gallon of ice cream before dinner, or *gasp* go to bed without bathing or cleaning up toys.) and was told in no uncertain terms, "You're the meanest mom in the world!!!!" At times like that I imagine what she/he was really trying to say was...
Oh, who am I kidding?
They thought I was the meanest mom in the world.
And they had precisely the vocabulary they needed to express their feelings.
The thing is: whether, or not, they truly meant what they said - whether, or not, they even understood what they were saying - part of my momma's heart broke when I heard those words. Because I was trying so hard to do things well, to make good decisions (and meals), and to lead them on right paths. I was in a world of not-knowing-exactly-what-to-do, trying to make my way - while not ruining my kids.
And some days I felt like I wasn't going to succeed.

Which is why yesterday afternoon I found it rather ironic that it didn't even phase me when my youngest son said another thing which (I hope!) he didn't mean.
That is, Matthew was bemoaning the number of notifications Facebook sends to his phone. (Apparently the number is LARGE.) "I mean," he said, as he read from his phone, "here's one that says, 'Karen Sheaffer Hossink posted a link.' Why'd they send me that???"
"Ummmm, because I'm your mom?" I proposed.
He exhaled with notable exasperation, "Like I care!!??"
And I wondered, 'Like you care' that I'm your mom? Or, 'like you care' that I posted a link?
Without spending too much time on it, I decided he cares that I'm his mom, but not that I posted a link. And I moved on with my day, happily and peacefully. (If only I'd had the ability to let words roll off my back those many years ago.)
Ahhhhh, but thanks be to God for His grace and patience which carried me through those moments and days and years. Thanks be to God for growing and protecting and shaping my children in spite of my best efforts. Thanks be to God for His wisdom and mercy in leading us through the hard times. May you find yourself carried by Him today, as well.

Karen

Monday, November 12, 2018

When We Struggle with Sin



Here's the podcast to which I referred in my video. I would sooooo encourage you to listen. It's an hour long, but fully worth the time.


Karen

Friday, November 09, 2018

Where's God?

I have a friend who is constantly reminding me (and all the ladies in our Bible study) to pray for our country, our leaders, upcoming elections and decisions and stuff-going-on-in-our-government.
I love her tenacity in calling us to prayer.
I have another friend who knows how I love to pray - who inadvertantly inspired me to set an alarm on my phone which reminds me daily to stop and pray. For our country and our leaders and our troops (and recently the upcoming elections).
I love that daily notice.
I receive numerous emails from various Christian organizations who are involved in our governmental process and - especially within the past couple of months - these emails have included continuous calls to be in prayer. For our country and our leaders and the upcoming elections.
So, it ought to go without saying, my prayers for our country and our leaders and the (recent) upcoming elections have been plentiful. And I know the same is true for many, many Christians. I know God's faithful have been faithful in seeking Him. Thus, as I went into Tuesday - as I cast my ballot - I did so with the peace He provides.
Then came Wednesday morning when I turned on my phone and looked up the election results.
Dang, I thought, as the first result I saw told me that "my candidate" didn't get elected.
Awwww, really? as the same was true for the second.
Then, Hmph. and, Wha??? and *eye-roll*, as more candidates and even most of the propsals went the opposite way of my vote.

For a moment I was tempted to think my voice hadn't really been heard. I mean, I voted the way I thought was best. But it seemed there were more people who thought otherwise and - because of the numbers - their's were the voices which were heard.
Yes, I was tempted to think that way. But God's Spirit intervened and reminded me my voice had, indeed, been heard. By the One who hears and sees and knows and can do all things.
When my initial reaction bordered on being one of disappointment, of wondering what went wrong (or what is about to go wrong) - when I was among many people questioning the outcome - the Holy Spirit reminded me, Karen, God is still on His Throne.
And that's really all HE had to say.
I was wondering where God had gone, and His Spirit assured me - He hadn't moved at all.
God was on His Throne when I was praying before the election. He was on His Throne listening as I sought His mercy and direction and sovereingty for our country and our leaders and the election.
I was confident of it.
And I trusted Him.
I believed He would do what was best. What was according to His good plan and perfect will.
So, why? I asked myself, Why am I questioning the outcome? If I trusted God before - when I couldn't see the results - why can't I trust Him now - when I can see them?
The answer, of course, is that I can. I can trust Him now.
And with the gracious prompting of the Holy Spirit, I do.

The thing is, God works in ways we cannot see. He does wonderful things in ways we weren't expecting. His ways are higher than ours, and we cannot predict how His hand will move.
But we can trust Him. We can always trust.
And so I'm puttin' this out here for anyone else who anticipated a different outcome Tuesday.
For anyone else who prayed and prayed, yet found themselves asking, "Wait! What? Where's God???"
On His Throne, my friend.

HE is comfortably and confidently and eternally on His Throne!

Karen

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Gettin' my "Grandma" On

Monday afternoon I had the fun opportunity to babysit a couple of young boys at my house while their parents attended parent/teacher conferences. My guests were ages 4 and (almost)8. And, I'm telling you, it's been a while since I've had that much energy and noise in my home!
I put aside my chores (That is, getting dinner ready.) so I could play with the boys - and in the short 90 minutes they were here, those little guys nearly wore me right out.
First, I taught them how to play Foosball. OK, I didn't teach them "how" - as in they learned the rules and proper techniques. I mean, I taught them "how" - as in we crowded around the table and they grabbed at the handles and spun the guys around and sometimes actually kicked the ball, and once or twice even scored a goal. But mostly they just yelled and laughed and ran around having fun.
Then they got interested in the work-out equipment they found downstairs. Especially the 90-lb dumbbell. "Wow! That's heavy!" they said. "But I bet my dad could pick it up!" they said. And they rolled the medicine ball around on the floor to each other. Ahhh, who am I kidding? They're boys. The truth is although I suggested they roll it, the ball somehow found itself with quite a bit of air time. But that was OK. They were excited to see something new, and they were having fun.
Soon enough, they were finished with the basement and wanted to go outside. So we got our coats on and went out to play.
The swing on the deck was good.
The swing on the tree branch was better.
But their favorite thing was raking leaves to jump in. Seriously, I was with the younger one on the deck swing when I saw the older one with a rake in his hand - actually raking leaves. And I'm all, Hey! If you want to rake leaves (If you don't realize that is a job NOBODY around here wants to do!) let's do it!
So "4" and I joined "(almost)8" and we got a pile of leaves going. When the pile got nice and big (to a 4-year-old) the proclamation was made that it was time to jump in them. And I kinda questioned it because the leaves were kinda wet and I thought, Hmmmm. Would Mom approve? But then I reasoned, Ahhhh. They're having fun. And we'll only be out here for a few more minutes. They aren't going to catch a cold from getting a little wet. That's an old wive's tale!
So I joined them in the leaf pile.
After a short time we found ourselves back inside, downstairs playing with the medicine ball again. And one of the boys discovered a jar on the countertop with Hersey's Hugs inside.
You know what happened next, don't you?
He wanted to have one. And it was almost 6:00, and his mom would be back soon to pick him up, and I knew if I let him have one his brother was going to want one. I also knew they'd be having dinner as soon as they went home. So I asked, "Would your mom say it's 'OK'?" (I didn't really expect him to say, "no". *wink*) So when he said, "Yes," and I reasoned a little tiny Hersey Hug wouldn't ruin their dinner, I said, "Yes," too.
So I gave them each a Hug, and we went upstairs because Mom had just arrived.

And as we bid the boys farewell, Brian looked at me and chuckled. "Look at you, gettin' your 'Grandma' on!" And I'm all, "Wha????" And he says, "Come on! You've gotten soft. You know you wouldn't have given our kids candy before dinner. You're going to be such a good grandma!"
And I joined him in the laughter, because as I considered all the little things I'd let go over the past 90 minutes I realized he was right. Something about getting older and having grown-up kids does cause one to soften up a bit. *grin*

Karen

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Celebrating with My Son

So, you all know my oldest son lives for fishing, right?
What you may NOT know is that for a very, very long time he has been wanting to catch a musky.
Known among anglers as "the fish of a thousand casts" (That is, it'll take you 1,000 attempts at throwing out your line before you'll catch one.) the musky is an illusive critter.
But Josh has put his time in (and his casts!) and last week he had his day.
Watching this video just made my heart so happy - seeing him, not only do what he loves (and succeed!) but also noticing his attempts to educate and include his viewers. *proud momma moment*

If you don't want to open a new window, you may watch his catch here:
OR, you can follow this link and watch it on his channel. That way he'll get "credit" for the view and earn a few pennies. *wink*

Lovin' my fisherman!
Karen

Monday, November 05, 2018

Who Am I?



Karen

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Once Upon a Work Night

I love, LOVE it when God shows up unexpectedly in the middle of my circumstances.

I was at work last night, anticipating a typical evening of rushing around trying to get everything done - while trying not to look like I'm rushing, but that I have all the time in the world to spend on the individuals under my care. *ahem*
I had successfully completed my first task when seemingly out of the blue a young lady appeared behind me, and told me that she was supposed to be trained by me that evening. And I'm thinking, Wait. What??? This is my fifth official day "on my own" and I'm supposed to be training you??? I still have a cheat sheet in my pocket to make sure I don't forget what to do. How can I possibly help you?
After further discussion I learned that this young lady had already been trained on the other wing of the building and just needed to learn the particulars of the "south side".
And my level of oh-my-gosh-I'm-going-to-ruin-her pressure went way down. *wink*

With the knowledge that she already had a certain amount of knowledge, I decided it would be OK to ask her questions while we did our tasks - as opposed to telling her things she had already learned. So as we worked I inquired about her family, I found out about her college plans and dreams, and I heard about some of her struggles. Along the way she overheard me praying with one of our residents, and through our conversation afterwards I discovered that my co-worker is a Christian as well.
Therefore, later in the evening when she was talking about her sturggle some more I felt confident that she would be willing for me to pray for her, too. And she was. So I held her hands and asked God to give her peace in her situation, courage and grace to do what she needs to do, and favor with the one who will be listening to her plea. It was a tender moment, and I was grateful to God for bringing me to it.
As the evening continued, so did opportunities for me to speak into this young lady's heart and life. I was amazed at how God lead our conversation, and I was delighted to be His instrument of grace. Honestly, I was also kind of surprised this scene was happening at all - since my initial thought was that I had nothing to offer. But, as HE does, God made it plain to both of us that HE was behind our meeting, HE was orchestrating the circumstance, and HE had a good plan.

In what ways has God shown up in the midst of your moments?

Karen

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Well, Bless My Heart!

So, I cleaned up my corner of the room yesterday.
That is, I went through all the stuff that has accumulated in, on, and around my nightstand for the past, uh, I really don't know how many years.
Except that it can't be more than eleven.
Cuz we've only been in this house for eleven years, and I know I've cleaned my corner at least once before. *gulp*
*wink*
Anyway, I cleaned it up.
Purged a lot of things I thought I might need, use, or want someday. And in the process, I found the most delightful note. I know for sure why it was kept among the things I might need, use, or want someday. And, no, I am not purging it. Because some day I know I'm going to want to find it again!

Hey Mom,
Thank you sooo much for letting me have the beta fish, and for feeding my Praying Mantis! It means a ton to me and you are awesome for doing that, cause most moms won't. If there is any thing I can do to repay you just tell me. And here is an extra 5 dollars from lunch that I didn't use. It's all yours.

love, Josh
The note included no date, but the Praying Mantis had to have been from when Josh was in 5th or 6th grade. And it simply blessed my heart to read those words from his - especially to remember what things were dear to him at that time. Namely babysitting the class beta fish, catching crickets for a Praying Mantis, and five bucks!
Oh, when life was that simple. *sentimental sigh*

Karen

Friday, October 26, 2018

Not Today, Satan

Tuesday evening after I discovered I had never actually purchased the shoes my son was misssing for the wedding, Brian and I decided to take a walk around the mall. And in the middle of our stroll, we were stopped by one of the vendors at a kiosk in the center of the mall.
Honestly, I really don't like being approached in this way, because I am entirely too cheap to buy whatever they're selling - so I feel like we're wasting time for both of us. But I didn't want to seem rude by just breezing past, so I stopped to listen to what he had to say.
It was skin-care.
Again, I felt the urge to move on - because I just don't put a lot of money into those products.
But, AGAIN. I didn't want to seem rude. So I played along. I let him put the amazing cream under and around my right eye. I listened to him explain that as we get older our bodies lose collagen so we get wrinkly and stuff. A short time later, I admitted that I saw the product was already making improvements. I truly did notice the "crow's feet" (as the salesperson labeled them) were less pronounced on the right side. And I acknowledged the remarkable wrinkle reduction on the woman whose picture he showed me.
Yes, it was lovely to know that the skin-care products were from all natural ingredients, hadn't been tested on animals, and the packaging had some re-cycled materials in it. Lovely. But I still wasn't going to make a purchase, and I told him as much.
Ah, but then he pulled out his clever-card and I'm sure he thought he had me. See, he was having a Halloween Special. I could get all these great products - which usually sell for nearly $1,000 - for just $666. Isn't that clever? Halloween Special. 666.
Poor guy had no idea who he was trying to sell to. That even though I love a good play-on-words, I took his "pun" as assurance NOT to buy.
He had other, less expensive, items in which he tried to interest me. Things that normally sell for $10 - available as a part of his Halloween Special for a mere $6.66.
No. Sorry.
Eventually he accepted my, "No, thank you. Thanks for your time and concern for my wrinkles," and Brian and I continued on our way. Or maybe we just continued on our way without him accepting my, "No." It was kind of hard to tell. *wink*

Anyway, that night and even the next morning as I stood in front of the mirror I couldn't help but compare my right eye to my left eye. There is truly a difference between the "crow's feet" after only one application of that collagen stuff. And I'm all, Seriously??? I wasn't at all discontented with my skin before that guy put that stuff on my face and softened the appearance of wrinkles.
But now I stood before the mirror comparing. And feeling angst begin to rise. I thought, Should I go back to the mall and get the 30-month supply of amazing cream so I can lose the crow's feet and defy the effects of aging? (And I remembered something I heard years ago - Comparison is the killer of contentment.)
I think it was in that moment when God's Spirit convinced me to quit comparing. (It is tricky, by the way, to not look at both eyes when you look into the mirror!) I was fine with my lines before I met that man, and I am going to be fine with them now, too. It helps to remember something I heard Erma Bombeck (I think it was her!) say years ago, "I don't want to go through my life looking like I've never smiled!"
Yeah.
I'm gonna go with that philosophy.

I am not 20 anymore. (Thank You, Jesus!)
I'm losing collagen, so I have gray hairs and wrinkles. (Thanks, Eve. This is part of the Fall, right?)
One day I'm going to have a brand new, resurrected body and none of this will matter. (Thank You, JESUS!!!)
And in the meantime, I'll take that $666 dollars and use it for something BETTER.

Karen

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Tale of the Missing Shoes: A True Story with a Real Lesson

It was Saturday, October 13 at 8:45 in the morning. (I know, because I just checked my phone!)
I was at the church, ironing a bride's maid dress, thinking all was right with the world.
Then my phone rang.
It was one of my sons, calling to ask if I knew where my other son's shoes were. And I'm all, "I don't know! Ask him. They're his shoes..." But, as it was further explained to me, the reason for the calling son's call was because the other son had no idea where said shoes were to be found. And he thought I might know. My only response was, I hadn't seen them since we bought them. (Remember the really great story about the amazing deal I got on the boys' suits? Well, that was the last time I had laid eyes on the shoes. I figured they went to my son's room with him when we got home.)
And with that, our phone call was over.
The next half hour involved three more calls (from the son-missing-shoes) wanting to know if I was sure I didn't know where they were, and what should he do if he couldn't find them? I held back on my desire to ask why this son had waited until the morning of the wedding to get his things together, but I did manage to offer an answer he didn't like, anyway. When he asked, "What do I wear???" and I said, "I dunno. Tennis shoes?" he, uh, hung up on me.

In the end, he showed up to the church looking great. The gray tennis shoes were hardly even noticeable in contrast to his nice suit and amazing good looks. *wink* And the rest of the day went off without a hitch. (OK, the photographer lost an SD card which contained all the pictures taken before the ceremony, but apparently that has been located. So, it's all good.)
HOWEVER, we still had the unanswered question of where those shoes were located. I admit, when I got home I began looking for them, too. And continued with the alertness for days. Eventually, I determined that in the middle of the busynes of buying suits and ties and stuff - and considering we were checking out as the store was closing (so there was a bit of an added hustle) - we must have inadvertantly left behind the package with the shoes in it. Oops!!!
So, the other day I finally got around to calling the store to ask if they *might* have an extra pair of shoes in their inventory. Ya know, like the shoes somebody bought four weeks ago, but didn't miss until TWO weeks ago, so they got put back on the shelf, maybe? The manager with whom I was speaking told me to just bring in the receipt sometime (Because I couldn't decipher the codes to tell her over the phone what item number went with the shoes in question.) and they would "take care of it". I didn't know how they would do it, but if bringing in the receipt would solve my problem, I was all for it.
And that night I took in the receipt, and my embarassing little story of not realizing for two weeks that we didn't bring home everything we purchased.

The rest of the story goes like this: The manager on duty graciously listened to my tale of woe, and proceeded to enter each item number on my receipt into the computer - to find out if the missing shoes were in the store somewhere. And, when he got to the end of the list we discovered the shoes weren't on the receipt at all!
Apparently, in the hustle to get us through check-out and out of the store that fateful night, the shoes in question never got scanned, bagged, or paid for. And since a certain son of mine didn't care to care for his packages that night (or any time between then and the wedding...) the missing (never-purchased) shoes went completely unnoticed.
Probably got re-shelved the next morning. *exasperated sigh*

Annnnd, the moral of the story is, uh, two-fold, really.
1. Always check your bags.
2. Don't wait until the last minute to get your stuff together.

Karen

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

More Wedding Pictures

Because, honestly(!!!), I am just overwhelmed with things that need to get done.
Progress is being made, I promise, but the "stuff" keeps piling up. Tell me you understand.
The nice thing is, I keep finding more pictures to share - and if they delight your heart even a fraction of what they do mine, well, then I'll consider that a win. *smile*

Here's one of the entire new family.
The kiss.

A little celebration.

More celebration.

Even more celebration.

And a little fun on "Noah's Ark" playing Titanic.

Ahhhh, the joy of a love and a life centered on JESUS.

P.S. Speaking of marriages centered on Jesus - got any plans this weekend? A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to view a pre-release screening of the movie, Indivisible. It is such a good, GOOD show. And it is opening in theaters this weekend. I highly recommend you go and see it!

Karen

Monday, October 22, 2018

Wedding Pictures

I really do plan to return to regular posting. Some day.
But there have been extraneous circumstances, and, well, that's my excuse! *grin*

Until then, I do have a few pictures from the wedding to share:
The happy couple before it all began.

The wedding cake, made by one of Elizabeth's best friends. (Notice the topper? Elizabeth loves squirrels, and Phil loves corgis.)
They made a wall hanging mimicking the cake topper. Bought out all the sunflowers from dollar stores around Michigan, cut the heads off, "pressed" them with a hair dryer to flatten the petals, then hot-glued them into place on a great big piece of tulle.
This is where I started sobbing. Watching my baby girl dance with her daddy.
The song? Butterfly Kisses.
There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Including theirs.
Annnnd, the waterworks continued when Phil and his mother took the floor.
But I think this one says it best.
Indeed, I believe Happily Ever After is in store for these two.
Because of their love for each other - and their love for GOD, which comes before all things.

Karen

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Bridal Dance

Ahhhh, the wedding was beautiful on Saturday.
And as I stood (surprised!) watching my daughter and son-in-law performing their bridal dance, I just knew I needed to share it with you here. Enjoy!!!


Karen

Thursday, October 04, 2018

"T" Minus Nine Days

That's how long we have until the wedding.

Nine days.

Soooooo, Imma sign off from the blog-world now in order to preserve my sanity and see if I can help my dear daughter locate hers. I anticipate being back (WITH PICTURES) after the 15th.

Grace and peace to you!
Karen

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Another Thing

Monday I told you about the wonderful thing God did Saturday during the retreat at which I was speaking. But there was more.
He didn't wait until the second break-out session to show Himself to me.
Rather, it began almost the moment I walked through the door.
As I entered the building and began looking for a staff person who could show me to the room in which I'd be presenting, I couldn't help but notice the keynote speaker delivering her message in the main auditorium. Couldn't help myself, that is, because she was speaking loudly and very passionately. In fact, at times I would say she was nearly yelling, and though I couldn't see them - I imagined the women sitting on the edge of their seats as they were listening.
As I made my way into the break-out room, I caught myself comparing my delivery style to that of the weekend's keynote speaker. I was having thoughts like, Since I don't present myself that way, I must not be good enough. And, If I want to be a sought-after speaker, I need to be more like her.

Fortunately, God stepped in right away and put an end to that foolishness before it got out of hand.

HE reminded me of my unique creation, and convinced me of HIS wisdom in the way He made me.
At times like that one, God admonishes me to quit the comparison and choose to trust Him, instead.
And I know He speaks truth in those moments.
I know He made me to be me, not "her" - whoever she may be.
But, oh, it can be so difficult, ya know? Because I think sometimes our enemy wants nothing more than to distract us from what God has called us to do. And what better way to fluster us than to get us to fix our gaze on someone/something else?

Nevertheless, Saturday God called my attention back to Himself and His work, and He led me down the path of trust. It was almost as if I could hear His words echoing through my heart. Karen, I made her to be her. I gifted her with certain ablities and I gave her a unique disposition. If I wanted you to be like her, I could have done that. But I made you to be you. Right down to the silly way you laugh at corny jokes. Dear one, will you just trust Me, and be the you I created you to be?

Anyone else need to hear those words spoken to your heart???

Karen

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

When Boys Get New Clothes

So, I think you know we have a wedding coming up in the family pretty soon.
What you may not know is that neither one of my sons have clothing which even resembles something-nice-that-you'd-wear-to-your-SISTER's-wedding. Thus we have been talking about the need to go shopping someday to get my guys some new duds.
Annnnd, last Friday was that day. Matthew informed me his schedule was open, and I'd better take advantage of the opportunity while I had it. So, we got in the van and went to Penney's. (Because that's where Google told me to go and they were having a sale on men's suits.)
Finding the right stuff was an adventure but we succeeded. Then we found out at check-out that we could save an additional 45% if I opened a Penney's card.
OK, typically when these offers are made I politely decline - because I really don't need another credit card, and because the offer is usually for 10-15% off. But this offer was 45%.
FORTY-FIVE PERCENT!
And the deal-finder in me just couldn't say "no." So I didn't!
Oh, but it gets better. When we were finished, the cashier told me the 45% thing was good for 24 hours.
As in, I could bring Josh back and get him suited-up for huge savings, too.
And that's just what I did.
Oh, but it gets better, still.
Matthew came with us to pick out Josh's suit, and the two of them had quite a bit of fun together. Sometimes I just stood back and watched. And felt all the feels.
Then it came time to pick out their dress shoes, and one of my sons (who shall remain nameless) put on a hilarious show of "walking the carpet" - at which time I was having flashbacks of a similar thing he used to do at about age 5. Warmed my heart right there.
And thennnnnn, we got home and I found my boys enthusiastically telling their soon-to-be brother-in-law about their new clothes. The three of them started comparing notes and joking about making fashion statements and all the things.
And I? Stood back and watched again.
I fully enjoyed their camaraderie. I didn't mind the noise, rather, I reveled in it. My heart delighted in the friendship and fun I saw playing out before my eyes. And I thought, Who'd have figured new clothes could produce all this???

Karen

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

When "Tough Love" Works

I try to be a compassionate person, and a graceful listener.

I really do.

But sometimes I have to draw the line. *ahem*

What I mean is, sometimes - under specific circumstances - I won't listen.
Like yesterday, when one of my sons was bemoaning his work schedule and school schedule and how much stuff he has to get done.
The full story is this: His employer has been scheduling him to work more hours than he wants (and really more than he should be working with his class load) but as of Monday afternoon, he hadn't told the scheduler to lighten up. (Even though I told him in previous days he needed to speak up and let someone know that he didn't want to so many hours.)
He kept going to work, struggling to try to fit everything in.

So yesterday, our conversation went something like this:
Son: Lamenting a 30-hour work week, admitting that - no - he hasn't talked to the scheduler.
Me: You know - and I have this same deal with your dad - if there's something wrong, and you could do something to correct the situation - but you don't? I won't listen to complaining about it.
Son: Awwwww. Walks away (over)acting dejected.
Thirty minutes later...
Son: Passing quickly through the kitchen. Look at me! Going to work early to take care of my problem!!!
Me: Thankful he listened, even if it was behind a veiled threat. Yay, you!!!

Ah, yes. Sometimes my efforts to teach personal responsibility are successful. *happy sigh*

Karen

Monday, September 24, 2018

Friday, September 21, 2018

How Can We Get Out of this Mess?

OK. I am inviting you to think through something with me today.
Though my thoughts on it are plenty, I am not going to get political and begin a debate on the ups and downs of our current situation in the United States and the wider world. But my Bible study of Lamentations 4 has me pondering our present condition, and the Holy Spirit won't seem to let it rest - so I want to work through some questions here.
Because God often helps me see things more clearly when I write.
And maybe He has something for you, too.

My Precepts homework contained this question as I finished my study of Lamentations 4:

Now, what about you or your nation? Have you experienced the tragedy of sin? According to what you have learned today, how could such tragedy be avoided?
I mean, it didn't take long to answer those first questions. As I look around at the world in which I live I see evidence of the tragedy of sin everywhere.
Deception and lies.
Shootings and murders.
Oppression and slavery and despair and abuse and neglect.
Every day, with every news report, there's something more.
The thing is, I know this is not the world God intended. The life we're living is not what HE desires. And I find myself sympathetic to the writer of Lamentations as he bemoans the condition of his city - as he looks at what it has become, and mourns for what used to be.

Then there's that last question: How could such tragedy be avoided?
And the answer is not difficult to figure out. Because we see it over and over again in Jeremiah - before the destruction came of which the writer of Lamentations laments. God kept sending a message to the people: Repent or disaster is coming.
HE kept warning, and the people kept ignoring Him.
Then, behold, they were destroyed. But it wouldn't have happened if they had humbled themselves before the LORD and followed Him. It could have been avoided!
But that was Judah, thousands of years ago, right?
What has it to do with the world today???
Well, plenty - in my opinion.
I wrote in response to the Precepts question, We could avoid the tragedy if we would just humble ourselves and turn to God. Oh! That our hearts may become humble before Him!
Ah, but there is the part of me (the cynical part) which thinks, That'll never happen. I consider the path on which the United States is going, and I find no hope in the possibility of millions of people humbling their hearts and surrendering to God. (Much less the many who are in positions of power and seem to be leading the way in the mess.)
But then I wonder about Israel and Judah, and what things were like during the days of Jeremiah. I read of God's vow to devistate the land if the people did not listen and repent, and His promise to restore and give them new hearts. Hearts which would fear Him so they would never turn away again. And I think, If HE did it for them, maybe we are not a hopeless cause. Maybe the LORD will allow us to fall so far that we will have nothing left to do but humble ourselves and turn to Him.
Honestly, my heart breaks for the condition of our world - how we as a nation are behaving, how we are treating each other and ignoring God. And I think our trouble is about so much more than political parties and philosophical leanings. More than who's Right and who's Left.
As a woman who is passionate about God and about living for Him, I think the problem facing the United States today (And, yes, the rest of the world, too!) is our hard hearts and prideful attitudes. Our disdain for the ways of God, and our desire to do what feels right to us.
It may be too late for us to avoid the tragedy of sin, but perhaps we can be restored.
Perhaps.
If we, as a people, humble ourselves and submit to God and His Word.
And so, I pray. Will you join me?

Karen

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