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*


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.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018


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"?


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.


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.


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!!!


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.


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!!!


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!)


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!!!


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.


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.