Thursday, July 30, 2020

Praying for Unity

I recevied this text from a friend last night - who is a principal in a local school district:

Extra prayers head is aching from all the stress of planning back to school. My teachers are very upset, our parents are confused, the students are no longer at the center of decision making, and my admin team is divided.

Besides being concerned for my friend - because I love her and I know she's doing her best and it saddens me that she is going through this stress - I couldn't help but recognize the picture she had just painted of our world.

Upset, confused, forgotten, and divided.

That's a pretty good summary of life-as-we-know-it, don't you think?
Seems to me just about everyone who has the breath of life in them could find themselves in one of those four categories. So as I prayed for my friend - as I asked God to give her grace and fill her with wisdom for each moment and every decision, that He might bring forth unity among her colleagues and in the community - I also prayed for unity in this world.
And I continue to pray for unity today.
Because more and more these days I am seeing division. I see people who are passionate about a position, who have good intentions, who want to see things get better and the world become stronger, who care about people, and who have a good heart. And I see others who are the same in all aspects - except the position about which they are passionate - and the two clash.
Arguing, belittling, judging, anger, and serious division ensue.
And suddenly we find ourselves in a world where fighting is the norm, bewilderment abounds, compassion is missing, and everyone thinks anyone who doesn't agree with them is wrong.
How, I ask, are we going to make any progress in a world marked by these qualities?

I don't believe we will.
I believe the division will ultimately break us.
And so, I pray for unity.
I pray the God who created this world will speak to His creation and transform our hearts. I pray He will give us a vision of what it looks like to love one another, of how we can serve our brothers and sisters, and of how we can live in unity. Ultimately, I believe this miracle will only take place when each one of us humbles ourselves, recognizes our need for God, and submits fully to Him.
Ah, LORD God, will You use the pain of our present circumstances to bring us to a place of repentance, that we might turn away from our own devices and seek YOU instead?

These longings in my heart for us to seek God and become united are echoed in a movement among many Christian brothers and sisters. If you have not yet heard about The Return, I encourage you to visit their website to learn more and to begin praying.


Thursday, June 18, 2020

HE Listens

So, my van died last Sunday.
Which meant Brian and I were quickly looking for a vehicle to replace it. And this activity made me a bit uncomfortable, because 1) we weren't planning on getting a new vehicle (I mean, we've talked about it randomly over the past several months. But it still felt like a sudden and unexpected purchase.) and 2) I don't like spending large amounts of money. We scoured websites, and debated the pros and cons of various options. And through it all I felt quite unsettled about being able to make the best choice.
Nonetheless, Brian came across a van which seemed like it may be a good fit for us. And we made plans to go for a test drive Tuesday afternoon.
So Tuesday morning I prayed, and I asked God to close the door if this one wouldn't be a good one for us. I asked Him to lead us to the best decision. And I believed He would.
We were in a bit of an anxious rush Tuesday afternoon trying to fit too many things into too little time, and Brian drove right past the exit we were supposed to take. Then we came to the exit we thought would be a good substitute, only to realize as we were on it that it was not the one we thought. Oh, it was marked with the right numbers, but it was a detour and did not put us where we thought we were going. So we found ourselves in a sort-of-familiar-place and figured out where we needed to go. But as we were going there we discovered that the road was closed, traffic was re-routed, and going was slow. (All of this happening while we're under the pressure of getting through with the test drive and back home in time for Brian to participate in a video meeting for work.)
My mind went back to the prayer I had prayed, and I asked, God, are You closing this door? Are these delays and detours Your doing? Are You leading us in this moment away from buying this vehicle? (Because, yeah, sometimes it takes me a few minutes to recognize the obvious things HE puts in front of me.)
So when we finally made it to the place where this van was, I had already made up my mind that this was not the one for us. And after inspecting and driving it, Brian came to the same conclusion. Which was a good thing, except now we had no leads on a vehicle.
Then came Tuesday night, and my participation in a prayer meeting on Zoom. As everyone was gathering and the host asked how we were all doing I let out a heavy sigh, which led to a brief explanation of our dead van and the search for a replacement. During the last portion of the prayer meeting I was asked to pray about my need for a van, then someone else would pray for my need and present a request of their own. And on it would go - each person praying for the need of the person who had just prayed, then voicing their own prayer which would be prayed for again by the next person. It almost caught me off guard when the organizer said, "Karen, will you begin by praying about your van need?" but I was happy to oblige. So we prayed for God's provision of a vehicle.
And here's where it gets really good.
Because another thing happened Tuesday night.
An individual about 20 minutes away from us posted his van for sale. The very make and model Brian was most interested in us getting. And Brian found that listing.
Yesterday morning Brian contacted the would-be seller and made an appointment for us to take a test drive. And I continued praying that God would lead us to make a wise decision.
We got to the seller's house and he tossed us the keys to the van and as we got in Brian said, "Hey, 242!" There was a sticker in the back window which indicated to us that the seller most likely attended a church with which we are familiar, and somehow that increased my confidence that we could trust him. Not that going to a particular church makes a person a "good" person, but it felt like a nudge from God that this was a good thing. Everything about the van checked out, we had a good conversation with the seller, and later in the day Brian talked to him again and made a purchase agreement.
That van now sits in my garage.

The thing is, I know God is so much more than a van-provider.
There are bigger and more pressing needs in this world than how I am going to get from point A to point B on any given day. I get that!
But I was delighted by how clearly God lead us in this buying decision over the past couple of days. As I looked with hind-sight (and as He continues to show Himself in various details) it was so obvious to me that God was listening and leading. And I thought, maybe somebody else needs to be encouraged to pray - trusting and believing that God hears and acts.

If that someone is you, I pray you will boldly approach His throne of grace today!


Friday, June 12, 2020

Just Like That

Some 21 months ago a young boy was removed from his home.
Roughly three months ago my husband and I became involved in his case as foster parents.
And many of the moments in the course of those three months have been filled with conversation, anticipation, skepticism, and angst regarding the ambiguous future. The wondering when he would ever get to be with his parents again.
Hearts broke over the separation. The wait. The unknown.
Explanations didn't statisfy.
Reasoning wasn't adequate.
And prayers often felt empty for this little boy.
Then the day came.
We had crossed boxes off the calendar counting down to court day. The hearing was held, the judge made a ruling, support services were secured, and the caseworker gave the go-ahead.
And within an hour a little boy's life turned upside down again. (This time, with a lot of Yaba-daba-doooooooo expressions.) He bid farewell to the friends he had on XBox Live. He gave hugs and said good-bye to our family. He grabbed his bags, and just like that - he walked out of our world.
To go home. Where his heart longed to be.

Yeah. That experience was so prolonged, and then it happened so fast.
And in many ways, the future is still uncertain.
What will our relationship with Foster's family be like? Will there be one at all???
When will we have our next foster child? What will that relationship look like?
How will my heart handle the coming and going of these children?
What else is going to change in my life?
Ahhhh, so many questions. And I do not have the answers at this moment.
But I do have faith.
I know that God knows. Just as HE knew Foster would go home yesterday.
And I am choosing to trust HIM with every bit of the unknown.
Just like that.


Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Like the Lily

I walked out to get the mail yesterday and saw this:

I leaned in closer, and saw this:

And I seriously almost started crying.
Not because I was angry at the deer or rabbit or other critter which so greedily ate my lilies to the ground. (Though I was.)
Not because I was upset that the pest repellant I purchased seemed to have failed.
(Though I was.)
Not because I am still bitter about the critter who ate my flowers last year.
(Though I am.)
Rather, I almost started crying because my heart felt just like that obliterated lily.

That is, prior to going out to check the mail I spent much of the morning feeling defeated.
I wrestled with concerns for a little boy whose future is uncertain. I battled with the desire to express compassion in the face of angry outbursts. Because, honestly, when animosity is coming at me - kindness isn't my first thought. I contended with choices between what to allow and what to limit. *read that: how much screen time is too much screen time* And I fought with urges to find a way to become all-powerful and just make everything all-right.
I felt like I was failing at every turn, and looking at those lilies with a sense of I'll-always-lose-to-those-nasty-critters-so-I-should-just-give-up had me feeling the same way about the struggles I'm trying to work through with Foster.
So I looked at the would-be flowers, and I wanted to cry.
Thankfully, God led me into the living room moments later (Which has become my husband's work-from-home base.) and coaxed me to be honest about my heart condition.
Brian suggested I take time and go for a bike ride.
So I did.
And as I pedaled I prayed. I poured out my heart to God and begged Him for wisdom. I told Him everything I was feeling and I asked Him to be my Help. It was so good to expel physical energy while simultaneously putting voice to the needs of my heart. I went a longer route than originally planned, but I think that may have been God's leading - HIM knowing I was gonna need more than "a few minutes".
By the time I parked the bike back in the garage I felt peacefully certain that God is good and is still in perfect control of the world.
Then I remembered that a couple of days ago Matthew came to me with deep apologies for getting too close to my flowers with the weed wacker. I realized it wasn't a critter who destroyed that little patch of lilies after all. The pest repellant may, in fact, be working. And the rest of my flowers are probably not in danger of being wiped out. Because my son was solemnly sorry for his mistake, and I am sure he'll be more careful in the future.

Monday, May 25, 2020

From the Heart of a 10-year-old

So, I learned something last week.
I learned that even though grown-ups have good intentions, sometimes their words may be empty, meaningless, and even hurtful.
The fuller story is this: Foster was having a really rough day. He is missing his parents, he is frustrated with a broken system, and the delays and shut-downs caused by the Corona virus are making it worse. So, on this particular day he was angry. And he was being very vocal about it.
At first I was just listening. Trying simply to be attentive and to let him express his feelings. But then he said something which made a light bulb go off within me, and I was taken aback by the profundity of what he communicated.

Foster complained, "DHHS tells me to be a happy kid. Just enjoy being a kid. Don't worry about things. Just be happy. How am I supposed to be happy when I'm the only kid who isn't with their parents?????"
This young boy, though he was unaware of what he said, nailed every well-meaning adult who has ever told him not to worry about all the adult-things which need to take place in order for him to be reunited with his parents. It is so easy for us as adults - who have tons more maturity and life experience than a 10-year-old foster child - to encourage said child to leave the concerns to the adults; to keep living as a care-free child, doing only the things a child needs to do.
I mean, it makes sense!
Leave the details to the adults. They'll handle everything.
Just be happy, and enjoy being a kid.
We, as adults, probably all wish we would have followed that advice as children.
The problem is, a child who isn't with his parents - who can't even visit them face-to-face because of a stupid virus (his words) - isn't happy. He isn't carefree. Even though he is surrounded by many adults who love him and are trying to care for him, he is not content.
And I realized as I listened to Foster repeat this refrain several times, when we tell a child like him not to worry - rather just be happy, we are completely invalidating their feelings. We're basically telling them, "There is no need for you to be sad about your situation. Stop feeling that way. Instead, pretend that your life is good. Live as though we have worked through the issues and you're back where your heart wants to be. Just act like everything is OK, even though it isn't."
Oh, I know, we would never think of saying those words outright.
How insensitive is that???
But it's what we imply when we tell a child to assume our level of experience and maturity, and to look at the circumstance through our eyes.
It may be true that a foster-child cannot affect his situation by worrying about it. That the adults are truly the ones with the responsibility, ability, and obligation to fulfill the duties. But a child doesn't have that understanding, and asking him to operate as though he does is simply not fair.

Yeah. So that's what I learned through my foster son's expression of anger and frustration. People (adults and children, alike) need to have their feelings validated, because they're real. Not saying we should live based on our feelings, mind you, but we need to be allowed to feel and express them - and we need to know somebody cares. I pray God will give me the grace to remember this reality whenever I am about to tell Foster (and all future children He brings into my home) not to worry.
Ahhhh, LORD, please make my heart sensitive to the hurts and needs and feelings of these precious children who You love so much. Please make me an instrument of love and peace for them!


Monday, May 18, 2020

Maybe God Sees COVID-19 Differently

I watched a bit of my governor's COVID-19 Update from last Friday, and it got me to thinking.
Governor Whitmer invited some religious leaders to attend the daily conference to "offer prayers for unity" and something one of them said made me wonder if God might be looking at this situation differently than we are.
He prayed, "We know You do not wish this terrible evil upon us...We know that You encourage the efforts of our brilliant researchers in looking for treatments for the symptoms and a vaccine for the virus." And somehow, claiming to KNOW those things just didn't sit right with me.
Because, to me, the implication of knowing that God does not wish for us to be in this circumstance and knowing that He is rooting for smart people to come up with a solution is that God is neither powerful nor in control. Or, maybe He is powerful and in control, but uninterested in helping us - opting, instead, to "encourage" scientists to find a solution to our problem.
So, maybe He's weak.
Or maybe He's withdrawn.
Or maybe we need to look at our present circumstance in a different light.
What if the God of the universe - the Creator of the world and everything in it - what if He, Himself, could put an end to COVID-19 in the blink of an eye just by willing it to be gone? What if He doesn't need anybody to come up with a vaccine or treatments or any other thing? What if He isn't looking for us to rely on ourselves and new normals and safe practices and mitigations and all those other buzz-words we're throwing around these days? What if God in His holiness and wisdom and perfect authority has allowed COVID-19 to become a pandemic among us (not necessarily a "terrible evil upon us") so that we would be brought to our knees in recognition of the fact that we can't rely on ourselves? What if He has allowed a tiny virus to devastate us - to strip away our confidence in our selves and our things - so that we would surrender our wills and our lives to an almighty God who is the only One worthy of our trust?
What if God is more concerned about our hearts and our relationship with Himself than He is in bringing an end to COVID-19?
What if COVID-19 is a tool He intends to use to bring the world to Himself?

I mean, maybe I'm way off in my wondering, but I believe God is good and powerful and in control.
And if He didn't wish for us to be going through what we're going through I believe He would end it here and now.
But He hasn't.
Instead, He's allowing it. And I think we would be wise to seek to understand why, and to respond obediently in accordance to His ways.


Monday, May 11, 2020

I Have the Best Kids EVER!!!

My children absolutely BLESSED MY HEART yesterday.
Even though we're apart, and life isn't what we all wish it would be right now they "got together" and made this video.
Seriously, y'all. This act of love has my heart bursting with JOY.


Monday, April 27, 2020

HE Will Complete It

Have you got a few more minutes to be blessed?
Click on over to Youtube to listen to He Who Began a Good Work in You.
Just close your eyes and allow God to lift your heart.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

They Don't Know

This morning I had a few minutes of quiet.
I sat in the presence of God and just enjoyed being silent. Ahhhhhh.
And in the midst of the peaceful moment I heard, uh, something.
I am not going to call it noise, since that word usually has a negative association.
What I heard was delightful.
I heard birds singing. They were chirping and carrying on as if they had not a care in the world. The sound was sweet to my ears, and I quickly discovered it was also sweet to my heart. So I sat in the silence and I enjoyed the birds' song. As I listened, however, I thought, They must not know.
The birds were singing so joyfully, I realized they must not know the current status of the world.
Clearly, they don't know everyone is stuck at home - discouraged by the known, and fearful of the unknown. They must be unaware that most of the world is feeling a sense of despair because of sickness and uncertainty, and being told to shelter-in-place, and staring at the same walls and people day after day.
Indeed, the birds were singing so sweetly, there was no way they could have known.
Then I glanced out the window and I realized the flowers don't know, either.
They stood so lovely and full of color. They didn't look at all like the grey sky above, nor did they act as if they were disappointed with staying in the same place
They just sat there, all beautiful and stuff, and brought joy to my heart.
And in that moment it was as if God said to me, You're right, darling. They don't know. They aren't bothered by any of it. Because I am taking care of them, providing everything they need. And do you know what, dear one? Just as I am tending to the birds and the flowers, I will always care for you. Fear not, My child, I am with you.
So I am choosing today to be a little more like the birds and flowers.
Although I do know, and even though my feelings of being overwhelmed and discouraged are very real at times, the faithfulness of God is more real. And because of HIM, I am not going to fear. I will live today trusting God and not worrying about tomorrow.
Ahhhh, I am so thankful they don't know - so I could learn.


Monday, April 20, 2020

I Surrender

I am in a season which I truly didn't see coming.
Actually, I guess we probably all share that sentiment right about now.
As I am trying to understand what God is doing - how HE is shaping my life and refining my character, and as I seek to be obedient to His work (and try not to cry and whine about how difficult it gets sometimes...) I am facing the reality that my posts here will be irregular, and maybe sparse at times.
(Such a hard thing for a Type-A personality like mine!)
I find great joy in writing posts on my blog. It delights me that God often takes the things through which I am going and about which I write and blesses others. I love being used by Him here!
But the truth is, sometimes I get too caught up in thinking about blogging. Even though writing posts and encouraging people is a good thing, there are occasions when I need to step back. And now seems to be one of those times. Not sure if God is doing it to ease my stress at the moment, or to humble me. To remind me that I have limits, and that the world will - in fact - carry on quite adequately, even without my two cents' worth.
Whatever His purpose, I am trusting it is good. And I am choosing to submit to it.

So, until the next post, may you keep your eyes fixed upon HIM - and may your heart remain faithfully surrendered.


Thursday, April 16, 2020

In Make-Believe

I took a walk yesterday. Sort of.
That is, I suggested to Foster that we go for a walk to get some fresh air and I put on my shoes and coat and hat and gloves. But seconds after we were out of the house, it wasn't really "me" who was going on the walk. Foster quickly asked me to become "her."
That is, Queen Elizabeth.
I'm pretty sure Foster likes me well enough, but every time we go for a walk he asks me to bring her out. And every time, he becomes somebody else, too. I have, I mean, Queen Elizabeth has walked with Batman, Spiderman, Super Foster, and even the Joker.
But yesterday I, I mean, she met somebody new.
It was quite an interesting experience, as the queen learned about the life of an anti-hero (and the definition of such). And as she listened to his adventures which included escaping from televisions to enter new dimensions, as well as his angst with being put into silly children's movies when someone gave him a bad rating in his own movies. Deadpool spoke of "them" making him play roles he didn't want to play, and wear costumes of which he was not fond. Sometimes he even looked up - to make contact with the "them" on the other side - and complained about the nonesense they were asking him to do.
Fortunately, by the time the walk ended "they" had returned Deadpool's chip and agreed to let him act in the movies with which he was pleased. And all was good in the (make-believe) world.

That's pretty much the way our walks go.
I, as the queen, am surprised by the appearance of one hero or another (or villan, or anti-hero...) and proceed to spend the next 20 minutes or so listening to his story and seeking to solve whatever problem he is facing on that day.
If I was a licensed professional psychologist I might be able to analyze and treat the real behind the pretend. Maybe.
But I am not.
And I cannot.
I'm just a foster mom seeking to love a foster son, and to point him to Hope in the process.
And I think that's enough.
For real.

How's your story today? Do you need Someone to help you with your real?


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Delivering Hope Through Cyber Space

Four months ago I recorded this poscast with a friend.
And for some reason, God caused her to hold on to it until now.
I listened to it last night and was so encouraged to remember God's faithfulness in the midst of strife. So for each of you who is struggling today - whether it's due to the children in your home, or some other source - I want to offer you now 43 minutes of hope.
Praying God will speak to your heart through this podcast.


Monday, April 13, 2020

Friday, April 10, 2020

Be Still and Hold Fast

I cannot count the number of different emotions, outlooks, concerns, attitudes, and perspectives I have experienced this week. (It's kind of been like the weather of late. Just took a walk and went from cool breeze to snow er, no, it's sleet to light drizzle to sunshine in one trip around the block.)
Anyway, it has been a week full of struggles and small victories. Of contending with negative thoughts and listening to the Voice of Truth.
I have learned more fully that I need to become less, so HE may become greater.
I have been constantly reminded that in my weakness HIS strength is more than enough.
My battle weary heart has longed for renewal from the One who possesses the victory.

In the midst of all that - and by the grace of God - I found time to study hope in His Word.
And His Spirit used the lessons, study conversations, and tender moments of worship to convince my spirit of this: I simply need to be still and hold fast.
Be still. Cease talking, arguing, justifying, whining, or trying to convince HIM that I know how things should go. A.k.a. Trust that God knows what He is doing.
Hold fast. Cling to, depend on, embrace, safegaurd, and preserve the truth that God in His Son has brought salvation to the world. Including me. And nothing - no trial, frustration, disappointment, battle, or interference - can pluck me from His hand.
Therein is my hope: The sovereign God of the universe has me in the palm of His hand for eternity.

Do you know this hope, too???


Monday, April 06, 2020

Friday, April 03, 2020

It's My Pleasure

Have you ever heard of people going through a drive-thru and paying for the person behind them?
It is a kind gesture, and I've experienced it occasionally when I'm working.
But this week people seem to be upping the good will.
That is, I worked Wednesday and Thursday and both days I had somebody say, "I'd like to pay for the person behind me." Both times, the person behind had a fairly sizeable order (That's how it's going lately. One person making a food-run for a larger group.) but the person gifting the meal didn't mind. Their generosity wasn't deterred.
And, can I tell you? That one act of kindness brings so much joy!
Obviously, the person receiving the free meal(s) is pleased. I mean, really. If I was allowed to have my phone with me and record their reactions, I would share them with you. But I can't. So you'll need to trust me when I say their eyes light up, and they share expressions of wonder and why-am-I-so-lucky? I relish the moment when I say, "The person in front of you paid for your order," just so I can take in the looks of surprise and delight which I know will be gracing their faces.
And that's where another aspect of the joy comes into the picture. Of course there is joy for the recipient, but there is also great happiness for the employees inside. The one passing along the good news, and the rest of the crew who witnesses the benevolence. Honestly, each time somebody pays for the person next in line I hear whispers and comments behind me from employees who are eager to share the news with one another. It gets especially fun when the gift gets passed along down the line.

All that to say, it isn't terribly uncommon for acts such as this to be done around the holidays - when people naturally tend to reach out with kindness. But our present season is quite different.
World-wide sickness, quarantine, and social distancing are hardly a recipe for celebration, yet it's what I see happening more and more.
Times are hard, but hearts are soft. We're in this together.
And together - even if it's at least 6 feet apart - we're going to make it.


Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Ummmm, WHY?

I saw something yesterday I've never seen before.
I mean, I have seen them, but not in the context in which they appeared yesterday.
That is, I saw tears. Running down Foster's cheeks.
And, until that moment, I had never seen him cry.
But yesterday some feelings came up for Foster and the only way he could express them was to cry. He tried to put words to the emotions inside of him, and with prompting he was able to get some of it out.
In the end, however, tears were the best way. So I gave him tissues and sat by his side, trying to assure him it was OK to cry.
As I sat there, I was also praying - begging God to give me grace and wisdom to lead this little boy through the feelings he was having. Asking Him to heal the circumstances. Wondering WHY He was allowing this sweet little boy to live in these circumstances.
Actually, I've found myself wondering, WHY?, with an increasing frequency in recent days.
There's the circumstance we expected to play out smoothly - because it has been done hundreds of times before. We can think of no (earthly) reason for all the delays and hurdles which have caused frustration along the way. And certainly, no one expected the HALT which just forced itself into the works.
I'm witnessing various individuals go through trials with work scenarios, family relationships, personal battles, and physical challenges. Not to mention the economic and health-related adversities so much of the world is facing right now in the face of COVID-19.

One of those individuals simply said, "I'm stuggling with my faith."
And my first reaction in each of these moments is to wonder, WHY?
Why, God? Why have You allowed all this...stuff? Why not just wave Your loving hand over the earth and make it all better? Why must we struggle, God? WHY???
Then His Spirit reminds me of the Truth.
He brings scripture to mind, like Proverbs 3:5-6.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
He causes me to remember Job and Joseph and David and Daniel and other biblical heroes who faced trials - whose faith was tested and proved - who emerged more resolute on the other side.
I remember episodes of God's faithfulness in my own life.
He speaks to my heart to remind me of the times His plan didn't make sense to me - when I questioned His actions, because I couldn't discern His ways. Until He had brought me to the other side of the struggle and I was able to benefit from hindsight.
Indeed, in the middle of my WHY? God brings me to a place of rememberance.
Of recognizing who HE is: faithful, and good, and unchanging.
Then before I know it, my heart is aching to trust the One who is trustworthy. Though my mind cannot explain the reasons WHY?, my soul experiences the peace which surpasses understanding because my spirit knows: just as HE was faithful in the past, so HE is today, and will also be tomorrow.
Thus, I choose to dismiss my questions. And I abandon myself to trusting God.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

~Isaiah 55:8-9


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Day I Became a Queen

Last Friday I came home from work and - after I changed out of my uniform - I asked Foster (that's what I'm going to call our foster son in my blog posts) if he wanted to go on a walk with me. It was a nice day and I thought he would enjoy getting outside. So we put on our shoes and coats and started out on an adventure.
I thought it would be fun to walk over to the elementary school where my boys used to attend, and spend some time on the playground. And as we walked we talked about all sorts of things. (Mostly Batman, though, if I recall correctly. Because Foster loves Batman. And somehow every conversation seems to come back to the Dark Knight.)

When we arrived at the playground we went to the swings. We needed to sit and rest a minute because of the running we'd just done. Then we tried out the balance beam and monkey bars. And I totally impressed Foster with my ability to climb up a tall pole. (I was kinda impressed, myself. Because I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it!) Finally, we made our way over to a structure with slides and ladders and bridges and stuff.
It was on this structure that I became a queen.
Foster introduced the idea of pretending the structure was a castle and I, its queen. And he took on the roles of knight, squire, and king. I enjoyed watching him quickly transform from one character to another, and particularly delighted in the moment when he - as king - took me to a ball. We waltzed around the grass and I showed him how to spin me under his arm. He was quite pleased with his ability to dance. (Not sure kings and queens perform the Mexican Hat Dance at royal balls, but I showed him how to do that, too!)
With the final *clap* *clap*, however, things in the kingdom took a turn for the worse.
Somebody invaded the castle and we had to flee.
Fortunately, there was another structure on the playground which was able to serve as an alternate castle. So we ran to it.
UNfortunately, the villans attacking the first castle saw us running and chased us.
Double-fortunately, the playground had a third structure which could act as our castle.
So we ran to that one.
Double-UNfortunately, the villans chased us as we fled to that one, too.
In a last-ditch effort to escape the villans, we ran to the first castle.
And super-duper-fortunately, when we got back to the first castle Foster turned into SpiderMan!!!
At that point, I thought all our problems had ended. But I was wrong. Something very strange happened to SpiderMan and he began to turn on the queen. He accused me of doing nothing but wearing fancy dresses and going to balls. *gasp!*
So I reminded him (in the slightly annoying, quasi-British-a-little-bit-Scottish accent of the queen) that's what queens do. It went something like this: Pardon me, sir, but all you do is run around fighting villans. Because you're a super-hero, and that's what super-heros do. Well, I am a queen. And we wear fancy dresses and go to balls!
The next thing I knew, Spidey made his famous hand gesture and shot a web right at my face.
He webbed my mouth shut!
I continued protesting his behavior, but this time it went a little more like this: Mmmmm, mmmm. Mmm! MMMMM! And for the next several minutes we went back and forth between the queen getting webbed in place so SpiderMan could paint the castle blue and red, and Spidey cutting off the mouth web so she could speak - only to web it again when he wanted her to be quiet.
It was quite a hilarious scene.
But then it was time to go home so I could begin making dinner.
As we walked, Foster and I continued our role-play - and my enjoyment carried on with us. It was so much fun to see his imagination at work as he added to the story. I fully delighted in playing along. When we were almost home, Spidey pulled out his (imaginary) cell phone and started texting someone. I (the queen) asked for the indentity of the person with whom he was speaking and got super, SUPER excited when he told me it was Elsa! He texted a message to convey how much I admired her singing and how pleased I was to have a personal interaction with her. I then learned that SpiderMan and Elsa are in love, and are probably going to get married. It was such an exciting discovery.
But I was sworn to secrecy.
No one must know of this love affair.
At first I was disappointed that I couldn't tell anyone. Then I remembered it was all make-believe. SpiderMan and Elsa don't even know each other.
But later that evening I came across this picture - and I wondered if Foster's story just might be true!


Friday, March 27, 2020

It's My Pleasure

When we recieved orders Monday to shelter in place, I figured that meant no more Chick-fil-A until further notice.
But then the email arrived from the boss which confirmed: we are considered "critical infrastructure" by the state. I thought, How cool? We're essential! And as I shared that thought with a guest in the drive-thru Wednesday, she agreed. "You're essential to my family. That's for sure!"
Oh, things are different.
The dining room is closed and interactions with guests are shorter and more distant. (Of couse!)
But we're doing what we can to continue touching lives and lifting hearts.

And, truly, I love seeing that same spirit all over the world right now.
Men and women sacrificially serving on the front lines - in hospitals, stores, and other industries.
People reaching out (virtually via the internet, with drop and run episodes, and otherwise).
Groups coming together to support one another with platforms like Zoom and Facebook.
People praying, and sharing encouraging words.
I especially love a picture I saw recently of young girls in Africa placing their hands on a map of the world - praying for all of us.
What I mean is, we're all essential.
Every single one of us.
In whatever way we're called to serve in this season.

I'll be at Chick-fil-A for a good portion of the day today, donning rubber gloves and keeping my distance as I do my best to share encouragement within each interaction. Wherever you find yourself as the day goes on, may you find delight in the essential things HE lays before you.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Peace in the Midst of It

Oh, how quickly things can change.

Monday I was at the grocery store getting, uh, groceries. I pulled my phone out of my purse while I was standing in the check-out lane and saw a message asking me to "call when you have a minute." Figuring I had at least a minute until it would be time for me to put my items on the belt, I made the call.
Which is when I learned that our governor had just issued a shelter-in-place order for Michigan.
Which meant we had a decision to make about our house guest.
That is, Brian and I are in the process of becoming foster parents and are presently hosting a boy who needs a new foster family. He's been transitioning on a few-days-at-a-time basis so he could get used to us, but the governor's order necessitated that this boy either go back - or stay - for the next 15 days.
Our hearts were blessed tremendously by his enthusiastic deisre to stay.
But that meant - within a matter of an hour - I went from "able-to-come-and-go-as-I-please" (albeit cautiously, finitely, and less often than I typically would) to "shelter-in-place."
With a young boy (who is adorable, but also very needy).
For the next two weeks.
(Or more, as additional decisions and proclamations are made.)
And can I just say? The past 36 hours have been a perfect mix of moments-more-precious-than-I-could-have-hoped, and oh-boy-this-is-gonna-test-my-limits.

As I've thought about it, I imagine I am not the only one who is feeling this way. I trust that all of us who are facing by-the-minute changes are experiencing a wide array of thoughts and feelings. Some which delight, and others not so much. So in the midst of it, may I encourage you to cling to the promise found in Philippians 4:6-7?

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Because I am convinced: The only way I am going to survive the endless wave of changes, the constant flow of questions, the perpetual need for reassurance, the plethora of the-world-is-coming-to-an-end news stories, and the continual requests for help (not to mention trying to counsel and comfort feelings a little boy shouldn't have to experience) is by laying it all at HIS feet and trusting HIM to help.
I know that God is faithful. And when I trust in Him, I know His peace will guard me.
What a blessed assurance I have in HIM.
I pray the same for you, my friend.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Friday, March 20, 2020

It's My Pleasure

My joy in working at Chick-fil-A comes not only from the work, the guests, and the atmosphere.
It also comes from the man for whom I work.
His name is Nick, and I admire him for so many reasons.
Besides his kindnesses which I love seeing during the good days, our current crisis situation is highlighting the goodness of his heart.
Tuesday I received an email from Mr. Nick which was sent out to all employees. In addition to being a message to inform us about matters of business and to remind us about health policy guidelines, it was an encouragement to make a difference in our Chick-fil-A world. He wrote, "I also wanted to remind you that now more than ever we have the opportunity to make days better for our guests and community. We get to be a bit of “NORMAL” in a very abnormal world right now... Let’s be the KINDEST most CARING that we can be today."
I read that statement and I thought, Yes. Thanks, Mr. Nick, for pointing us to what we can do to bring a bit of peace to the people in our world.
And my positive impression of him was reinforced.
But it was the short survey the email asked us to complete which nearly brought me to tears.
The first question asked how many hours we need to work in order to meet our financial obligations. It included options to give up some of our shifts in order for someone else to get the hours they need. There was an open ended question giving us the opportunity to let Mr. Nick know anything we want to share with him about our financial situation. And the final question asked if we have any needs (food, clothing, household items) which Mr. Nick and CfA management could seek to help us meet.
As I answered the survey questions the thing which stuck out to me was Mr. Nick's care and concern for his employees. While he is facing the very real possiblity that his business is going to take a serious hit, he is thinking about us. Rather than a nicely worded message expressing the sad reality that we're facing a hard time and he wishes there was something he could do, but... He reminded us that we're all in this together. He gave us the opportunity to sacrifice for one another, and he offered to help us in our need. This man embodies the love of our Savior.
And I am honored to work for him.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Corona Thoughts

I was on the schedule to teach the lesson at chapel tonight at the women's mission.
But "In light of the growing concerns of the spread of COVID-19" chapel services have been cancelled until further notice, so that close contact within group settings may be limited.

On the fourth Sunday of the month I always go to a local assisted living facility to lead a church service.
But they "aren't having any visitors, Bible study, church or live music at this time."

I was scheduled to speak for a MOPS group on April 1.
But "Following guidance from the governor, the Macomb County Health Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services...we are canceling all of our MOPS meetings due to the potential spread of Coronavirus."

I know I am not the only one affected by numerous cancellations and changes in plans.
We're all in this together.
I also know it is easy to become disappointed, disturbed, and even angered by the elimination of so many things which we feel we need, require, must have, and can't live without. While I have been dealing with my own feelings of letdown, however, I have also been gifted by God with hope. In the midst of the frustration, HE has been speaking faith.
That is, His Spirit is beckoning mine to wonder things like, What if this virus isn't actually going to be the end of us? What if God has plans, rather, to use the entire situation for our good???
To be honest, I do have sincere concerns beyond the virus, itself. I mean, what is going to happen to our economy? I look at everything closing down, people not working yet still needing to earn money because they're still living - and living costs money - and I wonder, How are we going to make it? I think of my boss at Chick-fil-A, and business owners like him, and I wonder how deep of an economic impact these closings are going to have on them.
Even things like the movies.
I just saw "I Still Believe" (Which is really good, by the way. Really, REALLY good! As in, you should go see it when we're finsihed with this whole social distancing thing and the movie theaters open back up.) and I think, Man, what a bummer. The timing of that release and this pandemic. And I wonder what the economic impact will be for the movie makers.
Yet, in the middle of my questioning there HE is lifting my head, causing me to ponder a different thought. It's like He's asking me, Karen, dear, do you believe I am still on My throne? Do you trust Me? Do you have faith that I am in control and that I can take this circumstance - which the world sees as a tragedy - and use it for the good of mankind and the glory of the Godhead? Do you, dear one? Do you? Because I am. And I can. I will.
So with HIS assurance, with confidence that my Father can be trusted, my heart has begun to beat with a different rhythm. I am still asking Him to bring an end to the spread of the Coronavirus. I will continue to pray for healing of the sick and peace for the frightened. My petition remains that He would halt the devastation. But I am surrendering to the reality that there may be something good which HE will work from this trouble. I am believing God may use the pain of loss, the fear of uncertainty, even the discomfort of scarcity to humble us and draw us closer to Himself. Indeed, that is my hope and prayer.
Father, even though I cannot see and I do not understand, please use this earthly struggle for Your kingdom purpose. Work in us that which is pleasing to You!


Monday, March 16, 2020

Friday, March 13, 2020

It's My Pleasure

What do you call it when you're at work and - for three straight hours - you don't get a chance to take an iota of a break to catch your breath, or grab a drink, or stretch your back, or anything but serve the individuals who keep coming to you for help?
Well, I don't know about you, but I'm calling it the best day ever!
Seriously, that is exactly what happened one week ago, today. Some of it had to do with a convention of sorts happening with the Future Farmers of America (who apparently really love Chick-fil-A), and the rest was a bunch of other people who wanted some yummy chicken for lunch. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that from approximately 11:00 until 2:00 we had a line of people that went out the door. (I don't even know how long the line was in the drive-thru.) And it wasn't in waves.
It was solid.
For three hours.
And it was!
There is just something about being in the middle of a big "thing" which draws people together. Everyone was surprised by the crowd (employees and patrons, alike) and it gave us something to talk about - a topic over which to make a connection. I often joked as I greeted the next guest, "Welcome to our zoo!" I got to inform the non-Future Farmers of America folks that there was something big happening at MSU with FFA. But more than anything, I was enjoying the camaraderie I saw blossoming around me.
From guests who wondered amongst themselves (but loud enough for me to hear at times) "Why are so many people here today?" - to co-workers who looked as though they were performing a choreographed dance as they poured drinks and delivered trays and met various other needs - to managers who swiftly solved problems and re-stocked supplies and jumped in to help out wherever they could - to the guest who said to me, "You all are doing a great job. Nobody is anxious, just calm. It's so nice to see that!" - I felt as though I was in the middle of the best day ever.

But today, I anticipate it will be different.
That is, the coronavirus has come to town. And while that may mean the drive-thru will be busier, I am not anticipating big crowds inside. Nevertheless, I am planning to have another best-day-ever.
Because I am trusting God has a connection or two for me to make - someone(s) who needs the kindness of Jesus given to them, maybe encouragement in the midst of the current scare. And regardless how many people are waiting in line I'm going to be there, ready and eager to serve.
Ahhhhh, I love my job!


Thursday, March 12, 2020

Another Hidden Treasure

So, I had occassion to clean out another closet, and in the process I found another hidden treasure.
That is, we are expecting a special someone to come and abide in our guest room - so I thought it a good idea to find other homes for the things which have been hanging out in the closet. (Pun totally intended!) Among those "things" were remnents from my grandmother's belongings, and folded between the pages of her 1984 Farmer's Almanac, I found this piece of history from the October 4, 1988 edition of the Grand Ledge Independent newspaper:

Love that 80's hair? *wink*
You may strain your eyes if you wish and read the article, but I have transposed it below for simplicity sake.
Annnnd, it won't hurt my feelings if you don't care to read the whole thing. For me, it was fun (and kind of funny, and eye-opening) to wander down memory lane for just a minute.
But mostly, it confirmed in my heart that God is good.
At the writing of this article I did not know HIM. That is, I believed in God, went to church, and all that jazz, but I didn't know HIM. Didn't have a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus. Didn't even know that relationship was an option. Let alone a necessity.
So as I read about my "accomplishments" thirty-two years and a whole-lotta-life later, I realized they aren't as important as I thought they were all those years ago. As I pondered the plans I had then, I delighted to have the hind sight to know God's plans were greater - and to be reminded that HE still has great plans in the making. And as I read that final sentence and recalled my very first job, I chuckled once again at the fact that I am right back where I began.
Indeed. God is good. And I am so glad my life is in His hands!
Delta Lions name student
Karen Sheaffer has been selected to represent GLHS at the Delta Lions Club meeting as student of the month. Her parents are William and Joan Sheaffer and she is a senior at Grand Ledge High School. She as been in the top 10 of her class since ninth grade.
Sheaffer has attended Grand Ledge schools all her life, and feels very fortunate to have received such a complete education. "My high school years have been fantastic," she says. "There has always been something for me to do to expand my education. Grand Ledge High School has a lot, both curricular and extracurricular, to offer its students."
In her freshman year of high school, she was able to take advantage of two honors classes, English and algebra, which provided extra challenge. She was selected as Student of the Month for English and general business and was actively involved in Spanish Club.
Through her English class, she became involved in an oratorical contest sponsored by the Optomist Club of Lansing, and also Future Problem Solving. In the spring she danced in the Cabaret, which led her to co-choreograph the musical, "Oklahoma."
Her sophomore year began with the musical. She also joined vocal ensemble and Sweet 16, and started taking private voice lessons. In the fall she was selected for regional honors choir and in the early spring attended district solo & ensemble.
Also during the spring, she took part in the drama "Our Town," competed in the Optomist Club Oratorical Contest again, and was selected as Student of the Month for musical art.
In her junior year she choreographed and had roles in "The Music Man" in the fall and "Godspell" in the spring. She was a member of the concert choir, Madrigal singers, and Sweet 16. She was chosen Student of the Month for musical art and was also selected for regional honors choirs, and later for state honors choir.
Sheaffer was inducted into the National Honor Society and began serving as a representative of the student council. She was elected winter homecoming junior queen. The day after homecoming she attended district solo & ensemble where she qualified for state solo & ensemble.
At the state level, Sweet 16 was selected to go on to the finals, as one of the top 12 groups statewide, and she traveled to Chicago with the choir for the Chicago Choral Festival in April.
Sheaffer was also approached with two outstanding opportunities last spring. The first was the World Affairs Seminar for High School Students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The Lions Club of Grand Ledge sponsored her for this memorable experience.
Then, in August, she was a participant in the Michigan State Board of Education Summer Institute for the Arts and Sciences. She attended Western Michigan University and studied music theater.
This year she is, again, a student council representative, and a member of the Madrigal Singers and Sweet 16. She has been cast in one of the lead roles of the fall musical "Brigadoon" and in April she will be going to New York with the choir to perform in Carnegie Hall.
"Next year I plan on attending WMU and majoring in music," says Sheaffer. "I plan on earning degrees in music education and music performance. I would also like to become a member of their vocal jazz group, 'Gold Company.'"
In her spare time, she works in the drive-thru at A&W, likes to babysit, and once in a while, if there is time, she likes to sit down and relax!

How is your life today different from what you thought it was going to be thirty-two yers ago?


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Please Keep Working

With everything in me, I just want to be a reflection of my Savior.
I want to have a heart like His.
I want to love like He loves, and serve like He served.
I want to be gracious and kind. Patient and full of mercy.
Yet, I fail at what I so deeply desire.
Too often I catch myself thinking unkind thoughts. I rush to judgment in a circumstance, thinking I know best - and silently criticizing someone else for doing what they thought was best. Other times I find myself too easily annoyed by the innocent actions of somebody who didn't realize I was watching, and wishing they'd have chosen to operate differently. Self-centeredness and demanding behavior overshadow the me I want to be.

And, wow, I feel incredibly vulnerable admitting these things here.

The other day I was in prayer, asking God to change my heart - pleading with Him to make me more like Jesus. (I don't remember for certain but I think I was responding to a moment when I had been less than solicitous in my attitude toward someone.) I was at the end of myself, so I simply poured out my heart. Please, God, please make me new. Please change my heart. Make me less like me, and more like Your Son. I'm sorry for the times when I fall short, when I give in to my flesh and my selfishness. LORD, please keep calling me to Yourself and Your ways. Yes, God, please keep working in me!
And can I tell you? For as discouraged as I get with myself, as disappointed as I am with my failures, I have confidence in the goodness of God and the power of His Spirit to work in me that which is pleasing to HIM. My sanctification is not up to my ability. I am trusting fully in the One who can do all things, and I am placing my broken self under His almighty and merciful hand.

Yes, LORD, please keep working.


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Look Who Came for Dinner

So, the kids were all here for dinner last night.
Which meant special time around the table, talking about life and hearing stories of adventure and adulting. Elizabeth and Phil just returned from a trip to Mexico, so we also got to see lots of great pictures! And, of course, Cleo joined the party.
Which means I have pictures to show of my grand-dog. *smile*


Monday, March 09, 2020

Friday, March 06, 2020

It's My Pleasure

I think it would be interesting to poll my co-workers about the guests they serve each day.
Because I would be curious to know if they are approached by slow-moving, easy-going, leisurely-thinking, unhurried individuals (who are often elderly and unfamiliar with what/how to order at Chick-fil-A), or if it's just me.
That is, for as much as I try to focus only on the guest in front of me I can't help but notice at times how quickly things seem to be happening around me. The speed with which some of my co-workers serve their guests. And I wonder if I am just slow at taking orders, or if maybe I am the only one who receives the guests that require extra attention.

It happened again yesterday, and it completely delighted my heart.

I stood behind my register and invited the next guest in line to come to me. She moved at a measured pace and smiled kindly as she came. When I had determined that she was going to be eating in the dining room I asked what she wanted to order, and that's when things began to slow down.
Because she hadn't been to a Chick-fil-A before.
She wondered about the waffle fries which come in a meal and wanted to know about her other options. So we discussed them.
And that conversation took a minute.
Because she wasn't sure if she would like the Kale Crunch salad (Have you tried it yet? Sooooo yummy!!!!) or if she would rather have a cup of soup. In the end, I think she might have chosen a side salad.
Er, I don't remember for sure.
She changed her mind a few times.
With her side dish selected, it was time to choose a beverage. Those options were a bit easier to descibe and she decided on a nice cup of hot coffee.
Oh, and water, too. She was going to need a cup of water.
Then, of course, we had to talk about sauces.
Because "Chick-fil-A" and "yummy sauces" are practically synonymous.
So by the time I was ready to turn around to pour her coffee, the kitchen crew had already finished preparing her lunch and her tray was being delivered at my register.
"Oh," she sighed, "I thought this was going to be brought to my table." (I had told her we would use her table marker to find her with her food...) And as I observed her slightly shaky frame - and imagined her trying to carry that tray with a cup of water and a cup of coffee - I said, "It will be! You go sit down, and I'll bring it with your coffee."
Thus I poured the coffee, walked around the counter to gather her tray, and walked to her table where her friend was already seated. As I sat the tray on her table she beamed to her friend, "Her mom and I have the same name!" (A connection we made when this dear lady told me her name.) And the smile we shared felt like we were life-long friends, rather than acquaintences who had just met a few moments ago.

On second thought, I don't think I care to take that survey of my co-workers. It really doesn't matter to me if their guests are all quick to decide and prompt with their orders. Because I love my gentle interactions.
And if God wants to send all the extra-attention-required guests my way?
I'm OK with that.
It's my pleasure!


Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Practicing What I Preach

Last week when I was in Florida I had the opportunity to speak for a Ladies' Night Out at my mom and dad's church.

We looked at Psalm 22 and examined the ups and downs David experienced in the midst of struggle and faith. At one point in the psalm David is remembering how God had been faithful to David in his past, and I asked the women present what they do to keep remembrances of God's faithfulness in their lives. I admitted that I am not much of a "journalist" anymore, but that I do try to record moments of God's faithfulness here on my blog.
So, I've got to do it.
I have got to write about what God has been doing.
Because some day I am going to need to come back here and be reminded that HE is trustworthy.
And maybe you need to be reminded about that Truth right here, today.

I mentioned in my video on Monday that Brian and I are on the cusp of a new thing, and I have been praying for God's leading. For the past three months I have been holding on to the hope I see in James 1:5, and I have been asking God for wisdom - asking Him to give it to me generously.
In the midst of seeking wisdom, Brian and I have also been researching information and doing our best to learn about and understand what's ahead of us. Yet we were experiencing delays, and for a time it seemed we were going nowhere.
And then that call came last week while we were in Florida.
But it was a call which was going to take us in a direction different from the one in which we thought we were headed. Which is when my "LORD-please-lead-us" prayers began increasing in frequency.
Wanting to be following the path HE has prepared for us, I asked friends to pray for wisdom. And one resulting conversation raised many questions about whether this particular path was the way to go.
Which is when my "LORD-I'll-go-wherever-You-lead-but-please-make-it-clear-to-me" prayers multiplied in number and intensity.
This is also the time when I think God took over my phone.
That is, I'm pretty sure the text messages I have been receiving are in response to my prayers.
There was the one which came immediately after the questions were raised. The one that seemed to indicate the concerns were unnecessary. (And which prompted us to have a meeting that flat-out exterminated the concerns.)
The next day another one came with encouragement for the direction we're heading.
And yet another - which was intended for somebody else - that offered a behind-the-scenes celebration for the decisions we're making. (Actually, there were two of those texts.)(And although the sender meant for them to go to somebody else, I am confident God planned for me to see them.)
As I have reflected on this whole scenario, I have become more convinced God has been orchestrating every step. Even the ones which seemed to me barriers that were only slowing us down. The things I thought were holding us back I now think were God's hand redirecting us to where we are presently. I believe HE knew then what we know now, and HE orchestrated the circumstances so we would be free today to follow the path HE has created.
Yes. That is what I believe.
Our God knows what we don't, and HE sees what we can't.
As we submit to trusting Him and following His lead, I have full confidence that HE will work out the details and make our way straight.
HE is trustworthy.

Some day I might need to be reminded of this Truth. So I'm recording it here for that day.
And if you need to remember it, too, welcome to this recollection of the faithfulness of God.
May HE encourage your heart with grace and truth.


Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Hidden Treasure

In spite of not wanting to tackle the mess that was my closet, I was inspired to do it this past weekend. *Read that: My husband practically begged me to do it.*
And I think God rewarded me for the effort. Because in the midst of the boxes and pictures and bags, and a few other things I can't believe I held onto for so long, I found this note:

I have no idea how old Elizabeth was when she gave this paper to me. (Note to mothers of young children: Write dates on all their papers and pictures and other keepsakes. You'll be so glad you did!) What I do know is her heart is just as beautiful today as it was then. I have a sense she created this message for me on a day when I was struggling - that even back then, she was an instrument God was using to deliver hope and encouragement. And it delights me to see her now as a grown woman still seeking ways to honor Him by loving others.
Indeed. I have treasures to behold.
This paper is one.
My daughter is another.
And I am forever grateful to God every time HE reveals them.

What treasures have you discovered lately?


Monday, March 02, 2020

What I Want to Do

Ummmm, about the whining you might hear throughout the video... My "grand dog" was visiting, and her ball was under the couch while I was recording. Silly dog!


Friday, February 21, 2020

It's My Pleasure

OK. Sometimes I think I have entirely too much fun at work.
Like the other day, when a couple of women came in and were giddy about ordering waffle fries AND mac&cheese. One of them ordered the waffle fries, and the other was getting mac&cheese - and they were making promises about sharing with each other. In the beginning I was just having fun witnessing the enjoyment the two of them seemed to be having, but then I had an idea.
I said, "I know. You can use the waffle fries in place of forks for the mac&cheese!"
I honestly was not prepared for the level of enthusiasm displayed by these women in response to my suggestion. I mean, they thought I was brilliant! (I know, because they said so. *wink*) The three of us started laughing and talking about other means of replacing utensils. (Like chips with baked beans, grilled cheese for tomato soup...Ahhh, my non-Keto memories!) We were high-fiving each other and having a grand time.
And I was kinda sad to see them leave.
Then there was the young couple who came in for lunch with lots of questions. Early on I got the feeling that I could have some fun with them, so when Young Man asked if he could have two Chick-fil-A sauces (After I had just said, "Certainly!" when Young Lady asked for a couple of Polynesian sauces.) I looked at him with a straight face and said, "Uh, no." His jaw dropped, and Young Lady and I laughed so hard. She poked his side and said, "Ooooh, Karen got you!" In a matter of seconds, Young Man joined us in the merriment (As soon as he realized I was just teasing.) and I gave him the sauces. I felt a unique connection with them as we enjoyed each other's sense of humor.
And I was kinda sad to see them leave, too.
The thing is, whether I am being silly and teasing guests, or gentle as I help them with questions and needs, or motherly with little ones who are trying to place their own order - whatever I am doing - I can't help but be filled with thankfulness for this opportunity.
For the moment in time I have to be a light in somebody else's life.
It's a blessing.
And it truly is my pleasure.

By the way, I am going to be on vacation for a week - visiting my mom and dad in Florida, and speaking a few times while I'm there. Hence, I will NOT be blogging.
If all goes well, I'll be back here on March 2.
Until then, keep holding on to Him!


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"Thank You" isn't Enough

Oh, my heart.
It simply cannot contain the gratitude I have as I am continuing to learn what grace and mercy have been given to us through Jesus.
My Precept group is studying the book of Hebrews this year, and yesterday's class - the sermon we watched after our discussion - opened my eyes to something I have not seen before.
In case you aren't familiar with it, Hebrews is a letter of exhortation written to Jewish men and women who believed in Jesus as the Messiah. It was a call to them (and all of us!) to hold fast to their confession of Jesus as Messiah, in spite of trials and tribulations. Hebrews is full of teaching that Jesus is our eternal High Priest of the New Covenant, infintely better than the priests and high priests and the Old Covenant of their fathers.
We are presently in chapter 9, and this past week's lesson found us studying the Day of Atonement. And it was the detail and regulation and ceremony and restriction of this yearly encounter with the presence of God which arrested my heart so thoroughly.
That is, we were reminded of the fate of Aaron's sons who spontaneously put themselves and an unauthorized offering before the LORD.
They were struck down dead on the spot.
(You may read their story in Leviticus 10.)
And, while one may hold them responsible for the consequences of their actions because they should have known better than to approach a holy God without being commanded to do so, I realized I probably would have done the same thing.
I mean, in Leviticus 9 they had just been visited by the glory of the LORD, and all the people were full of joy and were on their faces in worship. It seems reasonable to me that these guys would have been caught up in the wonder of the moment and just wanted to bring more offerings to God.
I would totally do that!
But Aaron's sons couldn't approach God. Their sins had not been atoned. They were not ready. Appropriate sacrifices and cleansings had not been made. The boys couldn't just go before God any old time. A way had to be made for them first.
And because it wasn't, a holy God consumed them with fire.

As I considered this scene I was simultaneously struck with fear and overcome with gratitude.
Fear because of the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin.
And gratitude because of the grace of God and the gift of Jesus.

Jesus is our High Priest who made one sacrifice for all people for all time. He doesn't continually bring offerings to God like the priests of old did. He IS the sacrifice. And His offering was sufficient to satisfy God's holy requirements.
For all.
And because of Jesus' death and resurrection, I can come into God's presence any old time.
Actually, all the time!
My sins have been forgiven through the blood Jesus shed. He has cleansed me, and made the way for me (for all of us) to have full access to God.
The love of God produces grace and mercy through Jesus Christ which allows me to be in His presence freely, and no matter how hard I try I cannot fully express the joy and gratitude welling up in my heart.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Overheard From the Backseat

Sunday evening my entire family was in the van, traveling to have dinner with the extended entire family. As we drove, I enjoyed listening to my kids banter back and forth and share stories about life.
And there was one story, in particular, which delighted me beyond all the others.
That is, one of my children (who shall remain nameless - to protect the innocent!) was complaining about roommate challenges.
Seems this child's roommate doesn't like to do dishes, or clean up messes, or much of anything else which resembles being responsible for one's living space. And this child of mine is getting tired of it. To the extent that this child recently said to Messy Roommate, "Before you go to bed tonight, will you please clean up x, y, and/or z?" And, apparently, Messy replied with some element of drama and said my child was taking Messy back to moments with Messy's parents.
In other words, my child sounds like Messy's mom.
Which on the one hand made me laugh out loud with a certain sense of satisfaction - knowing my child has an inkling of the agony I experienced over years of saying the same kind of thing.
And which - on the other hand - made me grin with pride at the notion that my child was paying enough attention all those years to not only care about cleanliness, but also to remember how to motivate a person to action.
I mean, I don't know if Messy actually fulfilled the clean-up request (Because, goodness knows, my child(ren) didn't always respond to my requests - even when I tried the non-demanding, nag-free, sound-as-relaxed-as-possible "before you go to bed" approach.) but it delights me to no end that my years of attempted training are producing some results. And, yeah, it's fun to see my child learning to navigate the pathways of adulting.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Friday, February 14, 2020

It's My Pleasure

Sometimes I feel rather momish when I'm at work. Looking after the needs of guests and co-workers, making sure they are well-cared-for and prepared for obstacles which might come their way.
That's why I always put a hand wipe in the bag when somebody asks for honey.
Because, you know, sticky hands.

Anyway, I was feeling particularly momish yesterday. The snow was falling steadily, and although folks were telling me early on that the roads were fine, as the morning progressed reports were changing. So I routinely asked if the guest at my window had a lot of driving ahead of them, we typically had a brief discussion about road conditions, and as I sent them on their way with yummy food I lovingly beckoned them to "Drive safely!"

Then there was the guest who gave me the opportunity to move from momish to sisterhood-of-moms-ish. That is, I was handing a chocolate milk out the window and I knew it was accompanying a kids' meal. So I called to the young boy in the back seat, "Oooo, chocolate milk? Who has the best mom in the world???" The soon-to-be-a-chocolate-milk-drinker smiled and said, "I do!"
"That's right," I said (also smiling), "and it's important for you to remember that."
At which point Mom looked at me and said, "Thanks. I need all the help I can get."
And I smiled at her, too, as I said, "I understand," praying a little bit of grace from the mom in the drive-thru would help make her day just a little bit more hopeful.

Whether my role is that of a need-meeter, saftey-cautioner, or spirit-lifter, it truly is my pleasure.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Here's Looking at You, Kid!

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my girl.
Except shortly into the incident I realized I was not accompanying a "girl."
Rather, she was a woman.
With responsibilities and maturity and a whole host of grown-up behaviors.
That is, Elizabeth showed me around where she works - let me see the things she's doing, explained processes and future plans, and gave me insights into her passions. She introduced me to her supervisor, and discussed a couple of issues with her while we were there. And as I observed my daughter talking about work-related needs and questions, I realized she was operating at a level I have never seen her on before. I mean, Elizabeth is wonderful and responsible and all that. I've known as much for a long time. But yesterday I got to see her doing these things with my own eyes. And suddenly I felt as though I wasn't just with my girl, but with another woman.
It was kind of strange.
And wonderful.
Wonderful to see my daughter respected and valued by another adult.
Delightful to witness her blossoming before my eyes.
There's just something so enjoyable about watching your child excel, and grow into the person God has created them to be.

As we drove between errands we talked about life and decision-making. I shared with Elizabeth how I have been praying for her and heard how she's been seeking God, too.
In this regard I had another opportunity to see how my girl has grown into a woman. I got to look at the beautiful work God has been doing - the work in which I once played a significant role, and which now finds me as more of an observer.
And while there is a tinge of sadness at missing what was, I realized I have a whole lot of joy in seeing what IS.


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Come and Be with HIM

So yesterday we ended our Precept study time by listening to this song as we reflected on Jesus - our High Priest.
The One who fulfilled God's plan for our redemption.
The One who knows our every need, and meets each one of them perfectly.
The One in whom we confess our faith, the anchor of our eternal hope.
It was such a blessing and I want to share the blessing with you. I know you have the time - because you're here. So please take the next 3 minutes and 17 seconds to sit in His presence, reflecting on His love and enjoying just being with Him.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

I Don't Wanna

"I don't wanna!"

At least once a week those are the words I hear coming from my husband's mouth with regard to doing his workout. And I immediately know I've gotten my cue to spur him on with encouragement to do what he doesn't want to do. To get up anyway, or get dressed anyway, or get out the door anyway - and go to the gym. He and I both know he's happier when he's done a workout.
So, I respond the same way, every time.
"That's OK. You don't hafta wanna. You've just gotta do it."
And here's where I admit that I am a frequent utterer of that phrase, too. When my alarm goes off and it's a workout day, I often roll over and groan, "But I don't wanna!"
And the other day when I found myself in that position - protesting to no one in particular, because Brian was already out of bed and at the gym - I had to provide the encouragement myself. But by the time I made it to my workout space, I was already thinking about calling it quits. So as I got down on my knees to stretch I prayed, I don't wanna do this, God. But if You'll help me, I can do it.
For the next 20-30 seconds I just kept repeating, If You'll help me, I can do it.
And there - stretched out on the floor, repeating my petition, being completely honest about my inability to carry out the task in my own strength - I realized I was in a position where I need to put myself a lot more often.
That is, it occurred to me that every time God is leading me to do a hard thing, whenever He is asking me to take an uncomfortable stance, or when I think I know a better way than the way He is guiding me - and I have a desire to say to HIM, "I don't wanna!" - I need to get on my knees and confess, I don't wanna do this, God. But if You'll help me, I can do it. Because I know, just like He has gotten me through every difficult thing I have ever faced before, so He will take me through each one I've yet to encounter.
God is faithful like that.
And when I surrender my weakness to His strength, oh, what a wonderful outcome HE produces.
Do you know what I mean???


Monday, February 10, 2020