One and A Half Tons

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I’d never have imagined that we could accomplish this job! They kept invading and attacking, while we played defense and attempted to block them. Finally, we decided on a plan to keep them away permanently. It was time to finish off the poison ivy and sticker bushes that continually crept over the boundary at the back of our yard. Our strategy involved river rocks, literally tons of them.

First, with help from our kind neighbor, we laid down landscape fabric. Next, we picked up lots of river rocks, 3-7 inches big, to place on top. This entailed getting a half-ton load at a time dumped into the back of our truck, lifting the rocks from there into a wheelbarrow, pushing that into our backyard, then one person transferring the rocks over our tall back fence to another person who placed them on the fabric. It was literally a ton of work!

Mike and I started the process, then my son, Dan, and I moved 1,500 pounds of river rocks in two days to finish it! How did we do that? One rock at a time. What rock do you need to move? You don’t have to move a ton all at once, just pick one rock, one thing you know you need to do. Then do the work! Before you know it, you will be surprised by what you’ve achieved!

“David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you…’” 1 Chronicles 28:20a

Do the work.

A backyard bunny wedding (with no poison ivy or sticker bushes encroaching).

I Would Walk 100 Miles

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Their noses were wriggling and their tails were wagging like crazy as they kept their faces to the ground, sniffing out every scent along the way. They were so engrossed in the ground at their feet that they didn’t notice the beautiful deer about a hundred yards ahead, right in the middle of the trail! The deer detected them, however, and quickly disappeared into the thick of the woods, leaving only another scent for the pups to investigate.

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Zoey (pink collar) and Kaylee (purple collar).

We did it! Kaylee and Zoey (our two puppies) and I completed the 100 by Summer Dog Walking Challenge. We walked over 100 miles from the first day of spring until now, traveling through gorgeous meadows, along various creeks, up and down hills, through woods, on roads, and more, savoring every step.

At times, as I mentioned earlier, the pups get so engrossed in the path at their feet that they don’t notice what’s right in front of them. In their defense, I suppose the smells they are experiencing are beauty enough for them. Their obliviousness to the deer made me think of a song Lauren Daigle sings called “Look Up Child” (Link to video in case you want to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NAYz0zh_Es). It reminds me to look up and not get so engrossed in what’s at my feet that I miss the beauty all around me. That makes me think of the Flyleaf song “All Around Me” (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xN0FFK8JSYE) . Another good message.

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The pups always look up to say hi to their favorite cow friend.

As you and I walk through life, we are invited to walk with God. How amazing is that?!? The One who created us desires relationship with us. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please feel free to reach out to me. Whatever happens does not change who God is, and God is love. He wants you and me to walk with Him every step.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Whatever happens does not change who God is, and God is love.

 

Peas Are A Problem

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It is growing! Lettuce is easy to spot, but now I can actually identify tomato plants, carrots, broccoli, and green beans. This may not seem like a huge feat, but as a new gardener, it’s a pretty big deal to me. I have so much to learn! I’m still trying to figure out the peas. The reason peas are a problem is because of the mountain. When my granddaughters, Senna and Adina, helped plant the garden, Adina decided to build a “pea mountain”. After placing the seeds carefully into the ground, she excitedly piled a large mound of dirt on top.

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Senna and Adina celebrating the planting.

Since this is a learning season, I let the mountain be. After all, having fun is part of the purpose, and I’ll be thrilled to eat even one vegetable from our box garden. However, I’ve been surprised by all sorts of green things popping up from that mountain. I haven’t identified pea plants yet, so I’ve just been pulling out anything that I’m positive is a weed.

My intention is to learn in every circumstance. So, here are a few things I’ve learned from my garden:

~ Weeds are much easier to pull out when they are small.

~ An inviting environment brings worms, and worms help gardens by loosening the soil.

~ Water is needed. Often.

~ You can tell a weed from a vegetable by knowing what the vegetable looks like.

~ Lots of stuff I don’t understand is happening unseen, under the soil. Good, growing stuff.

~ Plants need space to stretch out. If they’re too crowded, they won’t grow properly.

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Not a weed!

I’m learning a lot of life lessons from this as well, as you can probably figure out.

~ Weeds in my life are more easily gotten rid of before they grow big.

~ Worms may not be cuddly, but they sure are useful. Are there any “worms” in your life?

~ Water is needed. Jesus is the living water.

~ Knowing truth helps us spot lies.

~ Even when I don’t understand, I can have faith and trust that God is working.

~ There is plenty of space for us all to grow.

I love sharing this gardening experience with my granddaughters. What have you been doing lately, and what are you learning from it?

“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5

Intend to learn in every circumstance.

Who Can You Help?

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You are essential! Do you realize that there is something you can do that no one else can? It’s true. You have a unique place, and you have an impact.

With this ongoing Covid 19 pandemic, I realize that some jobs have been labeled as “essential”. Perhaps other jobs have to be put on hold for a while, but that doesn’t diminish their importance. I realize this every time I look in the mirror at my unkempt hair! I’m concerned that this labeling has caused some to misunderstand or forget that every single person is of great value. That is why I’m glad people are reaching out to others during this time. Here are a few examples:

My son, Dan Riddle, and his friend, Kyle Ziegler, have put together a benefit album with all proceeds going to Feeding America’s Covid-19 relief fund. Aptly titled “Self-Quarantine”, it is a compilation of 23 songs from a variety of artists and bands. It is available through Bandcamp, and here is a link, in case you’d like to check it out:

https://self-quarantinecompilation.bandcamp.com/album/self-quarantine-a-collection-of-recordings-for-the-greater-good?fbclid=IwAR3YLGNnqfjEI-4pKQljCRGgQYwVm9cjiUnnq5CZ2KljINRANV9jARcPXq0

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Artwork by Daniel McGarvey

My daughter, Amy, has been using this time to create really fun memories with her daughters. They’ve gone on nature hikes, made s’mores by their firepit, and tons of other stuff!

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Amy and her girls.

My son-in-law, Dave, made “ear protectors” for masks for healthcare workers. These help a lot, especially when you’re wearing a mask for a 12 hour shift.

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Dave and his girls.

 

My granddaughters have been making cute and hilarious videos for us. We love them, and they really brighten our days!!

My husband, Mike, continues to buy donuts from our local coffee/donut shop and to get takeout from other local small businesses occasionally to support them. A little action can make a big difference! Each of us has an impact, one way or another.

Even though I’ve talked about doing in this blog, please know that our value isn’t from what we do; we have value because of who we are. God planned you, and you are so precious that God gave His only Son, Jesus, for you.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)

You are essential!

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Mike supporting Wholly Grounds Coffeehouse.

 

The ABZ’s

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Sheep have never helped me. They’re very cute, but they’ve been no help at all. Have you ever had trouble falling asleep? It seems that especially now, as we are walking through this pandemic, this may be an issue for some.  When it happens to me, counting sheep is not a solution. So, I do something I like better that I call the ABZ’s.

My son, Dan, and our pups took a break by a sheep/goat farm.

Here’s how it works. If I find myself lying awake in the night, first I pray and give everything over to God. Sometimes it’s as simple as that, because I didn’t realize something was on my mind. If I’m still lying awake, I think of a topic and go through the ABC’s, giving thanks for something that starts with each letter. For example, I started out with an easy one and picked food. I thanked God for apples for A, banana bread for B, chocolate chip cookies for C, donuts for D, and so on. Please don’t judge my food choices! Generally, I am sleeping long before I reach Z. This is good, because Z is always a tough one!

You can think of many different, creative options, and it turns your mind to gratitude. This is always a good thing. Let’s cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Some other ideas for the ABZ’s are people you’re thankful for, vacation or holiday memories, places you’ve been, and on and on. What topics can you think of? Please share your ideas. Recently I went through the ABZ’s, giving thanks for good things that have come out of this Covid 19 pandemic. It’s amazing how much there is to be thankful for!! Just thought I’d share this, in case any of you also have an occasional bout of wakefulness when you should be sleeping. Of course, if counting sheep works for you, have at it. Happy dreams!

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Below are just a few subjects of my thankfulness.

Through the Glass

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It was a happy scene unfolding before us, with smiles all around. There were decorations covering the walls, a special tablecloth, and a huge Happy Birthday banner hanging up, all with a Paw Patrol theme. Adina, my younger granddaughter, turned 4 years old! My husband, Mike, and I watched through their sliding glass door. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the necessary restrictions on social gatherings, he and I celebrated Adina’s birthday on my daughter’s back deck while they were inside. My daughter, Amy, is so extremely thoughtful that she set up a tablecloth, treats, and cake on a table out there before we arrived.

Even though it was a joyful celebration, how I missed hugging Adina and her sister, Senna, and gathering them close. That was hard. I miss snuggling with them, giving them kisses and hugs, and simply seeing them face to face. I am ever so grateful for the technology that allows us to video chat and send messages back and forth. I’m even thankful for sliding glass doors! All of this made me think that everything is different, but God is the same. He does not change. Ever. He is always loving and good, and He is always present. We truly can rely on His love. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love…” (1 John 4:16a) I really hope you know this truth. It makes all the difference.

After watching Adina open presents, singing Happy Birthday, seeing her blow out the candles, and eating cake “together”, we said our goodbyes by putting our hands against the glass together. One day the glass will be removed and we will hug, hold hands, snuggle, and have sleepovers again. Until then and beyond, I will continue to rely on the love God has for us. He is holding me and wants to hold you, too!

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Everything is different, but God is the same.

Flying Dirt

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The dirt was flying! Some was landing back in the garden, some landed in Senna, her sister’s hair, some landed outside the box. Adina (my almost 4-year-old granddaughter) was having a blast playing/working in our box garden. She helped dig out rocks and get the soil ready. I love her enthusiasm in everything!

My Mike built the box. I dug out all the grass and roots that I could see to get our garden spot ready. Mike and our two granddaughters dug out the rocks. As the box garden project continues, I am excited that I have seeds to plant: green beans, peas (Adina’s request), broccoli (Senna’s request), lettuce, and carrots. I hope to pick up tomato plants, too. Any of you experienced gardeners, I’d welcome tips, advice, and suggestions, by the way!

The thing about all that flying dirt is that it was messy and even chaotic, but so much fun! Life is messy, too. There are always things we can control and things we cannot. Everyone is in a bit of a messy situation right now, it seems. It will be okay, though. We will get cleaned up and move forward. It may not be easy, but it may actually lead to some great things.

On another day out by our garden, Adina and Senna were taking a break and sitting on top of some bags of soil we were getting ready to add to the box. Mike was digging and spreading out some dirt we had already added. Suddenly Adina called out in a loud voice, “Dig, I say; dig, I say!”. We were cracking up, laughing. Thinking about this afterwards, she is right. We should be digging, doing what we can, continuing on, planting, and enjoying it along the way.

Keep living. Do what matters. Do what counts. Jesus cares for us. He stepped into the midst of our messy brokenness and experienced it Himself. He loves us and intervened to rescue us for forever.  That is what the Easter season is all about. Jesus is with us and gives calm in the midst of chaos and peace in the midst of panic.

Later, on that dirt flying day in the garden, our granddaughters had just as much fun getting cleaned up as they did getting dirty. Let’s be like them and seek out the joy of living in each moment as it comes along!

Do what matters.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Dare to Do It

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I have never done it before, and I’m not really sure what I’m doing. Nonetheless, I’m excited about it. The “it” is planning and planting a box garden. Ever since we moved out of a townhouse into a house with a yard a few years ago, I’ve wanted to plant tomatoes and some other vegetables. A box garden is something I’d never heard of until recently. After doing a little research, a box garden seems like the best option for us.

My husband, Mike, can verify that I do not have a green thumb. At all. I once killed a cactus, and I didn’t even think that was possible. Apparently, you can over water or under water anything, even a cactus. Despite this poor track record, I am hopeful that this summer we will be enjoying homegrown tomatoes, peas, and green beans. I realize it takes more than wanting it, researching, and planning. That is all good, but it means nothing without action. I hope to take action soon, and I’ll let you know how it goes. By the way, feel free to pass along any tips and encouragement to help this novice.

The potential site of our vegetable garden.

Is there something you’d like to do or try? Go for it! Life is meant to be lived fully. Even if you’re unsure of the outcome, dare to do it. Just as I’m sure I’ll gain something from my gardening attempt, you will gain from branching out and trying new things. You may even find the joy of a new skill that you didn’t know you had!

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23

Dare to do it!

A Valentine’s Mystery Follow-Up

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The mystery was solved. The two detectives had searched out each clue and followed through, eliminating suspects, items, and rooms as they went along. Our younger granddaughter, Adina, is only three years old, so she took many detours along the way. She stopped to play now and then and got distracted at times. Our 7-year-old granddaughter, Senna, however, was on a mission. She was completely focused and enjoyed figuring things out every step of the way.

Since some were asking for details on this fun event, I figured I’d share them here. I’d encourage anyone with young children in their lives to try this. You can also adapt it for older children. Our granddaughters are already excited for next years’ Valentine’s Mystery!

The mystery to be solved was who had taken what and hidden it where. We had suspects, items, and rooms – 5 of each. We created a list all the suspects, items, and rooms. We took pictures of each possible suspect, item, and room, but you could easily just write their names on an index card or paper. Next, we thought of locations to hide each of these clues. It was like a scavenger hunt, with each clue leading to the next one. We wrote the clues on the backs of the pictures. I hope this is making sense! Please write and ask me questions if it doesn’t!

The mystery board – the girls pulled off pictures as they uncovered clues.

For example, on the back of one clue, we wrote “Time for breakfast”. This led the girls to our kitchen closet, where they found the next clue inside an open box of pop tarts. That clue led them to another location, and so on. Each time they found a clue, they knew to cross that off the list. Gradually the list got whittled down, until they had their answer to the mystery. Next, we opened the envelope with the answers in it. For a prize, we gave them a little variety bag of fun stuff.

I really hope you will try this. It’s great for a rainy day, a party, a celebration, or even an “it’s too cold to go outside” day. You can define the day; don’t let the day define you. Of course, the prize can be as simple as a Hershey kiss or a sticker. You can also make the clues as simple as things like: “Where do you sleep?” or “Time to brush your teeth.”

Naturally, you can also make the clues harder! The important part is having fun. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

Let me know how your own mystery goes! In case you haven’t already heard, our answers were that our puppy, Zoey, took a Berenstain Bear book and hid it under her bed. We figured maybe she wanted to read it before bedtime😊.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Define the day; don’t let the day define you!

Banishing the Grumble

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It was at approximately 12:30am, then 1:40am, then 3am, then 4am. The first two times the older puppy needed to go out due to some digestive issues, the third time the younger puppy needed to go out, and the fourth time my youngest granddaughter was awake with a cough. Then came 6am when my older granddaughter woke up, and the day officially started. I’m sure you get the picture. There wasn’t much sleep that night.

I was all set to complain to Mike, my husband, about the sleepless, much interrupted night, when I thought, “Why?”. What would complaining accomplish? Nothing. The thought occurred to me – what if I banish complaining from my life? Then it became more than a thought, it became a goal. After all, the Bible tells us to “do everything without complaining”. Anyone willing to join me on this quest? It changes everything.

Instead of grumbling that morning, I thought about how grateful I was that our granddaughters spent the night and how much fun we all have with the puppies. It’s well worth little inconveniences, like interrupted sleep once in a while. We had so much fun together!! When I look back on days like that, it will be nice to have joy-filled memories instead of grumbling ones. It seems that as I focus on the good, the difficulties diminish. I’m not naively suggesting that there aren’t legitimate complaints. I just don’t want to be a complainer. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next sleepover, no matter how much or little sleep is involved.

“Do everything without complaining…” Philippians 2:14

Banish the grumble!

Here are just a few joys of my life…

Add Some Fun

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Adina (my three-year-old granddaughter) and I were swimming in my backyard about a week ago. Yes, it’s winter, and no, we don’t have a swimming pool. However, she has a wonderful imagination, and so we have terrific adventures together. I do think we must be great entertainment for our neighbors, as when we were waving our arms, splashing through our imaginary pool.

Adina!

Recently I’ve been involved in a Bible study going through the book of Joshua. At one point the leader was talking about how the Israelites were meant not to simply enter the promised land, but to enjoy it. That made me stop and think about being sure to enjoy life, and making time for fun. Life is so brief! I want to come to the end of mine with way more smile lines than frown lines.

Today Adina and I were floating together on an iceberg with our feet dangling in the icy water. Of course, we were wearing special shoes that kept our toes nice and warm. What will you do for fun today?

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

Add some fun today!

The Cone 2 (Kaylee’s Kryptonite)

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Kaylee had been the one with the power. Toys, balls, treats, anything she wanted she simply took. That was until the day Zoey had to wear the cone, otherwise known as an Elizabethan collar. You see, we have two puppies. Kaylee is 11 months old, and Zoey is 6 months old.

Whereas Kaylee tends to be a bit fearful, Zoey is fearless. You may have read my earlier blog about Kaylee’s experience with the cone. Now it was Zoey’s turn, and she wore the cone like it was a special honor. She quickly discovered that it gave her power over her big sister. Since Kaylee was afraid of the cone, now Zoey started taking away the toys, balls, and anything else she wanted. She’d march right up to Kaylee and nudge her with the cone and take what she wanted.

I also had to reinforce our free-standing dog gate, since Zoey discovered that she could use the cone as a battering ram to move it out of the way! When it snowed, Zoey had a blast using the cone as a snow plow to gather, then eat snow. All in all, wearing that cone has been a fun adventure for her.

This gave me a different perspective on cones and limitations. Are they limitations or opportunities for new adventures? As G.K. Chesterton said, “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.” What inconveniences have you turned into adventures lately?

By the way, Zoey is done wearing the cone, and the power is now more balanced between our two puppies. The adventures continue!

Turn your inconveniences into adventures.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” James 1:2

Light of the World

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It started about half a century ago, with a young mother, a glass Aunt Jemima syrup bottle, and an idea. The mother was my own, and her idea was a new Christmas tradition celebrating that Jesus is the Light of the world. She washed out the syrup bottle and placed a tall candle in it. Each day of December the candle light was there reminding us that we were celebrating Jesus’ birth, that He is the light of the world, and that He loves us. Over the years, it got more and more beautiful, as the colorful wax drippings covered the glass.

My mom had a way of making Christmas so very special. In the midst of all the busy preparations there were always smiles, singing, and laughter. Actually, she had a way of making life special, with her quick laughter and joyful heart. She knew how to savor each moment. This will be the seventh year that she is celebrating Christmas with Jesus in heaven. I can’t even imagine how amazing and wonderful that must be. It makes my heart rejoice for her, even though as I write this, a tear is dripping down my cheek.

What traditions do you have as you celebrate this special season? I’d love to hear about them. After Mike and I got married and eventually moved into our own place, we started our own Christmas candle. As I light it each day, I think, “Happy birthday, Jesus, and thank you, Mom!”

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

May your day be merry and bright!

What Are You Thankful For?

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The ease with which she laughed. The way she loved playing in the snow. Her constant encouragement and faith. The way she loved everybody, no exceptions. The sparkle in her eyes. The way she utterly and completely enjoyed life. These are just a few of the things I am thankful for about my mom. Yesterday as I was peeling apples, memories of her came flooding over me. That seems to happen particularly on baking days. I suppose it’s because we did a lot of baking together, and those were always happy, laughter-filled days.

Now baking days are still happy and laughter-filled. I am so thankful for my sweet daughter, Amy, and her little girls. Yesterday we baked three apple pies and three pumpkin pies together, using my mom’s recipes. In other words, we made more happy memories together. What a treat to see the joy in my granddaughters’ eyes as we mixed the pie crust dough together. How funny to watch them sneakily pop some apple slices into their mouths. I’m already looking forward to cookie baking day!

Adina and Senna mixing the dough.

I have very much to be thankful for each day. One tradition my family has is hanging a sheet of paper on our refrigerator each November 1st with “I’m thankful for…” written across the top. It isn’t long before it’s filled with little and big things written down by everyone. I highly recommend it, because it’s a great way to cultivate a grateful heart. As Thanksgiving approaches, what are you thankful for? Please feel free to share.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

  I Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks!

I’m thankful for…

Inviting Joy In

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It was a surprise, so Mike insisted that I put on a blindfold. Then he started the truck, and 0ff we went. To where, I had no idea. Of course, I tried to figure out this secret location by noting the turns and such, but soon I was hopelessly confused. When we arrived, Mike stopped the truck, had me wait (still blindfolded) and then he gently led me out of the truck and walked with me, holding me steady. Now I could take the blindfold off. My eyes opened to see a picnic table right next to a beautiful pasture with cows grazing alongside a creek and a pond, an incredibly peaceful spot. On the table there was a cheery, red tablecloth, and sitting on top of it were delicious looking hoagies, potato chips from the Herrs Factory right down the road, and ice-cold drinks. Aaaaaaaaahhhh. It was just the break I needed.

That’s my Mike. He reminds me to have fun, to stop and take a breather, to slow down and enjoy little things, like a picnic with some cows. I’m so glad for Mike. He adds life to life! Are you allowing joy in your life? Are doing something or some things that you really enjoy?

One thing that I really enjoy is writing and taking pictures. I put together a little book for my granddaughters called “God is with Me When…”. It includes pictures of them having a variety of fun. My hope is that they will always know God is present with them and wants them to enjoy life. I’ve included the PDF file so you may have a look, if you like. I hope it will inspire you to invite more joy into your life. Feel free to share what brings you joy.

We’ve enjoyed several repeat visits to that picnic spot Mike discovered, and each time there leaves me feeling refreshed and ready to go forward.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10b

Allow joy in your life.

The cows enjoying the day, too.

Perspective

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He told me his three priorities, in order.

  1. Not cut off any fingers.
  2. Not fall off the wall.
  3. Clear away all the weeds, brush, and sticker bushes.

My husband, Mike, was cleaning up the area just behind the fence in our backyard. This was not an easy feat. It required walking through tall weeds to get to there, then maintaining balance on about a 1 ½ foot wide space on top of a retaining wall, while using an ax and a saw to destroy thorny bushes and weeds that were invading our yard through our back fence.

I love how he prioritizes things. He has a clear perspective on what is important and what is most important. He also has good balance, literally and figuratively. He has always been the one to get me to take breaks and make time for fun stuff. He adds life to life! He knows what it means to live for what lasts. Do you? When was the last time that you took time to have a catch with a football or dance in your kitchen or stop and watch the sunset or…well, you get the idea!

Thankfully, Mike achieved all three of his goals. Now we can play tag in our backyard with our granddaughters without running into branches filled with thorns, which is exactly what we plan to do.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

Live for what lasts.

Farther On

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To be quite honest, my first reaction was to defend myself. I even told people who weren’t involved, simply so I could justify my actions. My second and later and better reaction was to examine the situation and see if there was any truth in the criticism I had received. There was. I actually stopped and considered what I could have or perhaps should have done differently. I learned from it. I am constantly learning, and I want to remain teachable. However, as Russ Taff sings, “I long to learn, but I’m so slow at being taught.”

This is just a small glimpse into one of many failures, bad choices, bad reactions, etc. Thankfully, none of it changes God’s love for me. I think of how much I love my granddaughters even when they pout, fight, get mad, or don’t listen. God’s love is like that. Nothing changes it. Nothing.

Here’s a little poem/action rhyme I often share with my sweet granddaughters. Perhaps you will want to share it with the little ones in your life or just read it to remind yourself of God’s unconditional love.

I love you when you’re standing up and when you’re sitting down.

I love you when you’re being still and when you’re moving ‘round.

I love you when you’re right side up and when you’re upside down.

I love you when you’re laughing and even when you frown.

I love you – all the time!                    

 (Author unknown, please feel free to identify the author if you are able to)

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:10

Nothing changes God’s love for us.

Celebrate the Small Stuff

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I felt a raindrop on my forehead, then one on my cheek, then one on my arm. It was definitely raining…inside our tent. We had really been looking forward to this camping trip with our two granddaughters, ages 3 and 7, so my initial thought was “Ugh! You’ve got to be kidding me!” We had camped many times using this tent, and it’s never had a single drop of rain leak through. Now there were drips everywhere.

After pausing a moment or three, though, I realized how grateful I was that the rain started as soon as we were getting tucked in, and not in the middle of the night. Also, we had beautiful weather earlier and went on a hike, had a campfire, and cooked s’mores. I couldn’t let one little raindrop (or hundreds) steal the joy of all the wonderful memories already made.

Lately my husband, Mike, and I have been cultivating the habit of celebrating the small stuff. It’s so easy to let the bad or sad or challenging stuff take center stage, but we are reminding each other of the many little victories, joys, and blessings we see every day.

After debating our options, we ended up covering our sleeping bags with a tarp and heading to a hotel for the night. The next day we discovered we had made the right choice. The inside of our tent was pretty soaked. We left it there and enjoyed a gorgeous day of hiking the Double Run Trail, swimming and playing in the Loyalsock Creek, and grabbing a delicious meal at the Forksville General Store and Restaurant (aka Big Mike’s https://www.forksvillestore.com/). We also got to enjoy another campfire! As we celebrated the small stuff, we came to realize that it was actually big stuff. What small stuff can you celebrate today?

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.” Psalm 145:17

Celebrate the small stuff.

The Cone

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We’re not talking ice cream here. That would be better, especially in these 80-90 degree days of summer here in Oxford, Pennsylvania. No, we are talking about the other cone. The dreaded “Elizabethan collar” type of cone that dogs must wear after having surgery.

Yes, it was time, and we got our sweet little puppy, Kaylee, spayed. When we got her home, we put the cone on to keep her from licking or biting her incision. Much to our surprise, she would not move at all. We’ve had dogs before, and it always took them a little while to get used to walking around wearing the cone. They’d bump into the wall a few times but would pretty quickly figure out how to maneuver. Not our Kaylee. She simply sat and stayed. We tried all sorts of suggestions to get her used to it, to no avail.

Our puppy, Kaylee, before surgery.

Sometimes I think God puts a cone on us at times. He wants to protect us, heal us, and help us grow, but we are inclined to interfere with that process. At least I am. Do you ever feel that way? For example, there was a long season in which I wanted to move out of working in the intensive care unit. I was tired of it all – the challenges, the ethical dilemmas, the stress, everything. I prayed; I begged; I applied for other jobs. God said stay. I felt like Kaylee with her cone. Looking back now, I see that it was for my own good. I am actually thankful and glad. In case you’re curious, I still work in the intensive care unit. The challenges there haven’t really changed, but God continues changing me through those challenges.

After a few days of having to take Kaylee’s cone off to walk her and get her to go to the bathroom, our son, Dan, found a different type of cone that she actually became more accustomed to. She even sits and stays still for me to place it. Her incision is healing and we now have only 2-4 more days before we can leave it off. One of the first things I plan to do when she’s free is take her to the park then stop for an ice cream cone (for me) on the way back.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

God can change you through your challenges.

Picnics and Naps

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She fell asleep in the midst of chewing her apple slice. I had buckled her into her car seat, then gave her an apple slice to snack on as we drove to our picnic spot. Minutes later I looked in the rearview mirror to see her eyes closed and her little hand still grasping the rest of her apple slice. After I checked to be sure she had swallowed the bite in her mouth, I drove on, letting her sleep. Next I pulled into the parking area of the picnic park and continued to allow her to nap.

It had been a very busy week, especially for a 3-year-old. Mike and I had the great joy of having our granddaughters, Senna (7) and Adina (3), spend the whole week at our house. It was also Vacation Bible School week at our church, Calvary Chapel Delaware County http://ccdelco.com/. Hence, every day was full of fun and non-stop action.

One thing all of you parents and grandparents know is that kids don’t always realize what is best for them. Sometimes they don’t even want it! They need our leadership, guidance, and loving care. They need us to recognize when they are ready for a rest break, when they need to drink more water, when they need a snack, and on and on.

I’ve realized that I don’t always know what is best for me or what I need either. However, God does. He promises to provide for us, guide us, and always be with us. He cares about us and for us. I am so thankful to be His child.

Honestly, it made me feel really good when Adina got a little nap in the car and woke up feeling refreshed. We got out of the car and had our picnic, then played together for quite a while before we needed to go pick up Senna. I imagine it makes God feel good when we allow Him to care for us, too. I encourage you (and me) to go to Him with our needs and trust Him to do what’s best for us. He will. What will you trust Him with today?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

What will you trust God with today?

Here are a few pics from our fun-filled week.

Who is he?

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You know that older gentleman who is slowing you down from getting through the door into the convenience store? He’s shuffling along with his cane and has trouble opening the door, so you step up and help hold the door so that he and you can get on your way. This man may very well be the reason you are free to enjoy this day. He might have been a soldier in one of the many wars fought to protect your freedom. He matters. He is loved by God.

You’ve probably heard the expression “Freedom isn’t free”. It’s true. As you celebrate this 4th of July, remember that a high price was paid and is still being paid. I am so thankful for all the sacrifices many men and women have made to ensure our freedom. If you are a veteran or currently serving in the military, thank you! You are welcome to post a picture of yourself in the comments.

Every person matters. You matter. You are loved by God. He wanted to make sure you have true freedom. He made it possible by giving His only Son, Jesus, to die for you and me. The great news is that Jesus rose from the dead! Do you know this love and this freedom? They are yours for the asking.

“So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:36

Happy Independence Day!

I’m so thankful for our freedom and all it allows, like…

My Dad

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I actually carried a hammer in my car at all times. It was my very first car, and it was a bit particular. My dad taught me that tapping my hammer on a certain spot on the engine worked to get it started every time that it was being stubborn. It became quite routine for me to pop the hood, tap the engine, then start the car. Honestly, I don’t even remember the details of the what and why. I simply trusted my dad, because he was right. He is always right when it comes to cars, and he has rescued me many times when cars have let me down.

Dad in his shed/workshop

That’s the thing about a great father, you can always count on him. I’m so thankful for the many happy memories that my dad is part of, like taking us camping when I was little, picking me up after lacrosse practice on his motorcycle, always offering food to my friends and making them feel welcome, fixing anything and everything, walking me down the aisle to Mike, giving my kids rides on his tractor when they were young, sharing meals at the Sungate Diner in Marcus Hook https://sungatediner.com/, and now playing with my granddaughters (his great-granddaughters). My dad is good, and he is loving. I am fortunate.

If you don’t have a dad like mine, I am so sorry. There is a Father who wants to adopt you. He is loving and good and perfect. God made a way for you to become part of His family, by giving His only Son. You can trust Him, and you can always count on Him. Won’t you consider it?

“Yet to all who received him (Jesus), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:12

Happy Father’s Day!

Buddy Tape

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It was a battle, this first game of the series, and the score was tied. We both went up for a rebound. My husband, Mike, came down with the ball. I came down with a jammed finger, losing the rebound and going on to lose the game. Our driveway basketball games are quite intense!

I’ve had jammed fingers before, so I put ice on it throughout the day and waited for the swelling to go down. In the next few days I kept waiting for it to go back to normal and the bruising to fade. After a few weeks, I finally went and got it checked out. Much to my surprise, it was broken! Thankfully, it was aligned properly and healing. The physician’s assistant instructed me to buddy tape it.

In case you’ve never heard that term, buddy taping is when you bind an injured finger to the healthy finger next to it. The healthy finger acts as a splint to immobilize the injured finger, supporting and protecting it. I was also instructed to do finger exercises 3-4 times a day, to improve my broken finger’s movement and to keep the joints from getting stiff. I found that buddy taping really helped to keep my finger stabilized and to move it more. It also simply helped it feel better.

Just as I can be stubborn in seeking help for a physical injury, sometimes I resist asking for assistance with other things. I am learning to be more open to asking for help. We can all help each other. For example, right now, my whole family is helping with teaching our puppy. Puppy training is much better with two or more people. It’s also more fun!

We all need buddies. A buddy can help keep us going the right direction, can push us to go farther than we thought, can support us when we are weak, and so much more. We all have room to grow, and we grow best together. Who are your buddies? Do you allow them to help you? My best buddy, Mike, helps me become a better basketball player and a better person. I look forward to finishing and hopefully winning our basketball series as soon as my finger heals!

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

We can all help each other.

Puppy Love and Advice from Monks

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Sometimes I wonder if I’m training Kaylee or she’s training me. Sure, I’ve taught her to sit, lie down, and not jump on people. Well, we continue working on that last one! One thing she is training me to do is to be more fully present in the moment, a trait I treasure. As Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there!”

Playing fetch with Kaylee in the backyard.

I was definitely fully present when I was helping in the Puppy Palace at LaMancha Animal Rescue, https://www.lamanchaanimalrescue.org/. For a few months I’ve been volunteering at this wonderful place that rescues and rehabilitates dogs, cats, and various other animals. It was there that this little puppy walked right up to me, climbed in my lap, and started licking my hand. Mike and I had talked about and prepared for getting a puppy for quite a while. Immediately I thought that this was the one. A few days later, Kaylee came home with us.

While looking into how to best train a puppy, I happened upon The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete. I actually read it, re-read it, then skimmed through it a third time. I highly recommend both it and How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, by the same authors. Their insight into a dog’s development and their positive approach really make sense. They also give a lot of practical suggestions that are working very well so far. They emphasize keeping in mind what your puppy is capable of becoming, which is a good lesson for us, as well.

Our goal in training is to enable Kaylee to fully be part of our lives. For example, she is already used to riding in the car to visit my daughter and her family. It definitely requires planning, work, and patience, but it has already been so much fun! Seeing the joy she brings our granddaughters, going out for walks, playing training games, and just watching her tail wagging and her whole body quivering with happiness when she greets people is such a delight! I look forward to seeing what she will become and how I will grow through training her. I hope to always remain teachable. What have your pets taught you?

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8

If you remain teachable, you can learn a lot.

As you can see below, Kaylee is bringing smiles all around.

My Mom

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Mom in a meadow, on a beautiful afternoon together.
Mom and I enjoyed many walks and hikes together, like the one in this beautiful, wild meadow.

When she heard the news, her immediate response was that she wanted to “die well”. That night, I told my husband, Mike, that we needed to make a “Going to Heaven” song mix for her. He replied that he had been thinking the very same thing. My mom is now there, in heaven. She placed her trust in Jesus as her Savior many years ago. When she was diagnosed with leukemia and informed that she only had days or months to live, that trust continued. As Pastor Mike McClung stated at her memorial service, she lived well, and she died well. I would say that her whole life was a song of praise.

We had so very many amazing adventures together! One year I decided to make a card for her entitled “Mom, do you remember…”. I placed an old photograph on the front and filled the inside with short sentences summing up some of the memories we shared over the years. Here’s a short sample:

Mom, do you remember…

…taking Jim and me for walks in the woods while Heidi and Amy were in school?

…playing your guitar and singing “Jesus is the Light, He’s the Light of the world”?

…you making a zillion cookies every Christmas and packaging them for us to deliver to our neighbors?

…you always making my friends feel so welcomed and loved?

…climbing that fire tower at the Grand Canyon?

…all the prayers, tears, and laughter shared together?

I actually remember these things and even a few more!

Mom really enjoyed life, and she made it a joy for everyone who knew her. She taught me so very much, from how to bake pies to how to try to look for the good in every situation. It’s been over 6 years since she died, and I still miss her. However, I rejoice in knowing that I will see her again, because she also taught me to trust in Jesus as my Savior. I am so thankful for her life, her love, and her example! What do you appreciate about your mom? Perhaps you can make her a “Do you remember…” card.

If your mom has not been all that a mom should, I am truly sorry. Please know that there is a God who loves you and cares for you deeply. He heals hurts, restores lives, and fills with joy. You can rely on Him always.

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16

Happy Mother’s Day!

Open the Windows

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Springtime! Don’t you love it? It was just warm enough the other day for me to open all the windows and let the first fresh breeze blow through my house in quite a while. This made me think about opening other windows, like the windows of my heart. God promises us peace and says that Christ himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). Yet, at times I think I myself block out His peace, holding on to uncertainties. It’s always when I get to looking around at things instead of looking to Him that peace flees.

By the end of the evening I went around and closed all those windows, because the air turned quite cold. May I always leave the window of my heart open, though. Are your windows open?

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Christ Himself is our peace.

These are just a few spring photos from the past. Hope you enjoy!

Lost and Found

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He went walking by very quickly as I entered the store with my grocery cart. He looked only about four years old. I didn’t see any adults nearby, so I watched to make sure he was with a grown up. He wasn’t. His fast walk quickly turned into a run, and the tear rolling down his cheek made it apparent that he was lost. I left my cart and caught up with him just as he was getting ready to run out the door. A store employee joined me, and we assured him that we would find whomever he was looking for.

By this time the poor boy was so upset and scared that he could barely talk. After again reassuring him, he told us his name. An announcement was made over the loudspeaker, and we waited with anticipation for someone to come forward and be reunited with this little one. A few minutes later a young woman came rushing up. Much to my surprise, she began yelling and calling him a bad boy. I explained that he was looking for her, and he got scared. She seemed to settle down a bit then.

I couldn’t help a tear rolling down my cheek now. I had been expecting a happy reunion filled with relief and reassurance for that young boy. Perhaps the young mother was simply distraught and that is why she lashed out at her son. It was heartbreaking to see this little boy practically shaking with fright get yelled at. Children are a treasure.

In contrast to this scene, Jesus told a story about a shepherd looking for a lost sheep. This shepherd had 100 sheep, but one got lost. You might think that he wouldn’t bother looking, because he still had 99 sheep. This wasn’t the case, though. The shepherd left the other 99 and went searching for that one lost sheep. When he found it, he scooped it up into his arms, carried it home, and called everyone together for a celebration. What a beautiful picture of being found! Jesus loves each of us that much.

Hopefully that young mother later reassured her son of her love. Hopefully she realizes how loved she is. Hopefully you realize how loved you are!

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” I John 4:16

Please treasure your children.

Some treasures of my life are below:

My Room

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The yell came from upstairs. I raced up the stairs to find my husband, Mike, flat on his back with green paint splattered everywhere. He was fine, but he had fallen off the little 3-legged stool he was standing on to paint the walls. He couldn’t move without creating more of a mess, so he had yelled for my help. After my laughter died down, I grabbed some wet rags and helped him clean up. I still smile just thinking about that scene. We were getting a room ready for our granddaughter, Senna.

Since that time, we gained another granddaughter, Adina. When we moved to a new home a few years ago, I remember how excited we were about making a special bedroom for our granddaughters’ visits. We carefully chose a paint color for the walls and special forest friends decorations. This time there weren’t even any mishaps, probably because Mike now uses a ladder for his painting. We had so much fun getting everything set up to surprise them and even more fun watching their excitement when they saw it.  

All this made me think of how Jesus promises that he is preparing a place for us. If Mike and I had so much joy in preparing a place for Senna and Adina, I can’t even imagine God’s joy at making a place for us. I also cannot imagine how amazing it will be! Just think of God’s creation – the colors, the variety, the beauty, the wonder. God made us for forever. You and I are invited to have a forever home with God by accepting his invitation. It is for whoever believes in him. I am excited to see what my room is like!

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2

God made us for forever.

Keep Moving*

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It kept circling, soaring high above our heads, then swooping down closer. This continued for several minutes. We were about 3.5 miles into a 4.2-mile walk, and it seemed like the buzzard anticipated us dropping over. We were cracking up laughing! Our walking pace was definitely slowing down. Well, at least mine was. We joked together that we had better keep walking.

This made me think of my dad. He is in his late 80’s, and sometimes he gets discouraged about the things he isn’t able to do anymore, like bowling. I try to encourage him to focus on the things he can do. I’ve jokingly told him that if you’re not dead yet; you’re not done yet. We all get discouraged at times, but we need to keep moving.

We did keep moving and finished our walk, leaving the buzzard to go soaring elsewhere to find dinner. Later that day Mike was looking out the window. When I asked what he was looking at, he replied that he was just checking to make sure that buzzard was gone. Mike always makes me laugh! The buzzard was gone, because we kept moving. How will you keep moving today?

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Keep moving! If you’re not dead yet, you’re not done yet.

*This one was Mike’s idea. 😊

Chaos in the Pasture

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The horses were gathered over in the corner, looking almost as if they were huddling together. Dogs were barking wildly and loudly. All this because of a deer. Apparently, it leaped over the fence to get into the pasture but was having a very difficult time getting back out. It was stuck.

As I watched, the poor animal ran up to the high fence and seemed to doubt its ability to leap back over to get out. It would pull up and stop at the last moment. Next it raced around and around inside the enclosure with its white tail up like a distress signal. Then it attempted to charge headfirst through the fence several times, to no avail.

Do you ever get stuck? We all do at times. Sometimes it’s our own fault, and sometimes it isn’t. The question is what to do when we are stuck? I think that sometimes you don’t know what it is until you know what it isn’t, like the way the deer figured out it was penned in, but that ramming through the fence was not a good exit strategy. If you are stuck, know that you do not have to stay that way. You can look to God. He cares for you and about you.

That deer knew it wasn’t meant to live in the fenced pasture. Eventually it made its escape by going underneath the fence. The horses ambled out of the corner and went back to grazing; the dogs quieted down. The chaos turned to calm.

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 142:8

Sometimes you don’t know what it is until you know what it isn’t.

The Day Uncle Larry Became a Hero

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All of a sudden, my two sisters and my brother were yelling wildly! I had no idea why. We were exploring the woods behind our house with Uncle Larry. He was only a little older than us, actually, but we all looked up to him. Whenever he came to visit, he told the most exciting, funny stories, and he was always ready for an adventure.

On this particular day, Mom had agreed to let us go on a hike with Uncle Larry leading the way. I was about 7 years old at the time. We had been traveling through the woods for a while, when suddenly we came upon a fallen tree blocking our path. There was no way around it. Uncle Larry easily scrambled over; then one by one, we followed his example. It was my turn, and I was only partly over when the others started yelling.

I looked all around to find out why, and then I saw it. It was a snake, and it was slithering right next to me! Before I knew what was happening, Uncle Larry grabbed that snake by the tail, whirled it around his head like a lasso, and threw it far away! I stared in amazement. We all did. He had rescued us all! We continued on our hike, afraid of nothing, because Uncle Larry, our hero, was with us.

Thinking back on this happy memory makes me glad that more memories are ahead, just waiting to be made. This past weekend, Mike and I had a bunch of adventures with our granddaughters. We went bear hunting, were chased by lions, and built a whole town with an ice cream store in it, all right in our house. What adventure will you have today? What memories will you make? As the message from Australia goes: Life. Be in it.

“Sing to God, sing praise to His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds – His name is the Lord – rejoice before Him.” Psalm 68:4

More memories are ahead, just waiting to be made.

Don’t Forget Your Please

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The command came from the backseat, and it came in a rather whiny, demanding tone. “I don’t WANT music!”, exclaimed my 2 ½ year old granddaughter, Adina. We were driving to my house for a play day, and I had the radio on. I explained to her that we talk to each other in a nice way, because we love each other. “Don’t forget your please” is something that I remind both my granddaughters (and myself) at times.

This made me think of an extremely demanding patient I once cared for. Did I mention that I’m a nurse? Anyway, this particular patient kept requesting things in a brusque, rude manner. It seemed each time I entered the room, I was met with commands. I was thankful that his condition was improving, but honestly, this was getting tiresome. At one point after he made yet another demand, I automatically responded, “Don’t forget your please”. After laughing, I explained that I often babysit my granddaughters and that is what I say to remind them that good manners matter. After a moment of silence, my patient actually apologized. The rest of my shift that day became much more pleasant.

As for Adina, later that day I was humming when I heard her nicely ask me to “please turn the music off”. How she makes me laugh! The reason I share this is because we all have the opportunity every day to show kindness, even in the way we speak to each other. Even God exercises kindness! Kindness counts and really does make a difference.

“’…I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:24

  Kindness counts.